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After 50 Years, Head Start Struggles With Uneven Quality

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LA Johnson/NPR

For more than 50 years, Head Start has provided free early childhood education and other services to low-income families. But new national research, out Wednesday, shows great variation from state to state in how well the program works.

The study comes from the National Institute for Early Education Research, and it examined Head Start programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

It focused on quality and ranked states accordingly. Kentucky and Vermont came out the best, while 18 states ranked very poorly: Arizona, Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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Education

How Investing In Preschool Beats The Stock Market, Hands Down

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LA Johnson/NPR

If you got 13 percent back on your investments every year, you’d be pretty happy, right? Remember, the S&P 500, historically, has averaged about 7 percent when adjusted for inflation.

What if the investment is in children, and the return on investment not only makes economic sense but results in richer, fuller, healthier lives for the entire family?

That’s the crux of a new paper out Monday, The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program, co-authored by Nobel laureate James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development.

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Education

6 Potential Brain Benefits Of Bilingual Education

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Chelsea Beck/NPR

Part of our ongoing series exploring how the U.S. can educate the nearly 5 million students who are learning English.

Brains, brains, brains. One thing we’ve learned at NPR Ed is that people are fascinated by brain research. And yet it can be hard to point to places where our education system is really making use of the latest neuroscience findings.

But there is one happy nexus where research is meeting practice: bilingual education. “In the last 20 years or so, there’s been a virtual explosion of research on bilingualism,” says Judith Kroll, a professor at the University of California, Riverside.

Again and again, researchers have found, “bilingualism is an experience that shapes our brain for a lifetime,” in the words of Gigi Luk, an associate professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

At the same time, one of the hottest trends in public schooling is what’s often called dual-language or two-way immersion programs.

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Education

How A Happy School Can Help Students Succeed

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Every day at Weiner Elementary School starts with a dance party, usually to Best Day of My Life by American Authors — and that’s before the 7:50 a.m. bell even rings.

Then comes the morning assembly, where all 121 students and the staff gather for 20 minutes in the cafeteria of the school in Weiner, Ark. They sing songs and learn about an artist, a musician and an international city of the week.

They celebrate birthdays. A lucky student is crowned Student of the Day. And Pam Hogue makes it her goal to be an educator instead of a principal.

That assembly — and the many other things this school does to create a sense of community and happiness — is part of what experts call school climate.

“It’s a feeling in a building,” Hogue explains. “When you walk in here, it just feels right. It looks like a place where learning is happening.”

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Education

Half Of Professors In NPR Ed Survey Have Used ‘Trigger Warnings’

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This school year, the University of Chicago has put the debate over “trigger warnings” on campus back in the news. The University told incoming freshmen that, because of its commitment to freedom of expression, it does not support warnings to students about potentially difficult material.

But amid all the attention to trigger warnings, there have been very few facts about exactly how common they are and how they’re used.

NPR Ed sent out a survey last fall to faculty members at colleges and universities around the country. We focused specifically on the types of institutions most students attend — not the elite private universities most often linked to the “trigger warning” idea.

We received more than 800 responses, and this month as the issue once again made headlines we followed up with some of those professors.

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Education

Grad Students Win Right to Unionize in an Ivy League Case

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Columbia University’s quad. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times

Punctuating a string of Obama-era moves to shore up labor rights and expand protections for workers, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday that students who work as teaching and research assistants at private universities have a federally backed right to unionize.

The case arose from a petition filed by a group of graduate students at Columbia University, who are seeking to win recognition for a union that will join the United Automobile Workers and allow them a say over such issues as the quality of their health insurance and the timeliness of stipend payments.

Echoing longstanding complaints from blue-collar workers that they have become replaceable cogs in a globalized economic machine, the effort reflects a growing view among more highly educated employees in recent decades that they, too, are at the mercy of faceless organizations and are not being treated like professionals and aspiring professionals whose opinions are worthy of respect.

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