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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

Dyslexia: The Learning Disability That Must Not Be Named

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Megan Lordos, a middle school teacher, says she was not allowed to use the word “dyslexia.”

She’s not alone. Parents and teachers across the country have raised concerns about some schools hesitating, or completely refusing, to say the word.

As the most common learning disability in the U.S., dyslexia affects somewhere between 5 and 17 percent of the population. That means millions of school children around the country struggle with it.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools are required to provide special services to help these students — things like reading tutors and books on tape. But those special services can be expensive, and many schools don’t have the resources to provide these accommodations.

That has led some parents and advocates to worry that some schools are making a careful calculation: If they don’t acknowledge the issue — or don’t use the word “dyslexia” — then they are not obligated to provide services.

Last year, when Lordos was teaching English at a public school in Arlington, Va., she recalls a parent-teacher meeting in the conference room. Things started smoothly.

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Education

Raising A Child With Dyslexia: 3 Things Parents Can Do

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LA Johnson/NPR

A mother, who spent years coaching and encouraging her dyslexic son, recalls his childhood with one pervasive feeling: “It was really scary.”One father told me his home life was ruined. Trying to do homework with his struggling daughter, he says, felt like “a nightmare every night.” Optimism and determination would inevitably descend into tears and anxiety. The culprit: dyslexia.

Yet another mom — whose son and daughter both have dyslexia — suggests changing the definition of dyslexia: “It’s no longer a reading problem. It’s a life crisis.”

As the most common learning disability, dyslexia affects somewhere between 5 and 17 percent of the U.S. population. Its reach extends far beyond the classroom, causing stress, tension and confusion for families with a dyslexic child.

But experts and parents say there are three key things that can help.

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Education

Race, School Ratings And Real Estate: A ‘Legal Gray Area’

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With her infant son in a sling, Monique Black strolls through a weekend open house in the gentrified Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C. There are lots of factors to consider when looking for a home — in this one, Monique notices, the tiny window in the second bedroom doesn’t let in enough light. But for parents like Black and her husband, Jonny, there’s a more important question: How good are the nearby schools?

It’s well known in the real estate industry that highly rated schools translate into higher housing values. Several studies confirm this and even put a dollar figure on it: an average premium of $50 a square foot, in a 2013 national study.

In Chappaqua, N.Y., an affluent bedroom community for New York City, the town supervisor recently went so far as to declare that, “The schools are our biggest industry — whether you have kids in the school or not, that’s what maintains our property values.”

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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

How Domestic Violence In One Home Affects Every Child In A Class

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Part of our NPR Ed series on mental health in schools.

Every Monday morning at Harvie Elementary School, in Henrico County, Va., Brett Welch stands outside her office door as kids file in.

“The first thing I’m looking for are the faces,” says Welch, a school counselor. She’s searching for hints of fear, pain or anger.

“Maybe there was a domestic incident at the house that weekend,” says Welch. “That’s reality for a lot of our kids.”

 

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