Anya Kamenetz

Anya Kamenetz is NPR's lead education blogger. She joined NPR in 2014, working as part of a new initiative to coordinate on-air and online coverage of learning.

Kamenetz is the author of several books about the future of education. Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006), dealt with youth economics and politics; DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education (Chelsea Green, 2010), investigated innovations to address the crises in cost, access, and quality in higher education. Her forthcoming book, The Test (PublicAffairs, 2015), is about the past, present and future of testing in American schools.

Learning, Freedom and the Web (http://learningfreedomandtheweb.org/), The Edupunks' Guide (edupunksguide.org), and the Edupunks' Atlas (atlas.edupunksguide.org) are her free web projects about self-directed, web-enabled learning.

Previously, Kamenetz covered technology, innovation, sustainability and social entrepreneurship for five years as a staff writer for Fast Company magazine. She's contributed to The New York Times, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Slate, and O, the Oprah Magazine.

Kamenetz was named a 2010 Game Changer in Education by the Huffington Post, received 2009 and 2010 National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, and was submitted for a Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing by the Village Voice in 2005, where she had a column called Generation Debt.

She appears in the documentaries Generation Next (2006), Default: A Student Loan Documentary (2011), both shown on PBS, and Ivory Tower, which premiered at Sundance in 2014 and will be shown on CNN.

Kamenetz grew up in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana, in a family of writers and mystics, and graduated from Yale University in 2002. She lives in New York City.

Imagine your bright young son or daughter comes to you, high school mortarboard in hand, and says, "Mom, Dad, I'm not going to college next year." What's your reaction?

If you're the commander in chief or first lady, the answer is, reportedly, supportive. Their older daughter, Malia Obama, made headlines this week by announcing that she would put off matriculating at Harvard University until 2017.

It turns out that this decision is becoming more popular at Harvard and around the country.

Sleep has a big impact on learning. And not just when you do it in class. Sleep deprivation affects memory, cognition and motivation, and the effects are compounded when it's long-term.

The latest results of the test known as the Nation's Report Card are in. They cover high school seniors, who took the test in math and reading last year. The numbers are unlikely to give fodder either to educational cheerleaders or alarmists: The average score in both subjects was just one point lower in 2015 compared with the last time the test was given, in 2013. This tiny downtick was statistically significant in mathematics, but not for the reading test.

But even though the changes are small, chances are you're going to be hearing about them in a lot of places.

In public radio's mythical Lake Wobegon, "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

The first two conditions are merely unlikely. The third one is a mathematical absurdity. However, a new survey suggests that almost all parents believe it to be true.

In a recent survey of public school parents, 90 percent stated that their children were performing on or above grade level in both math and reading. Parents held fast to this sunny belief no matter their own income, education level, race or ethnicity.

Before we can even be seated in the Midtown cafe where we meet, Lily Eskelsen Garcia has begun her barrage of plainspoken, provocative opinions. A Democratic superdelegate, she's just come from a spot on a morning news show, where, she declared, "Hillary is winning no matter how you look at it."

Third-grader Victor Reza was watching CNN in the living room in Houston with his family when Donald Trump was announced as the winner of the Florida Republican primary. Victor teared up, his older sister, Maria, said in a telephone interview.

Think about our planet for a second. Earth has an elliptical — oval-shaped — orbit. That means we're closer to the sun for one part of the year and farther away another part of the year.

Does that fact explain why it's hotter in the summer and colder in the winter?

Lots of kids think it does. Lots of adults think so too. And they're wrong.*

Philip Sadler is both a professor of astronomy and the director of the science education department at Harvard University, and he is obsessed with wrong answers like these.

Merriam-Webster defines jargon as "the technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity, group, profession, or field of study."

High schools around the country are increasingly turning to external, for-profit providers for "online credit recovery." These courses, taken on a computer, offer students who have failed a course a second chance to earn credits they need for graduation, whether after school, in the summer or during the school year.

When Andrea Diaz was applying to colleges, she got good news and bad news. The good news was that American University, a private four-year university in Washington, D.C., wanted her. The bad news was that it required her to come to campus early to take two summer developmental-level courses in math and English.

"I was traumatized by it," Diaz says, "because I felt that they didn't see in me the potential to do well in college."

More than half of public school students are members of minority groups, but 83 percent of their teachers are white. Half of students are boys, while three-quarters of teachers are women.

Students can benefit in many ways from having teachers who look like them, but in many schools around the country the math doesn't add up.

Ken Yeh is the director of technology at Ontario Christian Schools, a private K-12 school near Los Angeles with about 100 children per grade. Three years ago, the school began buying Google Chromebook laptops for every student in middle and high school.

The students would be allowed to take them home. Yeh says parents "were concerned" about what they might be used for, especially outside of school.

U.S. Education Secretary John King announced findings of fraud against 91 separate campuses of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges at a press conference in Boston today.

"Corinthian was more worried about profits than about students' lives," said Secretary King.

The video, taken at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C., went viral last fall: A school safety officer flips a desk to the floor with a girl seated in it, then flings her across the floor. The student is African-American; the officer is white.

K-12 education hasn't exactly been front and center in this presidential election, but Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders made some news on the topic this week. Here's how he responded to a question about charter schools at a CNN televised Town Hall meeting:

"I believe in public education and I believe in public charter schools. I do not believe in privately controlled charter schools."

Few public high schools in the country have attracted as much shine as Pathways in Technology Early College High School — P-TECH — in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

A large classroom at the school is hung with blown-up color posters of President Obama, smiling with students on a visit to the school in 2013. That year, just two years after its founding, Obama mentioned the school by name in his State of the Union Address:

In just a few short weeks, students in California will be taking high-stakes tests. But the tests won't just cover math, reading and science. Students will also be responding to survey statements like "I usually finish what I start," or "I can do anything if I try."

A group of big-city districts there is among the first to try to measure students' self-control, empathy and other social and emotional skills — and to hold schools accountable for the answers.

Hear that change jingling in my pocket? Good. I have two little questions for you.

  1. I have a quarter, a dime and a nickel. How much money DO I have?

  2. I have three coins. How much money COULD I have?

The first question is a basic arithmetic problem with one and only one right answer. You might find it on a multiple-choice test.

"Stronger Together" is not the name of the latest social-media fitness app. It's a grant proposed in President Obama's new budget, reviving an idea that hasn't gotten much policy attention in decades: diversity in public schools. If the request is approved, $120 million will go to school districts for programs intended to make their schools more diverse.

One cold Monday this month, all the students of Park Ridge High School stayed home: wearing their PJs, munching on pretzels and Oreos, hanging out on the couch.

It wasn't a snow day or measles epidemic. It was the school's first Virtual Day, where in-person classes were replaced with written lessons and real-time video chats delivered online.

The idea arose because the school, just north of New York City in Park Ridge, N.J., issued every student a Mac laptop last year, says Tina Bacolas, the school's head of instructional technology.

Since he first announced his presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders has stuck to one simple promise. One that has many young people, in particular, #feelingthebern: free college.

As Sanders put it in his New Hampshire victory speech: "When we need the best-educated workforce in the world, yes, we are going to make public colleges and universities tuition-free."

The Pitch

Todd Rose dropped out of high school with D- grades. At 21, he was trying to support a wife and two sons on welfare and minimum wage jobs.

Today he teaches educational neuroscience at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He's also the co-founder of The Center for Individual Opportunity, a new organization devoted to "the science of the individual and its implications for education, the workforce, and society."

In other words, Todd Rose is not your average guy. But neither are you.

Before he arrived in Omaha as a doctoral student in computer science, Jason Jie Xiong says, "I didn't even know there was a state called Nebraska."

Jie Xiong, 29, who hails from a small city outside Shanghai, had landed a full scholarship at the University of Nebraska to teach and do research. He says he only knew "more famous states like California and New York."

He admits he found the program initially "by randomly checking information," but he's quick to add that he's happy there.

Kung Fu Panda slurps noodles. An ugly/cute "puppy-monkey-baby" toddles into a living room. Kevin Hart stalks his daughter and her date to an amusement park via helicopter. Just three moments that various brands paid $5 million per 30 seconds to parade in front of Super Bowl viewers Sunday night.

Victor Vardanyan, 14, isn't having any of it.

"Squat! Squat! Squat! Higher! Faster!"

In the basement of the Duane Physics and Astrophysics building at the University of Colorado Boulder, a science demonstration is going on, but it looks more like a vaudeville act.

One by one, students balance precariously on a rotating platform. Then they are handed what looks like a spinning bicycle wheel, holding it by two handles that stick out from either side of what would be the hub of the wheel. When you flip the wheel over, like a pizza, your body starts rotating in the opposite direction.

Acting U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. wants states and districts to focus on streamlined, higher-quality tests in a broader effort to win back some classroom time.

And here's the kicker: The feds will actually pay for (some of) the transition.

About three months ago, Bill Nelson got an unusual phone call.

Nelson oversees data and assessment for the Agua Fria Union High School District in southwest Phoenix, Ariz. The call was from a former student, who left the district back in 2011.

He was "not quite a graduate," Nelson recalls. At the time, the young man had failed part of Arizona's high school exit exam, called the AIMS.

But in 2015, Arizona rescinded the AIMS requirement, and made that retroactive. So this former student was in luck.

Tens of thousands of GED test takers who barely missed the cut may soon receive a diploma, after the company that oversees the test said this week it's lowering the minimum passing score.

Since the new GED was unveiled two years ago this month, complaints have been rising. Students and teachers don't like that the high school equivalency test is now a for-profit venture, that it is more expensive than before and that it is solely computer-administered.

Picture your favorite college professor. Here are some adjectives that might come to mind: Wise. Funny. Caring. Prompt. Passionate. Organized. Tough but fair.

Now, are you thinking of a man or a woman?

A new study argues that student evaluations are systematically biased against women — so much so, in fact, that they're better mirrors of gender bias than of what they are supposed to be measuring: teaching quality.

Pages