Moving Beyond Standardized Tests

Citing the need to adjust to new Common Core standards, the California Board of Education decided earlier this month to suspend the use of standardized test scores as its main measurement of school performance. This comes as teachers, parents and students nationwide protest against the overuse of tests. We talk with NPR education blogger Anya Kamenetz about the perils of overusing test scores and other methods of measuring school and teacher quality.

Major Changes Proposed to California's K-12 Special Education

A statewide task force has proposed a major shift in how special education is taught in California. They want to see more special education students in general education classrooms, increased intervention for preschoolers and more teacher training. It's unclear where the funding would come from for the proposed changes, but there's strong impetus to improve the outcome for students with disabilities.

PBS NewsHour

How much is too much when it comes to spending on college sports?

Dec 30, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Jim Harbaugh speaks to the media as he is introduced as the new head football coach
         of the Michigan Wolverines at Jonge Center. Photo by Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports/via Reuters

The University of Michigan’s new head football coach Jim Harbaugh reportedly will make $7 million this year. That’ second only to Alabama’s Nick Saban, who earns around $7.2 million a season. At a time when academic spending per student is being cut, are these price tags justifiable? Photo by Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports/via Reuters

Four teams are still alive in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Today, March Madness brings to mind more than big upsets and broken brackets, though. The multi-billion-dollar college sports industry is increasingly answering questions about academic standards, player safety and growing inequities between coaches and athletes.

With tuition and fees on the rise, a poll from Monmouth University finds a majority of Americans think universities with big-time athletic programs spend too much time and money on sports. Perhaps no one knows that better than Mark Schlissel, president of the University of Michigan.

Kirk Carapezza, a reporter with WGBH’s On Campus higher education desk, recently sat down with Schlissel for a rare one-on-one interview and asked him how big-time college sports impacts the bottom line and the identity of a major research university.

“Michigan is fortunate enough that our athletic program pays its own way,” Schlissel said. “Sports isn’t, for us, a drain on the enterprise. It’s a neutral in terms of costs and a big positive in terms of community.”

Listen to the full interview:

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics finds that since 2008 Michigan has cut academic spending per student by 3 percent while increasing athletic spending per athlete by 36 percent. The Commission predicts that escalation in spending on coaching salaries and facilities will continue at rates disproportionate to growth in academic spending. It says the disclosure of finance enhances the ability of colleges and universities to make sure athletic programs advance the mission of higher education.

“Data show that over the past decade, coaching salaries for major college football and basketball coaches soared while university academic budgets stagnated and pressure for greater player benefits intensified,” says Amy Perko, executive director of the Knight Commission. “There is no evidence that the trends will stop absent a different financial regulatory approach or a shift in the incentives to reward educational outcomes, not just winning teams, more significantly.”

You can track athletic and academic spending by institution here.

This story comes from On Campus, a public radio reporting initiative focused on higher education produced in Boston at WGBH.

PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The post How much is too much when it comes to spending on college sports? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

How I teach about climate change in a state that relies on fossil fuels

Steam rises from the stakes of the coal-fired Jim Bridger Power Plant supplied by the neighboring Jim Bridger mine that
         is owned by energy firm PacifiCorp and the Idaho Power Company, outside Point of the Rocks, Wyoming  March 14, 2014. West
         Virginia mined 120 million tons (109 metric tons) of coal in 2012, second to Wyoming, or about 12 percent of total U.S. production.
         Kentucky was third with about 9 percent of output, according to the National Mining Association. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters
         In Wyoming, there has been heated debate about cutting down on the country's reliance on coal, an important resource
         in the state's economy.

Steam rises from the stakes of the coal-fired Jim Bridger Power Plant outside Point of the Rocks, Wyoming. There has been heated debate in the state about cutting down on the country’s reliance on coal, an important resource for Wyoming’s economy. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Editor’s Note: A large majority of the scientific community believes that climate change is occurring due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels. But in states like Wyoming, which produces nearly 40 percent of U.S. coal, those same fossil fuels are the backbone of the economy and teaching climate change remains controversial. Below, Wyoming teacher Roger Spears discusses how evidence-based science teaching helps students draw the most accurate conclusions on the topic.

Climate change: you hear about it. You wonder about it. You believe it. You ignore it. It’s a controversial subject, especially when you are from a state where you are partially (although indirectly) to blame for it. The state in question? Wyoming, where I teach.


Wyoming holds vast amounts of low-sulfur coal, natural gas, crude oil and oil shale, all fossil fuels. When burned, they release carbon dioxide, the main culprit to greenhouse gases, into the air. Most of Wyoming’s resources travel via pipeline or railroad to major population centers throughout the country.

Many of Wyoming’s 584,000 residents are tied to the energy industry workforce, so it comes as no surprise that many of these people are weary or threatened by the topic of climate change or global warming. Student ideologies greatly reflect those of their parents; Wyoming is very proud of its traditions, livelihood and conservative nature.

I want to develop my students into independent thinkers so that they can make well-informed decisions by looking at many sources of information.
At times, this has caused some contentious moments in the classroom. To introduce the topic, I ask students to collect weather data for two or three cities in different climatic zones and to compare and contrast the different sets of data, as well as historical data from those cities, and to notice any differences. Then, we analyze data on sea ice, sea levels, carbon emissions and global temperature during the past 35 years.

This always raises some eyebrows with my students. I have heard many times from a student: “My parents don’t believe in climate change or global warming.” I want to tread lightly on their beliefs because that is what they believe, regardless of my own belief about the topic. When I show the evidence, students can draw their own conclusions that there are indeed changes to the climate.

As a science teacher, it is not my duty to force a belief in climate change or global warming on someone else, but rather to allow the scientific method and inquiry process to take hold and provide evidence from multiple sources so that the students can draw their own conclusions. I want to develop my students into independent thinkers so that they can make well-informed decisions by looking at many sources of information. Science has made major contributions to social advancement, and students need to learn how to evaluate the potential effects of new scientific advancements on both human society as well as the natural world.

A footnote on the 2014-2016 budgetary bill disallowed the use of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which would develop a curriculum that taught climate change as fact. These standards were never meant to be an overall curriculum, but rather to be used as a framework for schools, districts and even states to use as a guide when developing their new set of standards. Our school district has been using this framework for the past four years, even when the NGSS was in its draft phase. The footnote has recently been overturned by the governor during the last legislative session, so we hope to now develop a set of state science standards that has not been revised since 2001.

Fossil fuels are a very important part of our country’s economy, and it seems that few people believe we can completely be weaned from using them. But we can use our technological ingenuity to limit the impact our practices have on the environment. With some encouragement, perhaps this ingenuity is sitting in my classroom.

Roger J. Spears is a physics and chemistry teacher at Torrington and Southeast High Schools in Torrington and Yoder, Wyoming. He belongs to the Network of Educator Astronaut Teachers (NEAT): NASA Educator Astronaut Program.

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Leaving the case open, Charlottesville police find no proof of UVA gang rape

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity building at University of Virginia was the site of an alleged gang rape of
         a university student as described in a Dec. 2014 Rolling Stone article, which has since come under scrutiny. A police investigation,
         however, was unable to confirm the incident. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Police in Charlottesville, Virginia have released the findings of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault at a University of Virginia fraternity described in a Rolling Stone magazine article late last year.

The story drew national attention, and, soon thereafter, scrutiny of the details in the account.

At a press conference today, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo discussed what his team found during the investigation that included multiple interviews with the alleged victim, known only as Jackie. Police also spoke with university officials, fraternity members and friends of the woman.

It’s the first official report to discredit the account.

TIM LONGO, Chief, Charlottesville Police Department: Unfortunately, we’re not able to conclude to any substantive degree this an incident that is consistent with the facts contained in that article occurred at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house or any other fraternity house for that matter.

Now, I want to be clear about something. That doesn’t mean that something terrible did not happen to Jackie on the evening of September the 28th, 2012. We’re just not able to gather sufficient facts to conclude what that something may have been.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Joining me now is Taylor Rees Shapiro. He’s a Washington Post reporter who uncovered inconsistencies in the original Rolling Stone piece and has been following the developments at the University of Virginia since.

Taylor Rees Shapiro, thank you for talking with us.

We know that Jackie’s story, first, she described seven men physically assaulting her, being raped. What did the police investigation uncover?

T. REES SHAPIRO, The Washington Post: The police investigation, which included interviewing 70 different people and spanned hundreds of manhours with the detectives, wasn’t able to conclude with any sufficient evidence that the allegations that were detailed in Rolling Stone were true, meaning that they weren’t able to prove that the actual gang rape had occurred.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, in doing so, just give us some sense of not only who they talked to, but what they were told that didn’t square with her story.


The first thing the police aimed to do was confirm some details in the story, such as, did a party occur at the fraternity house on September 20, 2012? In order to do that, the police reached out to members of the house who lived there that year. And I believe they spoke to at least nine or 10 of them. And in the course of that investigation, they were able to show that, no, there had not been a party that night.

They also reviewed financial records and other statements from the fraternity to prove that. In addition to that, they are able to prove that, since there wasn’t a party that night, they were able to at least say it was more definitive that it didn’t occur at the house.

JUDY WOODRUFF: They also spoke, of course, as we said, with university officials. They spoke to friends of hers. And what did that produce?

T. REES SHAPIRO: The police interviewed three people who met Jackie in the immediate aftermath of the alleged attack. And they told a story that was significantly different from what was detailed in Rolling Stone.

Longo today said that they described a sexual attack that was significantly different in the details of what had occurred and what was detailed in Rolling Stone, and that too also led them to believe that there were inconsistencies in the account that was provided.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Was there anything in her account that they were able to corroborate?

T. REES SHAPIRO: They were able — as far as Longo is concerned, he said that their investigation is suspended. He said, by no imagination, does that mean that something horrible and terrible didn’t occur to her, but that as far as they were concerned that the Rolling Stone account was discredited.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In talking to them privately, the university officials and others privately — you have been on this story for a long time — do they believe that something happened, something did happen to her in the fall of 2012?

T. REES SHAPIRO: I met Jackie multiple times, and I was stunned by the allegations that she was describing.

And when I talked with other people who knew her, they, too, believed that something had happened to her. Apparently, in the minutes afterward, when her friends met her that night, they said that she was crying, that she was extremely distraught, that she didn’t appear physically hurt, but that she was just very emotional, and that they all concluded something terrible, akin to a sexual assault, must have occurred, in their eyes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Taylor Shapiro, do you have an understanding of why she has not cooperated or not been willing to talk to police, further answer any more questions?

T. REES SHAPIRO: It’s not clear to me. I have not been able to speak to Jackie since December. I have reached out to her lawyers, and they have all declined to comment.

I can’t possibly say why, other than she just doesn’t feel that she needs to.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, in watching this university community, how would you say — there was a reference today I think in the police chief’s news conference about how the university community has dealt with this. How would you say they have dealt with it? What has changed on the campus, would you say, and do they feel there are lessons learned by this?


Well, University of Virginia’s had sort of a rough few months that began in fall with the disappearance of Hannah Graham, then these Rolling Stone allegations, and most recently the arrest of a black student by white police officers in Charlottesville.

Overall, the students say it’s very clear that sexual assault prevention, as a result of this article, became a very significant and hotly debated topic on campus and, if anything, it’s raised the awareness of the issue and that has generated a lot of conversation, which they say is positive.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, more awareness, more discussion?

T. REES SHAPIRO: Absolutely. And among the students, it’s pretty clear that even one sexual assault on campus is one too many.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Taylor Rees Shapiro, who has been covering this story for The Washington Post, thank you.

T. REES SHAPIRO: Of course.

The post Leaving the case open, Charlottesville police find no proof of UVA gang rape appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

How a wheelchair challenge mobilized a high school to become more accessible


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: how one student’s efforts changed his high school in Texas and made it more accessible for people with disabilities. It’s the subject of nationally recognized video from our Student Reporting Lab in Austin and tells the story of Archer Hadley, a teenager with cerebral palsy who mobilized the entire school community.

Today, our Student Reporting Lab team arrived at the White House for the second annual Student Film Festival. The president congratulated the young producers for finding unique stories about the importance of giving back to one’s community. Over 1,500 schools submitted films. Fifteen were chosen.

Here is Austin high school’s winning video.

ARCHER HADLEY, Austin High School, Texas: My name is Archer Hadley.

Having cerebral palsy and living in a wheelchair is a completely different experience than anyone with a — quote, unquote — “normal life.”  Because I’m disabled, independence is a little harder for me.

One day, it was raining. As I’m trying to open the door, water is gushing on my back, and I’m getting soaking wet. I tried this for about five to seven minutes. And I got really frustrated. And that was when I realized, hey, I have been to a lot of public places that have automatic doors. Why can’t I do something about this?

CURT SHAW, Construction Management Director, Austin Independent School District: Well, when we first visited with Archer about what his expectations were, he wanted to install automatic door operators on three doors. The cost for each of those doors was somewhere between $5,000 and $6,500 per door in our original estimate.

NICOLE GRIFFITH, Director, The Academy for Global Studies, Austin High School: Archer’s idea was to have this wheelchair challenge.

And the wheelchair challenge involved students being able to challenge others to spend a day in a wheelchair. And if you challenge someone, then you needed to pay $20.

STUDENT: Today, I was nominated for the wheelchair challenge. And so all day, I will be in the wheelchair. I can’t get out of my wheelchair. I will use elevators to go to all my classes.

ARCHER HADLEY: My last participants thoroughly understand why we need the buttons now.

NICOLE GRIFFITH: Obviously, a lot of people came together to make this happen. And that was really neat to see.

CURT SHAW: Archer having raised $87,000, not only did it go toward the original concept of three doors; it went on to be five doors. The challenge was to get all the work that was required for the project completed within the winter break period.

All that work had to be ready for a celebration that was scheduled for Monday January the 5th, when school returned into session.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT, (R) Texas: Anyone with heart, anyone with determination, anyone with focus on achieving anything can achieve things beyond their wildest dreams. Archer is an inspiration, an inspiration for me, an inspiration for so many others.


NICOLE GRIFFITH: Archer is giving back to his community by providing the ability for students and faculty and any visitor who comes to our school to welcome. This project is going to help the community for years to come, years and years to come.

JUDY WOODRUFF: To learn more about the NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs project and see original youth-produced stories from around the country, go to

The Austin High School Student Reporting Lab is a partnership with local station KLRU and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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