Education

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

There are many qualities of a great teacher. Two big ones? Kindness and a willingess to make learning fun. At least that's what Marlem Diaz-Brown's fourth-graders say.

For our 50 Great Teachers project, we've searched all over for teachers like her. Which brought us to Sunset Elementary School in Miami ... and "Mrs. D-B."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This winter, high school junior Jameria Miller would run to Spanish class. But not to get a good seat.

"The cold is definitely a distraction," Jameria says. "We race to class to get the best blankets."

Because the classroom has uninsulated metal walls, Jameria's teacher would hand out blankets. First come, first served. Such is life in the William Penn School District — an impoverished, predominantly African-American school system situated among Philadelphia's inner-ring suburbs.

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.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Brian Hart/Flickr

Earlier this week, the Public Policy Forum released a report detailing the shrinking numbers in Milwaukee’s teaching workforce. Here’s a refresher: More teachers across Greater Milwaukee are leaving their jobs than ever before. On top of that, fewer students are going into the teaching profession. The next logical question, is why?

The way Daphne Patton remembers it, it was more money than she'd ever seen.

It was 1990, and the Kentucky Supreme Court had declared the state's school funding system unconstitutional. Within a year, a lot more money started flowing to the poorest school districts, a 50 to 60 percent increase in their budgets.

Patton, an elementary school teacher from Wolfe County in eastern Kentucky, says schools had an abundance of resources, "everything we needed."

It was 1993 when Massachusetts Gov. William Weld declared: "A good education in a safe environment is the magic wand that brings opportunity." The Republican was signing into law a landmark overhaul of the state's school funding system. "It's up to us to make sure that wand is waved over every cradle," he added.

With that, Massachusetts poured state money into districts that educated lots of low-income kids, many of which also struggled to raise funds through local property taxes.

It’s happening all over the country: more teachers are leaving the field of education. On top of that, fewer young adults are entering the profession. It’s a phenomenon happening right here in the greater Milwaukee area.

Mary worked as a public school teacher in Milwaukee for 18 years. We’re not using her full name because she still does some work for her former district.

This winter, Jameria Miller would often run to her high school Spanish class, though not to get a good seat.

She wanted a good blanket.

"The cold is definitely a distraction," Jameria says of her classroom's uninsulated, metal walls.

Her teacher provided the blankets. First come, first served. Such is life in the William Penn School District in an inner-ring suburb of Philadelphia.

The hardest part for Jameria, though, isn't the cold. It's knowing that other schools aren't like this.

Unlike some other states, Alabama does not send extra money to districts that serve low-income kids or those that have limited income from local property tax dollars.

That's why, says principal Tramene Maye, at Livingston Junior High School in Sumter County, one former classroom leaks when it rains. Garbage cans catch some of the water, but the moldy smell and buckled floor prove they miss plenty. Around the school, it's a similar story: broken windows, peeling paint, cracked floor tiles. Maye insists there just isn't enough money to fix it all.

A few "short" years ago, during my sophomore year at The City College of New York, some fellow Caribbean classmates told me that the education department was offering a "free" course, called Thinking Chess, for three credits.

Some college lectures aren't just dull, they're ineffective. Discuss, people.

You did. Our recent stories on the Nobel Prize winning Stanford physicist who's pushing for big changes in how large universities teach science to undergraduates generated lots of interest, comments, questions, shares and listens — online and on NPR One.

In Detroit, 12 public school principals are accused of taking kickbacks on supplies that were never delivered. The charges, announced late last month, pose another blow to the long-troubled Detroit Public Schools, which needs hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term state aid.

Here's how the alleged kickback scheme worked: 12 principals, all working separately, gave contracts for school supplies to a vendor, who then kicked back some profits to them.

Detroit U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade says the alleged fraud totals $2.5 million. She calls it a "punch in the gut."

Pages