Cory Turner | KUOW News and Information

Cory Turner

Cory Turner edits and reports for the NPR Ed Team. He's led the team's coverage of the Common Core while also finding time for his passion: exploring how kids learn — in the classroom, on the playground, at home and everywhere else.

Before coming to NPR Ed, Cory was Senior Editor of All Things Considered. There he worked closely with the staff and hosts to make sure the right questions were asked of the right people at the right time. As the show's editor, Cory was its narrative custodian: story architect, correction czar, copy writer and polisher, guardian of the show's "voice," and the person by the phone when the hosts had an emergency question.

Before coming to NPR, Cory lived in Los Angeles and, hoping for a way in to public radio, answered phones at the network's Culver City studios. In 2004, a two-week temporary assignment booking for The Tavis Smiley Show led to regular work on NPR News with Tony Cox and News & Notes with Ed Gordon. In 2007, he won two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists.

In 2000, Cory earned a master's in screenwriting from the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts. There he wrote a short film that has seen more of the world than he has, ultimately screening at the Sundance Film Festival and selling to HBO. He also wrote a feature film for Magnolia Pictures.

You can reach him at dcturner@npr.org.

There is big news today for prospective college students and their parents. It comes from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who is in Iowa with President Obama for his annual Back to School Bus Tour.

"Today, we're lending a hand to millions of high school students who want to go to college and who've worked hard," Duncan said. "We're announcing an easier, earlier FAFSA."

That's the Free Application For Federal Student Aid. With more than 100 questions, it's a gatekeeper for students hoping to get help paying for college.

It's not just baby talk. Any kind of talk with young children — especially if they're too young to talk back — will do.

Because talk is vital to a child's brain development, says Dana Suskind, who found her passion for literacy in an unlikely place: the operating room.

President Obama has been talking about creating a Consumer Reports-style college ratings system for more than a year. But the effort seemed to get bogged down in politics and a debate over what metrics to include.

Well, in a Saturday surprise, Obama unveiled his new College Scorecard this morning.

"You'll be able to see how much each school's graduates earn, how much debt they graduate with, and what percentage of a school's students can pay back their loans," the president said in his weekly address.

It's an increasingly popular move in higher education. Hundreds of schools no longer require student applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores.

In July, George Washington University became the latest school to throw its considerable weight behind the test-optional movement. Its explanation:

An unprecedented, class action lawsuit brought against one Southern California school district and its top officials could have a big impact on schools across the country.

On Thursday in Los Angeles, a U.S. District Court judge will preside over the first hearing in the suit against the Compton Unified School District. To understand the complaint, you need to understand Compton.

This past spring, 5 million students from third grade through high school took new, end-of-year tests in math and English that were developed by a consortium of states known as PARCC.

It's a big deal because these tests are aligned to the Common Core learning standards, and they're considered harder than many of the tests they replaced.

It's also a big deal because until last year, it was all but impossible to compare students across state lines. Not anymore.

If this isn't an honest-to-goodness crystal ball, it's close.

Neurobiologist Nina Kraus believes she and her team at Northwestern University have found a way — a half-hour test — to predict kids' literacy skill long before they're old enough to begin reading.

When I first read the study in the journal PLOS Biology, two words came to mind: science fiction.

What's in a number?

To many, 81 percent is a success story. It's the nation's all-time-high rate for high school graduation in 2013, the most recent year of federal data.

But the NPR Ed Team and reporters from member stations around the country have been digging into that number and found it's more complicated.

Not all the news here is good.

The national high school graduation rate is an impressive 81 percent. So impressive, President Obama highlighted it in his State of the Union address this year: "Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high."

Sound the trumpets. This is a really big deal. There's just one problem: The president didn't explain how we got here. For the past few months, the NPR Ed Team and reporters from member stations in more than a dozen states have been digging into these numbers to find out.

The motivation behind our series, 50 Great Teachers, is pretty simple: Celebrate great teaching and great teachers.

A few months ago, I celebrated Sarah Hagan, who doesn't so much teach algebra as shout it from the rooftops. Never have I seen more creative math lessons or more engaged students than in her classroom in Drumright, Okla.

The story is below. If you missed it, here's all you need to know about Hagan:

Algebra speed-dating, problem-solving with snowballs, math jewelry collection.

Are you a glass half-full kind of person? Or glass half-empty?

Depending on your answer, you'll find the new report on state-funded preschool programs from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University either delightfully encouraging or downright depressing.

For example, glass half-full: Pre-K enrollment is up!

Glass half-empty: It's still pretty low.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see?

I see a blue horse, a purple cat, and a new program — unveiled today by President Obama — with one goal in mind:

To put good books in the hands of low-income kids.

More specifically, $250 million worth of e-books available to young, low-income readers — free. The effort will work through a new app, being developed by the New York Public Library, that has the buy-in of all the major publishers.

To survive, we humans need to be able to do a handful of things: breathe, of course. And drink and eat. Those are obvious.

We're going to focus now on a less obvious — but no less vital — human function: learning. Because new research out today in the journal Science sheds light on the very building blocks of learning.

In his new book, Raising Kids Who Read, Daniel Willingham wants to be clear: There's a big difference between teaching kids to read and teaching them to love reading.

And Willingham, a parent himself, doesn't champion reading for the obvious reasons — not because research suggests that kids who read for pleasure do better in school and in life.

This story was written for the series, "Being 12: The Year Everything Changes," from member station WNYC.

If adolescence has a poster child, it's a teenager. In a car. Smoking, drinking, and driving badly while also, somehow, having sex in the back seat.

But changes in the brain that lead to the famously bad choices of adolescence don't start at 16 or 17 years old. They start around 11 or 12 and the beginning of puberty.

What makes a great teacher great? That's the question at the heart of 50 Great Teachers, from the NPR Ed Team.

Sarah Hagan has a passion for math, and the pi-shaped pendant to prove it.

The 25-year-old teaches at Drumright High School in Drumright, Okla. The faded oil town is easy to miss. Fewer than 3,000 people live there, and the highway humps right around it.

Read part one of our reporting on the FAFSA, "Shrink The FAFSA? Good Luck With That"

It's deadline time for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Better known as the FAFSA.

The daunting application — with its 108 questions — stands between many college hopefuls and much-needed financial aid.

Look closely.

Buried deep in President Obama's 2016 budget (Page 41) is a proposal to cut up to 30 questions from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

The Obama administration has already done a lot to make the FAFSA easier — if not shorter. Online technology now allows students to skip questions that don't apply to them.

William Faulkner wrote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." And that's never more true than when people start arguing over how American history should be taught in school.

The current fight involves the Advanced Placement U.S. history exam. Nearly half a million high school students took the test last year, hoping to earn college credit.

One year after the launch of a major overhaul of the GED exam — the first since 2002 — the high school equivalency program has seen a sharp drop in the number of people who took and passed the test, according to local and state educators and the organization that runs it. In addition, at least 16 states have begun offering or plan to offer new, alternative tests.

Combined, these changes represent a dramatic shift in the equivalency landscape dominated by the GED since its inception during World War II.

What do the Common Core State Standards have in common with congressional Democrats and the Chicago Cubs?

They all had a really rough year.

Of the 45 states that first adopted the academic standards, many spent 2014 talking about repeal. In Oklahoma (as well as Indiana and South Carolina), it wasn't just talk. The Legislature voted to drop the Core in May. And Gov. Mary Fallin, a longtime champion of the Common Core, signed the repeal in June.

The last in our four-part series on reading in the Common Core era.

A question for all you parents out there: Are your kids still working their way through a pile of Halloween candy?

Maybe you've even confiscated some, to give back as a reward for eating the healthy, green things they don't like. Things like ... kale.

Well, imagine an alternate universe, where kids talk about kale as if it is candy.

Welcome to Watkins Elementary in Washington, D.C.

"All I know is that I like to eat kale," says 9-year-old Alex Edwards. "I like it, I like it, I like it!"

The third in our four-part series on reading in the Common Core era.

Every set of academic standards has a soul.

Yes, a soul. It's made of varied stuff: part research, part practice, part conviction of its authors.

To find the soul, follow the words that turn up again and again in the winding backwaters and byways of the standards themselves.

A search of the Common Core English Language Arts Standards turns up one remarkable word 105 times. It is "complex" (or "complexity").

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The walls are lined with robots and movie posters for Star Wars and Back to the Future. But this is no 1980s nerd den. It's the technology lab at Westside Neighborhood School in Los Angeles, and the domain of its ed-tech coordinator, Don Fitz-Roy.

"So we're gonna be talking about digital citizenship today."

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