Eric Westervelt | KUOW News and Information

Eric Westervelt

A California judge today ruled the state's laws governing teacher tenure and the firing of public school teachers unconstitutional, saying they interfere with the state's obligation to provide every child with access to a good education.

The plaintiffs in the case, Vergara v. California, argued that the tenure system for public school teachers in California verges on the absurd, and that those laws disproportionately harm poor and minority students. In his ruling, Judge Rolf M. Treu agreed.

Graduation Season? More like Disinvitation Season.

As students across the country prepare for pomp and circumstance, college and university administrators are grappling with a series of commencement speech boondoggles.

This year alone, nearly a dozen big-name commencement speakers — including the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — have been invited to speak at graduation ceremonies, only to withdraw or have their invitations rescinded in the wake of campus protests.

At preschools in Tulsa, Okla., teachers are well-educated and well-paid, and classrooms are focused on play, but are still challenging. One nonprofit in Tulsa, the Community Action Project, has flipped the script on preschool. The idea behind its Career Advance program is simple: To help kids, the group believes, you often have to help their parents.

President Obama has called repeatedly on Congress to help states pay for "high-quality preschool" for all. In fact, those two words — "high quality" — appear time and again in the president's prepared remarks. They are also a refrain among early childhood education advocates and researchers. But what do they mean? And what separates the best of the nation's preschool programs from the rest?

In reporting on students navigating the maze of college costs and financial aid, I kept running into misconceptions about paying for a degree. Here are some of the most common ones:

Low-income students get most of their college financial aid needs met and rich kids don't have to worry, so it's mainly the middle class that gets squeezed.

In the past 20 years, the average burden for a four-year college graduate in the U.S. has gone from about $9,000 to nearly $30,000 today. The percentage of students carrying debt has shot up from less than half to nearly 70 percent these days.

At a large public high school in Freemont, Calif., southeast of San Francisco, Alyssa Tucker and Thao Le sit on a metal table. Both come from families with modest incomes.

With spring fast approaching, many American high school seniors are now waiting anxiously to hear whether they got into the college or university of their choice. For many students, their scores on the SAT or the ACT will play a big role in where they get in.

That's because those standardized tests remain a central part in determining which students get accepted at many schools. But a first-of-its-kind study obtained by NPR raises questions about whether those tests are becoming obsolete.

Supporters of the new Common Core education standards adopted by 45 states say the standards hold American students to much higher expectations, and move curriculum away from a bubble-test culture that encourages test preparation over deeper learning.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

To California now where a polarizing lawsuit goes to trial tomorrow. At issue, whether job protections for public school teachers undermines students' constitutional rights to an adequate education. The students and parents who filed the lawsuit say it could provide a model for challenging teacher protection laws in other states. But to unions and state officials, all the lawsuit does is demonize teachers.

NPR's Eric Westervelt has the story.

One year ago, many were pointing to the growth of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, as the most important trend in higher education. Many saw the rapid expansion of MOOCs as a higher education revolution that would help address two long-vexing problems: access for underserved students and cost.

In theory, students saddled by rising debt and unable to tap into the best schools would be able to take free classes from rock star professors at elite schools via Udacity, edX, Coursera and other MOOC platforms.

Are American kids being adequately prepared in the sciences to compete in a highly competitive, global high-tech workforce? A majority of American parents say no, according to a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Most parents of elementary school-age children say their schools boosted security following last year's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., according to a poll from NPR in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

This is final story in a three-part report on Philadelphia schools in crisis.

Shayna Terrell is in a good mood: It's report card night at the Simon Gratz Mastery Charter high school in North Philadelphia, and parents are showing up in good numbers.

This is the second in a three-part report on Philadelphia schools in crisis.

Philadelphia's Center City area sparkles with new restaurants, jobs and money. After declining for half a century, the city's population grew from 2006 to 2012.

But for people living in concentrated poverty in large swaths of North and West Philadelphia, the Great Recession only made life harder.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is in some hot water over remarks he made last week suggesting that opposition to Common Core of Standards was coming from "white suburban moms." He has since pulled back from those remarks.

It's recess time at Ruby Bridges Elementary School and a third-grader is pummeling a plastic tetherball with focused intensity. He's playing at one of more than a half-dozen recess play stations on the school's sprawling cement playground — there's also wall ball, basketball, capture the flag, sharks and minnows, a jungle gym and tag.

This week on All Tech, we're exploring kids and technology with posts and radio pieces about raising digital natives. Look back at the stories and share your thoughts and ideas in the comments, by email or tweet.

A growing number of school districts across America are trying to weave tablet computers, like the iPad, into the classroom fabric, especially as a tool to help implement the new Common Core state standards for math and reading.

For many high school students this year, the already stressful process of applying to college has been made far worse by major technical malfunctions with the Common Application, an online application portal used by hundreds of colleges and universities.

"It's been stressful, to be honest," says Freya James, a senior in Atlanta applying to five schools — all early admissions. The Common App has been a nightmare, the 17-year-old says.

Sunny Palo Alto, Calif., is awash in multimillion-dollar homes, luxury Tesla electric cars and other financial fruits from a digital revolution the city helped spark. The Silicon Valley city is home to Stanford University, at least eight billionaires, and one mobile home park.

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