9 Top Education Longreads of 2013

These articles get extra credit: They illuminate important trends in education this year and foreshadow what lies ahead, as the nation becomes more diverse.

Kids and Tablets in Class
National Journal
Sophie Quinton
Add to Briefcase
Sophie Quinton
Dec. 23, 2013, midnight

Some­times, it takes a longer art­icle to il­lu­min­ate something as com­plex as edu­ca­tion in Amer­ica. Here are nine art­icles that the Next Amer­ica staff flagged in 2013, cov­er­ing everything from pub­lic policy to teach­ing prac­tice. Many of the les­sons high­lighted by these writers will re­main rel­ev­ant in 2014 and bey­ond.

The iPad Goes to School — This has not been a good year for tab­lets in schools. The Los Angeles Uni­fied School Dis­trict sus­pen­ded its iPad rol­lout after stu­dents hacked the devices. In North Car­o­lina, Guil­ford County hal­ted the rol­lout of devices made by the edu­ca­tion tech­no­logy com­pany Amp­li­fy due to tech­nic­al prob­lems. Bloomberg Busi­nes­s­week’s Dev­in Le­onard heads to a Mas­sachu­setts high school that suc­cess­fully brought iPads in­to the classroom — by us­ing them to ex­plore the In­ter­net, not just as a ves­sel for edu­ca­tion soft­ware.

Crash Test — Is the high-stakes test­ing move­ment dy­ing in Texas? In the state where the ac­count­ab­il­ity move­ment began, Nate Blakeslee of Texas Monthly finds little aca­dem­ic pro­gress and a whole lot of angry par­ents. Texas’s state le­gis­lature re­cently cut down the num­ber of tests stu­dents need to gradu­ate from high school from 15 to five. For re­lated read­ing, try “The Sci­ence of Cit­izen­ship,” from en­vir­on­ment­ally fo­cused Or­i­on magazine.

Them and Them — In a sub­urb­an New York com­munity, an Or­tho­dox Jew­ish ma­jor­ity con­trols the loc­al school board even though al­most all Hasid­ic chil­dren at­tend private, re­li­gious schools. The East Ramapo school board has ap­proved deep cuts to pub­lic school fund­ing that are for­cing im­mig­rant fam­il­ies out of town. Read New York magazine’s Ben­jamin Wal­lace-Well’s art­icle to find out why.

Run­ning in Place — An ac­count of life on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge re­ser­va­tion from Edu­ca­tion Week‘s Lesli Max­well. The area’s eco­nomy is al­most wholly de­pend­ent on fed­er­al money, and there are few jobs. Max­well high­lights the chal­lenges Nat­ive Amer­ic­an chil­dren face, in­clud­ing cul­tur­al isol­a­tion.

What Does It Take for Trau­mat­ized Kids to Thrive?” — Good ques­tion. In Walla Walla, Wash., a high school for troubled stu­dents has trans­formed its edu­ca­tion out­comes by fo­cus­ing on the ef­fects of stress and trauma on chil­dren. It may be a pub­lic-health ap­proach to edu­ca­tion, but the secret isn’t clin­ic­al. Laura Till­man’s art­icle for Pa­cific Stand­ard sug­gests that Lin­coln High is suc­cess­ful be­cause it sur­rounds kids with lov­ing and sup­port­ive adults.

Dro­pouts Tell No TalesWash­ing­ton Monthly‘s Jamaal Ab­dul-al­im re­turns to his alma ma­ter to ask why the dro­pout rate for Afric­an-Amer­ic­an stu­dents — like him — re­mains so high. Ab­dul-al­im finds no easy an­swers at the Uni­versity of Wis­con­sin (Mil­wau­kee), but he leads the read­er through thought­ful con­ver­sa­tions with stu­dents and of­fers re­flec­tions on his own ex­per­i­ence. One nug­get: Ab­dul-al­im re­mem­bers strug­gling in fresh­man math be­cause classes were usu­ally “taught by for­eign na­tion­als who spoke with thick ac­cents that made an already dif­fi­cult sub­ject even more dif­fi­cult for me to un­der­stand.”

Young, Multi-Em­ployed, and Look­ing for Full-Time Work in San Fran­cisco — Read this first-per­son ac­count in The Bill­fold of highly edu­cated, cre­at­ive mil­len­ni­als strug­gling to find jobs in San Fran­cisco. Then read “The Bur­dens of Work­ing Class Youth” in The Chron­icle of High­er Edu­ca­tion, an art­icle sum­ming up a new book. A whole gen­er­a­tion of Amer­ic­an col­lege gradu­ates has found that edu­ca­tion doesn’t guar­an­tee prosper­ity. In The Chron­icle, Jen­nifer M. Silva pin­points a cru­cial dif­fer­ence: “When work­ing-class stu­dents make mis­takes, even out of ig­nor­ance, there is no one to fight for them or cush­ion the fall.”

The Road Less TraveledYale Daily News re­port­er Haley Brynes in­vest­ig­ates what it’s like to be a first-gen­er­a­tion col­lege stu­dent at Yale. Among oth­er things, she finds that some first-gen stu­dents avoid hu­man­it­ies courses be­cause they simply haven’t read as much — nor ar­gued about lit­er­at­ure with as ad­vanced a vocab­u­lary — as their af­flu­ent, private-school-edu­cated peers.

Even Odds” — Jill Tuck­er’s three-part San Fran­cisco Chron­icle series on Afric­an-Amer­ic­an boys in Oak­land has a lot to of­fer, but the third art­icle is par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing. The 100 Black Men of the Bay Area Com­munity school, an all-boys pub­lic charter, is a lot like oth­er charter schools. There are daily morn­ing pump-up chants, uni­forms, and stu­dents who are taught to walk quietly and si­lently down the halls. But most teach­ers and staff are Afric­an-Amer­ic­an men.

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