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 Tales” — Washington 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 Traveled” — Yale 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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"Saudi Arabia said Saturday that Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist who disappeared more than two weeks ago, had died after an argument and fistfight with unidentified men inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Eighteen men have been arrested and are being investigated in the case, Saudi state-run media reported without identifying any of them. State media also reported that Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy director of Saudi intelligence, and other high-ranking intelligence officials had been dismissed."
"Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is scrutinizing how a collection of activists and pundits intersected with WikiLeaks, the website that U.S. officials say was the primary conduit for publishing materials stolen by Russia, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Mueller’s team has recently questioned witnesses about the activities of longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, including his contacts with WikiLeaks, and has obtained telephone records, according to the people familiar with the matter."
"Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections ... Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice." Mueller has faced pressure to wrap up the investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, said an official, who would receive the results of the investigation and have "some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released," if he remains at his post.
"The Justice Department on Friday charged a Russian woman for her alleged role in a conspiracy to interfere with the 2018 U.S. election, marking the first criminal case prosecutors have brought against a foreign national for interfering in the upcoming midterms. Elena Khusyaynova, 44, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors said she managed the finances of 'Project Lakhta,' a foreign influence operation they said was designed 'to sow discord in the U.S. political system' by pushing arguments and misinformation online about a host of divisive political issues, including immigration, the Confederate flag, gun control and the National Football League national-anthem protests."