State of Opportunity

Wednesday during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

State of Opportunity is a special project produced by Michigan Radio with major financial support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The project features documentary reports, first-person storytelling, youth journalists, an online portal, and Michigan Radio’s Public Insight Network.

The goal is to expose the barriers children of low income families in Michigan face in achieving success.

Jamie Rykse was sent to an adult prison after a home invasion when she was 17. "I had been to hell and back," she says now. "I needed help."
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

For the past few years, a campaign has been building to change how Michigan handles 17-year-olds who commit crimes.

As it stands now, those 17-year-olds are automatically charged as adults, and – when convicted – sent to adult prisons.

Advocates say Michigan is one of only seven states in the nation that still do this. And, in the next few weeks, they’re hoping to finally push through a law to change it.

The law already has a lot to say about turning 18. That’s the age you can vote, the age you can join the military, and buy a pack of cigarettes.

Baby yawning
Jill M / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Parents should share a room with their babies for at least the first six months of their lives, according to updated guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

kids on merry-go-round
guilherme jofili / Flickr CC / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

More than one in five children in the U.S. lives in poverty. That's nearly 16 million kids.

And nearly twice as many experience poverty at some point during childhood.

Research shows poverty is the greatest threat to a child's well-being, and childhood poverty can have lifelong consequences.

jar of change
Pictures of Money / Flickr CC / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Nearly 10 years after the recession, school funding is still way down in some states. That's according to a new report released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

According to the report, 35 states provided less overall state funding per student in the 2014 school year than in the 2008 school year, before the recession took hold. In 27 states, local funding per student fell over the same period.

User: geishabot / Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

For this story, I have two hats. One is my reporter hat. The other is my dad hat.

I like the daddy hat.  

But I do still have this reporter hat over here. And I’ve been thinking a lot lately with my reporter hat about my beautiful, perfect little boy. Because, the truth is, he is at risk.

And I’ve been thinking about this risk because of what’s been in the news lately – about how men talk and act toward women. And what’s considered normal for those things.

Scantron Test Form
The Review Univ. of Delaware / Flickr CC / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

For decades, grading students - from A to F - has been a standard method of measuring and communicating their skill, understanding, and mastery.

But could our current system of tying students' knowledge to grades actually be doing more harm to students than good? An increasing number of educators and researchers think so.

Educator Chris Crouch wrote for The Huffington Post:

Opinion: Dear America, I'm not your excuse.

Oct 17, 2016
portrait of eric thomas
Courtesy of Eric Thomas

We’ve always used successful individuals as a barometer of possibility for everyone. “If I made it, then so can you.”

This the siren call of almost every motivational speaker. And it makes perfect sense. It’s encouraging to see someone that’s like you from similar circumstances achieve greatness. 

As a guy that grew up in not so privileged neighborhood, I’m often used as an example of what hard work can achieve. But sometimes people use success stories as an excuse to not care about others. The fact is, when the system is failing people, one or two outliers are often used as an excuse to deflect social responsibility.

Girl in lab
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr CC / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Only 16 % of American high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.

Even when students pursue a college degree in a STEM-related field, only about half end up working in a related career.

Voting sign
Justin Grimes / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

This presidential campaign cycle has been nothing short of...interesting. And here we are, just 28 days from election day.

But on November 8, nearly 6 million Americans won't be allowed to cast a ballot. The reason why? Felony disenfranchisement laws.

Young boy doing homework
Eric Cuthbert / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

When a student is identified as gifted, they are often given access to resources to help them flourish. Things like accelerated classes, individualized learning plans, and academically rigorous instruction.

But critics of gifted and talented programs argue that they reinforce race and class opportunity gaps. That may be because students of color are underrepresented in gifted programs relative to white students.