Education, schools, and learning

Alex Kotlowitz argues in this weekend's New York Times that schools alone can't improve the lives of poor children. He says we need to demand the best from our teachers, but we also need to "grapple with the forces that bear down on the lives of their students" before we can close the economic divide.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Just when you thought the Republican and Democratic national conventions were over...

I'm here to talk about an event that took place behind the scenes at one of the conventions -- specifically the DNC in Charlotte, NC. Between all the speeches and sound bites and people in funny hats mugging for the camera, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation held a symposium in Charlotte, where they released a 47-page report on the profound achievement and opportunity gaps that African American males face.

The "Challenge the Status Quo" report looks at not only those factors that impede academic progress for black male students, but also what can be done about it. 

You can check out the full report here, which is packed with data and research from a wide range of studies. Meantime, here are a few highlights:

Education and the inequality of opportunity

Sep 7, 2012
SvobodalT / flickr

I’m new to State of Opportunity. Before I begin writing regular posts I want to tell you a little bit about myself. It isn’t very often that readers get a glimpse into the personal lives of reporters.

My personal narrative in part explains why issues like those we explore in State of Opportunity are so important.

I was raised in what is quickly becoming the typical American family. My mother provided for my sister and me through working as a secretary and monthly child support payments.

Next week, we're hoping to sit down for a chat with political scientist and author Charles Murray. For the unfamiliar, Murray is a conservative thinker whose writings on race, achievement and the family have been hugely influential and plenty controversial.

Michael B. / flickr

Students from dozens of Michigan districts headed back to school today.

As students break out their No. 2 pencils and notebooks, parents might be interested in reading this new report about how schools across the country are being forced to make do with less money and fewer teachers.

The report, from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has lots of juicy and well-researched stats, but it  also tells a bigger story about this particular political moment where spending cuts are more likely than tax increases.

Emily D. Elliot / flickr

Kids do better in school if their parents are involved.

But when I hear about schools pushing parent involvement, it conjures up visions of a parent I, and many other parents, can't be.

I think of a parent who goes on all the field trips, attends all the meetings at school, and remembers to send in all the forms on time.

Dustin Dwyer

It's no secret that pre-kindergarten education can have a profound impact on the future prospects of children - studies have shown it for decades. But in Michigan, and in the rest of the country, only about half of kids actually attend preschool. Plenty of parents want to send their kids to preschool, there just aren't enough classes available.

Here's a short video clip of journalist and author Paul Tough talking about his new book "How Children Succeed." We're planning a special call-in show with Tough next month. What questions do you have for him?


Last week, the Michigan Department of Education released its first state-wide report card on school progress since the state won a new waiver on requirements No Child Left Behind law. 

If you haven't been following the news, you might wonder why Michigan needed a waiver from No Child Left Behind in the first place. There are lots of reasons, really. But the most basic reason has to do with a requirement at the core of the act.  

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

What if we told you there was a man in Harlem who thinks he's figured out how to break the cycle of poverty?

You'd probably want to meet him, right? We sure did.