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A young girl plucks out notes on the violin
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

No doubt you’ve heard by now about Pokemon Go!. It was all the rage this summer. But we did manage to find a group of kids who put down their smartphones and picked up something much more old school.

Seven weeks ago, Kennedy Craig had never held a violin in her hands, let alone play one. But here she was, seven weeks later, plucking out "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on a pint-sized violin. She likes the instrument so much she wants "to get one for Christmas!"

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

How do you navigate life on the outside after you’ve been locked up in prison for years? That’s a question more than 6,000 federal inmates recently faced when they were released early from prison due to changes in how the government sentences drug criminals.

So what does it take to successfully re-enter society?

We put that question to Tim Hurley, an ex-con who did two stints in prison. He says having a mentor once he got out helped him transition big time. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

If you graduated high school in June and college doesn’t start until fall, probably homework is the last thing on your mind during summer. But for some recent high school graduates, the summer before college is filled with homework, study groups and workshops.

That's how Chelsie Thompson's summer is shaping up. Thompson is 18 years old and she insists everyone (including reporters) call her "Phancie." She’s from Melvindale, a small, working-class city just outside Detroit, and she's spending seven weeks of her summer on the campus of the University of Michigan, taking three college courses for credit and learning her way around the university. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Chris Reynolds will never forget his first day on campus at the University of Michigan. He and his dad had gotten up super early to drive the nine hours from Sellersville, Pennsylvania to Ann Arbor.

"My father literally just dropped me off and then left," says Reynolds. His dad couldn’t afford a hotel, so they took about an hour to unpack the car, said their goodbyes, and his dad drove off.

frankjuarez / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Last week we did a story about whether people judge others based on how they speak. (Spoiler alert: Yep, they do.) One African-American high school student we spoke to said he hated how often teachers corrected him when he spoke. "Every time you try to say something they gotta correct every line you say. It's like ... I don't want to talk to you now."

University of Michigan education professor Holly Craig says that type of "correctional" teaching style is a sure-fire way to turn African American students off from education, and the results play out time and again in standardized test scores for African-American students. 

Across the country, black students consistently lag behind their white peers on standardized tests. Experts have been trying to come up with ways to shrink the achievement gap for decades, but it’s still there. Craig and a team of researchers thinks teaching kids how to code switch at an early age can go a long way reducing the gap. 

user: jdurham / morgueFILE

We're data geeks here at State of Opportunity. And there's a treasure trove of data (and more to come!) housed at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. The Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) has been around since 1968 and is the longest-running household panel survey in the world. We're talking tens of thousands of data points from more than 70,000 individuals over more than four decades. 

Researchers have mined PSID data for all kinds of economic mobility studies. My colleague Dustin Dwyer blogged about it back in 2012 before he went to a U of M conference where social scientists presented their findings using PSID data across three generations: 

I've already had a chance to look at some of the papers that will be presented, and there are some tantalizing findings. Jean Yeung of the National University of Singapore and two co-authors from New York University looked at the black-white achievement gap across three generations. They found evidence that discrimination in the grandparent's generation had an impact on children's outcomes decades later.

Other papers look at the effects of extended family – aunts, uncles, cousins – to see how they affect economic mobility in other countries.  

And now there's a new generation to add to the mix. All of the children in the original cohort will have reached adulthood by this year, so PSID researchers will collect information on this new generation of kids ages 0 to 17. 

user Childrens Book Review / flickr

More than 400,000 children are currently in foster care in the U.S. Once a child has entered the system, they remain there on average for nearly two years, according to a federal report. As part of our State of Opportunity project, we looked into a unique program that’s working to prevent kids in Michigan from even entering foster care in the first place.

When all five of your children are placed in foster care, who do you call?

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Classrooms are becoming more diverse, with Black and Latino students filling up more seats than ever before.  But across the country, for the most part, teachers are still white, middle class and female. So how do teachers navigate that divide?