December 28th, 2012

WATCH: All Our PBS NewsHour Pieces From 2012

Below is every piece we produced for PBS NewsHour in 2012. We also produced other videos directly for the web in 2012; you can watch those here.

Our relationship with NewsHour dates back many years, and while we produce documentaries and other content for different sources (such as The Education of Michelle Rhee for Frontline on January 8, 2013), year-over-year the primary distributor of our education reporting is PBS’ award-winning nightly news show.

These pieces are listed in chronological order from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

Our work is made possible, as is all PBS reporting, by generous support from viewers like you. If you’d like to contribute towards our efforts in 2013, please click here.

To participate in the education discussion day-to-day, check our Facebook (and “like” us) and keep coming back to the site.

If you have ideas for pieces we should be focusing on in 2013, let us know.

Thank you for a great year of telling stories.

Cyber Schools: Virtual Innovation?

February 23, 2012

More than 200,000 K-12 students are educated online in the United States today. Proponents of the system argue that it works for families — by providing flexible schedules, among other benefits — while also creating a student engagement that isn’t replicable in “the brick and mortar system.”

Detractors worry about how students are kept on-task. Are they really doing the work? How is that being enforced? Additionally, is removing students from the social atmosphere of K-12 education beneficial for their development?

And then, of course, there is the financial side of the issue. Every student who enrolls in a cyber school represents a financial hit to public education in that area, as you will learn in this piece. Some cyber school administrators are earning millions of dollars per year, but it’s not always clear where the extra money is going — is it going back into the school and the students (such as upgrading the technology), the broader community, or somewhere else?

John Tulenko traveled to Midland, PA — home of the PA Cyber Charter — to find out what’s going on in the world of K-12 online learning.

Does Music Education Matter?

February 24, 2012

The Harmony Program, an after-school program in New York City, is showing that music can make a big difference in children’s lives. The program provides 80 mostly low income students with free instruments and daily music lessons, but it’s not just about the music. Harmony is modeled after Venezuela’s hugely successful “El Sistema” program, which over the last 30 years has helped hundreds of thousands of the country’s neediest children learn not only how to play music, but also how to achieve success in school — and beyond. What works in Venezuela is proving equally effective in New York, where budget cuts have forced many schools to give up their music programs.

Solutions in Shelbyville: A Dropout Remedy

April 25, 2012

In 2006, Shelbyville, Indiana became the face of America’s dropout crisis as part of a TIME Magazine cover story. At the time, their graduation rate was about 75 percent.

In the six years since, Shelbyville has launched a variety of dropout prevention strategies, including online credit recovery programs. Critics argue it’s not real learning — but proponents speak to the concept that every student learns differently, and when traditional models don’t work, we shouldn’t doom an adolescent’s future.

Producers John Tulenko and Mike Joseloff traveled to Shelbyville for this report for PBS NewsHour.

What Are Kids Reading?

May 14, 2012

45 states and the District of Columbia have all agreed to adopt new guidelines called the Common Core State Standards. The “Common Core” spells out what students are expected to learn and includes a list of the types of books kids should be reading.

We went to three schools in the New York City area — using three different reading programs to teach their students how to read — to see if any of their books are up to snuff with the new standards.

Rethinking Basic Skills In Community Colleges

June 21, 2012

According to Stan Jones of Complete College America, U.S. taxpayers are spending close to $3 billion per year on supporting remedial classes at the community college level. Remedial courses — designed to help students catch up, and often taken on a non-credit basis — often aren’t successful at preparing students for their primary, credit-earning coursework.

At the same time, though, the presence of remedial classes is often a cash cow for the colleges; the courses can end up providing funding to other areas.

What can be done to improve the situation? Producer John Tulenko traveled to two community colleges in Maryland that are taking different approaches to the problem.

Early College HS in South Texas

July 4-5, 2012

In the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district in South Texas, Superintendent Daniel King is turning his district around. Just five years ago, almost half of the students were dropping out of high school. Today, students are not only staying in school — but many are graduating with college credits and some are even earning their two-year Associates degrees. The strategy — making education more challenging and interesting — seems to be working.

The segment above is in two parts; you can watch both parts by clicking “play.” You can also watch each part individually below.

Part 1 (watch that part here) deals with some of the challenges that Superintendent King faced upon taking over the district, and the solutions he and his team crafted.

Part 2 (watch that part here) deals with the successes of the model, as well as addressing how replicable it is elsewhere.

Providence Summer Scholars

August 20, 2012

Providence, Rhode Island is a failing school district. Less than half of middle school students are reading on grade level, and fewer than a third are meeting targets in math. For districts like Providence, summer school is a critical time to help students catch up.

Like most districts, Providence had been offering remedial classes to students over the summer — but as in many districts, it wasn’t working, and so Providence decided to try something different. Its new program is called Summer Scholars.

Students participate in hands-on, field learning experiences that feel more like camp than summer school. Students and teachers seem to like it more, but how much are students really learning?

Walla Walla Wine School

September 10, 2012

The two-year degree program in Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College has been around for about 12 years. 80 percent of program graduates are working in the wine industry, in roles ranging from vineyard managers to wine sellers.

As much as this is a story about wine, though, it’s also a story about Walla Walla — a small town like many others that was hit hard by economic reality, and what happened when the community college decided to play a part in turning things around.

Correspondent John Tulenko has the story.

Reach Out And Read

November 8, 2012

Where is the one place most children go before they enter 1st grade?

a. Pre-K
b. Kindergarten
c. The doctor’s office

The answer is (c), the doctor’s office. Twenty-three years ago, a group of doctors and early childhood educators realized this and started a program called Reach Out and Read. Working with parents and medical facilities, the program has grown to distribute 6.5 million books a year to over 4 million (mostly low-income) children, nationwide.

Correspondent John Merrow brings you inside a clinic at Bellevue Hospital in New York City to see Reach Out and Read in action.

School To The Rescue

November 12, 2012

The town of Belmar was among New Jersey’s hardest hit communities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and a fall nor’easter. With schools still closed, John Tulenko tells the story of the teachers coming to the rescue of families by turning their efforts from education to storm relief.

Rocketship Schools

December 28, 2012

Rocketship Education operates seven schools in San Jose, California that are among the top performing low income schools in the state. The dream, when founded, was replication. Although others have tried, nobody has successfully mass produced a high quality, cost effective school model. Will Rocketship be the first?

We visited Rocketship’s schools to see what makes them tick — and soar.

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