Anya Kamenetz

Anya Kamenetz is NPR's lead education blogger. She joined NPR in 2014, working as part of a new initiative to coordinate on-air and online coverage of learning.

Kamenetz is the author of several books. Her latest is The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life (PublicAffairs, 2018).

Her previous books were Generation Debt; DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, and The Test.

Kamenetz covered technology, innovation, sustainability, and social entrepreneurship for five years as a staff writer for Fast Company magazine. She's contributed to The New York Times, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Slate, and O, the Oprah Magazine, and appeared in documentaries shown on PBS and CNN.

Kamenetz was named a 2010 Game Changer in Education by the Huffington Post, received 2009, 2010, and 2015 National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for innovation in 2017 along with the rest of the NPR Ed team.

Kamenetz grew up in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana, in a family of writers and mystics, and graduated from Yale University in 2002. She lives in New York City.

For the fourth straight year, the U.S. high school graduation rate has improved — reaching an all-time high of 82 percent in the 2013-2014 school year, the Department of Education announced Tuesday. Achievement gaps have narrowed, too, with graduation rates ranging from 89 percent for students classified as Asian/Pacific Islanders to 62.6 percent for English-language learners.

"It is encouraging to see our graduation rate on the rise and I applaud the hard work we know it takes to see this increase," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a statement.

For Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 7-13), the nonprofit Code.org has helped organize nearly 200,000 "Hour of Code" events around the world. It's advocating for computer coding as a basic literacy and an essential ingredient for jobs of the future, and there's a lot of momentum behind the idea.

The biggest school systems in the country, New York City and Los Angeles Unified, each announced this fall that computer science will be a required course for all grades within 10 years. Coding is also part of national curricula in the U.K. and soon will be in Australia.

Google products are growing as ubiquitous in classrooms as dry-erase markers. The most recent numbers show that more than half of classroom computers purchased for U.S. schools are low-cost Chromebooks. And 50 million students, teachers and administrators use Google Apps For Education, a group of tools that includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and the purpose-built Google Classroom.

As I'm sure you've heard by now, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, used the occasion of their daughter's birth to announce they'll be investing nearly all their fortune, some $45 billion, in good causes.

Last year, Susan Avey, the principal of Bogle Junior High School in Chandler, Ariz., had a heart-to-heart with one of her new teachers about how he was relating to students.

In a previous year, this might have been a conversation based on subjective impressions. The teacher might have gotten defensive. But this year, Avey had a new tool up her sleeve: a survey of her students.

"He came in to talk to me and said, 'I felt like I had really good relationships with kids, but reading my comments, I was surprised that I wasn't rated as highly.' "

As he prepares to leave office this month, Education Secretary Arne Duncan reunited with a former student as part of a StoryCorps interview project.

More than 25 years ago Duncan took part in a mentorship program run by the "I Have a Dream" Foundation at Shakespeare Elementary School in Chicago. And Lawanda Crayton was one of the young students he mentored.

Our Ideas series is exploring how innovation happens in education.

Anytime there's an innovation in education, often the first question anyone asks is, "Will it scale?"

Sure, you've managed to improve learning outcomes for one classroom, one school, one district. But if you can't reach 50,000 — or 5 million — students, the thinking goes, then it's not real or worthy.

Matt Candler is one person arguing the opposite. And the White House, among others, is listening.

In yet another episode in the ongoing investigations of for-profit colleges, the U.S. Department of Education and California's attorney general say Corinthian Colleges consistently misled students enrolled at two campuses about their chances of getting a job.

Education Management Corporation will pay $95.5 million to settle allegations that it lied about its recruiting practices. The sum, announced Monday by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is the largest civil award to date in a case involving a for-profit college.

"Simply put," Duncan said, "EDMC wasn't interested in playing by the rules."

Our Ideas series is exploring how innovation happens in education.

Fourteen-year-old Yasemine Dursun is an aspiring entrepreneur. Her invention is called the Slapwrap, a braceletlike device for storing earbuds.

In a cacophonous hallway crowded with her classmates, she launches into her pitch:

"If you're washing your hands, water can get on your buds and damage them," the ninth-grader explains. "They can dangle and pick up dirt. This is kind of disgusting, but it can cause acne."

Our Ideas series is exploring how innovation happens in education.

Almost all college students have a cellphone. They use them an average of eight to 10 hours a day and check them an average of every 15 to 20 minutes while they're awake.

Heavier smartphone use has been linked to lower-quality sleep and lower GPAs — oh, are you getting a text right now?

I'll wait.

Anyway, as I was saying, one professor at the University of Colorado Boulder has come up with a solution to smartphone distraction in one of his astronomy classes.

Our Ideas series is exploring how innovation happens in education.

As one of the biggest, most successful tech companies, Google can hire pretty much anyone it wants.

Accordingly, the company tends to favor Ph.D.s from Stanford and MIT. But, it has just partnered with a for-profit company called General Assembly to offer a series of short, noncredit courses for people who want to learn how to build applications for Android, Google's mobile platform. Short, as in just 12 weeks from novice to employable.

Today, President Obama and the Department of Education released a Testing Action Plan, calling on states to cut back on "unnecessary testing" that consumes "too much instructional time" and creates "undue stress for educators and students."

Recently a neighborhood in Brooklyn made national headlines for a fight over public schools. Lots of affluent, mainly white families have been moving into new condos in the waterfront area called DUMBO, and the local elementary school is getting overcrowded.

The city wants to redraw the zones in a way that would send kids from this predominantly white school to a nearby school where enrollment is over 90 percent black and Hispanic and which draws many of its students from a public housing project. Some parents on both sides of the line balked.

As always, our NPR Ed inboxes are clogged with press releases about the latest amazeballs app or product. Like the following, edited to protect the guilty:

...an unprecedented new DOODLEHICKY app optimized for iPhone® and Android™ smartphones that includes real-time monitoring of a child's learning progress. DOODLEHICKY is the tutoring program that fuses the most effective elements of personalized teaching with a fun and engaging iPad® and Android tablet-based experience for measurably improving student DOODLE performance.

"The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other."

James Garfield, the United States' 20th president, supposedly said this about one of his former professors, a legendary educator and the president of Williams College from 1836 to 1872. It captures what feels like a ground truth in education: It's impossible to improve on the enduring value of a personal, one-on-one relationship between a student and a great teacher.

Waking up early on a Saturday. Sharpened No. 2 pencils and a calculator. For teenagers headed to a four-year college, taking a standardized entrance exam such as the ACT and SAT is typically a requirement. But it's far from a universal experience.

In 50 of the largest U.S. cities, examined in a new report from the University of Washington, Bothell's nonpartisan Center on Reinventing Public Education, fewer than 1 in 3 students takes either of those tests in a given year.

Our friends over at Planet Money built this interactive graphic that illuminates yet another aspect of the Education Department's new College Scorecard. It shows the average annual price that families actually pay at 1,550 four-year colleges, by income.

"The value of my education is priceless, but the value of my education is also not $140,000 in debt."

That was the statement of a Hunter College graduate with a master's degree, as quoted in the documentary Ivory Tower. And a new national poll suggests that thousands of graduates, especially younger graduates, agree with her.

Ron Turiello's daughter, Grace, seemed unusually alert even as a newborn.

At 7 months or so, she showed an interest in categorizing objects: She'd take a drawing of an elephant in a picture book, say, and match it to a stuffed elephant and a realistic plastic elephant.

At 5 or 6 years old, when snorkeling with her family in Hawaii, she identified a passing fish correctly as a Heller's barracuda, then added, "Where are the rest? They usually travel in schools."

Is technology the best thing that ever happened to education? Or a silent killer of children's attention spans and love of learning?

Tap, Click, Read is a new book out this week that attempts to offer a third alternative. It tells the stories of educators and parents who are trying to develop media, and ways of interacting with that media, that encourage literacy and critical thinking skills in young children, while reducing inequity.

The Obama Administration's long awaited, and slightly-different-than-planned College Scorecard is open ... for interpretation.

The new tool combines data from the Treasury and IRS with Department of Education records on more than 7,000 colleges and universities, going back 18 years. Anyone can access the data that shows how particular colleges are doing at enabling students to pay back loans and pay their bills.

Anyone, including our colleagues over at NPR's Planet Money team.

Back when Grant Hosford's older daughter was in first grade, she signed up for an extracurricular class, building robots with a programmable Lego toy called Mindstorms. Hosford, a dot-com entrepreneur, came to visit the class and was startled to see that Naomi, who loves science and math, was both the only girl there and the youngest by a couple of years.

"My first reaction was not, 'Oh, I'm going to go build a coding company.' My first reaction was, 'What can I build for my daughter that will help her down this path?' "

The US News & World Report Best Colleges rankings, the leaderboard of competitive college admissions, are out this week. And all this week on All Things Considered, we've been talking with students who graduated from high school in Montgomery County, Md., four or five years ago.

Have you ever done your children's homework for them? Have you driven to school to drop off an assignment that they forgot? Have you done a college student's laundry? What about coming along to Junior's first job interview?

Think of an educational tool and you might picture beloved standbys from our Tools of the Trade series, like the abacus and the wooden block. But educators are increasingly turning to software and websites like Khan Academy, Google Apps and Code.org to help them deliver lessons, manage collaboration, do real-time assessments and more.

Please read the following two sentences carefully. Choose which is correct, A or B.

A. According to a brand-new national poll, two-thirds of the American public supports annual federal testing, and 59 percent oppose letting students opt out of tests, while only 1 in 4 supports opting out.

B. According to a brand-new national poll, two-thirds of the American public thinks there is too much testing in schools. As for opt-outs, they are split, with 44 percent opposing it and 41 percent supporting it.

Chester E. Finn Jr. has three very bright granddaughters. He thinks they "have considerable academic potential and are not always being challenged by their schools." Finn is not just a proud grandpa; he's a long-established expert on education policy with the Fordham Institute and Hoover Institution.

So it's not surprising that his grandkids got him wondering about — and researching — a big question: How well is the U.S. educating its top performers?

Pearson was already the biggest education company in the world. Now its education business is getting even bigger. In the past several weeks, the company has sold off its two major media brands, the Financial Times (for $1.3 billion) and The Economist (for about $730 million).

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