Community College Guarantees a Spot in Class, for Those Willing to Pay

Many California community college students are starting to register for summer classes. In many cases there aren't enough classes to go around, and that means students might end up on long waiting lists. Long Beach City College in Southern California is experimenting with a plan, approved by the Legislature last fall, that guarantees students a seat in class. That is, if they're willing to pay more.

Online-Only Standardized Test Faces Early Glitches

California's new experiment in online testing is underway. State-mandated exams for school children are all on the computer for the first time. So far, these are just practice tests -- and that's a good thing.

PBS NewsHour

Percentage of Americans with college degrees rises, paying for degrees tops financial challenges

College costs vary by type and quality of institution, and so does the return on investment of that tuition cost. Photo
         of 2012 Vassar College commencement by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images.

Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images.

Nearly 40 percent of working-aged Americans now hold a college degree, according to a new report from the Lumina Foundation.

In 2012, 39.4 percent of Americans between 25 and 64 had at least a two-year college degree. That was up from 38.7 percent in 2011, the largest single year gain since 2008. But Lumina is promoting a college degree attainment goal of 60 percent by 2025 and the current upward trend isn’t happening fast enough to get us there.

Who gets a college degree is still starkly divided by race – 27.6 percent of blacks, 23.4 percent of Native Americans and 19.8 percent of Latinos hold at least a two-year degree, compared to 43.9 percent of whites and 59.4 percent of Asians. There are signs this gap could narrow in the future. The percent of black and Latino enrolling college saw big increases between 2011 and 2012. In 2012, 67.1 percent of recent black high school grads enrolled in college, compared to 62 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, college enrollment for recent Latino high school grads went from 59.7 to 66.6 percent.

With more Americans headed to college, the findings of a new Gallup poll may be unsurprising. Paying for college expenses is the most common financial challenge facing those between the ages of 18 and 49.

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Student reporters honored as #NextGen public media producers


What do an eighth grade news anchor from Newark, N.J., a three-time student Emmy winner from Michigan and Montana’s Journalist of the Year scholarship winner all have in common?

These students, along with eight other youth journalists from across the country, are this year’s PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs All-Stars. The nomination process included teachers and peers, who submitted videos outlining the All-Stars’ contributions to journalism and public media.

Students participating in the Reporting Labs program work with public media mentors from their local stations to produce original news reports. Their work is featured on the national Student Reporting Labs website, the NewsHour’s Rundown and broadcast.

NewsHour Executive Producer Linda Winslow believes it is important for public media outlets to support young journalists.

“I want them to deliver the kind of quality that we encourage today – journalism that makes people better informed citizens of the world,” she said.

Student Reporting Labs is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) as part of the public media initiative, “American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen,” which is helping communities improve education opportunities for all students and build the next generation of skilled graduates. Student Reporting Labs is also funded by National Science Foundation.

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Michigan students march to end ‘zero tolerance’ approach to school discipline

Students, teachers and educators in Detroit will march to Michigan's capital in Lansing to protest what they feel
         is an unfair "zero tolerance" discipline policy in schools. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Students, teachers and educators in Detroit will march to Michigan’s capital in Lansing to protest what they feel is an unfair “zero tolerance” discipline policy in schools. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

About 150 Michigan students, parents and educators plan to take the 90-mile trip from Detroit to the state’s capital in Lansing Monday through Wednesday to protest schools’ zero-tolerance discipline policies. That may not seem like much of an undertaking – but they’re making the trek on foot.

The three-day march is the work of a group called Youth Voice. The group’s co-president, 16-year-old Michael Reynolds, was suspended for five days in 2013 for not having his student ID card on multiple occasions.

“It hurts me because schools are pushing kids out in the streets,” Reynolds told the Detroit Free Press about seeing students miss school for minor infractions like his. “If we’re in the streets, nothing good can come of it. I think sometimes the schools set us up for failure.”

Michigan is one of several states reconsidering its discipline policies. The Obama administration started urging schools to make changes like this earlier this year, citing data that showed harsh discipline options like suspension and expulsion are more likely to be used with black and Latino students.

Colorado was an early adopter of less extreme discipline policies. The state legislature passed a bill in 2012 that whittled the list of offenses that made students eligible for immediate suspension or expulsion down to just one: bringing a firearm onto a school campus.

The PBS NewsHour visited Colorado earlier in February to learn about the restorative justice program one high school is using in the place of old zero tolerance policies.

But – some signs point to the need for robust planning and support when new discipline policies are adopted. Teachers in Denver schools reported an increase in disruptive and dangerous behavior once swift suspension and expulsion were off the table. The state even saw a spike in the number of black and Native American students referred to the local police over in-school incidents in the year after the policy change.

This story and PBS NewsHour’s education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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Lessons from a successful ‘dropout recruiter’

This video was produced by PBS affiliate Nine Network in St. Louis as part of the American Graduate project.

His future, or his son’s. That was how 20-year old Cortez Wilkins saw his choices once he became a teenage parent.  So this high school student from St. Louis decided to sacrifice one for the other and dropped out.

“I loved school. I love basketball and loved playing, but I felt like when I had a baby, I just had to get out of school, find a job and support my son,” said Wilkins.

Another young man, Malik Avery, left school at 18 after he says he was bullied to the point of contemplating suicide.

“I didn’t think he would see his 12th birthday,” much less his 18th, said LaTricia Avery, Malik’s mother.

While these two African-American men have very different reasons for dropping out, the fact they left school before graduating is almost as common as not. According to the 2012 Urgency of Now: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males, the national graduation rate for black male students is 52 percent, compared to 78 percent for white male students.

Dropping out can translate into reduced hope of earning a diploma, but thanks to a graduation proponent known as the “Dropout Recruiter,” both young men succeeded in obtaining their high school degrees.

“They call me the tracker,” said Charlie Bean of St. Louis Public Schools. “I track kids down and get them back in school.”

“I was to the point where I just gave up on everything. I basically thought I wasn’t going to achieve nothing in life until Mr. Bean” came along, Wilkins said.

“My goal is to get the kids who are on the streets back in school,” Bean said. “But I don’t force.  They have to be that leader and what I do is break out the real person inside of them.”

With help from the Check and Connect Program funded by a Department of Education graduation initiative grant awarded in 2010, Bean has helped over 80 former dropouts to graduate.

Bean says he’s successful because he connects with dropouts as someone who can be trusted and doesn’t judge. He says he has faith in his former students and challenges them to be the best versions of themselves.

“When you graduate from high school, that’s a big deal to a lot of black people,” said Wilkins. ”That’s why I really, really love this guy.”

“I didn’t think I was going to do it,” said Avery about his graduation. “It was a wonderful moment for me.”

You can follow the PBS NewsHour’s American Graduate reporting team on Twitter and Facebook.

This story and PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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