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.

UC President Supports 'Dream Loan' Bill for Undocumented Students

Undocumented students in California may get more help paying for college. A bill introduced Wednesday would establish a fund to make loans to students whose parents brought them to the United States illegally as children. Under current law they can apply for state tuition assistance, but not federal help. University of California President Janet Napolitano spoke in support of the California Dream Loan Program at a state Senate committee hearing.

PBS NewsHour

Facing bipartisan backlash, Oklahoma reconsiders Common Core education standards


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JUDY WOODRUFF: This month, Oklahoma became the latest state to take a big step toward repealing the Common Core education standards. The Oklahoma State Senate passed a bill just last week to do so, this as more than a dozen other states are considering repeal, and still others are reviewing how they use the standards when it comes to teaching and testing.

It’s a big shift from the broad and often bipartisan support that Common Core enjoyed just a few years ago.

Jeffrey Brown has the story.

JEFFREY BROWN: Common Core was initiated in 2009 by the nation’s governors, seeking national standards for math and English literacy.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan supported the move, spending $350 million to develop Common Core tests.

ARNE DUNCAN, Secretary of Education: I believe this new generation of assessment is an absolute game-changer for American education.

JEFFREY BROWN: In relatively short order, nearly every state agreed to create curricula based on the Common Core guidelines.

But more recently, a backlash has begun. Last month, Indiana became the first state to drop the Common Core standards it had already adopted.

Governor Mike Pence explained the move in an Indianapolis radio interview.

GOV. MIKE PENCE, R, Ind.: Hoosiers should be very proud and take every opportunity to be engaged in the fact that we’re the first state in the country that’s really going back to the principle that education is a state and local function.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now Oklahoma and other states are moving to follow Indiana’s lead. The criticism initially stemmed from conservatives leery of federal involvement, with some labeling the program “Obamacore.”

Pennsylvania Congressman John Kline chairs the House Education Committee.

REP. JOHN KLINE, R, Minn.: That’s the ultimate fear, that the federal government does get in the curricula business and tells the states what they’re supposed to teach.

JEFFREY BROWN: There’s been criticism on the left as well, particularly over testing requirements.

New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has said execution of the standards was — quote — “flawed.”

The program still has its champions, though. One is the Republican former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Last Sunday on FOX News, he made a push for Common Core.

FMR. GOV. JEB BUSH, R, Fla.: If you don’t have high expectations, high standards, you’re not going to go anywhere. The idea that it’s a federal program is based — is just not true. It’s — it’s just not. It was voluntarily created by — by governors.

JEFFREY BROWN: Meanwhile, the repeal move is gathering momentum. It’s expected to clear the Oklahoma legislature in the next few weeks.

And we go to Oklahoma now to explore all of this.

We’re joined by two state representatives. Republican Jason Nelson is co-author of bill to repeal the standards. Democrat Emily Virgin is opposed to such a repeal.

Well, Representative Nelson, why — first with you — why is something that looked good in 2010 no longer the right way to go?

JASON NELSON, R, Oklahoma State Representative: Well, what I think most legislators and Oklahomans looked forward to in 2010 was higher standards.

I think a lot of states struggle with setting high standards and maintaining them, not watering them down over time. And I think the hope in 2010 was that Common Core would do that for us. And, as it turns out, the Fordham Institute looked at and compared the states’ standards against Common Core, and we found out that really we didn’t gain anything, but we did cede control to an outside entity.

So the bill that we’re writing right now says that the state has to maintain control over its standards, but we also include higher ed in our state in our career tech system and developing the new standards, so the public and the legislators that will be voting on the bill have confidence that the standards will be actually higher than what we have had in the past.

JEFFREY BROWN: And, Representative Virgin, you still support the Common Core as it was voted in earlier. Why? And why do you think there is this opposition now?

EMILY VIRGIN, D, Oklahoma State Representative: I do support the Common Core as it was voted in with bipartisan support in 2010.

I think the opposition is mainly coming from a lot of fringe groups. And, unfortunately, the Republican Party in Oklahoma is giving in to those groups, when we have school districts across the state, like my district in Norman, that have spent thousands of dollars and spent a lot on professional development implementing these standards over the last three years.

And this bill would essentially just pull the rug out from our teachers and administrators. The problem with this bill right now is that we have a very short period of time to come up with a completely new set of standards, and I just don’t think that’s enough time. I don’t think it’s fair to the teachers and school districts and students that have spent much time and hard work implementing these high standards.

JEFFREY BROWN: So, Jason Nelson, this is something we have heard in — around the country really, that part of the backlash is political, that that’s what happened, this turn against Common Core, that was bipartisan at one point.

JASON NELSON: Well, to say that education policy is a political issue is an understatement of the year, certainly in Oklahoma.

The reality is the people in Oklahoma want their kids to get a great education. Common Core promised that and, quite frankly, didn’t deliver. And so the state is left to look to another solution. We believe including higher ed and career tech in that process doesn’t just give us a set of good standards, but give us standards that exceed those that have been offered by the Common Core.

So, you know, what was a good idea last year will be a good idea next year in the standards, and to the extent that school districts have initiated and implemented good practices and good standards in line with the Common Core, we want them to be able to continue that. But to the extent we have imposed on our local school boards and school districts and educators things that aren’t productive in our classrooms and beneficial to kids, we want to — we don’t want to force them to continue to do that.

JEFFREY BROWN: So, you’re rejecting the notion that it’s fringe groups or outside groups that are really pushing the agenda here?

JASON NELSON:  Well, there’s groups what I would say would be from the right and groups from the left.

There’s educators that I know like the Common Core and there are educators I know that don’t like the Common Core. What the bill seeks to do is put back into the hands of our state board of education the responsibility and authority of developing the standards and really reversing the course that the legislature took in 2010, when we specified a very specific set of standards.

JEFFREY BROWN: And, Emily Virgin, to be clear and fair, criticism does come from the left, comes from teachers unions, comes from various sources here.

EMILY VIRGIN: Absolutely. It does come from both sides. Mainly, in Oklahoma, the opposition has come from the right, but I have heard some from the left also.

But I think that’s a sign of a good set of challenging standards, is that we’re seeing some opposition from both sides. We still haven’t heard anything concrete as to what is wrong with these standards. And I have never seen any type of evidence that says that they’re not working.

We know that we can’t go back to what we were doing before, because that wasn’t working, and this was put together by a group of governors, and educators who are involved in the process. And these are higher standards that will make sure that students in Oklahoma measure up to the rest of the country and that they don’t have to rely on remedial courses when they enter college.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Jason Nelson, that’s one of the questions here. You’re talking about high standards. Common Core talks about high standards.

One of the things you hear is, this is just kind of a rebranding, that, OK, don’t call it Common Core. Now it’s going to be Oklahoma Common Core.

JASON NELSON:  Well, and, in fact, that’s already happened. I think it was last year the governor by executive order said that the standards would be referred to as Oklahoma academic standards.

And, again, if a standard, a set of standards and a practice of teaching is a good idea today, it will be a good idea tomorrow. And we would want teachers to continue to do that, but we want educators and parents in the business community and higher ed and our career tech system to be able to develop those standards.

And that wasn’t the case totally last time. There was a national testing consortium that Oklahoma was a part of and then again the Common Core was developed by a group from outside the state. I think Oklahomans are capable of developing standards where the educators, parents, anybody that’s interested can get involved and make sure those standards reflect the aspirations of Oklahoma families, and businesses and educators.

JEFFREY BROWN: If this goes down, Emily Virgin, are you — well, what do you think will be the implications for students in Oklahoma? Because part of the impetus of this, of course, was not to — to make sure that some states don’t fall behind.

EMILY VIRGIN: Correct. And students in Oklahoma will not be able to be measured with the rest of the country that have adopted these standards.

That was one of the big bonuses of the Common Core was that standards would be the same across the country. We would be able to measure ourselves against other states and against students in other states. And we won’t be able to do that if we pull out of the Common Core. Oklahoma will also have a really hard time — if we adopt really different from Common Core, we will have a hard time finding textbooks, we will have a hard time curriculum and professional development for our teachers, who have already — who have already implemented this in their classrooms.

JEFFREY BROWN: And, just briefly, are you expecting it to be repealed, in fact?

EMILY VIRGIN: That has — that’s yet to be determined.

We passed a bill in the House, and then it went to the Senate and became pretty different than what we passed in the House, and we’re expecting that to go to conference committee. So we may have to wait until the last few weeks of session. And I think that’s just not fair to our students and educators, who are relying on a consistent set of standards.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we will watch what happens in your state and others.

Representative Emily Virgin, Representative Jason Nelson of Oklahoma, thanks so much.

JASON NELSON:  You’re welcome.

EMILY VIRGIN: Thank you.

The post Facing bipartisan backlash, Oklahoma reconsiders Common Core education standards appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Should six years be the new standard for high school?

PBS NewsHour’s American Graduate team explored the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn, N.Y., a school that’s giving students the chance to earn a high school diploma and a two-year associates degree — for free.

More than 1500 students applied to the school last fall. 144 ninth-graders were admitted.

During Thursday’s 6 p.m. EDT showing on NewsHour’s live stream channel, the American Graduate team offered some extra insight into their report on Twitter.

The post Should six years be the new standard for high school? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Students stick around for two years of college at innovative Brooklyn high school


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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.

GWEN IFILL: Our second education story is about a Brooklyn high school that has not yet graduated its first class, but it’s being closely watched for its approach to providing lower-income students with college tuition and the special skills to get a job — one of its distinct features, a lot more time in the classroom.

President Obama sang its praises again this week and announced two more schools like it will be opened.

Hari Sreenivasan has the story as part of our American Graduate project, a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

HARI SREENIVASAN: When it comes to high school, should six years be the new four? It is a question that Cletus Andoh has times to think about every day as he rides New York City subway from his home in the Bronx to his school in Brooklyn, a journey that takes him an hour-and-a-half each way.

Cletus is a junior at Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH. P-TECH is a six-year public school where students like Cletus are expected to leave with a high school diploma and a two-year associate of applied science degree, basically finishing community college for free.

CLETUS ANDOH, Junior, P-TECH: An associate degree means a start. It’s a start to what I want to do with my future, where I want to go.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Cierra Copeland, also a junior at P-TECH, says she was ready to be challenged, and having the opportunity to take college courses as early as the 10th grade was the push she needed.

CIERRA COPELAND, Junior, P-TECH: I came to P-TECH. They gave me not a push, but a shove. And they shoved me into it. And it’s beneficial to me. I feel like, for me, it’s been a learning experience. It taught me to grow up faster. It taught me to prioritize.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Giving students from low-income families the chance at free college tuition was the brainchild of a public-private partnership developed by IBM, the New York City Education Department, and the City University of New York.

STANLEY LITOW, V.P. of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, IBM: The job opportunities of the 21st century require a level of skill that is far beyond a simple high school diploma.

HARI SREENIVASAN: IBM’s Stanley Litow, a former deputy schools chancellor for New York City, helped starts Brooklyn’s P-TECH in 2011, and has since overseen the creation of seven similar schools in New York and Chicago.

Students have longer school days, attend classes year-round, and get hands-on training in job skills that companies like IBM say their entry-level employees often lack.

STANLEY LITOW: We need those people to have the problem-solving skills and the technical skills and the writing skills and presentation skills. If we don’t do something different about transforming high school in America, we’re going to be in big trouble. The U.S. is not going to be competitive.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Schools like P-TECH, which has only been admitting students for three years, are attracting more attention, and last year received an endorsement from President Barack Obama.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What is going on here at P-TECH is outstanding. And I’m not — and I’m excited to see it for myself.


HARI SREENIVASAN: After the president visited P-TECH last October, he announced a $100 million competitive grant program, encouraging similar partnerships between high schools, private industry and universities; 16 new P-TECH schools will open across New York in September and leverage the support of other businesses to focus on areas, including manufacturing, clean technology, and health care.

More than 1,500 students applied to Brooklyn’s P-TECH last fall, but the school was only able to admit 144 ninth graders.

RASHID FERROD DAVIS, Principal, P-TECH: Our kids are the everyday, average New York City student. We’re just giving them the different opportunity.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Rashid Ferrod Davis is P-TECH’s founding principal. Davis says his students are chosen entirely by lottery and come from all five boroughs of New York. The school, he says, was started with one goal in mind.

RASHID FERROD DAVIS: It’s how do you make sure that we can diversify the work force with students who are not generally on a path to think of themselves as either college or career-ready. And so there is no academic screening. There is no type of tests for admissions.

The idea, if you are interested, we will help make you academically strong and prepared, so, that way, you can have that pathway from high school through college to industry.

HARI SREENIVASAN: IBM initially invested $500,000 to get P-TECH off the ground, money spent to develop the curriculum and provide teacher training. But, from now on:

STANLEY LITOW: All IBM is investing is our time and talent.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And when it comes to paying for the additional two years built into the model, the state of New York picks up that tab.

The first P-TECH is located in a rundown section of Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, surrounded by low-income housing. It was created as part of a federal turnaround initiative that is also phasing out of poor-performing high school in the same building.

Principal Davis called the two years of free college tuition a game-changer for his students.

RASHID FERROD DAVIS: Once you have the two years under your belt, you have a better foundation to complete the four-year degree. And so this becomes very, very important. So that free degree can be a great sense of motivation for families.

HARI SREENIVASAN: P-TECH students take some of their university-level courses on the campus of New York City College of Technology, part of the City University of New York. But they’re also eased into the rigor by having professors teach at the high school.

Bonne August is the provost at City Tech. She’s optimistic that the design is working, despite the fact that it is new and relatively untested.

BONNE AUGUST, Provost, New York City College of Technology: I personally am waiting until we have graduated not just one group of students, but several groups of students. These are not easy programs. They’re very challenging programs.

HARI SREENIVASAN: IBM sees the associate’s degree as a good starting point, but they believe more support is needed for students to learn about the world of work, so they offer internships and provide mentors for every P-TECH student.

Shilpa Menezes, a product line manager for the company, was paired with Cierra Copeland three years ago. Most of their interactions are done online, and Menezes says she was initially surprised by the types of questions she received from Cierra.

SHILPA MENEZES, Product Line Manager, IBM: What are my interests? What kind of books do I read? What do I do when I’m a little frustrated at work? Don’t you have issues at work? How do you manage? So, I have seen her grow and be very mature in her conversations with me.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Cierra, who is focusing on electromechanical engineering, says that Menezes, along with P-TECH, have opened her eyes to the possibly of a career in fields that have been dominated by men for years.

CIERRA COPELAND: I can make something out of myself with this degree, so that I’m not just another stereotype, because that is a stereotype, that all women cook and they don’t build, and they don’t wire, and they don’t program.

HARI SREENIVASAN: IBM’s Stanley Litow stopped short of promising jobs to P-TECH students once they graduate, but he did say they will have the skills that the company is looking for to fill entry-level positions that include software specialists and tech support representatives.

STANLEY LITOW: Over the next 10 years, there are going to be 14 million new jobs created for students with those kinds of credentials and those kind of skills. If they’re through a P-TECH program that we are involved in, they are going to be first in line for jobs at IBM.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Cletus Andoh wants to attend MIT after he graduates, then hopefully medical school, which would please his mother.

HELENA ASAAH: Education is very important to me because I didn’t get that opportunity.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Helena Asaah moved the family from Ghana to New York, so her children could get a better education. When her son got into P-TECH, she was thrilled the school offered free college credit.

HELENA ASAAH: I want him to be some better person, like maybe a doctor.

HARI SREENIVASAN: But, if that doesn’t work out, Cletus already has a plan B.

CLETUS ANDOH: I will always have that associate degree as a backup, so I can go into the technology field, get a bachelor’s or master’s and just keep going.

RASHID FERROD DAVIS: There are two specific associate degrees.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Educators from across the globe are regularly visiting P-TECH to see if lessons learned here can be replicated.

GWEN IFILL: You can follow our American Graduate reporting team on Twitter, where they shared more television on P-TECH. We rounded up those resources, and you can find them on the Rundown.

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UN initiative tackles inequality of educational opportunity around the world


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, a pair of education stories, one about too few children around the world going to school, the other on a promising pilot high school in the U.S.

Let’s start with a major global problem, especially pronounced in developing countries. There are more than 200 million children who should be attending school, but simply do not because of a variety of barriers. That problem is at the center of a new U.N. initiative to get 57 million more children in school by the end of 2015.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is spearheading that effort as a special U.N. envoy for global education.

I met up with him earlier in Washington today, before he spoke at the World Bank to make his case.

What is at stake in this initiative you’re now deeply involved in?

GORDON BROWN, U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education: I think it’s the future of a whole generation of young people.

If we cannot provide today’s young people in Asia and Africa with the opportunity of education and then the chance of employment or starting a business or whatever, we are going to have the most discontented youth. We’re going to have a generational problem, because they know the opportunities that people have in other countries. They can learn about it through the Internet and through mobile phones.

And they’re aware that the inequality of opportunity that they face is unfair. And I think we have seen the makings of a civil rights struggle amongst young people to get education, to stop child marriage, to stop child labor, child trafficking and sex — and discrimination against girls.

And if we don’t do something about it, there’s a whole sort of welter of discontent that is building up in the populations of Asia and Africa.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The numbers are almost impossible to comprehend. I think you have 250 million children not getting a primary education, and then you’re trying — you put down a number 57 million you would like to get into school.

How do you how — do you reduce that to something you can actually make a difference?

GORDON BROWN: Well, 57 million children are the numbers of children who are not going to go to school today or any other day. Some of them are in child labor. Some of them are girl brides. Some of them have simply not got schools they can go to. Some of them are girls who the Taliban is preventing from going to school.

But it is relatively inexpensive to pay for the education of a young child. For $6 billion, if we could find the extra funds next year, we could get almost all of these children to school. And there is no technical or scientific breakthrough that’s needed to do this. We know what it is we have got to do.

We have got to get teachers, and have the buildings, and have the educational equipment. And, of course, we want to increase the quality of education very quickly, but, at the moment, we have set a goal that, by the end of December 2015, every child should be at school. That’s the Millennium Development Goal. Everybody promised it.

And we could deliver it if we could provide these extra resources. So it is both manageable, and it’s also in my view necessary. If you make a promise, you should try to redeem it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But even before you talk about the money, there are the cultural, the ingrained practices in countries where child marriage, for example, is considered — young girls married off at a very young age, other countries or places where families see children as an economic necessity to have them working out in fields or doing whatever they’re doing to bring money in for the family.


JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you change all that?

GORDON BROWN: And you’re absolutely right.

There are 10 million children who are married off before the age of 14 or 15. There are 15 million children who are working full-time at the moment, and they’re under 14. But I see great change in the attitude of young people.

I have just been in Pakistan. And a year-and-a-half ago, I went after Malala Yousafzai, who was the young girl who was shot, and I found a population that was cowed, it was worried, it was anxious, it was fearful of the Taliban. And then I went back a few days ago, and I found girls in Pakistan, 12, 13, 14, 15, determined to fight for their education.

And they no longer wanted Pakistan to be seen by the rest of the world as a country that was failing to get girls to school, but they want to be known by their successes and girls getting into school and getting qualifications.

So, girls themselves are fighting for their civil rights. This is a huge change from a few years ago. And once this change happens, you can’t — you can’t hold it back, because these are girls who are aware of their rights, aware that they can stand up against the patriarchs who try to marry them off, aware that there is discrimination being practiced by the Taliban, and they’re taking it on.

And there are many, many hundreds of courageous girls in Pakistan who are saying, we demand our right to be educated now. And that’s going to happen in the rest of world, too.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But over a long period of time, isn’t…

GORDON BROWN: But the change in the last year-and-a-half has been, in my view, very big indeed.

We had a petition after Malala was shot, and we had three million people signing that. And it looked as if we had support. But now you have got girls agitating for education. You have got child-marriage-free zones being created by girls themselves in Bangladesh, where they are saying, we, the girls, will refuse to married off. Even if our fathers tell us we’re going to be sold into marriage, we’re going to refuse.

And these movements of opinion, the anti-rape protests in India, the big anti-child labor campaigns that have been mounted by young people themselves, something is changing around the world. And we are too slow to react to that and to help these children with the resources to get them into education.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mentioned $6 billion. You said relatively a small amount of money. But how do you get governments that we see have been reducing the amount they have been spending on education, how do you get them to understand it’s a priority? And I’m talking now about the recipient countries.


I think, first of all, the governments of Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan have got to do more themselves. So, nobody is going to just throw money at a country that’s not prepared to take action itself. So I’m trying to persuade them. And I think we have been successful in persuading Pakistan and Nigeria that that they have got to spend more themselves.

Then we can incentivize them spending more by saying, if you do this, we will do more to help you. And I think what people are looking for is results in development aid. And if we can show that we can get results, children enrolled, teachers actually turning up, the quality of the curriculum, results in terms of qualifications, I think the world will be prepared to donate the necessary sums of money to make this happen.

It is after all incredibly small in relation to the overall budget.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But how do you — when you look at what donor countries have been spending, though, they have cut back the amount they have spent on education.

GORDON BROWN: Some have, and some haven’t.

There are new donors coming into the field, so, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia. There are many new donors. And China is starting to donate money into education for the first time. Korea is coming in. So, yes, I would like America to do more. And I would like the rest of the West to do more.

But there are many potential donors in the future. And they — they begin to see that, if you back a country that is educating its children, you have got a skilled work force, as well as having met the moral requirement that every child should have opportunity.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How much of this depends on the persuasive powers of someone who’s internationally known, like, as you are, Gordon Brown…

JUDY WOODRUFF: … and how much — and your — the force of your personality, and how…

GORDON BROWN: Well, I wish I could be more successful.

But the truth is that I know, from being a leader in recent years, that if there is not public pressure, and if there is not a demand from the rest of the world, then there are other priorities that you’re going to address.

We have got to persuade these leaders that no country in the poorer parts of the world will ever be a rich country, will ever be a high-income country if it doesn’t invest in education. And I think we are getting that argument across to the leaders.

So, on the one hand, you have got this great civil rights struggle that is now starting, in my view. On the other hand, you have got a recognition that, no matter what else you have got to do as a country, you have got to invest in education if you’re going to be a successful economy.

And I can persuade them that this is a necessary element of their economic policy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you believe they are feeling this kind of pressure and feeling there are consequences if they don’t make these changes?

GORDON BROWN: What I believe is, they’re going to feel more pressure in the next year, because we have just launched a campaign. And over the next 21 months, until this deadline of the Millennium Development Goal, we will be pressing governments around the world.

We have got hundreds of youth ambassadors who were actually themselves appointed to put pressure on governments. We have got what is called youth takeovers of parliaments, which sounds quite radical, but these are young people who are agreeing that, on a particular day, they will be the parliamentarians and they will speak out for the case of education.

We have got national petitions in individual countries. So the pressure is building. It’s not there strong enough yet, but it will become very strong over the next few months. And this is an opportunity to help countries develop their educational opportunities for children in a way that they have not done before. But it’s also an opportunity for us to show that development aid can be incredibly effective.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Special Envoy Gordon Brown, thank you.

GORDON BROWN: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That conversation discusses online, where we discuss moves to get Syrian children displaced by the civil war into school.

And on our World page, we spoke with two young girls who were sitting beside Malala Yousafzai when Taliban gunmen attacked their school bus about their fight for access to education for all boys and girls.

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