Oakland Teachers and Parents Rally for New Contract, Better Pay

Parents and teachers from Oakland Unified School District held a march on Tuesday demanding an increase in teacher pay and a reduction in class size. During the contract negotiations, some teachers have adopted a labor tactic known as "work-to-rule": working only the hours stipulated in their contract, and nothing more. We'll discuss the ongoing dispute and the impact of the "work-to-rule" practice on classrooms.

Moving Beyond Standardized Tests

Citing the need to adjust to new Common Core standards, the California Board of Education decided earlier this month to suspend the use of standardized test scores as its main measurement of school performance. This comes as teachers, parents and students nationwide protest against the overuse of tests. We talk with NPR education blogger Anya Kamenetz about the perils of overusing test scores and other methods of measuring school and teacher quality.

PBS NewsHour

How to hook young people on math and science? Robots.

(JS) ROBOTICS27-- Angel Cruz, 16, of Lincoln High School works on his team robot during the FIRST Robotics
         competition at the University of Denver. The high school teams are guided by coaches and professional mentors who volunteer
         their expertise in accor

Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

LYNN SHERR: Science and SciFi have always attracted Freya Wilhelm, whose favorite TV show as a child was this animated series set in the fantastic future.

LYNN SHERR: But Freya’s life went off track her freshman year of high school, when, as a struggling art student in Manhattan, she descended into a cycle of marijuana, party drugs, psychedelics…

FREYA WILHELM: I was feeling very experimental.

LYNN SHERR: By her junior year, she had added cocaine.  And was failing out of school.

LYNN SHERR: What did you see as your future, at that point? Did you look at yourself and say, “What am I doing?

FREYA WILHELM: I kind of just thought maybe I would grow out of it or things would work itself out.

LYNN SHERR: Luckily, school officials transferred her to New York’s Lower East Side Prep, a second-chance school with experience turning around lost kids. One day, she was invited to join the robotics team, coached by Dr. Henry Ruan.

HENRY RUAN: I really saw the difference that made. When we started she was kinda shy and silent member of the team. I didn’t see her very often in the school. It’s not easy to have this kind of change. The person has to put a lot of commitment, a lot of determination, this program is playing some role in that change.

LYNN SHERR: This program challenges students to design, build and program robots for an international competition. It also hooks them on the wonders of — well, look at its name: FIRST, For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

LYNN SHERR: FIRST was created 26 years ago by entrepreneur Dean Kamen, who invented the Segway among other high-tech devices.

DEAN KAMEN: I thought, if we could create a cultural shift that made tech cool to a generation of kids, we might start narrowing the gap between the number of scientists and engineers that we’re producing in this country on a percentage basis to other countries around the world.

LYNN SHERR: What, specifically, is the problem?

DEAN KAMEN: We have a smaller percentage of our kids becoming scientists and engineers than many countries in the developing world. And when you look at the data and see that China’s producing five or 600,000 engineers this year and we’ll produce one-tenth of that, it says, “How’re we gonna compete?”

LYNN SHERR: The gap is even greater when it comes to gender.  Women comprise only 13 percent of all professional engineers in the U.S., and only one-quarter of the computer and mathematical sciences workforce.

Getting girls (and boys) interested early is where this competition is a game-changer.

When I first met Kamen back in 1993, 20-some teams competed in a high school gymnasium in New Hampshire.

Today, youngsters from 41,000 schools in 80 countries do battle in venues like New York’s Javits Center, where we watched New York’s regional competition back in March.  And participants – particularly girls – report significantly more interest in science, tech and math fields.

LYNN SHERR: Kamen is their rock star. Freya also gets her moment, but as team captain, quickly turns to the competition. The goal is to load up the robot with the most boxes –and a garbage can.

LYNN SHERRThe first match goes badly, but as the team regroups, the real genius behind the program becomes clear.

DEAN KAMEN: Whether or not they built a good robot, I don’t care. What they built was a bit of self-confidence about what’s possible, a new perspective.

LYNN SHERR: For Freya, it all comes together in the final round.

FREYA WILHELM: Yes! We beat one of the really good teams!”

LYNN SHERR: Next year, Freya Wilhelm wants to go to college and study engineering, a childhood fantasy that finally seems possible.

LYNN SHERR: Fair to say that FIRST turned your life around?

FREYA WILHELM: Yes. Absolutely. I think it’s given me– a big 180 degree in my life.

LYNN SHERR: All because she took that FIRST step with Dean Kamen.

DEAN KAMEN: Stay with it!

FREYA WILHELM: I will, I will. Thank you so much. I’m so happy.

The post How to hook young people on math and science? Robots. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Stephen Colbert, Madeleine Albright and others have some advice for the class of 2015

Graduates of the Class of 2015 prepare to set out into the world. Here's some advice they received this spring.
         Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Graduates of the Class of 2015 prepare to set out into the world. Here's some advice they received this spring. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

In recent weeks, college graduates nationwide have accepted their diplomas, bidding adieu to their academic years as they embark upon the world beyond. But not before listening to a classic commencement speech about the time behind them and advice for the journey ahead.

Below is a handful of some of those pearls of wisdom.

Most likely to speak the truth: Comedian Stephen Colbert, Wake Forest University

“You are your own professor now, which I know is a little creepy, because that means you’re showering with your professor. But you have tenure. They can’t fire you.”

Most likely to be diplomatic: Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Tufts University

“The future depends not on the stars or some mysterious forces of history; but rather on the decisions that you make – and I truly, truly mean that. You are the leaders of tomorrow, and it will be your job to pick up the baton so often mishandled by the leaders of yesterday and today.”

Most likely to reference history: Documentarian Ken Burns, Washington University, St. Louis

“It is into this disorienting and sometimes disappointing world that you now plummet, I’m afraid, unprotected from the shelter of family and school. You have fresh prospects and real dreams and I wish each and every one of you the very best. But I am drafting you now into a new Union Army that must be committed to preserving the values, the sense of humor, the sense of cohesion that have long been a part of our American nature, too. You have no choice, you’ve been called up, and it is your difficult, but great and challenging responsibility to help change things and set us right again.”

Most likely to improvise: Comedian Maya Rudolph, Tulane University

“Say ‘yes, and.’ And create your own destiny. Hold on to your old friends. Kiss your mama. Admit what your dreams are. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t know what you’re gonna do tomorrow, but work hard and don’t be lazy. And put away your damn iPhone once in a while.”

NOTE: Rudolph ended her speech with a four-minute Beyonce-inspired version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Most likely to use an iPhone: Apple CEO Tim Cook, The George Washington University

“No matter what you do next, the world needs your energy. Your passion. Your impatience with progress. Don’t shrink from risk. And tune out those critics and cynics. History rarely yields to one person, but think, and never forget, what happens when it does. That can be you. That should be you. That must be you.”

Most likely to mention the State of the Union: President of the United States of America Barack Obama, Coast Guard Academy

“Class of 2015, you’ve built new equipment that uses less energy. You’ve designed new vessels with fewer harmful emissions. Stephen Horvath, selected as a Fulbright Scholar, will research new technologies for renewable energies. The Coast Guard is building more fuel-efficient cutters. So you’re already leading. And, Cadets, as you go forward, I challenge you to keep imagining and building the new future we need — and make your class motto your life’s work: ‘To go where few dare.’ This is a place where we need you.”

What’s your advice for the Class of 2015? Leave it below in the comments.

The post Stephen Colbert, Madeleine Albright and others have some advice for the class of 2015 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

These groups of Asian-Americans rarely attend college, but California is trying to change that

Dao Chang, 21, is a senior majoring in sociology and pre-pharmacy at UC Berkeley on Friday, April 10, 2015.  Chang is
         originally from Thailand and one of either other Hmong students admitted to Cal during her freshman year. (Photo: Alison Yin/The
         Hechinger Report)

Dao Chang, pictured in April, is a senior majoring in sociology and pre-pharmacy at UC Berkeley. Chang, 21, is originally from Thailand. Photo by Alison Yin/The Hechinger Report

FRESNO, Calif. – Like many students, Trong Chang has dreamed of going away to graduate school after she gets her bachelor’s degree.

But Hmong women just don’t do that.

Chang, a 22-year-old psychology student at California State University Fresno who grew up in this Central Valley city, chose to study close to home, and she’ll probably remain on campus for her master’s degree. But for someone from an ethnic group that contradicts the Asian-American “model minority” myth, even this is a rare achievement.

As one group of Asians who don’t go to college in large numbers, the Hmong help illustrate the complex changing demographics of students arriving at American universities and colleges: increasingly nonwhite, low-income, and first-generation.

Among the 281,000 Hmong in the United States, 38 percent have less than a high school degree, about 25 percentage points lower than both the Asian-American and U.S. averages, according to the Center for American Progress. Just 14 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree, less than half the national average.

Chang’s parents are from Laos and spent a year in a Thai refugee camp before immigrating to the United States. She rarely even talked to her parents about college while growing up.

“I don’t know, but they probably don’t have any education,” she said. “They helped my grandparents in the fields. They can’t really help you get into college.”

Upending the stereotype that most Asian-American children go to college, the Hmong and other Southeast Asian immigrants including Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese have markedly low college-going rates — especially compared with Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Americans, who are actually more likely than other Americans to earn bachelor’s degrees.

These facts represent a particular challenge in California, which has the highest number of nearly every Asian-American group and chronic budget problems that have made it difficult for colleges and universities to afford new support programs. At precisely the time that policymakers are trying to increase the proportion of the population with degrees, language barriers and high poverty levels have vastly complicated the route for students from some of these backgrounds to and through college.

The same problem is sneaking up on higher education nationwide.

This year, the number of whites in primary and secondary schools was for the first time overtaken by the number of Hispanic, black, Asian and native American students, the National Center for Education Statistics reports. In 10 years, nearly half of high school graduates will be nonwhite, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, which tracks this.

This shift has vastly complicated things on campus.

“We realized there needs to be some targeted support services for this population,” said Simon Kim, an associate vice president at California State University Long Beach who has helped that school reach out to the area’s many Cambodians.

About half of the California State University’s 23 campuses have participated in the system’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Initiative, which runs college fairs and other events for underrepresented groups and translates Cal State materials into Hmong, Cambodian, Laotian, Marshallese, Samoan and other languages.

At Fresno State, that has helped result in a big jump in the number of Hmong students, which has nearly tripled from 500 in 2010 to 1,400 this year.

For surrounding Fresno, whose population of 32,000 or so Hmong ranks second in the United States only to that of Minneapolis-St. Paul, this hard-won increase in college-going is a promising sign and evidence of the benefits of encouraging first-generation students of all races to get higher educations. Poverty and gang violence have burdened the Hmong community since families began arriving from war-torn Southeast Asia in the 1970s.

“The way that Hmong families are looking at education is changing,” said Kim Cole, a Fresno State education professor who has worked with Hmong families and students for 20 years, including as a social worker. “Now we have professors, lots of students in grad school. The culture as a whole is more open to education.”

College support services and outreach programs have focused largely on black, Hispanic, and low-income students in recent years, but Asian-American and Pacific islander students from widely divergent backgrounds have tended to be grouped together under the “model minority” stereotype — a misconception that Asian students know how to handle themselves in school.

In Fresno, where a Hmong student group sponsors roadside cleanups on a state highway, new outreach efforts helped attract Soua Kong, another Hmong student, to the campus.

Like Chang, Kong grew up in Fresno, Kong with 10 siblings and Chang with five. Both said they are torn between wanting an education and the pressures of a patriarchal culture that expects women to be “marriage-ready.”

“My parents really emphasized education, but they don’t really know what it is,” Chang said. “They were very persistent that I stay home. I have to push them outside their boundaries.”

One of Kong’s brothers went to the University of California Berkeley, but Kong, a 19-year-old nursing freshman, said she chose the more affordable Fresno State so as not to burden her family.

“I kind of feel helpless because I’m not paying anything,” she said. “It’s kind of a gamble because I’m going to college so I can make more money, but I can’t contribute until then.”

Family and community pressures are common among Southeast Asian students. At the University of California at Berkeley, for example, Vietnamese-American senior Giao Tran said she was eager to graduate so she could help persuade more Vietnamese students to go to college.

“The reason I do my best here at Berkeley is because I owe it to my community,” said Tran, 22, a political science major who grew up in Orange County’s Little Saigon. “But I feel so insulated by my academic work. When I start thinking about my community, it’s really hard for me to do my work.”

The University of California and California State University systems started collecting data in 2009 on individual Asian and Pacific ethnicities rather than lumping them into one group. But the schools have made it difficult to obtain those figures, researchers and community groups say, presenting another challenge to efforts to attract more college students.

A proposal in the California Legislature, Assembly Bill 176, would require the universities and the state’s 112 community colleges to release this data starting next year. Having complete information is a key step in helping Asian-American families prepare for college, said Robert Teranishi, a professor of education and Asian-American studies at UCLA.

“The reality is these students are increasingly diverse, they’re increasingly immigrants, and they’re the first in their families to go to college,” Teranishi said. “The data is not really being used in a way that is helpful to institutions or informing their efforts.”

The data also is likely to reveal another challenge: getting Southeast Asian men into college. Students, counselors and researchers say far fewer Cambodian and Hmong men than women go to college, and that their completion rates are alarmingly low.

Cal State Long Beach invites Cambodian high school students to campus basketball games during recruitment campaigns to make college more attractive to boys. Because Cambodian families often have no means of transportation, the university buses the students to campus events.

Up the coast at UC Berkeley, only five of the 40 or so Hmong students are men, said Dao Chang, a 21-year-old Hmong sociology and pre-pharmacy senior from Fresno. Chang, who said she grew up knowing nothing about college until high school, said she hopes more male and female Hmongs will attend college as alumni return to their communities and inspire children.

“If you don’t know how to work through the system, it can be tough,” she said. “There needs to be more effort from the Hmong community. A lot of it has to come from the college students.”

Southeast Asian students predict dramatic changes among future generations.

“Maybe when I grow up and have kids I’ll tell them their mom went to Cal,” said Kathy Tran, a 19-year-old Vietnamese-American UC Berkeley sophomore. “I couldn’t say that about my mom. And maybe they won’t need financial aid.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about higher education.

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

The post These groups of Asian-Americans rarely attend college, but California is trying to change that appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

What do struggling historically black colleges like SC State need to do to survive?

Graduates of the Class of 2015 prepare to set out into the world. Here's
         some advice they received this spring. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

GWEN IFILL: It’s that time of year when students, their families and friends celebrate graduation, then immediately turn to worrying about their futures.

Some colleges and universities are worrying too.

Graduating students at South Carolina State University walked into the school’s stadium with all the usual pride and glee of commencement day. But mixed in with the pomp and the circumstance was a cloud of uncertainty about the future of South Carolina’s only public historically black university.

The commencement speaker, Sen. Tim Scott, didn’t hesitate to raise it.

SEN. TIM SCOTT, R-S.C.: Let me say first and foremost that, without any question, my prayers are with South Carolina State University for financial success.

GWEN IFILL: The school’s mounting financial troubles include a nearly $23 million deficit and, since 2007, a 40 percent drop in enrollment. Only months ago, state legislators briefly proposed closing the Orangeburg school for two years to balance the books.

South Carolina State is one of about 100 historically black colleges and universities in the nation, and among those struggling to survive. In Pennsylvania, Cheyney University is facing its own multimillion-dollar deficit. And Washington, D.C.’s Howard University shed 200 staff members last year and announced 84 more layoffs this spring.

Many of the schools have shed students as well, and operate without the cushion of the endowments and alumni donations that elite, predominantly white schools rely on.

State lawmakers last week turned to the worlds of finance and academia for a new interim board of trustees for South Carolina State.

Gilda Cobb-Hunter has represented Orangeburg in the Statehouse for 24 years.

GILDA COBB-HUNTER, (D) State Representative: We needed someone to recognize the importance of check and balances, accountability, transparency. There was a real systemic problem at South Carolina State, a problem that has gone on for 25 or 30 years.

GWEN IFILL: Interim president W. Franklin Evans hopes confidence in new leadership could lead to more state funding.

But he conceded that is not the only solution.

W. FRANKLIN EVANS, Interim President, South Carolina State University: We’re looking at right-sizing across the campus, even with our facilities, and making sure that we are maximizing the facilities’ use in our building and optimizing every bit that we can, so that we’re not wasting any money, wasting any resources.

GWEN IFILL: He’s also looking to build on the school’s strongest academic programs, like one in nuclear engineering.

Kenneth Lewis heads that program, the only one of its kind in South Carolina. He says it supports the kinds of students historically black universities have focused on.

KENNETH LEWIS, Dean, South Carolina State University: A lot of our kids are rural kids from small towns, rural towns in South Carolina, where they might not have calculus in high school, for example. We spend a lot of time with our kids developing them, encouraging them, and strengthening their background.

GWEN IFILL: Darian James graduated summa cum laude from the program this year. She is heading to the University of Wisconsin to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering.

DARIAN JAMES, Nuclear Engineering Graduate: It taught me to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It pushed me. It challenged me. So going to any other school, I feel like I can make it.

GWEN IFILL: South Carolina State’s new trustees met for the first time today.

How can these schools rise to the challenges facing higher education today?

For that, we turn to Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Thank you for joining us.

We just heard the president of South Carolina State talk about optimizing and right-sizing and words which it sounds like it comes from how to fix a school. But how does South Carolina State do so poorly, when other schools do so well? What’s the root problem?

JOHNNY C. TAYLOR JR., President, Thurgood Marshall College Fund: The root problem is about leadership.

And it’s not just the staff leadership, but it’s also governance, so the board leadership and the staff leadership. And, by the way, that happens to be the case at many of our institutions, not just HBCUs. But at its core, if we don’t fix the problem — and it’s a people problem — then we will continue to have — you can throw as much money as you want after institutions. If they have the wrong sort of governance and the wrong professional staff, then all of the dollars in the world won’t solve the problem.

GWEN IFILL: Are HBCUs uniquely at risk?

JOHNNY C. TAYLOR JR.: Yes, yes, largely because we acknowledge — we acknowledge that we were first historically underfunded. Check. Have that.

But then we continue to live — I don’t think we have had a real discussion about the appropriate new mission for HBCUS. What is their market? Who are they servicing?

GWEN IFILL: What is that? As you sit here and you set out on a mission to educate young black students, what should the mission be?

JOHNNY C. TAYLOR JR.: So, at its core, it is educating African-American students. I mean, that is the point of having a historically black college and university.

But we have got to identify majors and programs that are relevant to the market. You know, what are employers looking at hiring? If students are majoring in particular majors that are no longer relevant to the market, then they’re not doing their jobs. These kids are incurring significant amounts of student debt to get a degree. And if you go out and then that degree doesn’t pay off, then it fails.

And, therefore, the — there’s no incentive for other students to come to the university.

GWEN IFILL: Has the education landscape in general shifted as well? We used to say in the black community that if somebody else caught a cold, we caught pneumonia.

JOHNNY C. TAYLOR JR.: That’s right.

GWEN IFILL: Is that still the case as well for HBCUs, as the landscape changes?

JOHNNY C. TAYLOR JR.: Somewhat, but the entire — there’s been such disruption in higher education generally.

You have majority institutions that are going out of business and struggling as well.


JOHNNY C. TAYLOR JR.: You have a school like Sweet Briar down in Virginia that has just announced its last graduating class. They have a $100 million endowment.


JOHNNY C. TAYLOR JR.: The business of higher education has changed so significantly, that this is not unique to HBCUs.

Now, to be fair, we’re historically underfunded, and, therefore, to your point, the rest of the world gets a cold, we get pneumonia, because we have been historically underfunded. But that is just — that’s not unique to the HBCU space.

GWEN IFILL: Has also — and we have done a lot of reporting on this program about online education.


GWEN IFILL: Has that also changed what the responsibilities, what the goals, what the structure should be for an underfunded university?

JOHNNY C. TAYLOR JR.: Everything has changed. There has been such disruption.

You think about it. Who would have thought 50 years ago that there would be a University of Phoenix, and all of the online for-profit education? And, by the way, many of the students now are attending reputable institutions with full online degrees.

So, yes, that has totally changed the game. I am on the board of an institution called the Cooper Union in New York, very well-known, highly selective institution, that this year for the first time ever had to start charging tuition.


GWEN IFILL: It used to have a reputation for everything being free.

JOHNNY C. TAYLOR JR.: That’s right.

So, if that is happening at a school that has a $700 million endowment, then you can only imagine what happens at the HBCUs, where I think, in the aggregate, many of our institutions don’t have a $700 million endowment.

GWEN IFILL: South Carolina State is a state university, a public university. Not all HBCUs are supported in that way by the government.


GWEN IFILL: But do many of them rely on government funding? Does that have an effect as well?

JOHNNY C. TAYLOR JR.: Significantly. About 80 percent to 90 percent of all funding at public or private HBCUs ultimately emanate from the federal government through Pell Grant, certain loan programs to build infrastructure, grant programs from the various federal agencies.

So, yes, all of the institutions, even private institutions, rely pretty heavily on federal and state funding.

GWEN IFILL: So, where does it work and where doesn’t it work?

JOHNNY C. TAYLOR JR.: So, the schools that have figured it out, Claflin, it’s a classic example.

Claflin University sits right next door to South Carolina State in Orangeburg. So, it’s not a question of rural vs. city. It’s not a question of black vs. majority. It’s about leadership. At its core, our institutions have got to get the right boards of governors or boards of trustees, and those individuals have to select the right leaders, and those leaders have to execute their plan.

GWEN IFILL: What is the public interest in fixing HBCUs, and not just going and just letting — folding them into larger organization, mainstream organization?

JOHNNY C. TAYLOR JR.: That’s right.

Well, here’s the deal. Despite all that we hear about HBCUs, they represent just 3 percent of all higher educational institutions, but graduate 20 percent of all African-Americans with undergraduate degrees.

So, the point is what happens to America? Especially when the president’s North Star goal is to increase the number of college graduates, if those institutions went away, then America has a problem, not just black America.

GWEN IFILL: Johnny Taylor, president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, thank you very much.

JOHNNY C. TAYLOR JR.: Thank you.

The post What do struggling historically black colleges like SC State need to do to survive? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.