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 about the future of education. Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006), dealt with youth economics and politics; DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education (Chelsea Green, 2010), investigated innovations to address the crises in cost, access, and quality in higher education. Her forthcoming book, The Test (PublicAffairs, 2015), is about the past, present and future of testing in American schools.

Learning, Freedom and the Web (http://learningfreedomandtheweb.org/), The Edupunks' Guide (edupunksguide.org), and the Edupunks' Atlas (atlas.edupunksguide.org) are her free web projects about self-directed, web-enabled learning.

Previously, 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.

Kamenetz was named a 2010 Game Changer in Education by the Huffington Post, received 2009 and 2010 National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, and was submitted for a Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing by the Village Voice in 2005, where she had a column called Generation Debt.

She appears in the documentaries Generation Next (2006), Default: A Student Loan Documentary (2011), both shown on PBS, and Ivory Tower, which premiered at Sundance in 2014 and will be shown on CNN.

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.

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).

On Sept. 15, 2005, two weeks after Katrina and the levee breaches, I drove with my parents into New Orleans. It was my 25th birthday.

We used my press pass from The Village Voice to get past a military checkpoint so we could assess the damage to their home near Tulane University. It turned out to be minimal: a few slate tiles off the roof, tree limbs downed, a putrid refrigerator full of rotting food to drag to the curb.

There are few household names in education research. Maybe that in itself constitutes a problem. But if there was an Education Researcher Hall Of Fame, one member would be a silver-haired, plainspoken Kiwi named John Hattie.

Hattie directs the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He also directs something called the Science of Learning Research Centre, which works with over 7,000 schools worldwide.

This week Hillary Clinton released a big, complicated campaign proposal she calls the New College Compact. It's stuffed with ideas that have been brought up by other presidential candidates, both to the left and the right: free tuition (Bernie Sanders); debt-free college (Martin O'Malley); more affordable student loan repayment (Marco Rubio); and lowering costs overall (Jeb Bush).

Summertime means summer jobs for many college students. But a summer job just doesn't have the purchasing power it used to, especially when you compare it with the cost of college.

Let's take the example of a working-class student at a four-year public university who's getting no help from Mom and Dad. In 1981-82, the average full cost to attend was $2,870. That's for tuition, fees and room and board.

The College Board has just released the latest curriculum framework for its Advanced Placement U.S. history course, and it appears to have satisfied many of the old framework's critics.

The rewrite comes after anger over its 2014 framework sent the College Board, which administers the AP exam, back to the drawing board.

New York state recently announced an increase in the minimum wage for fast food workers, to $15 an hour. It's the fruit of a three-year labor campaign.

Both houses of Congress have now passed versions of the bill that would update the largest federal education law, known as No Child Left Behind, for the first time since 2001. They are big, meaty and complicated, and now they have to be reconciled into one messy Dagwood sandwich of a bill to go to the president.

Coder boot camps. Accelerated learning programs. New economy skills training.

Whatever you call them, these new players in higher education are multiplying. The intensive programs say they can teach job-ready skills in technology, design and related fields. In record time.

Why do you do what you do? What is the engine that keeps you up late at night or gets you going in the morning? Where is your happy place? What stands between you and your ultimate dream?

Heavy questions. One researcher believes that writing down the answers can be decisive for students.

I've had this phrase running through my head since we started updating our Commencement Speeches database a few weeks ago: "If you're too big for a small job, you're too small for a big job."

Who said that? It was Katie Couric at American University last year.

Who knew that a commencement address could get stuck in your head? Well, the best of these speeches have a lot in common with a great pop song. They are simple, emotional, and pack a universal message into just a few words.

This month we reported the findings from our nationwide investigation into the forces driving the nation's rising high school graduation rate. We found some solid educational approaches — and some questionable quick fixes.

The total outstanding balance of federal student loans: $1.3 trillion.

On a rainy Saturday morning in June, 17-year-old Sarah Choudhury showed up bright and early at her SAT testing center in the town of Lagrangeville in upstate New York. This was her last chance to raise her score before applying for early admission to highly competitive premed programs in the fall.

As she was taking the test, she says, "chaos" struck. There was a discrepancy between the time allotted in the student test booklet for one of the sections, 25 minutes, and the proctor's instructions, just 20 minutes.

In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama had some sure-fire applause lines: "More of our kids are graduating than ever before" and "Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high."

Which raised some interesting questions: "Is that really true?" and "Why?" and "How do we know?" and "So what?"

A seed was planted that grew into our project this week examining that number. Our reporting shows many of the individual stories behind a single statistic: 81 percent, the current U.S. graduation rate.

Officially, the U.S. has a high school graduation rate of 81 percent — a historic high.

But our months-long investigation, in partnership with reporters at 14 member stations, reveals that this number should be taken with a big grain of salt. We found states, cities and districts pursuing a range of strategies to improve the grad rate:

Barring a last-minute legal decision, as of July 1, the nation's for-profit colleges are going to be subject to a new Education Department rule known as gainful employment. That is: Do students end up earning enough to pay off their loans?

In a windowless classroom, in a tough New Orleans neighborhood, a middle-aged man with piercing eyes is teaching math at top volume.

"I got a SINGLE DOLLAR if someone can tell me what's the RULE to this problem!" he intones.

Today's lesson is about the order of operations, a topic usually taught in elementary school. On average, Rodney Carey's students are working at a fifth-grade level. But they are much older, aged 16 to 24.

Mr. Rodney, as he is known, does whatever he can to motivate them, whether that's ordering in Chinese food or giving out cash prizes.

It sees you when you're sleeping ... it knows when you're awake ... it knows if you've been hitting the books, so be good for goodness' sake!

No, it's not Santa Claus. It's the digital Jiminy Cricket each of us carries in our pocket, otherwise known as a smartphone.

In a small experiment, researchers at Dartmouth College have shown that data automatically collected by an Android app can guess how students are spending their time — predicting their end-of-term grades with scary accuracy.

More and more people in education agree on the importance of learning stuff other than academics.

But no one agrees on what to call that "stuff".

There are least seven major overlapping terms in play. New ones are being coined all the time. This bagginess bugs me, as a member of the education media. It bugs researchers and policymakers too.

It's one of the biggest challenges in higher education today: What do you do with the nearly one in five working-age adults who have some college experience, but no degree?

Sokeo Ros was one of them. "I just hated" community college, he says. "I wasn't being challenged."

Ros, 34, was born in a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand. He dropped out of two colleges, switching majors several times.

Our story last week about the connection between ADHD, movement and thinking struck a nerve with readers. We reported on a small study in which students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder performed better on memory tasks when they were allowed to spin and move around in a swiveling chair.

Are you a pen-clicker? A hair-twirler? A knee-bouncer? Did you ever get in trouble for fidgeting in class? Don't hang your head in shame. All that movement may be helping you think.

If you've followed education in the news or at the book store in the past couple of years, chances are you've heard of "grit." It's often defined as the ability to persevere when times get tough, or to delay gratification in pursuit of a goal.

Researchers, grant-makers and policymakers have long relied on enrollment numbers for the federally subsidized Free and Reduced-Price Lunch program. They use those numbers as a handy proxy for measuring how many students are struggling economically. The paperwork that families submit to show their income becomes the basis of billions in federal funds.

To be eligible for these programs, a family must earn no more than 85 percent above the poverty line. Just over half of public school students fit that description.

Did you hear that?

It's the sound of hundreds of thousands of public school students in Florida breathing sighs of relief.

The state's largest school district, Miami-Dade County, just cut the number of district-created, end-of-course exams it will require from roughly 300 to 10. And even those 10 will be field-tested only, on just a sampling of students.

Much of our recent reporting, especially from New Orleans, has focused on young people who are neither in school nor working. There are an estimated 5 1/2 million of them, ages 16 to 24, in the United States.

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