Claudio Sanchez

The average cost of one college year across all degree-granting intuitions in the U.S. was more than $19,000 in 2012, and we don't need to tell you what direction the price is heading. Which means lots of students are now borrowing heavily to make college work. President Obama threw some of them a lifeline earlier this week, with revisions to the government's Pay As You Earn program.

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Flat, stagnant, static, those are words that the U.S. Department of Education has used to describe the latest reading and math scores for the nation's 12th graders.

Many educators say quality early childhood education programs give young children a strong foundation for kindergarten and beyond.

But what does a high-quality preschool program look like? Early childhood education researchers point to Tulsa, Okla., as a school system that gets it right. NPR's education team went to Tulsa to find out what help sets the city's preschool program apart. You can read more about what they found — and visit a Tulsa preschool classroom, here.

For years, President Obama has been a vocal booster of early childhood education. In his past two State of the Union addresses, he has called on Congress to help fund preschool for every child in the country.

"Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child's life is high-quality early education," Obama told Congress in January.

The federal government spends almost $8 billion on preschool programs across the country, mostly on low income 4-year-olds. States spend billions more. But with at least 30 states planning to expand access to pre-K and President Obama promoting "preschool for all," what constitutes a quality preschool program?

Mike Neal gets annoyed when he talks about politicians in his state. Just three years ago, when the Common Core State Standards for education were implemented, no one had a problem with them, says Neal, president of the Tulsa, Okla., Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"It's been a really frustrating situation to the business community in Oklahoma in that we've all been on the same page, from the governor, the House, the Senate, school board members," Neal says. "They've all been behind this."

Now, things are different.

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The College Board made a big announcement yesterday. It is overhauling the SAT. This is the second major revision of the widely used college entrance exam in nine years. Changes to the test will affect over a million college-bound high school students.

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Staying with the topic of computers and schools, NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports on a recent survey that found parents may have reason to worry about how schools are protecting student's personal data.

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Community college leaders are in Washington this week, pushing for a bigger role in getting more people to enroll in two-year schools. They're also pushing the job training that business and industry say they desperately need.

When you think about minimum-wage workers, college professors don't readily come to mind. But many say that's what they are these days.

Of all college instructors, 76 percent, or over 1 million, teach part time because institutions save a lot of money when they replace full-time, tenured faculty with itinerant teachers, better known as adjuncts.

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Kyrah Whatley, 17, is a bright student with pretty good grades. But the thought of spending two to four more years in a college classroom is depressing, she says.

Masonry, on the other hand, intrigues her. "I'm a kinesthetic learner. ... I learn with my hands," she says.

That's why Kyrah is thinking of joining the Navy as a certified mason right after she graduates from Buchtel High School in Akron, Ohio.

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Ever since the Year 2000, 15-year-olds from around the world have taken a test every three years to gauge their reading, math and science skills. It's called PISA, short for Program for International Student Assessment.

This is the first in a three-part report on Philadelphia schools in crisis.

Sharron Snyder and Othella Stanback, both seniors at Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin High, will be the first in their families to graduate from high school. This, their final year, was supposed to be memorable. Instead, these teenagers say they feel cheated.

"We're fed up with the budget cuts and everything. Like, this year, my school is like really overcrowded. We don't even have lockers because it's, like, too many students," Sharron says.

Rapper Pitbull (Armando Christian Pérez) is the latest in a long list of celebrities lending their star power to the flourishing charter school movement. Alicia Keyes, Denzel Washington, Shakira, Oprah — all support or sponsor charter schools.

The College Board, sponsor of the SAT, says latest scores show that roughly 6 in 10 college-bound high school students who took the test were so lacking in their reading, writing and math skills, they were unprepared for college-level work.

The College Board is calling for big changes to better prepare students for college and career.

Stagnant Scores

Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core State Standards, the first-ever national academic standards for students. But opposition is growing, and some lawmakers are having second thoughts about their states' support.

Meanwhile, proponents of the standards are still struggling to explain the initiative to parents, many of whom say they've never even heard of Common Core.

Looking For Direction

The death of a long-time, part-time professor in Pittsburgh is gathering the attention of instructors nationwide. The trend of relying on part-time faculty has been in the works for decades, and Margaret Mary Vojtko's story is seen by some as a tragic byproduct.

Last spring, months before her death, Vojtko showed up at a meeting between adjunct professors at Duquesne University and the union officials who had been trying to organize them. The professors are trying to organize a union affiliated with the United Steelworkers.

The superintendent of the Lancaster, Pa., school district is meeting with teachers and staff at George Washington Elementary. It's the start of a new school year, and he's trying to sound upbeat about the district's finances.

"We continue to lose 5 and 10 percent of budgets each year," Pedro Rivera tells them. "And our overall goal is to make those plans and stretch out dollars to not impact you, because no kids should go without. Right?"

President Obama unveiled a plan on Thursday that would, for the first time, tie federal student aid to a new rating system for colleges and universities. While the president's message that higher education costs should be reined in was simple enough, the sweeping proposal is anything but.

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Charter schools turn 21 this year. In that time, these privately run, publicly funded schools have spread to 41 states and enrolled more than 2 million students.

But one key question lingers: Do kids in charter schools learn more than kids in traditional public schools?

The interest rate on government-backed student loans is going to jump from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent Monday.

Republicans, Democrats and the Obama administration could not agree on a plan to keep it from happening. Lawmakers say a deal is still possible after the July 4 recess. But if they don't agree on a plan soon, 7 million students expected to take out new Stafford loans could be stuck with a much bigger bill when they start paying the money back.

It has been one of the more heated debates in Washington this year.

The U.S. spends more than $7 billion a year preparing classroom teachers, but teachers are not coming out of the nation's colleges of education ready, according to a study released Tuesday by U.S.News & World Report and the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The study says most schools of education are in disarray.

From New Mexico to New York, 10 state university systems have announced they are joining the ranks of elite institutions embracing the massive open online course, or MOOC, system.

On Thursday, they unveiled a landmark partnership with Coursera, a for-profit tech company with 3.5 million registered students. It's the biggest effort to catapult degree-granting institutions into the world of global education.

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