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. Her latest is The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life (PublicAffairs, 2018).

Her previous books were Generation Debt; DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, and The Test.

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, and appeared in documentaries shown on PBS and CNN.

Kamenetz was named a 2010 Game Changer in Education by the Huffington Post, received 2009, 2010, and 2015 National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for innovation in 2017 along with the rest of the NPR Ed team.

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.

When I was a high school junior in New Orleans taking AP American history, my teacher assigned us a paperback book. Slim in contrast to our hulking required textbook, it was a funny, compelling, even shocking read. Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen, explained how history textbooks got the story of America wrong, usually by soft-pedaling, oversimplifying and burying the thorny drama and uncertainties of the past under a blanket of dull, voice-of-God narration.

Editor's note on Aug. 8, 2018: This piece has been substantially updated from a version published in 2014.

A solemn little boy with a bowl haircut is telling Mr. Rogers that his pet got hit by a car. More precisely, he's confiding this to Daniel Striped Tiger, the hand puppet that, Rogers' wife, Joanne, says, "pretty much was Fred."

From the policy of separating immigrant families, to limiting the power of labor unions, to naming the next justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, this summer the DeVos family name has been all over the news.

Over the years, the parents, in-laws and husband of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have given hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative causes. And many of those causes are front and center of policy initiatives and goals of the Trump administration right now.

The U.S. Education Department is going back to the drawing board on some basic rules of higher education, including one concept that has been in place for 125 years.

The goal? Unleash innovation to better serve students.

Rachael McRae, a fifth-grade teacher in central Illinois, was sitting on the couch the other day with her 4-month-old when she saw the email.

"He was having a fussy day," she says, "so I was bouncing him in one arm, and started going through my emails on my phone, just to feel like I was getting something done." In her spam folder, she found an email from an organization called My Pay, My Say, urging her to drop her union membership.

Do you remember the day you decided you were no good at math?

Or maybe you had the less common, opposite experience: a moment of math excitement that hooked you for good?

Thousands of studies have been published that touch on the topic of "math anxiety." Overwhelming fear of math, regardless of one's actual aptitude, affects students of all ages, from kindergarten to grad school.

School may be out, but there has been no lack of news this summer on race and admissions: an announcement from Jeff Sessions, a Harvard lawsuit, changes in the Supreme Court and proposals for selective high schools in New York City. Here's a rundown of the facts in place, and the latest developments.

Who is in school?

In the U.S., more than 4 out of 10 undergraduate college students are above the age of 25. When people talk about these adult students, you usually hear words like "job skills" and "quickest path to a degree."

But for more than four decades, a special program in Washington state has sought to offer much more than that.

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"For the last 14 years I had been a stay at home mom and a soccer mom of three kids," says Lori Alhadeff. "On Valentine's Day my daughter was brutally shot down and murdered and I became a school safety activist."

That day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, when a 19-year-old former student killed Alyssa Alhadeff and 16 other people, changed many lives.

And it pushed the question of school safety once again to the front and center.

Ben Zimmerman lives in a suburb of Chicago. Like a lot of 9-year-olds, he's fond of YouTube, Roblox, and Minecraft.

And, like a lot of parents, his mom and dad wanted to make sure Ben wasn't spending too much time on those activities. They tried to use Google's "Family Link" parental control software to limit screen time for Ben and his older sister, Claudia.

Did you know that kids growing up in poverty hear 30 million fewer words by age 3?

"I want The Three Bears!"

These days parents, caregivers and teachers have lots of options when it comes to fulfilling that request. You can read a picture book, put on a cartoon, play an audiobook, or even ask Alexa.

This week, another school shooting is dominating news headlines. At least 10 people were killed, and 10 others wounded, when a gunman opened fire inside Santa Fe High School, a small-town high school located halfway between Houston and Galveston, Texas.

This is a developing news story, you can check npr.org for the most recent updates.

Betsy DeVos spotlights religious schools on NYC trip

School officials have issued warnings to parents ahead of the second season of the Netflix drama "13 Reasons Why," which premieres this week.

Sally Merryman has taught middle school Spanish in North Carolina for more than 20 years. She, like thousands of teachers from all over the state, plans to march on the state capitol in Raleigh this week.

"I think a lot of us started to see, 'well shoot, if West Virginia can do it, North Carolina can do it,' " she told NPR's Ari Shapiro. "If Oklahoma can do it, North Carolina can do it. If Arizona can do it, so can North Carolina."

U.S. News and World Report released its rankings of the best high schools in the country on Wednesday. These numbers are based on student test scores — U.S. News compared those test scores to state averages as a way of calculating how well a school serves its student body. The rankings also factor in graduation rates and AP and IB exams.

It's a single line in an email:

"The office of 'Students & Young Consumers' ... will be folded into the office of 'Financial Education.' "

Words sent Wednesday morning by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's acting director, Mick Mulvaney, announcing various staffing changes at the bureau.

Why did this bureaucratic-sounding announcement trigger a sheaf of critiques from consumer groups, California's attorney general and at least two U.S. senators?

Scott Barry Kaufman was placed in special education classes as a kid. He struggled with auditory information processing and with anxiety.

But with the support of his mother, and some teachers who saw his creativity and intellectual curiosity, Kaufman ended up with degrees from Yale and Cambridge.

This week in our roundup, we travel from Arizona to the United Kingdom to the Philippines to bring you the education news.

Teachers in Arizona head back to class

More than 9 in 10 teachers say they joined the profession for idealistic reasons — "I wanted to do good" — but most are struggling to some extent economically.

"Alexa, why is Pluto so awesome?"
"Alexa, what is seven plus three?"
"Alexa, who is Harry Potter?"
"Alexa, I'm bored."
"Alexa, where do babies come from?"*

Families who have an artificially intelligent "smart speaker" at home like Amazon's Echo may be used to kids saying stuff like this. And Amazon (which is a financial supporter of NPR) has just announced that Alexa's going to get better at answering them.

(*Except that last one. Alexa's reply: "People make people, but how they're made would be a better question for a grownup.")

Very few government reports have had the staying power of "A Nation At Risk," which appeared 35 years ago this month and stoked widespread concerns about the quality of American schools.

"The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and as a people," the authors thundered in one of its best-known passages.

This week, we're digging through federal data and cruising YouTube to bring you the most relevant education news.

New federal data: Black students disproportionately punished, arrested

As the wave of teacher walkouts moves to Arizona and Colorado this week, an NPR/Ipsos poll shows strong support among Americans for improving teachers' pay and for their right to strike.

We're crazy in love with all the education news — from Coachella to new findings on screen time.

Beyoncé brings HBCU pride to Coachella performance

More than 2 out of 3 college students today are not coming straight out of high school. Half are financially independent from their parents, and 1 in 4 are parents themselves.

David Scobey says that, as an American studies and history professor at the University of Michigan for decades, he was "clueless" about the needs of these adult students.

But then, in 2010, he became a dean at The New School, a private college in New York City, heading a division that included a bachelor's degree program designed specifically for adults and transfer students.

Nation's Report Card: mostly flat

The 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation's Report Card, showed no statistically significant changes from 2015, except for a slight uptick in 8th grade reading scores. This test is given every two years to fourth and eighth graders in reading and math. It is not high-stakes, but it is the largest single test enabling a comparison of students across the country.

West Virginia. Oklahoma. Arizona. Teachers are organizing for better working conditions all over the country.

There is a red light flashing in professor Albert Ponce's cubby-sized office. The light comes from an old-fashioned answering machine.

Lately, he doesn't like to listen to the messages by himself. When he presses play, it's obvious why:

"Albert Ponce, you are a piece of s*** f****** gutter slug that needs his neck snapped, OK? Call me if you need me. I'll do it for ya."

"F****** race-baiting f****** piece of trash."

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