Education

Coverage of education issues both in Colorado & Nationally from KUNC, NPR & our education news partners.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Schools across the U.S. served more than 5 billion meals in the national school lunch program to millions of students last year. Each one of the meals has to meet federal rules for nutrition.

Now, those rules are up for debate and Congress could impose changes on the cafeteria.

School lunch was transformed by the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act. The law, passed in 2010, forces schools to switch to whole grains, cut calories, limit fat and sugar, start reducing sodium, and serve more fruits and vegetables.

When you enter Marissa McGee's classroom, the first thing you notice is her connection with her students. They're delighted by her enthusiasm, they pick up on her sarcasm, and they often double over with giggles when she makes a joke.

And this is kindergarten. So McGee's students — her audience — are 5-year-olds.

"They're easy to please," she says, laughing. "I'm not that funny. I wouldn't even consider myself funny at all."

This rapport is how Marissa McGee works to shape these kindergartners into thoughtful, educated adults.

Imagine your bright young son or daughter comes to you, high school mortarboard in hand, and says, "Mom, Dad, I'm not going to college next year." What's your reaction?

If you're the commander in chief or first lady, the answer is, reportedly, supportive. Their older daughter, Malia Obama, made headlines this week by announcing that she would put off matriculating at Harvard University until 2017.

It turns out that this decision is becoming more popular at Harvard and around the country.

Sleep has a big impact on learning. And not just when you do it in class. Sleep deprivation affects memory, cognition and motivation, and the effects are compounded when it's long-term.

There are many qualities of a great teacher. Two big ones? Kindness and a willingess to make learning fun. At least that's what Marlem Diaz-Brown's fourth-graders say.

For our 50 Great Teachers project, we've searched all over for teachers like her. Which brought us to Sunset Elementary School in Miami ... and "Mrs. D-B."

So we're about halfway through our 50 Great Teachers project, and we've been looking for ways of shaking it up. We've done photo essays, web comics and videos.

These endeavors brought us to our latest idea: Instead of us reporting the story, let's let the kids do it.

Once we found a great teacher — Mrs. Marlem Diaz-Brown in Miami — we had to be sure she was willing to let us take over her fourth-grade class. And she was.

The latest results of the test known as the Nation's Report Card are in. They cover high school seniors, who took the test in math and reading last year. The numbers are unlikely to give fodder either to educational cheerleaders or alarmists: The average score in both subjects was just one point lower in 2015 compared with the last time the test was given, in 2013. This tiny downtick was statistically significant in mathematics, but not for the reading test.

But even though the changes are small, chances are you're going to be hearing about them in a lot of places.

The way Daphne Patton remembers it, it was more money than she'd ever seen.

It was 1990, and the Kentucky Supreme Court had declared the state's school funding system unconstitutional. Within a year, a lot more money started flowing to the poorest school districts, a 50 to 60 percent increase in their budgets.

Patton, an elementary school teacher from Wolfe County in eastern Kentucky, says schools had an abundance of resources, "everything we needed."

This winter, Jameria Miller would often run to her high school Spanish class, though not to get a good seat.

She wanted a good blanket.

"The cold is definitely a distraction," Jameria says of her classroom's uninsulated, metal walls.

Her teacher provided the blankets. First come, first served. Such is life in the William Penn School District in an inner-ring suburb of Philadelphia.

The hardest part for Jameria, though, isn't the cold. It's knowing that other schools aren't like this.

A few "short" years ago, during my sophomore year at The City College of New York, some fellow Caribbean classmates told me that the education department was offering a "free" course, called Thinking Chess, for three credits.

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