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.

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7:33am

Thu July 2, 2015
NPR Ed

The Top Words Of Wisdom For New Graduates

Originally published on Thu July 2, 2015 11:50 am

Check out our updated words of wisdom for new graduates, now including: (top, from left) Kanye West, Jennifer Lee, John Kerry, Maya Rudolph; (bottom, from left) Janet Yellen, Victor Hwang, Zadie Smith and David Carr.
NPR

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.

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6:28am

Mon June 29, 2015
NPR Ed

7 Solutions That Would Improve Graduation Rates

Originally published on Mon June 29, 2015 1:26 pm

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.

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8:03am

Fri June 26, 2015
NPR Ed

5 Ideas To Ease The Burden Of Student Loans

Originally published on Fri June 26, 2015 9:14 am

Students wait outside Everest College in Industry, Calif., hoping to get their transcriptions and information on loan forgiveness and transferring credits to other schools. In April, the school was one of the last Corinthian Colleges campuses to close.
Christine Armario AP

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

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3:53pm

Tue June 16, 2015
NPR Ed

A Soft Eraser Won't Fix This SAT Mistake

Originally published on Tue June 16, 2015 6:52 pm

LA Johnson/NPR

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.

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8:03am

Fri June 12, 2015
NPR Ed

From 'Dropout Crisis' To Record High, Dissecting The Graduation Rate

Originally published on Fri June 12, 2015 12:45 pm

The U.S. high school graduation rate was 81 percent in 2013, the most recent year in which federal data are available.
LA Johnson/NPR

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.

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7:50am

Tue June 9, 2015
NPR Ed

High School Graduation Rates: The Good, The Bad And The Ambiguous

Originally published on Tue June 9, 2015 2:10 pm

LA Johnson NPR

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:

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5:06am

Mon June 8, 2015
NPR Ed

The Forces Behind The Decline Of For-Profit Colleges

Originally published on Mon June 8, 2015 1:43 pm

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?

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5:18pm

Sat June 6, 2015
NPR Ed

From Bail Bondsman To Teacher

Originally published on Sat June 6, 2015 6:40 pm

Rodney Carey (left) with students at the Youth Empowerment Project in New Orleans.
LA Johnson/NPR

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.

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6:23am

Tue June 2, 2015
NPR Ed

The Quantified Student: An App That Predicts GPA

Originally published on Wed June 3, 2015 9:49 am

Scientists have developed an app that tracks how much time students spend sleeping, working out, studying or partying.
Sally Anscombe Getty Images

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.

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7:03am

Thu May 28, 2015
NPR Ed

Nonacademic Skills Are Key To Success. But What Should We Call Them?

Originally published on Thu May 28, 2015 2:32 pm

LA Johnson/NPR

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.

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8:03am

Wed May 27, 2015
NPR Ed

A New Kind Of College Wins State Approval In Rhode Island

Originally published on Wed May 27, 2015 4:33 pm

Students Carmen Boucher (left) and Hilda Castillo collaborate at a College Unbound weekly seminar.
Tracy Money College Unbound/Big Picture Learning

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.

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6:38am

Tue May 19, 2015
NPR Ed

What Do You Do With A Student Who Fidgets?

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 1:35 pm

Studies found that fidgeting can help children with ADHD collect their thoughts.
LA Johnson/NPR

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.

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8:55am

Thu May 14, 2015
NPR Ed

Vindication For Fidgeters: Movement May Help Students With ADHD Concentrate

Originally published on Thu May 14, 2015 9:46 am

Allowing kids with ADHD to move around in class may help them collect their thoughts.
LA Johnson/NPR

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.

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6:43am

Wed May 13, 2015
NPR Ed

A Key Researcher Says 'Grit' Isn't Ready For High-Stakes Measures

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 7:23 am

The accuracy of self-reporting depends on your frame of reference. Excerpted from "Measurement Matters: Assessing Personal Qualities Other Than Cognitive Ability for Educational Purposes."
Courtesy of Angela L. Duckworth and David Scott Yeager

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.

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6:53am

Sun May 10, 2015
NPR Ed

Counting Poor Students Is Getting Harder

LA Johnson/NPR

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.

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8:57am

Wed April 29, 2015
NPR Ed

Several Florida School Districts Cut (Way) Back On Tests

Originally published on Wed April 29, 2015 9:04 am

LA Johnson/NPR

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.

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8:03am

Tue April 28, 2015
NPR Ed

Delinquent. Dropout. At-Risk. When Words Become Labels

Originally published on Tue April 28, 2015 5:05 pm

Sidney Poitier (right) and Glenn Ford (standing) in the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle.
The Kobal Collection

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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4:48pm

Mon April 27, 2015
NPR Ed

The Largest For-Profit College Shutdown In History

Originally published on Mon April 27, 2015 5:47 pm

Corinthian operated colleges and training programs under the names Everest College, Heald, WyoTech and QuickStart Intelligence. This location is in Milwaukee.
Jeramey Jannene Flickr

The long-running story of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges has entered what looks like a final phase. As our colleagues at SCPR wrote:

"Corinthian Colleges will shut down all of its remaining 28 ground campuses, displacing about 16,000 students, less than two weeks after the U.S. Department of Education announced it was fining the for-profit institution $30 million for misrepresentation."

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8:03am

Sun April 26, 2015
NPR Ed

What If Students Could Fire Their Professors?

LA Johnson/NPR

"Welcome to Iowa State University. May I take your paper, please?"

A bill circulating in the Iowa state Senate would rate professors' performance based on student evaluations. Just student evaluations.

Low-rated professors would be automatically fired — no tenure, no appeals.

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8:03am

Thu April 23, 2015
NPR Ed

To Get More Students Through College, Give Them Fewer Choices

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 11:18 am

Redesigning America's Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success by Thomas R. Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars and Davis Jenkins
Harvard University Press

How many different flavors of jam do you need to be happy?

In 2000, a famous experiment showed that when people were presented with a supermarket sampler of 24 exotic fruit flavors, they were more attracted to the display. But, when the sample included only six flavors, they were 10 times more likely to actually buy.

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5:01am

Mon April 20, 2015
NPR Ed

Anti-Test 'Opt-Out' Movement Makes A Wave In New York State

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 9:25 am

A school bus passes a sign encouraging parents to have their children opt out of state tests in Rotterdam, N.Y.
Mike Groll AP

Across New York state this week, some students are refusing to take a test, and they're not getting punished for it. The test is a Common Core-aligned, federally mandated exam, and students, parents and educators are part of what they're calling the opt-out movement.

Opt-outs made news last week in several states: Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, to name a few. The objections are similar everywhere. But no state is posting numbers like New York.

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8:03am

Sat April 18, 2015
NPR Ed

Falling Through The Cracks: Young Lives Adrift In New Orleans

Originally published on Mon April 20, 2015 10:37 am

Craig Adams, Jr., 18, is studying for his second try at the high school equivalency exam.
LA Johnson/NPR

On weekend afternoons, Craig Adams Jr. plays for tourists on the streets of the French Quarter.

He gigs with different bands, bringing whatever's needed: trumpet, trombone, saxophone — he plays six or seven instruments in all. There's a white plastic bucket on the sidewalk so people can drop in cash as they browse the T-shirts and Mardi Gras masks.

Craig is 18, and there's music in his blood: "I had my uncle, my grandfather, and my dad to teach me." His father, Craig Adams Sr., leads a group called the Higher Dimensions of Praise Gospel Band.

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7:03am

Sat April 11, 2015
NPR Ed

New Research Shows Free Online Courses Didn't Grow As Expected

Originally published on Sat April 11, 2015 12:02 pm

Student Raul Ramos goes through his online homework during a session of a massive open online class, or MOOC, in Madrid, Spain.
Andres Kudacki AP

Remember the MOOC?

Just a few years ago, the Massive Open Online Course was expected to reinvent higher education. Millions of people were signing up to watch Web-based, video lectures from the world's great universities. Some were completing real assignments, earning certificates and forming virtual study groups — all for free.

Surely the traditional college degree would instantly collapse.

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5:38pm

Tue March 31, 2015
NPR Ed

Activists Stop Paying Their Student Loans

Originally published on Wed April 1, 2015 11:03 am

Makenzie Vasquez (from left), Pamala Hunt, Latonya Suggs, Ann Bowers, Nathan Hornes, Ashlee Schmidt, Natasha Hornes, Tasha Courtright, Michael Adorno and Sarah Dieffenbacher are refusing to pay back loans they took out to attend Corinthian Colleges.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Latonya Suggs says she borrowed thousands of dollars in student loans to attend the for-profit Corinthian Colleges but has nothing to show for it. Most employers don't recognize her criminal justice degree.

"I am completely lost and in debt," Suggs says. And now she's doing something about it: She's refusing to pay back those loans.

Suggs and 106 other borrowers now saddled with Corinthian loan debt say their refusal to repay the loans is a form of political protest. And Tuesday, the U.S. government gave them an audience.

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4:19pm

Mon March 23, 2015
NPR Ed

In Congress, New Attention To Student-Privacy Fears

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 10:30 am

LA Johnson/NPR

Several efforts in Washington are converging on the sensitive question of how best to safeguard the information software programs are gathering on students.

A proposed Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015 is circulating in draft form. It has bipartisan sponsorship from Democratic Rep. Jared S. Polis of Colorado and Republican Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana.

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8:03am

Thu March 19, 2015
NPR Ed

Questions To Ask About Ed-Tech At Your Kids' School

Originally published on Thu March 19, 2015 1:33 pm

LA Johnson/NPR

When a 4-year-old comes home from pre-K proudly announcing that she spent her "choice time" playing on the computer, what's a parent to do?

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1:03pm

Mon March 9, 2015
NPR Ed

Math Love, Game-Based Learning, And More From NPR Ed At #SXSWEdu

Sarah Hagan, a young algebra teacher in Oklahoma oil country, will be joining us at SXSW Edu to talk about her unorthodox approach to classroom math.
Elissa Nadworny NPR

It's not quite as glamorous as the way our colleagues at NPR Music do it, but this week, the NPR Ed team will be heading down to Austin, Texas for the South By Southwest Edu conference.

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5:58am

Sun February 22, 2015
NPR Ed

If Your Teacher Likes You, You Might Get A Better Grade

Originally published on Mon February 23, 2015 10:59 am

LA Johnson/NPR

Were you ever the teacher's pet? Or did you just sit behind the teacher's pet and roll your eyes from time to time?

A newly published paper suggests that personality similarity affects teachers' estimation of student achievement. That is, how much you are like your teacher contributes to his or her feelings about you — and your abilities.

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9:34am

Sun February 15, 2015
NPR Ed

Q&A: Exit Interview With A Nationally Known School Leader

Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 12:49 pm

Joshua Starr
Skip Brown

Joshua Starr, a nationally prominent superintendent with the Montgomery County schools in Rockville, Md., this month was granted early release from his contract after 3 1/2 years.

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12:08pm

Mon February 2, 2015
NPR Ed

Virtual Schools Bring Real Concerns About Quality

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 11:39 am

LA Johnson/NPR

At the end of Angela Kohtala's leadership skills course, her high school students have to plan and carry out a community service project. Maybe it's fixing up their school courtyard, or tutoring younger students in an afterschool program.

Afterwards, they create a PowerPoint with pictures of the project. This isn't just a nice way to develop presentation skills — it's mandatory to prove that they really weeded that garden or sat with those kids in the first place.

You see, Kohtala's students are spread across the state of Florida, while she herself lives in Maine.

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