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.

Hello and welcome to another edition of our weekly education roundup. This one is tax-bill-centric.

The Republican tax bill now under consideration in the House may go through many revisions — there are significant differences with the Senate's proposal. And it may or may not become law. Still, here's what the education world is watching.

Private colleges bristle at GOP tax bill

Hello! We're back this week with a roundup that focuses on the goings-on at 400 Maryland Ave. SW — that's the federal Department of Education, in case you didn't know.

DeVos comments on LGBT student protections in new profile

Which of these statements seems more trustworthy to you?

1) Americans are drowning in a tsunami of ignorance! There is a conspiracy at the highest levels to replace all knowledge with propaganda and disinformation.

2) A recent Stanford University report found that more than 80 percent of middle schoolers didn't understand that the phrase "sponsored content" meant "advertising."

This past spring, a history teacher in North Carolina was giving a lesson about Christopher Columbus. He covered how Columbus and his men enslaved and otherwise mistreated the native people of the island of Hispaniola.

One white student piped up: "Well, that's what needed to happen. They were just dumb people anyways like they are today. That was the purpose, that's why we need a wall."

Our weekly roundup of education news and happenings may make you uncomfortable, but please don't ban our inconvenient truths.

A Mississippi district bans To Kill A Mockingbird

"I'll be famous one day, but for now I'm stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons." That's harsh language from the downtrodden sixth-grade narrator of Diary of A Wimpy Kid, a blockbuster series of graphic novels.

But it speaks to a broader truth.

It's not your imagination: Tiny tots are spending dramatically more time with tiny screens.

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, just released new numbers on media use by children 8 and under. The nationally representative parent survey found that 98 percent of homes with children now have a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone.

We're doing things by the numbers this week in our weekly roundup of all things education.

167 of 1,113 public schools in Puerto Rico are open

It has been more than six months since Betsy DeVos was confirmed as education secretary after one of the most contentious Cabinet nomination battles in memory, and so we thought it worth an update on her major moves so far — and the public response.

School choice

Cookie Monster is all wound up. The Count has him hold up his furry blue fingers, count them (of course), and blow on each one in turn as if he were blowing out a birthday candle. Afterward, Cookie declares, in his familiar growly voice, that he feels much better.

"Hey! Me feel terrific! Me calm. Me relaxed."

Fred Rogers, the beloved children's television host, used to tell a story about when he would see scary things in the news as a child. His mother would reassure him by saying: "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."

Lately, there's been a surfeit of scary news: Charlottesville, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and now Las Vegas.

In a tiny hamlet in Tanzania, children who have never been to school, and can't recognize a single letter in any language, are about to start learning basic math and reading. They'll do this with the help of a cutting-edge, artificially intelligent "tutor" who can hear what they are saying in Swahili and respond meaningfully.

In the slums of Bogota, Colombia, children play with special board games, dominoes and dice games that can teach them math and reading in a matter of months. Youth volunteers in the community help bring the games to younger children.

When he announced the Excelsior Scholarship, billed as the biggest-in-the-nation free college program, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo promised dreams could come true for all.

There's lots of new info this week for those thinking about college, plus many other education topics in our weekly roundup.

Schools on the mainland brace for Puerto Rican students

There is no date to reopen schools in the hurricane-ravaged U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. Education Week reports that relief efforts are currently focused on meeting the basic needs of children and families.

Who, exactly, is a university teacher? What defines teaching? And how should the profession evolve in an age of rising tuition, worldwide connectivity, and fast-changing job markets?

Surprisingly, a recent federal audit of Western Governors University raises these questions.

The school was founded 20 years ago by a consortium of states; it's a nonprofit, online-only institution that has racked up accolades, becoming a national role model for its innovative and low-cost focus on working adults.

The letters "CFPB" may not be much more than alphabet soup to your average student loan borrower. They stand for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new-ish federal agency — created in 2011 — with a unique mission and a big effect on student lenders and for-profit colleges accused of defrauding or otherwise mistreating Americans.

There are more nonwhite teachers than there used to be. But the nation's teaching force still doesn't look like America. One former education school dean is out to change that.

New research shows that the number of K-12 teachers who belong to minority groups has doubled since the 1980s, growing at a faster rate than the profession as a whole. But big gaps persist, with around 80 percent of teachers identifying as white.

When Mitch Resnick was growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, he and his little brother were always making up new games. For example, he says, "In the basement, throw a tennis ball so it goes between the pipes in the ceiling for two points, and bounces off the pipe for one point."

His parents were tolerant of their making noise and rearranging the furniture. One summer he even dug up the backyard for a minigolf course. The design process was a matter of trial and error: Could he use soda cans to make the holes? What path would the ball take as it hit various obstacles?

Buckle up! We'll be visiting many U.S. states and territories in our weekly education news roundup.

Florida schools reopening after Irma

Schools all over Florida remained closed this week in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Most have targeted this Monday to reopen. The closures affected several hundred thousand students in some of the largest districts in the country, from Miami to Jacksonville.

DeVos' "Rethink School" tour

Christina Broussard was trapped in her grandmother's living room for three days during Hurricane Harvey. Rain poured through the ceiling in the bathrooms and bedrooms.

Broussard's a student at Houston Community College. Her grandmother is 74 and uses a wheelchair.

"We had peanut butter, tuna, crackers, we had plenty of water," she remembers. "We were hungry, but we managed. We tried to make light jokes about it — we said we were on a fast." And to pass the time? "We prayed."

"What would it mean to redesign higher education for the intellectual space travel students need to thrive in the world we live in now?"

That is one of the provocative questions that opens Cathy Davidson's latest book, The New Education. And unlike some of the journalists and business figures who have taken previous swings at that piñata, Davidson has a full career of research and practice to inform her abundance of answers.

It's hard to believe all this could happen in just one week, but here we are with the weekly roundup.

Widespread disruption from Harvey and Irma

"We had a parent go by and check on the chickens. They were fine and Wilson the cat was ok too! I know many people are concerned. What a wonderful community we have."

For the staff of Wilson Montessori, a public pre-K-8 school in Houston, the days after Harvey meant tracking down members of the community via text, collecting donations for those in need — and reassuring students about the fate of the school's pets.

The Department of Education will change its approach to campus sexual misconduct and begin a public notice and comment process to issue new regulations, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced today. In a speech at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School, DeVos decried "a system run amok," "kangaroo courts" and repeatedly emphasized the plight of the accused. "One rape is one too many ... one person denied due process is one too many," she said. Outside, protesters yelled, "Stop protecting rapists!"

A bit of background.

While the nation has been watching Harvey's devastation in Texas, news continues elsewhere, including education news. We'll catch you up.

Harvey closes schools for a million students

School districts across Texas — with over a million schoolchildren — are dealing with the aftermath of Harvey.

Brandon McElveen's Ford F150 pickup is lifted up about six inches. He says that's just the style in the South, but this week, "it's come in handy" for driving through up to four feet of water.

McElveen's a counselor at the KIPP Explore Academy elementary school in Houston. Within hours of the flooding this week, he began getting calls and messages asking for help. One was from a family with two girls on the middle school softball team he also coaches.

With his truck and a borrowed kayak, he estimates he's helped more than 20 people to safety.

In the last year, there's been a big drop in support for charter schools, while other forms of school choice are getting a little less unpopular. That's the top line of a national poll released today.

President Trump and his education secretary Betsy DeVos have put school choice front and center on their education agenda. The general idea of "choice," however, takes many forms.

How should educators confront bigotry, racism and white supremacy? The incidents in Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend pushed that question from history to current events.

More and more, people in education agree on the importance of schools' paying attention to stuff other than academics.

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

I originally published a story on this topic two years ago.

As I reported back then, there were a bunch of overlapping terms in play, from "character" to "grit" to "noncognitive skills."

Are you feeling underprepared? Our weekly education news roundup has something for you.

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