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.

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.

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.

Competency-based education is in vogue — even though most people have never heard of it, and those who have can't always agree on what it is.

Close your eyes for a minute and daydream about a world without bubble tests.

Education Week recently reported that some Republican Senate aides are doing more than dreaming — they're drafting a bill that would eliminate the federal mandate on standardized testing.

Today the Education Department released long-awaited details on a plan to hold colleges accountable for their performance on several key indicators, and officials said they'll be seeking public comment on the proposals through February.

"As a nation, we have to make college more accessible and affordable and ensure that all students graduate with a quality education of real value," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

Little children are big news this week, as the White House holds a summit on early childhood education on Wednesday. The president wants every 4-year-old to go to preschool, but the new Congress is unlikely to foot that bill.

Since last year, more than 30 states have expanded access to preschool. But there's still a lack of evidence about exactly what kinds of interventions are most effective in those crucial early years.

"In some places, tests — and preparation for them — are dominating the calendar and culture of schools and causing undue stress for students and educators."

The quote comes not from an angry parent or firebrand school leader but from Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Of course, he's the guy currently in charge of a big chunk of those tests: the No Child Left Behind requirement of annual standardized testing in grades 3-8, plus once during grades 10-12.

Opening arguments began today in the trial of 12 Atlanta educators charged in an alleged cheating conspiracy that came to light in 2009.

Prosecutors claim there was widespread cheating on state tests throughout the city's public schools, affecting thousands of students.

The case has brought national attention to the issue, raising questions about whether the pressures to improve scores have driven a few educators to fudge the numbers, but also about broader consequences.

This week, NPR Ed is focusing on questions about why people play and how play relates to learning.

Imagine you're playing a computer game that asks you to design a poster for the school fair. You're fiddling with fonts, changing background colors and deciding what activity to feature: Will a basketball toss appeal to more people than a pie bake-off?

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

We wanted to figure out why college costs have been rising so much, and Anya Kamenetz with the NPR Ed team joins me now to break down the numbers.

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