Claudio Sanchez

Former elementary and middle school teacher Claudio Sanchez is an Education Correspondent for NPR. He focuses on the "three p's" of education reform: politics, policy and pedagogy. Sanchez's reports air regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.

Sanchez joined NPR in 1989, after serving for a year as executive producer for the El Paso, Texas, based Latin American News Service, a daily national radio news service covering Latin America and the U.S.- Mexico border.

From 1984 to 1988, Sanchez was news and public affairs director at KXCR-FM in El Paso. During this time, he contributed reports and features to NPR's news programs.

In 2008, Sanchez won First Prize in the Education Writers Association's National Awards for Education Reporting, for his series "The Student Loan Crisis." He was named as a Class of 2007 Fellow by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. In 1985, Sanchez received one of broadcasting's top honors, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton, for a series he co-produced, "Sanctuary: The New Underground Railroad." In addition, he has won the Guillermo Martinez-Marquez Award for Best Spot News, the El Paso Press Club Award for Best Investigative Reporting, and was recognized for outstanding local news coverage by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Sanchez is a native of Nogales, Mexico, and a graduate of Northern Arizona University, with post-baccalaureate studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Many high schoolers hoping to attend George Washington University in Washington, D.C., one of the top private universities in the country, breathed a sigh of relief this week.

GWU announced it will no longer require applicants to take the SAT or ACT.

The move comes after the school formed a task force to study the pros and cons of going "test-optional." GWU attracts lots of high-achieving students who do well on both exams, but the task force concluded that the school's reliance on these tests was excluding some high-achieving students who simply don't test well.

It's official. More than 13 years after President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law, it's now ... well, still law. But, as of Thursday, it is one big step closer to retirement.

The U.S. Senate voted 81-17 in favor of a bipartisan overhaul called the Every Child Achieves Act. The move comes just days after House Republicans voted on a rival plan, one that cleared the House without a single Democratic vote. The two bills must now be reconciled before anything makes its way to the president. Obama has already threatened the House bill with a veto.

Standardized tests tied to the Common Core are under fire in lots of places for lots of reasons. But who makes them and how they're scored is a mystery.

For a peek behind the curtain, I traveled to the home of the nation's largest test-scoring facility: San Antonio.

The facility is one of Pearson's — the British-owned company that dominates the testing industry in the U.S. and is one of the largest publishing houses behind these mysterious standardized tests.

Jonathan Kozol looks back on the events he wrote about 50 years ago, in Death at an Early Age.

In this short film by LA Johnson, he reads from Page 188:

For two decades, Texas has treated truancy as a criminal offense. That means most cases were prosecuted in adult courts where children, along with their parents, faced jail and fines of up to $1,500 for missing school — usually 10 or more unexcused absences.

Texas lawmakers now say this policy went too far. So last week, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed a law that no longer treats truancy as a Class C misdemeanor.

For decades, Arthur Levine, the former president of Teachers College, Columbia University, has tried to imagine a new kind of institution for training teachers. He envisions a combination West Point and Bell Labs, where researchers could study alongside future educators, learning what works and what's effective in the classroom. That idea is now set to become a reality.

To get a really good sense of why Caroline Solomon is a great teacher, you have to go into the field with her. On this particular morning, that means a boat on the Anacostia River.

We're about 4 miles from the campus of Gallaudet University, where Solomon is a professor of biology. She and a student — Anna McCall — are heading in a small boat to take water samples.

The Anacostia is no more than 8 miles long, but it meanders through and around Washington, D.C., past a naval yard, a golf course and I-95, the busiest interstate highway on the Eastern Seaboard.

Part of our ongoing series of conversations with thinkers and activists on education issues

In a year in which we're exploring great teaching, it's a good time to talk with Ken Bain. He's a longtime historian, scholar and academic who has studied and explored teaching for decades, most notably in his 2004 book, What the Best College Teachers Do.

As long as there have been schools and classes, there have been students who don't show up. And educators scratching their heads over what to do about it.

In most states, missing a lot of school means a trip to the principal's office. In Texas, parents and students are more likely to end up in front of a judge.

Mexican-American toddlers born in the U.S. do not develop nearly as fast as white toddlers when it comes to language and pre-literacy skills. That's the main finding of a new study by the Institute of Human Development at the University of California, Berkeley.

For the past year now, many Americans have been hearing and reading about the 68,000 unaccompanied minors who have crossed illegally into the U.S. Nearly all of these minors come from El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras, and since their arrival, immigration officials have released most of them to their parents or relatives who already live in this country.

A number of these children and teenagers are in deportation proceedings, but while they wait, they have been allowed to attend public schools. In Louisiana, schools have enrolled nearly 2,000 of them.

No school wants to be on this list.

It was just released by the Department of Education. On it are the names of 556 colleges and universities that failed the department's "financial responsibility test."

Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell says that each school's finances are now being placed under a microscope because the government "had serious concerns about the financial integrity of the institution or its administrative capacity."

Meet Jenni Hofschulte, the 35-year-old mom who's one of the parents leading the charge against testing in Milwaukee.

"I have two children in Milwaukee Public Schools," Hofschulte says over coffee at a cafe near her home. "The oldest one is in eighth grade." She's interrupted by her fidgety 4-year-old son, Lachlan.

Hofschulte quiets him down, furrows her brow and begins again.

Hofschulte says that when she found out her son would have to take a diagnostic test next year that's required of all Wisconsin kindergartners, all kinds of red flags went up.

The main federal education law may finally get its long-overdue makeover in Congress this year, and we're going to be hearing and reading a lot about it.

Formally, it's the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA. The last time it got a major overhaul was in 2001, with President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. But nothing much has been done with the law since 2007.

If Congress does finally get to it this year, What can we expect?

Right off the bat, the president touted the fact that more kids are graduating from high school and college than ever before. "We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world," he said in Tuesday's State of the Union speech. "And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record."

On the education front, President Obama's State of the Union address is likely to focus on three big proposals:

First, the president wants to talk about the idea he floated last week of making community college tuition-free. This is new.

The plan would benefit about 9 million full- and part-time students and would cost the federal government about $60 billion over 10 years. According to the administration's numbers, that would account for three-fourths of the total cost. States and community colleges would come up with the rest.

It's shaping up to be an interesting year for the Common Core, barely five years after 45 governors embraced it. A few states have already repealed the new math and reading standards. Others are pushing ahead with new tests, curriculum and teaching methods aligned to the Core.

And in some states, its future hangs in the balance. North Carolina is one of them.

It was one of the first states that quietly adopted the Common Core, and it moved quickly to put the standards in place.

President Obama is in Tennessee previewing some of the big issues he'll talk about in his State of the Union address later this month. Friday, he'll speak in Knoxville, focusing on education and an idea that is gathering steam in some states: making community college tuition-free.

In the emerging debate over this idea, there are skeptics and there are true believers.

As the senior member of the NPR Ed team with 25 years on the education beat, here are the top stories that my expert sources and I believe will be ones to watch in 2015. For more predictions, check out our crowdsourced list.

It's late afternoon. Most classes at Randolph College are done for the day but students have begun gathering in the lobby of the elegant, century-old main hall.

A student taps on a piano while he and four classmates wait for their philosophy professor. After-hours sessions like these are a key feature of this small, private liberal arts college in Lynchburg, Va.

It markets itself nationally as a "unique, nurturing community of learners," well worth the $45,000 a year in tuition, room and board.

Higher education, preschool funding, the Common Core and the future of No Child Left Behind are just a few of the education policies that will be in play under the new Republican-controlled Congress. How will these things change? We called Sen. Lamar Alexander to ask.

Trying to figure out why Philadelphia's public schools have been teetering on insolvency the past few years is no easy task.

But let's start with some basic facts. The district, the eighth largest in the nation, is entirely dependent on three sources of money: Almost half of its $2.8 billion budget comes from the city. A little over a third comes from the state. Most of the rest comes from the federal government.

For years,Washington Monthly has been rating and ranking the nation's colleges.

But for its 2014 edition, the magazine has done something new. It has put out a list of what it says are the nation's worst colleges. That is, schools with high tuition, low graduation rates and high student debt rates.

For 14-year-old Yashua Cantillano, life in New Orleans is an improvement.

But that's not saying much.

Just three months ago, Yashua was in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, dodging gang members. He says they would drive by his school, guns visible, threatening to kill him, his younger brother — Yashua's whole family.

"We'd hide all day," Yashua says, "and that kept us from going to school."

After crossing the U.S. border illegally, he came to New Orleans and ultimately enrolled at Carver Prep, a small charter school on the city's east side.

Last June, 13-year-old Yashua Cantillano and his 11-year-old brother, Alinhoel, left their uncle's home in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, with a change of clothes in plastic bags, some snacks, water and their mother's phone number scribbled on a piece of paper.

Their guide and protector? Seventeen-year-old Sulmi Cantillano, their step-sister.

With the help of a smuggler, or coyote, Sulmi says, they got to the Mexican border city of Reynosa about 11 miles south of McAllen, Texas. They crossed the Rio Grande and turned themselves in to the U.S. Border Patrol.

On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans and gutted most of its public schools. Even before the storm, the district was one of the most troubled in the nation.

Today, the New Orleans school system is unlike any other anywhere in the U.S. More than 9 in 10 students this fall are attending charter schools run by dozens of private, nonprofit organizations. Families choose the schools their children will attend, and the neighborhood school is a thing of the past.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Tuition and fees at most community colleges are pretty reasonable these days, about $3,500 a year. Which is why the vast majority of community college students don't take out loans to cover their costs. But, according to the Institute for College Access and Success, a non-profit advocacy group based in California, nearly a million community college students who do need help paying for school don't have access to federal student loans.

The Obama administration said Tuesday that the vast majority of the 6.5 million students with disabilities in U.S. schools today are not receiving a quality education, and that it will hold states accountable for demonstrating that those students are making progress.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced what he calls "a major shift" in how the government evaluates the effectiveness of federally funded special education programs.

The average cost of one college year across all degree-granting intuitions in the U.S. was more than $19,000 in 2012, and we don't need to tell you what direction the price is heading. Which means lots of students are now borrowing heavily to make college work. President Obama threw some of them a lifeline earlier this week, with revisions to the government's Pay As You Earn program.

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