A Visit From Kendrick Lamar — Best Day Of School Ever?

At around midday Monday at High Tech High School in North Bergen, N.J., about 40 students are crammed into a small classroom, anxiously waiting for Kendrick Lamar to walk into the room.

He glides in with crisp white kicks, a grey long-sleeve shirt, and hair twisting every which way. The 27-year-old rapper has a broad smile on his face. He seems almost as excited as the students, who just might be having their best day of school … ever.

Lamar is on top of the rap game at the moment. His latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly,came out earlier this year and debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s albums chart. It’s a complex, multilayered piece of work that wrestles with themes around blackness and beauty.

Full story on star visiting high school at NPR

From ‘Dropout Crisis’ To Record High, Dissecting The Graduation Rate

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.

But in the course of pulling this project together, our team fell into a rabbit hole over something that doesn’t often get attention: the origin of the statistic itself. It turns out to be a fascinating story, and not just for data wonks. It’s a story of collaboration across the political aisle, heroic efforts and millions of dollars spent by state governments, and dogged researchers uncovering new insights that arguably changed the lives of tens of thousands of young people.

Full story on the dropout crisis at NPR

Raising Graduation Rates With Questionable Quick Fixes

To many, 81 percent is a success story. It’s the nation’s all-time-high rate for high school graduation in 2013, the most recent year of federal data.

But the NPR Ed Team and reporters from member stations around the country have been digging into that number and found it’s more complicated.

Not all the news here is good.

Yesterday, we took you to the state with the highest graduation rate — Iowa — to see what it’s doing to keep at-risk students in school: free day care, an in-school food bank, small classes and flexible hours.

Full story and audio on graduation rates, visit NPR

Fact Sheet: Protecting Students from Abusive Career Colleges

Over the past six years, the Education Department has taken unprecedented steps to hold career colleges accountable for giving students what they deserve: a high-quality, affordable education that prepares them for their careers. The Department established tougher regulations targeting misleading claims by colleges and incentives that drove sales people to enroll students through dubious promises. The Department has cracked down on bad actors through investigations and enforcement actions. The Department also issued “gainful employment” regulations, which will help ensure that students at career colleges don’t end up with debt they cannot repay. The Department will continue to hold institutions accountable in order to improve the value of their programs, protect students from abusive colleges, and safeguard the interests of taxpayers.

“While some for-profit career colleges play a critical role in helping students succeed in their educational and training pursuits, too often, bad actors in the sector have preyed on some of our nation’s most vulnerable students and taken advantage of hard-working Americans who simply want a better future for themselves and their families,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “I am committed to ensuring that every student has access to an education that will put them on solid footing for a career, and I will hold schools accountable for practices that undercut their students and taxpayers. Where students have been harmed by fraudulent practices, I am fully committed to making sure students receive every penny of relief they are entitled to under law. We will make this process as easy as possible for them, including by considering claims in groups wherever possible, and hold institutions accountable.”

Full story of students abusive career colleges at ed.gov

Obama Administration Honors Schools, Districts and Postsecondary Institutions for Sustainable Facilities, Health, and Learning Practices

White House Council on Environmental Quality Managing Director Christy Goldfuss and NOAA Director of Education Louisa Koch joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today to congratulate the 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees on their achievements at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

At the event, 58 schools and 14 districts were honored for their leadership in reducing environmental impact and costs, promoting better health, and ensuring effective environmental education. In addition, 9 colleges and universities were honored with the first-ever Postsecondary Sustainability Award. Representatives from the schools, districts and postsecondary institutions received sustainably crafted plaques and banners in recognition of their achievements.

Full story Obama’s education honors at ed.gov

Miccosukee Indian School Receives Historic Flexibility to Meet Academic and Cultural Needs of Students

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced today that the Miccosukee Indian School (MIS) has received flexibility from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), to use a different definition of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) that meets their students’ unique academic and cultural needs. The Miccosukee Indian School in Florida is funded by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).

As part of the Obama Administration’s Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative to remove barriers to Native youth success, granting flexibility for the Miccosukee Indian School to define AYP specifically for their students is an important step in making the BIE work better to support individual tribal nations and Native youth. This is the first tribal school to be approved to use a definition of AYP that is different from the state in which it is located, and the flexibility is the first of its kind from the Department of Education.

Full story of the Miccosukee Indian School at ed.gov

Adult Course Offers Learning For The Sake Of Learning

When we talk about higher education for the poor, we often mean community colleges and getting a degree in order to make more money. But 20 years ago, a writer in New York City decided that the poorest members of society should have the same access as wealthier people to learning, just for the sake of learning.

I visited one of these programs — called a Clemente course — in Harlem on a Thursday night.

“Can you live in a good life in a society where people are doing different things?” asks the teacher. “Of course,” replies a student.

Sitting in on a Clemente course is like watching a bunch of passionate freshman staying up all night in their dorm debating an assignment.

Full story of the new adult learning courses at NPR

U.S. Department of Education Completes Review of Major Student Loan Servicers

As a part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to protect student loan borrowers, the U.S. Department of Education conducted thorough reviews of the four major federal student loan servicers to ensure that the companies followed federal law when it comes to loan interest rates for active-duty servicemembers.

The reviews by the Department found that the four servicers – Navient, Great Lakes, PHEAA and Nelnet – complied in the vast majority of cases with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) as required by the Higher Education Act (HEA). The reviews, which looked at active-duty servicemembers’ SCRA eligibility between 2009 and 2014, show that in less than 1 percent of cases, borrowers were incorrectly denied the 6 percent interest rate cap required by the laws.

Full story on the student loan services review at ed.gov

New Data Show a Decline in School-based Bullying

New data indicate the first significant decrease in school-based bullying since the federal government began collecting that data in 2005, suggesting that efforts at the federal, state and local levels to prevent bullying may be paying off. According to new data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the reported prevalence of bullying among students ages 12 to 18 dropped to 22 percent after remaining stubbornly around 28 percent for the past decade.

“As schools become safer, students are better able to thrive academically and socially,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “The Department, along with our federal partners and others, has been deeply involved in the fight against bullying in our nation’s schools. Even though we’ve come a long way over the past few years in educating the public about the health and educational impacts that bullying can have on students, we still have more work to do to ensure the safety of our nation’s children.”

Full story of decline in school bullying at ed.gov

College Students to Benefit from Proposed Regulations Targeting Troubling Practices in Rapidly Expanding College Debit, Prepaid Card Marketplace

The U.S. Department of Education announced proposed regulations, available for public inspection today in the Federal Register, aimed at protecting as many as 9 million college students receiving $25 billion in federal student aid by providing tougher standards and greater transparency surrounding agreements between colleges and companies in the rapidly expanding college debit and prepaid marketplace. The proposed regulations are intended to safeguard students from excess fees and provide students the freedom to choose how to access their federal student aid funds when paying for college. The action by the Department would bring much needed reforms to a sector that has operated without sufficient transparency, putting taxpayer dollars at risk of financial loss.

“It is critically important to ensure that students can freely choose how to receive their federal student aid refunds,” said U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. “Students need objective, neutral information about their account options. For example, students should be able to choose to receive deposits to their own checking accounts and not be forced to utilize debit cards with obscure and unreasonable fees.”

Full story of proposed benefits to student troubling college debt at ed.gov