Beyond the Blackboard

In the 1940s a British headmaster named Kurt Hahn set up a wilderness school called Outward Bound to teach young men the skills they needed to survive World War II -- skills like leadership, persistence, and working together. Hahn believed these were skills conventional schools should focus on too. Fifty years later, Hahn's ideas about education inspired the founding of a network of public schools in the United States. Students in these schools outperform their peers when it comes to test scores and graduation rates -- and also motivation, academic engagement and problem-solving ability. This documentary explores the "Expeditionary Learning" approach, traces the history of ideas that led to its inception, and investigates what American schools could learn from its success.

From Boots to Books

The longest war in American history is drawing to a close. Now, the men and women who served are coming home, and many hope to use higher education to build new, better lives. They have help from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a piece of legislation that many advocates say offers more support to returning veterans than any policy since the original GI Bill of 1944. In this documentary, we explore how the first GI Bill revolutionized the lives of millions of young veterans, America’s institutions of higher education, and American society at large. But America’s economic and academic systems have changed, and veterans today are returning to a very different reality than their predecessors.

Teaching Teachers

Research shows good teaching makes a big difference in how much kids learn. But the United States lacks an effective system for training new teachers or helping them get better once they're on the job. This documentary examines why, and asks what it would take to improve American teaching on a wide scale. We meet researchers who are trying to understand what makes teaching complex, and how to determine whether someone is ready to be a teacher. We also visit U.S. schools that are taking a page from Japan and radically rethinking the way they approach the idea of teacher improvement.

The Living Legacy

Before the civil rights movement, African Americans were largely barred from white-dominated institutions of higher education. And so black Americans, and their white supporters, founded their own schools, which came to be known as Historically Black Colleges and Universities. HBCU graduates helped launch the civil rights movement, built the black middle class, and staffed the pulpits of black churches and the halls of almost every black primary school before the 1960s. But after desegregation, some people began to ask whether HBCUs had outlived their purpose. Yet for the students who attend them, HBCUs still play a crucial -- and unique -- role. In this documentary, we hear first-person testimony from students about why they chose an HBCU; and we travel to an HBCU that’s in the process of reinventing itself wholesale.
(Photos: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library)

The First Family of Radio

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, he and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt both used the new medium of radio to reach into American homes like never before. They rallied the nation to combat the Great Depression and fight fascism. The Roosevelts forged an uncommonly personal relationship with the people. This documentary explores how FDR and ER's use of radio revolutionized the way Americans relate to the White House and its occupants.
A student learns welding at a vocational high school in Massachusetts. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

Ready to Work

Vocational education was once a staple of American schooling, preparing some kids for blue-collar futures while others were put on a path to college. Today the new mantra is "college for all." But not everyone wants to go to college, and more than half of jobs don't require a bachelor's degree. Many experts say it's time to bring back career and technical education. This American RadioWorks documentary explores how vocational education is being reimagined.
A graduate and her parents celebrate first-generation college students at Amherst College. (Photo: Suzanne Pekow)

The New Face of College

Just 20 percent of college-goers fit the stereotype of being young, single, full-time students who finish a degree in four years. College students today are more likely to be older, part-time, working, and low-income than they were three decades ago. Many are the first in their families to go to college. This American RadioWorks documentary shows how universities are adapting to serve these new students. It explains changing demographics, and explores what colleges must do to remain engines of social mobility.
Students in Kentucky taking a Common Core math test. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

Greater Expectations

The United States is in the midst of a huge education reform. The Common Core State Standards are a new set of expectations for what students should learn each year in school. The standards have been adopted by most states, though there's plenty of controversy about them among activists and politicians. Teachers say Common Core has the potential to help kids who are behind, as well as those who are ahead. But they have big concerns about the Common Core tests.

The Science of Smart

Researchers have long been searching for better ways to learn. In recent decades, experts working in cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience have opened new windows into how the brain works, and how we can learn to learn better. In this program, we look at some of the big ideas coming out of brain science. We meet the researchers who are unlocking the secrets of how the brain acquires and holds on to knowledge. And we introduce listeners to the teachers and students who are trying to apply that knowledge in the real world.
Wall of Hope

Second-Chance Diploma

The General Educational Development test (GED) is a second chance for millions of school dropouts. Each year, more than 700,000 people take the GED test. People who pass it are supposed to posses a level of education and skills equivalent to those of a high school graduate. Most test-takers hope the GED will lead to a better job or more education. But critics say the GED encourages some students to drop out of school. And research shows the credential is of little value to most people who get one.