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. Most teachers, however, actually like the standards. This American RadioWorks documentary takes listeners into classrooms to explore how the standards are changing teaching and learning. Teachers say Common Core has the potential to help kids who are behind, as well as those who are ahead. But many teachers have big concerns about the Common Core tests. The new, tougher tests are meant to let the nation know how kids are really doing in school -- but bad scores could get teachers and principals fired.
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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.
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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.
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One Child at a Time

Learning with a personal tutor is one of the oldest and best ways to learn. Hiring a tutor for every student was never a realistic option. Now, new computer programs can customize education for each child. But adding computers to classrooms isn't likely to help unless teachers are willing to change their approach to teaching.
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The Rise of Phoenix

For-profit colleges have deep roots in American history, but until recently they were a tiny part of the higher education landscape. Now they are big players. More than one in 10 college students attends a for-profit. The rapid rise of these career-oriented schools has provoked heated debate, opening up new conversations about the costs, quality and purpose of higher education. In this documentary, correspondent Emily Hanford examines the history and influence of the University of Phoenix, one of the nation's largest colleges, and explores how Phoenix and other for-profits are shaping the future of education.
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Keyboard College

Digital technologies and the Internet are changing how many Americans go to college. From online learning to simulation programs to smart-machine mentors, the 21st-century student will be taught in fundamentally new ways. In this documentary, Stephen Smith asks whether these innovations can help more people get access to higher education and bring down the cost of college without sacrificing learning.
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Grit, Luck and Money

More people are going to college than ever before, but a lot of them aren't finishing. Low-income students, in particular, struggle to get to graduation. Only 9 percent complete a bachelor's degree by age 24. Why are so many students quitting, and what leads a few to beat the odds and make it through? In this documentary, American RadioWorks correspondent Emily Hanford introduces us to young people trying to break into the middle class, teachers trying to increase their chances and researchers investigating the nature of persistence.
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Don’t Lecture Me

College students spend a lot of time listening to lectures. But research shows there are better ways to learn. And experts say students need to learn better because the 21st century economy demands more well-educated workers.