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Department of Education

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Billionaire Betsy DeVos is the new Secretary for the US Department of Education.

This hour, how will she impact public school education nationwide including here in Connecticut? We hear from educators within traditional public and charter schools — and we want to hear from you, too.

Today the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as President Trump's education secretary, 51-50.

Senate Democrats held an all-night session Monday night into Tuesday morning in a last-ditch effort to try to stop President Trump's nominee for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, from being confirmed.

Among those who took to the floor was Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who said it was "difficult to imagine a worse choice to head the Department of Education."

There hasn't been a more controversial pick for secretary of education, arguably, in recent memory than Donald Trump's choice of Betsy DeVos. The Senate confirmation hearings for the billionaire Republican fundraiser and activist from Michigan start today.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

U.S. Education Secretary John King Jr. made a stop in New Haven Monday as he wraps up his "Opportunity Across America" tour.

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Public school superintendents in the state’s three largest cities — Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford — have all recently announced their resignations.

This hour, we look at superintendent turnover in Connecticut.

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David Brancaccio

Starting on Oct. 1, prospective college students will be able to access and file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid —  commonly known as FAFSA — for the 2017-18 school year. That’s three months earlier than the usual date and is part of an initiative by the Obama Administration to provide timely financial aid information to high school students and their families.

U.S. Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. spoke with us about how exactly this decision will help.

On the issue this earlier deadline is trying to resolve: 

Mike McGuire, as seen on 14th Street NW, Washington, DC // Creative Commons

Since last week's Wheelhouse, we had one candidate learn where Aleppo is, we heard one candidate refer to a "basket of deplorables," and we learned the same candidates campaign had been hiding a pneumonia diagnosis.

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A transcript of this show is available here.

It's hard to think about language as being endangered or replaceable. But as our culture and means of communication evolve, certain languages find their utility in decline. Braille and sign language are in just such a predicament.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

The state’s largest teaching union criticized the current guidelines for teacher evaluations in Connecticut at a press conference on Monday, calling for changes to a system that the organization said puts too much emphasis on standardized test scores -- and not enough on classroom learning.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Washington lawmakers passed the long-debated education bill that minimizes the federal government's role in public education.

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The state Board of Education has approved more than 1,000 additional charter school seats for the coming school year, a 12 percent increase.

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A date has been set for the Connecticut General Assembly to respond to Gov. Dannel Malloy's nine vetoes, but no decision has been made on whether to override any of them.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Nearly every lawmaker in the General Assembly voted to create minimum qualifications for the state’s education commissioner. But Governor Dannel Malloy decided to veto the bill and now the state’s largest teachers union is now asking the legislature to override the veto.

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Some Connecticut students may soon be taught the history of labor and free markets. A bill passed through the state senate on Monday that would require the education department to make relevant curriculum materials available to local school districts.

WNPR/David DesRoches

Advocates for the rights of children met in Hartford to talk about how to reduce the number of students being restrained or secluded in school. Part of the solution involves training educators on alternative ways to handle behavior problems.

Roughly half of the state’s school districts have been trained in what’s called positive behavior interventions and supports, or PIBS. It’s a program designed to limit restraints and seclusions of students with disabilities. Many of these kids have autism, and these incidents often lead to injuries.

Jeff Millsteen / Flickr Creative Commons

Detentions, suspensions, and expulsions: these are the time-honored  and well-worn enforcements of many a scorned teacher. Even student arrests are not uncommon in some troubled school districts. The practice of addressing bad behavior in the classroom with an even worse punishment has long been the norm.

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Later this month, Connecticut students will begin taking the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, which is designed to measure their progress in a variety of subject areas. 

But some are not so thrilled about Connecticut’s testing requirements. The state’s largest teachers union recently asked lawmakers to cut back on standardized tests. And a number of parents say they plan to opt their kids out of SBAC testing this Spring.

Puzzles: The Joy of Being Perplexed

Jan 27, 2015
Lablanco / Flickr Creative Commons

People have been puzzled since the beginning. And while that might sound like a problem, it may in fact be our preferred state of being. Since the first fires needed to be lit with tinder too damp to kindle, we've been problem solving. When one problem was solved, another was found. And when seemingly, we could no longer find enough problems to satiate our appetites, we created puzzles: problems in a box; food for our minds.

Chion Wolf

Ever since 1778 when Thomas Jefferson, revising the laws of Virginia, wrote something called a Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, there's been an ongoing debate about how to make sure people know what they need to know to participate fully as citizens of this democracy.

As is so often the case with Jefferson, his ideas and words seem visionary and eternal until you poke around in them a little bit and then it gets more complicated especially vis-a-vis who he thought was really fit to lead the American people.

carlosbezz/iStock / Thinkstock

Governor Dannel Malloy wants to reduce the number of standardized tests taken by Connecticut students. In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, he offered a solution to cut down on all of the testing.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Restraint and seclusion is a legal, albeit controversial, practice in our nation's public schools. Students -- often those with disabilities -- can be restrained and secluded against their will. This can result, and has resulted on many occasions, in injury to the student. Nationwide, there are 20 known cases of death because of restraint or seclusion in the past two decades.

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As the FBI continues its investigation of a disgraced Hartford-based charter school company, some education advocates think it's time to take a closer look at charter school accountability in the state.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

As federal investigators continue their probe of a troubled Hartford charter school group, agents are now seeking to obtain all department correspondence, including Commissioner Stefan Pryor's emails that relate to FUSE, Jumoke, Michael Sharpe or Hartford's Milner School.

Josh Nilaya / WNPR

Concerned parents gathered for a rally in Hartford on Thursday afternoon. At issue is the large number of Hartford students currently waiting for a seat in a high-performing school.  

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