American Graduate Series

WUNC's American Graduate Project is part of a nationwide public media conversation about the dropout crisis. We'll explore the issue through news reports, call-in programs and a forum produced with UNC-TV. Also as a part of this project we've partnered with the Durham Nativity School and YO: Durham to found the WUNC Youth Radio Club. 

These reports are part of American Graduate-Let’s Make it Happen!- a public media initiative to address the drop out crisis, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and these generous funders:

      Project Funders:

    • GlaxoSmithKline
    • The Goodnight Educational Foundation
    • Joseph M. Bryan Foundation 
    • State Farm
    • The Grable Foundation
    • Farrington Foundation

    More education stories from WUNC

    GLOW students Trinity Moore and Deniya Evans reacted to a lip-syncing performance by their teachers.
    Jess Clark / WUNC

    At GLOW Academy, about 100 rising sixth graders were out to recess during a recent summer bridge camp. The motto on the back of their bright yellow T-shirts leaves no doubt that GLOW is focused on the long game.

    Magellan Charter School has one of the highest school performance grades in the state, but it also has a relatively wealthy student population.
    Jess Clark / WUNC

    In a small patch of pine trees outside Magellan Charter School, a fourth-grade science class is on the hunt for insects, plants and other life. One of the students, Mary Grace, has found a crabapple tree. Her teacher, Sara Dail, points to a small spongy lump poking through the pine straw bed below.

    Newly hired teachers and staff attend an orientation for Wake County Public Schools. Wake County teachers make more than most teachers in North Carolina.
    Jess Clark / WUNC

    School districts across the state say they have somewhat fewer teacher vacancies going into this school year than they did in 2015. But  many students will still have substitutes for the first weeks of school.

    classroom
    Dave DeWitt / WUNC

    Wake County school board members have made some creative cuts to fill a $17.5 million budget gap.

    Board members approved a 2016-2017 operating budget this week that they say manages to avoid any layoffs, but reduces air conditioning usage slightly, cuts the number of days schools are swept and vacuumed and increases class sizes.

    Wake County School Bus
    Dave DeWitt / WUNC

    Wake County school board members are considering where they can make cuts in order to fill a $17.5 million budget gap. A proposed plan would increase class sizes, freeze teachers' local salary supplements and cut back on custodial services.

    Lawmakers are considering a number of education changes.
    Courtesy of Pixbay.com

    Editor's note: This story has been updated with the most recent action from the state Legislature. 

    Changes to the charter school renewal process have cleared both the state House and Senate, and are on their way to the governor's desk.

    NC Senate Passes Charter School Takeover Bill

    Jun 24, 2016
    Student, Classroom, school, class
    Tom Woodward / Flickr Creative Commons

    Editor's note: This story has been updated with the most recent action from the state Legislature. 

    Lawmakers in the state Senate have passed a bill that would turn over five of the state's struggling elementary schools to charter school organizations.

    The bill goes back to the House for an up-or-down vote.

    a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.
    Leigh Ann Cross

    A provision in the Senate's budget proposal would force some year-round schools to change their calendars within the next couple months.

    photo of an apple on top of books
    Kate Ter Haar / Creative Commons


    In their version of the budget, Senate Republicans have a plan to grow a large reserve fund for the Opportunity Scholarship Program. The scholarships, or vouchers, are given to low-income parents so they can pay to send their children to private rather than public schools.

    Police arrested 14 educators who refused to leave the intersection.
    Jess Clark / WUNC

    Dozens of protesters gathered in downtown Raleigh Wednesday to demand increased funding for public schools and expanded Medicaid. Police arrested fourteen teachers, teacher assistants and parents for blocking traffic.

    Teacher, school, hallway
    Jess Clark / WUNC

    Lawmakers in the state House have renewed efforts to direct more money from school districts to charter schools.

    Fayetteville math teacher Kenneth Williams creates a life-sized right triangle in his classroom.
    Jess Clark

    Lawmakers in the state Senate plan to vote Thursday on a bill that would let students opt out of the integrated high school math sequence, and take a more traditional math sequence instead.

    An image of a mortar board crossed out.
    Michael Kellen / Wikipedia

    Researchers at Duke University have new, concrete evidence that dropping out of high school leads to joblessness, hardship and incarceration. But the same study also reveals ways to help dropouts have more positive outcomes.

    New Hanover County Schools is considering a ban on 'jeggings.'
    Chris RubberDragon / Flickr Creative Commons

    If you’re a girl or woman in the U.S., chances are you have more than a few pairs of "jeggings." These tight, stretchy denim leggings are ubiquitous on high school and college campuses.  But board members of New Hanover County schools are considering banning them.

    Newly hired teachers and staff attend an orientation for Wake County Public Schools. Wake County teachers make more than most teachers in North Carolina.
    Jess Clark / WUNC

    The state's average teacher pay inched up to 41 in national rankings, according to a yearly report from the National Association of Educators. Last year North Carolina ranked 42nd.

    The state's salary didn't increase significantly from the year prior, but it pulled ahead of Louisiana, which saw a sharp decline in teacher pay.

    Middle school student Jojo works on a math assignment at Concord Middle.
    Reema Khrais / WUNC

    Lawmakers in a House committee on education spending released their budget proposal Thursday, and it includes several policy changes. One of those is  an adjustment to the A-F school grading system.

    Teacher, school, hallway
    Jess Clark / WUNC

    Reductions in state funding have forced school districts across the state to cut millions from their budgets. Durham Public Schools is planning to cut more than 90 positions at the end of the month. But parents, employees and activists are questioning the district’s decision to cut employees closer to the classroom, while leaving in place administrative positions.

    a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.
    Leigh Ann Cross

    This story is part of the NPR reporting project “School Money,” a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.

    Pat McCrory
    James Willamor / Flickr Creative Commons

    Governor Pat McCrory proposed a 5 percent average pay increase for North Carolina teachers and a
     a 3.5 percent average bonus.

    Rep. Rob Bryan (R-Mecklenburg)
    NC General Assembly

     Lawmakers are drafting a bill that would allow charter schools to take over five of the state’s lowest-performing elementary schools. The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Rob Bryan (R-Mecklenburg) wants lawmakers to approve the takeover legislation in the short session. But Bryan is championing the proposal, despite research showing a similar charter takeover in Tennessee had minimal impact on student performance.

    Thomasville sophomore Denise Dominguez takes AP music theory, one of the hardest AP classes.
    Jess Clark

    Advanced Placement classes, or AP classes, are the gold standard for high school coursework. Students who take them can get college credit, and nice boost to their college applications. But not every student has equal access to AP classes, especially in rural districts. We take a loot at how Thomasville City Schools, a small district in Davidson County, is ramping up its AP program, and trying to expose a wider variety of students to college-level work.

    Lead teacher Amy Brewer goes over a Math lesson at Concord Middle School in Cabarrus County.
    Reema Khrais / WUNC

    Over the last five years, four different principals have cycled through Concord Middle School. The latest principal to step into the role is Carrie Tulbert. She remembers when the superintendent of Cabarrus County Schools called her last year and asked her if she could come.

    “The more he told me about Concord Middle School, the more he just kind of inadvertently pulled at my heart strings,” she explains.

    A former state principal of the year, Tulbert decided to take on the challenge of helping to turn around the high-poverty, low-performing middle school.

    students with laptops in classroom
    Enokson / Flickr/Creative Commons

    Wake County Public Schools plans to ask permission to run two elementary schools like charter schools.

    Riverside High School students called for the release of Wildin Acosta outside Congressman G.K. Butterfield's Durham office.
    Jess Clark

    UPDATED March 20, 2016 On Sunday morning, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director Sarah Salaña issued an order preventing the deportation of Riverside High School student Wildin Acosta before his case has been heard by an immigration judge. Congressman G.K. Butterfield says he worked through Saturday night with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) to convince Saldaña to use her executive authority. This is apparently an about-face from Salaña's decision on Friday night not to intervene.

    Hassina Kiboua works with refugees in Ireland. She observed an art class at the Newcomers School.
    Jess Clark

    Visitors from seven European countries were in Greensboro Monday to learn how the Doris Henderson Newcomers School educates newly arrived immigrant students.

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