Education

The months-long wave of teacher protests, which has rolled through roughly half a dozen states already, swelled and crashed on the front stoop of North Carolina's Capitol building Wednesday. Demonstrators donned red and gathered in the capital, Raleigh, to demand better pay and better school funding.

Nick Oxford for NPR

On Monday night, the Oklahoma City Public School board approved new names for three schools originally named after Confederate Civil War generals.

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

George Wang, a senior at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, recently made a discovery that disrupts a fundamental theory in chemistry.

He’s modest, and little shy about his finding, but Fazlur Rahman, his chemistry teacher at the high school in Oklahoma City, is ecstatic.

“It’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it?” Rahman said. “That’s cool!”

George’s discovery came about because his teacher asked him to think outside the box.

Rahman was teaching about the Carbon atom, and its natural tendency to form four bonds, which he says is basic chemistry.

Teachers across the country are pushing for better pay and increased school funding. They consistently make less than other college graduates with comparable experience — even though, for many teachers, working with students is more than a full-time job.

There are long days in the classroom, clubs and activities, planning and grading, and the many after-school hours spent with students.

This week in our roundup, we travel from Arizona to the United Kingdom to the Philippines to bring you the education news.

Teachers in Arizona head back to class

For a few hours Wednesday, it appeared that the end to Arizona's massive teacher walkout was finally at hand. Protest leaders announced earlier this week they would accept a pay hike that they once dismissed as unsustainable — and Gov. Doug Ducey stood ready to sign it.

More than 9 in 10 teachers say they joined the profession for idealistic reasons — "I wanted to do good" — but most are struggling to some extent economically.

May 1 is an exciting day for many high school seniors. It's decision day, when students commit to college — and send in those deposits — to hold their spot on campus.
Across the country, schools celebrate the achievement in different ways. Some hold assemblies where students get up and announce their decisions. In other places, students wear their college gear — a T-shirt or ball cap or sweatshirt.

"Alexa, why is Pluto so awesome?"
"Alexa, what is seven plus three?"
"Alexa, who is Harry Potter?"
"Alexa, I'm bored."
"Alexa, where do babies come from?"*

Families who have an artificially intelligent "smart speaker" at home like Amazon's Echo may be used to kids saying stuff like this. And Amazon (which is a financial supporter of NPR) has just announced that Alexa's going to get better at answering them.

(*Except that last one. Alexa's reply: "People make people, but how they're made would be a better question for a grownup.")

Zoe Travers

The state’s market for engineering and technology jobs is growing, but the test scores of Oklahoma students lag behind national averages on science and math test scores. Researchers say one way to fix this gap is training science educators to do more than teach the facts — and to think beyond the textbook.

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