USAID/Bryce Smedley

Education is not easy in the war-torn Central African Republic (CAR).  BBC News calls it "the country where teachers have disappeared." 

Southern Oregon University professor Bryce Smedley recently returned from a trip to CAR to assess educational needs and help train teachers. 

And the work doesn't end now that he's home... Smedley gets his education students at SOU involved with the teachers-in-training back in Africa. 


Not all of us are quick learners.  We all  learn in different ways, through different senses. 

And when there's a real obstacle, we speak in terms of "learning disability." 

Redding occupational therapist and physical therapist Suzanne Cresswell prefers to focus on the presence of the word "ability" in the term.  She's spend three decades working with people with learning challenges, or as she prefers, "unique learners." 


Baby boomers can well remember learning how to sew in home economics classes in high school. 

As society and education changed, skills like sewing got less emphasis and attention.  But sewing know-how is still in demand, as we learn from the co-directors of the Redding Fashion Alliance

Jan Kearns and Robin Fator are looking for some people who know how to sew, and interested in getting those skills taught again. 


High school graduation rates are discouraging in Oregon.  Roughly one out of every four students will not get out of high school in four years with diploma in hand. 

The numbers show slight improvement from year to year (77% in numbers out last week), but not enough to get the state out of the bottom five. 

The legislature will likely discuss programs to improve the graduation rate in its upcoming session. 

The issue is very much on the radar of Colt Gill, newly named as the permanent Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction.

"Up in the air, junior birdmen..."  Older listeners might recognize the song, but we'll apply it to today's crop of young people interested in learning about aviation. 

Southern Oregon Air Academy responds to that interest by teaching students as young as elementary school about flying. 

SOAA just got a big chunk of money from the State of Oregon to expand its programs, based at the Grants Pass airport. 


Public schools are struggling in California by several measures.  One of them is just in teaching children to read. 

The pro bono legal firm Public Counsel filed suit against the state in early December, on the grounds that students are denied access to literacy, which is required in the California Constitution. 

Is there a "right to read?" 


The Supreme Court decision integrating schools, Brown vs Board of Education, was a lifetime ago, in 1954.  And yet our schools are almost as segregated now as they were then. 

And it is both racial and economic segregation, further widening gaps in our society. 

Noliwe Rooks examines the many factors, and finds the profit motive one of the larger culprits.  She explains in her book Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education

U.S. Census Bureau

Before it was called "public TV," it was often called "educational TV," and Southern Oregon's PBS affiliate is putting a new focus on education. 

Southern Oregon Public TV, SOPTV, is joining the PBS Teacher Community program.  The program gives teachers in primarily rural districts, both new and older, a chance to sharpen skills. 

Ben Garcia is SOPTV's "Teacher Ambassador" and Larry Conley, a retired teacher, will speak at an upcoming teacher summit. 

Kit from Pittsburgh, CC BY 2.0,

What do you remember most about college (the educational part)?  Large-room lectures where a professor talked and talked and you took notes?  Or smaller settings where teacher and students could really engage on subjects and issues? 

Either way, higher education is slow to change, despite its ever-spiraling costs. 

Cathy Davidson works in higher ed at the City University of New York, and she has plenty of ideas for changing the system in The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World In Flux.  The book is something of a tour of classrooms where teachers have thrown out old ideas about higher learning and are trying new approaches. 

Medford School District

Families moving from place to place for seasonal work can put a strain on their childrens' schooling. 

And the Medford School District addresses the issue with its Migrant Summer School program.  It allows students whose education has been disrupted to catch up on school work, especially their language skills. 

This summer's session serves a record number of students, around 320. 

Tiffany Bailey, CC BY 2.0,

Oregon's tax system ensures that school budgets are relatively tight every year. 

Recessions make them worse. 

Several years ago, the Medford School District was forced to cut special education funding, essentially telling the department to do more with less.  It did. 

Outcomes have improved, by several measures. 

U.S. Army/Public Domain

Your child may know all the letters in the alphabet and reads aloud pretty well... but can't seem to tell you what the paragraph is about. 

This is where reading and comprehension come apart.  And it's what Gina Biancarosa studies in her research at the University of Oregon Center on Teaching and Learning

Dr. Biancarosa helps develop systems to assess reading comprehension in elementary school students. 

Michael Clapp/OPB

School's out for summer, but educators have a lot yet to talk about. 

The Oregon Education Association and its counterparts in other states sends members to the massive national Representative Assembly (RA), at the very time the Oregon Legislature is debating how much money it can spend on schools for the next two years. 

Juliancolton, Public Domain,

It started with a pencil, but it became so much more. 

Adam Braun came face-to-face with a little boy in India who wanted a pencil.  It was really symbolic: what he really wanted was an education. 

So that incident led to the formation of a group that has now built hundreds of schools all over the world. 

Adam Braun told the story in The Promise of a Pencil and joined us on The Exchange to talk about it three years ago. 

Butte Falls School District

Some schools are just closer to nature than others. 

So it is with Butte Falls Charter School, nestled in the foothills of the Cascades.  Trees and mountains and streams are all close at hand, and part of the educational curriculum for the school. 

In fact, the school is now in charge of restoring a long-closed fish hatchery to help teach students.

Even if there's an institution of higher learning in your town, you may not visit it much.

Southern Oregon University aims to remedy that situation, at least once a year, with its SOAR program. 

SOAR stands for Southern Oregon Arts & Research, a showcase for the projects students are churning out as they are learning. 

University of Oregon

Eugene native Michael Copperman left college with his degree and a burning desire to teach children who need a little extra help. 

He joined Teach For America and took charge of a classroom in the Mississippi Delta.  And the learning did indeed begin... but more for Copperman than for his students. 

He learned hard lessons about race, class, culture, and inequality, lessons he shares in his book Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta

Irangilaneh, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The battle over school standards and funding tends to skip over an important point: the schools are not solely responsible for student success or failure. 

Kids bring family and community "baggage" to school with them, and are often lacking some of the basic tools to just pay attention in class. 

The University of Oregon hosts a panel discussion on "What Kids Bring to School," tonight (March 14) at the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics. 

Americans (Still) Struggle To Read Well

Feb 15, 2017
Randi Hausken, Bærum, Norway - CC BY-SA 2.0,

The literacy rate is considered high in America, but plenty of people struggle to read at an appropriate level. 

Cognitive scientist Mark Seidenberg says that's because we don't do enough to connect what science has learned to the way language is taught in the classroom. 

Seidenberg lays out his case in the book Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can't, And What Can Be Done About It.

Help For Home-School Parents

Feb 6, 2017
Jason Kasper, CC BY-SA 2.0,

It's a big step, choosing to teach a child at home rather than sending him or her to school. 

There are requirements to measure what home-school students learn, but parents have a lot of latitude in deciding what and how to teach. 

For those who feel a bit overwhelmed, there are resources available, both from the public school system, and from the likes of the Cascadia Learning Cooperative