Claudio Sanchez

Former elementary and middle school teacher Claudio Sanchez is an Education Correspondent for NPR. He focuses on the "three p's" of education reform: politics, policy and pedagogy. Sanchez's reports air regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.

Sanchez joined NPR in 1989, after serving for a year as executive producer for the El Paso, Texas, based Latin American News Service, a daily national radio news service covering Latin America and the U.S.- Mexico border.

From 1984 to 1988, Sanchez was news and public affairs director at KXCR-FM in El Paso. During this time, he contributed reports and features to NPR's news programs.

In 2008, Sanchez won First Prize in the Education Writers Association's National Awards for Education Reporting, for his series "The Student Loan Crisis." He was named as a Class of 2007 Fellow by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. In 1985, Sanchez received one of broadcasting's top honors, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton, for a series he co-produced, "Sanctuary: The New Underground Railroad." In addition, he has won the Guillermo Martinez-Marquez Award for Best Spot News, the El Paso Press Club Award for Best Investigative Reporting, and was recognized for outstanding local news coverage by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Sanchez is a native of Nogales, Mexico, and a graduate of Northern Arizona University, with post-baccalaureate studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Native American students make up only 1.1 percent of the nation's high school population. And in college, the number is even smaller. More than any other ethnic or racial group, they're the least likely to have access to college prep or advanced placement courses. Many get little or no college counseling at all. In 1998, College Horizons, a small nonprofit based in New Mexico, set out to change that through five-day summer workshops on admissions, financial aid and the unique challenges they'll face on campus.

There's a new book out about the student loan crisis, or what author Sandy Baum suggests is a "bogus crisis." Baum, a financial aid expert and senior fellow at the Urban Institute, claims it has been manufactured by the media in search of a spicy story and fueled by politicians pushing "debt free college" proposals.

We had a few questions for Baum about the book, Student Debt: Rhetoric and Realities of Higher Education.

I step up to the counter at Willy's Cafe at Willamette High School in Eugene, Ore., and order a latte.

There's a powerful scent of fresh coffee in the air, and a group of juniors and seniors hover over a large espresso machine.

Carrie Gilbert, 17, shows how it's done: "You're going to want to steam the milk first," she explains. "Then once you have the coffee, dump it in and use the rest of the milk to fill the cup."

She hands over my order. Not bad.

The major advocacy group for charter schools is meeting this week in Nashville, and there's lots to celebrate.

What began with a single state law in Minnesota has spread to a national movement of nearly 6,800 schools, serving just under 3 million students.

But at its annual meeting, the National National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is also using the moment to call for a fresh look at how these innovative public schools are managed and how they're held accountable.

The nation's colleges and universities have been on pins and needles waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether race can be a factor in their admissions policies.

And so today's 4-3 ruling upholding the affirmative-action program at the University of Texas at Austin brought a sigh of relief to much of the higher education world.

Gilbert Sargent is a jolly, loquacious 74-year-old. For nearly everybody in the small suburb of Versailles, Ky., he goes by "Sarge."

For 25 years, Sarge has been working on and off as a school bus driver. Today he drives for Woodford County Public Schools, a district just outside Lexington. Sarge was meant to drive a school bus, he says, because of his love for children.

He drives bus No. 7.

2:35 p.m. Sarge heads out for his first afternoon pickup at Simmons Elementary School.

Career and technical education in high schools has gotten lots of attention and lip service in recent years. Business and industry see it as a long overdue focus on preparing students for the world of work. Educators say CTE — once called vocational education — is an alternative path for high school graduates who don't plan to go to college, at least not right away.

It has also come under scrutiny from researchers who say it's just not working as well as it should. It's poorly funded and often viewed as a "second rate" education.

The way Daphne Patton remembers it, it was more money than she'd ever seen.

It was 1990, and the Kentucky Supreme Court had declared the state's school funding system unconstitutional. Within a year, a lot more money started flowing to the poorest school districts, a 50 to 60 percent increase in their budgets.

Patton, an elementary school teacher from Wolfe County in eastern Kentucky, says schools had an abundance of resources, "everything we needed."

Three million school children in the U.S. are identified as gifted. That's roughly the top 10 percent of the nation's highest achieving students.

But Rene Islas, head of the National Association for Gifted Children, says tens of thousands of gifted English language learners are never identified. We sat down with Islas and asked him why.

Imagine you're back in school, bored to death, with limited academic options. Because you're learning English, everybody assumes you're not ready for more challenging work. What they don't realize is that you're gifted.

Researchers say this happens to lots of gifted children who arrive at school speaking little or no English. These students go unnoticed, until someone taps into their remarkable talent and potential. Vanessa Minero Leon was lucky. She was one of those students who got noticed.

Of the 3 million students identified as gifted in the U.S., English Language Learners are by far the most underrepresented. And nobody knows that better than 17-year-old Alejandra Galindo.

"It's just kind of hard to not see people who look like me in my classes," she says. "I'm a minority in the gifted world."

Teachers unions are breathing easier after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a deadlocked vote, rejected an effort to restrict public sector unions from collecting fees from nonunion members.

Before I became a reporter, I was a teacher. After 27 years on the education beat, I've met a few fantastic teachers and a few bad ones. So I've wondered, where would I have fit in? Was I a good teacher?

Recently I went back to the site of the school where I taught so many years ago, just outside Tucson, Ariz. Treehaven was both a day school and a boarding school for so-called "troubled kids."

In the Navajo culture, teachers are revered as "wisdom keepers," entrusted with the young to help them grow and learn. This is how Tia Tsosie Begay approaches her work as a fourth-grade teacher at a small public school on the outskirts of Tucson, Ariz.

For Navajos, says Begay, your identity is not just a name; it ties you to your ancestors, which in turn defines you as a person.

"My maternal clan is 'water's edge'; my paternal clan is 'water flows together,' " she explains. "Our healing power is through humor and laughter, and I try to bring that to my classroom."

Claudio Sanchez is the senior member of the NPR Ed team, with more than 25 years on the education beat. We asked him for his list of the top stories he'll be watching in 2016.

1. The New Federal Education Law

Now that the Supreme Court is considering the issue of affirmative action in college admissions, all kinds of groups are weighing in. But we're not hearing from the people who will be most affected by the court's decision: college-bound teenagers.

The Senate voted 85-12 on Wednesday to pass the long-awaited rewrite of the much-maligned No Child Left Behind law. President Obama says he'll sign it Thursday.

The new version — called the Every Student Succeeds Act — returns much government oversight of schools to the states and curtails or eliminates the federal role in many areas. Critics of NCLB are celebrating its demise.

But the question now is, what exactly are states and local school districts going to do that they couldn't do before?

It's almost a decade overdue, but the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote later today on a bill to replace the No Child Left Behind law.

Since NCLB was signed by President George W. Bush in early 2002, the federal government has played a major role in telling states how to run — and reform — their schools. But this new bill signals a sea change in the federal approach.

After a long stalemate, a bipartisan team of congressional negotiators has agreed to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The law, currently known as No Child Left Behind, sends roughly $14 billion a year to schools that serve mostly low-income students.

Here's what we know about the rough agreement. First, annual testing — a major feature of NCLB — would remain for grades three through eight and at least once in high school. Schools would still have to test 95 percent of their students and report the results by race, income and special need.

Tim Wolfe is not the first college administrator to come under fire for responding poorly to campus racism. And Wolfe, until this week the head of the University of Missouri System, isn't likely to be the last.

College presidents who have themselves been in crisis have learned there's a right way — and a wrong way — to respond.

Federal law does not prohibit undocumented students from enrolling in college, but it does something nearly as effective, banning them from receiving government aid. In recent years, though, some undocumented students have stumbled upon a little-known, nonprofit online university that doesn't charge tuition and doesn't care about students' legal status.

Researchers have been tracking Jose Arriaga since he was 4 years old, waiting for the day he would start ninth grade. This fall, Jose is a freshman at Booker T. Washington High School, a selective public school in north Tulsa, Okla. And no one is more proud of him than his mother, Veronica Arriaga.

"He's been a straight-A student throughout middle school," Mrs. Arriaga says in Spanish. "That's why he's here."

So if you add up all the college costs that students and parents probably didn't plan for — the stuff that isn't tuition and room and board — how big is that number? The National Retail Federation estimates that, this year, it will total $43 billion. That's a hard number to grasp, so let's break it down to one family — mine.

With our daughter now beginning her fourth and hopefully final year in college, here's one thing I've learned: No matter how much you plan to spend, it won't cover everything. Not even close.

For years there has been mounting evidence that U.S. schools suspend and expel African-American students at higher rates than white students. A new study by the University of Pennsylvania singles out 13 Southern states where the problem is most dire.

Schools in these states were responsible for more than half of all suspensions and exclusions of black students nationwide.

"If a kid is in first period when they should still be asleep, how much are they really learning?"

Many high schoolers hoping to attend George Washington University in Washington, D.C., one of the top private universities in the country, breathed a sigh of relief this week.

GWU announced it will no longer require applicants to take the SAT or ACT.

The move comes after the school formed a task force to study the pros and cons of going "test-optional." GWU attracts lots of high-achieving students who do well on both exams, but the task force concluded that the school's reliance on these tests was excluding some high-achieving students who simply don't test well.

It's official. More than 13 years after President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law, it's now ... well, still law. But, as of Thursday, it is one big step closer to retirement.

The U.S. Senate voted 81-17 in favor of a bipartisan overhaul called the Every Child Achieves Act. The move comes just days after House Republicans voted on a rival plan, one that cleared the House without a single Democratic vote. The two bills must now be reconciled before anything makes its way to the president. Obama has already threatened the House bill with a veto.

Standardized tests tied to the Common Core are under fire in lots of places for lots of reasons. But who makes them and how they're scored is a mystery.

For a peek behind the curtain, I traveled to the home of the nation's largest test-scoring facility: San Antonio.

The facility is one of Pearson's — the British-owned company that dominates the testing industry in the U.S. and is one of the largest publishing houses behind these mysterious standardized tests.

Jonathan Kozol looks back on the events he wrote about 50 years ago, in Death at an Early Age.

In this short film by LA Johnson, he reads from Page 188:

For two decades, Texas has treated truancy as a criminal offense. That means most cases were prosecuted in adult courts where children, along with their parents, faced jail and fines of up to $1,500 for missing school — usually 10 or more unexcused absences.

Texas lawmakers now say this policy went too far. So last week, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed a law that no longer treats truancy as a Class C misdemeanor.

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