Eric Westervelt

After nearly a decade as an award-winning Foreign Correspondent with NPR's international desk, Eric Westervelt returned in September 2013 to domestic news with a new national beat covering American education as an Education Correspondent.

In this role, he covers the news, issues, and trends in classrooms across the country, from pre-K to higher education. He has a strong interest in the multiple ways in which technology is disrupting traditional pedagogy.

Westervelt recently returned from a 2013 John S Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University. The fellowship focused on journalistic innovation, leadership, entrepreneurship and the future of news.

Previously, he was a foreign correspondent based in the Middle East and then Europe. From 2009 to 2012 Westervelt was Berlin Bureau Chief and Correspondent coverage a broad range of news across Europe from the debt crisis to political challenges in Eastern Europe. In 2011 and 2012 his work included coverage of the revolutions in North Africa from the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt to the civil war and NATO intervention in Libya.

As a foreign correspondent, Westervelt has covered numerous wars and their repercussions across the Middle East for NPR as Jerusalem Bureau Chief and as Pentagon Correspondent. Prior to his current assignment, he spent several years living in the Middle East reporting on the war in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Afghanistan and elsewhere. As Jerusalem Bureau Chief he covered the turmoil in the Gaza Strip, and the 2006 Second Lebanon war between the Israeli military and Hezbollah. He also reported in-depth on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict across Israel and the occupied West Bank.

During the US-led invasion of Iraq, Westervelt traveled with the lead element of the U.S. Third Infantry Division, which was the first army unit to reach Baghdad. He later helped cover the Iraqi insurgency, sectarian violence and the on-going struggle to rebuild the country in the post-Saddam Hussein era. Westervelt was one of the few western reporters on the ground in Gaza during the Fatah-Hamas civil war and he reported on multiple Israeli offensives in the coastal territory. Additionally, he has reported from the Horn of Africa, Yemen and the Persian Gulf countries.

Prior to his Middle East assignments, Westervelt covered military affairs and the Pentagon reporting on a wide range of defense, national security as well as foreign policy issues.

Before joining NPR's Foreign Desk nearly a decade ago, Westervelt covered some of the biggest domestic stories as a reporter on NPR's National Desk. His assignments spanned from the explosion of TWA flight 800 to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He also covered the mass shooting at Columbine High School, the presidential vote recount following the 2000 Presidential Election, among other major stories. He also covered national trends in law enforcement and crime fighting, including police tactics, use of force, the drug war, racial profiling and the legal and political battles over firearms in America.

The breadth and depth of his work has been honored with the highest awards in broadcast journalism. He contributed to NPR's 2002 George Foster Peabody Award for coverage of the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath; the 2003 Alfred I. duPont - Columbia University award also for 9/11 coverage and the war in Afghanistan; and a 2004 and a 2007 duPont-Columbia University Award for NPR's coverage of the war in Iraq and its effect on Iraqi society.

Westervelt's 2009 multi-media series with NPR photojournalist David Gilkey won the Overseas Press Club of America's Lowell Thomas Award Citation for Excellence.

In lighter news, Westervelt occasionally does features for NPR's Arts Desk. His profile of roots rock pioneer Roy Orbison was part of NPR's 50 Great Voices series. His feature on the making of John Coltrane's classic "A Love Supreme," was part of the NPR series on the most influential American musical works of the 20th century, which was recognized with a Peabody Award.

Before joining NPR, Westervelt worked as a freelance reporter in Oregon, a news director and reporter in New Hampshire and reported for Monitor Radio, the broadcast edition of the Christian Science Monitor.

Westervelt is a graduate of the Putney School and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Reed College.

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NPR Ed
4:03 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Teach For America At 25: With Maturity, New Pressure To Change

TFA at 25 years (from left): Matt Kramer, current co-CEO; Wendy Kopp, founder; Elisa Villanueva Beard, current co-CEO.
Courtesy of TFA

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 12:35 pm

This story was reported for the radio by Eric Westervelt and for online by Anya Kamenetz.

"We, the Committee of Public Safety, find Jean Valjean guilty. The sentence is death by guillotine!"

Molly McPherson, a redhead with glasses, is dressed in a blue bathrobe — in costume as Robespierre. Her seventh-graders are re-enacting the French Revolution's Reign of Terror, with a little assist from Les Miserables.

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NPR Ed
2:46 am
Thu November 20, 2014

Are NOLA Schools Failing Students With Disabilities?

LA Johnson/NPR

Originally published on Thu November 20, 2014 8:28 am

In New Orleans, schools have long struggled to provide for students with physical, emotional and mental disabilities. Even before Hurricane Katrina, many parents had to fight for extra help. But many say things have only gotten harder since the city's public school district shifted almost entirely to charter schools.

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NPR Ed
7:08 am
Fri November 7, 2014

Pythagoras' iPhone: Is Listening A Lost Classroom Art?

Maryann Wolfe talks with Mawi Fasil during her AP American government class at Oakland Technical High School.
Elissa Nadworny NPR

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 12:46 pm

Listen and learn, the saying goes.

But are students and teachers these days fully listening to each other?

What, exactly, is good listening, and why does it matter when it comes to learning? Is "close listening" a doorway to understanding that too many of us are keeping only half-open?

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NPR Ed
4:00 am
Wed October 29, 2014

50 Great Teachers: Socrates, The Ancient World's Teaching Superstar

LA Johnson/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 12:45 pm

Today, NPR Ed kicks off a yearlong series: 50 Great Teachers.

We're starting this celebration of teaching with Socrates, the superstar teacher of the ancient world. He was sentenced to death more than 2,400 years ago for "impiety" and "corrupting" the minds of the youth of Athens.

But Socrates' ideas helped form the foundation of Western philosophy and the scientific method of inquiry. And his question-and-dialogue-based teaching style lives on in many classrooms as the Socratic method.

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NPR Ed
2:23 am
Mon October 13, 2014

A New Orleans Charter School Marches To Its Own Tune

Art projects like these anatomy murals are woven into the curriculum at the Homer Plessy Community Charter school in New Orleans.
Eric Westervelt/NPR

Originally published on Mon October 13, 2014 8:42 am

This year, NPR Ed is reporting on the dramatic changes in the New Orleans school system.

All startups face big hurdles. But when you're a startup school in one of America's poorest cities, without deep-pocket backers, the challenges are daunting.

Oscar Brown is a New Orleans native. He grew up in the Desire housing project, a little over a mile west of his current home in a neighborhood ravaged by the storm that struck nearly a decade ago.

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NPR Ed
3:38 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

Digital Natives, Except When It Comes To Textbooks

iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri October 10, 2014 6:13 pm

The spiral of destruction.

We're not talking about instability in the Middle East or Ebola.

We're talking textbooks.

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NPR Ed
7:43 am
Sat September 6, 2014

Q&A: Dana Goldstein, Author, 'The Teacher Wars'

Dana Goldstein
Michael Lionstar Dana Goldstein

Originally published on Fri November 21, 2014 12:26 pm

I recently came to the education beat after spending the better part of a decade as a foreign correspondent, mainly reporting on conflicts in the Middle East.

Shortly after turning in my Kevlar vest for chalk dust, I was struck by how intensely polarized the education reform debate is in America. I'd traded real mortar fire for the rhetorical kind: Man the barricades, incoming Common Core!

Which raises the question: How did we get here?

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NPR Ed
9:13 am
Thu September 4, 2014

The Myth Of The Superstar Superintendent?

LA Johnson/NPR

Originally published on Wed September 10, 2014 7:01 am

At corporations, leadership matters. A lot. Think of the impact of the late Steve Jobs at Apple or Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg today, to name a couple.

CEOs often play a vital role in bolstering a company's performance, image and culture of success. (Although studies show that obscenely high CEO compensation isn't always the best incentive.)

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NPR Ed
3:53 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

Where The Wild Things Play

Joseph Straus, 6, rides a zip line at the Berkeley Adventure Playground, where kids can "play wild" in a half-acre park that has a junkyard feel.
David Gilkey/NPR

Originally published on Tue August 5, 2014 8:38 am

This week, NPR Ed is focusing on questions about why people play and how play relates to learning.

Braden Swenson wanders into a semi-rickety wooden shed on his search for gold, treasure and riches.

"Is there any tweasure in here?" he asks in the endearing dialect of a 4-year-old. "I've been looking everywhere for them. I can't find any." The proto-pirate toddler conducts a quick search, then wanders away to continue his quest elsewhere.

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Iraq
4:14 pm
Sun July 27, 2014

Violence Spikes Anew In Iraq, As Islamic State Looks To Expand

Originally published on Sun July 27, 2014 6:23 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ERIC WESTERVELT, HOST:

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NPR Ed
7:03 am
Fri July 11, 2014

Q&A: A Union Leader On Tenure, Testing And The Common Core

Weingarten says people need to talk more about how to "attract, retain, support and nurture great teaching for kids at risk."
Shannon DeCelle AP

Originally published on Fri July 11, 2014 9:12 am

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is holding its annual convention in Los Angeles through this weekend. For the AFT's more than 3,500 national delegates descending on LA, there is a lot on their plate and big challenges ahead for the nation's second-largest teachers union: the Common Core, tenure and fierce debate about testing, to name a few.

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NPR Ed
7:03 am
Thu July 10, 2014

From Calif. Teachers, More Nuanced Views On Tenure

Julia Macias, a plaintiff and Los Angeles Unified School District middle school student, comments on the Vergara v. California lawsuit verdict in Los Angeles last month.
Damian Dovarganes AP

Originally published on Thu July 10, 2014 10:20 am

In the weeks since a California judge overturned the state's rules governing teacher tenure, the political noise has only grown louder. Advocates on both sides of the issues have largely stuck to "give-no-ground," press-release rhetoric that risks drowning out educators in the middle.

I've spoken with educators around the state since the ruling, including many who say they want protections but also real change.

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NPR Ed
3:15 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Giving Boys A Bigger Emotional Toolbox

Ashanti Branch, an assistant principal at Montera Middle School in Oakland, Calif., leads boys in a "check in" circle at his after-school Ever Forward Club.
Eric Westervelt NPR

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 2:38 pm

This story is part of the "Men In America" series on All Things Considered.

Is America's dominant "man up" ethos a hypermasculine cultural construct, a tenet rooted in biological gender difference or something in between?

Educator Ashanti Branch doesn't much care or, more accurately, doesn't have time to care.

He's too busy trying to make a difference in boys' lives.

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NPR Ed
3:36 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

A High School Band Where Everyone's Voice Can Be Heard

Adam Goldberg, the creator of the PS 177 band, conducting at band practice.
Eric Westervelt NPR

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 6:53 pm

(This is Part 2 of a two-part report. Read the full piece here.)

On the surface, the PS 177 Technology Band looks like a typical high school orchestra. But there are two big differences. First, while they use traditional instruments, they also play iPads. And all of the band members have disabilities. Some have autism spectrum disorders.

"I'm Tobi Lakes. I'm 15 years old. I'm in ninth grade. I'm four grades away from college."

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NPR Ed
8:26 am
Wed June 11, 2014

iPads Allow Kids With Challenges To Play In High School Band

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 10:16 am

Tablet computers and a creative teacher have helped open doors for some kids with serious learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. The P.S. 177 Technology Band is in Queens, N.Y.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Education
5:57 am
Wed June 11, 2014

iPads Allow Kids With Challenges To Play In High School's Band

Jason Haughton sings an original tune composed by the PS 177 Technology Band.
Eric Westervelt NPR

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 9:40 am

There's a steady stream of hype surrounding the pluses and pitfalls of classroom tablet computers. But for a growing number of special education students tablets and their apps are proving transformative. The tablets aren't merely novel and fun. With guidance from creative teachers, they are helping to deepen engagement, communication, and creativity.

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NPR Ed
3:13 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

California Teacher Tenure Ruled Unconstitutional

Attorneys Theodore Boutrous Jr. (far right) and Marcellus McRae are joined by California public school students who won their case against the state.
Nick Ut AP

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 7:31 pm

A California judge today ruled the state's laws governing teacher tenure and the firing of public school teachers unconstitutional, saying they interfere with the state's obligation to provide every child with access to a good education.

The plaintiffs in the case, Vergara v. California, argued that the tenure system for public school teachers in California verges on the absurd, and that those laws disproportionately harm poor and minority students. In his ruling, Judge Rolf M. Treu agreed.

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Education
3:00 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

As More Speakers Get The Boot, Who's Left To Send Off Graduates?

Several high-profile commencement speakers have resigned in the wake of student protests this graduation season.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 6:59 pm

Graduation Season? More like Disinvitation Season.

As students across the country prepare for pomp and circumstance, college and university administrators are grappling with a series of commencement speech boondoggles.

This year alone, nearly a dozen big-name commencement speakers — including the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — have been invited to speak at graduation ceremonies, only to withdraw or have their invitations rescinded in the wake of campus protests.

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Education
4:23 am
Wed April 23, 2014

In Tulsa, Combining Preschool With Help For Parents

Shartara Wallace picks up her son James, 4, from preschool in Tulsa, Okla.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 10:00 am

At preschools in Tulsa, Okla., teachers are well-educated and well-paid, and classrooms are focused on play, but are still challenging. One nonprofit in Tulsa, the Community Action Project, has flipped the script on preschool. The idea behind its Career Advance program is simple: To help kids, the group believes, you often have to help their parents.

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Education
4:03 am
Wed April 23, 2014

One Approach To Head Start: To Help Kids, Help Their Parents

Tiffany Contreras walks her daughter Kyndall, 4, to preschool at Disney Elementary in Tulsa, Okla.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 10:08 am

President Obama has called repeatedly on Congress to help states pay for "high-quality preschool" for all. In fact, those two words — "high quality" — appear time and again in the president's prepared remarks. They are also a refrain among early childhood education advocates and researchers. But what do they mean? And what separates the best of the nation's preschool programs from the rest?

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Education
4:11 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Maze Of College Costs And Aid Programs Traps Some Families

iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 11:11 am

In the past 20 years, the average burden for a four-year college graduate in the U.S. has gone from about $9,000 to nearly $30,000 today. The percentage of students carrying debt has shot up from less than half to nearly 70 percent these days.

At a large public high school in Freemont, Calif., southeast of San Francisco, Alyssa Tucker and Thao Le sit on a metal table. Both come from families with modest incomes.

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Education
2:29 am
Tue February 18, 2014

College Applicants Sweat The SATs. Perhaps They Shouldn't

Standardized tests are an important consideration for admissions at many colleges and universities. But one new study shows that high school performance, not standardized test scores, is a better predictor of how students do in college.
Amriphoto iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 4:26 pm

With spring fast approaching, many American high school seniors are now waiting anxiously to hear whether they got into the college or university of their choice. For many students, their scores on the SAT or the ACT will play a big role in where they get in.

That's because those standardized tests remain a central part in determining which students get accepted at many schools. But a first-of-its-kind study obtained by NPR raises questions about whether those tests are becoming obsolete.

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All Tech Considered
2:39 am
Mon February 17, 2014

A Push To Boost Computer Science Learning, Even At An Early Age

Alex Tu, an advanced placement student, takes a computer science class in Midwest City, Okla. There's been a sharp decline in the number of computer science classes offered in U.S. secondary schools.
Sue Ogrocki AP

Originally published on Sun February 23, 2014 11:11 am

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Education
3:58 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Political Rivals Find Common Ground Over Common Core

Silver Lake Elementary School in Middletown, Del., has begun implementing the national Common Core State Standards for academics. The GOP largely backs the standards that are rolling out in 45 states, but Tea Party conservatives have been critical — and liberals increasingly have the same complaints.
Steve Ruark AP

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 11:25 am

Supporters of the new Common Core education standards adopted by 45 states say the standards hold American students to much higher expectations, and move curriculum away from a bubble-test culture that encourages test preparation over deeper learning.

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Education
8:41 am
Sun January 26, 2014

Teacher Job Protections Vs. Students' Education In Calif.

Originally published on Sun January 26, 2014 11:47 am

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

To California now where a polarizing lawsuit goes to trial tomorrow. At issue, whether job protections for public school teachers undermines students' constitutional rights to an adequate education. The students and parents who filed the lawsuit say it could provide a model for challenging teacher protection laws in other states. But to unions and state officials, all the lawsuit does is demonize teachers.

NPR's Eric Westervelt has the story.

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Around the Nation
3:46 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

The Online Education Revolution Drifts Off Course

Students at the Oakland Military Institute took several courses offered by San Jose State and the online course provider Udacity this year. The university is now scaling back its relationship with Udacity.
Laura A. Oda MCT/Landov

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 6:23 pm

One year ago, many were pointing to the growth of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, as the most important trend in higher education. Many saw the rapid expansion of MOOCs as a higher education revolution that would help address two long-vexing problems: access for underserved students and cost.

In theory, students saddled by rising debt and unable to tap into the best schools would be able to take free classes from rock star professors at elite schools via Udacity, edX, Coursera and other MOOC platforms.

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Around the Nation
2:04 am
Tue December 17, 2013

To Make Science Real, Kids Want More Fun

Hands-on science activities like making bubble mitts at the Mission Science Workshop teach students about things like surface tension.
Justin Jach Courtesy of Mission Science Workshop

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 11:30 pm

Are American kids being adequately prepared in the sciences to compete in a highly competitive, global high-tech workforce? A majority of American parents say no, according to a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

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The Two-Way
4:11 am
Sat December 14, 2013

Parents Say School Security Has Increased Since Newtown Massacre

Most parents of elementary school-age children say their schools boosted security following last year's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., according to a poll from NPR in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

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Education
1:58 am
Fri November 22, 2013

Charter Schools In Philadelphia: Educating Without A Blueprint

Shayna Terrell is the outreach coordinator at Simon Gratz Mastery Charter School in Philadelphia.
Matt Stanley for NPR

Originally published on Fri November 22, 2013 10:39 am

This is final story in a three-part report on Philadelphia schools in crisis.

Shayna Terrell is in a good mood: It's report card night at the Simon Gratz Mastery Charter high school in North Philadelphia, and parents are showing up in good numbers.

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Education
4:34 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

Unrelenting Poverty Leads To 'Desperation' In Philly Schools

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, cut more than $1 billion from the state's K-12 budget, which hit the state-controlled Philadelphia district hardest.
Matt Slocum AP

Originally published on Fri November 22, 2013 8:01 am

This is the second in a three-part report on Philadelphia schools in crisis.

Philadelphia's Center City area sparkles with new restaurants, jobs and money. After declining for half a century, the city's population grew from 2006 to 2012.

But for people living in concentrated poverty in large swaths of North and West Philadelphia, the Great Recession only made life harder.

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