This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, and Amy McGrath, the Chief Operating Officer of ASU Prep and Deputy Vice President of ASU Educational Outreach. Mr. Khan shares the origin story of his wildly successful online K-12 education platform, which reaches 137 million users across 190 countries. Mr. Khan describes how he and his team develop academically rigorous lessons and translate them into videos to ensure kids have access to the highest-quality academic content. Ms. McGrath explains how innovations like Florida Virtual School (founded by current ASU Prep Digital CEO Julie Young) more effectively meet 21st-century families’ needs than the current K-12 American public education system, which is still based on the factory model and agricultural calendar. They discuss how the new partnership between Khan Academy and ASU Prep will enhance online education and address learning loss in the post-COVID era.

Stories of the Week: Many welcomed President Biden’s recent announcement of a loan forgiveness plan for up to $20,000 in student debt – but it excludes holders of private loans. Is physical education undervalued in schools?

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Niall Ferguson, the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a senior faculty fellow of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. He is the author of 16 books, including Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe. Dr. Ferguson comments publicly for the first time on the recent passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning British monarch, and how we should teach about Britain’s wide impact – positive and negative – on the world in her era and over the last several hundred years, from the Magna Carta to Winston Churchill. Dr. Ferguson shares findings from his most recent book, which charts the history of disasters, from the 1346–1353 Black Death to COVID; whether our handling of these catastrophes – from both public health and economic standpoints – has improved; and how we can learn from mistakes to better prepare for the future. He describes the kind of education he imparts to his own children to help ensure they have the wisdom and resilience to live in a turbulent world. The interview concludes with Dr. Ferguson reading from his latest book.

Stories of the Week: Are schools of education helping future teachers develop content expertise, or are they too focused on pedagogy and ideology? In Philadelphia, the Martin Luther King High School is the city’s first school with Black faculty for all core freshmen subjects, a step forward in the effort to ensure students can benefit from diverse role models.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Bill Evers and Ze’ev Wurman, of the Independent Institute, about the challenges of ensuring all students have access to quality K-12 math and science education in California and across the U.S. They review the findings of the 1983 report, A Nation At Risk, and international TIMSS and PISA data going back a decade, as well as recent NAEP results that highlight the ongoing educational crisis, compounded by COVID-related learning loss. They discuss some of the time-tested approaches taken by higher-performing countries such as Israel, and those in East Asia and Europe, to prepare students to succeed in STEM, and how state policymakers can address the gaps so America can become competitive with international peers in STEM fields. They share the findings of Dr. Evers’ Wall Street Journal op-ed about the rise of “woke math” in California, and how we can resist politicizing learning. They conclude with a review of a 2020 Pioneer Institute report that found that less than half of all U.S. high schools offer computer science instruction, and that women and people of color were underrepresented in those classrooms.

Stories of the Week: In Massachusetts, supporters of a proposed progressive tax claim the revenue will increased education spending – but will the measure instead harm the economy and reduce state resources for education investments? A program adopted by 19 colleges across the country is facilitating connections between conservative Christian colleges and liberal institutions to address religious and political polarization.

In this Labor Day edition of “The Learning Curve,” Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and the author of The Polish Revolution: Solidarity. Professor Garton Ash shares insights on what both the public and students should know about Poland’s Solidarity movement, the first independent trade union (with 10 million members) behind the Iron Curtain, and its charismatic co-founder, Lech Walesa. They discuss the wide range of support for it, from U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to peace campaigners and socialists, and how it helped topple Soviet communism. He explains Poland’s role during World War II as ground zero of the Holocaust, how Allied decisions at Yalta set the stage for the Cold War, and lessons that we should remember in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The interview concludes with a reading from his book.

Stories of the Week: Loan forgiveness programs and other issues surrounding higher education are already political – but could politicos push the envelope by imposing tuition caps or outcome-based funding, interfere with autonomy in hiring, or target affirmative action programs? A new initiative is tackling big, structural problems in K-12 education, developing tools that can help parents with more flexible learning options, greater equity, and access to postsecondary college and career opportunities.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Angel Adams Parham, Associate Professor of Sociology and senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture (IASC) at the University of Virginia, and the author of The Black Intellectual Tradition: Reading Freedom in Classical Literature. Professor Parham shares her background as an academic and former homeschooling mom, her embrace of classical education, and her philosophy about what constitutes a sound humanities curriculum. She reviews the wide variety of ancient and contemporary sources she has drawn upon, and how best to weave both faith and classical learning into the lives of children. She offers thoughts on how parents and teachers should be using enduring ideas of justice, from Plato through MLK, in this time of bitter division, and how to teach about America’s past. They also talk about her 2022 Wall Street Journal op-ed on the importance of classics, and the main themes of her new book.

Stories of the Week: In Maine, multiple police departments have recovered candy-colored fentanyl and methamphetamine in the shape of chewable vitamins, part of a nationwide trend of making these deadly drugs more appealing to younger people. Is the teacher shortage crisis a myth? New research cited in The 74 indicates that teacher turnover rates have not changed since before COVID.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Alan Taylor, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of the book, Thomas Jefferson’s Education. Professor Taylor shares some highlights of Jefferson’s career, his views on the importance of primary and higher public education in serving the political aspirations of his state and region, and Jefferson’s role as the architect of the University of Virginia, whose buildings embody his Neoclassical outlook. Professor Taylor reviews Virginia’s complex, 18th-century history as the most politically influential, populous, and wealthiest state, but one that was heavily dependent on agriculture and slavery. The interview concludes with Professor Taylor reading from his book on Jefferson.

Stories of the Week: A Washington Post column raises concerns about data showing that we are under-educating our children through low academic expectations, especially those from low-income and minority backgrounds. In Wisconsin, Act 31 requires that K-12 public schools instruct students in the history of the state’s Native Americans – but some estimate that less than half of the schools are implementing it.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Charles Chieppo talk with Doug Lemov, author of the international bestseller, Teach Like a Champion. Doug describes how he became interested in charter schools, dating back to the late 1990s in Massachusetts, and how the sector developed into a nationally recognized success story. He discusses his experience with the Uncommon Schools charter network, cited by Stanford’s CREDO for helping students make the greatest academic gains of any large charter network in the country. They delve into some key findings from Teach Like a Champion on academics and teacher qualifications. They also explore how parents and schools should address COVID-related learning loss, especially among the most vulnerable students. Finally, Doug shares highlights from his new book, Re-Connect: Building School Culture for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging, on the impact of excessive screen time on students’ learning and mental health.

Stories of the Week: Is the future of gifted and talented education uncertain, and if so, will that remove incentives for some families to remain in public schools? In The Washington Post, Virginia education secretary Aimee Guidera outlines the Youngkin administration’s plans to ensure every family has access to a quality education.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Charles Hobson, a retired resident scholar at the William & Mary Law School, 26-year editor of The Papers of John Marshall, and author of The Great Chief Justice: John Marshall and the Rule of Law. Dr. Hobson shares what students should know about the longest-serving, most important chief justice in the history of the Supreme Court, and his influence on our understanding of the U.S. Constitution. He reviews some of the most important Court decisions in American history. He also describes Marshall’s relationship with President Thomas Jefferson and their divergent views on the authority of the Court; as well as Marshall’s paradoxical position on African-American slavery. They explore the “Marshall Trilogy” of foundational Court decisions about Native Americans; and Chief Justice Marshall’s role and legacy of using the Court to safeguard the rule of law under the Constitution.

Stories of the Week: In Arizona, 40 students enrolled in the Applied Career Exploration in STEM (ACES) Camp engaged in immersive, hands-on activities and explored a wide variety of STEM careers. All 50 U.S. governors have agreed to expand K-12 computer science education in their states, prompted by a letter from 500+ business, education and nonprofit leaders urging an update.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Milly Arbaje-Thomas, President & CEO of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, Inc. (METCO) and Roger Hatch, co-author of Pioneer’s report, METCO Funding: Understanding Massachusetts’ Voluntary School Desegregation Program. Milly shares her background as an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and deep involvement with anti-poverty and neighborhood-based organizations in Boston. She describes METCO’s history, the challenges METCO participants face, and the program’s proven track record of achieving excellent results for minority students from Boston and Springfield. The discussion turns to METCO’s complex funding model, and Roger Hatch summarizes the main findings of his recent report. They explore institutional barriers to expansion, despite the program’s contribution to diversifying greater Boston’s suburban districts (METCO students constitute very high percentages of those districts’ minority student population). They talk about the fiscal implications of METCO in suburban districts, including state and district funding and transportation costs; and possible financial reforms.

Stories of the Week: Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg applauds President Biden’s reversal of a proposal to curb charter school expansion. Basketball legend and civil rights trailblazer Bill Russell passed away this week; Cara and Gerard pay tribute to him.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Richard Epstein, the inaugural Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at NYU School of Law, and author of The Classical Liberal Constitution: The Uncertain Quest for Limited Government. He describes the influence of 17th and 18th-century English ideas on our Founding Fathers’ views of ordered liberty and self-government. He traces federalism’s legal roots and explains why the concept of “competitive federalism” among the states and with the national government remains hotly contested. They discuss federalism as it relates to education, with early state constitutions delegating wide authority to local governments and citizens. Professor Epstein distinguishes federalism from infamous states’ rights arguments from antebellum America, or unjust state and local laws like Jim Crowism and segregation, and offers insights on how to strike a balance between the federal, state, and local governments in terms of ensuring basic rights. He explores how policymakers at all levels should think about using classical liberal constitutionalism to achieve wider access to educational excellence. The interview concludes with Professor Epstein’s reading from his book.

Stories of the Week: In the UK, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Entrepreneurship has issued a report calling on the government to prioritize instruction in entrepreneurial skills. In Utah, women constitute 72 percent of K-12 educators, but only 13 percent of school superintendents, according to 2019 study by the national School Superintendents Association.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Kerry McDonald talk with Bernita Bradley, founder and president of Engaged Detroit, a parent-driven urban homeschooling advocacy coalition. Bernita shares her background, and how she became a nationally recognized parent advocate for urban K-12 education reform. They delve into problems with the chronically underperforming Detroit Public Schools, the ways in which parents have responded, and the tensions in Detroit between the traditional public schools and charter schools. Bernita describes her daughter’s experience during COVID, why it was a turning point, and how it sparked an interest in homeschooling. She shares how Engaged Detroit and other parent organizations’ efforts to organize parents across the country are progressing, and the main lessons K-12 education policymakers should be learning from parent-driven school reform efforts.

Stories of the Week: A new study from a team of political scientists found that those college grads who worked for Teach for America were significantly more likely to vote than their peers who applied but weren’t admitted to the program. Former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has called for the abolition of the agency she once led, and giving more authority back to states and localities.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Kerry McDonald talk with Jean Strouse, author of the award-winning biography of J.P. Morgan, Morgan: American Financier. They discuss why the general public and students alike should know more about the life and accomplishments of the controversial, late 19th- and early 20th-century American banker. She explains Morgan’s role as a stabilizing figure while serving as the de facto central bank during financial booms and panics, and his importance in the creation of U.S. Steel, Edison General Electric, and the railroad empire, all of which helped propel the nation’s economic ascent. He was also involved in public disputes with Theodore Roosevelt and other Progressive-era figures over the power of business trusts and monopolies. Finally, Ms. Strouse describes Morgan’s famous art collecting, and one of the most interesting figures in his life, Belle da Costa Greene, who was director of the world-renowned Pierpont Morgan Library. The interview concludes with Ms. Strouse’s reading from her biography of J.P. Morgan.

Stories of the Week: Survey data show more Americans are considering foregoing college in favor of alternatives to career pathways, and enrollment has not seen a post-COVID rebound. For those families who do plan for college, U.S. News offers some tips, including starting the search early, talking to recruiters, learning effective study habits, and more.

This Fourth of July week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Dr. Joseph Ellis, Professor Emeritus of History at Mount Holyoke College and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. They discuss the resurgence of public interest in the Revolutionary and Founding generations due, in part, to his book, Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams. Known as the “Atlas of American Independence,” John Adams was perhaps the best educated among the Founding generation. Ellis describes his deep knowledge of classical liberal arts and Enlightenment subjects, including ancient history, political philosophy, and the law, and how it equipped him for intellectual and political leadership. They review Adams’ key experiences and character traits, as the major author of the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution, which served as a model for the U.S. Constitution; his ardent opposition to slavery; and his critical eye for spotting political talent. Lastly, they explore the relationship between Adams and his beloved, talented wife, Abigail; as well as their gifted son, John Quincy Adams, the sixth U.S. President; and the family’s remarkable dedication to public service. Prof. Ellis concludes the interview with a reading about John Adams and American Independence.

Stories of the Week: In Mississippi, public K-12 students have made greater gains than in any other state, becoming a national model for both practitioners and policymakers alike, as a result of specific reforms implemented by State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright. At least 12 states are relaxing teacher certification rules, including licensure, to address the labor shortage.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Arif Panju, a managing attorney with the Institute for Justice and co-counsel in the U.S. Supreme Court school choice case, Carson v. Makin; and David Carson, the lead plaintiff. Panju shares the key legal contours of Carson v. Makin and the potential impact of the Court’s decision in favor of the plaintiffs. They delve into the origins of the Maine school tuitioning program, and the change in the early 1980s that resulted in discrimination against religious families. They also review the 2020 Supreme Court ruling, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which was a major victory for the Institute for Justice and school choice. Carson reflects on what motivated his family to join this case and take such a courageous stand for school choice and religious liberty, and what it has been like being involved in such a high-profile U.S. Supreme Court case.

Stories of the Week: Cara and Gerard review the impact of the Pell Grant program, launched 50 years ago this week, in helping to expand access to higher education. What would high school look like if it were designed to give students job-based learning experiences and marketable skills upon graduation?

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Kerry McDonald talk with Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He shares his background working with curriculum expert E.D. Hirsch, Jr., who has emphasized the importance of academic content knowledge in K-12 education as well as civic education to develop active participants in our democracy. They discuss why civics and the study of U.S. history have fallen out of favor over the last several decades, and what that means for the health of our representative government and liberties. Pondiscio explains some of the findings of his book, How the Other Half Learns, on New York’s Success Academy charter schools network, and how the charter movement can overcome growing political obstacles, especially among Democrats. Finally, they explore his recent National Affairs essay on the need to restore trust in the institution of public schooling.

Stories of the WeekThe Economist offers a thought experiment: 20 years from now, will children be taught by artificial intelligence-powered personalized learning assistants? America celebrates the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which helped bring about gender parity in sports, the many women whose lives were changed, and the impact on women in leadership roles in corporate America.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Margaret “Macke” Raymond, founder and director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. She shares some of the major highlights from Hoover’s recent Education Summit that featured a wide variety of national and international experts. They discuss the reasons for persistent problems, even after several federal efforts, with American students’ performance on important exams such as NAEP, TIMSS, and PISA, and the best path forward for state and federal education reforms. They discuss the shift in political support for charter schools, and the outlook for expansion among charters as well as private school choice programs. Dr. Raymond offers thoughts on the implications of the successful U.S. Supreme Court decision on Espinoza, and the likelihood of another victory in the Carson v. Makin case.

Stories of the Week: In Rhode Island, a federal lawsuit over whether there is a constitutional right to an adequate civics education has led to an agreement to improve instruction. States such as Texas and California are directing portions of the $350 billion in federal COVID relief aid to create or expand service and conservation corps programs.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Chris Sinacola and David Ferreira, co-editors of Pioneer’s new book, Hands-On Achievement: Massachusetts’s National Model Vocational-Technical Schools. They share information from their new book on the story of the Bay State’s nation-leading voc-tech schools, and how accountability tools from the state’s 1993 education reform law propelled their success. They talk about the pivot from the singular focus on occupational education, to a more balanced approach that required a solid grounding in high-quality reading and math skills. They review Massachusetts’s voc-tech schools’ status as high schools of choice, and how this impacts these schools’ remarkable graduation rates, and high demand. They discuss voc-tech schools’ success at educating special needs students, who enroll in these schools at disproportionately high rates. They explore how best to close racial achievement gaps, and how voc-techs have partnered with businesses and unions alike to help place their students in careers. The interview concludes with a reading from their new book.

Stories of the Week: In New Mexico, the Governor has submitted an education reform plan, after a 2018 court order requiring statewide education reforms to address inequities impacting students with disabilities, English language learners English, Native Americans, low-income students. Has the focus on raising academic achievement pushed out physical education from K-12 schools?

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara Candal and guest co-host Derrell Bradford talk with Prof. Paula Giddings, Elizabeth A. Woodson Professor Emerita of Africana Studies at Smith College, and author of A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching. Professor Giddings shares how her experience watching historic events like the Civil Rights Movement and Freedom Rides shaped her career in academia and journalism. She discusses her definitive biography of Ida Wells, a late-19th-century Black female journalist and writer who is an unsung figure in American history. She reviews Wells’ underprivileged background – she was born into slavery in Mississippi during the Civil War – but also how she learned to read, attended a Historically Black College, and developed an appreciation for the liberal arts. She offers thoughts on how educators should use Wells’ many public writings, diaries, and firsthand accounts of the horrific crimes of slavery, segregation, the Klan, Jim Crow, and lynching in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to help students recognize this nation’s history of racial violence. They also explore Wells’ work as a reformer during an era known for overt racism, as well as rapid industrialization, corrupt urban political machines, and suppression of women’s rights. The interview concludes with Professor Giddings reading from her Wells biography.

Story of the Week: Cara and Derrell hold a moment of silence for the victims of the Uvalde school shooting, and discuss what is (and is not) being done to address the hundreds of thousands of disaffected and distant kids across the country who are struggling with mental health issues, especially in the COVID era.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Senator Patricia Puertas Rucker, a West Virginia state Senator and Chair of the Education Committee. Thanks to her leadership, West Virginia now has the widest, most universal education savings account program in America. Senator Rucker describes the lessons other state legislators across the country can learn from West Virginia’s successful experience. A Venezuelan immigrant, she shares her inspiring story of coming to the U.S., and becoming a state legislator who has led a transformational school choice initiative. She describes how her personal narrative, including her experience homeschooling her five children, some with special needs, drove her later efforts as an elected official to promote wider school choice. She reviews some of the central issues animating parent coalitions that have been prime movers in expanding school choice programs, especially for parents of children with special needs and families of faith.

Stories of the WeekSchool choice offers important alternatives to contentious political debates in K-12 education – but we should refrain from urging parents to abandon all traditional districts, many of which offer high-quality instruction. In New Mexico, a bipartisan group of legislators and parents overwhelmingly support charter public schools, contrary to the divisiveness over charters that exists in many states.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” guest co-host Kerry McDonald talks with Nicholas Lemann, Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism and Dean Emeritus of the Columbia School of Journalism, and author of the books, The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America, and The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy. He reviews the history, design, and purpose of the SAT and standardized assessments of academic merit, and how secondary schools and higher education institutions have used, or misused, tests as they relate to race and equality of educational opportunity. He offers thoughts on colleges’ and the American Bar Association’s recent shift away from standardized testing, and the impact on American education and society. Another topic they cover is the Great Migration, the movement of six million Black people from the American South to Northern, Midwestern, and Western states between 1910-1970. They explore the larger lessons about this pivotal episode in American history, and the social and educational policies that might help remediate our society’s ongoing racial struggles.

Stories of the Week: Co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson discuss a school choice program in Michigan, that would have provided nearly $8,000 to help families with private school tuition or other expenses such as tutoring, but was vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Also, most education technology companies have seen a steep decline in valuation since the pandemic, defying many expectations that school closures would accelerate and expand the marketplace for digital learning.