National News

Training urban teachers who stay

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-05 10:50

Cheyandria Monks is getting ready to teach a phonics lesson to a class of first graders. Monks, 29, is not a teacher – yet. She’s a resident at Liberty Elementary in Baltimore. Basically, sh'es an apprentice. Her host teacher, Angela Guidera, walks her through the lesson.

Urban Teacher Center resident Cheyandria Monks, left, talks with her host teacher, Angela Guidera.

Monks listens to a recording of a song about a train “clickety-clacking” down a track. “Read it first,” Guidera suggests, “because the song goes pretty fast.”

Monks’ residency is part of a program at Urban Teacher Center, a nonprofit based in Baltimore. It’s built on the idea that, like doctors and chefs, teachers should train side-by-side with pros before they take charge of their own classrooms. In a traditional school, teachers-in-training might spend six or eight weeks – maybe a semester – as student teachers. The Urban Teacher Center residency lasts 15 months.

“They are learning what good teaching looks like and feels like, so that by the time they become the classroom teacher, there’s no surprises,” says Jennifer Green, the center's co-founder and CEO.

The schedule is demanding. Monks co-teaches most days, then heads off to her own master's classes at night. When she finally gets home, she might spend a few minutes with her baby daughter before tackling homework and lesson plans. She gets five or six hours of sleep.

The residency is meant to be hard, Green says. “We often hear that the first year of teaching is the hardest year of someone’s life.” One aim of the residency, she says, “is to make sure that our residents are up for the grueling nature of the task.”

If they’re not, they can drop out without leaving a class of students teacherless. Nationally, half of new teachers leave the profession within five years. In urban districts, turnover is even higher. Residencies are catching on as one way to produce teachers who know what they’re getting into. At the Urban Teacher Center, more than 20 percent of residents either quit or are asked to leave each year. Some don't return after the winter break.

“I think sometimes it’s unnecessarily brutal,” says Joseph Manko, principal of Liberty Elementary. “This is their first experience with the profession, and you want to prepare people. You also don’t want to scare them away.”

For the last three years, Manko has hosted a crop of residents at his school, which pays about 40 percent of the cost of their training. For now, philanthropy covers the rest. In return, Manko gets extra help in his classrooms and a school year to check out potential teachers. He hired one of last year’s residents for a permanent job. “He’s the first first-year teacher that we’ve hired in five years, but I’m happy to say he is far and away the best first-year teacher I’ve ever seen,” Manko says.

That teacher, Kevin Chandler, is still with the program at Urban Teacher Center. Now a fellow, he continues to take courses and work with a coach, but he’s in charge of a second-grade class. “The residency is the hardest part of this program,” Chandler says. “If you can make it through that year, you will be set.”

Monks is still getting through it. After lunch, she’s ready to teach that first-grade phonics lesson. The kids sit cross-legged on the carpet, each student on a colored square with an individual small whiteboard. They start out reading the train poem. “Clickety-clickety, clack clack clack,” they read in unison.

Then they try to find the words that start with the “cl” sound and write them on their boards. Before long, the kids start to fidget, then drift from their squares. Some scribble on their whiteboards.

Monks finds herself up against one of the hardest lessons for new teachers: classroom management. After a while, the official teacher, Guidera, steps in.

“Class, class, class,” she chants. “Yes, yes, yes!” the kids shout back.

Later, resident and mentor debrief. “How did you feel?” Guidera asks Monks. “I think I had them on the carpet way too long, so the whole group got really off task,” Monks says.

Guidera gives her some tips for moving through the lesson more quickly, and for holding the interest of restless kids. Monks will have another chance to get it right – she’s leading class all week.

Now, though, it’s time to put on her student hat.  She heads downtown for a class on teaching ratios and percentages with the other residents. There are 112 this year.

As class gets underway, Monks spreads out her dinner – a hot dog, yogurt and some coconut water from 7-Eleven – on her desk. Sometimes she’ll throw in a Red Bull to stay awake. If she gets through this year, Baltimore may have another effective teacher who actually sticks around. After the residency, fellows commit to teaching in a Baltimore or Washington, D.C. school for three years. The first class of fellows just finished that commitment. About three-quarters stayed on.

Report: St. Louis Rams Owner Plans New Stadium In LA

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 10:32

The Los Angeles Times reports Stan Kroenke and the Stockbridge Capital Group plan to build an 80,000-seat NFL stadium — which could see the team return to the city where it spent almost five decades.

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Why chicken wings cost more this time of year

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-05 10:04

The chicken industry did quite well in 2014. That may be largely due to the high chicken prices and low production costs. But Ed Fryar, President of Ozark Mountain Poultry in Rogers, Arkansas, believes chicken prices will not continue to increase in 2015, except for the chicken wings.  

"As you move into the Super Bowl and into March Madness, that causes wing prices to jump up," Fryar says.

Fryar says chicken breast has a strong market during the summer time and chicken feet are mostly exported to China.

"It’s hard to find a strong seasonal pattern in dark meat," Fryar says. "We export a substantial amount of dark meat from the United States, and because of that any issue with Avian Influenza, any political situation which causes one of our major importers to come and announce a ban on U.S poultry exports to them, those things kind of come and go."

U.S. Charges 2 Americans Over Attempted Coup In Gambia

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 09:41

The men allegedly bought weapons and shipped them to Gambia. Court documents say they planned to ambush the president's convoy, but when that plan fell through they decided to storm the State House.

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Some Gay Couples In Florida Can Get Married Today

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 07:52

A judge's decision paves the way for same-sex couples in Miami-Dade County to marry, starting at 2 p.m. In the rest of the state, gay couples can get married at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

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Sleeping Near A Smartphone Can Disturb A Child's Rest

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 07:52

Lots of children have smartphones tucked under the pillow or on the nightstand. That may be enough to compromise sleep and make children feel less rested, a study finds.

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Housing In 2015: Four Reasons For Optimism (And One For Worry)

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 06:58

Increased hiring and high rents could make this a banner year for homebuying. But a looming decision by the Federal Reserve could scare off potential buyers and disrupt the housing recovery.

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The Euro Fell To A 9-Year Low Against The Dollar; Here's Why

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 06:55

A combination of political instability in Greece, possible quantitative easing in the eurozone and a stronger dollar are all pushing the common European currency lower.

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Gov. Christie: Nobody Ribbed Me When The Cowboys Were Losing

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 06:07

Gov. Chris Christie made news over the weekend because of his awkward hug with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. He says he'd take the ribbing if it means more Cowboys victories.

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China's Villages Are Dying. A New Film Asks If They Can Be Saved

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 05:36

"Down to the Countryside" follows an artist as he moves from bustling Beijing to the fading village of Bishan. He hopes to revitalize rural life as part of China's growing "back-to-the-land" movement.

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Quiz: A fight for the right to K-12 funding

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-05 05:11

School finance became a constitutional issue in this state.

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Craft Brewers Are Running Out Of Names, And Into Legal Spats

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 05:08

One consequence of the thousands of breweries that have sprung up? Just about all the beer names you can imagine have been snapped up. That's making it harder for newcomers to name that brew.

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Boston Bombing: 5 Things To Know About The Tsarnaev Trial

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 04:15

Jury selection begins today and because the bombings affected so many people this part of the trial may take weeks.

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PODCAST: Popular polar bears

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-05 03:00

What can you get for less than $1.20? The answer: a euro. Plus, Bankrate is forecasting that the Fed will finally hike up interest rates this year. What will this mean for cash-flush consumers, and their growing appetite for new cars, new mortgages, and other forms of debt? How far up do experts predict the rates will hike in 2015, and what impact may this have on the rest of the world’s tepid growth? And once a year, hundreds of polar bears descend upon Churchill, Manitoba, a town with more bears than people. Every year, Churchill’s 800 residents share their small town with a flood of scientists, researchers and tourists who come to study and see these massive creatures. But now, a threat to the polar bear population has Manitobans worried about their primary source of income.

Oh, It's Winter: Huge Swath Of U.S. Will Be Bitterly Cold

NPR News - Mon, 2015-01-05 02:38

Some parts of Wisconsin will see a windchill of 30 below and most of country — all the way down to Florida — will see temperatures plunge.

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2015 could be the year the Fed hikes up interest rates

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

Bankrate is forecasting that the Fed will finally hike up interest rates this year.

What will this mean for cash-flush consumers, and their growing appetite for new cars, new mortgages, and other forms of debt? And how far up do experts predict the rates will hike in 2015, and what impact may this have on the rest of the world’s tepid growth?

Click the media player above to hear more.

A polar bear capital fears a bearless future

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

Hundreds of bears gather every winter in the town of Churchill, Manitoba, waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze so they can return to hunting seals. This annual migration attracts thousands of tourists, and it's an economic boon for local businesses.

The problem? Polar bear season only lasts seven weeks. And when you’re hundreds of miles from the next major city, with no roads connecting you to the outside world, and there are only a few months of the year when the ground’s not covered in snow, there aren’t many options for work. Here in Churchill, Manitoba, population 800, there are three.

Tourism, the port of Churchill and the town's health center are the options, says Mayor Mike Spence.

The port, which sends grain to Europe, and the health center employ about 10 percent of the town. About 10,000 tourists a year travel here to see polar bears. They stay in local hotels and lodges, and ride on roving jeeps called tundra buggies.

As long as the bears are here, people will pay as much as $1,000 a day to come. But with the season lasting only two months, residents have a narrow window to make their main chunk of revenue — revenue that could disappear along with these animals. Scientists predict that if current warming trends continue, this population of polar bears could be gone in only a few decades. So, what does that mean for this town's future?

“When the last bear leaves town, so does everything else,” says Spence. “Big question is: How do we become more successful in year-round parts of our community?”

One potential resource could be increased promotion and tourism for the summer beluga whale season, he says. Some locals, like security guard Brendan Windsor, agree.

“There’s more than just bears to see around here,” Windsor says. “Beluga whales, lots of bird watching, flower season.”

But the mayor admits that's not enough. Ironically, global warming could open up the Northwest passage and benefit the port. But it wouldn't be enough to make up for the end of polar bear tourism.

“If we were to lose a part of it, or in time lose all of it, it would be very difficult to recover what it brings to the economy," he says.

Everyone agrees the next few years are critical. Churchill is cooperating with international research groups to bring awareness to the polar bears' plight, even live-streaming their annual migration. Because if the bears go, this town might not be far behind.

Mexico's president to visit Washington on Tuesday

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

On Tuesday, Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, visits Washington to hold talks with President Barack Obama on cooperation, economic and security issues such as the Merida Initiative.

Approved six years ago, the U.S. government appropriated $2.3 billion dollars for the plan, which called for the U.S. and Mexican governments to partner against crime that spreads across both country’s borders. It sounds like it should buy a lot of crime fighting. But only about half of the money promised by congress has been used.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Polar bear capital fears for future without bears

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

Hundreds of bears gather every winter in the town of Churchill, Manitoba, waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze so they can return to hunting seals. This annual migration attracts thousands of tourists; an economic boon for local businesses.

The problem is, polar bear season only lasts seven weeks. And when you’re hundreds of miles from the next major city, with no roads connecting you to the outside world, and there are only a few months of the year when the ground’s not covered in snow, there aren’t many options for work. Here in Churchill, Manitoba, population 800, there are three.

“Tourism; the port of Churchill is another one; the Churchill health center is another,” says Mayor Mike Spence.

The port, which sends grain to Europe, and the health center, employ about 10 percent of the town. But people travel here to see polar bears. About 10,000 tourists come every year. They stay in local hotels and lodges, and ride on roving jeeps called tundra buggies.

If the bears are here, people will pay as much as $1,000 dollars a day to come. But with the season lasting only two months, residents have a narrow window to make their main chunk of revenue — revenue that could disappear along with these animals. Scientists predict that if current warming trends continue, this population of polar bears could be gone in only a few decades. So, what does that mean for this town's future?

“When the last bear leaves town, so does everything else,” laments Mayor Spence. “Big question is: how do we become more successful in year-round parts of our community?”

He says one potential could be increased promotion and tourism for the summer beluga whale season. Some locals, like security guard Brendan Windsor, agree.

“There’s more than just bears to see around here,” Windsor points out. “Beluga whales, lots of bird watching, flower season.”

But Mayor Spence admits that's not enough. Ironically, global warming could open up the Northwest passage and benefit the port. But it wouldn't be enough to make up for the end of polar bear tourism.

“If we were to lose a part of it, or in time lose all of it, it would be very difficult to recover what it brings to the economy," he says.

Everyone agrees the next few years are critical. Churchill is cooperating with international research groups to bring awareness to the polar bears' plight, even live-streaming their annual migration. Because if the bears go, this town might not be far behind.

New York developers are mad for super lux apartments

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-05 02:00

There’s lots of scaffolding, cranes, and hammering in New York City these days. Construction spending has nearly returned to pre-recession highs when accounting for inflation, with nearly $11 billion spent on residential construction this past year.

However, these buildings aren’t for just anyone

“They’re usually very tall, very large, and in the tens of millions of dollars in asking prices,” says Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress. He says the construction here is now dominated by ultra luxury apartment buildings; a big change from 5 or 10 years ago. “Then it was more a range of housing, more outer borough housing, more affordable housing. Now, we’re spending more money but getting less housing units.”

There’s even something now referred to as Billionaire’s Row in midtown.

“This apartment is over four thousand square feet,” Jeannie Woodbrey says casually, entering a half-floor apartment on the 58th floor of One57, a residential tower in Manhattan where she’s a senior sales executive. Central Park stretches out before the windows like a private runway.

“This one starts at 27, up to about 29, depending on the floor,” she explains, referring to the price tag (in millions).

All those millions buy three bedrooms, a big open living room, and a slew of amenities, including access to a pool which has music from Carnegie Hall piped in underwater.

“I describe this phenomenon as, 'We’re building the world’s most expensive bank safety deposit boxes,'” says Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers. “Essentially, the consumer buys one of these units, puts their valuables in it and then rarely visits. And it’s not unique to New York. Miami is seeing this, San Francisco, Los Angeles.”

Miller says the uber wealthy, many of them foreign, are looking for a place to park their money — Many recent luxury sales have been all-cash deals.

High demand and high prices have encouraged developers to build lots of these super-lux buildings — perhaps too many.

“The Manhattan development market has a problem,” Miller says. “It’s facing too much supply with a steady demand. So when people say the market’s been softening, what they’re really saying is we’ve been building too much. The demand hasn’t really changed.”

He doesn’t believe it’s a bubble, but says the pace of sales is slowing and that may leave some planned projects on the drawing board. 

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