Dan Carsen

Dan Carsen


Dan Carsen is our health and science reporter. He’s been a science teacher, a teacher trainer, a newspaper reporter, a radio commentator, and an editor at an educational publishing house. His writing and reporting have won numerous regional and national awards. His outside interests include basketball, sailing, percussion, raptors, and seeking REM brainwaves.

In Football Country, Concussions Spark A Parental Dilemma

More and more people are learning about the risks contact sports pose to the brain. So even here in football-loving Alabama, parents and young athletes are wrestling with a serious dilemma, one that could affect them decades later: to play or not to play. To help parents facing that decision, WBHM’s Dan Carsen got some […]

INTERVIEW: Carsen & Lindley On Emotional Vestavia Mascot Meeting

Since the mass shooting by a white supremacist in Charleston, South Carolina last month, symbols like the Confederate flag have come under renewed scrutiny. In Vestavia Hills, it’s the high school’s rebel mascot — sometimes called Colonel Reb or The Rebel Man — that’s drawing national attention. WBHM’s Dan Carsen went to an emotional public […]

Capacity Crowd Turns Out For Vestavia Mascot Forum

An emotional issue across the South and the nation came to a head in Vestavia Hills last night — the debate over symbols related to the Confederacy. The school board held a public forum, partly spurred by residents who want the system to drop its “Rebel” mascot. Listen above or read below. Under the text, […]

Alabama’s Teacher Of The Year On Teaching, Common Core, Mascots And More

Vestavia Hills science teacher Jennifer Brown is Alabama’s 2015-2016 Teacher of The Year. The 16-year educator, who once wanted to be a professional basketball player, sits down with WBHM’s Dan Carsen to talk about her motivations and about controversial issues like Common Core, charter schools, standardized testing and Vestavia Hills City Schools’ “Rebel” mascot. But the […]

Alabama Governor Orders Removal Of Confederate Flags From Capitol

The Confederate battle flag and three other symbols of the Confederacy were taken down Wednesday from the Capitol grounds in Montgomery, Ala., after their removal was ordered by Gov. Robert Bentley amid a growing backlash against the symbols following last week’s racially motivated mass shooting at a black church in South Carolina. For more, listen […]

Birmingham City Schools Free From State Control

Birmingham, Alabama’s school system is now free of state control. The state had taken over after financial mismanagement, corruption, and fighting among local board members so intense it sometimes got physical. Voters have since elected a very different school board. And now, Birmingham’s schools are independent again.

James Hanks, a Dropout “Recovered”

The U.S. Secretary of Education recently recognized Alabama for having one of the nation’s steepest increases in high school graduation rates. Birmingham City Schools’ rate increased even more – up roughly 23 percent in the last four years. The latest data reported to the state education department puts the system’s rate at 79 percent — just below […]

Bilingual Ed in the South: Enormous Economic Consequences

Students who don’t speak English as their first language – or “language minorities” – rank toward the bottom in almost every measure of academic achievement. Moral and legal concerns aside, even if their population were to stop rising, the situation signifies a looming hit to the national and regional economies. This week we’ve been exploring […]

Bilingual Ed in the South: The Hurdles

Students who don’t speak English as their first language, or “language minorities,” are some of the most socially and economically disadvantaged in our nation and in the South. So far in our series we’ve looked at two dual-language schools (a more common description since the phrase “bilingual schools” became politically loaded). Now, WBHM’s Dan Carsen […]

Bilingual Ed in the South: Another School Across the Border (in GA)

As public schools become more linguistically diverse, some see bilingual or “dual-language” programs as a way to improve education for all – English speakers too. Yesterday we checked out an innovative dual-language school in a low-income Georgia neighborhood just outside Atlanta. Today we’ll visit a program 50 miles to the northeast, where staff combine the […]

Bilingual Ed in the South: It’s Happening, Even at This School

The number of Latinos in America’s schools is rising faster than any other group’s. And their share of the school population is rising fastest in the South. Many don’t speak English as their first language, making them “language-minorities.” And the question of how best to educate them is becoming crucial in places with relatively little […]

Preventing Addiction In Schools

In Part One of WBHM’s five-part series, we heard about how and why heroin use is on the rise in Alabama. Now in Part Two, education reporter Dan Carsen looks at how some young people are trying to slow its spread in their schools. The story starts with a confession in a small office just outside downtown Birmingham.

A Recovering Addict’s Story In Her Own Words

Elizabeth Drennen tells the story of how she became addicted to prescription pain medication and then heroin to Addiction Prevention Coalition student leaders

US Secretary Of Education Arne Duncan

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Alabama’s high
school graduation rate jumped eight percent between the years
2011 and 2013. That may not sound like a lot, but it was one of the
largest increases in the country, which also saw its rate increase while racial gaps decreased. WBHM’s education reporter Dan
Carsen caught up with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to
talk about what the numbers mean for the state and for the nation.

Recovering Heroin Addict Brad Blount On A Dark Time, And How He Escaped It

Heroin use is on the rise in Alabama. And contrary to old
stereotypes, it doesn’t respect race, class, or neighborhood
boundaries. Brad Blount of Vestavia Hills is proof. He’s from a
solid family in that well-heeled suburb, but the 24-year-old tells
WBHM’s Dan Carsen that despite it all, his life took a dark turn.

Trisha Powell Crain On State Supreme Court Upholding Alabama Accountability Act

The Alabama Accountability Act has been controversial since the
night it passed the state legislature in 2013. What started as a
school flexibility bill morphed into a way to give tax credits and
scholarships to students to attend other public schools and private schools. But late Monday the state Supreme Court upheld
the law. WBHM’s Dan Carsen caught up with Alabama School Connection writer Trisha Powell Crain to talk it over. Crain starts with a brief
overview of the Act, and some concerns.

INTERVIEW: State Senator Del Marsh On New Charter School Bill

Charter schools are public schools exempt from many of the
curriculum and staffing rules that apply to standard schools. But
to stay open, charters are supposed to meet achievement goals
spelled out in their charter contract. Alabama is one of eight
states that does not allow charter schools, but that could change
soon. After failing to pass a charter bill in 2012, Republican
lawmakers are trying again in the session that’s starting today, March 3, 2015.
WBHM’s education reporter Dan Carsen caught up with Senate President Pro Tem
Del Marsh, the charter bill’s sponsor. He says being late to the
game is actually an advantage.

Dan Carsen, WBHM Education Reporter, 2016 ABBY Award Submission

This audio compilation features these five stories: Bilingual Education In The South, Part One: It Is Happening, Even Here Bilingual Education In The South, Part Two: Another Program Across The Border (In Georgia) Bilingual Education In The South, Part Three: The Hurdles Bilingual Education In The South, Part Four: “Enormous” Economic Consequences James Hanks, a Dropout […]

Carsen And Lindley Talk Alabama Schools’ Low Test Scores

School test results have been in the news across Alabama lately, often next to words like “sobering” and “not on track.” So what’s going on? WBHM’s News Director Rachel Osier Lindley sits down with education reporter Dan Carsen to shed light on a complex and heated issue. Carsen just returned from a conference put on by NPR’s Ed Team, and part of that “Ed Summit” dealt with testing. Perfect timing for a while-the-iron-is-hot interview.

BPD Issues Statement On Looming Pepper-Spray Trial

If you read this after 10 a.m. on Tuesday, January 20, the day after Martin Luther King Day, witnesses may already be on the stand in a federal courtroom in yet another Birmingham trial with civil rights implications. Barring a last-minute settlement, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s suit against the
Birmingham Police Department over officers using mace on city students
will go forward, and lawyers representing the city and the police are promising a vigorous defense. WBHM’s Dan Carsen has more.

Faculty Senate Vote For Reassessment of Sports And “No-Confidence” on Watts

It’s been a week since UAB announced the end of its football, bowling, and rifle teams. Today at a meeting of the Faculty Senate, at least two-thirds of that body approved drafting two resolutions: a declaration supporting the school’s athletic programs and a transparent financial reassessment of them; and, a “no confidence” resolution directed at university president Ray Watts. WBHM’s Dan Carsen and Rachel Osier Lindley break down the day’s events.

INTERVIEW: Big-Picture Perspective On Colleges Ending Football Programs

On December 2, the University of Alabama at Birmingham announced it is cutting its football, bowling and rifle teams after the 2014-2015 season. As costs to maintain athletics programs grow, some experts think this could be the beginning of a trend. Malcolm Moran, director of the National Sports Journalism Center, explains why to WBHM’s Dan Carsen.

Protestors Demand Assurances UAB Football Will Not Be Cut

Today UAB supporters dressed in green and gold school colors chanted in the sun for their football team while members of the marching band played. But it wasn’t a football game. It was on Birmingham’s 20th Street South, in front of the university’s administration building. They were responding to reports that the football program may be discontinued, and they’re angry about that possibility.

WBHM’s Carsen Awarded Prestigious Fellowship

WBHM 90.3 FM’s education reporter Dan Carsen has been named a fellow in Renaissance Journalism’s initiative, “The Equity Reporting Project: Restoring the Promise of Education.” Only 31 journalists nationwide have been selected.

Federal Complaint Alleges Fund Misappropriation in Birmingham Schools

A Birmingham City Schools parent who’s also president of the local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers has filed a complaint against the school system with the U.S. Department of Education over allegedly
misappropriated Title One funds.

BCS Superintendent Craig Witherspoon To Resign: Reaction And Perspective

Last night Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Craig Witherspoon announced he would resign at the end of the year. Neither he nor board members had much to say immediately after the announcement, but late last night WBHM’s Dan Carsen caught up with some key players for reaction. We’ve put together links to some key moments in Witherspoon’s tenure, too.

Cutting-Edge Forensic Research At ASU Could Help Solve Murders

Believe it or not, in a healthy human body, microbial cells outnumber human cells by about ten to one. Scientists, doctors, and health-conscious people are learning more and more about our “personal ecosystems.” But what happens to this individualized community of life after we die? Some Alabama State University forensics researchers are looking at patterns, which could — among other things — help investigators solve murder cases. WBHM’s education reporter Dan Carsen has more:

Reward or Waste? Contracts Bring Controversy In Vestavia Hills Schools

If you could keep your six-figure salary but work only “as needed,” mainly from home, advising the person doing your old job, would you take that deal? After 14 years as Vestavia Hills schools superintendent, that’s exactly what Dr. Jamie Blair is doing now. And that’s raised some questions in this highly regarded school district. Some support the school board’s decision, but
others say it’s just wrong. WBHM’s education reporter Dan Carsen has much more.

A College For Inmates, And An Interview With Its President

The United States locks up people at a higher rate than anywhere else in
the world. Some of the most overcrowded prisons are right here in Alabama. Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women is one of them. But some inmates there have access
to a unique state-funded program that offers academics and “life skills”
they’ll need after release. The problem is, this J.F. Ingram State Technical College program, which could ease
overcrowding, is struggling for funds. WBHM’s Dan Carsen has the story and a full-length interview with J.F. Ingram’s president.

INTERVIEW: Inmate And Horticulture Student Timothy Brown

Alabama’s J.F. Ingram State may be the nation’s only state-run two-year
college exclusively for inmates. Its mission is to reduce recidivism by offering “three
legs of the stool”: academics, life skills, and vocational training. WBHM’s Dan Carsen recently visited Ingram’s Deatsville campus, where he met Timothy Brown, a 53-year-old convicted robber and burglar serving a life sentence but hoping for parole. Brown had walked over from the Frank Lee minimum-security facility next door. He’d been passing around organic cantaloupe and filling
in for his horticulture teacher. Dan starts the interview by asking Brown if doing the latter makes him

INTERVIEW: Trisha Powell Crain On Alabama’s Low NAEP Ranks

Alabama recently got some unflattering news about its students’ proficiency, especially in eighth-grade mathematics. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, is a standardized test sometimes called “the nation’s report card.” On the 2013 test, Alabama eighth-graders ranked fiftieth out of 52 jurisdictions in math (schools on military bases and in the District of Columbia were counted separately). But as with most education topics, things are not quite as simple as they seem. WBHM’s Dan Carsen sat down with Alabama School Connection executive director Trisha Powell Crain to go behind those results. She says we shouldn’t put too much emphasis on one test, or be too surprised at Alabama’s low showing.

INTERVIEWS With “Make Them Listen” Anti-Illegal-Immigration Protesters

Today was the first day of a two-day nationally coordinated protest against
immigration reform and the recent “border surge” of undocumented
minors. The effort was organized by the Facebook-based “Make
Them Listen.” Saturday’s protest, also planned for Highway 280 near Walmart, looks to be bigger. WBHM’s Dan Carsen caught up with local coordinator Deanna Frankowski during the first protest of two held during Friday’s rush hours. She says illegal immigration poses health, economic, and security risks … and she says much more than that.