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.
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.
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.
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 […]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Jefferson County Schools just hired away the Alabama State Department of
Education’s veteran Chief of Staff as its superintendent, for the highest
salary of any superintendent in the state. WBHM’s Dan Carsen caught up
with Craig Pouncey, the new leader of Alabama’s second-largest school
district, on his first full day on the job. The former teacher and assistant
principal says one reason for his move was to get away from politics and
back to his roots.
All this week, WBHM explores challenges people face after being released from Alabama’s prisons. One barrier is a lack of skills. But some educators are working to smooth that transition even before the inmates get out: J.F. Ingram State Technical College has a new program at Tutwiler Prison that teaches vocations and life skills, including getting along with others, with the goal of reducing recidivism. WBHM’s Dan Carsen sat in on those classes then spoke with a student — an inmate named Robin. We agreed not to use last names, but Dan asked her about her plans once she’s out … and about why she’s in.
J.F. Ingram Technical College is a
unique part of Alabama’s two-year college system because all of its students are incarcerated. Last month, WBHM’s Dan Carsen went to Ingram’s campus at Tutwiler Prison. He was planning to do a story on Ingram’s new life skills program there, but sometimes, plans change. He decided the best way to convey those classes was basically to let the tape roll … which also
gives normally voiceless people a chance to be heard. You can hear them right now. Or click on the link above to hear them and see more photos.
Medical education is always evolving. One way it’s changed in recent years is that residents are not allowed to work the long, judgment-impairing shifts they used to. Most agree that’s good. But how do you make up for all that lost teaching time? Some UAB researchers think they have an answer: video games. They created a competitive educational game called “Kaizen-Internal Medicine,” or just “Kaizen-IM,” and a small but promising study showed that busy young doctors learned from it in their off hours. UAB’s James Willig sat down with WBHM’s education reporter Dan Carsen to explain. Willig starts with a downside of limiting residents’ work hours.
Today, AL.com and WBHM hosted a lunch discussion on the controversy over the Hoover school system’s plan to impose fees on student bus riders. AL.com reporter Jon Anderson and WBHM’s education reporter Dan Carsen were on hand to facilitate the sometimes heated discussion and answer questions. Afterward, Carsen spoke with WBHM’s News Director Rachel Lindley. To start, Carsen recaps how the situation got to where it is today.
J.F. Ingram State is a unique part of Alabama’s two-year college system because one hundred percent of its students are incarcerated. Its new pilot program at Julia Tutwiler Prison focuses on life skills, not just vocational training. As part of our prison-reporting partnership with Alabama Media Group’s Investigative Journalism Lab, WBHM’s Dan Carsen spoke with Ingram State Counseling Coordinator Rick Vest outside Ingram’s Tutwiler campus. Among other things, Vest says learning job skills isn’t enough.
Last night, the international accreditation agency AdvancEd released a report based on their team’s March visit to Birmingham City Schools. Although the report noted many areas still in need of improvement, the agency upgraded the school system from “probation” to “accredited, warned.” In response, school leaders called a press conference today. Our education reporter Dan Carsen recorded it and broke it down for listeners.
Across the country, school boards have been losing power to state and
federal authorities, and some experts see local boards as increasingly ineffective. But last month, an education policy think tank released a national report on the influence of school board leadership. According to the Fordham Institute, local boards really do impact student achievement. Given recent events in Birmingham City Schools and other area systems, WBHM’s education reporter Dan Carsen caught up with co-author Arnold Shober, who says the overall vision of a school board is key, as is the way members are elected.
In the middle of urban Birmingham, there’s a farm. Jones Valley Teaching Farm is an education center offering local students and families gardening, nutrition courses, fresh food, and much more. As part of our sustainability series, WBHM’s education reporter Dan Carsen sat down with its Executive Director, Grant Brigham. Dan starts off by asking him if he sees the farm playing a part in Birmingham’s long-term sustainability:
In Huntsville, there’s a little girl who was born without fingers on one hand, but she now has an affordable prosthetic. Three-dimensional printing made it possible. That technology is spreading, which means her story is just one example of life-altering changes on the horizon. In this national story, with previously unpublished photos, WBHM’s Dan Carsen has more.
AdvancED is a private accrediting firm working with more than thirty thousand schools worldwide. A team from its Southern Association of Colleges and Schools division arrives in Birmingham today. They’re checking whether Birmingham City Schools are fixing problems that led the agency to put the system on accreditation probation last summer. It got WBHM’s education reporter Dan Carsen thinking about what these firms actually do, and whether they have as much power as it seems. He caught up with AdvancED president Mark Elgart and asked him how his agencies decide which districts get accredited … and which don’t.
For his decades-long career, comedian and commentator Bill Maher has skewered cherished customs and beliefs. Whether on his HBO show “Real Time with Bill Maher,” in his film “Religulous,” or doing stand-up, he doesn’t shy away from controversy. Politics, drugs, faith — nothing is sacred. He’ll be performing in Birmingham this Sunday, but WBHM’s Dan Carsen caught up with him first. It’s a serious conversation, but it starts out on a light note and ranges far and wide from there.
Alison Grizzle isn’t your typical teacher, or even your typical Alabama Teacher of the Year. The Birmingham City Schools math instructor is known for being very outspoken, even on third-rail issues like the Common Core and standardized testing. We thought we’d share her thoughts on those issues and more as students and staff return to school routines. WBHM’s Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen recently caught up with Grizzle at an education conference where she was giving talks. But it turns out this award-winning teacher almost didn’t become a teacher at all…
The Alabama State Department of Education’s intervention team has left Birmingham City Schools. ALSDE staff are approving local board agendas and monitoring finances from Montgomery. A year and a half after the state first took the reins, the local board is quietly going about its business. As 2014 approaches, there’s a new optimism from the Superintendent’s office down to the trenches. But is it realistic? In this third and final installment, WBHM’s Dan Carsen reports on the reality on the ground, and on where informed stakeholders think it’s all headed.
In any big institution, good things are usually happening even when problems get the attention. This week WBHM is airing a three-part “status update” on Birmingham City Schools, from the state takeover to today. Yesterday, Part One explored some reasons why the state intervened and the district could lose accreditation. Today in Part Two, our Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen talks with teachers, parents, and students to get a different view — a view from the ground level.