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.

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 nervous.

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.

INTERVIEW: New Jefferson County Schools Chief Craig Pouncey

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.

Life After Prison: Interview With Robin, Student And Tutwiler Inmate

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.

DOCUMENTARY: Voices From Tutwiler Prison For Women

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.

INTERVIEW: James Willig On The “Gamification” Of Medical Education

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.

AL.com, WBHM Event Yields Frank Talk On Hoover School Bus Fees

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.

INTERVIEW: Rick Vest, Counseling Coordinator Of Two-Year College For Prisoners

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.