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.

Birmingham Schools Taken Off Accreditation Probation

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.

INTERVIEW: Arnold Shober On The Importance Of School Board Leadership

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.

SUSTAINABILITY: Grant Brigham Of Jones Valley Teaching Farm

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:

3D Printing Pediatric Prosthetics: Changes For A Little Girl, And Much More

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 In this national story, with previously unpublished photos, WBHM's Dan Carsen has more.

INTERVIEW: AdvancED CEO Mark Elgart

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.

INTERVIEW: Controversial Comedian Bill Maher

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.

INTERVIEW: Alabama Teacher Of The Year Alison Grizzle

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...

Birmingham Schools: Takeover To Today, Part 3

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.

Birmingham Schools: Takeover To Today, Part 2

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.

Birmingham Schools: Takeover To Today, Part 1

The state education department's intervention team is now monitoring Birmingham City Schools from afar, a year and a half after it first took control of the school system. The district had been facing major challenges, including a board so dysfunctional it made national news. But that's only part of the picture. In this first of a three-part series, WBHM's Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen delves into the complex and often painful situation leading to state intervention.

INTERVIEW: Hoover School Bus Supporter Trisha Powell Crain

There's been a victory of sorts for parents whose children ride school buses in Hoover. In July, the school board got national attention and angered many residents by voting to scrap the sprawling district's busing program starting next school year. But after intense community pressure and input from the Justice Department, the board unanimously reversed itself Monday night. Shortly after, WBHM's Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen caught up with Trisha Powell Crain, a Hoover parent and longtime education policy writer. Though she has some misgivings, she calls last night's school-board reversal an example of what persistent community activism can accomplish.

State Seeks Dismissal Of Suit Against Birmingham Takeover

BREAKING: Lawyers representing the Alabama State Department of Education late Wednesday filed a brief asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit against the state's 2012 intervention in Birmingham City Schools.

Carsen On Capitol Journal

Our Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen recently appeared as a guest journalist on Alabama Public Television's "Capitol Journal," a highly regarded program analyzing the week's significant stories. Dan, host Don Daily, and frequent WBHM commentator John Archibald discuss HeadStart, troubling economic trends in American public education, the controversy at Alabama State University, and more.

INTERVIEW: Terrorism Expert Randall Law

Birmingham– Recently our education reporter needed a terrorism expert for a story about a new type of bomb-sniffing dogs being developed at Auburn University, so he sat down with Birmingham-Southern College’s Randall Law, an author and a terrorism historian. Their rolling conversation covered profiling, politics, the psychology of terror and more. It was so interesting we thought […]

Auburn Developing New “VaporWake” Bomb Dogs

Three years ago, after spending almost nineteen billion dollars on hi-tech research, the Pentagon found the best bomb-detection devices in existence are actually dogs' noses. And researchers at Auburn University are trying to make them even better. They've developed a new type of bomb-sniffing K-9 called a "VaporWake" dog. WBHM's Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen has more on this new tool in the anti-terrorism arsenal.

Money Tight, Scientists Turn To Crowdfunding

In the past decade, it's gotten much harder for scientists to get the federal grants that fund most American research. This year's sequester has made it even more difficult, and the government shutdown is likely to slow things down even further. So scientists are looking for new ways to pay for their work, including "crowdfunding." But going online and asking the public for money has real drawbacks. Even so, as WBHM's Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen tells us, some think it could "open up" science in a good way.

State Schools Chief Of Staff On Decrease In Per-Pupil Spending

Since before the recession, the number of dollars Alabama spends per student has dropped more than it has in any other state. Percentage-wise, Alabama's decrease was second only to Oklahoma's. That’s all according to a recent report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. WBHM’s Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen caught up with Alabama schools Chief of Staff Craig Pouncey to find out why, and what it all means.

INTERVIEW: Tanner Colby, Some of My Best Friends are Black

As Barack Obama campaigned his way to the presidency, self-described lily-white writer Tanner Colby began pondering exactly why he and so many other white people basically had no black friends. The reasons are complex, ranging from school policy to real estate practices to media image-making to church politics, but the former Vestavia Hills resident dives right in from the springboard of his own life, recognizing his ignorance the whole way. The result: 'Some of My Best Friends are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America.' Our Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen caught up with Colby soon after the author appeared on MSNBC to discuss America's persistent racial separation.

Grooming The Next Cyber-Warriors

Eric Snowden. NSA code-cracking. Chinese government hackers. It’s hard to avoid cybersecurity issues in the news. And many experts think the United States is simply not up to the threats. That’s mainly because there aren't enough good guys with the skills to do battle in this expanding arena. But there’s a unique partnership in an Alabama school district that’s working to change the scenario. WBHM’s Southern Education desk reporter Dan Carsen has more, with previously unpublished photos.

Veterinarian Glut

In case you missed this recent national story: Lots of young people who love animals want to be veterinarians, but vet school is demanding and expensive. And the work is less “cute and cuddly” than many realize. Even so, there are more vets than there’s work for them to do. WBHM’s Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen starts this story from an Auburn University “vet camp” that may be part of the solution. *With previously unpublished photos. WARNING: Some viewers may find some of the photos disturbing.

Hoover Cuts Buses, Ignites Controversy

Hoover’s school board recently voted to end its bus service, effective a year from now. District leaders say they have to cut costs as enrollments rise and revenues fall. But as WBHM’s Dan Carsen points out in a recent national report, many in the hilly, sprawling Birmingham suburb don’t believe that’s the whole story. Click above for more.

Hoover Stakeholders React To School Bus Cut

Hoover school leaders recently made their case for last month's controversial decision to end the system's regular-ed busing program, effective next August. In light of the outcry, the school board set up a public forum, held Thursday night at Spain Park High School, where system leaders explained school finances and heard stakeholders' numerous concerns. WBHM has archived the entire meeting as a matter of public record and broken out 10 key exchanges for listeners. Click above to listen.

Joseph Walter: Doing Much More Than Surviving

Pompe disease is a rare and often fatal illness that attacks the heart and skeletal muscles. Many people with the early onset form don't survive past childhood. But just north of Birmingham there's an eighteen-year-old who's not only surviving, but thriving. He recently graduated high school, and as WBHM's Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen tells us, that's just part of the story.

New Map Shows Summer Feeding Sites

Alabama is a poor state, and many of its young people go hungry, especially when school is out. But an anti-poverty group has put out a digitized map and database meant to make it easier for hungry children to find free meals over the summer.

From Foster Care To College: A Little Help Bettering The Odds

Whether it's summer, spring, or fall term, some young people have trouble adjusting to campus life. College students coming from foster care face extra hurdles: 70 percent want to get a degree, but roughly three percent graduate by age 25. For the third and final part of the Southern Education Desk series "From Foster Care To College: Extra Help For Extra Hurdles," WBHM's Dan Carsen recently went to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa to learn about a new program that's trying to better those odds.

INTERVIEW: Craig Witherspoon Reacts To Failing Schools List

Today the state education department released a list of 78 failing schools under the controversial Alabama Accountability Act. Of the 78, 11 were in Birmingham. WBHM's Dan Carsen caught up with Birmingham Superintendent Craig Witherspoon for his reaction.

Carsen Talks “AAA” And More On Capitol Journal

Our Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen recently appeared as a guest journalist on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” a highly regarded program analyzing the week's significant stories. Among other things, Dan discusses the controversial Alabama Accountability Act, which will be a subject of debate in the final session of the state legislature today as lawmakers address Governor Bentley's call to delay establishing tax credits for families sending students to private schools.

Black School, White School: Teaching The Civil Rights Movement

Most people know Birmingham was a Civil Rights Movement battleground. But how is that complicated history taught in schools today? And are there differences between white and black districts? As part of our special Civil Rights anniversary coverage, Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen went to class in urban Birmingham and suburban Mountain Brook to find out.

Common Core, Part 1: Is The Hype Really Just Hype?

There's been a revolution in American K-12 education: the 'Common Core State Standards.' Released in 2010, they're math and language arts standards meant to raise rigor and establish consistency across the nation. They've been adopted in 45 states. But in the first of a three-part series, the Southern Education Desk's Dan Carsen tells us that even in those places, all is not quiet on the Common Core front.

Pre-K Series, Part 3: Access Is Everything

Most education researchers and even many economists think high-quality Pre-K benefits children and the communities where they live. But the effects are limited when programs just don't reach many kids. In Part Three of the Southern Education Desk series on Pre-K in the Deep South, WBHM's Dan Carsen has more from right here in Alabama, which has a highly regarded program that reaches a just a fraction of the state's four-year-olds.

Carsen Talks Education Flashpoints on Capitol Journal

Our Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen recently appeared as a guest journalist on Alabama Public Television’s Capitol Journal, a highly regarded program analyzing the week's significant stories. Dan discusses controversial "school flexibility" legislation, school takeovers, the federal lawsuit against the state takeover of Birmingham Schools, and the Southern Education Desk series on re-segregating schools.

Segregation Academies: Past And Still Present

Ever since the Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in its 1954 Brown vs. Board of Ed decision, the racial makeup of our schools has been in flux. Forced integration made the South’s public schools some of the most integrated in the country, but now – here and across the nation – our schools are re-segregating. The Southern Education Desk is taking a deep look at the issue with a multi-part series exploring this complex trend. In the second installment, WBHM's Dan Carsen examines a strategy resistant whites once used to sidestep public school integration, one that still shapes communities today: private so-called segregation academies.