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.

INTERVIEW: State Schools Chief on Birmingham Investigation

The state investigation and possible takeover of the Birmingham Board of Education has made national news. State Superintendent Tommy Bice and his investigative team met with the local board behind closed doors here in Birmingham late Thursday. Our Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen caught up with Superintendent Bice via cell phone while Bice was traveling late Friday. Click the link above or the picture for more of the story, or click an icon below to go straight to the web-exclusive interview.

Carsen, Ott on All Things Alabama Education

There’s a lot happening on the education beat. The problems on the Birmingham Board of Education have risen to the level of national news, and educators worried about everything from charter schools to budget cuts are raising their concerns, loudly. Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen talks with WBHM's Tanya Ott about all this and more, starting with the big story: the drama surrounding the Birmingham Board of Education and the superintendent whom five of them tried to fire.

Witherspoon Is Still B’ham Schools Chief

UPDATED LATE THURSDAY: Despite repeated efforts by some at the Birmingham Board of Education meeting Tuesday night, Craig Witherspoon is still the school system's superintendent, and will remain so during a new state-level investigation of the local school board. Our Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen was at the charged meeting and filed this extensive web-exclusive report. Click on the story to read Witherspoon's statement in response to the investigation, the state board's official April 12 resolution initiating it, and more.

Carsen, Ott on All Things Alabama Education

These are interesting times for Birmingham City Schools. Standardized testing is underway just as there’s a standoff over the future of superintendent Craig Witherspoon. The Board of Education could vote this afternoon to terminate his contract. Check the station website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed for the latest developments. There’s been some drama on the state and national levels too, with a congressional committee looking into the Alabama Education Association. WBHM’s Tanya Ott interviews reporter Dan Carsen on that and more in this week’s education chat.

Citizens Rally for Craig Witherspoon

About 150 people gathered in Birmingham's Linn Park today to show their support for embattled schools chief Craig Witherspoon. The superintendent's job security has been in doubt over the last two days especially, after the Board of Education on Thursday suddenly called a special meeting for the very next day on the topic of his contract, knowing two staunch Witherspoon supporters would be out of town. Dan Carsen has this web-exclusive follow-up story.

Craig Witherspoon Controversy

Birmingham School Superintendent Craig Witherspoon could very suddenly lose his job just after 5 p.m. today. In this web-exclusive report, Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen explains how this surprising situation came about. UPDATED 3:18 P.M. FRIDAY: SPECIAL BOARD MEETING CANCELLED, PRO-WITHERSPOON RALLY TO GO AHEAD AS PLANNED AT 4 P.M. IN LINN PARK.

Carsen & Ott: Weekly Interviews on Education in Alabama

Carsen & Ott Talk Explosions and Explosive Issues Several Alabama school communities are reeling after incidents last week shook things up. E.P.I.C. Elementary School in Birmingham had to be evacuated Friday after a propane tank exploded. No one was hurt, but down in Mobile County, a teacher was taken to the hospital after an incident with a student. Nice, tame topics like charter-school propaganda, same-sex prom dates, and Louis Farrakhan round out this week's interview, which ends on a positive note.

Wilkerson Middle Defies the Odds

It's easy to focus on what's wrong with education. And it's no secret that Birmingham Schools, like other urban districts around the nation, face serious problems. But there are schools here that are achieving success regardless. From the Southern Education Desk at WBHM, Dan Carsen has much more.

Dan Carsen Speaks with Education Icon Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch has been a key figure in American education for decades. The prolific author and outspoken advocate was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to the Secretary of Education under the first President Bush. She was a pioneer in the accountability movement, but has since made friends and enemies by changing some of her views. She spoke with Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen, who asked her about issues hot in Alabama right now, including charter schools, charter advocate Michelle Rhee, and much more.

A Constitutional Law Scholar on Ala. Religion in Schools Bill

A bill in the Alabama House would allow public school students to get elective credit for religious instruction. Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen recently interviewed Blaine Galliher, the bill’s sponsor and a proponent of such “release time” programs. The programs would have to be approved by local school boards and would not cost the schools any money. And, Galliher said, students would not be coerced in any way. But a day later, Dan discussed the bill with legal scholar and religious liberty advocate Douglas Laycock...

Interview with Blaine Galliher on Religion in Public Schools

The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” But does that mean public schools can give credit to students for creationism classes? What if they’re off campus and privately funded? A bill in the state Legislature would authorize school boards to set up such “release time” programs. Dan Carsen speaks with its sponsor, House Rules Committee Chairman Blaine Galliher.

Interview with Education Reformer Michelle Rhee

Michelle Rhee is an education reformer known for making controversial moves. After closing schools in Washington D.C., she was featured on the cover of Time magazine holding a broom. Her group StudentsFirst is in Alabama pushing for charter schools and new ways to evaluate teachers, among other things. She spoke with Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen, who asked her about what her group's goals mean for people around here.

State Lawmakers Consider Education Reforms

When lawmakers return to Montgomery today for the beginning of the 2012 legislative session, they'll have a lot of meaty issues to deal with, from tweaks to the state's immigration law to a potential $400 million budget shortfall. They'll also tackle several education reform initiatives. The Southern Education Desk's Dan Carsen fills us in.

Charter Schools: None in Alabama, but May Change Soon

In a national ranking on charter schools, Alabama did not even come in last. That's because the state is one of only nine that doesn't have charter schools, but that could change, and soon. Dan Carsen has more for the Southern Education Desk at WBHM:

Bards of Birmingham

When schools cut their budgets, arts and theater programs are often the first to go. But in Birmingham, a youth acting group is still teaching lessons to any kid with the chops to get on stage. It's also pushing boundaries in a way that might make some theater traditionalists and parents uncomfortable. From the Southern Education Desk at WBHM, Dan Carsen reports.

Officers Pepper-Spraying Birmingham Students

Depending on the details, recent images of police pepper-spraying protesters have triggered varying levels of outrage. But here in Birmingham, police are regularly pepper-spraying students while they're in school. Dan Carsen has more from the Southern Education Desk at W-B-H-M.

Despite Successful Fundraising, Imagination Library Still On Hold

Though the United Way of Central Alabama surpassed its 2011 fundraising goal, a popular early literacy program is still on hold in Jefferson County. Dan Carsen has more from the Southern Education Desk in this web-exclusive report.

Imagination Library Cut in JeffCo

A literacy program that brought free books to young Jefferson County children has been suspended due to lack of funds. Dan Carsen has more in this web-exclusive report from the Southern Education Desk.

The Private Eye Program

What's common to all academic subjects? Well..thinking. "Critical thinking" is a buzzword for a reason, regardless of whether educators think today's students do it well enough: it's basic to what students are meant to do in school. But can you actually teach thinking? From the Southern Education Desk at WBHM, Dan Carsen reports on an innovative program trying to do just that.

Plaintiffs to Appeal Lynch vs. Alabama Ruling

The plaintiffs in the landmark Lynch vs. Alabama property tax case are appealing a federal judge's recent ruling that seemed sympathetic but ultimately went against them. Dan Carsen has more in this web-exclusive report.

Dan Carsen Interviewed Re Immigration Law on “The Takeaway”

Education reporter Dan Carsen is interviewed by PRI's "The Takeaway"about the latest immigration-law dust-up between the U.S. Department of Justice and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.

Strange Rebuffs DOJ Again

In the latest chapter of a blunt back-and-forth over Alabama's immigration law, state Attorney General Luther Strange on Friday again rebuffed the U.S. Department of Justice over access to student information. Dan Carsen has more in this web-exclusive report.

IMMIGRATION LAW: State AG Balks at DOJ Request

The U.S. Department of Justice, concerned about the new immigration law, has requested enrollment data from district superintendents across Alabama. But it's unclear when or whether that information will be provided, as state Attorney General Luther Strange balked at the request. Dan Carsen has more in this web-exclusive report from the Southern Education Desk at WBHM.

Lynch v. Alabama Ruling

A federal judge recently ruled on a case that has implications for how schools are funded and taxes are assessed across Alabama. Dan Carsen has more on Lynch v. Alabama in this web-exclusive report.

Religious Exemptions to School Vaccine Requirements on Rise

Today's students and most of their parents are too young to remember a time when epidemics crippled and killed millions. And there's a reason we've forgotten: vaccines. Even so, a small but growing number of Alabama students are getting religious exemptions to school immunization requirements. The reasons are sometimes religious, sometimes philosophical, and sometimes health-based. Dan Carsen has more from the Southern Education Desk at WBHM.

Immigration Law and Schools: Trying to Calm Fears

Across Alabama, people have been marching to spotlight children affected by the state's strict new immigration law. The measure requires schools to record the immigration status of newly enrolled students. After more than 2,000 Hispanic students were absent from Alabama schools early last week, activists and educators are reaching out to families worried about what the law will mean for them. Dan Carsen has more from the Southern Education Desk at WBHM.

Immigration Law and Schools

Students, parents, and school officials are reacting to Alabama's new immigration law, the toughest in the nation. The law went into effect last week after a federal judge upheld many of its most controversial provisions, including a requirement that schools check the immigration status of newly enrolled students. And that extra layer of administrative responsibility may pale in comparison with the fear it's engendered. Dan Carsen has more from the Southern Education Desk at WBHM:

Part 3: Walking School Bus

What has bright colors, traffic signs, dozens of feet, and provides exercise, companionship, and a safe way to school? It's a new community-oriented health and safety strategy called a "walking school bus." In the last of a three-part series on school transportation, Dan Carsen has more from the Southern Education Desk at WBHM:


Safe transportation to and from school is a challenge across the country. Roughly 800 children die making that trip each year, and the dangers vary by location. The rural south has its own challenges, some preventable, some not. In Part Two of a three-part series on school transportation, Dan Carsen has more from the Southern Education Desk at WBHM:

School Transpo Safety Pt 1 – Urban Trains

It's no secret that kids trying to succeed in school face hurdles, some more than others. But for students in many of Birmingham's urban neighborhoods, serious safety challenges involving massive moving machines start before they even get to school. In Part One of a three-part series on school transportation, Dan Carsen has more from the Southern Education Desk at WBHM:


At Alabama public high schools that first implemented the A+ College Ready Program in 2010-2011, A.P. exam pass rates increased by 111 percent. The pass rate for minority students increased even more. But how did that happen? Click here to read Dan Carsen's web-exclusive report:


All Alabama public high, junior high, and middle schools now have defibrillators. So, in a state with tightening education budgets, how did this come about? Click here for education reporter Dan Carsen's web-exclusvie story: