In 2014, after a brief orientation course and a few fingerprinting sessions, Nicholson Baker became an on-call substitute teacher in a Maine public school district. He awoke to the dispatcher’s five-forty a.m. phone call and headed to one of several nearby schools; when he got there, he did his best to follow lesson plans and help his students get something done.

Substitute teachers hold a unique position in the education community—both insiders and outsiders. Baker, one of our country’s preeminent literary writers, observes students at their most hilarious and their most heartbreaking, and he gives readers a front-row seat to hot-button issues such as standardized curriculum, technology in the classroom, and medicating kids.

Nicholson Baker is the author of ten novels and five works of nonfiction, including The Anthologist, The Mezzanine, and Human Smoke. His new book is: Substitute: Going to School With a Thousand Kids.

The University of Vermont College of Medicine has a new name after receiving the largest donation in the institution’s history.

  Lisa Scottoline is a New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author of twenty-seven novels. She has 30 million copies of her books in print in the United States, she has been published in thirty-five countries, and her thrillers have been optioned for television and film.

In her latest, Damaged, ten-year-old Patrick O'Brien is a natural target at school. Shy, dyslexic, and small for his age, he tries to hide his first-grade reading level from everyone: from his classmates, from the grandfather who cares for him, and from the teachers who are supposed to help him. But the real trouble begins when Patrick is accused of attacking a school aide. The aide promptly quits and sues the boy, his family, and the school district. Patrick's grandfather turns to the law firm of Rosato & DiNunzio for help and Mary DiNunzio is on the case. Soon Mary becomes Patrick's true champion and his only hope for security and justice.

Powerhouse Theater
Vassar College/ Tamar M. Thibodeau

  This month, Vassar College and New York Stage and Film’s summer Powerhouse season in Poughkeepsie, NY will present two fully staged productions, three Musical Theater workshops, two Inside Look workshops, and a number of readings. In addition to all of that, their training program is in full swing.

Ed Cheetham is the Producing Director of Powerhouse Theater at Vassar.

Our Falling into Place series spotlights the important work of -and fosters collaboration between- not-for-profit organizations in our communities; allowing us all to fall into place.

The goal of the all-volunteer Reading Is Fun Program (RIF) in Schenectady, NY is to keep helping Schenectady's needy 4-9 year olds in pre-K, Kindergarten, and Grades 1-3, to learn reading-readiness and conversational skills and vocabulary.  

We are joined by Founder and Executive Director Alvin Magid and Chief Operating Officer Mary Lou Russo.

  After thirty-five years as a book editor in New York City, Ann Patty stopped working and moved to the country. Bored, aimless, and lost in the woods, she hoped to challenge her restless, word-loving brain by beginning a serious study of Latin at local colleges.

As she begins to make sense of Latin grammar and syntax, her studies open unexpected windows into her own life.

Her book is Living with a Dead Language: My Romance with Latin.

U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer says financially distressed colleges facing potential closure should be required to tell students the school may shut down.

Around 98 percent of New York school budgets were approved in statewide voting Tuesday.  Tim Kremer, Executive Director of the New York State School Boards Association, joins WAMC's Ray Graf for a discussion about the results. 

On May 21 at the Palace Theatre in Albany, New York, The Empire State Youth Orchestra will come together to celebrate Music Without Borders as ESYO’s CHIME kids take to the stage for their first-ever public concert alongside our Empire State Wind Orchestra, and signature Empire State Youth Orchestra.

  Our Falling into Place series spotlights the important work of -and foster collaboration between- not-for-profit organizations in our communities; allowing us all to fall into place.

Falling Into Place is supported by The Seymour Fox Memorial Foundation, Providing a helping hand to turn inspiration into accomplishment. See more possibilities … see more promise… see more progress.

This week we will feature the work of: a pilot program in North Central Troy that seeks to provide at-risk children and their parents with a support system to help in their home life and help with the transition to middle school. The FOCAS (Family Opportunity Collaborative At Sunnyside) program uses a multi-faceted approach to address the family’s academic and non-academic barriers to success, among which are food security, a peer support system and financial literacy.

Sister Betsy Van Deusen has been director of community partnerships for diocesan Catholic Charities since 2013. This year marks her 25th in religious life.

A Growing Movement: Restorative Justice In K-12 Schools

May 12, 2016
Paulina Phelps / WAMC

Schools all over the country are considering an alternative form of disciplining students called Restorative Justice, including in New York's Capital Region.

  The Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City is celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary this year. The largest non-for-profit theatre company in America, Roundabout has grown from a small 150-seat theatre in a converted supermarket basement to operating five stages on and off Broadway.

Education at Roundabout is a branch of the organization that connects with students and teachers through customized school partnerships, residency programs, mentorships and workshops, internships, apprenticeships, backstage tours, talkbacks and pre-show workshops. For each Roundabout production, Education also creates Upstage guides, which include interviews, contextual information, teacher resources and activities, and presents a post-show Lecture Series -- reaching 22,000 students and teachers each year.

Jennifer DiBella is the Director of Education at Roundabout.

Education at Roundabout’s 6th Annual Student Theatre Arts Festival will take place on May 16th.

  The fourth annual Art and Soul reception will take place tomorrow at the Vassar College Alumnae House will feature beautiful, vibrant Haitian art, live entertainment from Vassar student musicians, and fabulous cuisine from Twisted Soul. The program runs from 5:30pm to 8:00pm, and is open to the public.

The Art and Soul reception funds the staffing, supply, and operation of a medical center in northwest Haiti that serves thousands of local residents. For many residents, this is the first accessible medical care in their lifetime.

The Vassar Haiti Project, founded in 2001, promotes Haitian art, fosters sustainable development in Haiti, and provides students and volunteers a life changing experiential education in global citizenship. VHP’s contributions are guided by five initiatives: education, medical access, reforestation, clean water access, and women’s health.

This morning we welcome the co-founders of the project: Andrew and Lila Meade, board member Caryn Halle, and Dr. Joassainvil Gueslin.

  Our Falling into Place series spotlights the important work of -and fosters collaboration between- not-for-profit organizations in our communities; allowing us all to fall into place.

Falling Into Place is supported by The Seymour Fox Memorial Foundation, Providing a helping hand to turn inspiration into accomplishment. See more possibilities … see more promise… see more progress.

This week we will feature the work of: The Excelsior College Online Writing Lab. To learn more we welcome - Dr. Crystal Sands - Founding Director of the Online Writing Lab and Dr. Frank Crocco, Associate Director of the Online Writing Lab.

Matthew Trump

Connecticut lawmakers worked into the weekend to pass several pieces of legislation before the end of the formal session. 

In our Ideas Matter segment we take time just about every week to check in with the state humanities councils in our 7-state region.

Today, we will learn about the Clemente Course in the Humanities, which is a program that offers free, college-level seminars in literature, US history, moral philosophy, art history, and writing to adults living in poverty.  The Clemente Course has been offered in ten states - including Massachusetts and New York, as well as in Canada, and Mexico.

We are joined today by Ousmane Power-Greene, Associate Professor of History at Clark University and Instructor of US History at the Clemente Course in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Worcester, Massachusetts, and David Tebaldi, Executive Director of Mass Humanities. 

  In his new book Creative Schools, Sir Ken Robinson offers a roadmap to parents, educators and administrators on how to transform the way our schools work, highlighting schools around the world that have already begun this process and giving practical examples of what works.

One of the schools Robinson profiles is Smokie Road Middle School in Newnan, Georgia, which had the odds stacked against it with consistently low academic achievement ratings and a high poverty level. When a new principal arrived and focused on the everyday needs of each individual student and strove to meet those needs by prioritizing what the student found to be important - she had dramatic results and saw improvement on every level.

Third through eighth grade students finished Common Core English language arts exams this week. And with another year of testing comes another year of opt-outs.

The University of Connecticut is planning to close its satellite campus in Torrington in May as it deals with state budget cuts.

Lucas Willard / WAMC

With a deadline approaching for lawmakers to agree on a final New York State budget, legislators are making the rounds in their districts this week to advocate for their priorities. In Saratoga Springs, Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner spent a day visiting with students and teachers.

For the state budget cycle that began in January and for the expiring terms of several members of the Board of Regents, we’re coming down the homestretch and the winds of change are blowing.

Fred Kowal: RETA

Mar 15, 2016

A teacher shortage isn’t looming in New York.

It’s here. 


  Over 2 million of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants have lived in the U.S. since childhood. Due to our current immigration system they grow up to uncertain futures.

In the new book, Lives in Limbo, Roberto Gonzales introduces us to two groups: the college goers like Ricardo who had good grades and a strong network of community support that propelled him to college and dream act organizing, but still landed in a factory job a few short years after graduation. The other group, the early exiters like Gabriel, who failed to make meaningful connection in high school and started navigating dead end jobs, immigration check points and a world narrowly circumscribed with legal limitations.

Roberto Gonzales is assistant professor at Harvard University Graduate School of Education, his research focuses on the ways in which legal and educational institutions shape the everyday  experiences of poor, minority and immigrant youth along the life course.

   Little children come into the world hardwired to learn in virtually any setting and about any matter. Yet in today’s preschool and kindergarten classrooms, learning has been reduced to scripted lessons and suspect metrics that too often undervalue a child’s intelligence while overtaxing the child’s growing brain. 

  In The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups, Christakis explains what it’s like to be a young child in America today, in a world designed by and for adults, where we have confused schooling with learning. She offers real-life solutions to real-life issues, with nuance and direction that takes us far beyond the usual prescriptions for fewer tests, more play.

MaryEllen Elia: Improving State Assessments

Feb 20, 2016

This summer, I returned to New York to take the job of State Education Commissioner. I was born, raised, and began my career here as a social studies teacher before moving to Florida in 1986. While in Florida, I continued teaching before moving onto administrative roles. I eventually became a school district superintendent.

New York is helping its private colleges with campus repairs, upgrades and construction projects.


A group of New York state senators is pushing for a big investment in after-school programs and all-day kindergarten to create what they're calling a "50-hour learning week" for students.

Lucas Willard / WAMC

State education commissioner MaryEllen Elia made an appearance Thursday at the Early College Career Academy on the campus of SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury, in southern Warren County.

WAMC/Allison Dunne

The East Ramapo Central School District is the only one in the Mid-Hudson classified by the state comptroller’s office as being in “significant fiscal stress” and the state senator representing the area said something must be done about it.

Photo of Vermont Statehouse in winter
Pat Bradley/WAMC

In a post-midnight vote Saturday, the Vermont House passed a bill to ease spending caps on local school districts.