Eric Westervelt

Eric Westervelt has covered wars and big stories across the world and America for NPR News. He's served as a correspondent in Baghdad, Jerusalem, and Berlin; covered the Pentagon, the war in Afghanistan, North Africa's revolutions, the fall of Egypt's Mubarak, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the troubled occupation of Iraq; and reported on conflicts in Israel, Lebanon, Libya, the Gaza Strip, and more.

Eric's also reported big breaking news stories domestically from mass shootings to wildfires, helped launch NPR's innovative, award-winning education platform NPR Ed, and serves as an occasional guest host for NPR shows.

He recently switched beats again to help build a collaborative team that covers America's criminal justice system including state and local courts, prisons, juvenile justice and policing.

After nearly a decade with NPR's International Desk, Westervelt returned to the U.S. and was awarded a prestigious John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University.

The breadth and depth of Westervelt's work has been honored with broadcast journalism's highest honors including the 2002 George Foster Peabody Award for coverage of the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath; the 2003 Alfred I. duPont - Columbia University award also for 2001 terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan; 2004 and a 2007 duPont-Columbia Awards for NPR's in-depth coverage of the war in Iraq and its effect on Iraqi society. Eric's 2009 multi-media series with NPR photojournalist David Gilkey won an Overseas Press Club award. He shared an Edward R. Murrow RTNDA award with NPR Ed for his education coverage.

As a foreign correspondent for NPR based in the Middle East, Westervelt covered numerous conflicts and their repercussions across the Middle East. He spent several years living in the reporting on the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As Jerusalem Bureau Chief he covered 2006 Second Lebanon war between the Israeli military and Hezbollah, turmoil and combat in the Gaza Strip and the political and social issues across Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Westervelt was one of the first reporters into Baghdad during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 embedded with the lead elements of the U.S. Third Infantry Division which fought their way into capital. He later helped cover the troubled occupation, the Iraqi insurgency, sectarian violence and the on-going struggle to recover in the post-Saddam era.

Westervelt was one of the few western reporters on the ground in Gaza during the Fatah-Hamas civil war and he reported on multiple Israeli offensives in the coastal territory. Additionally, he has reported from the Horn of Africa, Yemen and several Persian Gulf countries.

While based in Europe from 2009 to 2012, Westervelt was Berlin Bureau Chief covering a broad range of news across Europe from the euro debt crisis to political challenges and the rise of the far right Eastern Europe. In 2011 and 2012, his work included coverage of the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt to the civil war and NATO intervention in Libya.

Prior to his Middle East assignments, Westervelt covered military affairs and the Pentagon out of Washington, D.C. reporting on a wide range of defense, national security as well as foreign policy issues.

Before joining NPR's Foreign Desk nearly a decade ago, Westervelt covered some of the biggest domestic stories as a reporter on NPR's National Desk. His assignments spanned from the explosion of TWA flight 800 to the 9-11 attacks. He also covered the mass shooting at Columbine High School, the presidential vote recount following the 2000 Presidential Election, among other major stories. He also covered national trends in law enforcement and crime fighting, including police tactics, racial tensions, use of force, the drug war, racial profiling and the legal and political battles over firearms in America.

On the lighter side, Westervelt occasionally does features for NPR's Arts Desk, including profiles of blues great Freddie King and roots rock pioneer Roy Orbison as part of NPR's 50 Great Voices series. His feature on the making of John Coltrane's classic "A Love Supreme," was part of the NPR series on the most influential American musical works of the 20th century, which was recognized with a Peabody Award.

Before joining NPR, Westervelt worked as a freelance reporter in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, as a news director and reporter in New Hampshire for NHPR and reported for Monitor Radio, the broadcast edition of the Christian Science Monitor.

Westervelt is a graduate of the Putney School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Reed College and was a 2013 J.S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It's time now for a Platform Check - when we examine what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump say they would do if they become president.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDINGS)

HILLARY CLINTON: Raise the national minimum wage so people...

"Never forget" became a national rallying cry after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Yet America's schools — where collective memory is shaped — are now full of students who never knew. Because they weren't alive 15 years ago. As such, many teachers struggle with whether and how to teach the attacks and their aftermath.

According to one survey, only about 20 states include anything in depth about the events of that fateful day in their high school social studies curriculum.

And when they are taught, critics say, it's often through a narrow lens.

Most everyone knows someone adversely affected by student debt: More than 40 million Americans are shouldering a crippling $1.3 trillion in loans.

That burden is obstructing careers, families, dreams, employment and even retirement.

Uncle Sam and Wall Street have made lots of money off the crisis.

After some 10,000 online tutorials in 10 years, Sal Khan still starts most days at his office desk in Silicon Valley, recording himself solving math problems for his Khan Academy YouTube channel.

"OK, let F of X equal A times X to the N plus," he says cheerfully as he begins his latest.

Khan Academy has helped millions of people around the world — perhaps hundreds of millions — learn math, science and other subjects for free.

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The Fillmore District of San Francisco was once known as the "Harlem of the West" for its rich African-American culture and jazz roots. This week, the neighborhood's beloved Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church may be forced to find a new home.

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It's controlled after-school anarchy at the Christian-Carter household. Seven-year-old Chloe has rolled herself up in an exercise mat in the living room of the family's Oakland, Calif., home.

"Look I'm a burrito," Chloe shouts.

Her 4-year-old sister, Jackie, swoops in for a bite — and a hard push.

"Ow!" Chloe shouts. "Mom! Jackie pushed me!"

First rule of Brinton Elementary School run club: Keep those legs moving. Second rule of run club: Have fun.

For 13-year-old Kaprice Faraci and her sister, Kassidy, inspiration to keep moving struck one after school afternoon in the third grade. Video games and TV bored the twins. They were outside when they spotted a small pack of children chugging down their street.

The SAT is undergoing major changes for 2016.

And, as of today, students — for free — can tap into new online study prep tools from Khan Academy, the online education nonprofit.

Las Vegas is back, baby. After getting slammed by the Great Recession, the city today is seeing rising home sales, solid job growth and a record number of visitors in 2014.stru

This segment originally aired on April 27, 2014.

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SCOTT KELLY: I listened to that in space when I was exercising - ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

ARUN RATH, HOST:

That's astronaut Scott Kelly.

Amid all the holiday celebrations, you may have missed this story from overseas.

An Egyptian court announced a retrial for three journalists from Al Jazeera who have been languishing in jail for more than a year for the crime of reporting the news. The scheduled retrial is a small step in the right direction for a nation that has seen its historic revolution of just four years ago almost totally reversed.

One by one, in a room just off the gym floor at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland, Calif., seventh-graders go on the interview hot seat.

Some 80 students have applied to be "peer leaders" in the school's new, alternative discipline program called "restorative justice."

Kyle McClerkins, the program's director, grills them on aspects of adolescent life: "What is the biggest challenge for middle school girls? What has changed about you from sixth grade to now?"

This summer, All Things Considered has been taking a look at the changing lives of men in America. And that means talking about how the country educates boys.

In Berkeley, Calif., a private, non-profit middle school called the East Bay School for Boys is trying to reimagine what it means to build confident young men. In some ways, the school's different approach starts with directing, not stifling, boys' frenetic energy.

In the weeks since a California judge overturned the state's rules governing teacher tenure, the political noise has only grown louder. Advocates on both sides of the issues have largely stuck to "give-no-ground," press-release rhetoric that risks drowning out educators in the middle.

I've spoken with educators around the state since the ruling, including many who say they want protections but also real change.

(This is Part 2 of a two-part report. Read the full piece here.)

On the surface, the PS 177 Technology Band looks like a typical high school orchestra. But there are two big differences. First, while they use traditional instruments, they also play iPads. And all of the band members have disabilities. Some have autism spectrum disorders.

"I'm Tobi Lakes. I'm 15 years old. I'm in ninth grade. I'm four grades away from college."

There's a steady stream of hype surrounding the pluses and pitfalls of classroom tablet computers. But for a growing number of special education students tablets and their apps are proving transformative. The tablets aren't merely novel and fun. With guidance from creative teachers, they are helping to deepen engagement, communication, and creativity.

Graduation Season? More like Disinvitation Season.

As students across the country prepare for pomp and circumstance, college and university administrators are grappling with a series of commencement speech boondoggles.

This year alone, nearly a dozen big-name commencement speakers — including the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — have been invited to speak at graduation ceremonies, only to withdraw or have their invitations rescinded in the wake of campus protests.

Policy makers and thinkers have long debated how best to help low-income families break the cycle of generational poverty. A lot of people think one key is high-quality early childhood education. Others say equally important is support parents with job training and education, to get them into stable, decent paying jobs.

In Tulsa, Okla., an experimental program is trying to do both. Career Advance gives vulnerable mothers access to high-quality preschool as well as to life coaching, financial incentives and intensive job training in in-demand fields like nursing and health care.

At preschools in Tulsa, Okla., teachers are well-educated and well-paid, and classrooms are focused on play, but are still challenging. One nonprofit in Tulsa, the Community Action Project, has flipped the script on preschool. The idea behind its Career Advance program is simple: To help kids, the group believes, you often have to help their parents.

President Obama has called repeatedly on Congress to help states pay for "high-quality preschool" for all. In fact, those two words — "high quality" — appear time and again in the president's prepared remarks. They are also a refrain among early childhood education advocates and researchers. But what do they mean? And what separates the best of the nation's preschool programs from the rest?

In the past 20 years, the average burden for a four-year college graduate in the U.S. has gone from about $9,000 to nearly $30,000 today. The percentage of students carrying debt has shot up from less than half to nearly 70 percent these days.

At a large public high school in Freemont, Calif., southeast of San Francisco, Alyssa Tucker and Thao Le sit on a metal table. Both come from families with modest incomes.

Supporters of the new Common Core education standards adopted by 45 states say the standards hold American students to much higher expectations, and move curriculum away from a bubble-test culture that encourages test preparation over deeper learning.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One year ago, many were pointing to the growth of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, as the most important trend in higher education. Many saw the rapid expansion of MOOCs as a higher education revolution that would help address two long-vexing problems: access for underserved students and cost.

In theory, students saddled by rising debt and unable to tap into the best schools would be able to take free classes from rock star professors at elite schools via Udacity, edX, Coursera and other MOOC platforms.

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