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 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 Rock 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.

For the first time in 25 years, America's fourth- and eighth-graders are doing worse in math, at least according to The National Assessment of Educational Progress.

NAEP, also known as the Nation's Report Card, tests students in both grades every two years on math and reading ability. This year, math scores reversed a long, upward trend with both grades testing lower than they did in 2013.

Leaders in business, education and politics love to talk up how important Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education is for America's future.

Innovations! Jobs! Progress! are all at stake, they often argue.

Just last week, President Obama hosted scores of mostly young people for an evening of stargazing and fun space talk at the second-ever White House Astronomy Night.

Our Ideas series is exploring innovation in education.

It's 20-year-old Randall Lofton's third shot at college. He's already wiped out twice. Too much partying and basketball, he says, and not enough studying. "I didn't apply myself."

Lofton is now trying to balance a full-time job with three classes at community college. He's taking a mix of online and in-class work at Valencia College in Orlando, Fla.

Our Ideas series is exploring innovation in education.

Some version of this criticism has likely echoed since the rise of compulsory schooling during the Progressive era: Teachers tend to teach to the middle, leaving struggling students feeling lost and more advanced students bored.

Everyone too often gets the same books, material, homework. The same level of difficulty.

Parents who are uneasy about their own math skills often worry about how best to teach the subject to their kids.

Well ... there's an app for that. Tons of them, in fact. And a study published today in the journal Science suggests that at least one of them works pretty well for elementary school children and math-anxious parents.

It has been decades since an education secretary had as high a national political profile as the long-serving Arne Duncan, who famously accompanied President Obama from Chicago and even more famously likes to shoot hoops with the president.

Supporters note that Duncan has advocated passionately for narrowing the opportunity and achievement gaps in America's public schools, ending the "school to prison pipeline" and boosting pay for teachers who serve in high-poverty schools.

TO: America's colleges and universities

FR: America's high school students

RE: Please make the college admissions process less daunting and more collaborative, creative, engaging and in tune with the Digital Age. Oh, and while you're at it, try to level the admissions playing field between rich and poor.

America, by far, has the highest incarceration rate among developed nations. The rate of imprisonment in the U.S. has more than quadrupled in the last 40 years, fueled by "three strikes" and mandatory-minimum sentencing laws.

Ah, back-to-school season in America: That means it's time for the annoyingly aggressive marketing of clothes, and for the annual warnings of a national teacher shortage.

But this year the cyclical problem is more real and less of a media creation. There are serious shortages of teachers in California, Oklahoma, Kentucky and places in between.

Silicon Valley is great at disrupting business norms — except when it comes to its own racial and gender diversity problem. In an open letter last week, the Rev.

Will Grover's promotion to HBO be good for kids?

Elmo, Snuffy, Grover and Big Bird could soon hit the HBO after-parties alongside Tyrion Lannister and the ethically challenged cops from True Detective.

Promising a win-win for kids and quality children's programming, HBO, the nonprofit Sesame Workshop and PBS have announced that new Sesame Street episodes will move to HBO and its streaming service HBO GO this fall.

Braden Swenson wanders into a semi-rickety wooden shed on his search for gold, treasure and riches.

"Is there any treasure in here?" he asks in the endearing dialect of a 4-year-old. "I've been looking everywhere for them. I can't find any." The proto-pirate toddler conducts a quick search, then wanders away to continue his quest elsewhere.

Not far away, Ethan Lipsie, age 9, clutches a framing hammer and a nine-penny nail. He's ready to hang his freshly painted sign on a wooden "fort" he's been hammering away on. It says, "Ethan, Hudson and William were here."

The Obama administration Friday is taking a small step toward expanding adult prisoners' access to federal Pell grants. The money would help pay for college-level classes behind bars.

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.

Part of our series of conversations with leading teachers, writers and activists on education issues.

If you had to pick the most promising — and possibly most overhyped — education trends of the last few years, right up there with the online college courses known as MOOCs would almost certainly rank this one: Game-based learning shall deliver us to the Promised Land!

Part of our series of conversations with leading teachers, thinkers and activists on education issues

Jordan Shapiro's recent post in Forbes in which he laid out four misconceptions about the future of education, caught my attention because, like much of his work, he tries to take a cattle prod to the conventional education narrative.

Beyond Sin City's casino strip, what happens in Vegas also includes an education system in crisis. Its schools are severely overcrowded, as we reported Wednesday on Morning Edition. And Nevada and Vegas' schools are ranked at or near the bottom nationally.

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

Principal Nicholas Dean looks at his scarred, broken office door with resignation.

"Time to get a new lock," he says.

Over the weekend, a person or persons smashed into his office, found the keys to the school van and drove off in it.

It's another day at Crescent Leadership Academy, one of New Orleans' three second-chance schools for students who have not been successful elsewhere.

News flash: Members of the U.S. Senate will work across party lines Tuesday for the sake of America's students.

Well, at least for a few more days.

This segment originally aired on April 27, 2014.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

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

ARUN RATH, HOST:

That's astronaut Scott Kelly.

The NPR Ed team is back from Austin, where we connected with hundreds of educators and people excited about education at the annual South By Southwest Edu Conference. As with many conferences, there's just as much to be gained from conversations in the hallways and chance encounters as from the official sessions. Here's what we learned from both.

1) For many teachers, the most important tech tools are free.

This is the canary in the coal mine.

Several big states have seen alarming drops in enrollment at teacher training programs. The numbers are grim among some of the nation's largest producers of new teachers: In California, enrollment is down 53 percent over the past five years. It's down sharply in New York and Texas as well.

In North Carolina, enrollment is down nearly 20 percent in three years.

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