Anya Kamenetz

Orange County, Fla., has 8,000 missing students. The Miami-Dade County public schools have 16,000 fewer than last year. Los Angeles Unified — the nation's second-largest school system — is down nearly 11,000. Charlotte-Mecklenburg in North Carolina has 5,000 missing. Utah, Virginia and Washington are reporting declines statewide.

I catch Patricia Stamper with a Zoom meeting going in the background and a child at her knee asking for attention. Stamper works as a teacher's assistant for special education students in the Washington, D.C., public schools.

These days, her virtual classroom is at home — and so is her toddler, who has a genetic disorder called Noonan syndrome, and her kindergartner, who receives speech therapy. Her husband works outside the home at a golf course.

As the school year starts in many districts across the country, a new national poll of teachers from NPR/Ipsos finds overwhelming trepidation about returning to the physical classroom.

The American Academy of Pediatrics once again plunged into the growing debate over school reopening with a strong new statement Friday, making clear that while in-person school provides crucial benefits to children, "Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics." The statement also said that "science and community circumstances must guide decision-making."

The nation's pediatricians have come out with a strong statement in favor of bringing children back to the classroom this fall wherever and whenever they can do so safely. The American Academy of Pediatrics' guidance "strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school."

At least two-thirds of American high school students attend a school with a police officer, according to the Urban Institute, and that proportion is higher for students of color. Now, the national uprising for racial justice has led to a push to remove police officers from security positions inside schools.

The spread of coronavirus has compelled hundreds of K-12 schools in the U.S. to close, affecting more than 850,000 students, according to an analysis by Education Week. And those numbers are certain to increase in the coming days, as concerned parents call for more school closures.

Ryan Pascal, a 17-year-old student at Palos Verdes High School near Los Angeles, says when her school holds active shooter drills, it's "chaos." The first time it happened, not long after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018, rumors started flying over Snapchat and text that the school was really under attack.

"We had some students trying to stack up desks to blockade the door. We had some students sort of joking around because they weren't sure how to handle this. There are other students who are very, very afraid."

School shootings like the recent one in Santa Clarita, Calif., have focused the nation's attention on school safety. And schools across the U.S. are wrestling with how to prevent themselves from becoming the site of the next tragedy.

More than 80% of parents in the U.S. support the teaching of climate change. And that support crosses political divides, according to the results of an exclusive new NPR/Ipsos poll: Whether they have children or not, two-thirds of Republicans and 9 in 10 Democrats agree that the subject needs to be taught in school.

A separate poll of teachers found that they are even more supportive, in theory — 86% agree that climate change should be taught.

For the second time in as many years, the nation is in the midst of a frenzy over who gets to sleep in the extra-long twin beds at a tiny fraction of highly selective colleges and universities. Last year, it was a lawsuit over Harvard University's admissions process, particularly its treatment of Asian-Americans.

In 2018, teachers and students used social media to let the world in. Viral posts shared moments of joy, laughter and even anger. Educators responded to the news — and sometimes they made news.

We've been gathering up the most notable of those school-related viral moments of the year — our roundup is below.

The School Shootings That Weren't

Aug 28, 2018
LA Johnson / NPR

How many times per year does a gun go off in an American school?

We should know. But we don't.

This spring the U.S. Education Department reported that in the 2015-2016 school year, "nearly 240 schools ... reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting." The number is far higher than most other estimates.

How many times per year does a gun go off in an American school?

We should know. But we don't.

This spring the U.S. Education Department reported that in the 2015-2016 school year, "nearly 240 schools ... reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting." The number is far higher than most other estimates.

Nearly three-fourths of U.S. teachers do not want to carry guns in school, and they overwhelmingly favor gun control measures over security steps meant to "harden" schools, according to a new Gallup poll.

"Why have you become, people say, the most hated Cabinet secretary?" Lesley Stahl asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a 60 Minutes interview that is drawing lots of attention.

"I'm not so sure how exactly that happened," DeVos responded in the interview, which aired Sunday night on CBS.

It's not your imagination: Tiny tots are spending dramatically more time with tiny screens.

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, just released new numbers on media use by children 8 and under. The nationally representative parent survey found that 98 percent of homes with children now have a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone.

The Department of Education will change its approach to campus sexual misconduct and begin a public notice and comment process to issue new regulations, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced today. In a speech at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School, DeVos decried "a system run amok," "kangaroo courts" and repeatedly emphasized the plight of the accused. "One rape is one too many ... one person denied due process is one too many," she said. Outside, protesters yelled, "Stop protecting rapists!"

A bit of background.

"I am overloaded and struggling. It's terrifying."

"I feel like I'll be making the last payment from my grave."

"It is an albatross around my neck. Years of paying and I feel like I'm getting nowhere."

"Help!"

Those were some of the comments we received from more than 2,000 respondents to NPR Ed's first Teacher Student Debt survey.

School districts must give students with disabilities the chance to make meaningful, "appropriately ambitious" progress, the Supreme Court said Wednesday in an 8-0 ruling.

The decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District could have far-reaching implications for the 6.5 million students with disabilities in the United States.

Today the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as President Trump's education secretary, 51-50.