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Need to Know

Episode #140

Brockton High proves that big schools can be top schools - In 1998, when Massachusetts implemented new standardized testing, administrators at Brockton High School, the largest public school in the state, learned that more than 75 percent of their 4,000 students would fail to graduate. But thanks to a small group of dedicated teachers who implemented a school-wide program to bring reading and writing lessons into every classroom, even gym, Brockton is now one of the highest performing schools in the state. Brockton's principal, Susan Szachowicz, says, "I think the concept of turnaround is one of the most deceptive words that you can use. Because it implies people from the outside leaping into the school to turn everything around? We did not fire all the teachers. We did work with a team that we had. And we had some pretty dramatic results."

Physical education spurs higher test scores in Naperville, Illinois -While physical education has been drastically cut back across the country -- in response to budget concerns and test score pressures --Naperville Central High School, in the Chicago suburbs, has embraced a culture of fitness: PE is a daily, graded requirement. And for one group of struggling students, there's an innovative program to schedule PE right before their most challenging classes. In the six years since that program started, students who signed up for PE directly before English read on average a half year ahead of those who didn't, and students who took PE before math showed dramatic improvement in their standardized tests.

Reinventing science education at one Maryland university - Most people agree that for the U.S. to remain competitive in the global economy, we need more people in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). But today, two-thirds of college students who start out majoring in the sciences end up switching concentrations. One university in Maryland is bucking that trend. Under the leadership of Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County is transforming the way science is taught, emphasizing lab settings and small group problem solving. The results: more students majoring in subjects like chemistry and more students passing the class. The University has also been a leader in minority achievement in STEM fields. In the school's Meyeroff Scholars Program, which focuses on high-achieving minority students, nearly 90 percent graduate with degrees in science or engineering.

Panelists: Dr. Susan Szachowicz, principal of Brockton High School in Massachusetts and one of the reform leaders; Zakiyah Ansari, parent leader with the Coalition for Educational Justice in New York; Dr. Pedro Noguera, Professor of Education at New York University and author of "The Trouble with Black Boys? And Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education". [56 minutes] Closed Captioning

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Series Description: NEED TO KNOW is an integrated broadcast and online current affairs project, uniting broadcast and web in an innovative approach to newsgathering and reporting. It breaks through the limitations of the broadcast schedule by means of a web-based production model that empowers audiences to "tune in" anytime and anywhere. A cross-media initiative built around a wide community of journalists and producers, with input from an engaged audience, NEED TO KNOW covers five primary beats: the economy; the environment and energy; health; security; and culture. Stories, interviews, blogs and photo features are continually added to and updated online, with the production teams inviting interaction and input from online readers and users who are on the lookout for the latest information on a given subject. Each week's online story development culminates in the weekly broadcast, curated from the week's reporting by the various beat teams. The broadcast features documentary-style field reports, both domestic and international, short features and studio-based interviews and conversation to complement and advance the produced reports.

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