MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Believe it or not, in a healthy human body, microbial cells outnumber human cells by about ten to one. Scientists, doctors, and health-conscious people are learning more and more about our “personal ecosystems.” But what happens to this individualized community of life after we die? Some Alabama State University forensics researchers are looking [...]
Articles written by: Dan Carsen
The United States locks up people at a higher rate than anywhere else in the world. Some of the most overcrowded prisons are in Alabama. Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women is one of them. It’s also been under federal investigation for sex abuse by guards. But some inmates there have access to a unique state-funded program that offers academics and life skills they’ll need after release. The problem is, this J.F. Ingram State Technical College program, which could ease overcrowding, is struggling for funds. Our Alabama reporter Dan Carsen has this national story, and a full-length interview with J.F. Ingram’s president.
Alabama’s J.F. Ingram State may be the nation’s only state-run two-year college exclusively for inmates. Its mission is to reduce recidivism by offering “three legs of the stool”: academics, life skills (getting along with coworkers and family, managing stress, getting to work on time, and more), and vocational training. Our Alabama reporter Dan Carsen recently visited Ingram’s Deatsville campus, where he met Timothy Brown, a 53-year-old convicted robber and burglar serving a life sentence but hoping for parole. Brown had walked over from the Frank Lee minimum-security facility next door. He’d been proudly passing around organic cantaloupe and filling in for his horticulture teacher. Dan starts the interview by asking Brown if doing the latter makes him nervous…
Alabama recently got some unflattering news about its students’ proficiency, especially in eighth-grade math. The National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP is a standardized test sometimes called “the nation’s report card.” On the 2013 test, Alabama eighth-graders ranked fiftieth out of 52 jurisdictions in mathematics (military-base schools, and those in the District of Columbia, were counted as two additional groups). As with most education topics, though, it’s not quite that simple. Our Alabama reporter Dan Carsen sat down with Alabama School Connection executive director Trisha Powell Crain to go behind the results. She says we shouldn’t put too much emphasis on one data point, or be too surprised at Alabama’s low showing.
J.F. Ingram Technical College is a unique part of Alabama’s two-year college system because all of its students are incarcerated. Last month, as part of WBHM-Birmingham’s prison-reporting partnership with Al.com, our Dan Carsen drove down to Ingram’s campus at Julia Tutwiler Prison For Women in Wetumpka, Alabama. He was planning to do a short story on Ingram’s program there, but he came out with so many compelling conversations that he wanted to make a mini-documentary…
One barrier people released from prison face is a lack of skills. But some educators in Alabama are working to smooth that transition long before the inmates get out: J.F. Ingram State Technical College has a new program at Tutwiler Prison that teaches vocations and life skills, including getting along with others, with the goal of reducing recidivism. As part of WBHM-Birmingham and Al.com’s prison-reporting collaboration, our Dan Carsen sat in on those classes and later caught up with a student — an inmate named Robin. We agreed not to use last names, but Dan asked her about her plans once she’s out … and about why she’s in.
Medical education is always evolving. One way it’s changed in recent years is that residents are not allowed to work the long, judgment-impairing shifts they used to. Most agree that’s good. But how do you make up for all that lost teaching time? Some University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers think they have an answer: video games. They created a competitive educational game called “Kaizen-Internal Medicine,” or just “Kaizen-IM,” and a small but promising study showed that busy young doctors learned from it in their off hours. UAB’s James Willig sat down with our Alabama reporter Dan Carsen to explain. Willig starts with the downside of limiting residents’ work hours.
Recently AL.com and WBHM-Birmingham hosted a lunch discussion on the controversy over the Hoover school system’s plan to impose fees on student bus riders. AL.com reporter Jon Anderson and our Alabama reporter Dan Carsen were on hand to facilitate the sometimes heated discussion and answer questions. Afterward, Carsen spoke with WBHM’s News Director Rachel Osier Lindley. To start, Carsen recaps how the situation got to where it is today.
J.F. Ingram State is a unique part of Alabama’s two-year college system because one hundred percent of its students are incarcerated. Its new pilot program at Julia Tutwiler Prison focuses on life skills, not just vocational training. As part of WBHM-Birmingham’s prison-reporting partnership with Alabama Media Group’s Investigative Journalism Lab, our Dan Carsen spoke with Ingram State counseling coordinator Rick Vest outside Ingram’s Tutwiler campus. Vest says learning job skills isn’t enough.
The international accreditation agency AdvancEd has released a report based on their team’s March visit to Birmingham City Schools. Although the report noted many areas still in need of improvement, the agency upgraded the school system from “probation” to “accredited, warned.” In response, school leaders called a press conference. Our Alabama reporter Dan Carsen recorded it and broke it down for listeners. The story also includes links to background information and a previously broadcast interview with AdvancEd CEO Mark Elgart.
Across the country, school boards have been losing power to state and federal authorities, and some experts see local boards as increasingly ineffective. But last month the Fordham Institute, an education policy think tank, released a national report on the influence of school board leadership. According to the report, local boards actually do impact student achievement. Given recent events in Birmingham City Schools and other systems across the Southeast, our Alabama reporter Dan Carsen caught up with co-author Arnold Shober, who says the overall vision of a school board is key, as is the way members are elected.
In the middle of urban Birmingham, there’s a farm. Jones Valley Teaching Farm is an education center offering students and families gardening, nutrition courses, fresh food, and much more. With Earth Day and Arbor Day coming up, our Alabama reporter Dan Carsen sat down with its Executive Director, Grant Brigham. Dan starts off by asking Brigham if he sees the farm playing a part in Birmingham’s long-term sustainability.
Alison Grizzle isn’t your typical teacher, or even your typical Alabama Teacher of the Year. The Birmingham City Schools math instructor is known for being very outspoken, even on third-rail issues like standardized testing and the Common Core State Standards. We thought we’d share her thoughts on those issues and more as staff and students return to school routines. Our Alabama reporter Dan Carsen recently caught up with Grizzle at an education conference where she was giving talks. But it turns out this award-winning teacher almost didn’t become a teacher at all.
Birmingham, Ala.– The Alabama State Department of Education’s intervention team has left Birmingham City Schools. ALSDE staff are approving local board agendas and monitoring finances from Montgomery. A year and a half after the state first took the reins, the local board is quietly going about its business. As 2014 approaches, [...]
In any big institution, good things are usually happening even when problems get the attention. This week we’re airing and publishing a three-part “status update” on Birmingham City Schools, from the state takeover to today. Yesterday, Part One explored some of the reasons why the state intervened and the district could lose accreditation. Today in Part Two, our Alabama reporter Dan Carsen talks with teachers, parents, and students to get a different view — a view from the ground level.