Spencer Funded Radio Documentaries


Keyboard College
Stephen Smith
Digital technologies and the Internet are changing how many Americans go to college. From online learning to simulation programs to smart-machine mentors, the 21st-century student will be taught in fundamentally new ways. In this documentary, Stephen Smith asks whether these innovations can help more people get access to higher education and bring down the cost of college without sacrificing learning. To listen to the radio documentary, click here.

The Rise of the Phoenix
Emily Hanford
For-profit colleges have deep roots in American history, but until recently they were a tiny part of the higher education landscape. Now they are big players. More than one in 10 college students attends a for-profit. The rapid rise of these career-oriented schools has provoked heated debate, opening up new conversations about the costs, quality and purpose of higher education. In this documentary, correspondent Emily Hanford examines the history and influence of the University of Phoenix, one of the nation's largest colleges, and explores how Phoenix and other for-profits are shaping the future of higher education. To listen to the radio documentary, click here.

Grit, Luck and Money: Preparing Kids for College and Getting Them Through
Emily Hanford
More people are going to college than ever before, but a lot of them aren't finishing. Low-income students, in particular, struggle to get to graduation. Only 9 percent complete a bachelor's degree by age 24. Why are so many students quitting, and what leads a few to beat the odds and make it through? In this documentary, American RadioWorks correspondent Emily Hanford introduces us to young people trying to break into the middle class, teachers trying to increase their chances and researchers investigating the nature of persistence. To listen to the radio documentary, click here.

Winner of First Prize in the 2011 EWA National Reporting Contest—Feature Broadcast Category
Don't Lecture Me: Rethinking the Way College Students Learn
Emily Hanford
In an increasingly competitive global economy the best jobs go to highly skilled workers who can think well and learn fast. Are today's college graduates up to the challenge? Many experts say no. In this program, American RadioWorks producer Emily Hanford explores how traditional approaches to teaching are failing to provide many college students with the knowledge they need. We hear the unexpected story of how a group of physicists became concerned about what their students were learning, what they did about it, and how their work is influencing a new generation trying to reinvent college so that students really learn. To listen to the radio documentary, click here.

Who Needs an English Major? The Future of Liberal Arts Education
Stephen Smith
The most popular college major in America these days is business. Some students think it doesn't pay to study philosophy or history. But advocates of liberal-arts programs say their graduates are still among the most likely to become leaders, and that a healthy democracy depends on citizens with a broad and deep education. In this program, American RadioWorks' Stephen Smith examines how a form of higher learning unique to the United States is responding to the demands of the 21st century. To listen to the radio documentary, click here.

Some College, No Degree: Why So Many Americans Drop out of College,
and What to do About It

Emily Hanford
Everyone knows there’s a high school dropout problem in the United States, but the college dropout rate is worse. Nearly a quarter of American adults started college but didn’t finish – about 37 million people. Now they’re being left behind in an economy increasingly focused on workers with degrees. American RadioWorks producer Emily Hanford examines why so many people start college but don’t graduate, what’s being done to bring them back, and whether a college degree is the answer for everyone. To listen to the radio documentary, click here.

Winner of First Prize in the 2010 EWA National Reporting Contest—Feature Broadcast Category
Testing Teachers
Emily Hanford
Teachers matter. A lot. Studies show that students with the best teachers learn three times as much as students with the worst teachers. Researchers say the achievement gap between poor children and their higher-income peers could disappear if poor kids got better teachers.Politicians and education reformers are calling for big changes in how teachers are trained and evaluated – and in the way teachers are hired and fired too. To listen to the radio documentary, click here.

Winner of a 2010 Peabody Award
The Great Textbook War
Trey Kay, Deborah George and Stan Bumgardner
What should children learn in school? It's a question that's stirred debate for decades, and in 1974 it led to violent protests in West Virginia. Schools were hit by dynamite, buses were riddled with bullets, and coal mines were shut down. The fight was over a new set of textbooks. To listen to the radio documentary, click here.

Winner of a 2010 Peabody Award
Mind the Gap: Why Good Schools Are Failing Black Students 
Nancy Solomon
Independent producer Solomon exhibited great empathy for the students and teachers at the suburban New Jersey high school she studied, meanwhile asking tough, necessary questions. To listen to the radio documentary click here.

Winner of a 2010 RTDNA/UNITY award for Diversity
Early Lessons
Emily Hanford
The Perry Preschool Project is one of the most famous education experiments of the last 50 years. The study asked a question: Can preschool boost the IQ scores of poor African-American children and prevent them from failing in school? The surprising results are now challenging widely-held notions about what helps people succeed – in school, and in life. To listen to the radio documentary click here.

Winner of the 2008 National Headliners Award
Put to the Test
Emily Hanford, Alison Jones, Ben Shapiro and Deborah George
"Put to the Test" has won the National Headliners Grand Award—the top award among all radio entries—and first place in the Documentary or Public Affairs category. This is the second honor this year for "Put to the Test," which was also awarded a special citation in the Education Writers Association National Awards for Education Reporting. Edited by Mary Beth Kirchner, and hosted by Stephen Smith, this documentary looks at the effects of high-stakes standardized testing in public schools. To listen to the radio documentary click here.

Rising By Degrees

Emily Hanford
The United States is facing a dramatic demographic challenge: Young Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of the population, and they are among the least likely to graduate from college. Experts say the future of the American economy is at stake, because higher education is essential in the 21st century economy. Rising by Degrees tells the story of Latino students working towards a college degree—and why it’s so hard for them to get what they want. To listen to the radio documentary click here.