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'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

September 23, 2012

Guests: George Miller, Sade Swift, Emily Carpenter, William Hansen, Eboni Boykin, Julian Vasquez Heilig, Jonathan Alter, Derrell Bradford, Lily Eskelsen, Adora Svitak, Carlos Ruiz, Angie Flores, Nikhil Goyal, Jennifer
Erlemann, Ernest Green

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: It is MHP show`s first official field
trip and we have come to the library. We have politicians, education
experts, a civil rights icon and a room full of students.

This is education nation Nerdland-style.


HARRIS-PERRY: Hello. I am Melissa Harris-Perry. And welcome to a special
education nation, edition of MHP.

Education nation is now in its third year and I am thrilled ha this year
for the first time we are including a student town hall.

On today`s program we will be focused on what matters most to students, the
challenges they face and their own ideas for solutions. This stunning room
we are in is the Bartos forum in the New York public library, a historic
building in midtown, Manhattan.

Now, the library has been open to the public for 101 years, first,
dedicated by President William Howard Taft in 1911. This incredible
facility with 88 miles of shelf space took 16 years to design and
construct. Here in the Bartos forum, we are two floors below the world
famous Rose main reading room with its 42 oak tables and space for 624

In the hall with me are hundreds of students ranging in age from about 13
to 25. They are here from all over the country. For the next two hours,
we will hear from many of them. And to help with that task, two of my
colleagues from NBC news are in the house. Working one side of the room is
Mara Schiavocampo who is here, right there.

Hi Mara, how are you doing?


HARRIS-PERRY: And on the other side is Luke Russert. Hey, Luke.

LUKE RUSSERT NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, professor, how are you?

HARRIS-PERRY: Good to see you.

Now, they are going to making their way around the room looking for people
who want to ask questions of the panelists or respond to something you have
heard. So, once we turn to the audience portion of the questions, do you
want to get on the conversation, you got to flag down Maura or flag down

But of course, since we have a room full of young people here, we also want
you to know that for today, it is OK to text in class. Whether you are
here in the room or whether you are at home, please make sure that you have
your voices heard.

For regular viewers of the show, you know you can tweet using the #nerdland
or today we have a twitter hash tag #ednatsth especially for this event.
We want to hear your reaction to what you hear, your questions, more than
anything else, your ideas for solutions.

So is everybody ready to get popping?


HARRIS-PERRY: So, we have a lot to get to. So, let`s dive right in.
Given that we are at the height of the presidential campaign season, we are
going to get started with a little bit of politics first.

Congressman George Miller from California is the house ranking member of
the education and workforce committee. And he is here today to represent
the Obama for America campaign. Thanks for being here.

REP. GEORGE MILLER (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you. Thank you for the invite.

HARRIS-PERRY: We also have William Hanson, education policy adviser to
Mitt Romney and co-chair of the Romney higher education advisory group. He
is the former deputy secretary of education under President George W. Bush
and one of the architects of no child left behind.

Welcome to you, Bill. Thanks for being here.

OK. I want to start with the education news that I think most people in
the country have been following most recently. And that was the teachers
strike in Chicago and the standoff that left students not in the classroom
for more than a week and has led to concession, I think, on both sides.

Congressman, what is your take away from what we saw in Chicago?

MILLER: Well, I think you see the beginning of a struggle of people coming
to grasp with the fact that because of the race to the top, where states
like Chicago took money from the federal government, they have to improve
their education system and one of the requirements is the use of data and
the use of data related to teacher evaluation. And states are handling
this in a different fashion. Chicago, the teachers knew and the district
knew that evaluations were a matter of state law. And now, they are coming
together to figure how to work that out. That is happening in California,
it is happening in Connecticut, it is happening in Massachusetts and trying
to figure out how do we best evaluate teachers as to their effectiveness.
Not to whether they`re popular or nice but are they effective in the
classroom in conveying the knowledge that the students should learn. Are
they working to create a teaching and learning environment. And that`s a
tough job. Because you`re dealing with individuals with a lot of moving
parts in every classroom. But it`s really ignited across the country and
Chicago is a manifestation of how the sides are coming together around
that. The fact is they did agree to an evaluation. They did agree to use
the data and now they are working out the details.

HARRIS-PERRY: So certainly this issue, the evaluation issue I think is at
the core of much of what we will talk about today as we talk about school
reform. And it is surprisingly, maybe one of the few places where the
Romney camps and the Obama for America camp are often in agreement, which
is the use of these sorts of tests, high stakes tests for evaluation core
evaluation. Would you agree that both the Romney campaign and the Obama
campaign are advocates of this sort of testing?

are a lot of similarities and using data to help us improve student
achievement. And it is not just the year-end testing, it`s also the ongoing
testing in how long to make sure the diagnostics process for these students
are being met. And I do think the results were frankly a mixed bag. I
don`t think the congressman is right there was good progress made the first
time that they are going to be able to use student achievement in the
evaluation process.

I think it could have been more. And I do think they fell short in not
having merit pay to be part of the process to be reward your teachers.
But, though I think it was a very much of mixed bag in the results. But I
think the most important thing was and they extended the school day ten
years to get to the national norm but they also lost almost ten days in the
strike. And I think that was very unfortunate to have 350,000 kids not in
the classroom had they should have been.

HARRIS-PERRY: Let me push back. Given that there is a fair bit of
agreement between the two camps on this notion of evaluation of teachers
and of students using this high-stakes testing. It feels to me like what
we know for certain, high stakes testing does or even low-stakes testing,
what we certainly know is that testing mechanisms provide profit margins
for those who create the tests.

There are -- there`s private industry that makes a good deal of money for
making sure that there are federal and state and local requirements that
young people and teachers be assessed. I think we`re much less clear about
whether or not those outcomes tell us anything about how the young people
end up performing later in life.

Is there some way that the folks who are running for office at the very
top, the presidential campaigns, can get us focused away from the things
that are profit-driven and towards the things that are fundamentally about
what measures what students are capable of in.

MILLER: Well, for the last 10 or 15 years, last 20, 25 years, last 50
years, the American education system has been using very lousy tests to
determine how students are doing. And to take the results of those tests
and predict anything about a teacher, about a student is really just

But now, with the leadership of the governors, we are moving to common core
standards which will be internationally bench marked, so the curriculum
will look more like what high-performing nations we are doing and that
where we are not succeeding at as we should. We will be using a different
set of assessments and those assessments soon to be able to - they will not
be only will be checking a multiple choice question, they will be writing
essays, they will be demonstrating, they will be applying the knowledge
that they were supposed to learn, whether in science or math or literature.
It will be a broader assessment of how that student is doing. And then --
that will be used. But, that is very different than what we have been
doing under no child left behind. It`s very, very different and those were
very bad tests and most of the states were in the test anyway, so they are
lying about the results.

HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, the congressman is saying yes, we are
talking about testing but race to the top testing is something - it`s is
fundamentally different than no child left behind testing.

HANSEN: But, I think it is important to go back to the testing and the
important is the day-to-day testing because that is really want to solve
for students from a diagnostic standpoint. But also, the high stakes
testing and other testing is important because parents need to have the
information they need to make good choices about where they are sending
their children to school and to hold people accountable. And if we don`t
have that data, it`s going to be difficult.

We have this data available in the medical field where you can pick your
doctor, you can pick your auto mechanic, you can pick all the types of
different service providers in your world, but we don`t have that data
available. And so, I do think this data is incredibly important for us as
we measure schools, measure teachers, measure students. So, I think this
ongoing data is very important.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, let me just suggest another thing I would love to hear
from either candidate, from either a campaign. So, schools are not quite
like a doctor, right? Public schools do all kinds of things for a
neighborhood when they exist in our, I know that both of you have children,
although adult children, who you had the privilege of sending through
public schools. And you could sort of move into a place and send your kids
to school. That was the experience that I had as a kid.

Can our presidential candidates and I`d love to hear what each candidate
would say about this, begin to move us towards a place where every parent,
every parent can confidently send their child to the local neighborhood
school and be certain that they are getting high quality education?

HANSEN: Absolutely. But I think it`s important that in a lot of our inner
cities, and our large cities we have 50 percent dropout rates. And that is
a national tragedy and Governor Romney has called this the civil rights
issue of our time is what it`s called.

It is the public school systems, we have got to build it up. From the
governor`s proposal to build up the k-12 system are incredibly important.
It is very important to give parents the choice to send their kids to a
public school, a private school, after school help, online help. We do
this in the Pell grant program in higher education, a very monumental shift
to 1972 to make the Pell grants for college attached to the backs of the
students and not to the institution. And that is incredibly important and
it disrupted the higher education system where it propelled us to develop
the best community college system, the best public university system
throughout the `70s and `80s. And those moneys were available to students
going to southern Methodist or Notre dame.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. But, let me push back just a bit. Because it`s
always only going to be a small proportion of America to -- who go off to
college and attaching the money to the student for -- to go to southern
Methodist or Princeton or something has a very different impact than Mr.
Romney`s proposal to attach the money to the students in the local
communities. If the money follows the students and the student leaves,
then, you can hollow out whole neighborhood making it impossible for those
who don`t have the choice toss have the kinds of schools I was talking
about. That seems to be the outcome of the privatization of the Romney
administration would be.

MILLER: Overwhelming demand of parents is not some abstract notion that
they will have a voucher and send their children off to St. Stephens or
something. The overwhelming desire of parents is to have their
neighborhood school operate at a high level of performance and
effectiveness on behalf of their children. That`s the goal. And we know
that poorly performing schools, we know schools poorly performing for ten
years and five years and that hasn`t been addressed. What we`ve learned
from the charter school movement, learned from educational experimentation
in different forms, is the children trapped in those schools can learn.

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, absolutely.

MILLER: So then once you have that knowledge, your failure to provide the
means by which the children can take advantage of the education is a very
serious civil rights issue. I have a problem with the Romney campaign.
This is a civil rights issue of our time. You know, as vice presidents
cutting 15 percent of the budget for poor and minority children and for
handicapped children. What about their civil rights.

HARRIS-PERRY: Then, we are going to come to exactly these issues as we
return. Recently, "Newsweek" magazine ran a cover story asking this
question. "Is college a lousy investment?"

Now, I`m going to ask each of you in the room here the same question.
During this town hall, you are going to be using clickers. So, hopefully
you have got a clicker there that was provided by technologies an education
company that education company that donated some software for us today. We
want to be able to get some instant responses from you. So, you will find
your clicker on the back of your chair. Then, you have it, of course you

I`m going to ask you a question and then you will be able to hit the button
to answer a multiple choice test. This is not high-stakes testing. This
is just - we are interested in what you`re thinking about.

So, here is the question. Is college worth the cost and the debt? Press A
for yes, B for no and C I don`t know. Take a moment, think about it and
plug in your answer. And we will have the results of our instant poll and
more with campaign representative right after the break.


HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back with our special education nation edition of MPH.


HARRIS-PERRY: We are back. And before the break, we asked our audience is
college today worth the cost and the debt? And let`s see what you thought.
Seventy-five percent of you thought yes, college is worth the cost of
tuition and debt that you may face upon graduation. I`m a college
professor. Eleven percent of you thought it was not worth it and 15
percent aren`t sure yet. I`m convinced that it`s worth every penny. But,
let`s dig a little deeper on this issue.

I want to bring in NBC News` Mara Schiavocampo.

Mara, how are you?

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Melissa, good morning. You know, when it comes to student
debt, the numbers are staggering. Nationwide student debt is at $914
billion. And many people seem to have trouble making those payments. 5.9
million Americans are at least 12 months behind in making those payments
and once they start to fall behind, it can be a slippery slope. Nearly one
in six borrowers is in default. So, this is an issue that clearly affects
a lot of people.

Now, I`m joined by Sade Swift. Sade is a senior here in New York in high
school. Sade`s mother started college at John Jay - St. Johns University
in Queens. But she had to drop out because of cost yet she`s still paying
student loans. And Sade has a question for the guests.

SADE SWIFT, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: I`d like to ask the campaign surrogates if
Pell grants and low-interest financial aid will be available next year so I
won`t have to drop out like my mother did.

MILLER: Pell grants will continue to be available. We had originally
indexed them. The Republican Congress changed that so they`re not indexed
to grow with the cost of college. And the loans will continue to be
available. We voted in the Congress after a little bit of a fight to keep
the interest rates low instead of having them almost double in July of this
year. Unfortunately, the schedule under the Ryan/Romney budget to double a
year from to 6.5 percent interest and that`s unfortunate.

But the fact of the matter is, that if students manage how they go to
college, if you think about layering yourself in, going to a community
college, going to four-year school, going to graduate school, college
becomes somewhat more affordable. And if you manage how you are going use
that money. Fortunately, when you graduate college, we have put in place
under president Obama an income determiner, repayment system which means
you start a career, you don`t have the best paycheck when you begin. You
pay a percentage of what you earn. You earn more, you pay more. So that
the college loan doesn`t become such a burden that you can`t afford rent or
can`t afford health care or the other things that you need.

But, as you progress in that career, you can do that. If you go into
public service, you want to be a district attorney, a doctor, nurse in the
public service, your loans are forgiven after ten years.

HARRIS-PERRY: And I`m going to turn to NBC News` Luke Russert who is out
in the audience with another question from one of our guest.

Luke, ho who is with you?

RUSSERT: Good morning, professor. I`m with Emily Carpenter and she is a
high school senior here in New York City. And Emily has question about
standardized tests.

EMILY CARPENTER, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: My question is do you think it`s fair
to tie student achievement so close to standardized testing especially when
so many barriers exists such as poverty and geographic location and what
plan of action or course of action do you plan to take to address the
barriers that can adversely affect a student`s education?

HANSEN: That`s a great question. Standardized testing should never be the
determining factor. I mean, as a parent of six kids, five who gone through
high school, one is a senior right now. It needs to be a factor, but there
are other factors.

But, I would like to get back to the Sade`s question too whether college is
affordable and whether you should go. And absolutely the answer is yes.
If a high school graduate will make on average $30,000 a year throughout
their life. A college graduate makes $56,000 a year throughout your life.
So, the earning potential that you have is absolutely very much worth it.
The average debt of somebody coming out of college right now is about
$26,000. And that`s about the difference of what you will make throughout
your life in one year if you go to college. So, it`s absolutely important.

I would just like to take one issue here that governor Romney absolutely
has supported the interest rate reduction. Nothing in his plan is
suggesting anything otherwise. Also, it`s important to note, what we are
facing is an incredible national debt.

In addition to the $26,000 that an average college graduate is facing, you
are also facing another $52,000 per individual, if you do the math and
dividing the number of people in the country by the $16 trillion debt. And
we have to get our budget process under control which might mean some tough
decisions and some streamlining. But, Pell grants will be available at
their current level. Student loans will be available to help you go to
school and anybody tells you otherwise is not telling you the truth.

HARRIS-PERRY: Great. We are out of time for our campaign surrogates.

But Emily, I don`t want to lose your question as we go away from this
segment because I think it`s a critical question. I promise we will come
back to the issues you raised about the challenges that are facing students
outside of the issue of the classroom.

But my thanks at this point to congressman George Miller and to William
Hansen for joining us today.

When we come back, what does it take to go from a homeless shelter to the
ivy league? A young woman with the answer and that`s next.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eighth grader and re-thinker in Louisiana. Teachers
and administrators put a lot of pressure on students. When students test
in academics, it`s usually random problems. Give them an opportunity to
relate that back to what they go through. Like if they were in a grocery
store, like how do they calculate what they would need. And that`s math.
And that`s academics.



HARRIS-PERRY: Sometimes when we talk about the challenges facing our
education system, w ignore just how the profound the challenges facing our
students are. It`s not easy to learn reading, writing and arithmetic on an
empty stomach or to study when you have no room of your own. But, every
once in a while an extraordinary young person overcomes every single
obstacle in her path and uses her voice to remind us how just tough the
path to success can be.


18 years old. I grew up in Maryland, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri.
I have been to about 14, 15 different schools altogether. We are pretty
much homeless most of my childhood. We were usually sleeping on other
people`s floors or in different homeless shelters. There are many times I
had to study and I was hungry. I would say food was even more so an issue
when we weren`t in the shelters anymore because at least there they feed

And when I was older and was able to ask my mom why this was happening, she
would say I didn`t make the right decisions and I didn`t stay in school.
And if do you this, things can be better for you. So, I just kind took
that and ran with it. And that`s what helped me stay focused.

I was a varsity cheerleader. The chief editor of the newspaper. I wanted
to go to college and I realized that a lot of people who did that did not
come from the background I had. There was always as an overlying attitude
of you know, we are not the group of people that would be assumed to go to

I`m a first-year at Columbia University. I found out I got in and I
screamed and yelled. And my mom was in the parking lot because she knew
that I was finding out at that exact moment. So, I ran out to her in the
parking lot and we jumped and screamed. And it`s a lot more amazing than I
could have imagined coming to school here.

My view of education has definitely changed since I`ve been here at
Columbia. It teaches you that what you think matters, first of all. And
then that you should always have an opinion. Because what you say, you
know, your voice is important. And I think just knowing that and sort of
just building on that every day makes you the kind of person that can
create your own path.


HARRIS-PERRY: I am excited because Ebony Boykin is here with us today.

Ebony, come on up for a moment.


HARRIS-PERRY: So obviously, your story is an extraordinary one. But you
know, it occurs to me that what you had to overcome, no student should even
have to face. We heard Emily ask a question earlier about how education
policy can take into account the tough circumstances students face. What
would be the thing you had would say schools need to do, to take into
account situations like yours?

BOYKIN: I think a school should just be considerate, you know. I think
there is sort of an attitude of we overlook your life at home. And even so
just in the culture of family. Whatever happens in this house stays in
this house. But, I think being more open with your teachers, with the
faculty about what`s going on in your life so that they can, you know, be
considerate and I found that at the schools where I wasn`t keeping it a
secret everything I was going through I did better. Because my teachers,
they knew what I was going through. They were understanding, you know, and
they help me out. And I felt like the attitude of openness would really

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a presidential election year, if you had one thing to
say to president Obama or to candidate Romney, what would you say?

BOYKIN: Wow. I would tell them to o keep education at the forefront.
Just treat it as more important than it seems like it`s been treated. I
know it`s always talked b but I feel it`s one of the most important things.
Because it`s about the young people. We are the future of the country.
And if you sort of just leave us behind and, you know, not give us the
attention that we deserve, then naturally things won`t get better in our

HARRIS-PERRY: Ebony thank you so much for joining us.


HARRIS-PERRY: I understand you may want to be a journalist. You have an
open invitation to join us at Nerdland any time you`d like.

BOYKIN: Thank you.

HARRIS-PERRY: We are going straight to the heart of the matter. Parents
and students choosing the best schools for them sounds right, but is the
push causing more harm than good. That`s next.



HARRIS-PERRY: Enrollment in almost half of the nation`s largest school
districts has decreased since 2005. But the number of charter schools has
exploded especially in urban areas, increasing nine percent in just the
last two years.

Now, the popular argument is that school choice provides the necessary
competition to lift all boats. But various studies show that charters are
not performing any better than our nation`s other public schools.

With me is Jonathan Alter, a columnist for Bloomberg view and MSNBC
contributor, Derrell Bradford, executive director of the better education
for kids, and Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the education association
and former Utah teacher of the year.

Also, Julian Vasquez Heilig, associate professor of education policy at the
University of Texas at Austin and a former charter school teacher and a
current parent of a Charter School student.

Thank you all for being here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for having us.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, Derrell, you are on - you hung out with me on MHP show
previously. And I promised I have you back to have the school choice
fight. Make the school choice argument for me.

think the first thing that`s really important is that, you know, people
like me or very smart people unlike me are sort of constantly dividing
schools up into chutes, right? So, we talk about them by kinds. We say
traditional district school, you have a magnet school that you test into,
we have a charter school, you have a private school, whatever. And I think
there are really only two kinds of schools.

There are schools you want to send people you love to and there`s schools
that you don`t want to. I want to really simplify this. Because when we
talk about like Charter Schools and some of them are great or some aren`t,
the good thing about charter schools is that they create more good schools.
That`s the effort, that`s the purpose. So I want to start there.

The second thing, I think is just, you know, it would be -- I heard
congressman Miller say this earlier. It would be far easier, trust me,
because this is not fun stuff to talk about. It would be far easier for
everybody just to be able to go to the neighborhood school and have that
work and have it be great. But that`s not the reality. And there are tons
of places in America where it is and tons of places it isn`t. And there is
no reason why when we have schools that we know hard working and the right
down the street from schools that we know are working of various different
types, why we shouldn`t align public policy that way.

HARRIS-PERRY: So you know, it is interesting though, because that reality
that there are schools that are working and others that aren`t and they are
right next to each other has been an experience, it is part of the American
experience for a long time. And our initial answer to that was
integration. I mean, the big reason that those things were different was
because of segregation. I`m wondering if school choice actually enhances
these separations, these differences.

know, if a doctor gave me a pill and said, you have a 17 percent chance of
getting better if I swallow this pill, would we go that`s all you got? And
that`s charter schools.

A Stanford study showed 17 percent actually are those better schools. And
we have a lot we can learn from those. We are not against charter schools,
but the national education association. We want all schools to be as good
as the best school. What we -- what concerns us is kind of a bait and

Let`s talk about vouchers or charter schools so we don`t have to talk about
class size, so we don`t have to talk about how are you training your
teachers, so you don`t have to talk about are all kids getting a broad
curriculum with the arts, with literature or are you just, you know, making
sure it fits on a standardized test.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. and that is something you and I have had many
impassioned conversation cans about this. I wonder about exactly this
choice. That certainly, there are things that are working in charters, why
not just make those things work? What is it about a piece of paper that is
a charter that somehow would make the school 17 percent more likely to
perform at a higher level.

themselves are not any kind of a cure-all, you know, magic pill. But the
highly performing charters, like the kip schools for instance, about 110 of
them, you know, it`s the highly performing charters, are schools that all
schools can learn from.

So, what I`d like to see more of is sharing of best practices between those
charter schools that are working and some of them don`t work. Many don`t
work. But, the ones that work, they have like 90, 95 percent graduation
rates in very impoverished neighborhoods. These are terrific schools. So
the idea of like lumping those schools in with the one that is don`t work
and saying, let`s cap the number of charter schools in our state, which has
been the NEA`s position which is, that is just foul. Why cap
experimentation when you can get an outstanding school by letting a
thousand flowers bloom.

Here`s why you cap. Here`s why you cap charters. Because 83 percent of
them do not perform better than the traditional urban schools. And you
raise kip. An interesting thing about kip. We push published a study
about them talking specifically about African-American students. About 40
percent left there in Texas over the last ten years.

ALTER: You`re cherry picking bogus statistics. No offense.


HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I will. And since it`s my show. No, no. I`m not
going to allow anyone to this -- anyone on this program. What I am going
to say is that we do have to deal with data and that those data are not as
easily demonstrative, Jonathan I think, as would you suggest. That they
just show that kip schools always perform. We talked earlier about the
very idea of what tools are we using to measure assessment and I don`t
think that Julian is disking kip schools. I think he`s offering additional

Everybody hold on right there. And when we come back, a family that says
school choice is no cure-all.


HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back.

Eula Guest is the mother of a seventh grader in Harlem and city officials
and politicians ask families to be active partners in their children`s
education. Eula responded by researching the middle school for her
daughter for eight months. She spent time online. She went to open
houses. She asked endless questions of fellow parents and teachers. She
pored over the education department`s guidebook to schools and she chose
Frederick Douglass.

But mere months after her daughter started school, she found out that the
city statistics and ratings were out of date. And in fact, the education
department was planning to close the school. Is this what choice looks

I am pleased that Ms. Guest, Eula Guest, is right here in the audience with
us. Thank you for joining us.


HARRIS-PERRY: So I want to ask, for you, you did all of the things that an
involved parent is supposed to do. Where does it leave you right now in
terms of how you feel about school choice?

GUEST: I still love the school that I chose for my daughter. I found out
that the school was -- the statistics were outdated for a couple years and
the school is improving, it`s now a B-plus rating. And I`m happy with the
choice that I used for picking for my daughter.

HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. Thank you so much for being the kind of parent
that you are.

But, let me ask this question. As much as Ms. Guest is an extraordinary
parent who did everything that she is meant to do, the idea of having to
search for eight months for a middle school feels like we`re putting an
enormous burden on parents, often parents who have the fewest resources and
also meaning that if a young lady or a young man doesn`t have a parent like
Ms. Guest, then what are the options? What are the choices for them?

BRADFORD: So I can`t remember his name. There`s a professor who did a
study about the D.C. voucher program and how parents were choosing. What
he found is that like rich, poor or otherwise, but in this case, people who
were eligible to participate in the program. So, it is all low income
families living in the district. And they develop, very, very, very
sophisticated networks to talk about school quality. Just like rich people

And in the beginning, it starts with there is one person that you know and
that person knows what school is good. In the end, it stops with what am I
getting my student data, you know, how is everybody performing versus the

So, as long as -- when parents are making choices in the beginning, they
are making them based on, you know, very basic needs like most people make
decisions about. Is my kid going to be safe and they`re making
sophisticated decisions because of vocabulary about choices improve

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. And I`m in total agreement that parents with few
resources can nonetheless be extraordinary parents in terms of decision-
making, the sophistication of it.

But, I do wonder about, what if your parent and we know this to be true,
what if your parent is incarcerated, what if your parent has low literacy
skills himself or herself. I`m just wondering about how choice that
operates there. My mom was actually a highly educated person, nonetheless,
when we were kids, she just sent us to school. We walked across the street
we went. So, the school and school right, sort of served everyone.

HEILIG: One of the questions that comes up too is why is that that
charters serve much less likely to serve English language learners. And
so, when I research in Texas, we had one principal tell us well, we are not
set up as a bilingual school.

So, we need to average the community, we don`t do with them in Spanish.
And so, of course we know in Texas, Arizona, California, Latino populations
are growing quite rapidly. If charters and choice are not set up to make
that information exchange to parents that they understand what`s out there
for them, then of course, we are going to see English language learners, to
be most -- much more or less likely to enroll in charters, Latinos to have
higher attrition and dropout rate, et cetera. So, I think that`s an
important consideration.


ESKELSEN: I taught in Salt Lake City at a homeless shelter school. So, I
taught some of the most disadvantaged families with no resources, nothing,
not even a roof over their heads. And with my association, the Utah
education association, which is an affiliate of the NEA, we could see that
some of these kids needed something very, very different. But what we
wanted to focus on was, how do you make every public school as good as the
best public school? Because that`s the real answer that no one wants to
deal with.

We want every school to be a school of choice. And we have really worked
hard to make choices within the public system something that was meaningful
for those families. So we get concerned when we stop talking about how do
you make the system better, how do you make every school a choice school?

When you get into private management and someone has to make a profit off
of it and here`s a franchise school, then we get very worried because
then, you are ignoring the bigger system where most of our kids, especially
our kids in need are going to go.

HARRIS-PERRY: It breaks my heart to do this. But, I`m going to give you
the last word. But, I want to ask you on exactly this issue of when there
is profit motivation involved, doesn`t that sort of corrupt what we`re
about in this public education?

ALTER: I agree with almost everything that you said. And I`m concerned
about too much profit motivation involved. But, I think there`s a lot of
misunderstanding and some of it is fostered by the NEA and some by the
organizations and make it seem as if charter schools are not public
schools. They are public schools.

When they are managed by outsiders, they are managed by the vast majority
of cases by nonprofits, not profit making outfits and there`s been kind of
a myth created that these rich people want to come in and suck a lot of
money out of these schools and the reason that corporations and hedge fund
managers are involved here is to make a buck.

A lot of the hedge fund managers who are involved in education are not
trying to make -- they have so much money anyway, this is not a profit
opportunity for them. Honestly, what they`re interested in, I`m as
condition tempt us of what they did to -- the reason that some of the rich
folks are interested in school reform issues is they`re -- they`re
genuinely worried about the workforce of the future, the same interests
that all of us have. If they`re not trend, they won`t be able to make
money for them in their other companies.

So it`s not -- there`s a myth that`s being created that somehow private
interests are trying to suck money out of these schools. Charter schools
are not profit, for profit private schools. They`re not. Public schools.

HARRIS-PERRY: They`re publicly funded. And I think that`s part of the
anxiety for some of us.


HARRIS-PERRY: We certainly know that there is plenty of profit in the
current education system, particularly in testing and compliance with --


HARRIS-PERRY: Sure, sure.

ESKELSEN: I believe that a rich person, one of these hedge fund managers
really cares about the education of poor kids when they care about their
health care.

HARRIS-PERRY: And on that, we have decided to wrap up with the grownups.
Because when we come back, it is time for all of you to weigh in. We have
got more than 300 young people in this room. We are going to hear from
them. Shush old people, shush. Young people are coming.



DANIEL: Hi I`m Daniel.

PAIGE: And I`m Paige.

DANIEL: Have you seen the school lunches these days? They`re terrible.

PAIGE: Not to mention they`re unhealthy.

DANIEL: Yes. But how can we fix this predicament?

PAIGE: Well, schools could have their own gardens and they can grow their
own fruits and veggies organically.

DANIEL: Yes. They could get food local and, you know, farmers markets and

PAIGE: And they can buy beans and rice in bulk so that it`s cheaper.

DANIEL: It tastes good, too.



HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s get a little student reaction to the debate we have
been having on school choice. Now, we asked you to send tweets using the
#nerdland or #Ednatstch.

From Sade, we have a tweet saying, I go to a pretty advanced school and I
think I get the same education or even better education than somewhat at a
private school.

And also, from Ricardo. Profiteering public schools are handcuffed.
Charters come in, remove the cuffs, filter the students and claim success.

Now, let me bring in Luke Russert.

Luke, what do you have?

RUSSERT: Hey, Melissa. How are you? I`m here with Richard from Queens.
And he has a question about alternative curriculum, about school choice in
regards to schools that think outside of the box.

RICHARD, QUEENS: Yes. I wanted to know, for students who do more open-
minded thinking rather than recitation from textbooks, will we be seeing
better implementation of free thought in our schools instead of just
reading what`s on a paper and telling you to recite it over and over again?


ESKELSEN: In this whole debate on charter schools or voucher schools,
we`re for getting there`s incredibly creative programs in our public
schools that didn`t mean people had to shut it down and reopen it. We are
doing things -- in my home state, there was a high school that said we`re
going to be a magnet school for finance as a prep school for, you know, for
kids going into that field.

At Oyster School in D.C., a public school that`s not a private charter.
They have a bilingual program not only to teach English language to learn
his English, but to teach English speakers who want to be bilingual in

They are reaching out to a community saying, what do you want special for
your kids? Literature programs, not just things geared to a test. People
want teachers to care about what students care about, to make it relevant
to them, and that`s happening all over in public schools.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, lily. And thanks to our panel. Jonathan Alter,
Derrell Bradford, Lily Eskelsen and Julian Vasquez Heilig.

When we come back, we are going to hear more from you in the room and
introduce our student panel.

But to get started, everyone grab your clickers again. We want to get your
response to this question? What is your primary focus of your education as
Lily was just talking about. Is it to A, learn how to learn, B, to get
into college, C, to prepare for a job or D, to learn how to be a citizen.

The results and more from our student town hall for this special edition of
MHP when we return.



MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Welcome everyone to the first ever
education nation student town hall. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.

And today, we are coming to you from the New York Public Library in
Midtown Manhattan. Here in the Bartos Forum Room, I`m joined with a
fantastic student panel that you`re going to meet in just a moment.

And around the room, we have an even more fantastic group of some of
our nation`s finest young people. Students from all over the country.

So, students, are you ready to get on a poppin?


HARRIS-PERRY: That`s the reaction I want to hear, because we`re now
going to hear from you. We`re going to get microphones to as many of you
as possible throughout the hour.

Now, NBC News correspondents, Mara Schiavocampo and Luke Russert are
in the hall?

Hey, guys. How are you doing?



HARRIS-PERRY: Together now.

They`re looking for folks to get into the discussion or you can be
heard via Twitter.

Now, if you watch the show, you already know that our show`s hashtag
is Nerdland. Or today, you can also use the #EdNatSTH, especially for the
student town hall.

Now, whether you`re here or whether you`re watching at home, we want
to hear from you.

And as we search for solutions to the big questions about American
education, we`re turning to students.

Joining me is a Adora Svitak, 14-year-old from Redmond, Washington,
who is a high school junior. She`s an author of three books -- I said that
-- and is also an international teacher, speaker and international

Carlos Cruz from Pasadena, California. Carlos dropped out of high
school, eventually returned and now works with at-risk youth to keep them
on the right path.

Next, over here, next to me is Jennifer Erlemann, an 18-year-old
college senior at the University of Arizona.

On the other side of me is -- yes, I keep saying these amazing
things, right? Nikhil Goyal, a high school student who has a new book.
"One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student`s Assessment of School."

And, finally, Angie Flores, a freshman at Miami-Dade Community
College. You might recognize her, because just a couple of weeks ago, she
introduced Dr. Jill Biden at the Democratic National Convention in
Charlotte, North Carolina.

Of course, let me give you the results of the poll we took a few
moments ago in this room.

When asked what the purpose of a high school education is -- 26
percent of you said to learn how to learn, 51 percent said get into
college, 12 percent said prepare for a job. Good, because there are none.
And then, 10 percent said how to learn to be a citizen.

Now back to my panel.

All right. Folks, I want to start with you, Adora, you have a Ted
Talk that is titled "What Adults Can Learn From Kids."

In the area of education, what can adults learn from kids?

ADORA SVITAK, HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR: I really feel like it`s essential
to have students as entering the conversation like we`re doing today,
because we really are largest stakeholders in education as the customers.
And so, around this issue, I feel like adults can learn about creativity,
impulsivity, taking action, really taking firm stands, as well as how to be
empathetic to the lives that we go through as students.

HARRIS-PERRY: I really like that creativity, impulsivity and

Carlos, are these ideas, particularly this idea of empathy,
understanding what students are going through, is that part of the work
you`re doing with at risk youth?

work I`m doing with at-risk youth. Coming from the background that most of
these kids are going through helps you understand where they`re coming
from. Most of the times, you realize that these kids are going through
hardships that schools don`t understand. I think that the most important
thing that is missing from an educational area is basically relationship.
I think schools are lacking in learning how to build a relationship with
the student as the customer to provide a better education.

HARRIS-PERRY: I like this language much relationship. It`s one of
my favorite things as a teacher, to have relationships with students.

Luke, you actually have a student with you right now. What are your
questions over there?

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You caught me tweeting right

HARRIS-PERRY: There you go. You`re allowed to tweet in this class.

RUSSERT: To our audience, we have Mable (ph) who actually has a
comment about subsidized student loan interest rates, which was a hot
button issue on Capitol Hill earlier in the summer. What did you want to
say, Mable?

STUDENT: I just want to say that in 2007, George W. Bush signed a
bill to cut interest rates in half in student loan until 2013. But low
interest rates are set to expire July 1st going back to 6.8 as opposed to
the current 3.4 percent.

I just -- it just baffles me that students like myself who have to
take out loans, have to not know what to expect next year if the bill isn`t
passed or isn`t extended for a little bit longer.

RUSSERT: It`s an interesting point, professor. You have children`s
futures literally in the hands of elected politicians who use it as a wedge
issue year to year. We all know that one of the reasons why this happens
is no one wanted to be on the wrong side of student loan reform in an
election year. Is that fair to kids that their future is always up like a
ball all the time?

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it`s a great question, and particularly this
issue about uncertainty. You were both talking about empathy. You all --
you were -- Angie, you were at the DNC talking about the importance of
community colleges and of colleges. How does the student loan question
impact the kind of choices that you make as a young person thinking about
higher education?

ANGIE FLORES, MIAMI-DADE STUDENTS: It`s a major impact for it.
Because I have students in my college and I`m constantly surrounded by that
this affects 100 percent. It affects whether they go to school or whether
they decide I can`t afford school. I`ll have to take up a regular job
somewhere else. I won`t be able to go on and reach that goal that I have
to get my education. That is a major impact.

And when individuals see this, they need to take the students` lives
into consideration because these are our lives. And the fact that we can`t
reach our goals because we can`t pay for school is horrible.

HARRIS-PERRY: Feels like there is something missing in this country,
when students with the capacity, the drive and desire are unable to meet
dreams because of money.

Mara, let me go to you. You`ve got another young person.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: That`s actually a perfect segue because I`m here with
Josh who`s a high school senior. He`s beginning the college application
process but he`s concerned about how his socioeconomic background might be
a barrier to higher education. What`s your question?

STUDENT: Well, as a senior who`s applying to different colleges, my
dream school is U.T. and USC. I`ve taken full advantage much my high
school over six A.P.s, over through college classes. I`ve won the
distinguished honor in this city of numerous awards.

I still feel that, because of my background, because of maybe the
size of my pocket I might not be enough. I think that the argument is that
you`re getting a lot of choices. You take full advantage of them. That
might not be enough.

I think that`s something I`m concerned with. Everybody in this room
that even if we try our best, (INAUDIBLE) --

SCHIAVOCAMPO: So, there`s still enough opportunities given financial

HARRIS-PERRY: Also, I love that U.T. is one of your dream schools.
We had a panelist, Julian. Maybe you should try to grab him before he goes
out. Remind him it`s your dream school.

You have written about the idea that one size, all education, is not
the way to go, and we have hear someone saying, I`ve taken advantage of all
the choices. What does that feel like or having that play out for

NIKHIL GOYAL, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: One of the most important things
we have to focus on is letting kids become the -- teachers teach, give them
enough pay and autonomy. Let the students be students and have the
opportunity to mold and shape their education.

We have to leverage creativity, we have to leverage passion, and we
have to let them really in control. And we have to stop this kill drill
bubble fill culture our schools, this testing regime that is really taking
over our country. And let teachers teach, give them enough pay, give them
autonomy and let students be students. Let them have control and be in
control and have that opportunity to mold and shape and their education.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. That one got applause.


HARRIS-PERRY: You know, what I can certainly say, as someone who
taught at multiple universities that sometimes I have students with very
high test scores and sometimes I have students whose test scores are not so
high, but you indicated that drive in interest and in education, the fact
in this room so many of you are still interested in learning for the
purposes of learning of becoming good citizens. I think those are the
things that make a college classroom so much better.

Everyone I want you to hang tight just a bit. We`re just getting
started. And when we come back, the way to keep students in school.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Matthew Devance (ph). I`d like to
discuss some of the problems in our education system. A simple solution is
to update the way we teach our students. Some teachers do not even know
how to open Internet Explorer and search Google. Integrate computers in
their learning experience and make school a place where students want to
go. Not just a place they have to.



HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back to our education nation student town
hall. I`d like to start by bringing in my colleague, NBC News
correspondent Luke Russert. He`s out in the audience with some information
for us on school dropout rates.

RUSSERT: It`s interesting Melissa, with the status dropout rates
with the number of 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in high school or
earned a high school credential. That was 8.3 percent as of 2010. That`s
3.3 million young people who have dropped out of school, an alarmingly high

Now, there is some good, however. There is some silver lining here.
We noticed that in the last year since 2010, the amount of kids who
actually finished high school is 73.4 percent.

So that`s the highest level of completion since the late 1970s.
Someone who did complete that is with me right now, the great Denzel Perry
(ph). Denzel is an extraordinary young man. He`s from Compton,
California. He lost members of his family to gang violence, was surrounded
by a lot of difficult circumstances, yet is now a freshman at the
University of California-Irvine and wants to become a judge someday.

Tell us about your amazing story of overcoming all obstacles, what it
took and what is the message you want to give to everyone here today who
could face similar circumstances as you did.

DENZEL PERRY: Good evening everyone. First off, I wouldn`t be here
today if it wasn`t for the Boys and Girls Club. I`m a product of the Boys
and Girls club since the age of six.

RUSSERT: Let`s give them a round of applause. Great organization.


PERRY: And the organization has literally motivated and shaped me to
the man I am today. It enabled me to reach all my obstacles -- achieve all
my goals and aspirations and continue to push me today. And so, now I`m
representing the Pacific region for Boys and Girls Club of America.

Literally, throughout my life there`s been a lot of obstacles and
challenges. Growing up in a community where it`s assessed measured by the
amount of cars you drive rather than academic accomplishments. Growing up
in a community where your mother works two full-time jobs to provide a roof
over your head and daily (INAUDIBLE) of your siblings.

This was something going on in my life, even have to walk down the
streets and getting shot at and running into the Boys and Girls Club gates,
where the staff risked their life to protect mine. And literally, if it
wasn`t for that organization, I wouldn`t be standing here today. And they
continue to push me even within my education endeavors.

I want to encourage all students to take advantage of their after-
school programs, take advantage of the programs that`s available in their
community because it interests that every 26 seconds, one student drops out
of school. Because of that statistic, the Boys and Girls Club service,
4,500 boys and girls club serving 4.5 millions of kids daily.

And I know that it`s 4.5 million kids today that`s not going to drop
out of school and some 4.5 million kids in this world that has goals of
post-secondary education. And so I just want to encourage them to press
forward and be involved in whatever they can do, because my life great
future started at the Boys and Girls Club.

RUSSERT: And it`s interesting, Melissa, what Denzel is touching on
something is we haven`t spoken about today, is that while there`s certainly
a lot of issues at school, having a safe place to go once the school day is
complete is so very important that can really mean the difference in a lot
of kids` lives. Example 1A here.

Let`s give Denzel another round of applause. What an extraordinary


HARRIS-PERRY: Carlos, I wanted to give you a moment to respond.
Carlos, we`ve heard Denzel`s story. We`ve heard Ebony Boykin`s story
earlier in the show. These individual stories of amazing success, we have
to applaud them. But we`ve also heard from Denzel that structures matter,
that opportunities matter.

Talk to me about that.

RUIZ: Definitely structure matters. I think the most important
thing is that when you come from a middle class family, you`re run on a
schedule. You have a schedule. You go to tutoring, you come home, you
have practice, you have family time.

When you come from poverty, there is no schedule. You`re the manager
of your own schedule. So, what ends up happening is the interest of a
young person who is managing their own schedule. I was more interested in
going to soccer practice than I was on doing my homework. I didn`t have
that person telling me that I had to do my homework, that I had to do this
and I have to do that.

But structure, it`s key. So that`s why in the line of work that I do
now is I`m a mentor and my official job title is a chaser. So, what I do
is I chase kids into school.


RUIZ: So, it`s very interesting work. It started because I was a
dropout. I understand and I can put myself in their shoes and walk that
line and understand what they`re going through.

Yes, I chase them in and I manage their schedules, because I know
that no one else might not be there to do it or their parent might not have
the time to do it. So, structure is key.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much to Carlos as well as to Denzel.

Now, we`re going to give you guys one more poll to take. This one
will bring up a lot in the next segment. What do you think about computers
in the classroom? Are they essential, useful, neutral, a small distraction
or harmful?

When we come back, the results and a look at a new program that could
revolutionize the way the classroom works.


HARRIS-PERRY: Before the break, I asked our audience if computers in
the classroom are essential, useful, neutral, a small distraction or
harmful? Here are the results: 38 percent said essential, 40 percent
useful, 13 said neutral and 6 percent say that those computers are a small
distraction, 3 percent of them are like this is just harmful.

So, whatever your opinion approximate technology in schools, you
can`t argue with this fact. The digital upgrade of our nation`s classroom
is big business.

Last year, "The New York Times" reported sales of computer software
to schools for classroom use at $1.89 billion in 2010. Spending on
hardware estimated at five times that amount.

Is our investment in classroom technology paying off for students?
Our colleagues at weekend "NIGHTLY NEWS" found one school in Arizona the
answer at least seems to be yes.


It`s a big open space with hundreds of cubicles. Fingers tips racing
across keyboards, but this is no office.

This is Carpe Diem, a public charter school in Arizona that opened
seven years ago for students in grade six through 12.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my seventh grade language arts class.

ELLIS: All 240 students spend two-thirds of the day completing
coursework and listening to online lectures. In addition to core lectures
like math and science, there`s also a wide range of electives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Red means that you`re behind, I mean, you can
catch up. And green means that you`re ahead in all your courses.

ELLIS: Monitoring their own progress, students have the ability to
move ahead once a task is complete.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For history if I`m really good, I can go even

ELLIS: Or spend extra time on more challenging subjects.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel less pressure, but I have to conform
myself to the people.

(on camera): The Carpe Diem experience isn`t just about computer-
based learning. Students also spend time in classrooms where they
participate in group workshops and can have one on one time with teachers.

CHET CRAIN, DEAN OF STUDENTS: A student who doesn`t understand, say,
dividing fractions, they have listened to the lecture on the computer, but
they still don`t get it. Then they can come to the workshop and ask our
math teacher, "Please explain this another way."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have on your computer learning, and then
you have your classroom learning. Two different styles, but they sit
together really well.

ELLIS: And with just four academic teachers, organizers say it`s
cost effective, too. Still, there are critics.

integration of technology into the classrooms is very scattered. There`s
simply is not enough research.

ELLIS: Teachers here are quick to point out this type of blended
learning is not for everyone. But test results are encouraging, 90 percent
of students at Carpe Diem are proficient in core subjects compared to about
70 percent statewide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really enjoy the new style of learning.

ELLIS: Isaac Harvey and two of his siblings attend to school where
textbooks and live lectures aren`t all that`s missing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No homework policy.

ELLIS (on camera): That probably makes you feel really sad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it`s tragic. So tragic.

ELLIS (voice-over): Mom and dad say this approach teaches more than

JOAN HARVEY, CARPE DIEM PARENT: There`s going to be a point in their
lives when they`re going to have to pace themselves. There`s going to be
no teacher that`s going to stand over them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not like a high school where you sit down
and the teacher is in the class. You have to grab and get it to take
advantage of it.

ELLIS: Lessons that go beyond the classroom, equipping students with
the ability to seize success.

Rehema Ellis, NBC News, Yuma, Arizona.


HARRIS-PERRY: All right. One of the members of our panel, Jennifer
Erlemann, is actually a graduate of Carpe Diem. I got to tell you, when I
saw this, I wanted to pass out. It really stressed me out as a traditional
teacher to see a classroom that looks like that. You make the case to me
for why you think it`s a great place to go to school.

at your own pace. You`re not held back by students who aren`t moving as
quickly as you are. You`re able to get ahead of your game. You`re able to
work through the tedium of certain lessons that you`re like oh, my gosh, I
already know this. I`ve been through this before, we learned this last

You give a child a computer and you give them the world.
Essentially, what you`re doing is here is all of the information that the
has come up with, so now I`m giving you the tools to go and get the
information and to internalize that yourself.

HARRIS-PERRY: Any reactions from folks on the panel?

GOYAL: One of the most important things you have to remember is that
technology is a tool. I mean, right now if you look at that classroom, I
mean, the best way to learn something is not through a lecture. It`s
through doing something exploring, creating. That`s when the real learning

And we need to move to that. We have to bring in technology and
social media. But we need that human interaction.

I mean, teachers right now are going to be turning to facilitators
and it`s going to turning into project-based learning and hands-on
activities and going in the world and doing it. That`s how learning needs
to happen. That`s not really the right model.

HARRIS-PERRY: Any other reaction toss what you saw there?

RUIZ: I think it`s a great plan for middle class people. This will
never work for dropout. You can`t expect them to learn in front of a
computer. You got to build that relationship. It all falls back to

If you don`t have a relationship with your teachers or your mentors
or your tutors, they won`t do any work on a computer.

HARRIS-PERRY: Mara, I understand you have a student interested in
these issues.


SCHIAVOCAMPO: You might not like the idea of having a classroom full
of cell phones, that`s what Jeremiah is here to talk about.

Jeremiah is a high school student in New York. And like most
students, he`s not allowed to bring his cell phone to the class with him.
He thinks students could benefit from that.

Tell me your question.

STUDENT: I have a question and a solution. Question is: why is it
that the teachers believe that having a mobile device in their hand will
actually work for us when we cannot have one for ourselves?

And the solution that I have is a idea festival. My local ideas
festival is my big idea. It`s called envision u. Composed of a team of
six individuals, we have it so we have young men of color envisioning
themselves in places of success and graduating from high school.

I wanted to know how do you feel about student organizations that are
sponsored by, let`s say, foundations?

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Well, since we`re talking about technology, let`s
tackle the cell phone issue first. Is it possible to integrate cell phones
and smartphones into the learning experience?

HARRIS-PERRY: I hope so. I think of this town hall as a big
classroom. We`re asking you to be tweeting and texting. I`m a little bit
more on the human interaction side where I think we got to integrate.

But I also still want my students with me, talking to me, looking at
me. And I think you got to be a really great lecturer if your students
have technology, though, because you got to be more interesting than e-mail
and Facebook, right? So I think there are ways to contribute.

But, Luke, I know you have a student with a question on this.

RUSSERT: That`s right, Professor. I`m here with Tiara. She`s from
the Bronx. She has an interesting question and comment about technology in

STUDENT: Well, mostly a statement. Basically, when I was in high
school I was going to a technology-based high school, but when I got there,
there were no type of technology whatsoever.


STUDENT: So basically, I felt that I wasn`t getting that help that I
could have used. But during my senior year, we finally got computers, but
then after that, I felt I could have did better my freshman and sophomore
junior year and now, the school no longer exist because all the students,
failed, dropped out, or got low on region, so they had to close down the
school because of lack technology

HARRIS-PERRY: Angie, I wonder if what you`re hearing here is about
this resource deprivation that you talked about.

FLORES: I think that when it comes to and we`re considering as you
mentioned the middle class family and the ideal wealthy individuals, then
yes, technology is a great source and it does open the world to us. But at
times students, for example, where I live and where I come from, we don`t
have all of those resources. Everybody is not able to access Internet.
Everybody is not able to access computers.

And unless they are in the school building where there is that
access, then that becomes difficult. And that`s why that one-on-one
interaction is important, that support system that the institution gives is
important for students.

HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. So, I`ll give you one last word on this.

Do you have a sense of response to how this technology integrates
with the lessons that adults can learn from kids?

SVITAK: I do. I think that the important thing is that computers
provide a lot of autonomy. People as far as the independence that Jennifer
mentioned, controlling the pace of our own learning, that I feel like
another important thing is it shifts the role of the teacher away from just
relaying information, and it gives them a role as a facilitator, which I
find a lot more genuine and important in the learning world.

So, I think ideally it shifts roles for teachers and students.

HARRIS-PERRY: Those are useful intervention for me. I want to tell
you guys things. It`s good to know, sometimes you got to sit back and
listen, and maybe part of how you all communicate with us as teachers is
through the technology.

When we come back, a living legend joins us here on stage. A man who
made history just by going to school. That`s next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing? My name is Tyrone. I think that
the longer school day has had an adverse effect on students.

One of those effects due to the longer school day is that some of us
have jobs. We`re already pressed for time. Make time to do our homework,
projects that we have and we also have other siblings we have to watch.
Now we have a longer school day, so we have less time to do homework and
less time to work, when some of our family does need our job because times
are hard now.



HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been speaking about finding solutions for
today`s education problems and being agents of change.

Now, creating samples of students who have taken courageous steps
towards making those changes, we need only to look into our own pasts. On
September 25, 1957, nine brave young people helped integrate central high
school in Little Rock, Arkansas. They were subjected to a hostile crowd
and had to be escorted by the screaming eagles of the 101st airborne.

In spite of the odds, only senior among the Little Rock nine
graduated in May of 1958 from the previously all-white school. His place
in civil rights history is solidified. Along with the proof that no matter
one`s age, anyone can make a lasting difference.

It is truly an honor to have Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock
Nine, here with us now.


HARRIS-PERRY: It`s pretty amazing that you can inspire that sort of
reaction from a crowd of young people who were born so far after these

ERNEST GREEN, LITTLE ROCK NINE: We`re, in fact, this week I will be
back in little rock. There are eight of us who are still alive. And we`re
recognizing -- the city of Little Rock is recognizing the 25th of
September, the date that President Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne to
escort us into the school.

So it`s amazing. I think this -- all the rap you hear about this
generation not being involved, this debunks all of that. So, to each of
you, I applaud you for your efforts in trying to reform education. You are
the ultimate customer and you should have the ultimate sale of what it is
you`re receiving and I feel very proud to be a part of this.

HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you about that language. I heard several
of the students use that language of being the customer of the school.
When I look at what the Little Rock Nine did, I see you as citizens making
a claim on the rights that you have, fundamentally, inherently as citizens.
And not only as citizens, but simply as young people living here -- so even
for those who are not themselves citizens, the DREAMers have taught us,
your rights as young people in this country.

Have we moved to some kind of different model when we call students
customers instead of kids?

GREEN: I think they are both kids and customers. My view, my
personal view was that as a student growing up in Little Rock, I wanted to
change the environment around me. I mean, I saw -- I passed it every day.
It was part of my community.

But I also saw the impact of what was happening with the civil rights
movement. I saw the Emmett Till murder, that impacted me. The Montgomery
bus boycott. Obviously the impact of the 1954 Supreme Court decision.

So, all these events were going on and I said, as a student, if I
have an opportunity to change things around me, I want to be part of that

I see these young people both as customers and as change agents. I
mean, they know more about the technology, they have an idea of what the
labor market is looking like. They know -- in fact, they probably have
more information than most of their parents.


Luke, I know you have a question from a student.

RUSSERT: Yes. We`re here with Joshua from the Bronx, who has a
question for Mr. Green.

STUDENT: Yes. I am a part of the Urban Ambassador program. It`s a
program that encourages young men of color to graduate high school and
proceed to attend college. How do you feel about programs exist like this
growing up in the civil rights era?

GREEN: I think all efforts to stimulate and have young people to
understand the importance of education is necessary. We wouldn`t have made
it through that year at central without the support of large numbers of
people and particularly parents and adults, who saw this -- you know, as a
15-year-old, 15, 16-year-old, you believe you can walk through a brick


GREEN: There is nothing that can stop you. But if you`re an adult
having to pay the mortgage and the car payments and all of that, you
realize that there are limitations. But we were supported by adults and
community that saw few limitations and believed that the future could be a
lot better than the present.

HARRIS-PERRY: Are there any of the members of this panel who have a
question for Mr. Green?

SVITAK: Yes. I`m wondering what you think about socioeconomic and
racial equity in education to the and how it`s -- how some of the same
problems still exist?

GREEN: Well, in many communities, we see a reversal that schools are
more segregated than they were in 1957. And I think the challenge for all
of us in this room and in the broader audience is to try and have as many
relationships beyond your comfort zone. The ability to reach out and get
to know other people, other cultures, other ideas, because once you get as
an adult, the world that`s expanding out there is very broad picture.

HARRIS-PERRY: I got to say, for you to characterize in part your
activism as moving beyond your comfort zone has got to be the
understatement of the century. All of us are in debt to what you and your
colleagues made a choice to do and you`re a testament to the fact that no
matter how bleak a system looks, it can be changed and it be changed by the
young people who are part of it.

Up next, our students` ideas for solutions. Stay with us.



CHRISTINA W., 9TH GRADE: I attend the school of computer animation
and design. I`m in the ninth grade. I think that a big problem in schools
today is that classes aren`t engaged in -- the solution I have for that is
teachers should put some pizzazz in their presentations. Put animations on
a PowerPoint, have games in class. More experiments in science.



HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been talking a little bit about the civil rights
movement that changed this country. And no one was more committed to
ensuring that young people could set their own course during the American
civil rights movement than Ella Baker. Baker once said strong people don`t
need strong leaders.

She was convinced that young people could develop and implement their
own solutions. In the spirit of Ella Baker, let`s hear from some students.

Mara, who is with you?

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Hey, Melissa, I`m with Madu Eneli. And talk about
accomplished students. Madu is 13 years old. He`s already published a
book. It`s called "Am I Ready for Middle School?"

So, as an author, what are some solutions you have to what we`ve
discussed here today?

MADU ENELI, TEXAS 8TH GRADE STUDENT: Well, a major thing for
students in middle school is goal-setting. That was one thing that really
helped me. Being able to set goals and know where you`re headed for and no
what you`re trying to accomplish in school is a good thing.

I know I have four siblings. So, my family is very busy. And we`re
on a very tight schedule. So, me knowing like when I have to get my
homework done, when I`m going to do sports and everything was definitely a
thing for me. So, goal-setting is a definite thing.


SCHIAVOCAMPO: Thank you very much.

And since we hear about scheduling, that`s something we heard from
the panel earlier, it`s key for students to be on a predictable schedule.

HARRI-PERRY: I actually read Madu`s book last night to my daughter
who is starting middle school.

So, Luke, you`ve got some folks with you over there.

RUSSERT: Professor, I`m here with Alex and Ryan.

Alex wants to talk about an interesting program run by the Special
Olympics called Unified Sports.

STUDENT: Well, me and my brother a couple years ago joined this
program called unified sports. And they have volleyball and basketball. I
feel like it`s a great way for special needs kids like him to gain more
friends throughout the school and stuff like that. I think that`s really
important for our country to grasp and --

RUSSERT: Does more need to be done to include special needs students
in terms of extracurricular activities? We often say they`re often the
first to be forgotten.

HARRIS-PERRY: Luke, I so appreciate. Such a great comment, guys,
because it`s a reminder that I think we talked a little about issues of
class and of race. But it`s a reminder that the issue of difference is
much broader than that and our commitment to social mobility in public
education means every kind of student.

So, I appreciate that.

Mara, you have another student with you.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: I`m here with Sheila Griffin (ph). She has a high
school student.

And, you know, Sheila has a solution that`s geared towards people who
are not really interested in education, which is often the group that we
don`t talk about.

SHEILA GRIFFIN: I attend the fashion industries and my school mostly
prepares us for college readiness and career readiness, but my solution is
what about the kids who don`t want to take the educational route where they
go straight to college and they want a career. Like I feel like there
should be more options for those kids. I don`t want people to forget about
the kids.

HARRIS-PERRY: Nikhil, you`ve addressed this issue of different
route. What`s your response?

GOYAL: I think one of the most important things is we have to
understand any kids have so many different abilities and desires. We have
to not pigeonhole them into a traditional path. Not every kid should go to
college and there should be so many different options. We shouldn`t just
be instigating vocational schools, for example. We should be allowing
people to live their dreams.

And the question I like to pose, how can we make school the best
hours of a kid`s day. How can we make schools -- how can we make kids love
going to school? That`s when we know the system is finally working, when
they love going to school each and every day.

HARRIS-PERRY: I love that as a measurement.


HARRIS-PERRY: I love that as a measurement, not your bubbles on your
test and where you fall on the Scantron sheet but whether or not there`s a
passionate joy engagement with learning.

You know, I have to say, Jennifer, I laugh, because I know that you
came from Carpe Diem, which is a very technology heavy-school. And you
were studying in college human communication. Is that right?

ERLEMAN: Yes. I`m currently studying human communications at
Arizona State University.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, as you`re looking at the questions of Mr. Green`s
experience and the civil rights movement, what is it about human
communication, despite having learned on computers, compels you and
interest you?

ERLEMAN: You know, human communications doesn`t mean face to face
communication. There are computer-assisted forms of communication. That`s
just human communication interests me because I want to know why we
communicate the way we do. Why do we speak in the cadence that we do. Why
are certain techniques more effective than others?

So, really, you know, the face to face factor at Carpe Diem is there.
It`s there. I mean --

HARRIS: So, there`s a way in which all of it is part of our human

We`re going to go quickly to Luke. Do you have some additional
students for us?

RUSSERT: Yes, I`m here with Travis and Rahim (ph) and they have a
comment about the common core program and a solution. What are you talking

STUDENT: Well, there`s actually two things, but as for me -- my name
is Travis Garrett (ph) and I`m a member of the Urban Ambassadors and I go
to Queens gate with the health sciences. I noticed with common core and
other things like that they put an emphasis on academics, which is one
aspect of education, but I believe that there`s more than just academics in
terms of education.

So there should be more programs implemented that help with social
skills and leadership and unity like the Urban Ambassadors program.

RUSSERT: Are we doing enough aside from academics to try and make
students well-rounded in a complete way?

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I love that. I think that also goes back to our
higher stakes testing question that we asked. We`ve got to create whole
people to contribute to and be part of our society.

OK, everybody, stay right there. A little more after the break.


HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back to the Education Nation student town

Before we go, I want to get in as many additional voices as we can.

Mara, you`ve got someone with you?

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Yes, I`m here with Ethan. And Ethan is a high school
student and Ethan has been waiting patiently this entire show to offer his
solution. Here we go.

STUDENT: So I just wanted to speak a little bit about how teachers
are not really being treated properly and respectfully nowadays in
education across this world really and across the United States.


STUDENT: And the reality is -- the reality is it`s time to let
teachers teach again. It`s time to let them do what they were trained to
do rather than let administrators tell them what to do who haven`t been in
teaching ever in their lives.

Time to let politicians take a step back, administrators take a step
back, and let teachers have more free will in the classroom and teach the
students because we`re human beings. We`re not products. And that`s
really important to us, not only as students but to the country for
advancement and to develop in the world.

HARRIS-PERRY: Man, I`m taking you home with me.



RUSSERT: I`m here with Helen. She wants to talk about after-school

HELEN, STUDENT: Well, I just wanted to bring out that colleges like
well-rounded kids, students, and I think after-school programs will help us
be that. So I`m protesting more after school programs for they could help
us stay out of trouble and learn more than what regular school teaches us.

RUSSERT: More funding for after-school programs. Something we`ve
heard amongst a lot of kids at this wonderful town hall.

HARRIS-PERRY: I absolutely love it. I love respect for teachers. I
love the idea of students making your own way. And I also appreciate all
of the leadership that I`ve seen both on this panel and in this audience.
You all are extraordinary. I could stay with you for another hour. But I

So I want to thank my student panel for being here today. Adora,
Carlos, Jennifer, Nikhil, and Angie. And, of course, thanks to our very
special guest, Ernest Green. Luke Russert and Mara Schiavocampo -- I`m
going to get this right, Mara. Mara Schiavocampo.

And thanks to both of you for being art of our first Education Nation
student town hall. Thanks to YouTube Education for helping us collect the
student videos that you`ve seen throughout the morning. And also thanks to
all of you here in the audience.

At the end of this day I am convinced of one thing -- when students
suggest education solutions, they are motivated by the desire to have
better schools and brighter futures. You are not looking to turn a profit.
Or protect an entrenched interest. Or advance a political candidate.

You know that you are entitled to a quality education. So let`s make
sure that your voices get heard.

Please visit the Web site,, and continue to make
your voices heard. Offer your ideas and solutions. I`m Melissa Harris-
Perry, and thanks for joining us.



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