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Prologue

Before the war in the East Ramapo, New York school district, there was a truce. Local school officials made a deal with their Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbors: we'll leave you alone to teach your children in private yeshivas as you see fit as long as you allow our public school budget to pass.

Act Two: Unsafety Exit

Chana Joffe-Walt tells the story of a teenager named Michael. Like a lot of teenagers Michael decides to follow his dreams — and that to follow his dreams, he’s going to need to make a total change.

Prologue

Ira talks to 15 year old Jada who, when she was in third grade, moved from Akron Public Schools in Ohio, to the nearby Copley-Fairlawn schools in the suburbs. After two years, Jada was kicked out by administrators who discovered that her mother was using Jada's grandfather's address in Copley, instead of her own in Akron.

Prologue

Students all over are starting college this month, and some of them still have a nagging question: what, exactly, got me in? An admissions officer talks about the most wrongheaded things applicants try. And Michael Lewis has the incredible story of how a stolen library book got one man into his dream school.

Act Two: My Ames is True

Writer Michael Lewis tells the story of a man named Emir Kamenica, whose path to college started with fleeing the war in Bosnia and becoming a refugee in the United States. Then he had a stroke of luck: a student teacher read an essay he’d plagiarized from a book he’d stolen from a library back in Bosnia, and was so impressed that she got him out of a bad high school and into a much better one.

Act Three

Michael Lewis’ story continues, and he figures out why Emir Kamenica insists on remembering, and telling, the story of his life the way he does — even when he finds out that some of the facts may be wrong.

Act Five

Science teacher Jason Pittman, who teaches pre-school through sixth grade at a school in Fairfax County, Virginia, won a big teaching award this week. In fact, during his ten years teaching, he’s won many, many awards.

Act One

Chana Joffe-Walt spent six months reporting on the rise in people on disability. She spends time in Hale County, Alabama, talking to the only general practitioner in town, the main person who okays so many of the county's residents for disability.

Prologue

Principal Leonetta Sanders is worried that in the wake of a recent shooting, some of her students at Harper might be in danger of retaliatory violence. The threat is so real, she's considering canceling the school's Homecoming football game and dance.

Act Three: Game Day

By early October, it's been pretty quiet at Harper, as far as gun violence goes. But on the day before the homecoming game, during a pep rally, a senior named Damoni who is both on the football team and nominated for Homecoming King, gets word that a good friend of his, James, has been shot.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass visits Claremont Middle School in Oakland, CA — a school with two principals. Principals Reggie and Ronnie Richardson are also twins.

Act Four: Pre K-O

Producer Alex Blumberg tells the story of how Oklahoma, against huge odds, came to have the first and best publicly-funded pre-school system in the country, and how one businessman joined the fight because a cardboard box full of evidence convinced him that pre-school was the smartest business decision the state could make.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks about his experiences reporting on education and theunending question of how we can make schools better. He discusses theChicago Teachers strike and an essay by writer Alex Kotlowitz that talksabout how the strike raises questions about the severity of this challenge.

Act Two

Our story picks back up with the question of how non-cognitive skills can be taught to older kids who have gone much longer without learning things like self-control, conscientiousness and resilience. Ira returns to the story of Kewauna, the Chicago teenager, who talks about the dramatic ways in which she changed her life.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass interviews a 14-year old named Annie, who emailed us asking if we would do a show about middle school. She explains why exactly the middle school years can be so daunting.

Act One: Life in the Middle Ages

In an effort to understand the physical and emotional changes middle school kids experience, Ira speaks with reporter Linda Perlstein, who wrote a book called Not Much Just Chillin' about a year she spent following five middle schoolers. Then we hear from producer Alex Blumberg, who was a middle school teacher in Chicago for four years before getting into radio.

Act Three: Mimis in the Middle

When Domingo Martinez was growing up in a Mexican-American family in Texas, Domingo's two middle school aged sisters found a unique way of coping with feelings of inferiority. This story comes from Martinez's memoir The Boy Kings of Texas.

Act Four: Anchor Babies

We realized that there are already reporters on the ground, embedded inside middle schools: The kids who report the daily announcements, sometimes on video with full newscast sets. Producer Jonathan Menjivar wondered what would happen if instead of announcing sports scores and the daily cafeteria menu, the kids reported what's really on their minds.

Act Five: Blue Kid on the Block

Producer Sarah Koenig reports on a kid we'll call Leo, whose family moved away from Rochester, NY, leaving behind all of Leo's friends andstranding him in a new — and in his opinion, much worse — middle school.