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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 thecountry, and how one businessman joined the fight because a cardboard boxfull of evidence convinced him that pre-school was the smartest businessdecision 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.

Act Six: Grande with Sugar

Ira speaks with Shannon Grande, a teacher at Rise Academy in Newark, about a seventh grader who had all sorts of problems with behavior and hygiene and schoolwork. In order to help turn him around, Grande had to harness the power of peer pressure for good.

Act Five: Bad Teacher

Alix Spiegel revisits a story she reported in 2006 - which caused more listeners to email us than any other story we've broadcast. It was about a Muslim American girl named "Chloe," who was tormented at school after the students had a lesson on 9/11.

Act One

In Malawi, in southeast Africa, not gossiping can be worse than gossiping. Sarah interviews a young Malawian woman named Hazel Namandingo, who explains that because so many people have HIV and AIDS in Malawi, they often rely on gossip to figure out who's safe to date or marry.

Act One: You've Got Shale

Producer Sarah Koenig continues the story Terry Engelder and Dan Volz, their rival calculations about natural gas in Pennsylvania, and how each was treated by his university. She explains how Pennsylvania's universities, politicans and industry have united to develop natural gas.

Act One: Trickle Down History

Reporter Starlee Kine observes what would have happened if the U.S.-led invasion of Grenada in 1983 had been decided not by Ronald Reagan, but by a bunch of middle schoolers...and she remembers a class trip to the Nixon library, where Nixon aide HR Haldeman spoke.

Act Two: Climate Changes. People Don't.

As adults battle over how climate change should be taught in school, we try an experiment. We ask Dr Roberta Johnson, the Executive Director of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, who helps develop curricula on climate change, to present the best evidence there is to a high school skeptic, a freshman named Erin Gustafson.

Act Three: Minor Authorities

Jyllian Gunther visits The Brooklyn Free School, where there are no courses, no tests and no homework, and where the kids decide everything about how the school is run, including discipline. Jyllian is a filmmaker, working on a documentary called Growing Small.

Act One: Going Up?

In the world of engineers and investors, there's something called the "elevator pitch." It's what you'd say if you ran into a rich investor in an elevator, and had only 60 seconds to sell your product. The concept is so common that MIT actually hosts a contest for the best elevator pitch.

Act One: What's That Smell?

A retired millionaire tries to understand the reality of a tough, seedy, inner city neighborhood. But what if the neighborhood is none of those things? Ira Glass evaluates the claims of this millionaire, Steve Poizner, who is also running for governor of California.