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The Oregonian: PSU student tops list of most-read education stories in 2013
Author: Betsy Hammond
Posted: January 6, 2014

Read the original article in The Oregonian here.

At age 16, Tesca Fitzgerald (above) graduated with honors from Portland State University and headed to a prestigious computer science Ph.D. program. Her impressive story of intellectual endeavor was the most-read education article of the year on OregonLive. (Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian)

Here are the top 10 most-clicked education stories reported and written by reporters at The Oregonian and posted on OregonLive during 2013.

1. In college at 12, off to start her Ph.D. at 16, Tigard's Tesca Fitzgerald blazes new intellectual territory

Fitzgerald wowwed readers around the country with her smarts and drive. She graduated with honors in computer science from Portland State University in June before heading to Georgia Tech to get a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence. (About 328,000 people read the story online)

2. Small Oregon school decides to test readiness by having live gunmen 'shoot' during faculty meeting by Richard Cockle

Teachers at Pine Eagle Charter School in Halfway weren't warned that two masked men wearing hoodies and wielding handguns would invade their meeting -- firing blanks, or the entire faculty would be dead. Many schools were jittery in the wake of real school shootings, but only Pine Eagle Charter chose to deploy fake live gunmen in response. (About 255,000 read it online.)

3. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas visits the University of Portland, talks about trying to help young people from modest backgrounds, like his by Casey Parks

Thomas stayed away from controversy and drew applause as he helped explain why he would provide a scholarship to a once-homeless UP student. (About 105,000 read it online.)

4. Oregon names standout schools, those with abysmal results by Betsy Hammond

Oregonians eagerly await the release of school performance ratings each year, giving them the state's most definitive take on which schools are knocking it out of the park and which are letting their students, and taxpayers, down. (About 31,300)

5. Phil and Penny Knight donate $500 million to OHSU for cancer research, contingent on the school raising $500 million of its own by Andrew Theen

Phil Knight is one of Oregon's greatest successes. Cancer is a bitter foe. Readers could not resist reading about this match up, with OHSU's breakthrough cancer doc Brian Druker calling the Knights' move "brilliant." (About 26,400)

6. Portland school bus driver apparently asleep at the wheel by Melissa Binder

The Oregonian got a major assist on this one from Lincoln High student Nicholas Sayre. Terrified by a pattern of dangerous driving by his school bus driver, Sayre shot video showing incontrovertible evidence of sleepy driving. The driver was fired. (About 23,800)

7. Portland woman inspired to become a teacher because her own elementary teacher was extraordinarily kind to her by Tom Hallman

Chief Joseph Elementary teacher Dayna Strozinsky Hasart reached out to a poor little girl struggling with reading and belonging and changed her life. (About 22,200)

8. Sherwood High teacher charged with sexually abusing three students by Fenit Nirappil

A grand jury indicted Denise Keesee on six counts of second-degree sexual abuse. She resigned in the spring and faces trial in February. (About 21,000)

9. Oregon law school graduate beats back $50,000 in student loans by Betsy Hammond

Mike Hedlund of Klamath Falls waged a 10-year legal battle to force his lender to discharge most of the $85,000 in federal student loans he built up while earning his 1997 law degree from Willamette University. His victory disproved the common adage that student loans can't be forgiven, even in bankruptcy. (About 20,000)

10. Missing homework, late assignments matter little as Oregon schools grade exclusively on academic mastery by Betsy Hammond

At least in theory, Oregon schools are grading in a whole new way this year, under an Oregon law mandating academics-only grades. Turning assignments in late, skipping homework and talking during class shouldn't hurt that grade, as long as the student can demonstrate the key skills and knowledge covered in the course. (About 18,000 read it online).

Rest assured, dear readers, that when significant news happens in education during 2014, The Oregonian's crackerjack team of reporters will work to bring you the story.