August 15th: What's On Today's Show : Blog Of The Nation In the first hour of Talk of the Nation, a look at the top GOP contenders, the opinion page on the Mujahedeen Khalq, and The Great Dismal Swamp National Refuge wildfire. In the second hour, what happens to students when teachers cheat, and hiking the Appalachian Trail.
NPR logo August 15th: What's On Today's Show

August 15th: What's On Today's Show

Educators in several school districts around the country have been accused of changing students' test scores. We'll discuss what's behind the drive for schools to cheat, and how cheating scandals affect students. Chad McDermott/ hide caption

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Chad McDermott/

GOP Contenders
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann won Saturday's Iowa Straw Poll. Her victory was enough to put away former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, but it wasn't enough to prevent Texas Governor Rick Perry from stealing all the headlines. Perry, the nation's longest-serving governor, announced in South Carolina on Saturday he's running for the GOP nomination for president. In this segment host Neal Conan will speak with reporters who have profiled both Bachmann and Perry — the two candidates who garnered the most buzz over the weekend regardless of their positions in the race — about their histories, accomplishments and what voters need to know.

Opinion Page
A little-known militant Iranian opposition group that once served as Saddam Hussein's own private militia has been receiving support from American politicians and officials. The Mujahedeen Khalq has been spending copious amounts of money to persuade the Obama administration to take them off the national list of terror groups. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Elizabeth Rubin argues, "If the group is taken off the terrorist list, it will be able to freely lobby the American government under the guise of an Iranian democracy movement." Neal Conan talks with Rubin about The Mujahedeen Khalq and the time she spent with the group.

Swamp Fires
A massive swamp fire is burning more than 6,000 acres in Virginia, prompting code orange air quality alerts for parts of Southern Virginia. The Great Dismal Swamp National Refuge wildfire — known as the Lateral West Fire — was started by lightning on August 4th. Host Neal Conan talks with Tracey Farley, public information officer for the Lateral West Fire about the fire and the efforts to put it out.

When Teachers Cheat
Criminal investigators in Georgia spent nearly a year uncovering the biggest public school cheating scandal ever. A report released in July showed systematic cheating in half of the Atlanta public school district. Eighty-two of the 178 principals and teachers implicated confessed to manipulating test scores. Teachers at one school reported having "changing parties" to doctor answer sheets. Investigations into erasure results are also underway in Pennsylvania and D.C. Host Neal Conan talks with Michael Winerip, national education columnist for The New York Times, about the growing number of states facing cheating scandals, and with Deborah Meier, a founder of the Forum for Education and Democracy, about what happens to students when teachers cheat.

Appalachian Trail Hike
About 2,000 people try to hike the entire Appalachian Trail between Maine and Georgia each year. It typically takes an average of six months. Earlier this summer, Jennifer Pharr Davis hiked the A.T. in just 46 days — setting an unofficial record. Host Neal Conan talks to Davis about how she did it, why she almost quit and what makes the record an unofficial one.