September 10, 2014Alejandra Matos of the Minneapolis Star Tribune for EWA
While there has been a substantial uptick in the quality and quantity of data being collected on students and educators in schools around the country, accessing it and understanding it is still a challenge.
September 3, 2014 Cherise M. Newsome of The Virginian-Pilot for EWA
The big blue bus making its way around New York City attracted the attention of parents and policymakers. The vehicle, which pulled into neighborhoods to gather community feedback, was a part of the A+NYC initiative’s grassroots efforts to shape public school policy during the 2013 mayoral election.
August 27, 2014Kate Schimel of Chalkbeat Colorado for EWA
When LEAD Public Schools came into Nashville in 2010, they took over a campus that had seen a history of low performance and substantial overhauls. Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools intended to close the site – most recently occupied by Cameron Middle School – outright.
“This was a persistently struggling school for quite some time,” said Shaka Mitchell, who oversees public affairs for the Nashville charter network.
States receiving waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act are getting more time to grapple with how to conduct teacher evaluations using student test scores, particularly the new Common Core State Standards-based assessments.
According to Education Week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the postponement at an event on Thursday in Washington, D.C., which earlier this summer announced its plan to delay its new teacher evaluations.
August 18, 2014Mark Walsh of Education Week for EWA
More than a few reporters at EWA’s National Seminar who signed up for the visit to Pearl Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School in Nashville suggested that the campus would certainly be infused with country music elements. Perhaps cowboy hats and boots on each student, with future Taylor Swifts and Scotty McCreerys singing their way through the halls – right?
August 12, 2014Hayleigh Colombo of Chalkbeat Indiana for EWA
From President Barack Obama’s 2013 call to expand preschool in his State of the Union Address to a series of statewide pushes for better-funded early childhood education programs, all eyes are turning toward our nation’s youngest learners.
Journalists hoping to tap into the world of early childhood education reporting will have no shortage of angles and story ideas to tackle.
August 7, 2014Michelle Theriault Boots of the Anchorage Daily News for EWA
Education reporters are constantly negotiating access — to schools, students and data. In their session at EWA’s National Seminar, Betsy Hammond of the (Portland, Ore.) Oregonian and Daniel Connolly of the (Memphis, Tenn.) Commercial Appeal discussed two approaches for getting past gatekeepers and to stories worth telling.
Hammond, who described herself as a “data nerd” to the EWA audience at Vanderbilt University in May, focused on data available through public records law.
August 6, 2014Lydia McCoy of the Knoxville News Sentinel for EWA
Tennessee’s Race to the Top application was pretty honest, the state’s Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told an EWA audience at Vanderbilt University in May.
“It basically started out by saying things aren’t going very well, they could be going better, here are the things we’re going to do to get better,” he said during an EWA National Seminar session on where Tennessee stands with the competitive federal education reform initiative.
August 4, 2014Eric Weddle of the Indianapolis Star for EWA
Can the quality of a charter school be determined by the entity providing the authorization?
While the research on this question has been mixed, education and policy analysts agree that charter school authorizers wield significant power – particularly when it comes to deciding to launch a school, or to shutter one that fails to meet expectations.
Are fourth graders computer-savvy enough to have their writing skills measured in an online assessment? A new federal study suggests that they are, although it’s not clear whether old-fashioned paper and pencil exams might still yield useful results.
July 30, 2014Gabrielle Russon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for EWA
How teachers are evaluated is one of the most rapid changes in education policy, said Mackenzie Ryan, a Florida Today education reporter who moderated a panel on the topic at EWA’s National Seminar in Nashville.
With that as the backdrop, Lisa Gartner, a Tampa Bay Times reporter, and Patrick O’Donnell from the Cleveland Plain Dealer shared how they covered the topic in their home states.
July 28, 2014Danielle Dreilinger of the New Orleans Times-Picayune for EWA
State takeover districts have been lauded as the savior of children left behind by inept local school boards — and derided as anti-democratic fireworks shows that don’t address the root causes of poor education. Three panelists took an hour during EWA’s National Seminar in Nashville to get beyond the flash and noise and discuss the real challenges of state school takeovers, a process all acknowledged is disruptive.
July 23, 2014Charles Lussier of The Advocate for EWA
The idea has a simple, seductive appeal. Expand the things that work, cut short the things that don’t.
The notion, drawn from the investment world, has manifested itself in public education as the “Portfolio District Model.” Instead of managing stocks and bonds, school districts manage schools, creating or expanding successful ones, closing unsuccessful ones, focusing with zeal on academic results.
With the Vergara v. California lawsuit shining a spotlight on teacher tenure, it’s easy to forget that for many places, tenure isn’t the issue. The bigger problem is too many new teachers just don’t stay.
As states transition to assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards, they should also be rethinking policies tying those exams to high school diplomas, argues New America’s Anne Hyslop in a new report.
More students are earning high school diplomas – but the diplomas don’t mean those students are ready to succeed in college.
Nicholas Donohue, president and CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, made that observation as he began to argue for a dramatic rethinking of the way schools measure learning, promote students and award diplomas. He made the argument during a “Deep Dive on Competency-Based Education and Student-Centered Learning” at EWA’s National Seminar in Nashville in May.
D’Leisha Dent graduated this spring from a 99-percent black high school – a story that might not be what you would have expected from an Alabama public school system that was federally ordered to desegregate in 1979.
Academic research can serve up some of the most original and meaningful stories journalists could hope to cover, if only we know where to look. But Holly Yettick, a reporter-turned-researcher at the University of Colorado-Denver, says hardly anyone in the news business today is writing about the latest research on schools. In one of the conference’s first sessions, Yettick shared her tips for finding good studies to write about and writing about them without overselling the results.
You don’t walk into a shoe store and say: Here’s my eighth-grade son, give him an eighth-grade shoe.
“You measure his foot,” said David Lubinski, professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University.
Lubinski used this metaphor to illustrate why education should be tailored toward a child’s academic abilities. Specifically, he was referring to those children who are gifted, which was the discussion topic during a panel discussion moderated by The Wall Street Journal’s education reporter Leslie Brody at EWA’s National Seminar in May in Nashville.
Education reporters can access a treasure trove of public documents that track significant changes to state exemptions to the most sweeping federal education law of the 21st century, experts said in May at EWA’s 67th National Seminar.
And reporters will need those documents to piece together the patchwork of state policies that have been created out of the NCLB waiver process established by the U.S. Department of Education, said the panelists speaking at the EWA event at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Many teachers — especially those in high-poverty urban and rural schools — say goodbye to the classroom by their fifth year on the job. While views vary on how serious a toll teacher turnover takes on U.S. schools, mitigating its downsides is a widely shared goal.
In more than a dozen states across the South and West, students from low-income families make up the majority of public school enrollment. Those students are more likely to be black, Hispanic or Native American.
Other trends emerge from there. Those minority students, particularly males, are more likely to be suspended or expelled. They are more likely to drop out. They fall into cycles that inhibit their chances to break the cycle of poverty.
June 27, 2014Serena Golden of Inside Higher Ed for EWA
In the wake of the 2008 recession, college cost and affordability have become increasingly hot topics. As tuition prices have continued to rise well above the pace of inflation — with no accompanying growth in family incomes — the issue of access for low- and middle-income students has received more attention, to the extent that, in January, President Obama held a White House summit to press college leaders to do more for the poorest students.
One of the most contentious topics in education news today may also one of the least understood: student data policy.
People who want to tighten laws and procedures around sharing student data with online learning providers say they students are being targeted by advertisers and others with nefarious intent. Those who want to use student information to customize their learning online say the worries are exaggerated and proposed laws will get in the way of personalized student learning.
How does a school educate its special education students alongside kids who don’t have a disability? At Susan Gray School in Nashville, teachers and scholars are collaborating on what many say is a model example of inclusive learning.
June 23, 2014Dave Breitenstein of The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press for EWA
The main purpose of college is to transfer knowledge to students, but that requires getting them to the classroom… and actually keeping them there until graduation. Nationwide, less than 60 percent of college students complete a bachelor’s degree within six years.
June 20, 2014Annie Martin of the (Daytona, Fla.) News-Journal for EWA
More students are walking into classrooms with high stress levels than in previous generations, but a few innovative schools are helping kids cope with these challenges and succeed academically.
For students who have experienced trauma at home, nothing replaces a caring adult at school, said Bill Bond, the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ specialist for school safety. And teachers the most likely to provide counseling at school, said Bond during an EWA National Seminar panel discussion on student mental health.
When Sandra Ruppert was growing up in Los Angeles every classroom at her school, Hancock Park Elementary, had a piano. And every teacher could play it.
“I made my first trip to the opera in third grade, learned ballroom dancing in the fourth grade and took violin in fifth grade,” Ruppert told those in attendance at “Kids Got the Beat,” one of the final panels of EWA’s 2014 National Seminar, held last month in Nashville. At her school, “there was artwork in the halls and seamlessly integrated into all kinds of classes.”
State governments increasingly are tying money for higher-education institutions to performance-based outcomes such as graduation rates, rather than just student enrollment. Twenty-five states now have some sort of performance-based model and four others are planning to follow. But there are still major questions about how schools respond to these models and what outcomes they have. Those issues were the focus of a panel discussion at EWA’s 67th National Seminar, held last month at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
For decades teaching was considered a stable profession, with many individuals spending their entire careers at the front of the classroom. But the reality of a young teachers entering the teaching profession right out of school and only leaving when they retire is no more.
The subject of new teachers, and how long they’re staying in the profession, was the focus of a panel discussion at EWA’s 67th National Seminar in Nashville last month.
At EWA’s 67th National Seminar at Vanderbilt University last month, we took a “deep dive” into the impact of noncognitive factors on student learning. This is the second of three guest posts from that session. Part I is here and Part III will follow.
At EWA’s 67th National Seminar at Vanderbilt University last month, we took a “deep dive” into the impact of noncognitive factors on student learning. This is the third of three guest posts from that session: Part 1; Part II.
At EWA’s 67th National Seminar at Vanderbilt University last month, we took a “deep dive” into the impact of noncognitive factors on student learning. This is the first of three guest posts from that session. Parts II and III will follow.
A panel discussion at EWA’s 67th National Seminar at Vanderbilt University proved that fervor has not dimmed in the debates over affirmative action and the related issue of whether quotas limit Asian-American enrollment in the Ivy League.
June 9, 2014Nancy MitchellEducation Commission of the States for EWA
Today’s post features guest blogger Nancy Mitchell, communications director of the Education Commission of the States, who attended EWA’s National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville earlier this month.
Stephen Abbott reacted with horror to one television reporter’s attempt to squeeze the Common Core State Standards into a sound bite: “It was a complete hot mess.”
Bringing the audience into news gathering felt like a tectonic shift, shivering down the hallowed halls of the Fourth Estate. Who knew the quake would yield so much sunlight, or how musty those comfortable old spaces had grown?
At EWA’s 67th National Seminar, held at Vanderbilt University in Nashville last month, a raft of fresh ideas were explored on using social media to break down few more newsroom walls. In essence, it takes the conversation outdoors.
It’s well known that obtaining a college degree can give graduates a leg up financially over their lifetime, but it turns out that a person’s overall well-being after commencement has little to do with the type of institution attended.
The current generation of assessments being taken by students across the country is something like a bad boyfriend.
That’s according to Jacqueline King of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, who made the point at EWA’s National Seminar held last month at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. When a better guy (or test) comes along, she continued, it’s hard to take it seriously.
Georgia Teacher of the Year Jemelleh Coes said her eighth-grade student Tyler, diagnosed with behavioral issues, went from refusing to participate in class to opening up, analyzing, self-reflecting and basing his arguments on fact.
At EWA’s 67th National Seminar, we brought together 18 speakers — each with a unique viewpoint — to discuss the rollout of the new Common Core State Standards. This post is Part 1. Parts 2 and 3 will follow.
Is Common Core an evil monster to be slayed? Or, a beautiful butterfly to be cherished?
June 2, 2014By Dave Breitenstein of the News-Press for EWA
Sit-ins were the preferred avenue of protest on college campuses during the 1960s and 1970s. Students protested in support of civil rights and opposition to war, and their actions sparked social, legal and cultural changes nationwide. As recently as last year, the Dream Defenders spent 31 days camped in the Florida capitol to protest criminal justice issues.
Sit-ins take time, though – time to organize, time for the sit-in to transpire and time to have an impact.
How should we judge the performance of Baton Rouge education reporter Charles Lussier?
That was the question posed by Vanderbilt University education professor Joseph Murphy, who suspected that by the second afternoon of EWA’s National Seminar his audience was ready for a fun exercise. Murphy talked about the difference between Lussier’s inputs (such as his education and technical skills), the work he does and his results (readership and response to his articles).
“What if we measure him on whether the paper increases circulation? Do you buy that?” Murphy asked.
Today’s post features guest blogger Jennifer Donovan of Michigan Technological University, who attended EWA’s National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville earlier this month.
As more people get their news from the Internet and social media — more and more of them accessing these information outlets by mobile devices — universities can’t rely solely on people coming to their home pages to get news about these institutions.
Below are tweets I picked that may help reporters tackle this important question of fairness on a demographic group tagged with many myths. Population projections show that by 2050 one in 10 Americans will have an Asian background. Thirteen percent of the U.S. will be African American.
May 28, 2014By Ashley Jost of the Columbia Daily Tribune for EWA
Trey Mack, a doctoral candidate in astronomy, didn’t believe he could land a spot in a great master’s program, let alone a doctoral program, until a friend of a friend introduced him to the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-Ph.D. Bridge program.
May 28, 2014Janel Davis of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for EWA
For higher education reporters, Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik’s annual top-10 list of story ideas is a highlight of EWA’s National Seminar. This year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Jaschik kicked off his roundup with an issue that has affected many institutions around the country: sexual assault. The key to covering this story, he said, is not to imply that this is a new problem. Increased attention from the White House has challenged the ways that many colleges have addressed these incidents.
May 28, 2014Mandy Zatynski of The Education Trust for EWA
Today’s post features guest blogger Mandy Zatynski of The Education Trust, who attended EWA’s National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville earlier this month.
Thanks to the prevalence of blogs and other communication platforms, education writing now reaches beyond daily journalism and includes advocates, researchers, and almost anyone who has an interest in education and the desire to opine.
I’ve often made the case that there’s no reporting beat where the reporters are more collegial – or more committed to their work – than education. EWA’s 67th National Seminar, hosted by Vanderbilt University, helped to prove that point.
May 22, 2014Jennifer Shaw of The Hechinger Report for EWA
“I Walk the Line.” Nashville’s late, great Johnny Cash first sang that classic country anthem in 1956. This week in Tennessee’s Music City, journalists were urged to hold the line—as “the referee and truth teller in this fight we are having in education.”
The exhortation came from Nicholas Lemann, professor and dean emeritus at Columbia Journalism School, speaking at a May 18 banquet to honor winners of the 2013 National Awards for Education Reporting.
When Randi Weingarten gets depressed about the state of public education, she told attendees of EWA’s 67th National Seminar, she calls up memories of her students at the “We the People” competition in upstate New York a couple of decades ago.
May 21, 2014Jane Roberts of The Commercial Appeal for EWA
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam laughingly admitted during a speech at the Education Writers Association’s National Seminar this week that his state hasn’t always been known as a “hotbed of education reform”—or frankly, a place known for its academic achievement.
Moreover, he wasn’t the state CEO who ushered in a series of dramatic education policy changes that has put the state on the national school reform map. Still, he said at the May 19 appearance in Nashville, he’s been the guy “standing in the doorway making sure we don’t retreat.”
Speakers at a variety of sessions have passionately dissected the pros and cons of the new set of learning standards, which Washington and 43 other states have agreed to use.
On one end of the spectrum, Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, predicted the Common Core’s demise, while at the other, Jemelleh Coes, Georgia’s teacher of the year, said it would absolutely improve student achievement.
Whether it’s a curriculum that makes religion the fourth “R,” a principal who steers lucrative contracts to family members, or test scores that remain stuck in the cellar, charter schools often make the news for all the wrong reasons. Analysts have long seen a connection between problem charters and the process for deciding who gets a charter to operate in the first place. But how much difference does the quality of charter authorizing actually make? Have efforts to strengthen charter authorizing been effective, and if so, where?
Gov. Bill Haslam talks with education reporters about the hoped-for payoffs—and political trade-offs—of his initiative to boost the number of Tennesseans with education past high school, including through “last-dollar scholarships” that make two years of community college tuition-free. His remarks came during a keynote address on May 19, 2014, at the Education Writers Association’s 2014 National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Gov. Bill Haslam discusses why his home state should stay the course as supporters of common standards and tests work to fend off attacks from both the right and left on the political spectrum. His remarks came in a keynote address on May 19, 2014, at the Education Writers Association’s 2014 National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Political backlash against the Common Core State Standards and assessments appears to be mounting. These five speakers examine the history of the standards; explore why people should be skeptical; profile two state experiences, and offer an examination of left and right political perspectives about the Common Core.
More places are experimenting with state-run initiatives to address chronically low-performing public schools. Converting such schools to charters is among the strategies these state-led districts employ. We showcase leading examples of the trend, including the Achievement School District in Tennessee. Observers also comment on the Louisiana Recovery School District and the Michigan Education Achievement Authority. How well are their strategies working?
Geoff Decker of Chalkbeat New York asks Weingarten about the United Federation of Teachers contract and the how the proposed career-ladder model compares to other school districts. Recorded in May 2014 at EWA’s 67th National Seminar.
Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution outlines some of his research related to the Common Core State Standards. Recorded Monday, May 19 at Common Core: Realities of the Rollout, a special session held during EWA’s 67th National Seminar at Vanderbilt University.
EWA’s 67th National Seminar starts Sunday at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, which makes this a great time to catch up on your background reading for some of the sessions. Some of the issues we’ll be talking about is how education reporters can better use student data in their stories, and the finer points of comparing achievement by U.S. students and their international counterparts. For background reading, here’s my post from December on the international PISA assessment.
May 22, 2015Lillian Mongeau of The Hechinger Report for EWA
The phrase “Common Core test” turns out to encompass far more than most people realize.
At the Education Writers Association’s spring seminar in Denver on covering assessments in the era of the new standards, it became clear to reporters that there is no such thing as “The Test.” Rather, there are many tests, developed by different organizations all purporting to be aligned with the new Common Core State Standards.
With an eye toward reducing turnover and improving student learning, districts nationwide are experimenting with “teacher residencies.” These programs, which provide intensive support to new teachers during the early years of their careers, are typically partnerships between schools of education and local districts. The idea is to better align the training with the on-the-job expectations.
May 20, 2015Brandis Friedman of WTTW Chicago for EWA
That’s how many students the White House believes will be able to attend a community college under the president’s proposed America’s College Promise program. During the session at EWA’s National Seminar held last month in Chicago, U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said nine million students see college as unaffordable.
May 18, 2015Madeleine Cummings of The Teacher Project for EWA
When Lori Higgins of the Detroit Free Press began investigating for a series on charter schools, she and her colleagues gathered in a conference room at the Michigan Department of Education and started flipping through blue binders on every charter school in the state. The reporters pored over contracts and leases, filed Freedom of Information Act requests, visited schools, interviewed teachers, and had a data expert analyze student test scores.