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.
July 16, 2014Tabitha WhissemoreCommunity College Daily
The rate of degree attainment among all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) appears high. But when you examine the nearly 50 different ethnic groups that comprise AAPIs, a different picture emerges.
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.
In addition to being something of a luminary in education policy circles, Chris Barbic is the head of something called the Achievement School District in Tennessee. In that capacity, his job is to move that state’s lowest performing schools into the top in terms of performance in five short years.
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.”
Three of the nation’s foremost experts on international testing recently corrected common misconceptions about what international tests have and have not shown about the performance of U.S. students and those in other nations.
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.
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.
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.
Telling students to work harder doesn’t mean a thing if those students don’t believe they can learn the material. In fact, a growing body of research shows that the way kids view intelligence has a powerful effect on both whether and how much they learn.
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.
Storify coverage about EWA National Seminar session, Building a Movement from the Ground Up, at Vanderbilt University May 20. It featured Warren Simmons of the Annenberg Institute, Linda Shaw of the Seattle Times, and Bob Brown of the American Federation of Teachers.
May 28, 2014Lauren SteussyThe Orange County Register
Disagreement over whether Orange County has been too slow to adopt new charter schools has turned typically sleepy competition over seats on the county Board of Education into expensive and heated races. Candidates who usually spend less than $10,000 are raising as much as $170,000 to have a say over which charter schools should be allowed to operate here.
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.
School report cards published by state education agencies are a staple for parents deciding which schools their children should attend, but many states are still struggling to collect and report key accountability information and make it easy to understand for parents, a new report finds.
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.
Mellissa Butler-Smith remembers feeling powerless a little more than a year ago — the Broward school district was closing her son’s special-needs school, and the protests of parents seemed to be falling on deaf ears.
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.
Highly-rated Tennessee teachers placed in chronically low-performing schools who received bonuses were more likely to stick around than teachers who did not receive bonuses, according to yet-to-be-published research from Vanderbilt University.
At a conference of the Education Writers Association in Nashville last week, Vanderbilt associate professor Matthew G. Springer, the director of the federally-funded National Center on Performance Incentives, shared findings from his research on the Tennessee Department of Education’s Signing and Retention Bonus Program.
May 27, 2014Christopher MaganSt. Paul Pioneer Press
There are about 60 so-called “teacher-led” schools now across the U.S., and the concept has growing support.
A study by Education Evolving, a national advocate for redesigning public education in St. Paul, found 91 percent of residents believe teachers should have more control over decisions that affect student learning. Teacher-led schools also are backed by 78 percent of teachers, the survey found.
With tensions running high over issues surrounding academic benchmarks, standardized testing and performance evaluations for educators, unlikely coalitions of teachers, lawmakers and parents from the left and right are increasingly banding together to push back against what they see as onerous changes in education policy. Some have Tea Party Republicans and teachers unions on the same side.
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 23, 2014Danielle DreilingerThe New Orleans Times-Picayune
Leonard Galmon’s favorite artwork from his senior year, his first and only year at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, was on display this spring at the Contemporary Arts Center. The three-dimensional painting-collage shows a young man in a gray hoodie, his shoulders hunched, looking back at the viewer. On the ground behind him is a gun. The young man’s shadow stretches over it. To the artist, it’s a simple exhortation: Walk away from trouble.
May 23, 2014Camilo Vargas and A.C. ValdezLatino USA
History is repeating itself: schools are becoming more segregated across the country as the population has moved back into cities. The anniversary of Brown v Board of Education provides an opportunity for reflection on the history of Latino segregation in schools. It’s also a chance to look more closely at what’s happening in one Brooklyn school, which is fighting to maintain diversity.
There’s a new N.C. twist to testing this year: When students finish early, they can read books or magazines until the whole class is done.
State Superintendent June Atkinson sent a memo to superintendents this week reminding them of the change. One might wonder why the state’s top educator would bother calling attention to a relatively minor change buried deep in the state’s 158-page testing manual.
The answer: It’s part of a complex negotiation between state officials and parents who plan to refuse to let their kids take exams.
In a previous post from the Education Writers Association meeting here this week, I wrote about reporters who use Twitter to help them report on big-city school systems. Another session at Vanderbilt University involved broader efforts by publications covering education to engage their communities using social media.
Conventional wisdom in education circles is that school segregation is worse today than before the Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that separate schools for whites and blacks were unconstitutional. Many in media are citing statistics from a May 2014 report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. Slate’s Jamelle Bouie wrote that it shows, “minority students across the country are more likely to attend majority-minority schools than they were a generation ago.”
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.
For reporters who cover big (or even small) school systems, the board of education meeting is a necessary, though often mind-numbing, duty.
Boards of education are supposed to be the pillars of local representative democracy, bringing high-minded citizens together to set policies for educating the young. They are often driven by other goals.
At multiple stops in Nashville Tuesday, President Barack Obama’s top education official showered Tennessee with praise for “controversial but common-sense decisions” he contends are having a profound effect on achievement.
In doing so, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan lauded state officials for taking on what he coined a “courage gap” prevalent in public education today, pointing to reforms this state embraced despite fierce pushback.
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.
The most recent data on how Americans pay for college show that parents are taking on more of the debt burden for their kids. In 1999 about 13 percent of parents took out PLUS loans. The average loan amount was $19,700 in inflation-adjusted dollars. By 2011, the numbers had increased to 21 percent of parents taking out college loans for their kids, each with a debt of $27,700 in inflation-adjusted dollars. That’s a 60 percent jump in the percentage of parents taking out loans and a 40 percent jump in the loan amount.
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.”
May 21, 2014Digital/EduThe Hechinger Report and NJ Spotlight
It’s a tempting thought: Put a toddler in front of a computer or video with the right program and they’ll quickly acquire skills like reading, writing and early math. The thought is so alluring that parents often ask early education teachers what the best apps are, said Lisa Guernsey, speaking at the national seminar of the Education Writer’s Association in Nashville this week.
Calling it the Civil Rights issue of our times, Duncan talked about the millions of children still not receiving equal educational opportunities. He largely blamed low standards (re: why a need for Common Core) and accountability (re: why a need to link student outcomes to teacher jobs).
And so, in one of those funny things that happen in life, I found myself yesterday afternoon doing, guess what? Sitting on a stage in Nashville, interviewing U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for the keynote event at the annual meeting of the Education Writers Association.
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.
The number of states that mandate principal evaluations has jumped in recent years, driven by rules tying federal education aid to such policies. But many are still grappling with the best ways to measure principal effectiveness and the extent to which student performance should be included in evaluating principals.
The U.S. Secretary of Education said the problems with Indiana’s waiver from federal education rules are fixable but it will take leadership from Glenda Ritz, the state superintendent of public instruction.
Arne Duncan was asked during a conference here Tuesday about his faith that Ritz and her department of education could carry out a series of reforms that that are required for the waiver.
“I know new evaluation systems are imperfect and can be unsettling for teachers. But tell me another way to figure out which teachers are succeeding and which are struggling, and how we can help more teachers excel. We need to learn from districts where meaningful evaluation and high expectations are coupled with real support and teacher leadership — districts like Hillsborough County and Denver.”
For the nation’s K-12 education reporters, the debate over the Common Core State Standards is probably the biggest story of the year. So when more than 200 journalist members of the Education Writers Association gathered at Vanderbilt University here this week for their annual conference, it was a given that there would be sessions addressing the standards. In fact, a marathon four-hour session on the common core offered reporters the chance to hear from a range of policy experts.
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?
May 20, 2014Jamaal Abdul-AlimDiverse: Issues in Higher Education
Even though a federally planned college rating system is supposed to help students and families make more informed decisions, there could still be a need to tie federal aid to the ratings system in order to spur institutional improvement.
Half-way through 2014, and it’s still not clear how to boil this year down into one phrase. Maybe we can’t, but at the Education Writers Association National Seminar in Nashville Monday, veteran higher ed reporter Scott Jaschik highlighted the top 10 stories and issues you should be hearing about over the next year.
When Bill Haslam was running for governor of Tennessee in 2010, a confidant told him that, should he win, his job would be to “stand in the doorway making certain [Tennesseans] don’t retreat” from educational change, the governor recounted in Nashville Monday.
Haslam demonstrated that he takes that job seriously in Monday’s keynote speech at the Education Writers Association conference at Vanderbilt University. The conference is a gathering of education reporters and advocates across the country and is being hosted by Vanderbilt University this year.
The Rural School and Community Trust released its annual report Monday on the status of rural schools in the United States. The report looked at five components of rural schools: Importance, Student and Family Diversity, Socioeconomic Challenges, Educational Policy Context and Educational Outcomes. Overall, Indiana got a priority ranking of 19. Meaning of all the states Indiana’s rural schools and districts are in the top 20 for needing improvements.
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?
National teachers union leader Randi Weingarten blasted Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday, saying “it feels that the Chicago mayor wants to kick the public [school] system in the teeth at every opportunity.” Weingarten said she toured a school recently with Chicago Teachers Union head Karen Lewis and concluded that CTU members are feeling “total and complete despair.”
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.