Blog: The Educated Reporter
Alyson Klein of Education Week and Andrew Kreighbaum of Inside Higher Ed discuss recent developments on the federal policy front, and what’s been a busy month for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The Education Department has hit the “pause button” on regulations aimed at reining in for-profit colleges, announced plans to scale back civil rights investigations, and suggested federal scrutiny of state accountability plans for K-12 education could be more forceful than some people — particularly Republicans — were expecting.
The school improvement spotlight has, in recent years, shone brightly on teachers. Just outside of the spotlight, yet wielding significant influence in schools, are principals.
“We need to take more seriously that school leadership really matters,” said Jason Grissom, an associate professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University who has studied the subject.
A teacher shortage in Oklahoma. Data-driven analysis of the Detroit School Board election. Teen suicide. The impact of an influx of Central American youths on a high-poverty Oakland school. Four of this year’s Education Writers Association award finalists recently shared their stories and took questions from a packed room at the EWA National Seminar on how they did their work.
Rocking the Beat
There are few debates in education as fraught or as important as the fight over how much money to spend on schools — and where to spend it.
Whether a school has the cash to pay for such things as smaller class sizes, extra mental health staff or music instruction depends on decisions made by elected officials at every level of government, from the U.S. House and Senate to local school boards.
Mikey Peterson didn’t care about class for most of his time in school. And he felt that his teachers, for the most part, did nothing to help.
Thousands of charter school educators, leaders, and advocates gathered in Washington D.C. this week at a time of both great hope and palpable dissonance within the charter school sector.
Education reporters can expect to hear a lot more about school choice over the next four to eight years. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a longtime choice advocate and has pledged that the Trump administration will do more to advance this cause than any other presidency.
While specifics are still in short supply on how the Trump administration’s zeal for school choice will translate into new or expanded federal programs, it’s a topic that will be hotly debated at the national, state and local levels.
Chalkbeat Detroit reporter Erin Einhorn won an EWA award this spring for outstanding beat reporting. Her enterprising coverage included stories about the impact on communities when neighborhood schools are slated for closure, unconventional methods of filling Head Start staffing vacancies, and how many families struggle to find educational options for their children that are safe, high quality, and — just as importantly — accessible.
To some, Head Start is an essential yet underfunded part of the education system. To others, it’s a classic example of a bloated federal program.
Despite the wide divergence in opinions and the political sea change driven by the 2016 elections, the nation’s largest and oldest federally-funded early childhood education program appears likely to remain in place.
Nationally, politicians and others frequently tout Hartford, Connecticut, and its magnet schools as a model of school integration. But in reality, the city has a system of haves and have nots, as Vanessa de la Torre and Matthew Kauffman, reporters at The Hartford Courant, revealed in their 2017 series, “Hartford Schools: More Separate, Still Unequal.”
The rapid improvement over the past decade in Washington, D.C.’s district-run schools — as measured by rising test scores and graduation rates — has drawn national notice.
But officials with the District of Columbia Public Schools remain concerned that too many students still slip through the cracks, with 31 percent failing to graduate high school on time, based on the most recent DCPS data.
Many education journalists are savvy enough to use social media as a way to attract readers to their stories. But if that is all they are doing with social media, they are not harnessing its full potential.
“Especially in our beat, it can be a really valuable — if potentially risky and dangerous tool — both for connecting with hard-to-reach sources and for generating story angles and ideas,” said Sarah Carr, who runs The Teacher Project, a fellowship program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.