Curriculum & Instruction


Curriculum & Instruction

What students learn and how that content is taught have been concerns at the heart of schooling in the United States since universal education took root in the 19th century. Throughout the 20th century the "struggle for the American curriculum," as one education historian called it, ebbed and flowed for decades as debates raged over the very purpose of schooling – whether to prepare an engaged citizenry, develop a competitive workforce, or ensure an educated populace capable of reaching its intellectual potential.

What students learn and how that content is taught have been concerns at the heart of schooling in the United States since universal education took root in the 19th century. Throughout the 20th century the “struggle for the American curriculum,” as one education historian called it, ebbed and flowed for decades as debates raged over the very purpose of schooling – whether to prepare an engaged citizenry, develop a competitive workforce, or ensure an educated populace capable of reaching its intellectual potential.

Over the course of the past century – in response to growing concerns from critics that children in isolated rural communities and depressed urban centers did not have the educational opportunities they needed to succeed – authority and influence over the content of schooling shifted from strictly local entities and teachers themselves to state agencies. While state control over education still reigns in the United States, federal influence over the curriculum has grown in recent decades, as has the role of foundations and other organizations that have invested heavily in school reform efforts. This Topics section examines how curriculum and instruction have developed in American schools and what factors might shape their future evolution.

Bible Study to Evolutionary Theory

A little more than a century ago reading, writing, arithmetic, and Bible study filled the school day. But as millions of immigrants arrived from distant shores and the nation went to war, schools were enlisted to provide civics and history lessons and physical education. The widespread curriculum revisions of the 1930s emphasized not just content, but also what were thought to be more effective ways of teaching. In 1957, the Soviet Union’s launch of the satellite Sputnik touched off a drive by U.S. leaders to improve science education and offerings in technical fields. These initiatives were followed in 1983 by the landmark report, “A Nation at Risk,” which warned of “a rising tide of mediocrity” in public schools that threatened the nation’s global competitiveness and security. The report called for more rigorous content standards and a core curriculum for all schools to ensure that students had access to a world-class education. Within a few years, the nation’s governors were beginning to join forces to consider academic standards and accountability systems.

But despite the emerging agreement for the need for standards, there was little consensus over what they should contain and how they should be translated to curriculum materials and teaching methods. Such battles have ignited time and again over the curriculum. For example, conflicts over literacy, which were dubbed “the reading wars” more than three decades ago, have pitted advocates of strict skills-based approaches to teaching against others who believe that if students are exposed to rich texts and given time to read their love of books will bolster their skills and enable better comprehension. Those wars have abated recently as research has supported the need for both skills instruction and high-quality reading experiences; the sequence and intensity of reading instruction, particularly in the early grades, is still open to debate, however.

Similar arguments have consumed the teaching of mathematics, as skills-oriented traditionalists have vied with proponents of more mathematical thinking and understanding. The science curriculum has also been ripe for controversy, as those who believe the Biblical explanation of the development of life on Earth should be included in, or substituted for, lessons on evolutionary theory. Health class has not escaped such debates either. Although sex education had been introduced in schools early in the 20th century, questions about the appropriateness of such instruction in schools became prominent in the 1960s and ‘70s. In response to the AIDS crisis, by the 1990s most states adopted a sex-education requirement. Conservatives quickly took up the mantle of “abstinence only” as the guiding philosophy for sex education in public schools; that movement is still alive in 2012.

Thus, few of the shifts in curriculum – whether gradual or dramatic – have transpired quietly. The struggle at times has taken on battle themes, with sides drawn over conflicting instructional approaches, historical perspectives, scientific theories and beliefs, or values-based decisions in presenting subject matter.

Now, as technological innovations transform modern industry and daily life, new questions about what students should know and be able to do – and whether new platforms and approaches for learning can be more effective than the longstanding factory model of schooling – are driving experimentation and innovation in curriculum and instruction, as well as encouraging closer looks at how high-performing countries are preparing their students for global society.

Just as the movement toward state academic standards in the 1990s and the federal accountability requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act in the 2000s led to dramatic shifts in the subject matter taught in schools, the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English Language Arts (that have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia) are expected to further change the content of schooling and the ways it is taught across the country. Their potential to guide local curriculum, though, is still an open question. State standards generally are considered broad guidelines of what students should know and be able to do, and they vary greatly in depth and detail from state to state. Curriculum, however, is more detailed, often providing daily guidance on lessons, materials, and suggested ways of teaching. While local jurisdictions follow state guidelines in determining what is taught, curriculum can look very different from district to district, school to school, and, even classroom to classroom.

The federal influence over what is taught is arguably even more complex than the state role.  Concern over the growing federal interest in guiding what students learn caused lawmakers to insert safeguards into the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the 1970s to restrict such intrusion. The provision in the law forbade the federal government to “mandate, direct, or control a state, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content, academic achievement standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction.” When the law was revamped as the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, some of the new provisions again raised concerns that the federal government was encroaching further on decisions that traditionally fell to local authorities.

But in the years since, requirements and guidelines for federal education funding have essentially provided incentives for states and districts to subscribe to particular approaches to curriculum and instruction. The federal government, for example, has worked to bolster certain subject areas in response to national needs, such as a push for foreign language education (Arabic and Chinese, in particular, in response to the attacks of 9/11 and the growing power of China), or the current attention to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education to address the need for more homegrown technical talent.

Some of those guidelines have had far-reaching effects on what is taught in the nation’s schools. The Reading First program, for example, required states and districts to extend reading instruction to at least 90 minutes a day and follow a systematic, skills-based approach. The high stakes applied under NCLB to student test scores in math and English/language arts led to a narrowing of the curriculum in many schools and districts, according to some critics, as time was reallocated from social studies, science, and other offerings to allow more instruction in the tested subjects.

The Role of Textbooks

As states and districts move to implement the Common Core standards, there has been considerable deliberation over the impact they might have on states’ local control over content. Curriculum was traditionally developed by teachers, and later district curriculum specialists, generally following state guidelines or frameworks. Many states sought to improve their education systems and secure more control over what was taught by setting up textbook adoption systems that compelled schools to use state-approved schoolbooks for each subject. In many places, the textbooks became the de facto curriculum and led to some standardization within states. Textbooks are still a key part of the school curriculum in many places, although the availability of alternative or supplemental materials, particularly via the Internet, has allowed teachers more options for their lessons.

And the curriculum is destined for further evolution. With the emergence of online resources and platforms, some observers predict a revolution in the way children acquire knowledge and learn new skills. Open resources, virtual courses (for cost and for free), applications for customizing materials, and the ability of teachers to find, create, and share resources widely are all likely to effect the content of schooling.

Latest News

Never Mind the Students; Homework Divides Parents

Last spring, when Public School 11, a prekindergarten through fifth-grade school in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, banned mandatory traditional homework assignments for children up to fourth grade, you might have expected universal acclaim. Rather than filling out worksheets, students were encouraged to read nightly, and a website offered tips for parents looking for engaging after-school activities.

Latest News

A Popular Public School Bible Class in West Virginia Faces Legal Challenge

Bible in the Schools is facing a stiff legal challenge. Two county residents with school-age children argue in a lawsuit that the program violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment and the West Virginia constitution. Filed in January and amended last month by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the suit charges that the Bible class “advances and endorses one religion, improperly entangles public schools in religious affairs, and violates the personal consciences of nonreligious and non-Christian parents and students.”

Member Stories

March 23 – 30
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Natalie Pate reports for the Statesman Journal as the Oregon Education Association keeps the pressure on the state legislature to add money to the budget for education.


Justin Murphy and Erica Bryant of the Democrat and Chronicle discuss Rochester Career Mentoring Charter School, which has been plagued by teacher turnover and scandal.


Latest News

Ivanka Trump, Education Secretary DeVos Promote STEM Careers

Ivanka Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday exhorted young girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, saying those fields will provide the jobs and innovation for the future.

Their tour of the National Air and Space Museum with a group of middle school students came as the Trump administration proposed further cuts to education and science, drawing harsh criticism from teachers’ unions and others.

Latest News

Boston Public Schools Remove Eurocentric Maps

When the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator created his projection of the world in 1569, his aim was to develop a guide for marine navigation along colonial trade routes. As a result, areas far from the equator appear dramatically large, while areas closer to the equator are truer to size. This makes Europe and North America seem bigger than South America and Africa—possibly stoking people’s unconscious biases. In reality, South America is about twice as large as Europe.

Member Stories

March 16 – 23
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Chad Livengood of Crain’s Detroit Business provides updates on the escalating efforts from the Motor City’s public school district to block the state’s School Reform Office from closing 16 schools that have been deemed failing for at least three years.


For the CTPostLinda Conner Lambeck takes a look at who is left out of a new school funding proposal that Stamford Mayor David Martin calls ”woefully inadequate.”


Member Stories

March 2 – 9
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Chad Livengood of Crain’s Detroit Business reports on how Michigan State Superintendent of Schools Brian Whiston offered an 18-month reprieve to 25 persistently low-performing schools in Detroit facing closure if academics do not improve.


As standardized tests in Ohio are ready to begin, Shannon Gilchrist of The Columbus Dispatch looks at whether third-graders are too young to have developed the computer skills to take a timed test.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Does Charter School Innovation Look Like?

At Summit Public Schools campuses, you won’t see PowerPoint lectures on “Antigone” in English class or witness lofty explanations of the Pythagorean theorem in geometry. Instead, you’ll hear a discussion about the morals and ethics in the ancient Greek tragedy tied to students’ own teenage identity formation and observe discussions on how real-life problem-solving skills can be applied to math.

Latest News

Influential Conservative Group: Trump, Devos Should Dismantle Education Department and Bring God Into Classrooms

A policy manifesto from an influential conservative group with ties to the Trump administration, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, urges dismantling the Education Department and bringing God into American classrooms.

The five-page document produced by the Council for National Policy calls for a “restoration of education in America” that would minimize the federal role, promote religious schools and homeschooling and enshrine “historic Judeo-Christian principles” as a basis for instruction.

Latest News

Texas School Districts Skimping on Sex Education, Report Says

More than 83 percent of Texas school districts taught abstinence-only or no sex education at all in the 2015-16 school year, according to a new report from the Texas Freedom Network.

Despite the high share, that percentage is down from around a decade ago, when the organization first examined the issue and found that 96 percent of school districts taught abstinence-only or no sex education.

Member Stories

February 2-9
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Lauren Camera writes for U.S. News & World Report that while DeVos may be a champion of school choice, she will need to take a piecemeal approach to expansion, as it is unclear whether measures like a voucher proposal would garner more support from lawmakers if pushed by DeVos.

On Kara Newhouse’s Women In STEM podcast for Lancaster Online, African-American teenagers from the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, school district share what they thought of the recent Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures.”

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: Latino Kindergartners Trail White Peers in Math by 3 Months

Latino students in kindergarten trail their white peers in math by approximately three months’ worth of learning, a new study by Child Trends Hispanic Institute has found. 

Researchers drew a nationally representative sample of students from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-2011 who were followed through the end of their fifth-grade year. Sixty-two percent of the 2,199 Latino students studied had at least one foreign-born parent, and 45 percent spoke only Spanish or predominantly Spanish at home. Nearly half lived in poverty.

Latest News

First Amendment Support Climbing Among High School Students

Support among American high school students for the First Amendment is stronger today than it has been in the last 12 years, according to the latest in a series of large nationwide surveys of the nation’s rising voters.

Some 91 percent of high school students say they believe that individuals should be allowed to express unpopular opinions, according to a Knight Foundation survey of nearly 12,000 students conducted last year. The survey is the sixth in a series, the first of which was carried out in 2004, when 83 percent supported such rights.

Latest News

Is A Denver-Area School District About To Cut Programs That Haven’t Gotten A Chance To Succeed?

 In its bid to cut $20 million from next year’s budget, Jeffco Public Schools is looking to eliminate two programs that have posted promising results so far.

One is a three-year-old program to help struggling readers at 20 schools that have large numbers of students that need help. The other, modeled on work gaining momentum nationwide, is a new program focused on helping students develop social and emotional skills.

Latest News

Not All Fun And Games: New Guidelines Urge Schools To Rethink Recess

What’s the best time for students to have recess? Before lunch, or after? What happens if it rains? If students are misbehaving, is it a good idea to punish them by making them sit out recess?

Those are just a few of the issues addressed in new guidelines designed to help schools have good recess. The recommendations come from a group called SHAPE (Society of Health and Physical Educators) America and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Member Stories

January 19-26
Some of our favorite stories by EWA members this week

In a story about higher graduation rates for students in career and technical education programs, one source tells Natalie Pate of the Statesman Journal that while math or English may not be students’ favorite classes, “they are more willing to put in the time and do the work” because they can see the relationship between what they are learning and the projects they work on.


Member Stories

January 6 – January 12

More districts and states are enacting rules to monitor school water safety. “The action is an acknowledgment that the largely voluntary testing system present in most of the country isn’t sufficient,” writes Stacy Teicher Khadaroo for The Christian Science Monitor.

Eric Kelderman of The Chronicle of Higher Education with an important insight into the likely education secretary under Trump: “Ms. DeVos shows her belief in developing civil society through the contributions of individual citizens rather than government.”

Member Stories

December 22-29
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

What will education in California look like under President Trump? Nan Austin of The Modesto Bee offers her take, noting the ”stability built in by state law and sheer size.”


In this story on tall tales during exam week, one Indiana University professor tells Michael Reschke of The Herald-Times that this ”can be an especially dangerous time of year for grandmothers, grandfathers and pets,” who all seem to fall suddenly ill.


Member Stories

December 15 – December 22
Some of our favorite stories by EWA members this week

This company trains schools how to respond to active shooter attacks, reports Dan Carsen for WBHM. Unlike other training, this group, which has partnered with 3,700 districts, encourages staff and students to fight back.

A heartwarming tale or a case study in picking favorites? Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel examines the merits of a Florida university absorbing a bionics company and the worries other firms have about an unfair competitive environment.

EWA Radio

Students Can’t Recognize Fake News. That’s a Problem.
EWA Radio: Episode 103

Benjamin Herold of Education Week discusses why media literacy is in the spotlight in the wake of the presidential election, and the troubling findings of a new Stanford University study that showed the vast majority of students from middle school through college can’t identify “fake news.” Why are so many digital natives flunking when it comes to evaluating the reliability of material they encounter online? How are policymakers, researchers, and educators proposing that schools address this deficit in critical-thinking skills?

Member Stories

December 2 – December 8
Here's what we're reading by EWA members

Boys are less likely than girls to take advantage of college-prep services in California. Larry Gordon of EdSource reports on the how and why.

The school district in Ohio’s capital created a counseling response team to aid students at campuses beset by tragedy. A team of roughly 20 personnel responded to 17 incidents last year, write Bill Bush and Shannon Gilchrist for The Columbus Dispatch.

EWA Radio

Beyond Buzzwords: What Does “Student-Centered Learning” Look Like?
EWA Radio: Episode 100

Katrina Schwartz of KQED Public Radio in San Francisco joins the 100th episode of EWA Radio to discuss the growing interest in student-centered learning and  personalized instruction. What are promising examples of these approaches in action? Can personalization and efficiency co-exist? How is data — big and small — informing teachers and shaping individual student learning? And what are some big stories to watch for in the coming months?


Measuring the Soft Skills: What Reporters Need to Know

Measuring the Soft Skills: What Reporters Need to Know

Should schools measure skills like cooperation, communication, self-confidence and the ability to organize? Efforts to gauge these so-called “soft skills” are gaining traction in the classroom, especially with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The new federal law calls on states and school districts to incorporate at least one measure beyond test scores and graduation rates in their accountability systems.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Texas Education Board Rejects ‘Racist’ Textbook

After months of controversy surrounding a proposed Mexican-American studies textbook that critics called racist and inaccurate, the Texas State Board of Education voted this week to reject its adoption. 

The board rejected the textbook on Wednesday 14-0, with one board member absent. A final vote will take place today, but even if the board votes “no” again, the text could still show up in Texas public school classrooms — just not on the board-approved list of instructional materials.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

When Schools Close for Voting, Do Students Miss Out?

Fearing higher-than-usual potential for unruly voters, school districts across the country have canceled classes at campuses used as Election Day polling stations. But some civics advocates say the decisions result in the loss of a powerful “teachable moment.”

Member Stories

October 20-October 27
Some of our favorite stories by EWA members this week

In Texas school districts, it’s often the men who are calling the shots. Shelby Webb of The Houston Chronicle explores why it’s the case that in a state where three out of four teachers are women, only one of five superintendents are female. Click here to bypass the story’s paywall.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

As Feds Turn Focus on English-Language Learners, Teachers Struggle to Find Quality Materials

Craig Brock teaches high school science in Amarillo, Texas, where his freshman biology students are currently learning about the parts of a cell. But since many of them are refugee children who have only recently arrived in the U.S. and speak little or no English, Brock often has to get creative.

Usually that means creating PowerPoint presentations full of pictures and “just kind of pulling from here and there,” he said — the Internet, a third grade textbook or a preschool homeschool curriculum from Sam’s Club, for example.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Will Californians Vote to Overturn Ban on Bilingual Education?

The fate of the U.S. presidency isn’t the only thing hanging in the balance on Election Day 2016.

Come Nov. 8, dual-language education could either get strengthened or further suppressed in the state with the highest percentage of English-language learners, as voters in California face a decision about overturning the state’s longstanding ban on a bilingual approach to educating these students.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Building a ‘Super School,’ for $10 Million

Students at the Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School this week during a visit by U.S. Department of Education officials. The school is one of 10 winning applications in a competition to reinvent the high school model. (Photo credit: Ethan Covey)

In Louisiana, a high school focused around the theme of coastal restoration will be built on a barge — yes, a barge. Two Los Angeles educators have dreamed up plans for a high school designed to serve foster and homeless children. And the Somerville, Mass., district is planning a year-round high school that “feels more like a research and design studio,” reports the Boston Globe.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How Are Schools Teaching 9/11?

During a Sept. 11 memorial, the night sky is illuminated over the footprint where the World Trade Center's TWin Towers once stood. (Flickr/Jackie)

In 2007, while writing about military recruiting at high schools, I met a fresh-faced JROTC cadet who planned to enlist after graduation. His older brother was already serving in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The student, who was a seventh grader when the hijacked airplanes struck, eventually joined the Army and followed his brother to war.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Where Students Miss the Most Class, and Why That’s a Problem

By woodleywonderworks [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

The precocious teen who’s too cool for school – earning high marks despite skipping class – is a pop-culture standard, the idealized version of an effortless youth for whom success comes easy.

Too bad it’s largely a work of fiction that belies a much harsher reality: Missing just two days a month of school for any reason exposes kids to a cascade of academic setbacks, from lower reading and math scores in the third grade to higher risks of dropping out of high school, research suggests.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Growing Segregation of Latinos in Public Schools Poses Challenge for Academic Success

Source: Leland Francisco/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

More than six decades since the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision declared that segregated schools are “inherently unequal,” Latino students from low-income backgrounds are becoming increasingly isolated in public schools across the country.

The most-segregated schools Latinos attend often have fewer resources, including less access to Advanced Placement courses and Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs, compared with schools with high populations of affluent and white students.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

The boys (and girls) are back in town. For class, that is.

See how forced that lede was? Back-to-school reporting can take on a similar tinge of predictability, with journalists wondering how an occasion as locked in as the changing of the seasons can be written about with the freshness of spring.

Recently some of the beat’s heavy hitters dished with EWA’s Emily Richmond about ways newsrooms can take advantage of the first week of school to tell important stories and cover overlooked issues.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Victories Adding Up for U.S. Math Olympians

The winning U.S. team at the International Math Olympiad in Hong Kong. (Photo credit: Po-Shen Loh)

After learning of their gold-medal victory in the world’s most prestigious high school mathematics competition — held recently in Hong Kong — six American teenagers engaged in a celebratory ritual familiar to many of their peers back home: They went to McDonald’s. But the victors weren’t quite ready to leave the math behind.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Dual-Language Programs on the Rise Across the U.S.

Graduates in white and purple robes exited the auditorium, their newly turned tassels bouncing as they sang and danced to a recording of the popular Latin salsa tune, “Vivir Mi Vida.”

They had just graduated from the Margarita Muñiz Academy in Boston — many with more than a high school diploma. Forty-six of the 51 new alumni of the dual-language school had also earned a Seal of Biliteracy, an official recognition of their academic proficiency in both English and Spanish.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Common Core Math: A Glimpse in the Classroom

The fourth grade students sit on a carpet, wriggling, shaking their hands, looking in all directions as a teacher uses the most basic of tools — a red sharpie and a big white pad — to deliver her lesson.

The day’s agenda: teaching the Common Core standard of finding “whole number quotients.” She writes an equation on the board, and the answer works out to be 100. But she’s not done.


Looking Under the Hood of Competency-Based Education
American Institutes for Research, Nellie Mae Education Foundation

Competency-based education (CBE), an instructional approach that emphasizes what students learn and master rather than how much time they spend in school, is gaining popularity nationwide. CBE environments provide students with personalized learning, autonomy, flexibility, and responsibility for their own learning, which is theorized to improved learning behaviors.

EWA Radio

Hard Numbers — and Hard Truths — About Chicago’s Dropout Crisis
EWA Radio: Episode 78

The press releases from Chicago Public Schools seemed almost too good to be true: the city’s graduation rate was rising more quickly than even its staunchest supporters might have predicted.

But what happened after reporters Becky Vevea and Sarah Karp uncovered discrepancies in those numbers, and raised serious questions about the city’s dropout prevention polices and practices. Vevea (WBEZ) and Karp (formerly of Catalyst Chicago and now with WBEZ) talk with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about their award-winning investigation, the significant changes to district policy that have followed in its wake, and some examples of CPS programs that are making legitimate strides toward helping more students graduate. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Civics Lessons From House Democrats’ Sit-In

Democrats stand on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives during a sit-in to protest in inaction by Congress on gun control legislation. (Wikimedia/U.S. Congress)

Whether the Democrats’ sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to protest congressional inaction on gun control legislation was a publicity stunt or a tipping point remains to be seen. But the episode last week could serve as a teachable moment for the nation’s schoolchildren — and future voters.

EWA Radio

‘Hamilton’ Changed Broadway. Now It’s Changing Teaching.
EWA Radio: Episode 77

Flickr/Rachel Lovinger

Thanks to Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda and two nonprofit groups, thousands of public high school students in New York City are getting access to the hottest ticket in town.

Wayne D’Orio, editor in chief of Scholastic magazine, joins EWA public editor Emily Richmond to discuss an innovative curriculum built around the hip-hop infused musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first secretary of the treasury. How are teachers using the show as a springboard to connect students to challenging academic content aligned to New York’s Common Core State Standards? Why is the show so popular with Advanced Placement U.S. History classes? And what are some smart story ideas of other pop culture influences being used by teachers to engage kids? 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Putting Students in Charge of Their Own Learning

Students from El Centro de Estudiantes learn from their mentors at Philadelphia's Wooden Boat Factory. Providing more personalized learning experiences has been found to improve students' motivation and academic outcomes. (Photo credit: Big Picture Learning)

Imagine you’re a student: You walk into school and check an electronic board for your name and where you go for the day. At the assigned station, you and a small group of fellow students work with a teacher on algebra, which builds on the lesson you mastered the day before. Then, you take a short quiz that helps to create your class schedule for the next day.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Testing and Test Prep: How Much Is Too Much?

Flickr/Jirka Matousek

It’s not hard to find a teacher willing to bend your ear about the volume of standardized testing in schools today, and the pressure for “test prep.” But how widespread are such concerns among educators? And what’s the on-the-ground reality they experience?

New survey data suggest these impressions about over-testing and test prep are more than just anecdotal: They are the norm for the majority of public school teachers.

EWA Radio

Are ‘No Second Chances’ Discipline Policies Hurting Florida’s Students?
EWA Radio: Episode 74

Infinity Moreland, now a senior at North Port High School, was expelled in the fall of 2014 for a fight she did not start. (Sarasota Herald-Tribune/Rachel S. O'Hara used with permission)

Education journalist Shelby Webb of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune spent six months digging into student suspensions and expulsions in Florida, and her findings took the local school board by surprise: Sarasota County has the second-highest rate of expulsions in the Sunshine State. But the district’s process for expulsions was certainly built for volume: as many as 14 students have been expelled with a single “yes” vote by school board members, some of whom haven’t even read the background on the individual students’ cases. The Herald-Tribune’s project also examines questions of equity of school discipline policies across Florida where — echoing a nationwide trend — many students of color face more severe punishments than their white peers.

EWA Radio

Palo Alto’s Student Suicides
EWA Radio: Episode 73


What’s behind a cluster of student suicides in the heart of ultra-competitive Silicon Valley?

In a cover story for The Atlantic, journalist Hanna Rosin investigated a disturbing cycle stretching back more than a decade for Palo Alto and Gunn high schools. She spoke with EWA public editor Emily Richmond: How are local educators, parents, and students are responding to the crisis? What’s next for the investigation by federal health officials? And how can reporters improve their own coverage of these kinds of challenging issues? Rosin’s story, “The Silicon Valley Suicides” won 1st Prize for magazine feature writing in the EWA National Awards for Education Reporting.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Proposed Mexican-American Studies Textbook in Texas Called Racist, Inaccurate

This image appears on the cover of a newly proposed textbook for Mexican-American studies in Texas. The image itself is controversial, and the text in the book has ignited cries of racism and factual inaccuracies. Source: Flickr/ via Jorge Gonzalez (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Texas advocates of ethnic studies in public schools celebrated two years ago when the State Board of Education voted to create instructional materials for classes like Mexican-American and African-American studies that school districts could choose to offer as electives in the state. The decision wasn’t exactly what proponents of Mexican-American studies had asked for — to establish a statewide curriculum — but it was something. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

‘Paper Tigers’ Documentary Offers Solutions to Teaching Traumatized Kids

From left, James Redford, director of Paper Tigers, Amanda Moreno of the Erikson Institute, Michelle Porche of Boston University, and Michael Chandler of the Washington Post discuss the impact of trauma on children's ability to learn. (Lilli Boxer for EWA)

The film “Paper Tigers” opens with what looks like phone camera footage of a fight. There’s a splatter of blood, shouting, a chair flying across a classroom.

The voiceover is a patchwork of voices saying things like: “This place is absolute chaos.” And: “All the kids were forced to be here.” And: “That’s where the bad kids went.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

A New 2016 “Common Core,” With Social-and-Emotional Muscle

By BMRR (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

At the age of nine, Amalio Nieves saw his father die from gun violence in Chicago. And as a child, Nieves himself was robbed at gunpoint. Now he’s always thinking about his young niece Jordan and the year 2100 – when Jordan will be the parent of a child that leads America into a new, unknown century.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Experts Say Teachers Are Being Taught Bad Science

Source: Nora Newcombe's presentation at EWA's National Seminar in Boston

Here’s a quick quiz. Rate the following statements on a scale from one to five, with one meaning you totally disagree and five meaning you wholeheartedly agree:

  • Beginners and experts essentially think in the same way.

  • Most people are either left-brained or right-brained.

  • Students learn more when information is tailored to their unique learning styles.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Missing Class: Using Data to Track Chronic Absenteeism

Fickr/dcJohn (CC BY 2.0)

For every savant who’s skilled enough to ditch class and still ace the course, many more who miss school fall way behind, increasing their odds of dropping out or performing poorly.

The implications are major: If a school has a high number of students repeatedly absent, there’s a good chance other troubles are afoot. Feeling uninspired in the classroom, poor family outreach, or struggles at students’ homes are just some of the root causes of absenteeism, experts say.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Does Common Core Teaching Look Like?

Flickr/Laurie Sullivan

When the communications office in the Huntsville (Ala.) City Schools calls English teacher Stephanie Hyatt to say a TV reporter is coming to observe her class, Hyatt knows the drill. She’s expected to stand in front of the room and lecture at students in picturesque fashion.

“That’s my job — to look exciting,” said Hyatt. “They like me, because I teach with my hands.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Angela Duckworth: Raising Test Scores Is Not a Sign of Grit

In the dozen years that Angela Duckworth has researched the concept of grit, she’s found new ways to test its validity, identified examples of it in popular culture, and worked to bust myths about its application in schools. But she hasn’t developed a just-add-water curriculum package that interested schools can use to develop the character trait in their students.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Why Tracking Textbooks Should Matter


Textbooks can have a tremendous effect on what children learn, and an upcoming  analysis from a University of Southern California researcher seeks to find out which books are in use in five large states.

But it’s hard to say which books are in use in which schools.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

D.C. Schools Expand Their Dual-Language Programs

Source: Flickr/ via woodleywonderworks

More students in the District of Columbia Public Schools will have the opportunity to become bilingual starting next year. The school district has announced it will begin three additional dual-language immersion programs in the fall at the elementary, middle and high school levels, for the first time guaranteeing that students who wish to complete all of their preK-12 instruction in both Spanish and English can do so in the district.

EWA Radio

Does America Need a ‘Math Revolution’?
EWA Radio: Episode 63

(Flickr/Mathematical Association of America)

We know many American students struggle with math and trail many of their international peers. Conventional wisdom says that’s keeping them from developing the kind of critical thinking skills they need for high-paying STEM careers, and to be successful in a 21st century global economy. But is that shortsighted view of a bigger — and more positive — picture?

Key Coverage

The Promise of Social and Emotional Learning in U.S. Schools

For the eighth grader Kimberly Wilborn, a lesson about Nelson Mandela made it all click.

“Ms. Plante was talking about Nelson Mandela and how he forgave his jailers,” remembers Wilborn, who is being raised by her aunt on Chicago’s South Side. “And I thought if he can forgive them, I can forgive my birth mom and my dad for not being there for me. I actually cried. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.”

Key Coverage

Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students’ Emotional Skills

And there is little agreement on what skills matter: Self-control? Empathy? Perseverance? Joy?

“There are so many ways to do this wrong,” said Camille A. Farrington, a researcher at the University of Chicago who is working with a network of schools across the country to measure the development of social-emotional skills. “In education, we have a great track record of finding the wrong way to do stuff.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Florida Senate Votes ‘Yes’ to Coding As a Foreign Language

Source: Flickr/ via (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The state of Florida is one step closer to equating computer coding with foreign languages.

A controversial bill, which passed by a wide margin in the state Senate Wednesday would allow students to take computer coding for foreign language credit and require the state’s public colleges and universities to recognize it as such. 

Key Coverage

Growth Mindset Means More Than Just Praising Kids for Trying

The approach has been misinterpreted by some to mean simply praising effort.

But that’s misunderstanding the thinking behind a growth mindset, Dweck said. Telling students, “Keep trying; you can do it,” doesn’t work, she said. Teachers instead should ask students these questions: “What strategies have you tried? What will you try next?” “It’s not just effort,” Dweck said. “You need strategies.”


Standardized Testing

The Council of the Great City Schools hosted a forum on the results of a new report on the effectiveness of standardized testing. Michael Casserly made opening remarks on the report, and then panelists that included Education Secretary Arne Duncan analyzed the data in the report.

  • This panel was moderated by Caroline Hendrie, EWA’s executive director.
Blog: The Educated Reporter

A View From Abroad: Exchange Students Highlight Differences in Schooling

A panel of exchange students spoke at EWA's recent conference on U.S. education in a global context. From left to right, they are Valentina Tobon of Virginia, Lili Hofmann of Germany, Chun-Te Wang of Taiwan, and Kamila Mundzik of Poland. Photo by Emily Richmond, EWA

Chung-Te Wang had never seen a calculator in school before traveling to the U.S. this year as an exchange student.

“We always calculate with our brain. No offense,” said the 16-year-old from Taiwan, spurring laughter in a room full of reporters at the Education Writers Association’s recent seminar on covering U.S. education in a global context.

EWA Radio

TGI Thursday! Idaho’s Four-Day Schools
EWA Radio: Episode 51

Faced with massive budget cuts in the wake of the recession, many Idaho school districts switched to a four-day weekly calendar. But more than seven years into the experiment, an investigation by Idaho Education News – lead by reporter Kevin Richert — found little evidence that the schedule change improved either student achievement or the fiscal outlook of cash-strapped districts.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Deeper Learning, Smarter Testing

Linda Darling-Hammond speaks to reporters at a seminar on motivation at Stanford in November. (Photo credit: EWA/Michael Marriott)

Since 2003, more information is produced every two days than the total sum of information produced between that year and the dawn of time, the CEO of Google said in 2010.  Easily web-accessible facts, names and articles have grown exponentially, so much so that some say students can’t be taught like they were in the past, when rote memorization was the gold standard for learning and information wasn’t at almost everyone’s fingertips.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Growing Minds, Changing Math Classes

Jo Boaler speakers to reporters during EWA's seminar on motivation held at Stanford University in November (Credit: Stanford University/Marc Franklin)

As the tune of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” plays out over the music video, the lyrics are a bit different:

“We will make mistakes…our method’s gonna break…not a piece of cake…we’re gonna shake it off, shake it off…”

It was in this video Stanford University Professor and author Jo Boaler says she was compelled to do something she didn’t want to do. “They made me rap,” she said. When her undergraduate students challenged whether she had a growth mindset about her rhyme skills, Boaler said to herself, “Oh my gosh. I’m gonna have to rap.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

When Grit Isn’t Enough

Tyrone Howard, a professor and associate dean at UCLA, speakers to reporters about student trauma at EWA's seminar on Motivation Nov. 11, 2015. (Photo credit: EWA/Michael Marriott)

The first time I heard a preschooler explaining a classmate’s disruptive behavior, I was surprised at how adult her four-year-old voice sounded.

Her classmate “doesn’t know how to sit still and listen,” she said to me, while I sat at the snack table with them. He couldn’t learn because he couldn’t follow directions, she explained, as if she had recently completed a behavioral assessment on him.

Key Coverage

How Washington Created Some of the Worst Schools in America

Flash forward 46 more years. The network of schools for Native American children run by an obscure agency of the Interior Department remains arguably the worst school system in the United States, a disgrace the government has known about for eight decades and never successfully reformed. Earlier this fall, POLITICO asked President Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan, about perhaps the federal government’s longest-running problem: “It’s just the epitome of broken,” he said. “Just utterly bankrupt.” The epitome of broken looks like Crystal Boarding School.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Carol Dweck Explains ‘Growth Mindsets’

Carol Dweck addresses reporters at EWA's seminar on Motivation on the Stanford University campus, Nov. 11, 2015 (Photo credit: EWA/Michael Marriott)

One of the most popular ideas in education today is also one that is often misunderstood. While Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset” has a emerged as a meme for motivation less than a decade after the publication of her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” the Stanford psychology professor is worried about its misapplication.

Key Coverage

The Slowest Internet in Mississippi: Rural Schools Still Struggle to Get Connected

The 2,500 students in Calhoun County can’t do Internet research in school. Computerized state testing here last spring was a disaster. Teachers have given up on using online tools in the classroom. The district has given up on buying the new digital technologies that are transforming schools elsewhere.

 And the most outrageous part: For the privilege of being stuck with the slowest Internet service in all of Mississippi, the nine-school Calhoun County district is billed $9,275 each month.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Saving on College by Doing Some of It in High School

Gov. Dannel Malloy announces the creation of Connecticut's first P-TECH high school, modeled after the IBM-backed school in Brooklyn, New York. (Source: Flickr/Dannel Malloy)

Last week the White House announced a new higher education experiment that will direct federal grants to some high school students who want to enroll in college classes.

The plan is to start small, with the administration offering $20 million to help defray the college costs of up to 10,000 low-income high school students for the 2016-2017 academic year. The money will come from the overall Pell Grant pot, which is currently funded at more than $30 billion annually and used by 8 million students.


Preschool-to-Third Grade Programs and Practices: A Review of Research
UW-Madison School Of Social Work

The preschool-to-third grade perspective has helped the early childhood field move away from a reliance on relatively brief or one-shot programs toward more systematic and comprehensive models that span most of children’s first decade. We review the knowledge base on the effectiveness of preschool-to-third grade intervention programs and practices for young children making the transition to school.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Valuing Both Spanish and English in the Classroom

Maria Fernanda Lopez of Univision talks about her experiences covering the topic of bilingual education. She was joined on the panel by Nelson Flores of the University of Pennsylvania, left, and Rachel Hazlehurst of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy. 
Source: Valencia College/ Don Burlinson

Children don’t have to lose one language to learn another language. That’s the theory behind dual-language programs, which are replacing traditional English as a second language (ESL) courses in schools across the country.

EWA Radio

Can a Charter School Grow Its Own Teachers?
EWA Radio: Episode 41

Jose Garcia on the first day of school in 2014. (WBEZ/Becky Vevea)

The Noble Street Network of Charter Schools in Chicago is taking a radical in-house approach to teacher preparation, recruiting and training its own recent graduates for spots at the front of the classroom.

Reporter Becky Vevea of WBEZ Chicago followed new teacher Jose Garcia through his first year at Noble’s Rauner College Prep, while he was also completing coursework through the Relay Graduate School of Education.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Mixed Reviews for Stricter School Lunch Menus

Students at Washington-Lee High School, part of Arlington Public Schools, are served meals as part of the National School Lunch Program. New federal regulations set stricter standards for nutritional content. (Flickr/U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Long mocked for its inedibility, campus cafeteria food is undergoing a federally mandated transformation, and schools are realizing it’s going to take more than sprinkling kale on pizza to really change the way students eat. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teacher, Student Voices in Back-to-School Spotlight

It’s easy to get cynical about back-to-school stories – especially when you’ve been an education reporter for many years. But it’s important to remember that for many children and their families – one of the prime audiences for such reporting – this might be the first time they’ve gone through the experience.


69th EWA National Seminar

The Education Writers Association, the national professional organization for journalists who cover education, is thrilled to announce that its annual conference will take place from Sunday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in the historic city of Boston.

Co-hosted by Boston University’s College of Communication and School of Education, EWA’s 69th National Seminar will examine a wide array of timely topics in education — from early childhood through career — while expanding and sharpening participants’ skills in reporting and storytelling.

Boston, Massachusetts

The Alarming Effect Of Racial Mismatch On Teacher Expectations

Researchers find evidence of systematic biases in teachers’ expectations for the educational attainment of black students. Specifically, non-black teachers have significantly lower educational expectations for black students than black teachers do when evaluating the same students. We cannot determine whether the black teachers are too optimistic, the non-black teachers are too pessimistic, or some combination of the two.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Miami Schools Look to Improve Spanish Instruction

Source: Flickr/ Enokson (CC BY 2.0)

Imagine taking an English class with a teacher who struggles with writing and grammar. 

That’s the type of instruction many students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools were getting in Spanish class, where teachers with Hispanic last names who spoke Spanish well enough to get by were being thrust into a role they weren’t trained for, according to recent articles by Christina Veiga of the Miami Herald. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teaching ‘Grit’: How Students, Schools Can Benefit

Over at EWA Radio, we explored the debate over how so-called noncognitive factors like “grit” influence student achievement, and how schools are rethinking approaches to classroom instruction as a result. (You can find the full episode here.I thought this was a good opportunity to revisit a recent guest post by Daveen Rae Kurutz of the Beaver County Times, looking at our “deep dive” session into these issues at EWA’s recent National Seminar:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Grit? Motivation? Report Takes Stab at Defining Terms

Source: Flickr/U.S. Department of Education (CC BY 2.0)

Education writing is famous for its alphabet soup of acronyms and obscure terms, but it could just as well be faulted for trafficking buzzwords in search of clear definitions.

Ideas like grit, motivation, fitting in and learning from one’s mistakes, often summarized as noncognitive factors, are just some of the concepts floated more frequently these days. A new paper released this week seeks to provide clarity to this fast-growing discipline within the world of how students learn.

EWA Radio

Rethinking Classroom Discipline
EWA Radio: Episode 32

Conversations about classroom discipline typically focus on ways to teach kids there are consequences to their actions as a means of controlling future behavior. But a new approach gaining ground removes the sliding scale of punishment from the equation.

Clinical psychologist Ross Greene — whose books are well known to parents of so-called “problem kids,” is rewriting the rules for how some schools respond to challenging students.

EWA Radio

What Grit and Perseverance Could Look Like in the Classroom
EWA Radio: Episode 31

(Flickr/Steven Depolo)

Nestled within the new-agey sounding concept of “noncognitive factors” are fairly concrete examples of what parents and educators should and shouldn’t do to prepare students for the rigors of college and careers. Gleaned from research into brain development and human behavior, a toolkit is emerging on how to make the best of the scholarship focused on qualities like grit, persistence and learning from mistakes.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Beyond NCLB: New Era in Federal Education Policy?

Screenshot of a tweet by @KristenRencher

Fifty years ago, the federal government enacted the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty. The newest version of the ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act, became law 13 years ago and has stayed in place ever since. On Thursday, a new version of the federal government’s most far-reaching K-12 education law moved closer to adoption. The U.S. Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act, one week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own version, the Student Success Act.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

College Board Goes ‘All In’ to Attract Latinos to Advanced Placement

Latino students might shun Advanced Placement courses if the only students they see in them are mostly affluent whites. 

That’s essentially what Jeremy Goldman, head of counseling at a Baltimore high school told NBC last week in an article about the College Board’s new campaign to boost the number of minority high school students enrolled in AP classes. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Is There Room for Games in Education?

Flickr/Games For Change

Allen Turner recently recalled the day his grade school teacher said it was time to learn about the U.S. Constitution, beginning with its famous preamble. But Turner, now a video game designer and professor at Chicago’s DePaul University, already knew it. So did all his classmates.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

At Catholic High School, Chicago Students Earn While They Learn

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School's principal Pat Garrity, left, and its vice president of advancement, Elizabeth White. (Sarah Darville for EWA)

When Carolyn Alessio assigned her students to prepare to act out a trial to probe the themes of “Frankenstein,” she was surprised at what she found at the top of a few of their supporting documents — perfectly formatted docket numbers.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

A Chicago High School’s Turnaround

Reporters visit Nicholas Senn High School in Chicago's North Side as part of EWA's 68th National Seminar (Jessica Smith for EWA)

Five years ago, Nicholas Senn High School on the Near North Side of Chicago was one some educators felt lucky to avoid. While student discipline might have been an issue elsewhere, “you would say, at least it’s not Senn,” Principal Susan Lofton said.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

When Wrong Answers Lead to the Right Outcomes

Moderator Ki Sung (L) listens as Camille Farrington (R) explains the role non-cognitive research plays in schools. (Credit: Mikhail Zinshteyn/EWA)

In a second-grade classroom outside of Palo Alto, Calif., students were sharing their answers to a math quiz. A young boy named Michael held up his answer, and, as was customary, his classmates showed their verdict on the answer – thumbs up or thumbs down.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Beyond the Buzzwords: Understanding ‘Deeper Learning’

Students work on robotics projects as part of the LEGO Education program, one approach to a "deeper learning" mindset in classroom instruction. (Flickr/Jeff Peterson)

Focusing on student learning, and structuring the school to fit students’ varied learning paces, is proving to be a game changer, said panelists at EWA’s recent National Seminar in Chicago, moderated by journalist Katrina Schwartz of Mindshift at KQED Public Radio.


Mindset Interventions Are a Scalable Treatment for Academic Underachievement
Stanford University

We quickly discovered two good reasons schools weren’t implementing mindset interventions: Schools didn’t know how to implement mindset interventions, and Schools didn’t know whether mindset interventions would work for their students. We had something important in common with them: We didn’t know either! To turn mindset interventions into something that schools could (and should) practically use, we first needed to develop a mindset intervention that schools could easily implement. We also needed to test whether this easy-to-use intervention was effective for various kinds of students.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

White House School Arts Program Expands to D.C., New York

Yo-Yo Ma performs at the 2008 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. He's one of several dozen artists affiliated with Turnaround Arts. (Source:
By World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

A program that pairs celebrities with struggling schools to develop their arts education is expanding to more large cities, The U.S. Department of Education announced today. 

Known as the Turnaround Arts initiative, the $10-million effort pools public and private funds to teach music, dance and other arts disciplines at schools that are considered among the worst in their respective states.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Students, Teachers Thrive at U. of Chicago Charter School

Kindergarteners at the NKO campus of the UChicago Charter during a visit by EWA members in April 2015. (Beth Hawkins for EWA)

What’s most notable about the Chicago kindergarten class where assistant teacher Nichelle Bell is temporarily in charge is what is not happening. Teachers are not redirecting pupils, who are not off-task. Hands are not in other people’s spaces. Voices—those of children and adults—are not raised.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Students, Teachers Don’t Study The Way Science Says They Should

Henry Roediger listens as Bror Saxberg answers a reporter's question at EWA's 68th National Seminar in Chicago. (Photo credit: Mikhail Zinshteyn/EWA)

Most students don’t study using methods backed by scientific research, panelists at the Education Writers Association’s deep dive on the science of learning told reporters in Chicago at the association’s 68th National Seminar.

“Why do people find learning so hard?” asked Henry Roediger, a psychology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who participated in the April event.


NAEP 2014 U.S. History, Geography, and Civics Assessments

Nationally, eighth graders’ average scores on the NAEP U.S. history, geography, and civics assessments showed no significant change in 2014, compared to 2010—the last assessment year. However, several student groups have made gains. In 2014, eighteen percent of eighth-graders performed at or above the Proficient level in U.S. history, 27 percent performed at or above the Proficient level in geography, and 23 percent performed at or above the Proficient level in civics.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Educators: Common Core Standards ‘Are the Floor’

From left: Educators Luann Tallman, Mark Sass, Merlinda Moldanado and Kristy Straley talk with moderator Liana Heiten of Education Week at the University of Colorado Boulder on February 26, 2015. (EWA/Emily Richmond)

For teacher Merlinda Maldonado’s sixth graders at Hill Middle School in Denver, it’s not necessarily about getting the answer right. It’s not about memorizing procedures, either. If Maldonado’s classroom is clicking, frustration can be a good thing.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How One Charter Group Took a Start-Up Approach to Teaching

Classroom with Chromebooks Flickr/kjarrett (CC BY 2.0)

At Summit Public School: Denali, young learners do it differently. Most of the students at this Bay Area-area school complete their coursework on school-issued Chromebooks, where they access a portal to online videos, assigned readings and interim assessments they take at their own pace. It’s a competency-based approach to proving they have mastered the subject at hand. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Common Core: What Educators Say About the Standards

Educators discuss the Common Core during an EWA seminar at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill on Jan. 12, 2015. (EWA)

When education analyst Maria Ferguson looks at data from across the country, she sees record-setting confidence levels among school district leaders that the Common Core State Standards are more rigorous than what states had in place before. At the same time, Ferguson told reporters at a recent Education Writers Association seminar, these new expectations are barreling down on educators faster than they are able to prepare.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

For Undocumented Immigrants, High Schools Can Play a Key Role

Gymnasiums like these can be sites for explaining to families the process of applying for DACA. By Tedder (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

As many as 3.7 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States are eligible for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which sets aside the threat of deportation and grants work privileges to eligible residents. Among the several conditions necessary to qualify for DACA approval is a high-school degree or its equivalent. That’s where schools enter the picture.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

School Discipline Policies Can Backfire

Source: Flickr/cdsessums (CC BY 2.0)

If tough school discipline measures are meant to maintain stability in the classroom, then a new definition of stable might be in order: A new study argues high use of suspensions and expulsions brings down all students – even the ones who behave well.

A researcher with the Albert Shanker Institute flagged the study, which was published this month in the American Sociological Review. Here’s more on the paper from the Shanker Institute scholar Esther Quintero:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Webinar Wednesday: Are Teachers Making Use of Student Data?

As tools and data profiles of students become easier to use, are teachers sufficiently data literate to make sense of the information at their fingertips? Do teachers have the skills and access to data in useful formats, and are the school leaders and institutions responsible for their professional development providing them the training they need?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Study: Surprising Student Benefits to Live Theater Field Trips

Ohio Shakespeare Festival production of “Hamlet” at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. (Flickr/Phil Kalina for Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens)

In Watertown, N.Y., the local school district recently debated scaling back field trips for students, with administrators citing the cost of providing transportation and chaperones – money that instead needs to be devoted to more purely academic endeavors.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Impact Academy: Rethinking Student Assessment

Sophie Wellington at Impact Academy, Nov. 19, 2014. (EWA/Lori Crouch)

On a recent Wednesday morning, 11th-grader Sophia Wellington took to the undersized stage at the front of her high school gym and with seamless poise demonstrated what smarter student assessment could look like.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What It Takes to Build Great Teachers

Author Elizabeth Green speaks to EWA members in Detroit on Oct. 21, 2014. (Emily Richmond/EWA)

If 49 multiplied by 5 is 245, why would a student think the answer is 405? And who is more likely to know this – a mathematician or an elementary math teacher?

Elizabeth Green, the author of “Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (And How to Teach It to Everyone), posed this question to a roomful of education reporters at EWA’s October seminar in Detroit.  

Blog: The Educated Reporter

EWA Webinar: What About the Arts?

Decades of research suggest that some types of arts education can lead to academic improvements. But even though No Child Left Behind designated arts a core subject, student access to dance, theater and visual arts declined between 2000 and 2010. What are the challenges educators face in teaching a discipline many researchers say spurs student achievement, reduces absences and boosts graduation rates? 


Common Core Redoes the Math – Education Week
New standards bring hard questions, daunting instructional adjustments

As detailed in this report, part of a series of special reports by Education Week that identify and explore high-priority issues in schools, the common standards for math differ from most previous state standards in significant ways. They are fewer in number, connect more broadly across grade levels, and emphasize conceptual understanding along with the procedural skills that schools have traditionally taught.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Are Students Learning Lessons of Midterm Elections?

Today is a day off from school for millions of students as campuses in some districts and states — including Michigan and New York — are converted into polling stations for the midterm elections. To Peter Levine, the director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, that’s a missed opportunity to demonstrate democracy in action.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teaching Math: More Than Mastering the Numbers

Dean Deborah Loewenberg Ball, University of Michigan School of Education, speaks to EWA members in Detroit on Oct. 21, 2014. (Emily Richmond)

Deborah Loewenberg Ball began her career as an elementary school teacher, working for 15 years with a diverse population of students. But math stumped her.

“That troubled me,” Ball said Oct. 21 during her keynote presentation at the EWA seminar on teaching held in Detroit. “I would work really hard on how could I make the math make sense to the students, … but on Fridays they would know how to do things and on Monday they would have forgotten.”


Teacher Induction and Mentoring: Liam Goldrick, New Teacher Center
EWA Seminar on Teaching

Teacher Induction and Mentoring: Liam Goldrick, New Teacher Center

For new teachers, the first few years on the job can present a steep learning curve. And the students who need the most experienced teachers often don’t get them. How are schools, districts and states ramping up the support provided to new teachers? What are the hallmarks of a high-quality induction program? And what does the research show on the effects of coaching and mentoring?



Teacher Induction and Mentoring: Magdalene Lampert, Boston Residency Project
EWA Seminar on Teaching

Teacher Induction and Mentoring: Magdalene Lampert, Boston Residency Project

For new teachers, the first few years on the job can present a steep learning curve. And the students who need the most experienced teachers often don’t get them. How are schools, districts and states ramping up the support provided to new teachers? What are the hallmarks of a high-quality induction program? And what does the research show on the effects of coaching and mentoring?


Blog: The Educated Reporter

Columbus Day: A New World For Schools

While Monday is designated as the Columbus Day holiday on federal calendars, it’s no longer being observed as such in a growing number of communities and schools.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

In Wake of Pushback, States Rewriting Common Core

Missouri State Capitol

In May, Missouri lawmakers approved a compromise to keep the Common Core in place for at least two more years but require more oversight and public input. And as Joe Robertson of the Kansas City Star reported, a total of eight committees comprised of lawmakers and parents were supposed to convene at the statehouse this week to begin the work of revising the standards.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Moving the Wrong Way on Student Health?

There’s a section in the new Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll out this week that hasn’t gotten much attention: what parents think about schools and student health. (You can read my overview of the full poll, which focuses heavily on questions about teacher quality and preparation, here.)

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Nashville Magnet School Students Sing Different Tune

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?

Key Coverage

The Science of Smart

Researchers have long been searching for better ways to learn. In recent decades, experts working in cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience have opened new windows into how the brain works, and how we can learn to learn better.

In this program, we look at some of the big ideas coming out of brain science. We meet the researchers who are unlocking the secrets of how the brain acquires and holds on to knowledge. And we introduce listeners to the teachers and students who are trying to apply that knowledge in the real world.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Educators’ Interest in Latino Studies Courses Grows

Arizona made national headlines in 2010 with its law banning ethnic studies in public schools. That move resulted in the dismantling of the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program.

Four years later, educators in Texas and California are trying to drum up support for Latino and ethnic studies programs. The majority of public school students in both states are Latino. 

EWA Radio

Is Kochs’ High School Finance Class Pushing Conservative Agenda?
EWA Radio, Episode 8

This week, Emily and Mikhail talk to Joy Resmovits of The Huffington Post, who discusses her story (written with colleague Christina Wilkie) about the Charles G. Koch Foundation’s creation of Youth Entrepreneurs: a public high school finance course being used in schools in the midwest and south, which was designed to introduce students to free market theory and economics with a distinctly conservative point of view. 


Measuring Innovation in Education

Do teachers innovate? Do they try different pedagogical approaches? Are practices within classrooms and educational organisations changing? And to what extent can change be linked to improvements? A measurement agenda is essential to an innovation and improvement strategy in education. Measuring Innovation in Educationoffers new perspectives on addressing the need for such measurement.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Which Education Research Is Worth the Hype?

Source: Holly Yettick (

Education reporters may have the power of the pen, but when it comes to navigating the complex methods of research studies, we may feel powerless. As researchers churn out report after report, how can journalists on deadline figure out which studies are worth covering?

Key Coverage

What We Don’t Know About Summer School

So as the July heat kicks in, we started wondering about the whole idea. What, exactly, is summer school? How much does it cost? And, the biggest question, does it work? In a nutshell, we have no idea. “It’s been one of my pet peeves for years,” says Kathy Christie, vice president of knowledge and information management at the nonprofit Education Commission of the States. She says there’s never been a push for anyone to collect data on summer school. As a result there isn’t really good information about any of those questions above.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Kids Got the Beat: Arts and Music Enrich Student Learning

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.”

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Lawsuit: California Students Shortchanged on Class Time

A class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday accuses the state of California of failing to provide adequate classroom instructional time to minority and low-income students.

The suit, Cruz v. State of California, was brought by students who attend seven economically disadvantaged schools in the state. Schools in Los Angeles and Compton are included in the lawsuit, as are Bay Area schools.

Key Coverage

Common Core at Four: Sizing Up the Enterprise

The Common Core State Standards have been reshaping the American education landscape for four years, leaving their mark on curriculum and instruction, professional development, teacher evaluation, the business of publishing, and the way tests are designed.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Brown Center Report: Common Core, Homework and Shanghai’s Success

The third installment of the Brown Center Report on Public Education is out from the Brookings Institution, and author Tom Loveless provides plenty of food for thought in three key areas: the potential effectiveness of the new Common Core State Standards; whether American students are being saddled with  significantly more homework; and an examination of Shanghai’s reputation for producing some of the best 15-year-old math students in the world.  

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Texas Teachers Push for Mexican American Studies

Some south Texas teachers are campaigning for the creation of a Mexican American Studies curriculum to be taught in the state’s public schools.

The El Paso Times reports that the school board of the Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso voted to urge the Texas State Board of Education to offer Mexican American Studies content in literature and history classes pre-K through twelfth grade.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

After-School Learning Advocates Hope Research Leads to More Federal Dollars

Learning doesn’t stop when the last bell of the day rings, but for most communities, money to support after-school activities is tight.

The largest federal grant program dedicated to learning outside of class – after school, before school and during summers – is roughly only $1.15 billion for the entire nation, for instance. The AfterSchool Alliance, an advocacy group, notes that of all the money spent on education outside of normal school hours, Uncle Sam only kicks in about a tenth. Parents, meanwhile, contribute three-quarters of the dollars spent in total.


Early Reading Proficiency in the United States

This KIDS COUNT data snapshot finds 80 percent of fourth-graders from low-income families and 66 percent of all fourth-graders are not reading at grade level. While improvements have been made in the past decade, reading proficiency levels remain low. Given the critical nature of reading to children’s individual achievement and the nation’s future economic success, the Casey Foundation offers recommendations for communities and policymakers to support early reading. Early reading proficiency rates for the nation and each state are provided.