Federal K-12 Reform

Overview

Federal K-12 Reform

Since the creation of the U.S. Department of Education in 1980—if not long before—policymakers, educators, and the public have debated how involved the federal government should be in shaping the schools that children across the nation attend. The articles, reports and other materials in this Topics section examine the recent impact of federally driven efforts to reform elementary and secondary schools.

Since the creation of the U.S. Department of Education in 1980—if not long before—policymakers, educators, and the public have debated how involved the federal government should be in shaping the schools that children across the nation attend. The articles, reports and other materials in this Topics section examine the recent impact of federally driven efforts to reform elementary and secondary schools.

The Obama administration has made competitive grant programs—designed to encourage states and districts to adopt what the administration regards as research-based innovative practices—the centerpiece of its K-12 reform agenda. Four programs, two of which were created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, have helped the administration advance these goals. The programs include the Race to the Top competitions, the School Improvement Grants, the Investing in Innovation Grant program and the Teacher Incentive Fund.

The Race to the Top program initially was funded at $4.35 billion under the ARRA, a sweeping package of economic-stimulus measures. Race to the Top rewarded states that embraced the four key goals of the law for K-12 schools: bolstering state data systems to better track student outcomes from prekindergarten  to college, upgrading standards and assessments, turning around low-performing schools,  and improving the distribution of teachers to ensure that high-poverty schools are given access to effective educators. The department used $4 billion for a state grant competition, and $350 million for an assessment competition.

The rules for the contest took into account everything from how friendly each state’s laws are to charter schools to whether the state allowed students’ performance data to be linked to individual teachers. States received points for getting buy-in from districts and unions for their plans. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia each applied for a four-year grant. Delaware and Tennessee were the first winners in spring 2010. Nine states plus the District of Columbia won grants ranging from $75 million to $700 million in August 2010. The program’s proponents say the contest helped spark reforms, even in states that did not secure grants.

The Education Department  set aside $350 million in Race to the Top for an assessment competition, designed to help states create tests that emphasize higher-order thinking skills. Two separate consortia won: the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers Consortium, or PARCC, which includes 26 states; and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, which includes 31 states. Some states are in both groups.

In 2011, Congress provided additional funding for the program and it has become something of a franchise. In fall 2011, as part of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Fund, the department offered $500 million to nine states to bolster the quality of their early learning programs. Also, in fall 2011, the department gave $200 million to seven states that narrowly missed winning a regular Race to the Top grant in the initial round. The states could use the money to implement a piece of their original Race to the Top plans. Another round of the Race to the Top competition, worth $550 million in 2012, is intended chiefly for district-level grants.

Nearly all states that received funding under the original competition have had trouble implementing their plans. In January 2012, for example, the department threatened to withhold nearly all of Hawaii’s money because the state was unable to deliver on a new teacher-evaluation system .

The School Improvement Grant program was initially created as part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 to help fix schools that perennially failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress under the school accountability scheme instituted by the far-reaching federal law. In 2009, Congress supercharged the SIG program, providing $3 billion from the ARRA for the grants. Up to that point, the program had only received as much as $491 million a year, with little oversight or direction for states and schools.

With the new money came new strings. Schools applying for the grants had to choose one of four improvement models: closing down altogether; the “restart” model, which involves turning over the school to a charter management or education management organization; the “turnaround” model, which requires schools to remove half of their staffs, implement a new or revised instructional program, and adopt a new governance structure; and the “transformational” model, considered by experts to be the most flexible and toughest to implement with fidelity. The “transformational” model involves a basket of strategies, including using student achievement growth to reward and dismiss teachers, extending learning and teacher planning time, and providing operational flexibility.

In nearly all cases, schools were expected to replace their principals. However, principals that were in their jobs for less than three years were allowed to stay if the state determined they were the right leaders to oversee their schools’ transitions. As of early 2012, the most popular model was the “transformational” model, used by about 74 percent of schools, according to a survey conducted  by the Washington-based Center on Education Policy. Few schools had been closed .

The first round of schools began implementing the three-year grants in the 2010-11 school year. Schools reported widespread implementation issues, including difficulty in finding teachers and leaders with backgrounds in turnarounds. Problems arising with the transformational model included difficulties in providing extended learning time and developing new teacher evaluation systems. Teachers’ unions and principals’ groups continue to oppose the program’s requirements to remove teachers. Charter management organizations have been reluctant to participate in the “restart” model.

The Investing in Innovation (i3) program was created under the ARRA to scale up promising practices among districts and nonprofit  organizations.  The program, which offers five-year grants, was initially funded at $650 million. More than 1,600 organization and schools applied for funding, and 49 winners were chosen. In 2011, the Education Department held a second round, financed at nearly $150 million, and 23 winners were selected from a total of 587 organizations that vied for the grants . The i3 program offers three categories of grants: “development” grants of up to $5 million for programs that have “reasonable research-based findings or theories” behind them; “validation” grants of up to $30 million for programs supported by “moderate” evidence; and “scale up” grants of up to $50 million for programs that can demonstrate “strong” evidence of success and can be expanded at the national, regional, or state levels .

Some critics have argued that the i3 program should be extended to for-profit organizations, not just nonprofits. Others have charged that it does not find truly innovative approaches, because many of the winners—such as Teach For America, a nonprofit organization that helps train new college graduates to work in under-resourced schools—have been operating for a decade or more. There will be a third round of the i3 program; in 2011 Congress allocated nearly $150 million, slated for distribution by the end of 2012.

The Teacher Incentive Fund was created in 2006 to allocate five-year grants to districts that want to create pay-for-performance programs for teachers and principals. Districts can elect to include other staff members in the program, such as social workers and librarians. The program was first created under the Bush administration , but the Obama administration has pumped money into the program, bringing it to a high of nearly $400 million in federal fiscal year 2011.

TIF grants can go to districts, states, nonprofit organizations and charter schools. Grantees must use the money to create performance-based compensation systems that take into account student achievement, as well as evaluations conducted multiple times during each school year. Grantees must also provide educators with incentives to take on additional responsibilities and leadership roles. Prospective grantees have to demonstrate in their applications that teachers, principals and other personnel gave input into the plans. They’re also asked to show that unions were involved in and support the plans. As of early 2012, there were more than 65 grantees, including urban school systems, such as the in Austin, Texas, district; universities, such as Arizona State University; and nationally known nonprofit organizations, such as the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards .

The impact on student achievement of TIF—and of merit pay more broadly—is an open question. As of February 2012, the Education Department was conducting a study of the TIF program’s effectiveness.

For journalists, TIF is a relatively little-covered area of federal reform; the impressions of local teachers and administrators participating in the program are fertile territory for news stories.

Latest News

Questions About Equity Persist As a Proposed Boost in Bright Futures Aims to Help Top Grads

Sometimes, as Kareem Elgendi stared down a tough SAT question, a tendril of anxiety wound its way into his head.

If I don’t get the score I need, will I be able to pay for college?

He had lugged home SAT books his sophomore year at Blake High School, already practicing, hoping to win Florida’s Bright Futures scholarship.

Latest News

Advocates Say AHCA Threatens Key Special Education Funding

An unexpected constituency is nervously tracking the progress of the American Health Care Act, the GOP’s proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare – schools.

The AHCA, which narrowly cleared the U.S. House last week, would dramatically restructure Medicaid from a program that reimburses – at least in part – whatever eligible expenses providers bill for to a per-capita capped program. The GOP bill would give the program $840 billion less over 10 years to spend.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Trump Eyes Tax Code to Tackle Child Care

The tax code is complicated, the child-care system is fragmented, and President Donald Trump’s policy proposals can seem to change on a whim. And so, making sense of how tax reform can make child care more “accessible and affordable,” as Trump has vowed, is no simple task.

The need to provide relief for families shouldering the high cost of child care has emerged as one of the few points of agreement between the White House and Democrats in Congress, but the two sides differ on just how to do that.

Latest News

Betsy DeVos Scheduled, Then Canceled, a Visit to An L.A. Charter School That Emphasizes Special Needs

The news spread quickly among the parents of the CHIME Institute’s Schwarzenegger Community School.

They had received no official notice, but they picked up the reports that Betsy DeVos — Donald Trump’s secretary of Education, whose confirmation many of them had opposed — planned to visit their Woodland Hills school on Monday when May Day marches were planned in downtown L.A. and elsewhere.

Shortly after parents began posting about the visit in a Facebook group, some began planning protests, as did at least one outside group.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Trump Begins to Flesh Out School Choice Agenda, But Questions Remain

There was no missing the symbolism in President Donald Trump’s first school visit since taking office — a stop at St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Florida, this month.

St. Andrew is “one of the many parochial schools dedicated to the education of some of our most disadvantaged children,” Trump noted, and it’s been helped along by school choice policy.

Latest News

DeVos’ Challenge: Tuning Her Message as New Education Secretary

Few, if any, education secretaries have gotten off to as rocky a start as Betsy DeVos, who took the helm of the U.S. Department of Education last month with opponents ready to pounce.

There was her contentious confirmation hearing, with its much-mocked comment about guns in schools to defend against grizzly bears. Protesters temporarily blocked her first visit to a public school, and a series of perceived gaffes in interviews and speeches drew online outrage and scolding editorials—as well as some off-base criticism.

Latest News

Trump Budget Would Make Massive Cuts to Ed. Dept., But Boost School Choice

President Donald Trump’s first budget seeks to slash the Education Department’s roughly $68 billion budget by $9 billion, or 13 percent in the coming fiscal year, whacking popular programs that help districts offer after-school programs, and hire and train teachers.

At the same time, it seeks a historic $1.4 billlon federal investment in school choice, including new money for private school vouchers and charter schools, as well as directing $1 billion to follow students to the school of their choice. 

Latest News

Trump Education Dept. Releases New ESSA Guidelines

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Monday released a new application for states to use in developing their accountability plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act. The new template is shorter and includes fewer requirements than an earlier application released by the Obama administration in November. The biggest difference seems to be on the requirements for outreach to various groups of educators and advocates. 

Latest News

The History of the Office for Civil Rights’ Power

Here is a question nobody asked Betsy DeVos at her confirmation hearing to become the eleventh secretary of education: Is the U.S. Department of Education a civil-rights agency?   The last secretary, John King, thinks so. Over 600 education scholars who protested the nomination of DeVos think so, too.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Senate Unwinds School Accountability Rules

The U.S. Senate, by a 50 to 49 vote yesterday, all but sounded the death knell for Obama administration regulations governing how states must carry out school accountability requirements under federal law. President Donald Trump said he will sign the measure, which was backed by all but one Senate Republican (and earlier won approval in the House).

So, what exactly does this mean for states and schools, and what happens now?

Latest News

A Tale of Two Betsy DeVoses

Residents of this western Michigan town are having trouble reconciling the Betsy DeVos they know with the Betsy DeVos who serves as President Donald Trump’s controversial education secretary.  

The former is widely seen as pragmatic and generous, even by those who dislike her political leanings and devotion to charter schools. The latter? “Unprepared,” “tone deaf,” and “insulated” were phrases that came up more than once during interviews with people who either know DeVos or her family or are familiar with her dealings in this part of the state.

Latest News

GOP Bill Could Dismantle One Of Nation’s Most Robust School Desegregation Efforts

A remarkable experiment in school desegregation has thrived for four decades in this Kentucky city and its suburbs, surviving fierce resistance from the Ku Klux Klan and a legal defeat at the U.S. Supreme Court. White and black and poor and rich children share schools to a greater extent here than in most other large districts across the country, leading to friendships across the usual social divides and giving rise to what school officials say are stronger academic outcomes for disadvantaged students. Now the program is in danger of being dismantled.

Latest News

Congressional Republicans Poised to Overturn Obama-era Education Regulations

Congress is pushing to overturn as early as this week regulations that outline how states must carry out a federal law that holds public schools accountable for serving all students. Leaders of the Republican majority claim that the rules, written during the Obama administration, represent an executive overreach. Democrats argue that rescinding the rules will open loopholes to hide or ignore schools that fail to adequately serve poor children, minorities, English language learners and students with disabilities.

EWA Radio

Betsy DeVos Is Secretary of Education. Now What?
EWA Radio: Episode 108

Betsy DeVos takes the oath of office.

Kimberly Hefling of Politico discusses the new U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, who was confirmed Tuesday after Vice President Mike Pence was called in to break a 50-50 tie in the Senate. What will be her top priorities moving forward? How aggressively will the new secretary push school choice, and how likely is President Trump’s $20 billion school choice plan to gain traction? Has DeVos lost political capital during the bruising confirmation process? Was she held to a higher standard than other nominees for President Trump’s cabinet? And how much power will the Republican mega-donor have to roll back the Obama administration’s education policies and initiatives? 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Senate Confirms Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary

After a bruising confirmation process and a Senate vote on Tuesday largely divided along party lines, Republican mega-donor and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos is the new U.S. secretary of education.

In her first public communication as secretary, DeVos signaled that school choice would be a paramount concern:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Education Secretaries Betsy DeVos Would Follow

A Senate committee is slated to vote tomorrow on President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. secretary of education — philanthropist and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos. The Education Department is one of the newer federal departments, created during President Jimmy Carter’s administration and beginning its work in May of 1980.

Multimedia

VIDEO: School Choice Policy & Politics in the Trump Era
Covering Charter Schools

What will President Trump and his administration mean for charter schools and school choice? Will the new president put political muscle behind his campaign pledge to create a new, $20 billion school choice program? How will the GOP-led Congress respond? What are the ramifications of key statewide elections, especially gains by Republicans and the defeat of a high-profile Massachusetts ballot measure to raise that state’s charter cap?

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.

 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

For Trump Pick DeVos, Confirmation Hearing Is a Bear

Tuesday’s confirmation hearing for billionaire school advocate Betsy DeVos — President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. secretary of education — was a doozy.

DeVos sought to present herself as ready to oversee the federal agency, but some of her remarks suggested a lack of familiarity with the federal laws governing the nation’s schools.

In her opening statement before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, DeVos said:

EWA Radio

‘Quality Counts’ – Rating the Nation’s Public Schools
EWA Radio: Episode 105

Education Week’s Mark Bomster (assistant managing editor) and Sterling Lloyd (senior research associate) discuss the 2017 “Quality Counts” report, which examines and rates state-level efforts to improve public education. This year’s edition features a special focus on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind as the backbone of the nation’s federal K-12 policy. How ready are states, districts, and schools for the policy shifts — and new flexibility — on school accountability, testing, and teacher evaluations under ESSA, among other issues? What are some story ideas for local reporters covering the implementation? Also, which states scored the highest on Education Week’s ratings when it comes to student achievement, equitable education spending, and the “Chance for Success” index? How can education writers use this data to inform their own reporting?

EWA Radio

2017: Big Education Stories to Watch
EWA Radio: Episode 104

Kate Zernike, The New York Times’ national education reporter, discusses what’s ahead on the beat in 2017. How will President-elect Donald Trump translate his slim set of campaign promises on education into a larger and more detailed agenda? What do we know about the direction Trump’s nominee for U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, will seek to take federal policy if she’s confirmed? Zernike also offers story ideas and suggestions for local and regional education reporters to consider in the new year. 

EWA Radio

Who Is Betsy DeVos?
EWA Radio: Episode 102

Veteran education reporters from the Detroit Free Press and The Washington Post discuss Betsy DeVos, the billionaire school choice advocate nominated by President-elect Donald Trump. David Jesse of the Detroit newspaper sheds light on DeVos’ Michigan track record on legislative causes, and what is known about her tactics and negotiating style. Plus, he explains how DeVos’ strong religious beliefs have influenced her policy agenda. Emma Brown of The Washington Post details why Trump’s proposal for $20 billion in school vouchers might be a tough sell, even to a Republican-controlled Congress. And she sheds light on the potential for the next administration to dismantle President Obama’s education initiatives, including scaling back the reach of the Office for Civil Rights at the Education Department.

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

More Students Are Graduating, But That’s Not the Whole Story

As federal education officials tout a fourth consecutive year of improvement in the nation’s high school graduation rate, the reactions that follow are likely to fall into one of three categories: policymakers claiming credit for the gains; critics arguing that achievement gaps are still far too wide to merit celebrating; and policy wonks warning against misuses of the data.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Education at Forefront in Statewide Elections

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock talks with students at the Billings Career Center in August 2016. The state's gubernatorial race is being closely watched by education advocates. (Casey Page/The Billings Gazette)

With so much attention focused on the campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, voters could be forgiven for forgetting they’ll be asked to decide plenty more in November. And the stakes are high for K-12 education in state-level elections, including races for governor, state education chief, and legislative seats, plus ballot measures on education funding and charter schools.

Multimedia

Pre-K-12 Education in the 2016 Race
The U.S. Elections & Education: Part 1

Pre-K-12 Education in the 2016 Race

Experts and advocates assess how early childhood and K-12 education issues are factoring into the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They offer analysis of the candidates’ campaign positions and explore the complex politics of education policy. They also discuss other key elections around the nation with big stakes for education.

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

As Convention Dust Settles, Where Do Clinton and Trump Stand on Education?

Balloons drop over the crowd in Philadelphia following Hillary Clinton's acceptance of the Democratic Party's nomination for president. (Andrew Ujifusa/Education Week)

When compared to Donald Trump’s single education policy-related sentence in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, Hillary Clinton’s remarks on the subject Thursday night were certainly more extensive, as she sought to emphasize a track record of making schools, teachers, families, and students her political — and personal — priorities.

Seminar

Election 2016: New President, New Education Agenda
Washington, D.C. • November 14, 2016

The election of Republican Donald Trump is sure to reshape federal policy for education in significant ways, from prekindergarten to college, especially coupled with the GOP’s retaining control of Congress.

Although Trump spent relatively little time on education in his campaign, he did highlight the issue from time to time, from his sharp criticism of the Common Core and high student debt loads to proposing a plan to significantly expand school choice. And Congress has a long to-do list, including reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Seminar

The U.S. Elections & Education: Part 1
Washington, D.C. • August 30, 2016

Now that the White House race has narrowed to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, how is education playing out as an issue in the campaign? Will it prove an important fault line between the Democratic and Republican candidates? Will Trump offer any details to contrast with Clinton’s extensive set of proposals from early childhood to higher education? What are the potential implications for schools and colleges depending on who wins the White House? Also, what other races this fall should be on the radar of journalists, whether elections for Congress, state legislatures, or governor?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teachers’ Union Applauds Clinton Address, Except on Charters

Hillary Clinton shares her views and agenda for education in a July 5 speech to delegates for the National Education Association.
Photo credit: @KristenRec

Hillary Clinton vowed to be a partner with educators if she wins the White House, during a speech today to the nation’s largest teachers’ union. Clinton drew enthusiastic applause from National Education Association members for most of the address, including her calls to make preschool universally available, boost teacher pay, and ease the burden of paying for higher education.

But the presumptive Democratic nominee got a far more muted response, and even some jeers, when she made a positive plug — albeit very briefly — for charter schools.

Multimedia

By the Book: Dale Russakoff, The Prize
Video Resources from the 69th EWA National Seminar

By the Book: Dale Russakoff, The Prize

When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced his $100 million pledge to transform the downtrodden schools of Newark, New Jersey, then-mayor Cory Booker and Governor Chris Christie were beside him, vowing to help make Newark “a symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation.” Dale Russakoff’s book tells the story of what happened next.

  • Dale Russakoff, author
  • Leslie Brody, The Wall Street Journal (moderator)
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

K-12 Education Seen as Side Issue in White House Race

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

K-12 education hasn’t been a top theme this presidential campaign cycle, but reporters could be more aggressive in mining information from the candidates on the topic, analysts said at a national forum this week.

Historically, education hasn’t played prominently on the campaign trail, said Martin West, an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The 2016 presidential election is no exception – although this race for the White House has also proven wildly unpredictable.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Trump’s Education Agenda, in 52 Seconds

Trump’s Education Agenda, in 52 Seconds

With Donald Trump now seen as the presumptive Republican nominee for president, after his strong victory in the Indiana primary, attention surely will grow to what he would actually do if elected.

If you want to know where Trump stands on education, you might think the first place to go would be his campaign website.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Education Secretary John King Talks Integration, Diversity at EWA National Seminar

Greg Toppo of USA Today, left, facilitates a keynote by U.S. Secretary of Education John King at EWA's 69th National Seminar Monday, May 2. (Photo by Katherine Taylor for EWA)

Racial diversity and the socioeconomic integration of schools can be powerful tools to help improve educational opportunities for students, but much depends on whether states and local communities prioritize them, Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. stressed in remarks here on Monday.

EWA Radio

The Higher Ed Beat: Are You Ready for 2016?
EWA Radio: Episode 54

Scott Jaschik, editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed, shares his thoughts on the coming year with EWA Radio. Among the topics he and public editor Emily Richmond tackle in this episode: Will 2015’s widespread campus protests over racial issues carry over into the New Year? How will community college factor into state funding formulas for higher education? Why are younger U.S. military veterans an ever-growing market for universities? And what should reporters watch out for when reporting on the intersection of politics and education policy? 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

As ESSA Era Begins, Assessing NCLB’s Legacy

Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King visits a classroom in Tampa, Fla. The federal Education Department's reach has been scaled back by the new Every Student Succeeds Act, as Congress sought to transfer more authority over local schools back to the states. (Flickr/U.S. Department of Education)

America brought home a middling report card with 74.4 out of 100 points – a “C” grade — in Education Week’s 20th annual “Quality Counts” report this week, which ranks the nation and individual states on a variety of student factors, from test scores to graduation rates to “chance of success” later in life. (That’s about the same grade earned last year, as well.)

EWA Radio

Happy New Year: What Education Reporters Need To Know
EWA Radio: Episode 53

Pixabay/Stefan Schweihofer

With school back in session and a new federal education law on the books, K-12 reporter Motoko Rich of the New York Times shares her predictions for the hot topics on the education beat in 2016, as well as some of her favorite stories of the past year produced by other journalists. She also offers some smart tips for reporters looking to localize national issues for their own audiences.

Webinar

Exclusive Access: Education Week’s ‘Quality Counts’ 2016

Exclusive Access: Education Week’s ‘Quality Counts’ 2016

EWA journalist members received an early opportunity to review Education Week’s newest Quality Counts report, which includes a special focus on school accountability.

As part of its annual Quality Counts report, Education Week grades states on a wide range of indicators, including the Chance-for-Success Index, K-12 Achievement Index, and school finance.

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.

Report

State Capacity to Support School Turnaround
Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

More than 80 percent of states made turning around low-performing schools a high priority, but at least 50 percent found it very difficult to turn around low-performing schools. 38 states (76 percent) reported significant gaps in expertise for supporting school turnaround in 2012, and that number increased to 40 (80 percent) in 2013.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What New NAEP Scores Can – And Can’t – Tell Us

(Flickr/Ray)

For the first time since 1990, math scores dropped for fourth and eighth graders in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the country’s most respected tool for measuring how well students understand key academic concepts. Reading scores also inched downward at the eighth-grade level, staying flat for the fourth grade compared with 2013.

Report

Student Testing in America’s Great City Schools
Council of Great City Schools

Testing in the nation’s schools is among the most debated issues in public education today. Much of this discussion has centered on how much we are testing students and how we use test results to evaluate teachers, inform instructional practice, and hold schools and educators accountable. A recent national poll by Phi Delta Kappa underscores the fact that the public at large is concerned about the extent of testing in schools, and these concerns are influencing how people think about the nationwide move to adopt and implement the new Common Core State Standards.

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

CNN Debate Aside, Ed. Finds Way Into Presidential Race

Twitter/@YahooNews

Education didn’t exactly make a splash in this week’s Republican presidential debate — barely a ripple, actually — but the issue has gained considerable attention in the 2016 contest for the White House, from debates over the Common Core to proposals on higher education access and affordability.

Seminar

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
Report

Teacher Preparation Programs: Education Should Ensure States Identify Low-Performing Programs and Improve Information Sharing
United States Government Accountability Office

Among other things, GAO recommends that the Department of Education monitor states to ensure their compliance with requirements to assess whether any teacher preparation programs are low-performing and develop mechanisms to share information about TPP quality within the agency and with states.

Webinar

Is It Bon Voyage For No Child Left Behind?
Webinar on Federal Policy

(Flickr/Patrick)

Education Week reporter Lauren Camera, David DeSchryver, senior vice president of Whiteboard Advisors, and Bethany Little, principal at Education Counsel, break down the future of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for journalists.

Now that both the Senate and the House of Representatives have passed bills renewing the act, journalists can examine the potential impact of the new provisions. Learn how you can cover these in your state and district and find out questions you should be asking.

Speakers

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: The Educated Reporter

NCLB Rewrite Survives Senate Vote

A mock schoolhouse outside the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. (Flickr/elonjoned)

It’s been a hugely busy week for education reporters on Capitol Hill, as the Senate plowed its way through the Every Child Achieves Act, one of the leading contenders to replace No Child Left Behind as the nation’s framework for funding public schools.

The Senate approved passage of the bill Thursday with 81-17 vote. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Senate to Debate Replacement for No Child Left Behind

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to debate reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the key mechanism for delivering federal funding to the nation's public schools. (Flickr/Wally Gobetz)

After countless false starts and protracted negotiations, a bill to reauthorize the main federal law for K-12 education is slated for consideration by the U.S. Senate this week.

This is the closest the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act has come to reality since the law was last updated in 2002 under President George W. Bush. The law, also known as the No Child Left Behind Act, was slated for renewal in 2007.

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The Urban Schools Landscape: Lessons From Chicago

Students a campus operated by the University of Chicago's charter school network. The Windy City's education policies took center stage during a session at EWA's 68th National Seminar. (Seong-Ah Cho, Urban Education Institute)

Urban education leaders crammed a marathon of Chicago’s public education woes and wonders into a 45-minute session (more akin to a 5K race) at the Education Writers Association’s recent National Seminar in Chicago.

Sara Ray Stoelinga, the director of the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute, joined colleague Timothy Knowles for a breakfast panel titled “10 Lessons to Take Home From Chicago” at the EWA event.

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Arne Duncan: Education Is ‘Great Equalizer’ But Not Yet National Priority

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan fields reporters' questions culled by Motoko Rich of the New York Times at EWA's National Seminar in Chicago, April 21, 2015. (Lloyd Degrane for EWA)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan subjected himself to what might have been the ultimate edu-press conference in Chicago Tuesday, allowing hundreds of reporters to grill him on testing, No Child Left Behind, college ratings (and yes, White Suburban moms) at the Education Writers Association’s 68th National Seminar. 

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RIP NCLB?: A New Role for Uncle Sam
2015 EWA National Seminar

 RIP NCLB?: A New Role for Uncle Sam

Speakers, including U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-IN, offer reporters the lay of the land and discuss how rewriting the No Child Left Behind Act may affect their school districts and states. Some speakers say NCLB is already dead, but they’re still not certain what will take its place, other than policies handed down through the U.S. Department of Education’s waivers from NCLB provisions.

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Race to the Top: Education Could Better Support Grantees and Help Them Address Capacity Challenges

The Department of Education’s (Education) Race to the Top (RTT) program encouraged states to reform their K-12 educational systems, but states and districts faced various capacity challenges in implementing the reforms. RTT accelerated education reforms underway and spurred new reforms in all 19 RTT states and in an estimated 81 percent of districts, according to GAO’s surveys of RTT grantees and districts that received RTT funds. At the same time, states and districts noted various challenges to their capacity to successfully support, oversee, and implement these reform efforts. 

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Congress Moves a (Big) Step Closer to Rewriting No Child Left Behind

A congressional compromise is at hand to rewrite No Child Left Behind, removing many of the more onerous provisions of the federal education law while giving states greater flexibility in accountability.

While the “Every Student Achieves” bipartisan bill announced Tuesday still has significant hurdles to clear before passage, it’s certainly the closest Congress has come to an agreement on revising the education law in nearly a decade.

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The 2015 Education Beat: Common Core, Testing, School Choice

Students at New York University work on a computer programming project. More interactive learning is expected to be a hot topic in the coming year on both the K-12 and higher education beats. (Flickr/Matylda Czarnecka)

There’s a busy year ahead on the schools beat – I talked to reporters, policy analysts and educators to put together a cheat sheet to a few of the stories you can expect to be on the front burner in the coming months: 

Revamping No Child Left Behind

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From the Beat: Memorable Education Stories of 2014

Cadets celebrate graduation at West Point. A USA Today investigation of  congressional influence over the nomination process at elite military academies was one of the year's most memorable education stories. Flickr/U.S. Army (Creative Commons)

When you write a blog, the end of the year seems to require looking back and looking ahead. Today I’m going to tackle the former with a sampling of some of the year’s top stories from the K-12 and higher education beats. I’ll save the latter for early next week when the final sluggish clouds of 2014 have been swept away, and a bright new sky awaits us in 2015. (Yes, I’m an optimist.)

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Is Common Core Support Waxing or Waning? (Depends on Whom You Ask)

EWA seminar at George Washington University on Dec. 15, 2014. Left to right: Michael Brickman (Fordham Institute);  Principal Carol Burris; Andrew Ujifusa (Ed Week); Michael McShane (AEI); Carmel Martin (CAP). (EWA/Emily Richmond)

Last month’s election spells trouble for the Common Core State Standards, a set of expectations for what students should know in English and math by the end of each grade. With the standards increasingly being assailed as an unwanted federal intrusion into public education by conservatives, the Republican sweep of state legislatures – the party is now in control of over two-thirds of state lawmaking bodies – will likely lead to a new round of scrutiny of the standards and the tests tied to them.

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White House Proposes Tougher Accountability Standards for Teacher Colleges

EWA seminar panel on teacher college accountability, Oct. 21, 2014, Detroit. From left: Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week; Jim Cibulka, CAEP; Segun Eubanks, NEA; Kate Walsh, NCTQ. (NEA Media)

In 2011, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called it “laughable” that in the prior decade the majority of states had failed to rate even one teaching preparation program as inferior. On Tuesday, the White House released draft accountability regulations that are no joke for the nation’s teacher colleges, and could result in a loss of federal funding if their graduates fail to do well on the job.

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Education and the Election: What Happened and What It Means

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

The midterm election results have big implications for education, from Republicans’ success in retaking the U.S. Senate to new governors coming in and a slew of education ballot measures, most of which were defeated.

The widely watched race for California’s schools superintendent came down to the wire, with incumbent Tom Torlakson edging out challenger Marshall Tuck — a former charter schools administrator: 

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.

EWA Radio

Principal Turnover: What’s Happening in Denver?
EWA Radio, Episode 13

Why are so many principals in Denver leaving their jobs? And what is the local school district doing to try and stem the churn? EWA Radio speaks with Katharine Schimel of Chalkbeat Colorado about her story looking into the high rate of principal turnover, and what it means for student learning and campus climate in the Mile High City.

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Testing Overload in America’s Schools
Center for American Progress

Despite the perception that federally mandated state testing is the root of the issue, districts require more tests than states. Students across all grade spans take more district tests than state assessments. Students in K-2 are tested three times as much on district exams as state exams, and high school students are tested twice as much on district exams. Click here for study. 

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Are Personalized Learning Environments the Next Wave of K-12 Education Reform?
American Institutes for Research

Are Personalized Learning Environments the Next Wave of K-12 Education Reform?, the first issue paper in a new series from AIR, examines 16 successful applications from the first round of Race to the Top District (RTT-D) awards. It identifies trends and lessons learned from these pioneering grantees’ efforts to implement and scale teaching and learning innovations.

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School Reform: Building a Movement From the Ground Up

The big blue bus making its way around New York City attracted the attention of parents and policymakers. The vehicle, which pulled into neighborhoods to gather community feedback, was a part of the A+NYC initiative’s grassroots efforts to shape public school policy during the 2013 mayoral election.

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For Waiver States, More Time for Teacher Evaluations

States receiving waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act are getting more time to grapple with how to conduct teacher evaluations using student test scores, particularly the new Common Core State Standards-based assessments.

According to Education Week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the postponement at an event on Thursday in Washington, D.C., which earlier this summer announced its plan to delay its new teacher evaluations.

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Where Does Tennessee Stand on Race to the Top?

Tennessee’s Race to the Top application was pretty honest, the state’s Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told an EWA audience at Vanderbilt University in May.

“It basically started out by saying things aren’t going very well, they could be going better, here are the things we’re going to do to get better,” he said during an EWA National Seminar session on where Tennessee stands with the competitive federal education reform initiative.

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Are 4th Graders Ready For Online Writing Tests?

Are fourth graders computer-savvy enough to have their writing skills measured in an online assessment? A new federal study suggests that they are, although it’s not clear whether old-fashioned paper and pencil exams might still yield useful results.

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Live From Nashville: EWA’s 67th National Seminar

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.

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Weingarten Talks Teachers, Politics and Common Core

Lyndsey Layton (right) of The Washington Post interviews Randi Weingarten at the 67th National Seminar.

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Tennessee’s Haslam Aims for Mantle of Education Governor

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam addresses attendees at the 67th National Seminar.

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.”

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Arne Duncan: Educational Equity Is Federal Priority

Sixty years after the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, there’s still a wide gulf in educational opportunities for low-income and minority students and their more advantaged peers, including when it comes to access to rigorous coursework aimed at preparing students for college and the workforce, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the audience at the Education Writers Association’s 67th National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville today. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

U.S. Students and PISA: How Much Do International Rankings Matter?

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.

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New Survey: Teachers Say Their Voices Aren’t Being Heard

When it comes to having their voices heard, teachers overwhelmingly say they aren’t being listened to on matters of education policy at the state or national level.

At the school level, however, 69 percent of teachers said their opinions carried weight, according to the third edition of the “Primary Sources”  survey by Scholastic and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which was published Tuesday.

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Preparing Future Workers: High School Redesign and Career/Technical Education

Preparing Future Workers: High School Redesign and Career/Technical Education

Big changes are afoot in how schools prepare students for the knowledge economy. Career and technical education is no longer and byword for tracking, and districts are exploring ways to make science and technology learning hands-on. Our panelists discuss the trends and challenges in preparing students for a meaningful place in the highly skilled workforce.

Speakers: Jim Stone III, National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Louisville; Steve Rockenbach, Ernest S. McBride High School; Abraham Orozco, Heart of Los Angeles.

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San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro: Preschool Initiative `a Model for the Nation’

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro talks to Carolina Astrain of the Victoria Advocate at EWA's Feb. 2014 conference on early childhood education.

A few years ago, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro – the Democratic Party’s first Hispanic keynote convention speaker – decided his city needed to expand its preschool opportunities for young children. To pay for it, Castro built a coalition of public-private partnerships and bipartisan support and convinced voters in 2012 to approve a new tax that would fund expanded preschool opportunities throughout the city. Known as “Pre-K 4 San Antonio,” the program launched in the fall and is expected to expand in the coming years.  Castro was the keynote speaker at EWA’s recent seminar for journalists on early childhood education, held at Tulane University in New Orleans. 

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State of the Union: What Education Analysts Expect to Hear

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

The annual State of the Union address to Congress – and the nation – is President Obama’s opportunity to outline his administration’s goals for the coming months, but it’s also an opportunity to look back at the education priorities outlined in last year’s address – and what progress, if any, has been made on them.

Among the big buzzwords in the 2013 State of the Union: college affordability, universal access to early childhood education, and workforce development.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Closing the Gaps: Improving Outcomes and Opportunities for English Language Learners

This week, we’re revisiting some of the top sessions from EWA’s 66th National Seminar held at Stanford University. We asked journalists who attended to contribute posts, and today’s guest blogger is Trevon Milliard of the Las Vegas Review-JournalStream any session from National Seminar in your browser, or subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

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Urban School Reform: Beyond Stars and Scandals

This week, we’re revisiting some of the top sessions from EWA’s 66th National Seminar held at Stanford University. We asked journalists who attended to contribute posts, and today’s guest blogger is Kyla Calvert of San Diego Public RadioStream any session from National Seminar in your browser, or subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

A Troubling Time Capsule: JFK on the State of Public Education

With today marking the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death, I thought I would share a post I wrote last year.

In his commencement speech at San Diego State College, the president of the United States covered unsurprising territory in describing the challenges facing the nation’s public schools – inequities for minority students, a high dropout rate, and the need for better teacher training.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Five Questions Education Reporters Should Ask About Teacher Evaluations


EWA headed to the University of Chicago last month with about 50 reporters from across the country for some frank talk about teacher evaluations. You can catch up with podcasts of some of the sessions here.

We also spent some time brainstorming story ideas, and I wanted to share a few of them – not all of them – with you. (Hey, there has to be some benefits to in-person attendance, right?)

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Common Core: Should States Slow Down on Implementing New Assessments?

EWA is holding a one-day seminar for journalists today at George Washington University on the new Common Core State Standards, and I look forward to sharing content from the event with you in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the rollout of the assessments tied to the new standards was the focus of one of the panel discussions at EWA’s 66th National Seminar held in May at Stanford. We asked John Fensterwald of EdSource Today to contribute a guest post from that session.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Common Core State Standards: The Hechinger Report Digs Deep

The new Common Core State Standards, adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, are poised to remake the business of schooling in the United States. While the education initiative started with a wealth of bipartisan goodwill, it has now engendered confusion and controversy, and a handful of states have dropped out or scaled back their participation. What will the new expectations really mean for how teachers teach, and students learn? And will states – and the public – have the patience to ride out the bumpy road of implementation?

Organization

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a right-leaning think tank focused on education policy. According to its mission statement, the institute aims to advance “educational excellence for every child through quality research, analysis, and commentary, as well as on-the-ground action and advocacy in Ohio.”

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How I Did the Story: Reporting From a Turnaround School in “Following Trevista”

How I Did the Story: Reporting From a Turnaround School in “Following Trevista”

Jenny Brundin of Colorado Public Radio talks about following a group of teachers, administrators and students going through a turnaround effort at a failing school in Denver. “Trevista” was awarded first prize, Single-Topic News, Series or Feature in Broadcast in EWA’s 2012 National Awards for Education Reporting. Recorded at EWA’s 66th National Seminar, May 4, 2013, at Stanford University.

*Please note: Due to technical difficulties during recording, the audio in the first half of this video is distorted. There is nothing wrong with your speakers.

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Innovation Showcase: Investing in Education

Innovation Showcase: Investing in Education

These interactive sessions feature reporters, analysts and educators spotlighting efforts under way to harness the power of innovation to spark new approaches to K-12 and higher education. In this session, Trace Urdan, Wells Fargo Securities, is interviewed by Kim Clark, Money Magazine, about burgeoning investments in innovative education enterprises Recorded May 4, 2013 at EWA’s 66th National Seminar at Stanford University.

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A Conversation with Thomas Friedman, Part 4: Information Overload, College Costs and Education as a Civil Right

A Conversation with Thomas Friedman, Part 4: Information Overload, College Costs and Education as a Civil Right

From the Education Writers Association 2013 National Seminar, a discussion between Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tom Friedman (New York Times) and Stephanie Banchero (Wall Street Journal). Filmed at Stanford University.

During the Q & A portion of his talk, Friedman fields questions on the pitfalls of online education, being overwhelmed by information, and how technology might offset rising tuition costs.

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A Conversation with Thomas Friedman, Part 3: Modern Career Opportunities, Fear of Technology and Reasons to Be Optimistic

A Conversation with Thomas Friedman, Part 3: Modern Career Opportunities, Fear of Technology and Reasons to Be Optimistic

From the Education Writers Association 2013 National Seminar, a discussion between Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tom Friedman (New York Times) and Stephanie Banchero (Wall Street Journal). Filmed at Stanford University.

In part 3, Friedman discusses how young people are faring in the job market and how U.S. schools compare with their international counterparts.

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A Conversation with Thomas Friedman, Part 2: Missing the Point on MOOCs, Cost vs. Value in Higher Ed and the ‘401(k) World’

A Conversation with Thomas Friedman, Part 2: Missing the Point on MOOCs, Cost vs. Value in Higher Ed and the ‘401(k) World’

From the Education Writers Association 2013 National Seminar, a discussion between Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tom Friedman (New York Times) and Stephanie Banchero (Wall Street Journal). Filmed at Stanford University.

In part 2, Friedman talks about the boom in Massive Open Online Courses, the role of teachers in increasingly tech-focused classrooms, and the importance of motivation in a world of defined contributions.

EWA Radio

Urban School Reform: Beyond Stars and Scandals

Do reporters who cover major efforts to improve schools focus on incremental developments at the expense of the big picture? Do they pay too much attention to leaders with star power and too little to quieter contributors? The authors of two new books on urban education reflect on media coverage of efforts to revamp big-city schools. Moderator: Benjamin Herold, WHYY; Richard Colvin, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship; David Kirp, University of California, Berkeley. Recorded at EWA’s 66th National Seminar, “Creativity Counts: Innovation in Education and the Media,” May 2-4, 2013

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Buskin Lecture: Mayor Cory Booker

Buskin Lecture: Mayor Cory Booker

The Mayor of Newark, NJ speaks at EWA’s 65th National Seminar on education inequality, innovation, and the need for tough questions in school coverage.

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In the Trenches: Teachers’ Take on Turnarounds

In the Trenches: Teachers’ Take on Turnarounds

Anthony Cody, a longtime teacher and blogger who is now a consultant and expert on teacher leadership, and Lisa Goncalves Lavin, a first grade teacher and member of the Turnaround Teacher Team (T3) at Blackstone Elementary School in Boston, Mass., share their views of how teachers are experiencing turnaround efforts.

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Lessons Learned: What We Know About School Turnarounds

Lessons Learned: What We Know About School Turnarounds

In this excerpt from his presentation at EWA’s March 24 conference in Chicago, Professor Daniel Duke of the University of Virginia reviews the history of recent school turnaround efforts, lessons that can be drawn from successes and setbacks, and issues and concerns that persist as the reform effort moves forward.

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Charter Schools’ Role in Turnaround and Transformation

Charter Schools’ Role in Turnaround and Transformation

How does the charter school model factor into efforts to turn around low-achieving campuses? Why haven’t more charter management organizations signed on for school turnarounds? What questions should reporters be asking when faced with conflicting data on charter school performance?

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Turnaround Schools: Federal Priorities and Research Findings

Turnaround Schools: Federal Priorities and Research Findings

Deputy Assistant Secretary Jason Snyder of the U.S. Department of Education provides an overview of federal reform efforts and the Obama administration’s goals for the SIG program.

Timothy Knowles, director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute, talks about key findings from studies of Chicago’s turnaround initiative.

Recorded at EWA’s March 24, 2012 conference on school turnarounds at the University of Chicago

Key Coverage

As State Watches, L.A. Unified Tests New Ways to Grade Teachers

Nowhere else in California has the debate over the use of student test scores to grade teachers gained more attention than in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The second-largest school district in the nation at more than 640,000 students, Los Angeles Unified has become a testing ground to increase accountability for teachers, a movement that has gained speed across the nation. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Follow-Up Friday: Understanding Education Polls, Obama’s New Push for College Affordability

This was a crowded week for education polls, with findings from three of them being released in a span of as many days. You can read my advice for reporters in weighing opinion data, and also catch a replay of my interview with Bill Bushaw, executive director of Phi Delta Kappa, which administers the nation’s longest-running education poll.

Organization

The New Teacher Project

The New Teacher Project is a nonprofit “committed to ending the injustice of educational inequality.” They can be a particularly helpful resource in researching Race to the Top.

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Mass Insight

Mass Insight is a nonprofit organization based in Boston that offers research and consulting services intended to “to transform public schools into high performance organizations and close the achievement gaps.” Their studies on School Improvement Grants are particularly notable.

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The National Council on Teacher Quality

The National Council on Teacher Quality is a nonpartisan research group that advocates for reforms with the goal of ensuring that each student has an effective teacher. Among other things, they gather information about policies affecting teacher preparation, compensation, evaluations and other issues on a state-by-state basis.

Organization

The Center on Education Policy

The Center on Education Policy is an independent, nonpartisan organization that researches many key topics in education reform with the goal of acting “as a catalyst to improve the academic quality of public education through working with states, school districts, and others.”

Key Coverage

Which States Have Academic Performance Targets That Vary By Race?

To date, the Department of Education has approved waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for 34 states and the District of Columbia. These waivers allow states to set new academic performance targets for their students, as long as they make substantial gains in reducing the achievement gap in six years. Because of this, 23 states have now set targets that vary by race. Included in the interactive map: States that have academic performance targets that do not vary by race. States that have academic performance targets that do vary by race. States that do not currently have a waiver.

They are still required by NCLB to have 100% of their students test proficient in reading and math by 2014.

Key Coverage

Obama Evaluating Early Childhood Education Push In Second Term

To address these and other issues, the White House is considering a major step to boost early childhood education. According to sources close to the administration, Duncan and the Department of Health and Human Services are outlining a plan to create universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds from low- and some middle-income families — approximately 1.85 million children.

Key Coverage

Colorado wins nearly $30M in federal school funds

The grant funding announced is part of “Race to the Top” money aimed at early childhood education programs. Colorado and four other states are getting the funding because they were finalists in last year’s competition.
“Colorado is committed to helping ensure every child is ready for kindergarten and reading by the third grade,” Hickenlooper said.

Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin are also receiving funds.

Key Coverage

Romney: ‘I’m Not Going to Cut Education Funding’

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, in his most detailed comments about education spending yet, pledged during Wednesday night’s debate with President Barack Obama in Denver that he would not cut federal education funding if elected—even as he made the case that he’s the best choice to rein in a mounting deficit.

Key Coverage

Rural States in Hunt for NCLB Waivers

At least half the schools in Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and West Virginia are considered rural by the National Center for Education Statistics. Alabama also has a high number of rural students, while Hawaii’s single, state-run school district educates some students who live in remote island areas.

Key Coverage

Speakers Spotlight Obama Ed. Initiatives, GOP Spending Threats

College affordability, global competitiveness, and Republican threats to education spending were consistent themes for governors and other high-profile speakers on Tuesday’s first night of the Democratic National Convention.
“You can’t be pro-business unless you’re pro-education,” declared San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who gave the keynote speech, in drawing a sharp and critical contrast between President Barack Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on support for schools.

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Special Reports on School Improvement Grants

This series of three special reports examines implementation of the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. The first special report, Schools with Federal Improvement Grants Face Challenges in Replacing Principals and Teachers, looks at how states, districts, and schools are addressing challenges related to SIG staffing requirements.

Key Coverage

The Right Move?

EWA 2012 National Reporting Contest winner. Of the many problems turnaround schools face, the intersection of finances and performance goals is often at the heart of what make or break them. Many of these schools face a dilemma: They need students to keep their budgets and staff intact, but find it tough to improve academics with too many low-achievers.

Key Coverage

49 Applications Win i3 Grants

In choosing the slate of winners for innovation grants totaling $650 million, the U.S. Department of Education decided to invest heavily in big-name teacher-training and school turnaround organizations while reserving one-fifth of the money for more-experimental programs.

Key Coverage

Tight Leash Likely on Turnaround Aid

The U.S. Department of Education announces plans to demand radical steps—such as firing most of a school’s staff or converting it to a charter school—as the price of admission in directing $3.5 billion in new school improvement aid to the nation’s 5,000 worst-performing schools.

Key Coverage

Even With Charter Schools, Alabama Would Have Flunked Race to the Top

EWA 2010 National Reporting Contest winner. This investigative report examined the reasons Alabama’s 2010 Race to the Top application scored the fewest points of any state. It dispels the rumor that the status of  charter schools hurt the state’s bid for federal money: Only 40 points were at stake if the state heralded in more charters, which would have helped the state finish second to last in the RTT competition instead of last.