A Reporter’s Guide to Microsoft Access
For education journalists with basic and intermediate Access skills
Published May 2016
What is Microsoft Access?
Microsoft Access is a great database manager. It allows you to use queries to pull specific information from a database. For instance, if you have a database with a million rows of information and 30 columns, you can specify what information in that data you want to see by using a query – it’s like creating a mini-database. It’s different than doing filters in Excel, because filtered information is still there but you just can’t see it. Access also allows you to join two files with ease.
Published April 2016
Reporters use Microsoft Excel to analyze data to look for trends, anomalies and story ideas. Databases are full of information broken down into rows and columns. This guide will teach skills that are needed to clean and analyze databases to extract information for story use. Remember, there are stories in the data.
Published December 2015
Need a state or national statistic? There’s likely a federal data set for that. From fairly intuitive and interactive widgets to dense spreadsheets — and hundreds of data summaries in between — the U.S. Department of Education’s various research programs are a gold mine for reporters on the hunt for facts and figures.
Most education reporters from time to time will tread into the world of education research, whether to gauge charter school achievement, the impact of teacher quality, or the effects of a reading program, among myriad possibilities. But making sense of the research, with its often-impenetrable prose, dizzying figures, and mathematical formulas, can be daunting. Despite the challenge, gaining some basic skills and knowledge in navigating research makes for stronger journalism.
Campaign finance might seem like the exclusive province of political reporters, but there are many good reasons why you should be paying attention – both in races for education positions and in other key races at the local, state, and federal levels with implications for education. You’ll need basic math and it helps to have familiarity with a spreadsheet, but you’ll find that once you’ve mastered the basics, a good campaign finance story can take on the fun of light detective work.
This is a transcript of EWA’s webinar “Data Privacy Rules and Ruses” and has been edited for length and clarity.
Mikhail Zinshteyn: Welcome everybody to today’s webinar, entitled Data Privacy Rules and Ruses. I’m Mikhail Zinshteyn of EWA and joining us is Frank LoMonte of the Student Press Law Center. For the next half hour, Frank will give us an in-depth look at the chief federal student data privacy law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
The education laws and policy decisions made in the state capitol might seem far removed from the realities of the schools you cover, but their impact hits much closer to home than you might realize. Keeping track of those state debates as they occur is a good way to keep teachers, administrators and local parents in-the-loop about changes that might be coming, and give them an opportunity to contribute their opinions when they still can have an effect.
Story ideas on early education your editors and readers will love.
Polling isn’t exclusively the province of political reporters. A handful of national surveys released each year focus on education, including the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll about public attitudes toward education and MetLife’s annual survey of teachers. There’s also often polling done for statewide education-related elections, such as ballot measures or state superintendent races, and, periodically, by news outlets and advocacy organizations on various education-related issues.
Few areas of education policy are moving more quickly than teacher evaluations. In 2009, annual evaluations of teachers were mandatory in just 15 states. Today, that number stands at 25. Additionally, in order to qualify for federal Race to the Top competitive grants and No Child Left Behind waivers, states had to pledge to use student assessment data as a factor in measuring a teacher’s performance. At the same time, few issues are fraught with more politics—and potential controversy—than teacher evaluations.
Public records are a powerful basis for stories, but tracking down the ones you need can be tricky. Public agencies are often reluctant to hand over records, however, even when the law clearly says they should. Sometimes they don’t know or understand the laws well; other times, they just don’t want their information in the public eye. Reporters need to be familiar with state and federal records laws and, in consultation with their editors, skillfully use those laws to get maximum transparency from schools, school districts, universities, education departments and other public agencies.
The Common Core State Standards are poised to remake public education from Maine to California. While the initiative once enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, in 2013 it began facing significant political pushback. As of June 2014, the number of states that fully adopted the standards has dropped from 45 to 42, with the governors of Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina signing legislation to pull out. Several others are considering similar moves. More states have backed out of the student assessment groups associated with the standards, committing to big-dollar contracts with other large testing companies.
More than 70,000 English language learners attended the Miami-Dade County Public Schools last year—making up one of the largest ELL student populations in the nation.
Teachers’ unions can be powerful forces – in addition to contract negotiations, the unions can have an impact on school board decisions on everything from zoning changes to classroom technology purchases to budget cuts. But in many cases the greatest influence of unions – specifically, where they choose to spend their money – happens behind the scenes.
This guide lays out the basic standards education journalists should strive to follow regardless of their particular specialties or areas of expertise.
It draws on the comprehensive work of Oregonian reporter Bill Graves, who wrote the Education Writers Association’s first set of standards 11 years ago. But it has been updated to reflect the transformation of the industry, including the rapid growth in online journalism and social media; it has also been revised to incorporate changes on the beat, such as the rise of charter schools and online education, as well as shifts in federal education policy. The recommendations presented here should be viewed as guidelines, not rules.
Browse the guide in full below, or download your own copy.
Every school budget tells a story—about a district’s spending plan, its priorities, goals, and financial health. The challenge is to wade through the jargon and numbers to unlock that story.
Spending time in schools and classrooms can be one of the best ways for novice reporters to dive into the education beat, and for veterans to find fresh inspiration.
Interviewing children is a critical element of the education reporter’s daily work. However, practices for gaining access and avoiding harm and embarrassment vary widely depending on the news organization and individual reporter in question. This document aims to provide journalists with broad guidelines, but it stops short of advocating for the kinds of uniform policies to which academic researchers must adhere.
More than 70,000 English language learners attended the Miami-Dade County Public Schools last year–making up one of the largest ELL student populations in the nation.
Among school reformers and policymakers, “college readiness” has become a ubiquitous rallying cry. But for all of the recent buzz about college readiness, it is difficult to say what that term means, how such readiness might be measured, or what schools might do to produce it. EWA’s new research brief delves into the current debates around, and research into, efforts to ensure that the majority of the country’s young people receive a K-12 education that truly prepares them to succeed in college.
Efforts to overhaul struggling schools have existed for decades, but it wasn’t until President Obama fortified the process with $3.5 billion in 2009 that the term school turnaround became etched in the public consciousness. While there is a lack of empirical studies on turnaround practices that result in improved student achievement, it is possible to work backward—to examine successful turnarounds, in the world of education and elsewhere, and determine what characteristics they have in common.
As policymakers and school leaders seek new ways to measure and improve teacher effectiveness, it’s important for journalists and others to understand what is known about the topic so far, and what remains unsettled or unknown. This research brief does not synthesize all the studies in this highly technical field. But it does aim to improve the accuracy and clarity of reporting by exploring what the research says about timely questions surrounding the complex topic of teacher effectiveness.