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Dollars and Sense: Understanding Teacher Pensions

In states across the country, rising retirement costs are outpacing overall education spending—with consequences for classrooms and teachers’ pocketbooks. At the same time, efforts to reform pensions in places like Kentucky and Colorado have sparked fierce political backlash and even teacher walkouts.

What do reporters need to know about teacher pensions—how they work and how they’re connected to the wave of teacher unrest? Why hasn’t increased education spending boosted teacher pay? And how can reporters cover these complex topics accurately but also succinctly?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How to Better Understand and Cover Student Suicides

After a 10-year-old boy died by suicide in the middle of doing his chores, reporter Allison Ross was tapped to interview his grieving mother.

Ross struggled with how to share the Louisville family’s story sensitively, without being sensational in her coverage for the Courier-Journal newspaper.

Tip Sheet

EWA Tip Sheet: Using Facebook to Report

Reporters can use Facebook to create communities, start conversations, find story tips and sources, and build their individual brands. Lynn Walsh, a veteran reporter, walked journalists through ways to make the most of Facebook at the Education Writers Association’s 2019 National Seminar in Baltimore

EWA Radio

Summer Story Ideas on the Education Beat
Tips for tapping national issues to fuel localized reporting
(EWA Radio: Episode 209)

School might be out, but that doesn’t mean education issues take a vacation: Two experienced education journalists offer compelling story ideas to beat the summertime blues. Delece Smith-Barrow of The Hechinger Report and Lauren Camera of U.S. News & World Report join this week’s podcast to discuss a wide range of national topics ripe for localized summer coverage.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Financial and Emotional Costs of School Security

School safety is an important part of every education journalist’s beat, as states and districts invest billions in preventative measures, including those intended to stop the next campus shooting.

But how much of those investments are reactions to public perceptions about potential risks rather than grounded in best practices? And what questions should reporters ask when it comes to not just the financial costs but also the potential emotional toll such efforts take on students and staff?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Mental Health: A Hidden Crisis in Schools?

Mental health can influence all sorts of basic issues in education, from test scores to attendance and school discipline. Yet it’s a topic that education journalists often overlook.

That was the message of Steve Drummond, education editor and an executive producer at NPR, who moderated the panel, “Mental Health: A Hidden Crisis in Schools?” at this year’s EWA national conference. NPR chronicled the problem in a 2016 package called “A Silent Epidemic; The Mental Health Crisis in Our Schools.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Gun Violence in Schools and Communities: A Conversation With Journalists

It’s probably every reporter’s worst nightmare: Your co-worker rushes over from the police scanner and blurts out, “Active shooter at Such-and-Such School.”

When that happened to South Florida Sun-Sentinel education reporter Scott Travis on Valentine’s Day 2018, “I headed there hoping more than anything that this was a false alarm,” he told EWA seminar attendees May 6. But he was headed to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

EWA Radio

Can Kansas Keep Its Best Students?
Sunflower State students face realities of 'College Economy'
(EWA Radio: Episode 203)

Kansas, like many states, is pouring millions of dollars into dual-credit programs, technical colleges and other initiatives aimed at preparing more students for the so-called “college economy,” where advanced training is a prerequisite for well-paying jobs. But are those investments paying off? In an eight-part series for the Kansas News Service, reporters Celia Llopis-Jepsen and Stephen Bisaha look at the state’s push to get more students into postsecondary programs, and to keep them from taking their highly desirable skill sets to employers in other states. 

EWA Radio

The Criminalization of Black Girls
How biases are influencing discipline and punishment, in school and out
(EWA Radio: Episode 208)

As a teacher and later as a criminal justice reporter, USA Today’s Monica Rhor saw firsthand that black girls were often treated more harshly than their white peers. That awareness drove her determination to investigate the prevalence of the problem. She found stunning examples of how bias among educators and law enforcement drive what researchers call the “adultification” of black girls.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Big Promises for Little Learners: What’s Next for Early Education?

Governors across the country are pledging to pump billions of dollars into early childhood education – historic investments that could have a far-reaching impact on the lives of young people.

But their success will depend on how well states implement those initiatives and the scope and quality of the programs put in place, advocates said during the Education Writers Association’s annual conference this month. And it will be up to journalists, the speakers said, to hold those states accountable.

EWA Radio

With Civics, Do Schools Practice What They Teach?
As political tensions trickle into schools, how are schools preparing students to be engaged citizens and informed voters?
(EWA Radio: Episode 207)

Are public schools meeting their longstanding obligation to prepare students for the responsibilities of civic life? For the past year, a team of reporters and editors at Education Week has focused on the state of civics education in the U.S., from the instructional materials used by schools to examples where students are “living” civic engagement rather than just studying it. Reporter Stephen Sawchuk discusses the “Citizen Z” project, and how journalists can use it as a blueprint to inform their own work on this critical subject.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Hidden Stories on Classroom Curriculum

What students learn every day in their classes is the core of the K-12 enterprise. And yet, unless it’s part of a really terrible lesson that goes viral, content is rarely the focal point for education news coverage.

As curriculum rises on policymakers’ agendas, it should also be a focus of the nation’s education reporters, agreed panelists at the Education Writers Association’s 72nd annual conference in Baltimore this month.

EWA Radio

Lessons From the Higher Ed Beat
David Jesse of Detroit Free Press wins top EWA Award for coverage of MSU, Larry Nassar scandal
(EWA Radio: Episode 206)

Reporter David Jesse’s scoops went so deep in covering the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal at Michigan State University that some campus officials wondered if he was being cc’ed on internal emails. Nassar, a physician affiliated with MSU’s athletics program, was sentenced to 70 years in prison for sexually abusing students who were his patients at the campus clinic, as well as members of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team. The university’s president also resigned in the wake of the fallout. Jesse, who’s been covering higher education at the Detroit Free Press for nearly a decade, won the Moskowitz Prize in this year’s EWA National Awards for Education Reporting.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Covering How ‘Varsity Blues’ Affects College Admissions
Experts suggest following up with investigations into large inequities and sports recruiting.

The “Varsity Blues” scandal involved a small group of wealthy families using bribes and other tactics to gain admissions to selective colleges. But it also illuminated broader admissions problems – particularly those involving income disparities – that should be examined by education reporters, according to experts who spoke at the 2019 Education Writers Association seminar in Baltimore.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

‘An Ethical Obligation to Care’ When Reporting
'I try to write like people's lives depend on my words,' says Jenny Abamu.

While working as a journalist in New York City at the start of her career, Jenny Abamu experienced firsthand one of the challenges of daily breaking news coverage in a huge media market. Her job, at the television station NY1, required quickly moving from one assignment to the next, even on the same day.

At times she felt like part of the “media herd” chasing shiny objects, Abamu recalled recently to EWA. She felt she moved on from stories that deserved more depth and context.

“I felt like I was slipping in and out of people’s lives,” she said.