2019 EWA National Seminar
Finding the Details: How to Report on Seclusion and Restraint in Schools
News investigations put spotlight on troubling practices
When former WAMU education reporter Jenny Abamu first saw a seclusion room, she was shaken.
She described the spaces she viewed in Fairfax County, Virginia: rooms built within rooms with no windows or ventilation, and discolorations where students had defecated on the floor.
“Some of those kids were in that room over a hundred times in a school year,” Abamu recalled. “People thought it was normal. I was scared. I thought, ‘This is not normal.’”
Why Tapping Education Researchers Pays Off
Reporters See Value in Teaming Up With Experts to Examine Data
From test scores to graduation rates, the education system is a world of numbers that can show how well policies and practices are serving students – if you know how to analyze the data.
“When there’s a data session here and you have to pick which category you’re in, I would be in the beginner category,” said Adam Tamburin, a higher education reporter for The Tennessean, during a panel at the Education Writers Association’s 2019 National Seminar in Baltimore.
Enter the trained scientists.
When Baltimore City Public Schools placed current education data on a map of the city’s historic racial redlining, it was apparent that not much had changed, as district CEO Sonja Brookins Santelises tells the story. The segregated neighborhoods created in part by policies that barred predominantly black communities from federally subsidized mortgages were the same neighborhoods that today showed lower academic outcomes.
Santelises said those findings motivated her district to take a closer look at what kind of opportunities it provides students.
Want Safer Schools? It Takes Human Capital.
Counselors, school resource officers, educators play key roles, experts say
During an assembly at the high school where she was principal, Liz Dozier once asked 1,000-plus students if they knew someone who had been shot.
Every single student raised a hand.
“When I first got to the school, I didn’t understand all the effects of trauma — I just knew that our school was in crisis,” Dozier said. “The whole ecosystem that we had set up around kids was dysfunctional.”
For years, kicking students out of school was a common discipline move for administrators. Now, suspending students, a practice that disproportionately affects black and Hispanic youngsters, is out of favor, as educators work to respond to bad behavior without cutting off educational opportunities.
But the change hasn’t been easy, and many educators are still grappling with how to handle discipline problems in ways that don’t hurt students’ education, according to a panel at the Education Writers Association’s annual conference this spring in Baltimore.
EWA Tip Sheet: Covering College Certificates and Microcredentials
Here are resources for understanding non-degree higher education alternatives.
Students and workers looking to quickly advance their careers are beginning to seek shorter and cheaper alternatives to traditional college degrees. And colleges, worried about a decline in the number of “traditional” freshmen, are creating alternative programs to attract new tuition-payers.
The State of Early Learning in Your State
A pair of new reports shed light on the well-being of children across the U.S.
The best way to predict the future is to look at how children are faring. But the task is complicated given that the well-being of children varies widely from state to state.
That’s what data presented by researchers Sarah Daily of Child Trends and W. Steven Barnett of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University show. The duo offered their takes on the state of early care and learning across the United States at the Education Writers Association’s 2019 annual conference in Baltimore.
The federal Every Student Succeeds Act is about to unleash a flood of new data, on everything from school-by-school spending to chronic absenteeism and achievement results for vulnerable groups of students.
But all those facts and figures don’t mean much if reporters can’t explain what they really mean to parents and the public.
That was the message from a trio of experts – and a veteran journalist – who spoke at a panel at the Education Writers Association’s recent national conference in Baltimore.
Can Education Philanthropy Lift Students Out of Poverty?
Upward economic mobility, long-term positive outcomes renewed focus of foundations
An increased focus by philanthropy on the link between education and upward economic mobility is not a fad but rather is central to the work of many foundations, according to representatives of leading grantmakers gathered at the Education Writers Association’s annual conference in Baltimore.
Restoring Trust in Journalism Takes Transparency and Baby Pictures
Journalists outline five techniques to rebut 'fake news' misconceptions
Louise Kiernan, the editor-in-chief of ProPublica Illinois, once had an illuminating conversation with a reader about anonymous sources. The person thought that an anonymous source was unknown to everyone, including the reporters.
“It wasn’t about this person’s ignorance, it was about our arrogance” and failure to fully explain how journalists gather and present news, Kiernan said during a session at the Education Writers Association’s 2019 National Seminar in Baltimore.
Effective school principals are hard to find and to keep, and turnover is a serious challenge.
But school districts that put their minds to it can create a sustainable leader pipeline. Students score higher, and principals stay on the job longer in districts that make diligent efforts to select, prepare and mentor principals, according to a multi-year study, released in April, by the RAND Corporation, a public policy research firm.
Driven by changing student demographics and demands from employers, colleges are experimenting with new, more flexible and affordable bachelors’ degrees, a panel of higher education leaders and experts told journalists at the Education Writers Association’s 2019 National Seminar.
Colleges are trying boot camps, competency-based education, credit for prior learning, and other strategies to lower costs, speed up and improve the value of bachelors’ degrees.
In 2018, Meghan Irons and her colleagues at the Boston Globe set out to document a troubling paradox: Their city is famous for its world-class universities, but working-class Bostonians were largely failing to thrive there and move up the economic ladder.
Most journalists covering universities focus on undergraduate programs, even though, in many cases, the graduate student population is larger and has a bigger impact on the school’s financial health. So graduate schools can be a trove of fresh, under-covered story ideas, according to graduate student representatives and researchers who spoke at the Education Writers Association’s 2019 National Seminar.
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.
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?
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.
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.”