EWA 74th National Seminar Agenda
May 3-5, 2021

COVID-19, racism, violence, financial stress and political division: Reporters covering education amid these crises have never faced more challenges, or been more important to the nation. And despite the spread of vaccines, hope for economic recovery, and changes to federal policies, the education and journalism worlds still both face extraordinary difficulties in 2021. 

The Education Writers Association’s 74th National Seminar will focus on the theme of “Now What? Reporting on Education Amid Uncertainty.” Three half-days of conversations, training and presentations will give attendees deeper understanding of these crises, as well as tools, skills and context to help them better serve their communities — and advance their careers. 

Forward-looking programming during this virtual event will prepare attendees with critical information, key questions, essential data, and compelling story ideas for covering a landscape still marked by tremendous uncertainty about how the 2021-22 academic year will unfold. 

EWA’s National Seminar is only open to EWA members who pre-register. To participate in this exclusive opportunity to hear from some of the most important movers and shakers in the education and journalism world, you must become a member of EWA (membership is free for journalists), then register for the National Seminar here.

This agenda is tentative and subject to change. 

All times are Eastern Daylight Time.

2021 EWA National Seminar Program

Monday, May 3, 2021

12 – 12:10 p.m.

Beat Reporting Award Announcement 

12:10 – 1:00 p.m.

A Conversation With Education Secretary Miguel Cardona

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona discusses his plans for federal education policy, outlines the government’s effort to help schools and students recover from the pandemic, and takes questions. 

  • Miguel Cardona, U.S. Department of Education
  • Sarah Carr, independent journalist (Moderator)

1:00 – 1:30 p.m. Break

1:30 – 2:15 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

The COVID Slide and What to Do About It

One of the most important tasks schools face in the recovery is to pinpoint academic gaps students face, and devise strategies to effectively address them. This challenge is exacerbated by students’ widely varying experiences in the pandemic. Panelists discuss key data on the scope of the learning gaps and promising practices to support students.

  • Emma Dorn, McKinsey & Company
  • Angélica Infante-Green, Rhode Island Department of Education
  • Sonja Santelises, Baltimore City Public Schools
  • Chastity Pratt, The Wall Street Journal (Moderator)

K-12 Datapalooza: Key Data Sets for Covering the COVID ‘Recovery’ in Schools

Journalists offer guidance on data tools that might be helpful for reporters in their daily coverage post-pandemic. They review national and state data tools that can come in handy on deadline, including the U.S. Census Bureau’s monthly household pulse surveys and the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband data maps. 

  • Dahlia Bazzaz, The Seattle Times
  • Alex Harwin, EdWeek Research Center
  • Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune (Moderator)

The Case of the 400,000 Missing College Students

Covid has pummeled student enrollments at many schools, notably the nation’s  community colleges. Which students are not enrolling? Will they come back? And what are colleges doing to find them?

  • Nia Badley, Cleveland School of Science and Medicine
  • Angela Johnson, Cuyahoga Community College 
  • Doug Shapiro, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center
  • Amy Morona, Crain’s Cleveland Business (Moderator)

2:15 – 2:30 p.m. Break

2:45 - 3:30 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

Knowing and Addressing Students’ Social and Emotional Needs

The pandemic has interrupted social interactions and hurt student well-being. Understanding students’ social and emotional needs will be crucial in the coming year. What new methods are emerging for gauging social and emotional needs, competencies and learning? How has the pandemic affected SEL and what does that mean for teaching and learning?

  • Julia Joy Dumas Wilks, Great Oaks Charter School, Wilmington, DE
  • Libby Pier, Education Analytics
  • Juany Valdespino-Gaytán, Dallas Independent School District
  • Kevin McCorry, WHYY (Moderator)

Community Members: Communicating to Audiences Across the Political Spectrum 

The events of the last year have left many of us feeling exhausted, divided, and mostly unheard. How do you communicate to create change in a politically divided world? What happens when your audiences are divided? Hear from communications experts on how to push through the noise and bring people together.

  • Dontée Donald, Fenton Communications
  • Anya Harrington, Communities in Schools 
  • Blair Mann, Data Quality Campaign
  • Kimberly Hefling, GMMB (Moderator)

Does Career Education Have a Starring Role in the Recovery?

As the nation prepares for a post-pandemic world, what role will career and technical education play for adults, colleges, and their communities? Are states focused enough on adult learners? What is the right balance between spending on CTE in high schools and at the college level?

  • Dana Davis, Community College of Aurora (CO)
  • Leah Lykins, WhereWeGo
  • Jane Oates, WorkingNation
  • Jason Gonzales, Chalkbeat Colorado (Moderator)

Sponsor Session: Covering Technology in the Classroom

As schools shifted to remote and hybrid learning in the pandemic, education technology (edtech) was thrust into the spotlight. With schools and districts spending more than $25 billion on edtech each year, what should reporters know about the technology in classrooms and the research that goes into developing it? Join us for a discussion with experts and educators on this timely and important topic. (Sponsored and organized by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.)

  • Melissa Collins, John P. Freeman Optional School, Memphis, TN
  • Richard J. Davidson, Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Bart Epstein, EdTech Evidence Exchange 
  • Nilesh Patel, Kairos Academies, St. Louis, MO
  • Greg Toppo, independent writer and author (Moderator)

3:30 – 4:00 p.m. Break

4:00 – 4:45 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

What Reporters Need to Know About State Testing in 2021 

With the Biden administration largely holding fast on the resumption of state assessments this year, critical questions remain on the scope of testing, as well as what can and should be done with the results. Experts discuss what testing will look like, strengths and limitations of the exams, and other key issues.

  • Andrew Ho, Harvard University
  • Scott Marion, Center for Assessment
  • Lynn Vasquez, New Mexico Public Education Department
  • Erik Robelen, Education Writers Association (Moderator)

Left, Right, Center: Where Partisans Disagree, and Agree, on Education

Conservative education policy analyst Rick Hess pairs up with Pedro Noguera, a prominent advocate of equitable education and dean of the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education, to discuss where the left and right agree — and disagree — on important education issues.

  • Rick Hess, American Enterprise Institute
  • Pedro Noguera, University of Southern California
  • Emmeline Zhao, The 74 (Moderator)

Sponsor Session: Did Over 30 Years of Standards-Based Education Advance Equity and Academic Outcomes?

Standards-based education has guided U.S. education policy for three decades. What have been the accomplishments and unintended consequences of the K-12 standards movement? How have students, families, and educators experienced this era? What has the standards agenda meant for equity, especially for Black, Latino, indigenous students? Panelists reflect on these questions and share findings of a new report. (Sponsored and organized by The Aspen Education & Society Program.)

  • Danielle Gonzales, The Aspen Education & Society Program
  • Paul Reville, Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Keri Rodrigues, National Parents Union
  • Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week (Moderator)

4:45 – 5:15 p.m. Break

5:15 - 6:00 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

Shop Talk: Public Service Journalism

Finalists and winners in the public service category of EWA’s National Awards for Education Reporting reveal what it took to carry out their exceptional projects and what others can learn from their experiences. 

  • Ian Shapira, The Washington Post
  • Yana Kunichoff, Chalkbeat Chicago
  • Dan Mihalopoulos, WBEZ (Moderator)

Shop Talk: Visual Storytelling

Journalists honored in EWA’s National Awards for Education Reporting discuss how they harnessed the power of images at a time when video, data visualization, and other visual media play a growing role in newsrooms.  

  • Malaka Gharib, NPR
  • Robert Kinlaw, EdNC 
  • Cory Turner, NPR
  • Erin Einhorn, NBC News (Moderator)

Shop Talk: Feature Stories

From documentaries to magazine pieces to timely news takeouts, what makes for great feature stories? Finalists and winners in EWA’s National Awards for Education Reporting discuss hallmarks of standout examples of the genre. 

  • Samantha Shapiro, Freelance/New York Times Magazine
  • Emily Tate, EdSurge
  • Eva-Marie Ayala, The Dallas Morning News (Moderator)

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

11 – 11:45 a.m.

Sponsor Session: Tragedy or Turning Point? Serving Students With Disabilities After the Pandemic

As the pandemic hit, the sudden shift to remote learning struck students with disabilities particularly hard. Yet public schools have long faced challenges meeting these students’ needs. Experts and practitioners discuss whether the pandemic can be a turning point for students with disabilities and explore what programs and practices show promise. (Sponsored and organized by American Institutes for Research)

  • Doug Fuchs, Vanderbilt University 
  • Lynn Fuchs, Vanderbilt University
  • Kasandra Posey, Civitas Education Partners
  • Dia Jackson, American Institutes for Research (Moderator)

12 – 12:10 p.m.

Eddie Prize Announcement  

12:10 p.m. – 1:10 p.m.

What Pandemic-Driven Changes in Education Will Last, and Why?

Education will never be the same again. Or will it? COVID-19 disrupted business as usual in the K-12 and postsecondary domains, from the delivery of instruction to testing, parent-teacher conferences, college admissions and financial aid. To what extent will changes sparked or accelerated by the pandemic have staying power? What are the implications for educational equity?

  • Daniel Domenech, AASA: The School Superintendents Association
  • Joshua Kim, Dartmouth College
  • Robin Lake, Center on Reinventing Public Education
  • Robert Vela, San Antonio College
  • Erica Green, The New York Times (Moderator)

1:10 - 1:30 p.m. Break

1:30 – 2:15 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

Family Engagement in a Post-COVID Era

The grand experiment with remote instruction in the pandemic hasn’t just impacted teachers and students. It has also changed the relationship of parents to their children’s learning, and provided a firsthand look at the virtual classroom experience. Experts and parent advocates explore how the role of families in education may shift, and ways schools and others can support the change. 

  • Sarah Carpenter, Memphis Lift
  • Keri Rodrigues, National Parents Union
  • Vidya Sundaram, Family Engagement Lab
  • Rebecca Winthrop, Center for Universal Education
  • Katherine Lewis, independent journalist (Moderator)

Research Implications for School Leadership

New research indicates that the impact of school principals on student achievement and school outcomes has been understated and understudied. Experts discuss behaviors and skills shared by the most effective school leaders, and how new research findings intersect with issues of educational equity — in the principal pipeline and beyond.

  • Jean Desravines, New Leaders
  • Constance Lindsay, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Kerensa Wing, Collins Hill High School, Suwanee, GA
  • Denisa Superville, Education Week (Moderator)

Lessons Learned: The Future of College Instruction After COVID

College instruction, uneven long before COVID-19, sustained a shock during the pandemic. Students report countless challenges, such as instructors who communicated only by email, classroom rules ill-suited to online study, and even professors who burst into tears. After a year of disrupted learning, what’s ahead for the nation’s college classrooms? 

  • Marjorie Blen, San Francisco State University
  • Rachel Davenport, Texas State University
  • Jonathan Zimmerman, University of Pennsylvania
  • Jeffrey Young, EdSurge (Moderator)

2:15 – 2:45 p.m. Break

2:45 - 3:30 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

Tutoring: Quick Fix or Lasting Strategy in K-12 Education?

With American Rescue Plan Act funds on the way, schools are eyeing individual tutoring as a tool to help students catch up. Research shows that tutoring can work when well-structured and highly focused. Yet examples of poor implementation abound. Experts discuss hallmarks of effective tutoring and consider its use immediately post-COVID and beyond.

  • A.J. Gutierrez, Saga Education
  • Amanda Neitzel, Johns Hopkins University
  • Anne Sung, Houston Independent School District
  • Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun (Moderator)

Community Members: The Current State of DEI Efforts

Many believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion should be front and center in any organization’s communications efforts – but are they? Hear from communications experts on the state of DEI efforts and learn how to center racial equity and justice in your work.

  • Niiobli Armah IV, We-Collab
  • Samia Mirza, We-Collab
  • Tanji Reed Marshall, Education Trust (Moderator)

A Year of ‘Teachable Moments’: Civic Virtues and Character Education in Action

Following a tumultuous year, how can educators develop inclusive and supportive campus climates? How might a focus on character traits such as integrity, compassion, justice, and empathy improve student learning and outcomes? What approaches are schools taking to nurture these traits through experiential learning and classroom instruction? 

  • Ashley Rogers Berner, Johns Hopkins University
  • Arria Coburn, The Springfield (MA) Renaissance School 
  • Andrew Smarick, The Manhattan Institute
  • Emily Richmond, Education Writers Association (Moderator)

Sponsor Session: The Power of One-on-One Check-ins

How are you doing today? Simple questions like these have proven invaluable for teachers to connect one-on-one with students. In recent years, research has confirmed what great teachers will tell you: When we know students, they learn better. Educators discuss evidence-based approaches to meaningful check-ins with students, whether through scheduled mentoring sessions or emerging technologies. (Sponsored and organized by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.)

  • Daniel Motta, LEAD Innovation Studio, Kansas City, KS
  • Laura Tollis, Saline Middle School, Saline, MI
  • Samia Zaidi, Gradient Learning (Moderator)

3:30 – 3:45: EWA’s Pet Parade

3:45 – 4:00 p.m. Break

4:00 – 4:45 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

How Summer ‘School’ Will Look Different This Year

Amid pressure to address massive learning disruption, student well-being, and inequities in opportunity, how are communities using this unusual summer? School districts will have billions in fresh federal aid. Hear from district and community leaders who are seizing the opportunity to innovate and build a bridge to the coming school year.

  • Aaron Philip Dworkin, National Summer Learning Association
  • Ebony Johnson, Tulsa Public Schools
  • Jennifer Peck, Partnership for Children and Youth
  • Erin Richards, USA Today (Moderator)

Race on Campus: How to Fairly and Accurately Cover the Changing Reality

A continuing barrage of racist acts — from hateful comments to violent attacks against people of color — is energizing many student activists to address racism at their colleges. Researchers and leaders share insights, data and context on what to expect as the nation’s students head toward an uncertain summer and return to campus. 

  • Eli Capilouto, University of Kentucky
  • Julie J. Park, University of Maryland
  • Dorien Rogers, Salisbury University
  • Adam Harris, The Atlantic (Moderator)

Sponsor Session: Learning Beyond COVID-19: Obstacles and Opportunities 

The pandemic has raised awareness of inequities affecting children’s ability to succeed academically — from broadband access to taking on a job or missing meals — as well as public interest in addressing them. Our panel will explore the obstacles students face and what should be done to ensure they succeed in the new school year. (Sponsored and organized by the National Education Association)

  • Gina Harris, Julian Middle School, Oak Park, IL
  • Becky Pringle, National Education Association
  • Lori Stratton, high school English teacher, Lawrence, KS
  • Cory Turner, NPR (Moderator)

4:45 – 5:15 p.m. Break

5:15 - 6:00 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

From Bylines to Book Jackets – Higher Ed

Hear from professional journalists who turned their beat coverage of higher education into books.

  • Adam Harris, The Atlantic
  • Josh Mitchell, The Wall Street Journal
  • Andy Thomason, The Chronicle of Higher Education
  • Melissa Korn, The Wall Street Journal (Moderator)

From Bylines to Book Jackets – K-12

Hear from professional journalists who turned their coverage of K-12 education into books.

  • Emma Brown, The Washington Post
  • Danielle Dreilinger, independent journalist
  • Jo Napolitano, independent journalist (Moderator)

3 Great Hacks to Save Your Time, Story and Career

Journalists will share new techniques and strategies they’ve developed to collaborate with other newsrooms for public service journalism, improve source diversity, and advocate for yourself in your newsroom.

  • Caroline Bauman, Chalkbeat
  • Eder Campuzano, The Oregonian
  • Nirvi Shah, Politico
  • Allison Kowalski, Education Writers Association (Moderator)


Wednesday May 5, 2021

11 – 11:45 a.m.

Sponsor Session: Return, Recover and Reimagine: Re-Writing the Future of America’s Public Schools

Rethinking the future of public education is an urgent priority as schools reopen for full-time, in-person instruction. This panel will explore the idea of schools as centers of community and engagement where parents want to send their kids, educators want to work and kids can thrive. And it will discuss philanthropy’s role in creating an equitable public education system as we embrace new modes of teaching and learning post-pandemic. (Sponsored and organized by the American Federation of Teachers.

  • Kent McGuire, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
  • José Muñoz, Coalition for Community Schools
  • Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers
  • Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times (Moderator)

1:10 - 1:30 p.m.  Break

12:00 - 12:10 p.m.

Grand Prize Announcement 

12:10 – 1:10 p.m.

 Race, Wealth, Test Scores, or? Who Gets Into the ‘Best’ Schools

Few education issues ignite greater passion than the question of who gets to go to coveted schools. At a time of reckoning over institutional racism, battles over admissions policies — from selective preschools to magnet high schools to top-ranked colleges — have acquired more urgency. What should journalists consider in covering this complex topic? 

  • Anthony Carnevale, Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce
  • Lee Cheng, Friends of Lowell Foundation
  • Cara McClellan, NAACP Legal Defense Fund
  • Jeff Selingo, Author (Moderator)

1:10 - 1:30 p.m.  Break

1:30 – 2:15 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

As Teachers Gird for What’s Next, Workforce Issues Abound

The pandemic hit the teacher workforce hard, and uncertainty about the coming year remains rampant. From hot topics such as morale and turnover to lesser-known issues like teacher prep, the field faces major challenges and opportunities. Experts forecast what lies ahead, including emerging instructional models and rethinking the role of individual teachers. 

  • Marisol Garcia, Arizona Education Association
  • Dan Goldhaber, American Institutes for Research
  • Keri Hubbard, Cadence Learning
  • Madeline Will, Education Week (Moderator)

How I Did the Story – K-12

Reporters share insights on covering key issues including educational equity and school integration, and offer tips on building sources among students, families, and educators.

  • Chana Joffe-Walt, This American Life
  • Bianca Vázquez Toness, The Boston Globe
  • Stephanie Wang, Chalkbeat (Moderator) 

Data Training: The Stats Used to Document ‘College Value’

Two of the nation’s leading higher education data researchers walk you through data sets and tools that are frequently used to analyze the individual and societal payoff to investments in higher education.

  • Dominique Baker, Southern Methodist University
  • Robert Kelchen, Seton Hall University
  • Chris Quintana, USA Today (Moderator)

2:15 - 2:45 p.m. Break

2:45 - 3:30 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

Community Members: Reporter Roundtable

In a perennially popular offering, EWA gathers veteran reporters to share insights with community members into the kinds of pitches and news developments that capture their attention — and the kinds that don’t.

  • Reema Amin, Chalkbeat
  • Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed
  • Delece Smith-Barrow, Politico (Moderator)

How I Did The Story – Higher Ed

Reporters share insights on covering key issues from the beat, including Title IX investigations, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student learning and campus finances, and more.

  • Sara Ganim, University of Florida
  • Gabriella Paul, University of Florida
  • Michael Vasquez, The Chronicle of Higher Education
  • Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times (Moderator)

Child Care and Early Education: Crawling to ‘Recovery’

With federal stimulus funds set to be released to states this summer, how can reporters prepare to cover and track developments in the essential early care and education sector? Experts offer guidance on what to watch for as the field seeks to recover from the pandemic, and suggest story ideas for education journalists to explore in the year ahead.

  • Katie Hamm, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Caitlin McLean, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment
  • Rochelle Wilcox, Wilcox Academy of Early Learning
  • Jackie Mader, The Hechinger Report (Moderator)

Sponsor Session: Learning Loss vs. Well-being: Why We Don’t Have to Choose

The pandemic’s impact on health and emotional well-being has come on top of other stressors, including the trauma-inducing effects of structural racism laid bare over the past year. Join us for a discussion with experts on how schools and districts are fostering well-being and resilience for students and teachers in the face of unprecedented stress, while also supporting academic achievement. (Sponsored and organized by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.)

  • Joyce Dorado, UCSF Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools
  • Denise Forte, The Education Trust
  • Keri Rodrigues, National Parents Union
  • Tammy Stephens, Bear Lake High School, Montpelier, ID
  • Arianna Prothero, Education Week (Moderator)

3:30 - 4:00 p.m. Break

4:00 – 4:45 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

Adolescence on the Mind: Helping Teens Out of the Pandemic

Building social connections outside the family, especially with peers, is key to healthy adolescent development. Yet isolation wrought by the pandemic has curtailed social opportunities. What works to help adolescents overcome such setbacks? What do surveys of students in high school and middle school show about the impact of the past year?

  • Adriana Galván, University of California Los Angeles
  • Denise Pope, Stanford University
  • Lydia Denworth, Scientific American (Moderator)

Innovations Changing Higher Education and Career Pathways

The meteor of COVID-19 is forcing notoriously slow-evolving colleges to make rapid changes to survive. Hear from some of the most important innovators in higher education about how leading colleges are turbocharging their student supports, coming up with new ways of teaching, and developing new training pathways to good jobs.   

  • Bridget Burns, University Innovation Alliance
  • Michael Sorrell, Paul Quinn College
  • Van Ton-Quinlivan, Futuro Health
  • Goldie Blumenstyk, The Chronicle of Higher Education (Moderator)

4:45 - 5:15 p.m. Break

5:15 – 6:00 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

Shop Talk: Beat Reporting

Reporters recognized for top-notch beat coverage discuss techniques for managing a beat effectively and offer ideas for finding and prioritizing stories that make a difference for their unique audiences. 

  • Ricardo Cano, San Francisco Chronicle 
  • Aliyya Swaby, ProPublica
  • Jon Marcus, The Hechinger Report (Moderator) 

Shop Talk: Investigative Reporting

Finalists and winners in EWA’s National Awards for Education Reporting explore how journalists can identify promising topics for investigative projects about education and bring them to fruition in today’s news environment.

  • Neil Bedi, ProPublica
  • Linda Jacobson, The 74
  • Mandy McLaren, The Courier-Journal
  • Daarel Burnette II, Education Week (Moderator)

Shop Talk: Audio Storytelling

Amid a podcasting boom, reporters recognized in EWA’s National Awards for Education Reporting for their powerful use of sound share insights into the special opportunities and challenges of creating great audio journalism. 

  • Alex Baumhardt, APM Reports
  • Marianne McCune, WNYC
  • Ki Sung, KQED (Moderator)