Site Visits & Limited Sessions


May 18 – 20, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

Some of our National Seminar special workshops, site visits, and Deep Dives have very limited seating and will require advance registration. Please take a few minutes to review the session descriptions to plan your time at the National Seminar. We will open registration for these events on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. 

The complete National Seminar agenda is available here



1 to 2 p.m. WORKSHOPS 1

A. Using NAEP Explorer (K-12): Think the National Assessment of Educational Progress just shows how many students are up to snuff in major subjects? Think again. Through a tool called NAEP Data Explorer, reporters can develop story ideas by perusing the data tool’s more than 1,400 education-related variables and their links to students scores. The NAEP Data Explorer is especially useful for national reporters and those whose districts participate in the Trial Urban District Assessment. Reporters will learn the tool’s many functions and generate charts. James Elias, Hager Sharp 

B. NCES Presents: Exploring College Navigator and IPEDS Data Center The U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator website lets reporters easily find and download data about financial aid, net price, student demographics, graduation and retention for schools in geographic areas of their choice. Led by a researcher from the National Center for Education Statistics, this session will help reporters take this powerful data tool for a test drive. Susan Aud, National Center for Education Statistics


2:15 to 3:15 p.m. WORKSHOPS 2

A. Kids Data You’ll Love (K-12) How many U.S. children live in households where a parent is unemployed? What’s the rate of school expulsions in your state? How many students in your area were not born in the United States? The answers to those questions, and hundreds more, can be easily found and exported from the Kids Count Data center. Become familiar with the data tool’s features and get tips on interpreting findings drawn from its data. Rose Naccarato, The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth

B. NCES Presents: Using Federal Data in Higher Ed Reporting (Quickstats and Powerstats) Quickstats and Powerstats are data analysis and visualization tools that can help reporters probe the links between social and economic factors and students’ postsecondary outcomes. Information can be easily exported or turned into tables; more powerful features like regression analysis can give your reporting a scholarly polish. Journalists can also use the tools to see how their schools stack up against national trends. Attendees will receive training and time for experimentation. Susan Aud, National Center for Education Statistics


3:30 to 4:30 p.m. WORKSHOPS 3

A. Tuition Tracker Workshop: How Much Does College Really Cost? With college affordability among the hottest topics on the higher education beat, the Tuition Tracker project collated heaps of information into an interactive online tool that shows how much students of various income levels actually pay to attend some 3,000 colleges and universities. This session will teach you how to use Tuition Tracker, discuss the data used to build it, and explore the stories behind the numbers. Holly Hacker, Dallas Morning News; Jon Marcus, Hechinger Report; Moderator: Kenneth Terrell, Education Writers Association 

B. NCES Presents: Using Federal Data in K-12 The Elementary and Secondary Information System is a one-stop shop for school, district, and state-level education data. It’s particularly useful if your state education website is tough to use. ELSi’s user-friendly interface helps reporters access key information on demographics, school funding resources and teacher ratios. There’s also a chart generator and data explorer. The session will include time for experimentation and questions. Susan Aud, National Center for Education Statistics



8:30 a.m. to noon: VISITS TO LOCAL SCHOOLS

A. Site Visit: Cameron College Prep Academy In 2011, the Metropolitan Nashville School District joined with LEAD School District, a local charter management organization, to transform Cameron Middle School into a college prep academy. It was the first cooperative venture between a charter management organization and the school district to work together to turn around a failing school. The academy is being phased in over three years. Currently it serves fifth- through seventh-graders, and next year the charter school will take over the entire building. The student population is balanced, with a student body that is 40 percent Hispanic, 33 percent black, and 25 percent white. Reporters will tour the school, speak to students, faculty, and leaders from LEAD Public Schools. 

B. Site Visit: Fisk University-Vanderbilt University Master’s-PhD Bridge Program The Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program partners these two Nashville universities in an effort to increase the number of African-Americans who earn doctoral degrees in physics and other STEM disciplines. Participants will visit the campus of Fisk University, a historically black college and university, to meet with administrators of the Bridge Program, watch students present their work and tour the campus.

C. Site Visit: Hillsboro High School Confucius Center Mandarin Chinese is the most spoken language in the world. Students in China begin learning English at age three. In America, students typically don’t begin studying a foreign language until middle or high school. The Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis has opened Confucius Classrooms in high schools across Tennessee to teach Chinese language and culture. Hillsboro High School is home to one of these classrooms led by a teacher from China. Faculty members and students have even made trips to China as part of a cultural exchange. The Confucius Classroom complements the International Baccalaureate Programme already in place at Hillsboro. The site visit includes a meeting with officials from the Confucius Institute, a school tour and a 
Q&A panel with students and faculty.

D. Site Visit: Napier Enhanced Option Elementary School Once in the bottom 5 percent of schools in Tennessee, Napier Elementary School is looking at a number of innovative methods to drive achievement. One of those is a very basic building block: time. Principal Ronald Powe believes school is the best place for his students to be. The more they are in school, the more they will learn. Working with the TIME Collaborative through the National Center on Time and Learning, he is looking for ways to expand learning time to all of his students. The site visit includes a meeting with leaders of the National Center on Time and Learning, a school tour and a Q&A panel with students and faculty. Note: The bus ride to and from the school will feature an introduction and debriefing by Michelle Renée of Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. She researches the ways in which schools may improve the use of additional learning time.

E. Site Visit: Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School At Pearl-cohn Entertainment Magnet high, students run their own record label and full television production studio. They can spend high school focused on songwriting, marketing or audio engineering. In the fall of 2011 Pearl-cohn Entertainment Magnet high School began a transformation effort centered on the industry for which Nashville is most famous—the music industry. The academies team with industry partners such as Warner Music, Film House, and the International Bluegrass Music Association to provide students the technical, creative and management skills needed to develop a successful artist, using 
collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. The site visit includes a tour of the school and studios, as well as a Q&A panel with students and faculty.


8:00 a.m. to noon: DEEP DIVES

A. Deep Dive on Competency-Based Education and Student-Centered Learning At both the K-12 and higher education levels, more schools are pioneering approaches that flip the traditional model of schooling on its head: Instead of requiring that students spend set amounts of “seat time” to advance–and accepting that individual students’ mastery of the material may vary dramatically–these experiments aim to make learning the constant and time the variable. But it takes more than good intentions to remake the business of schooling. This deep dive will explore competency-based education as an alternative to the traditional Carnegie Unit credit hour in higher education and the related growth of the student-centered learning model in K-12 education, particularly in New England. How can reporters evaluate whether the programs in their own communities are high quality? What are the key questions reporters need to ask about these trends? Session attendees may register in advance for related site visits to either Nashville Big Picture high School or Lipscomb University’s College of Professional Studies. Laureen Avery, University of California, Los Angeles; Nicholas Donohue, Nellie Mae Education Foundation; Elena Silva, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; Rebecca Wolfe, Students at the Center; Moderator: Nancy Walser, Harvard Education Letter

10 a.m.: Site Visit Option 1: Nashville’s Big Picture High School The Big Picture learning design is built on three foundational principles: 
first, that learning must be based on the interests and goals of each student; second, that a student’s curriculum must be relevant to people and places that exist in the real world; and finally, that a student’s abilities must be authentically measured by the quality of her or his work. The Nashville campus, part of the public school district, is one of 70 Big Picture schools nationwide. We tour the school, meet with teachers, and hear from students about their learning through internships/interests (LTIs).

10 a.m.: Site Visit Option 2: Lipscomb University’s College of Professional Studies Lipscomb University’s CORE Competency Assessment and Development program gives students the opportunity to “show what they know” to receive college credit for the knowledge, skills and abilities they already possess. We observe an assessment center where six students engage in a series of behavioral simulations and are assessed by three trained and certified assessors – then we learn more about the development of this unique program and the data behind the measurement process. The host is Dean Charla Long, who created CORE and is a leader in the field of competency-based education. Learn more about the national landscape of higher education innovation and how to shape the conversation on competency-based education through your coverage and reporting. 

B. Deep Dive on Special Education and Inclusion, including a site visit to the Susan Grey School Over the past 20 years, advocates have argued that students receiving special education services should be part of regular 
classrooms as much as possible. But studies has yielded mixed results as to the effectiveness of this inclusive approach to educating students with disabilities. Vanderbilt University researchers will explore questions about inclusion as they affect various populations of students receiving special education, such as those with visual impairments, autism, severe intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities and emotional issues. This deep dive includes a site visit to the Susan Gray School, a full-inclusion preschool run by Vanderbilt. Erik Carter, Alexendra Da Fonte, Douglas Fuchs, Deborah Hatton, Chris Lemons, and Joseph Wehby, Vanderbilt University; Moderator: Joy Resmovits, Huffington Post 

C. Deep Dive on the Portfolio District Model The portfolio district strategy is spreading as an alternative to the traditional relationship between schools and their school districts. Thirty-seven U.S. cities have so far adopted this emerging model of school accountability and support, but few people outside of education circles understand much about it. To effectively cover the portfolio strategy, reporters need to grasp how the many moving parts of the approach are supposed to fit together. Some portfolio elements are easily evident and have already been widely covered in the media, while others are less recognized. This deep dive will probe how the model is playing out and help reporters see where their cities stand on the portfolio spectrum. Reporters will also share experiences and discuss story ideas related to this multi-faceted approach. Katrina Bulkley, Montclair State University; Antonio Burt, Ford Road Elementary School (Tennessee); Christine Campbell, Center on Reinventing Public Education; Kate Grossman, Chicago Sun-Times; Brad Leon, Shelby County Schools (Tennessee); Patrick O’Donnell, Cleveland Plain Dealer; Linda Perlstein, Freelance; Maura Walz, Chalkbeat Colorado; Kevin Woods, Shelby County Schools (Tennessee); Moderator: Jaclyn Zubrzycki, Chalkbeat Tennessee 

D. Deep Dive into Noncognitive Factors in Learning From marshmallows to grit, noncognitive factors and their role in understanding how students learn and succeed has garnered considerable attention in recent years. But to many reporters charged with explaining these concepts to their readers, the term  “noncognitive” is an abstraction in search of concrete examples. This deep dive will first parse the various strands of thought within the noncognitive space, then explore a specific corner of this research field – growth mindset – that is being implemented in hundreds of schools across the country. Questions to explore: What is grit, and how does it differ from self-control? Why are some forms of praise, like “you’re so smart,” actually less helpful than other kinds of encouragement? And how do teachers measure something that is hard to quantify – noncognitive factors – in a way that helps students and teachers succeed? Eduardo Briceño, Mindset Works; Camille Farrington, University of Chicago; Dave Paunesku, Stanford PERTS Lab; David Yeager, UT-Austin; Moderators: Michael Alison Chandler, The Washington Post; John Fensterwald, EdSource Today; Sarah Sparks, Education Week


2:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. DEEP DIVE

A. Deep Dive: Keeping the Lights on to Keep Kids Learning Research has long suggested that added time for learning and playing outside of school can have positive effects on student achievement. More recently, a push has gotten underway to make better use of instructional time during the school day. While advocates of expanded in-school and out-of-school learning both harbor good intentions, they don’t always agree on which approach helps students the most. Part one will feature two experts on in-school and out-of-school learning, plus a director of a citywide after-school program with major buy-in from the city and schools. Part two will put a spotlight on a program taking shape in 24 cities that turns public libraries into interactive learning zones during and after school. PART 1:  Michelle Renée, Annenberg Institute for School Reform; Heather Weiss, Harvard Graduate School of Education;  Jim Williamson, Nashville After Zone Alliance Moderator: Carole Feldman, The Associated Press. PART 2: Elyse Adler, Nashville Public Library