Blog: The Educated Reporter

Follow-Up Friday: College Rankings, ‘Education At a Glance,’ and Stephen King

U.S.News & World Report published its annual higher education rankings this week, and the New York Times also offered its first-ever roundup of colleges that have demonstrated a commitment toward low-income students. And Money Magazine recently jumped into the fray, offering its own college rankings based on the return on investment for the student consumers. 

NPR’s Anya Kamenetz explored what such rankings do — and don’t — tell consumers about higher education institutions. At EWA’s Higher Education Seminar in Dallas last week, experts discussed what the looming new federal accountability demands will mean for postsecondary institutions. As EWA’s Mikhail Zinshteyn explains, it’s a conversation complicated by the uncertainty of what, precisely, those ratings will entail. 

If you’re looking to find out more about college costs, take a look at the Tuition Tracker, a joint project of EWA, the Dallas Morning News, and The Hechinger Report. You’ll find the actual four-year costs of attending more than 3,000 colleges and universities nationwide, broken out by the income bracket of students and families. 

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The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has published its annual “Education at a Glance” report, and full profile for the United States is worth a close read. Over at Vox education reporter Libby Nelson dug into the finding that when it comes to “upward educational mobility” — being better educated than your parents — American students are falling behind their peers in other developed countries. 

“Education can lift people out of poverty and social exclusion, but to do so we need to break the link between social background and educational opportunity,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría in a statement. “The biggest threat to inclusive growth is the risk that social mobility could grind to a halt. Increasing access to education for everyone and continuing to improve people’s skills will be essential to long-term prosperity and a more cohesive society.”

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Over at The Atlantic, Jessica Lahey interviewed Stephen King about the art and craft of teaching writing. It’s a terrific read and loaded with thoughtful insights. 

From the interview:

Lahey: You extol the benefits of writing first drafts with the door closed, but students are often so focused on giving teachers what they want and afraid of making mistakes that they become paralyzed. How can teachers encourage kids to close the door and write without fear?

King: In a class situation, this is very, very hard. That fearlessness always comes when a kid is writing for himself, and almost never when doing directed writing for the grade (unless you get one of those rare fearless kids who’s totally confident). The best thing—maybe the only thing—is to tell the student that telling the truth is the most important thing, much more important than the grammar. I would say, “The truth is always eloquent.” To which they would respond, “Mr. King, what does eloquent mean?”

If you haven’t read King’s On Writing, I highly recommend it. In fact, it’s a book I often recommend to friends who tell me they’re interested in becoming better writers. (I often pair it with Annie Lamont’s Bird By Bird.) For more on the challenge of teaching writing skills to students, take a look at my recent post about a new online assessment being tested for the nation’s 4th graders. 



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