Blog: The Educated Reporter
Will Cursive Make a Comeback?
States and schools battle over requiring formal handwriting instruction
(EWA Radio: Episode 194)
Has any part of the curriculum come back from the dead as many times as cursive handwriting? From Connecticut to California, lawmakers are alternatively fighting to either mandate or ban cursive instruction, in some cases leaving the verdict up to individual districts and schools. The latter is the case in Maine, reports Noel Gallagher of The Portland Press Herald, where the cursive debate offers a window into the state’s long-held preference for local control. What are some surprising ways mastering the art of cursive writing might help students, according to advocates? And where should reporters be skeptical about claims of purported benefits, particularly when it comes to brain development in younger students?
‘Lessons Lost’: How Student Churn Holds Back Kids, Schools
In Wisconsin, high student turnover slows school improvement
(EWA Radio: Episode 193)
In an in-depth investigative series, Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looks at how high rates of student mobility — changing schools at least once during an academic year — hurts their academic progress. Among the findings: 1 in 10 students statewide are moving between campuses annually. The figure is significantly higher in Milwaukee, where 1 in 4 students change schools during the year. How do Wisconsin’s school choice options factor into student churn? How did Richards crunch the data? And what solutions are educators and policymakers floating to combat mobility? Richards, who recently joined USA Today as a national education reporter, offers story ideas for local journalists looking at high turnover in their own districts.
In New England, Efforts to Rethink Educational Practices Grow
But pushback on 'competency-based' approach serves as cautionary note
Across New England, policymakers and school leaders are experimenting with new models of learning, including those that are student-centered, personalized, and competency-based. One of the goals is to close stubborn achievement gaps between rich and poor students and white students and students of color.
But these educational shifts have not been universally embraced by the states’ students, parents and teachers. Maine, for example, one of the first states to pass a law requiring competency-based education, recently reversed course.
Recent work by journalists Erica Green, Jason Gonzales and Matthew Kauffman shows the importance of digging into the best-laid plans of a school district or state, whether it’s desegregation efforts or sending students to college for free.
The journalist Dale Russakoff kept hearing the same word in her conversations with Arizona teachers during a reporting trip last spring for The New York Times Magazine. That word, she said, was “awakening.”
2019 Will Be a Big Year for Education Stories. Here’s Why.
School safety, teacher activism, and Betsy DeVos top list of hot topics
(EWA Radio: Episode 192)
Will school districts change their approach to student discipline in light of recent actions by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos? To what extent will the wave of teacher and student activism in 2018 influence public policy in the new year, at both the state and national levels? And why is a forthcoming federal court ruling on affirmative action likely to be a bellwether for elite college admissions? Dana Goldstein, a national education reporter for The New York Times, discusses hot topics to watch in the new year, plus ideas for reporters to localize them. Among her picks: how local districts and colleges might be opting to retain their Obama-era Title IX and civil rights policies, rather than embracing U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ rollback; the growing push to improve civics education, especially as it relates to schools’ responsibilities to prepare students to be informed voters; and the potential impact of a looming federal court decision on whether Harvard’s affirmative action policies discriminate against Asian-American applicants. Also, Goldstein offers insights for reporters covering what’s next in light of of last year’s wave of teacher walkouts and school shootings, and offers suggestions for taking fresh angles on familiar school choice stories.
What’s Ahead for Private School Choice Policy in 2019?
Vouchers and voucher-like programs may grow in some states, face pushback elsewhere
Arizona voters in November gave a decisive thumbs down to a ballot measure that sought to expand a voucher-like program in that state. The same voters, however, opted by a wide margin to re-elect Republican Gov. Doug Ducey — a champion of private school choice who threw his support behind the failed referendum.
And so it goes. For education overall, the 2018 election outcomes revealed a case of seeming contradictions, as we reported right after the election.
What’s in a Grade?
New data cast doubt on the connection between report card grades and academic achievement
Grades and student report cards provide parents with a picture of how their children are performing in school. New data, however, raises questions about just how accurate that picture is.
A pair of recent reports shed light on the connection, or lack thereof, between a student’s report card grades and their actual academic achievement.
Who’s Teaching the 13,000 Migrant Kids in Federal Custody?
US News investigation finds little oversight of multi-billion dollar business for education services contractors
(EWA Radio: Episode 184)
Thousands of migrant children have been taken into custody while crossing the border into the U.S., either on their own or while traveling with family members. While they await a court date, the federal government is required to provide school-age detainees—being held in facilities across the country—with daily schooling. Lauren Camera of U.S. News & World Report asks some tough questions in her report about accountability and oversight of what’s turned into a multi-billion dollar business for the private contractors providing these services. What’s known about the children (primarily from Central America) being detained and their educational needs? What academic instruction and services does federal law require school-age detainees to receive? How well are those requirements being met inside the shelters? Why has the number of children being detained spiked sharply, from about 2,400 in May 2017 to its current level of nearly 13,000? Where is the money coming from to pay for the mandated academic instruction? And what are some story ideas for local reporters who might have migrant children being held in custody in their own communities?
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is Resigning. These Students Will Remember Him as a Great Interview.
How two high schoolers scored a rare chance to question the cabinet official.
(EWA Radio: Episode 131)
With U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ Dec. 20 announcement of his forthcoming resignation from President Trump’s cabinet, here’s a chance to revisit our conversation with two student journalists who scored a rare interview with the highly regarded military leader.
Teddy Fischer and Jane Gormley of Mercer Island High School in Washington State discuss how they landed a lengthy Q&A with U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who has given few interviews since joining President Trump’s cabinet. Fischer, a rising junior, and Gormley, the immediate past editor of the school’s student newspaper, worked with their journalism class and faculty advisor to prepare for the 45-minute conversation on Memorial Day. Among the issues Mattis discussed: the role education plays in combatting the rise of radicalization and extremism, and suggestions for how U.S. high schools might foster better relations between the U.S. and other countries. Fischer and Gormley share the backstory to their surprisingly wide-ranging interview, the editorial process that went into its publication, and what they’ve learned from the experience.
Connecting Families and Schools Is a ‘Shared Responsibility’
Empowering parents pays dividends for student learning, experts say
There’s plenty of evidence that when their families are engaged in their school experience, students do better.
The trick, experts said during a recent Education Writers Association event, is finding ways for school officials to reach those families, particularly if there are cultural or language barriers, or if low-income working families struggle to find the time or transportation to participate in school events.
Sometimes when Philadelphia school principal Sharif El-Mekki asks a roomful of students of color about their interest in teaching, they respond with laughter.
“We ask them — have you been thinking about it?” he said during a recent EWA panel on how to make the teacher workforce more racially and ethnically diverse. ”And the response,” El-Mekki said, is “No way. I’m having a miserable experience in school. Why would I commit myself to living there?”