Blog: The Educated Reporter
When it comes to food I maintain what I see as a sensible balance but what others might find hypocritical or insane—there may be cookies in my house, but they are made from scratch and washed down with organic milk, and while this afternoon I snapped at my husband for getting me a doughnut filled with “kreme” rather than custard, far more often (and with nearly equal enthusiasm) I snack on cherry tomatoes.
People often ask me for updates about the kids from Not Much Just Chillin’, who were in middle school eight years ago. I’m in touch with all of them to varying degrees, from Facebook friend to practically siblings—way too close to retain any professional distance. So despite Lily’s mother’s pleas to write another book about her daughter so that she might get into her brain again, I never did so.
Now that turnaround is the concept of the moment, we need to investigate what it yielded in the olden days when it was called “restructuring.” Last week I suggested journalists keep in context that zero-based staffing, as whole-school firings (or reassignments) are called, is not new.
Check out this thorough piece by Sarah Carr of the New Orleans Times-Picayune about the toll on teachers at no-excuses charter schools. Let’s say that the time commitment these teachers make must be kept up to be effective at the school, and that within a couple of years they will burn out and leave because of it. Does it matter? Well, that should be broken down into a few questions. Does it matter for student achievement, as long as strong new teachers take their place?
This Inside Higher Ed article about Stuart Rojstaczer’s latest grade inflation project suggests three possible reasons grades have crept higher: professors are sucking up to the students who write their evaluations, trying to help them do well after school or indulging their sense of entitlement. What about the idea that students might be doing better? Just saying!
I met a woman recently who might occasionally babysit for my son when we are visiting rural Virginia. She seemed unflappable in her oversight of several little kids.
I am surprised at how much coverage the teacher firings in Central Falls, R.I., have gotten, given that schools around the country have gone through these kinds of transformations for years. We should not write about this like it’s brand-new; it is not even close to the first time this has happened. It is usually called “making teachers reapply for their jobs.” Provide some context, keeping in mind that frequently when an entire staff is thrown out, many of them reapply and are rehired.
Scholastic and the Gates Foundation just released an opinion survey of more than 40,000 public school teachers, called “Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on America’s Schools.” Some interesting findings:
—Only 38 percent of high school teachers believe that three-quarters of the students in their classes could be successful at even a two-year college.
Don’t miss Elizabeth Green’s forthcoming New York Times Magazine cover story, “Building a Better Teacher.” Infused into the piece is Elizabeth’s great sense for, and specifics about, what the teacher quality research does and does not say. The reason she does a more thorough and critical job of this than most recent magazine pieces on the topic is not just because Elizabeth is talented but because she is an education reporter.
I kind of love this story by Bonnie Miller Rubin of the Chicago Tribune, about moms and daughters attending community college together. (No accident that it is not about fathers and sons, by the way.) Personally I can’t imagine it, maybe because while my mother did go back to school recently, it was to clown college. Seriously.
That descriptor doesn’t come along often. If you are interested in taking your writing skills and diving into a think tank, Education Sector is hiring. If you prefer to stay in education journalism, jobs exist. Really. The Chronicle of Higher Ed, Ed Week and others have posted positions on the EWA jobs page.
I know reporters who won’t go into middle schools because it hits some sort of raw nerve; in my case, two years in middle school (for a newspaper series and then a book) made me want to stay forever. I don’t have many natural gifts, but connecting with children is one of them, and after my book was published, I wanted to become a middle school counselor.