Blog: The Educated Reporter
President Obama wants millions more Americans to go to, and finish, college—a terrific goal. It is also fundamentally at odds with budget cuts in higher ed. Of course that fact is obvious; what makes it compelling are human stories like this one, by Katharine Mieszkowski of the New York Times. If you see (or have written) other pieces on real-life examples of budget cuts’ possible effects on students’ ability to finish college, please link to them in the comments here.
Though it is a staple of newspaper writing, I always go out of my way to avoid those bracketed words and clauses inside quotes. The assumption is that readers could not possibly use context clues to know what you are talking about. Unlike the editor who once wanted me to insert in a feature on middle schoolers a definition of “pom poms,” I don’t think readers are stupid. (At least not the ones who treat the comments section like a virtual Klan rally.) They can figure out which person a pronoun refers to.
I am glad the national debate on higher education has finally found its way to college completion. College readiness is, of course, a cousin of completion, so let’s talk—again—about the massive disconnect between state standards for high schoolers and what college professors expect. Speaking of cousins, I have a very smart and hard-working one who graduated from one of the top high schools in one of the top school systems in the country (by any quantifiable measure), with Advanced Placement courses to boot. She never was asked to write a research paper of more than six to eight pages.
It’s funny that I have read just about everything there is to read about early childhood education these past few years, yet I couldn’t have been more unprepared when the time came for me to look for a preschool. Straight off, my choices were narrowed when I missed deadlines I didn’t know existed. I had no idea that in D.C., January is nearly too late to start thinking about where a 1-year-old might go in the fall.
Really nice piece today by Sharon Otterman of the New York Times on the seemingly inevitable downfall of some of the city’s large high schools. Shocker that a school’s narrative ended poorly when it started with special-needs students the new small schools didn’t want, unimaginable mobility rates and a freshman class in which 6 percent of students read at grade level.
School turnarounds and closings are a big story and only getting bigger.
Lisa Walker, EWA’s executive director, is leaving in a few months and our board is looking for a replacement. The posting is here. Lisa has been really great to me and I prefer to keep things that way, so only spread the word to really nice people.
…why let him manage your school system’s? Kudos to Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for her digging on the city’s superintendent finalists. My hometown has never been known for spectacular educational leadership, and reading this you can’t help but think that picking one of these guys will ensure the record continues. But school boards seem pretty intent on ignoring past, shall we say, sloppiness when they have their heart set on someone.
I’ve sat through consultants’ presentations, I’ve read the books, I have visited schools trying to achieve this, but no matter how hard I try I still don’t understand what “professional learning community” actually means, besides a commitment for a school’s staff to collaborate in figuring out how to help students. Shouldn’t that happen as a matter of course? Yes, I know it often doesn’t, but do we need a nebulous phrase, expensive materials, a movement?
Any education reporter knows that the best place to talk to kids freely is the lunchroom. Especially during the two years I immersed myself in schools for a book project, I have eaten a lot of school lunches. At home I buy sides of beef from a farmer I know, who during her cows’ short lives cares for them to the point of practically singing them nursery rhymes, and I pay the Whole Foods or farmers market premium for produce that actually tastes like produce. But when I am reporting I have no problem eating meals in which every item is some form of yellow or beige.
It is imperative that reporters request their states’ Race to the Top applications, even if they aren’t releasing them willingly. Not just the highlights, the whole thousand-page shebang. Because I am sure there are an awful lot of promises in there, massive change even, and journalists should be scrutinizing and questioning and analyzing. All this is, and will be, moving fast, and we need to stay on top of everything before the mess of implementation is upon us.
I studied history in school even though I didn’t know it: In college twenty years ago, I focused on NATO just as it became irrelevant, then for my masters in international political economy specialized in East-West paradigms that were crumbling at that very moment. I learned French because I loved it, Spanish because it was the obvious next choice, and German to impress a guy I wanted to date. (It worked.)
My colleagues at EWA have launched a new website, EdMoney.org, devoted to tracking stimulus spending on education and helping journalists and the public make sense of the issue. Eventually the site will offer lots of searchable data on spending in individual schools and districts. Until then you will find helpful links and posts on the latest in how the money is being used.