Blog: The Educated Reporter
I am frequently asked what the U.S. dropout rate is. That’s like asking how you make chocolate ice cream; there are so many possible methods and outcomes. It is easy for me to make recommendations when it comes to ice cream: Alton Brown if you have a lot of time or David Lebovitz if you don’t. Graduation rates, however, are more complicated.
I wish someone would write a story about teachers like my sister-in-law. Since getting her master’s about six years ago, she has had to teach a new grade level every year and switched schools nearly as often. No matter that she has ELL certification, no matter that she is great at her job—last hired, first fired, rinse and repeat, every single year. Even before budget cuts spread throughout the country, northeastern Illinois schools, whose taxpayers fought every levy, had pared back, then back some more.
If I were to ever write another book, it would be about college. I won’t get any more specific than that—idea poachers and all—except to say it would be a far fuller picture of the entire student experience than a “year in the life of a sorority” book. Teaching and learning and all that important stuff.
Now that we are starting to see more staff churn in the name of turnaround—such as was explained by Toni Konz in this Louisville Courier-Journal piece this week—I imagine (I hope) reporters will pursue comprehensive stories about what reforms look like from that point. How are the new teachers selected? How do you go about changing culture? How are all the educators in the building trained for the new challenge?
A new report in California shows a significant drop in the number of people entering teacher preparation programs in that state. You can’t blame someone for bypassing teaching these days, as it is far from a sure bet at employment. I am curious if this trend is reflected elsewhere, and what it means for improving teacher quality at the beginning of the pipeline. Are universities able to be as selective as before, which, some would argue, was not that selective to begin with?
The Supreme Court is going to address whether Arizona tuition tax credits—a more politically palatable alternative to school vouchers—advance religion. I am more interested in whether the program has been a scam that promised to open private school doors to poor children but really just made them cheaper for the middle-class and affluent families already attending (as the East Valley Tribune explored in-depth last year, a project I sadly cannot find on their website at the moment).
Sorry—I had a really hard time coming up with a title.
When finalists were announced for the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education, I did not give much thought to the inclusion of Montgomery County, Md. I did not give much thought to any of the finalists, really. But today I saw the video on the Montgomery County Public Schools website—I covered MCPS for the Post years ago and check in there from time to time—that highlighted the Broad visit and couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the officials at Julius West Middle School.
Emily Gersema of the Arizona Republic has given some welcome context to the discussion about ethnic studies classes in Tucson. We learn why the classes were created in the first place, and a history of concerns about them. Emily gives a little sense of what actually is and is not studied, and I hope she or someone else follows up on this, exploring curriculum materials, assignments, class discussion and the makeup of the classes.
I have always told reporters that if they just look at the dropout problem through the prism of high school, they are missing out. Same goes for educators. Dropouts are made long before teenagers actually stop showing up at school. So I was glad to see Greg Toppo of USA Today write about a Philadelphia middle school that sees dropout prevention as its mission.