Blog: The Educated Reporter
Two of the most common frustrations I hear from new education reporters is that they have trouble coming up with story ideas, and they have trouble building up real-people sources. “Do you get into schools?” I ask, and they say they do—for formal events. Which doesn’t get you much. Here’s my tried-and-true strategy for school visits that result in story ideas, goodwill and a big fat Rolodex. (Or Google contact list—you know what I mean.)
I hope that this week you will be exchanging your Blackberries for apples and pumpkins, and enjoying family instead of reading blogs. I sure will be. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, yet I have not had a slam-dunk one for some time. I have a good feeling about this year. We are hosting my family at our cabin in the woods, where with any luck (and a cooperative toddler) there will be much playing of guitars, board games and Wii.
I’m always trying to get higher ed reporters to write about online classes, given how common they have become and how mysterious they are to us fuddy-duddies. (Can one be a fuddy-duddy before 40? The case against: I have an iPhone, and I’ve watched every minute of “America’s Next Top Model.” The case for: I just suggested having an iPhone and watching “America’s Next Top Model” makes me youthful.)
I’m glad to see more people talking about young men’s troubles getting through college, and I’ve been following with interest stories about the admissions bar being lowered for male students, so that universities can preserve gender balance on campus. I spent this morning at the annual conference of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, where panelists discussing the “American Male
I am often contacted by students completing assignments who ask me to sum up my books because they cannot be bothered to read them. An e-mail today from a foreign PhD student (where? I have no idea—he did not introduce himself) was simply delicious: “I have tried to find your book to qout what you have exactly said , but unfortunately it needs to be purchased??? Could you please send me your invlauble arguments. thank you very much”
Desperate student or bizarrely targeted Nigerian e-mail scam? You be the judge.
Several people have told me they haven’t been able to post comments to the blog. It won’t come as a shock to anyone taking a cursory look at this site to learn that while The Educated Reporter is educated in many things (education policy, international political economy, assorted foreign languages, cooking, reality television), blog technology is not one of them. However, someone who knows more than me can diagnose the problem if you can send an e-mail detailing the troubles to my address, at right. What error messages do you receive? Did you select a profile? Etc.
There’s something that keeps popping into my brain lately. (Besides how many moving boxes I need. Have you ever tried to pack up a house with a job, a toddler and a husband whose commute eats nearly four hours a day? Grrr.) Anyway. I was listening to Emily Hanford’s terrific American Radio Works documentary on Latinos and college, “Rising by Degrees,”and I thought back to the EWA/Pew Latino meeting last month.
While I’m not in the business of advocating policy positions, I’m on record as supporting some form of merit pay for teachers. But I would never, ever promote it using one justification you hear often from proponents of primarily test-score-based performance pay: that in the real world, workers are paid based on measurable outcomes. Really? Sure, salesmen get commissions. But lawyers, doctors, accountants, consultants, journalists, politicians, policy makers?
For many years toward the end of their lives, my beloved grandparents were taken care of by a very kind and able Filipino couple. Many things made me uncomfortable about the arrangement—that the couple hadn’t seen their young children in years; that they worked basically all the time; that my grandparents were difficult, to put it mildly. But what appalled me the most were that the workers were basically owned by the agency that brought them to the States.
Turns out they are remaindering just the Tested hardcover; the paperback will contintue in print. (We THINK. You try getting through Macmillan voice jail to a real person.) I can live with that. And when my friend Hank’s publisher finally noticed all the great ink his new book is getting, they reversed their decision.
I want to elaborate on how I think journalists can better cover district reform before it is a messy, teary, semi-done deal. When board members search for a superintendent, they tend toward blind optimism. Fine. But journalists need to be more circumspect. Travel budgets may preclude a trip to the supe’s previous districts. But reporters must at least get on the phone—to busybody parents, to board members, to the teachers union president. Read up on the battles in the clips. Ask board members, administrators, teachers: Why wouldn’t they happen here? Are we ready for that?
I got a letter Saturday from Henry Holt, which published my second book, Tested: “Sales of the title shown below are now very modest, and we have therefore decided to remainder our entire remaining inventory.” Which means 411 books will be assaulted with a Sharpie, smacked with a “REDUCED! $3!” sticker and hidden away on that awful shelf with the crockpot guides and off-brand pop-up books that don’t really work.