Blog: The Educated Reporter
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.
If a ratio were calculated of how much something is griped about in private to how little in public, nothing in the education world would score higher than the 100 percent proficiency provision of No Child Left Behind. So many people think the goal is impossible, yet nobody in elected office says that publicly. Which poor child do you want to not achieve?
One day not long ago, I met up, separately, with reporters from two very different publications that cover the same city school system. One is a big, traditional newspaper, and the other is a small, young website. Competition is something all journalists are familiar with and to some extent thrive on, but talking to these two types of reporters, new issues revealed themselves.
As a policy lever, I am very interested in Race to the Top; as a horse race, less so. Still, I am finding it intriguing to watch how many districts are not signing on to state attempts for the funds. I understand their apprehension but don’t get it on a practical level; state education policies and laws are going to change whether or not they formally buy in.