Blog: The Educated Reporter
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.
You can’t send a 21-year-old to the principal’s office. You might not even be able to convince people that behavior problems plague a college class. These are grown-ups who want to be there—right?
The Chronicle of Higher Education published a chart I have been waiting to see: how many more degrees would have to be given out to reach Obama’s college completion goal by 2020. The data come from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. Let’s see: California would need to increase degree attainment by 5.2 percent a year, starting now. Meantime, state higher ed funding there is being slashed, enrollments are being cut, and fees are being raised.
The phrase of the moment! You know you should hyphenate it—but you, and the policymakers you love, are probably less clear on how to define it. You could make up your own definition, as this school system did (complete with jazzy videos), or you could look beyond courses taken and test scores to a more complex definition. I like this report by the Center for Educational Policy Research as a starting point.
In my eyes, we should pay better teachers more because it’s right. But that is not why merit pay is being written into policy. Ostensibly, the idea is that tying pay to student scores will make teachers and teaching improve. What we need to talk about is: how, exactly?