Blog: The Educated Reporter
The holiday weeks can be slow-going on the education beat. Here are a few ideas for turning those spruce pines into evergreen stories:
EWA in the Southern Hemisphere
'Jeduca,' new association for Brazil's education journalists, kicks off
São Paulo, Brazil – I am 4,800 miles from home, a continent away and in another hemisphere — yet the scene seems familiar. On a rainy Monday morning in August, I’m queuing up with hundreds of other journalists who cover education.
We wait patiently at a registration desk as greeters hand over a plastic name tag and a canvas tote bag filled with goodies: a blue metal water bottle, a logo-covered pen, a mobile phone charger and a printed program.
Wanted: More Teachers of Color
In Minnesota, growing student diversity is outpacing the educator workforce
(EWA Radio: Episode 191)
The public school population in Minnesota, as in many other states, is becoming more diverse by race and ethnicity. But the teacher workforce? Not so much. About one-third of Minnesota students are non-white, compared with roughly 5 percent of teachers, as Faiza Mahamud and MaryJo Webster report for the Star Tribune newspaper. That’s a growing problem for educators and policymakers looking to give more students the opportunity to learn from someone who looks like them — a benefit researchers say can improve academic achievement, self esteem, and other factors in student success. Mahamud, who covers the Twin Cities’ public schools, spent time talking with students and families about what they’re looking for in classroom teachers, and how a lack of diversity can hurt family engagement, especially among newer immigrant families. Webster, the newspaper’s data editor, shares the ins and outs of finding — and crunching — statistics on teacher diversity, as well as some lessons learned from the project.
Education reporters and progressive Twitter denizens are probably familiar with the graphic. Three people of different heights are trying to look over a fence. In one frame, labeled “equality,” each is given a box of the same height, leaving the shortest still unable to see over the fence.
In the other, labeled “equity,” each is given a box of different sizes so they’re at equal heights.
A High School That Listens to Its Students and Teachers
'Student-centered learning' approach means more freedom but also more accountability in Revere, Mass.
(EWA Radio: Episode 187)
What happens when a teacher takes a student up on his dare to watch a TV series about zombies?
Not long ago, a student who got into a fight at school would likely face an automatic suspension. Now, in schools across the country, that student might be back in class the next day.
That change is part of an expansive effort to rethink the way public schools respond to misbehavior. In many schools, punitive measures like suspension and expulsion are being replaced with alternative strategies that aim to keep students in the classroom and address underlying issues like trauma and stress.
Barbara Laker isn’t an education reporter. She doesn’t have a long list of teachers’ phone numbers in her contacts. So, it’s amazing that she was able to find and convince 24 teachers and other school employees from 19 elementary schools to swab pipes, drinking fountains and suspicious patches of black on classroom walls.
If there’s been one constant over the last decade in terms of teacher evaluation policies in the United States, it’s been change.
First, performance reviews incorporating student test scores became – mostly – the law of the land. Then, the academic standards educators and their pupils are measured against – mostly – changed. And then, in many places, those standards changed again.
So, has the implementation of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which did away with mandates on how states measure teacher quality, calmed the roiling waters?
College Dreams Meet Reality in ‘Tennessee Promise’ Land
Community colleges, technical programs key to access but opportunity gaps persist
(EWA Radio: Episode 190)
In 2015, Tennessee began offering free community college to the state’s new high school graduates, part of a massive effort to push the needle on educational attainment. Three years later, the “Tennessee Promise” initiative gets close scrutiny in a new project by EWA Reporting Fellows Adam Tamburin and Jason Gonzales of The Tennessean. While there was a statistically significant increase in community college enrollment, students still struggle with outside factors like a lack of preparedness for the rigors of college classes or needing to work to support themselves and their families. Among the conclusions: If the “Tennessee Promise” is to be more effective, students pursuing degrees and career certifications need more support and resources far beyond tuition assistance. The reporting team also analyzed ZIP code data, finding significant gaps in postsecondary attainment. Residents in poorer, rural areas, sometimes called “higher ed deserts,” were the least likely to continue their education beyond high school. So what has worked? What hasn’t? What are early lessons of the program? How can reporters in other communities report on the effectiveness of similar “free college” or college access programs?
More than six decades since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education that separate was far from equal in 1954, many U.S. children attend schools that are still separate and unequal.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report noting just that. The 2018 report, which focused on funding disparities in public education, stated that segregation in schools by race and income level is widespread, and that “the education available to millions of Americans” is “profoundly unequal.”
There’s no one way to get a great data story on the education beat. You can start with a hunch, dig for data, and then humanize the story with on-the-ground reporting. Or you can start with the people and work back to the data.
Stellar journalists described both of these approaches at a recent Education Writers Association event, in a session called “How I Did the (Teacher) Story.”
Does Harvard Discriminate Against Asian-American Applicants?
Lawsuit could be Supreme Court test case for affirmative action, experts say
(EWA Radio: Episode 189)
A federal judge is expected to rule this winter on whether Harvard University discriminated against Asian-American applicants. The decision could have far-reaching implications for affirmative action at the nation’s colleges and universities.