Curriculum & Instruction

Overview

Curriculum & Instruction

What students learn and how that content is taught have been concerns at the heart of schooling in the United States since universal education took root in the 19th century. Throughout the 20th century the "struggle for the American curriculum," as one education historian called it, ebbed and flowed for decades as debates raged over the very purpose of schooling – whether to prepare an engaged citizenry, develop a competitive workforce, or ensure an educated populace capable of reaching its intellectual potential.

What students learn and how that content is taught have been concerns at the heart of schooling in the United States since universal education took root in the 19th century. Throughout the 20th century the “struggle for the American curriculum,” as one education historian called it, ebbed and flowed for decades as debates raged over the very purpose of schooling – whether to prepare an engaged citizenry, develop a competitive workforce, or ensure an educated populace capable of reaching its intellectual potential.

Over the course of the past century – in response to growing concerns from critics that children in isolated rural communities and depressed urban centers did not have the educational opportunities they needed to succeed – authority and influence over the content of schooling shifted from strictly local entities and teachers themselves to state agencies. While state control over education still reigns in the United States, federal influence over the curriculum has grown in recent decades, as has the role of foundations and other organizations that have invested heavily in school reform efforts. This Topics section examines how curriculum and instruction have developed in American schools and what factors might shape their future evolution.

Bible Study to Evolutionary Theory

A little more than a century ago reading, writing, arithmetic, and Bible study filled the school day. But as millions of immigrants arrived from distant shores and the nation went to war, schools were enlisted to provide civics and history lessons and physical education. The widespread curriculum revisions of the 1930s emphasized not just content, but also what were thought to be more effective ways of teaching. In 1957, the Soviet Union’s launch of the satellite Sputnik touched off a drive by U.S. leaders to improve science education and offerings in technical fields. These initiatives were followed in 1983 by the landmark report, “A Nation at Risk,” which warned of “a rising tide of mediocrity” in public schools that threatened the nation’s global competitiveness and security. The report called for more rigorous content standards and a core curriculum for all schools to ensure that students had access to a world-class education. Within a few years, the nation’s governors were beginning to join forces to consider academic standards and accountability systems.

But despite the emerging agreement for the need for standards, there was little consensus over what they should contain and how they should be translated to curriculum materials and teaching methods. Such battles have ignited time and again over the curriculum. For example, conflicts over literacy, which were dubbed “the reading wars” more than three decades ago, have pitted advocates of strict skills-based approaches to teaching against others who believe that if students are exposed to rich texts and given time to read their love of books will bolster their skills and enable better comprehension. Those wars have abated recently as research has supported the need for both skills instruction and high-quality reading experiences; the sequence and intensity of reading instruction, particularly in the early grades, is still open to debate, however.

Similar arguments have consumed the teaching of mathematics, as skills-oriented traditionalists have vied with proponents of more mathematical thinking and understanding. The science curriculum has also been ripe for controversy, as those who believe the Biblical explanation of the development of life on Earth should be included in, or substituted for, lessons on evolutionary theory. Health class has not escaped such debates either. Although sex education had been introduced in schools early in the 20th century, questions about the appropriateness of such instruction in schools became prominent in the 1960s and ‘70s. In response to the AIDS crisis, by the 1990s most states adopted a sex-education requirement. Conservatives quickly took up the mantle of “abstinence only” as the guiding philosophy for sex education in public schools; that movement is still alive in 2012.

Thus, few of the shifts in curriculum – whether gradual or dramatic – have transpired quietly. The struggle at times has taken on battle themes, with sides drawn over conflicting instructional approaches, historical perspectives, scientific theories and beliefs, or values-based decisions in presenting subject matter.

Now, as technological innovations transform modern industry and daily life, new questions about what students should know and be able to do – and whether new platforms and approaches for learning can be more effective than the longstanding factory model of schooling – are driving experimentation and innovation in curriculum and instruction, as well as encouraging closer looks at how high-performing countries are preparing their students for global society.

Just as the movement toward state academic standards in the 1990s and the federal accountability requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act in the 2000s led to dramatic shifts in the subject matter taught in schools, the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English Language Arts (that have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia) are expected to further change the content of schooling and the ways it is taught across the country. Their potential to guide local curriculum, though, is still an open question. State standards generally are considered broad guidelines of what students should know and be able to do, and they vary greatly in depth and detail from state to state. Curriculum, however, is more detailed, often providing daily guidance on lessons, materials, and suggested ways of teaching. While local jurisdictions follow state guidelines in determining what is taught, curriculum can look very different from district to district, school to school, and, even classroom to classroom.

The federal influence over what is taught is arguably even more complex than the state role.  Concern over the growing federal interest in guiding what students learn caused lawmakers to insert safeguards into the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the 1970s to restrict such intrusion. The provision in the law forbade the federal government to “mandate, direct, or control a state, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content, academic achievement standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction.” When the law was revamped as the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, some of the new provisions again raised concerns that the federal government was encroaching further on decisions that traditionally fell to local authorities.

But in the years since, requirements and guidelines for federal education funding have essentially provided incentives for states and districts to subscribe to particular approaches to curriculum and instruction. The federal government, for example, has worked to bolster certain subject areas in response to national needs, such as a push for foreign language education (Arabic and Chinese, in particular, in response to the attacks of 9/11 and the growing power of China), or the current attention to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education to address the need for more homegrown technical talent.

Some of those guidelines have had far-reaching effects on what is taught in the nation’s schools. The Reading First program, for example, required states and districts to extend reading instruction to at least 90 minutes a day and follow a systematic, skills-based approach. The high stakes applied under NCLB to student test scores in math and English/language arts led to a narrowing of the curriculum in many schools and districts, according to some critics, as time was reallocated from social studies, science, and other offerings to allow more instruction in the tested subjects.

The Role of Textbooks

As states and districts move to implement the Common Core standards, there has been considerable deliberation over the impact they might have on states’ local control over content. Curriculum was traditionally developed by teachers, and later district curriculum specialists, generally following state guidelines or frameworks. Many states sought to improve their education systems and secure more control over what was taught by setting up textbook adoption systems that compelled schools to use state-approved schoolbooks for each subject. In many places, the textbooks became the de facto curriculum and led to some standardization within states. Textbooks are still a key part of the school curriculum in many places, although the availability of alternative or supplemental materials, particularly via the Internet, has allowed teachers more options for their lessons.

And the curriculum is destined for further evolution. With the emergence of online resources and platforms, some observers predict a revolution in the way children acquire knowledge and learn new skills. Open resources, virtual courses (for cost and for free), applications for customizing materials, and the ability of teachers to find, create, and share resources widely are all likely to effect the content of schooling.

Seminar

72nd EWA National Seminar
Baltimore • May 6-8, 2019

EWA’s National Seminar is the largest annual gathering of journalists on the education beat. This year’s event in Baltimore, hosted by John Hopkins University’s School of Education, will explore an array of timely topics of interest to journalists from across the country, with a thematic focus on student success, safety, and well-being.

Latest News

Students Learn to Put the ‘Civil’ in Civil Discourse

Inside this high school at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, teenagers are immersed in a project with the potential to temper the divisiveness that is consuming U.S. politics. They’re learning to have calm, balanced conversations about controversial issues.

In two very ordinary classrooms here, students are aware that they’re trying to do something extraordinary, something many adults around them seem unable to do: study a problem, understand the arguments on all sides, and discuss it together to see what solutions might work best for the country.

Latest News

Minnesota Educators Continue To Grapple With One Of The Most Critical — And Politicized — Education Issues: Reading Instruction

As educators welcomed students back to school this fall, many tuned in to the chatter around reading instruction sparked by Emily Hanford’s APM Reports audio documentary “Hard Words: Why Aren’t Our Kids Being Taught to Read?” In this piece, Hanford lays out the disconnect between how kids learn to read and how many of their teachers are trained to deliver reading lessons.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Social and Emotional Learning: From Theory to Practice

At Hazel Wolf STEM K-8 School in Seattle, academics don’t start on the first day of school.

“We haven’t yet built community,” teacher Tamara Alston said. “We haven’t figured out how we work together.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What’s Motivating Teens to Vote?
Education Week survey, national polls offer insights into young voters

In a new national survey, concern about the February shootings at a high school in Parkland, Fla., was the top reason cited by eligible teen voters as motivating them to cast a ballot. And students who said they had taken civics classes were also more likely to say they planned to exercise their right to vote in the midterm elections.

Latest News

Is America’s Next Generation of Voters Ready for the Job?

Erin Mortensen and Leonardo DuPlooy can’t wait to cast their first-ever votes this November—for very different reasons.

DuPlooy, a high school student in rural Hammond, La., wants to support candidates who will have President Donald Trump’s back. Mortensen, a college student in Utah, is looking for a change in direction.

“I see a lot of things happening in the country that I’m not very happy about,” she said, ticking off Trump, climate change, and gun violence as prime examples.

Latest News

Opinion: Why Are We Still Teaching Reading the Wrong Way?

Our children aren’t being taught to read in ways that line up with what scientists have discovered about how people actually learn.

It’s a problem that has been hiding in plain sight for decades. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, more than six in 10 fourth graders aren’t proficient readers. It has been this way since testing began. A third of kids can’t read at a basic level.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What You Missed at the #ewaTEACH18 Seminar in Chicago

Journalists from across the Great Lakes region and the U.S. gathered in Chicago Oct. 18-19 to learn more about the teaching profession during a time of transition for the field, and to get story ideas and inspiration.

The event explored the recent surge of teacher activism across the country and the growing mismatch between teacher diversity and student diversity. Reporters also explored teacher prep, teacher evaluation, and dived into data on teacher pensions, salaries, and absenteeism. 

Latest News

Racial Disparities Still Exist In JCPS Gifted And Talented Programs

On a recent Monday morning, third graders at Gilmore Lane Elementary School off of Poplar Level Road sit in a colorful rug during their morning meeting. Lindsay Dotterweich is their teacher. She’s also the Gifted and Talented lead at Gilmore. “I’m not just looking for those kids that have the top test scores or are making the straight As,” she said.

Latest News

High Student Mobility in Milwaukee Stalls Achievement, Despite Well-Planned School Reforms

A sense of unwavering optimism fills Angie Kaper’s classroom at Carver Academy. 

The veteran sixth-grade teacher trains her “honey bunnies” to welcome visitors with a basket of crackers and candy. She coaxes students to try harder at math by insisting her memory is bad and she needs their help. She prods and celebrates and coddles and charms them — and many quickly improve their skills from fall to spring.

Latest News

Are Students Suffering Through Bad Teaching and Simplistic Classwork?

America’s public school classrooms are full of students who aren’t being challenged.

That’s the claim of a new report by TNTP, the nonprofit advocacy and consulting group, looking at student work and real-life teaching. Students are “planning their futures on the belief that doing well in school creates opportunities — that showing up, doing the work, and meeting their teachers’ expectations will prepare them for what’s next,” it says. “Unfortunately, it’s a myth.”

EWA Radio

Remember the Alamo. Forget Helen Keller.
There’s more to Texas' new social studies standards than the viral headlines
(EWA Radio: Episode 182)

Dallas Morning News reporter Lauren McGaughy was expecting another mundane Texas Board of Education meeting. Instead, she wound up with a story that quickly went viral, detailing plans to revise social studies standards — and remove references to Helen Keller and Hillary Clinton, among others. 

Latest News

How Puerto Rico’s Educators See Their Schools a Year After Hurricane Maria

One year ago, Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico. For the educators, students, and parents who remain on the island, nothing has been the same since.

In sheer practical terms, they are grappling with lingering storm damage, shifts in school assignments after hundreds of buildings were closed in the wake of the hurricane, and the implications of a system-wide reorganization.

EWA Radio

Is It Time to Turn The Page on How Schools Teach Reading?
Outdated instructional approaches are hurting student learning, experts say
(EWA Radio: Episode 181)

(image: Katherine Zhou for APM Reports)

Across the country, the way most students are being taught to read is out of step with more than 40 years of scientific research on how children learn this essential skill. That’s the case being made in a new radio documentary from APM Reports’ Emily Hanford, who describes the devastating domino effect of inadequate literacy instruction on students’ academic progress and opportunities.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

More Than Numbers: Getting Inside the Data on Student Absenteeism
As states prepare for new ESSA reporting requirements, advocates push for accountability, raising family awareness

With a new federal accountability mandate looming, teachers and school administrators are trying just about everything to improve student attendance — from offering cold cash to students who show up regularly to texting warning messages to parents when their kids miss class.

These efforts come as some advocates and researchers warn that the nation faces a “chronic absenteeism” crisis.

Key Coverage

Trauma Lingers for Harvey Survivors Returning to School in Port Arthur

The mid-June clouds stark white and heavy with impending rain, Darby Dugay listened for the splatter of falling drops, noting that the foul weather might delay her basketball practice.

Nearly a year after Hurricane Harvey submerged coastal Port Arthur, the rain still brings the 17-year-old’s heart rate up, especially when water overflows the long-neglected drainage ditches lining the neighborhood’s sidewalks.

Announcement

EWA Invites Journalists to Apply for Fellowships on K-12, Higher Ed Topics
Awards of up to $8,000 will support ambitious reporting and writing

*The deadline for this round of the EWA Reporting Fellowship was Aug. 31, 2018. The application cycle is now closed. 

The Education Writers Association is pleased to announce a call for proposals for its next class of EWA Reporting Fellows. The fellowships provide financial awards to journalists to undertake ambitious reporting and writing projects. This will be the sixth class of EWA Reporting Fellows.

EWA Radio

Summer Reading List: ‘Little Soldiers’
What happens when an American boy enrolls in a Chinese school?
(EWA Radio: Episode 175)

Around the time that China’s Shanghai province was drawing international attention for top scores on a global exam, U.S. journalist Lenora Chu and her husband moved into their new Shanghai home. They lived just blocks away from a highly-regarded primary school that she calls a “laboratory for Chinese education reform,” and managed to secure a spot for their young son. The next few years gave Chu an inside look into Shanghai’s elite school system, and sparked a deeper interest in education in China.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Covering LGBT Issues in the Classroom
Shifts seen in textbooks to reflect gay, lesbian historical figures

When the new academic year begins for California public schools, for the first time instructional materials will be available to ensure every K-12 classroom has access to accurate and unbiased depictions of the sexual orientation and gender identity of historical figures.

The FAIR Education Act – FAIR stands for Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful – requires history and social studies curriculum to include references to contributions by people with disabilities and members of the LGBT community.

Seminar

Seminar on the Teaching Profession
Chicago • October 18-19, 2018

From state capitols to the U.S. Supreme Court, teachers are making headlines. Perennial issues like teacher preparation, compensation, and evaluation continue to be debated while a new wave of teacher activism and growing attention to workforce diversity are providing fresh angles for compelling coverage.

EWA Radio

Districts Double Down on Student Data
Will investments in digital accountability, family engagement pay off for schools?
(EWA Radio: Episode 173)

All Systems Go! Andrew Hart Flickr

From test scores to parent portals, districts are making big investments in data management systems intended to inform everything from classroom instruction to staffing decisions. But as Jenny Abamu reports for EdSurge, school systems are also struggling to hire qualified data managers to oversee these often complex networks, and to make sure that educators are both inputting — and using — the collected information appropriately.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Are Schools Ready for A.I. and the Future of Work?

At Rocky Hill School, a private day school in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, it’s not unusual for education technology entrepreneurs to pop into the classroom or Skype in for a chat.

As it turns out, a captive audience of eight- and nine-year-olds can be useful in designing new products. Third-graders at the school had a hand in developing an award-winning plush duck that gives comfort to children undergoing chemotherapy, head of school James Tracy said.

Seminar

Beyond the Numbers: Getting the Story on Latino Education
The Fifth Annual EWA Conference for Spanish-Language Media

image of Miami, Fla.

The Education Writers Association is pleased to partner with NAHJ to offer a 1½-day institute on covering education at the NAHJ National Conference in Miami. The July 20-21 education coverage bootcamp, which will be held in Spanish,  will feature some of the most important and influential researchers and educational leaders in the field of Latino education. They will help journalists gain a better understanding of the education issues affecting Latino students in the U.S., such as the impacts of school choice, teacher demographics, and student loans. You’ll also get training on data sources that can help you buttress or generate  education stories.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Covering Teens: Lessons from the “Raising Kings” Journalists

Getting heartfelt, personally revealing comments from teenage boys is difficult enough for parents. So reporters Kavitha Cardoza and Cory Turner had to take a few creative risks to get good audio for their National Public Radio series on an all-boys public high school in Washington D.C. last year.

EWA Radio

Three Countries in 14 Minutes: School Choice Lessons From Abroad
Vouchers, private schools, and open enrollment in France, Sweden, and New Zealand (EWA Radio: Episode 162)

photo of children during recess at Hokitika Primary School, New Zealand, 2017

School choice is one of the most contentious issues in K-12  education today. But it’s hardly an American invention. Sarah Butrymowicz of The Hechinger Report recently traveled to New Zealand, Sweden, and France to look at how school choice plays out, and whether there are lessons for the U.S. system. Why is New Zealand considered a “school choice utopia,” and how is its open enrollment policy driving programming and competition among local campuses?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Educators ‘Cultivate’ Connections to Build Character

Building character is an everyday event, woven into the fabric of how school is done on every level, educators and students told journalists during a conference in New Orleans on educating for character and citizenship.

A key goal is creating a community of trust among students and faculty, said educators at several schools that put character development at the center. During the panel discussion, they used words like “love” and “team” to describe their schools, emphasizing the mutual respect that they work to cultivate between students and teachers.

EWA Radio

‘Reading, Writing, Evicted’: How Housing Woes Hurt Students and Schools
New series looks at academic and health effects of student mobility (EWA Radio: Episode 161)

image from the Oregonian of teacher and student in classroom

In Portland, Oregon, so-called “no cause” evictions are forcing hundreds of students to switch schools — sometimes more than once — during the course of the academic year. That leaves individual kids struggling to stay on track academically, and schools scrambling to high rates of student turnover.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Push for Media Literacy Takes on Urgency Amid Rise of ‘Fake News’
Some states act to spark schools' focus on teaching subject

The advent of “fake news” was the worst-best thing to happen to media literacy in schools.

That’s according to Sherri Hope Culver, the director of the Center for Media and Information Literacy at Temple University.

In years past, it was tough work convincing legislators and reporters the importance of paying attention to the issue of teaching children how to analyze and evaluate media, Culver said during a recent Education Writers Association seminar in New Orleans.They’d ask what made the issue timely.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Word on the Beat: Chronic Absenteeism

What “chronic absenteeism” means: Researchers typically define chronic absenteeism as missing at least two days of school each month or 10 percent of all their classes. That amounts to about 18 days over the academic year in the average district. One out of every 10 students in public schools is chronically absent nationwide, according to the advocacy group AttendanceWorks.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

To Teach Civic Engagement, Put Students Into Action, Advocates Say

image of student studying New Orleans waterways 2018

With their bodies submerged in the shallow bayou and their heads bobbing just above the water, Sunny Dawn Summers and her class of high school students talked through the process of harvesting, shucking, and selling oysters.

Just miles from restaurants in New Orleans’ famed French Quarter, the students pondered the costs of labor, boat maintenance, and shipping that get an oyster from the muddy bayou floor to the dinner plate.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What You Missed at EWA’s Seminar on Educating for Character & Citizenship

photo of students at EWA Character & Citizenship event..

Dozens of journalists gathered in New Orleans this month to explore a dimension of education that often gets short shrift both in schools and in news coverage: developing students’ character and preparing them for active citizenship.

Reporters heard not only from educators, experts, and fellow journalists, but also students from New Orleans and beyond. Issues on tap included the moral education of young people, social and emotional learning, media literacy, and the rapid rise of ”restorative justice” as an alternative to traditional disciplinary practice.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

At High Tech High, Focus Goes Beyond the Classroom
Personalization, 'authentic' work, equity & collaboration billed as hallmarks

Walking onto a High Tech High campus is like entering a workshop. Our tour guide, sophomore Caroline Egler, pointed out classrooms that supposedly housed physics or humanities, but most students weren’t in those rooms. They were in the hallways working on projects, huddled around computers together, or even working at desks standing eight feet tall so they towered above the floor. It was chaotic, but not out of control.

Students seemed to be working with purpose, even if it was not immediately obvious what they were doing.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Learning or Teaching? Experimental High Schools Put Students First

The secret to student success may well be hidden in the buzzwords frequently used today to describe efforts to transform high school.

Personalized learning. Student-centered learning. Competency-based learning, and so on.

“There’s a common denominator in all these labels, and that common denominator is learning,” said Caroline Hendrie, the executive director of Education Writers Association at a recent seminar for journalists in San Diego.

Seminar

71st EWA National Seminar
Los Angeles • May 16-18, 2018

EWA 71st National Seminar Los Angeles graphic

EWA’s National Seminar is the largest annual gathering of journalists on the education beat. This multiday conference provides participants with top-notch training delivered through dozens of interactive sessions on covering education from early childhood through graduate school. Featuring prominent speakers, engaging campus visits, and plentiful networking opportunities, this must-attend conference provides participants with deeper understanding of the latest developments in education, a lengthy list of story ideas, and a toolbox of sharpened journalistic skills.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What You Missed at EWA’s Seminar on Rethinking High School

Education journalists from across the U.S. gathered this week in San Diego, on the campus of High Tech High, to explore efforts to rethink the American high school. Along the way, they heard from fellow reporters, as well as educators, analysts and students.

EWA Radio

‘Raising Kings’: A Portrait of an Urban High School for Young Men of Color
Education Week-NPR series features social-emotional learning and restorative justice at new D.C. campus

Can schools ever fully fill the gaps in students’ life experiences that often keep them from succeeding in school? Two reporters, Education Week’s Kavitha Cardoza and Cory Turner of NPR, spent hundreds of hours at Ron Brown College Prep, a new boys-only public high school in Washington, D.C. that primarily serves students of color.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

With New Research, Policy Shifts, Bilingual Education on Rise

Decades of restrictions on bilingual education in public schools across the country — and particularly in California — led to a dramatic reduction of bilingual teachers. Now that California voters have permitted bilingual education through Proposition 58, which passed in November 2016, the state faces a shortage of talent.

EWA Radio

What Students With Dyslexia Need — But Aren’t Getting — From Schools
EWA Radio: Episode 143

A new radio documentary by APM Reports concludes that American schools are failing to use proven methods for helping dyslexic students learn to read — techniques that could also benefit their classmates. Emily Hanford, a correspondent and senior producer for APM Reports, discusses why school districts are often resistant to identifying students as dyslexic, and how long-standing debates over how best to teach reading have kept some schools from adopting best practices.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Student ‘Expeditions’ Help Drive, Inspire Learning at D.C. Charter School

The second-graders at a charter school in the nation’s capital recently discovered a problem: a lack of “green spaces” in certain parts of the city.

The students at Two Rivers Public Charter School conducted research. But they didn’t stop there. They also wrote letters to the city council to share their concerns about inequitable access to green spaces across Washington, D.C.

The letters described the situation, explained why having such spaces in urban environments is important, and offered solutions, including the idea of helping to plant gardens near campus.

Report

Views Among College Students Regarding the First Amendment: Results From a New Survey

College students’ views on the First Amendment are important for another reason as well: Students act as de facto arbiters of free expression on campus. The Supreme Court justices are not standing by at the entrances to public university lecture halls ready to step in if First Amendment rights are curtailed. If a significant percentage of students believe that views they find offensive should be silenced, those views will in fact be silenced.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Is the Solar Eclipse Too Risky For Students?

When a total solar eclipse passes over the United States on Monday, the best viewing will be in a handful of states stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. But some school districts are planning to keep students indoors, citing concerns over the potential health risks of viewing the historic event for themselves.

Key Coverage

Teachers Gear Up For A New Kind Of Ninth Grade

Furr High School is gearing up to launch a new kind of ninth grade. It’s part of how Furr, which used to have a reputation for drop-outs and gang violence, is trying to transform high school, with the help of a $10 million grant. At one recent workshop, half a dozen ninth grade instructors brainstormed for the new ninth grade, thinking about how to give students more ownership in the curriculum and testing.

EWA Radio

Scoop! High School Students Interview Defense Secretary Mattis
EWA Radio: Episode 131

Teddy Fischer and Jane Gormley of Mercer Island High School in Washington State discuss how they landed a lengthy Q&A with U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who has given few interviews since joining President Trump’s cabinet. Fischer, a rising junior, and Gormley, the immediate past editor of the school’s student newspaper, worked with their journalism class and faculty advisor to prepare for the 45-minute conversation on Memorial Day.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Observing Classrooms: What Does Good Teaching Look Like?

How do reporters know good teaching when they see it? How do they tactfully write about bad teaching? And how do they tease out what came before the moment they set foot in a particular classroom?

Pamela Grossman, dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, and Elizabeth Green, co-founder of Chalkbeat, helped a roomful of journalists at the Education Writers Association’s 70th Annual National Seminar in Washington, D.C., see classroom teaching in a whole different light.

Key Coverage

Is School Too Shallow?

There’s an essential skill not being taught enough in classrooms today, say a growing number of American educators. That skill is thinking.

“Most teachers never really ask students to think very deeply…. Most of what is assigned and tested are things we ask students to memorize,” writes Karin Hess, president of Educational Research in Action in Underhill, Vt., and an expert on assessment, in an email to the Monitor.

Webinar

Summer Story Ideas: Local Angles on Federal Issues
Trump Budget, ESSA, Pell Grants ... and More!

Summer Story Ideas: Local Angles on Federal Issues

School’s out, but there’s no shortage of compelling summer stories to pursue on the education beat.

How might President Trump’s proposed budget cuts for education impact summer learning programs? How is your state incorporating summer learning into its revamped accountability plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? What’s the latest on summer Pell Grants?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Risks and Rewards: Social Media as a Reporting Tool

Many education journalists are savvy enough to use social media as a way to attract readers to their stories. But if that is all they are doing with social media, they are not harnessing its full potential.

“Especially in our beat, it can be a really valuable — if potentially risky and dangerous tool — both for connecting with hard-to-reach sources and for generating story angles and ideas,” said Sarah Carr, who runs The Teacher Project, a fellowship program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Key Coverage

Reinventing High School
See how one New Hampshire school is retooling education.

Two-dozen high school students are gathered around a large work table as manufacturing teacher Dan Cassidy holds out boxes of metal bars and gears. The students choose among the parts to build model bicycles. “What else are we going to use today? Let me hear some vocab here,” he says. When a student shouts out “chains,” he nudges them until they recall another term for it: “linkage.”

Webinar

“3 in 30” – Three Stories to Steal on Digital Learning

“3 in 30” – Three Stories to Steal on Digital Learning

Looking to liven up your coverage of classroom technology and how it’s playing out in your local schools? Join Nichole Dobo of The Hechinger Report and EWA public editor Emily Richmond for an “express” 30-minute webinar on digital learning and classroom technology. You’ll come away with ideas for quick-hit daily stories, data-driven takeouts and enterprise reporting. Plus, get the inside scoop on how to make the most of EWA’s newest Topics Page on Digital Learning & Technology.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Does Charter School Innovation Look Like?

At Summit Public Schools campuses, you won’t see PowerPoint lectures on “Antigone” in English class or witness lofty explanations of the Pythagorean theorem in geometry. Instead, you’ll hear a discussion about the morals and ethics in the ancient Greek tragedy tied to students’ own teenage identity formation and observe discussions on how real-life problem-solving skills can be applied to math.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: Latino Kindergartners Trail White Peers in Math by 3 Months

Latino students in kindergarten trail their white peers in math by approximately three months’ worth of learning, a new study by Child Trends Hispanic Institute has found. 

Researchers drew a nationally representative sample of students from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-2011 who were followed through the end of their fifth-grade year. Sixty-two percent of the 2,199 Latino students studied had at least one foreign-born parent, and 45 percent spoke only Spanish or predominantly Spanish at home. Nearly half lived in poverty.

EWA Radio

Students Can’t Recognize Fake News. That’s a Problem.
EWA Radio: Episode 103

Benjamin Herold of Education Week discusses why media literacy is in the spotlight in the wake of the presidential election, and the troubling findings of a new Stanford University study that showed the vast majority of students from middle school through college can’t identify “fake news.” Why are so many digital natives flunking when it comes to evaluating the reliability of material they encounter online? How are policymakers, researchers, and educators proposing that schools address this deficit in critical-thinking skills?

EWA Radio

Beyond Buzzwords: What Does “Student-Centered Learning” Look Like?
EWA Radio: Episode 100

Katrina Schwartz of KQED Public Radio in San Francisco joins the 100th episode of EWA Radio to discuss the growing interest in student-centered learning and  personalized instruction. What are promising examples of these approaches in action? Can personalization and efficiency co-exist? How is data — big and small — informing teachers and shaping individual student learning? And what are some big stories to watch for in the coming months?

Webinar

Measuring the Soft Skills: What Reporters Need to Know

Measuring the Soft Skills: What Reporters Need to Know

Should schools measure skills like cooperation, communication, self-confidence and the ability to organize? Efforts to gauge these so-called “soft skills” are gaining traction in the classroom, especially with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The new federal law calls on states and school districts to incorporate at least one measure beyond test scores and graduation rates in their accountability systems.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Texas Education Board Rejects ‘Racist’ Textbook

After months of controversy surrounding a proposed Mexican-American studies textbook that critics called racist and inaccurate, the Texas State Board of Education voted this week to reject its adoption. 

The board rejected the textbook on Wednesday 14-0, with one board member absent. A final vote will take place today, but even if the board votes “no” again, the text could still show up in Texas public school classrooms — just not on the board-approved list of instructional materials.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

When Schools Close for Voting, Do Students Miss Out?

Fearing higher-than-usual potential for unruly voters, school districts across the country have canceled classes at campuses used as Election Day polling stations. But some civics advocates say the decisions result in the loss of a powerful “teachable moment.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

As Feds Turn Focus on English-Language Learners, Teachers Struggle to Find Quality Materials

Craig Brock teaches high school science in Amarillo, Texas, where his freshman biology students are currently learning about the parts of a cell. But since many of them are refugee children who have only recently arrived in the U.S. and speak little or no English, Brock often has to get creative.

Usually that means creating PowerPoint presentations full of pictures and “just kind of pulling from here and there,” he said — the Internet, a third grade textbook or a preschool homeschool curriculum from Sam’s Club, for example.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Will Californians Vote to Overturn Ban on Bilingual Education?

The fate of the U.S. presidency isn’t the only thing hanging in the balance on Election Day 2016.

Come Nov. 8, dual-language education could either get strengthened or further suppressed in the state with the highest percentage of English-language learners, as voters in California face a decision about overturning the state’s longstanding ban on a bilingual approach to educating these students.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Building a ‘Super School,’ for $10 Million

Students at the Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School this week during a visit by U.S. Department of Education officials. The school is one of 10 winning applications in a competition to reinvent the high school model. (Photo credit: Ethan Covey)

In Louisiana, a high school focused around the theme of coastal restoration will be built on a barge — yes, a barge. Two Los Angeles educators have dreamed up plans for a high school designed to serve foster and homeless children. And the Somerville, Mass., district is planning a year-round high school that “feels more like a research and design studio,” reports the Boston Globe.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How Are Schools Teaching 9/11?

During a Sept. 11 memorial, the night sky is illuminated over the footprint where the World Trade Center's TWin Towers once stood. (Flickr/Jackie)

In 2007, while writing about military recruiting at high schools, I met a fresh-faced JROTC cadet who planned to enlist after graduation. His older brother was already serving in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The student, who was a seventh grader when the hijacked airplanes struck, eventually joined the Army and followed his brother to war.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Where Students Miss the Most Class, and Why That’s a Problem

By woodleywonderworks [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

The precocious teen who’s too cool for school – earning high marks despite skipping class – is a pop-culture standard, the idealized version of an effortless youth for whom success comes easy.

Too bad it’s largely a work of fiction that belies a much harsher reality: Missing just two days a month of school for any reason exposes kids to a cascade of academic setbacks, from lower reading and math scores in the third grade to higher risks of dropping out of high school, research suggests.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Growing Segregation of Latinos in Public Schools Poses Challenge for Academic Success

Source: Leland Francisco/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

More than six decades since the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision declared that segregated schools are “inherently unequal,” Latino students from low-income backgrounds are becoming increasingly isolated in public schools across the country.

The most-segregated schools Latinos attend often have fewer resources, including less access to Advanced Placement courses and Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs, compared with schools with high populations of affluent and white students.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

The boys (and girls) are back in town. For class, that is.

See how forced that lede was? Back-to-school reporting can take on a similar tinge of predictability, with journalists wondering how an occasion as locked in as the changing of the seasons can be written about with the freshness of spring.

Recently some of the beat’s heavy hitters dished with EWA’s Emily Richmond about ways newsrooms can take advantage of the first week of school to tell important stories and cover overlooked issues.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Victories Adding Up for U.S. Math Olympians

The winning U.S. team at the International Math Olympiad in Hong Kong. (Photo credit: Po-Shen Loh)

After learning of their gold-medal victory in the world’s most prestigious high school mathematics competition — held recently in Hong Kong — six American teenagers engaged in a celebratory ritual familiar to many of their peers back home: They went to McDonald’s. But the victors weren’t quite ready to leave the math behind.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Dual-Language Programs on the Rise Across the U.S.

Graduates in white and purple robes exited the auditorium, their newly turned tassels bouncing as they sang and danced to a recording of the popular Latin salsa tune, “Vivir Mi Vida.”

They had just graduated from the Margarita Muñiz Academy in Boston — many with more than a high school diploma. Forty-six of the 51 new alumni of the dual-language school had also earned a Seal of Biliteracy, an official recognition of their academic proficiency in both English and Spanish.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Common Core Math: A Glimpse in the Classroom

The fourth grade students sit on a carpet, wriggling, shaking their hands, looking in all directions as a teacher uses the most basic of tools — a red sharpie and a big white pad — to deliver her lesson.

The day’s agenda: teaching the Common Core standard of finding “whole number quotients.” She writes an equation on the board, and the answer works out to be 100. But she’s not done.

Report

Looking Under the Hood of Competency-Based Education
American Institutes for Research, Nellie Mae Education Foundation

Competency-based education (CBE), an instructional approach that emphasizes what students learn and master rather than how much time they spend in school, is gaining popularity nationwide. CBE environments provide students with personalized learning, autonomy, flexibility, and responsibility for their own learning, which is theorized to improved learning behaviors.

EWA Radio

Hard Numbers — and Hard Truths — About Chicago’s Dropout Crisis
EWA Radio: Episode 78

The press releases from Chicago Public Schools seemed almost too good to be true: the city’s graduation rate was rising more quickly than even its staunchest supporters might have predicted.

But what happened after reporters Becky Vevea and Sarah Karp uncovered discrepancies in those numbers, and raised serious questions about the city’s dropout prevention polices and practices. Vevea (WBEZ) and Karp (formerly of Catalyst Chicago and now with WBEZ) talk with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about their award-winning investigation, the significant changes to district policy that have followed in its wake, and some examples of CPS programs that are making legitimate strides toward helping more students graduate. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Civics Lessons From House Democrats’ Sit-In

Democrats stand on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives during a sit-in to protest in inaction by Congress on gun control legislation. (Wikimedia/U.S. Congress)

Whether the Democrats’ sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to protest congressional inaction on gun control legislation was a publicity stunt or a tipping point remains to be seen. But the episode last week could serve as a teachable moment for the nation’s schoolchildren — and future voters.

EWA Radio

‘Hamilton’ Changed Broadway. Now It’s Changing Teaching.
EWA Radio: Episode 77

Flickr/Rachel Lovinger

Thanks to Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda and two nonprofit groups, thousands of public high school students in New York City are getting access to the hottest ticket in town.

Wayne D’Orio, editor in chief of Scholastic magazine, joins EWA public editor Emily Richmond to discuss an innovative curriculum built around the hip-hop infused musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first secretary of the treasury. How are teachers using the show as a springboard to connect students to challenging academic content aligned to New York’s Common Core State Standards? Why is the show so popular with Advanced Placement U.S. History classes? And what are some smart story ideas of other pop culture influences being used by teachers to engage kids? 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Putting Students in Charge of Their Own Learning

Students from El Centro de Estudiantes learn from their mentors at Philadelphia's Wooden Boat Factory. Providing more personalized learning experiences has been found to improve students' motivation and academic outcomes. (Photo credit: Big Picture Learning)

Imagine you’re a student: You walk into school and check an electronic board for your name and where you go for the day. At the assigned station, you and a small group of fellow students work with a teacher on algebra, which builds on the lesson you mastered the day before. Then, you take a short quiz that helps to create your class schedule for the next day.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Testing and Test Prep: How Much Is Too Much?

Flickr/Jirka Matousek

It’s not hard to find a teacher willing to bend your ear about the volume of standardized testing in schools today, and the pressure for “test prep.” But how widespread are such concerns among educators? And what’s the on-the-ground reality they experience?

New survey data suggest these impressions about over-testing and test prep are more than just anecdotal: They are the norm for the majority of public school teachers.

EWA Radio

Are ‘No Second Chances’ Discipline Policies Hurting Florida’s Students?
EWA Radio: Episode 74

Infinity Moreland, now a senior at North Port High School, was expelled in the fall of 2014 for a fight she did not start. (Sarasota Herald-Tribune/Rachel S. O'Hara used with permission)

Education journalist Shelby Webb of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune spent six months digging into student suspensions and expulsions in Florida, and her findings took the local school board by surprise: Sarasota County has the second-highest rate of expulsions in the Sunshine State. But the district’s process for expulsions was certainly built for volume: as many as 14 students have been expelled with a single “yes” vote by school board members, some of whom haven’t even read the background on the individual students’ cases. The Herald-Tribune’s project also examines questions of equity of school discipline policies across Florida where — echoing a nationwide trend — many students of color face more severe punishments than their white peers.

EWA Radio

Palo Alto’s Student Suicides
EWA Radio: Episode 73

(Pixabay/kaleido-dp)

What’s behind a cluster of student suicides in the heart of ultra-competitive Silicon Valley?

In a cover story for The Atlantic, journalist Hanna Rosin investigated a disturbing cycle stretching back more than a decade for Palo Alto and Gunn high schools. She spoke with EWA public editor Emily Richmond: How are local educators, parents, and students are responding to the crisis? What’s next for the investigation by federal health officials? And how can reporters improve their own coverage of these kinds of challenging issues? Rosin’s story, “The Silicon Valley Suicides” won 1st Prize for magazine feature writing in the EWA National Awards for Education Reporting.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Proposed Mexican-American Studies Textbook in Texas Called Racist, Inaccurate

This image appears on the cover of a newly proposed textbook for Mexican-American studies in Texas. The image itself is controversial, and the text in the book has ignited cries of racism and factual inaccuracies. Source: Flickr/ via Jorge Gonzalez (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Texas advocates of ethnic studies in public schools celebrated two years ago when the State Board of Education voted to create instructional materials for classes like Mexican-American and African-American studies that school districts could choose to offer as electives in the state. The decision wasn’t exactly what proponents of Mexican-American studies had asked for — to establish a statewide curriculum — but it was something. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

‘Paper Tigers’ Documentary Offers Solutions to Teaching Traumatized Kids

From left, James Redford, director of Paper Tigers, Amanda Moreno of the Erikson Institute, Michelle Porche of Boston University, and Michael Chandler of the Washington Post discuss the impact of trauma on children's ability to learn. (Lilli Boxer for EWA)

The film “Paper Tigers” opens with what looks like phone camera footage of a fight. There’s a splatter of blood, shouting, a chair flying across a classroom.

The voiceover is a patchwork of voices saying things like: “This place is absolute chaos.” And: “All the kids were forced to be here.” And: “That’s where the bad kids went.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

A New 2016 “Common Core,” With Social-and-Emotional Muscle

By BMRR (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

At the age of nine, Amalio Nieves saw his father die from gun violence in Chicago. And as a child, Nieves himself was robbed at gunpoint. Now he’s always thinking about his young niece Jordan and the year 2100 – when Jordan will be the parent of a child that leads America into a new, unknown century.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Experts Say Teachers Are Being Taught Bad Science

Source: Nora Newcombe's presentation at EWA's National Seminar in Boston

Here’s a quick quiz. Rate the following statements on a scale from one to five, with one meaning you totally disagree and five meaning you wholeheartedly agree:

  • Beginners and experts essentially think in the same way.

  • Most people are either left-brained or right-brained.

  • Students learn more when information is tailored to their unique learning styles.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Missing Class: Using Data to Track Chronic Absenteeism

Fickr/dcJohn (CC BY 2.0)

For every savant who’s skilled enough to ditch class and still ace the course, many more who miss school fall way behind, increasing their odds of dropping out or performing poorly.

The implications are major: If a school has a high number of students repeatedly absent, there’s a good chance other troubles are afoot. Feeling uninspired in the classroom, poor family outreach, or struggles at students’ homes are just some of the root causes of absenteeism, experts say.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Does Common Core Teaching Look Like?

Flickr/Laurie Sullivan

When the communications office in the Huntsville (Ala.) City Schools calls English teacher Stephanie Hyatt to say a TV reporter is coming to observe her class, Hyatt knows the drill. She’s expected to stand in front of the room and lecture at students in picturesque fashion.

“That’s my job — to look exciting,” said Hyatt. “They like me, because I teach with my hands.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Angela Duckworth: Raising Test Scores Is Not a Sign of Grit

In the dozen years that Angela Duckworth has researched the concept of grit, she’s found new ways to test its validity, identified examples of it in popular culture, and worked to bust myths about its application in schools. But she hasn’t developed a just-add-water curriculum package that interested schools can use to develop the character trait in their students.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Why Tracking Textbooks Should Matter

(Flickr/ocegep)

Textbooks can have a tremendous effect on what children learn, and an upcoming  analysis from a University of Southern California researcher seeks to find out which books are in use in five large states.

But it’s hard to say which books are in use in which schools.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

D.C. Schools Expand Their Dual-Language Programs

Source: Flickr/ via woodleywonderworks

More students in the District of Columbia Public Schools will have the opportunity to become bilingual starting next year. The school district has announced it will begin three additional dual-language immersion programs in the fall at the elementary, middle and high school levels, for the first time guaranteeing that students who wish to complete all of their preK-12 instruction in both Spanish and English can do so in the district.

EWA Radio

Does America Need a ‘Math Revolution’?
EWA Radio: Episode 63

(Flickr/Mathematical Association of America)

We know many American students struggle with math and trail many of their international peers. Conventional wisdom says that’s keeping them from developing the kind of critical thinking skills they need for high-paying STEM careers, and to be successful in a 21st century global economy. But is that shortsighted view of a bigger — and more positive — picture?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Florida Senate Votes ‘Yes’ to Coding As a Foreign Language

Source: Flickr/ via HackNY.org (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The state of Florida is one step closer to equating computer coding with foreign languages.

A controversial bill, which passed by a wide margin in the state Senate Wednesday would allow students to take computer coding for foreign language credit and require the state’s public colleges and universities to recognize it as such. 

Multimedia

Standardized Testing

The Council of the Great City Schools hosted a forum on the results of a new report on the effectiveness of standardized testing. Michael Casserly made opening remarks on the report, and then panelists that included Education Secretary Arne Duncan analyzed the data in the report.

  • This panel was moderated by Caroline Hendrie, EWA’s executive director.
Blog: The Educated Reporter

A View From Abroad: Exchange Students Highlight Differences in Schooling

A panel of exchange students spoke at EWA's recent conference on U.S. education in a global context. From left to right, they are Valentina Tobon of Virginia, Lili Hofmann of Germany, Chun-Te Wang of Taiwan, and Kamila Mundzik of Poland. Photo by Emily Richmond, EWA

Chung-Te Wang had never seen a calculator in school before traveling to the U.S. this year as an exchange student.

“We always calculate with our brain. No offense,” said the 16-year-old from Taiwan, spurring laughter in a room full of reporters at the Education Writers Association’s recent seminar on covering U.S. education in a global context.

EWA Radio

TGI Thursday! Idaho’s Four-Day Schools
EWA Radio: Episode 51

Faced with massive budget cuts in the wake of the recession, many Idaho school districts switched to a four-day weekly calendar. But more than seven years into the experiment, an investigation by Idaho Education News – lead by reporter Kevin Richert — found little evidence that the schedule change improved either student achievement or the fiscal outlook of cash-strapped districts.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Deeper Learning, Smarter Testing

Linda Darling-Hammond speaks to reporters at a seminar on motivation at Stanford in November. (Photo credit: EWA/Michael Marriott)

Since 2003, more information is produced every two days than the total sum of information produced between that year and the dawn of time, the CEO of Google said in 2010.  Easily web-accessible facts, names and articles have grown exponentially, so much so that some say students can’t be taught like they were in the past, when rote memorization was the gold standard for learning and information wasn’t at almost everyone’s fingertips.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Growing Minds, Changing Math Classes

Jo Boaler speakers to reporters during EWA's seminar on motivation held at Stanford University in November (Credit: Stanford University/Marc Franklin)

As the tune of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” plays out over the music video, the lyrics are a bit different:

“We will make mistakes…our method’s gonna break…not a piece of cake…we’re gonna shake it off, shake it off…”

It was in this video Stanford University Professor and author Jo Boaler says she was compelled to do something she didn’t want to do. “They made me rap,” she said. When her undergraduate students challenged whether she had a growth mindset about her rhyme skills, Boaler said to herself, “Oh my gosh. I’m gonna have to rap.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

When Grit Isn’t Enough

Tyrone Howard, a professor and associate dean at UCLA, speakers to reporters about student trauma at EWA's seminar on Motivation Nov. 11, 2015. (Photo credit: EWA/Michael Marriott)

The first time I heard a preschooler explaining a classmate’s disruptive behavior, I was surprised at how adult her four-year-old voice sounded.

Her classmate “doesn’t know how to sit still and listen,” she said to me, while I sat at the snack table with them. He couldn’t learn because he couldn’t follow directions, she explained, as if she had recently completed a behavioral assessment on him.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Carol Dweck Explains ‘Growth Mindsets’

Carol Dweck addresses reporters at EWA's seminar on Motivation on the Stanford University campus, Nov. 11, 2015 (Photo credit: EWA/Michael Marriott)

One of the most popular ideas in education today is also one that is often misunderstood. While Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset” has a emerged as a meme for motivation less than a decade after the publication of her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” the Stanford psychology professor is worried about its misapplication.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Saving on College by Doing Some of It in High School

Gov. Dannel Malloy announces the creation of Connecticut's first P-TECH high school, modeled after the IBM-backed school in Brooklyn, New York. (Source: Flickr/Dannel Malloy)

Last week the White House announced a new higher education experiment that will direct federal grants to some high school students who want to enroll in college classes.

The plan is to start small, with the administration offering $20 million to help defray the college costs of up to 10,000 low-income high school students for the 2016-2017 academic year. The money will come from the overall Pell Grant pot, which is currently funded at more than $30 billion annually and used by 8 million students.

Report

Preschool-to-Third Grade Programs and Practices: A Review of Research
UW-Madison School Of Social Work

The preschool-to-third grade perspective has helped the early childhood field move away from a reliance on relatively brief or one-shot programs toward more systematic and comprehensive models that span most of children’s first decade. We review the knowledge base on the effectiveness of preschool-to-third grade intervention programs and practices for young children making the transition to school.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Valuing Both Spanish and English in the Classroom

Maria Fernanda Lopez of Univision talks about her experiences covering the topic of bilingual education. She was joined on the panel by Nelson Flores of the University of Pennsylvania, left, and Rachel Hazlehurst of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy. 
Source: Valencia College/ Don Burlinson

Children don’t have to lose one language to learn another language. That’s the theory behind dual-language programs, which are replacing traditional English as a second language (ESL) courses in schools across the country.

EWA Radio

Can a Charter School Grow Its Own Teachers?
EWA Radio: Episode 41

Jose Garcia on the first day of school in 2014. (WBEZ/Becky Vevea)

The Noble Street Network of Charter Schools in Chicago is taking a radical in-house approach to teacher preparation, recruiting and training its own recent graduates for spots at the front of the classroom.

Reporter Becky Vevea of WBEZ Chicago followed new teacher Jose Garcia through his first year at Noble’s Rauner College Prep, while he was also completing coursework through the Relay Graduate School of Education.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Mixed Reviews for Stricter School Lunch Menus

Students at Washington-Lee High School, part of Arlington Public Schools, are served meals as part of the National School Lunch Program. New federal regulations set stricter standards for nutritional content. (Flickr/U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Long mocked for its inedibility, campus cafeteria food is undergoing a federally mandated transformation, and schools are realizing it’s going to take more than sprinkling kale on pizza to really change the way students eat. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teacher, Student Voices in Back-to-School Spotlight

It’s easy to get cynical about back-to-school stories – especially when you’ve been an education reporter for many years. But it’s important to remember that for many children and their families – one of the prime audiences for such reporting – this might be the first time they’ve gone through the experience.

Seminar

69th EWA National Seminar

The Education Writers Association, the national professional organization for journalists who cover education, is thrilled to announce that its annual conference will take place from Sunday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in the historic city of Boston.

Co-hosted by Boston University’s College of Communication and School of Education, EWA’s 69th National Seminar will examine a wide array of timely topics in education — from early childhood through career — while expanding and sharpening participants’ skills in reporting and storytelling.

Boston, Massachusetts
Report

The Alarming Effect Of Racial Mismatch On Teacher Expectations

Researchers find evidence of systematic biases in teachers’ expectations for the educational attainment of black students. Specifically, non-black teachers have significantly lower educational expectations for black students than black teachers do when evaluating the same students. We cannot determine whether the black teachers are too optimistic, the non-black teachers are too pessimistic, or some combination of the two.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Miami Schools Look to Improve Spanish Instruction

Source: Flickr/ Enokson (CC BY 2.0)

Imagine taking an English class with a teacher who struggles with writing and grammar. 

That’s the type of instruction many students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools were getting in Spanish class, where teachers with Hispanic last names who spoke Spanish well enough to get by were being thrust into a role they weren’t trained for, according to recent articles by Christina Veiga of the Miami Herald. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teaching ‘Grit’: How Students, Schools Can Benefit

Over at EWA Radio, we explored the debate over how so-called noncognitive factors like “grit” influence student achievement, and how schools are rethinking approaches to classroom instruction as a result. (You can find the full episode here.I thought this was a good opportunity to revisit a recent guest post by Daveen Rae Kurutz of the Beaver County Times, looking at our “deep dive” session into these issues at EWA’s recent National Seminar:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Grit? Motivation? Report Takes Stab at Defining Terms

Source: Flickr/U.S. Department of Education (CC BY 2.0)

Education writing is famous for its alphabet soup of acronyms and obscure terms, but it could just as well be faulted for trafficking buzzwords in search of clear definitions.

Ideas like grit, motivation, fitting in and learning from one’s mistakes, often summarized as noncognitive factors, are just some of the concepts floated more frequently these days. A new paper released this week seeks to provide clarity to this fast-growing discipline within the world of how students learn.

EWA Radio

Rethinking Classroom Discipline
EWA Radio: Episode 32

Conversations about classroom discipline typically focus on ways to teach kids there are consequences to their actions as a means of controlling future behavior. But a new approach gaining ground removes the sliding scale of punishment from the equation.

Clinical psychologist Ross Greene — whose books are well known to parents of so-called “problem kids,” is rewriting the rules for how some schools respond to challenging students.

EWA Radio

What Grit and Perseverance Could Look Like in the Classroom
EWA Radio: Episode 31

(Flickr/Steven Depolo)

Nestled within the new-agey sounding concept of “noncognitive factors” are fairly concrete examples of what parents and educators should and shouldn’t do to prepare students for the rigors of college and careers. Gleaned from research into brain development and human behavior, a toolkit is emerging on how to make the best of the scholarship focused on qualities like grit, persistence and learning from mistakes.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Beyond NCLB: New Era in Federal Education Policy?

Screenshot of a tweet by @KristenRencher

Fifty years ago, the federal government enacted the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty. The newest version of the ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act, became law 13 years ago and has stayed in place ever since. On Thursday, a new version of the federal government’s most far-reaching K-12 education law moved closer to adoption. The U.S. Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act, one week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own version, the Student Success Act.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

College Board Goes ‘All In’ to Attract Latinos to Advanced Placement

Latino students might shun Advanced Placement courses if the only students they see in them are mostly affluent whites. 

That’s essentially what Jeremy Goldman, head of counseling at a Baltimore high school told NBC last week in an article about the College Board’s new campaign to boost the number of minority high school students enrolled in AP classes. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Is There Room for Games in Education?

Flickr/Games For Change

Allen Turner recently recalled the day his grade school teacher said it was time to learn about the U.S. Constitution, beginning with its famous preamble. But Turner, now a video game designer and professor at Chicago’s DePaul University, already knew it. So did all his classmates.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

At Catholic High School, Chicago Students Earn While They Learn

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School's principal Pat Garrity, left, and its vice president of advancement, Elizabeth White. (Sarah Darville for EWA)

When Carolyn Alessio assigned her students to prepare to act out a trial to probe the themes of “Frankenstein,” she was surprised at what she found at the top of a few of their supporting documents — perfectly formatted docket numbers.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

A Chicago High School’s Turnaround

Reporters visit Nicholas Senn High School in Chicago's North Side as part of EWA's 68th National Seminar (Jessica Smith for EWA)

Five years ago, Nicholas Senn High School on the Near North Side of Chicago was one some educators felt lucky to avoid. While student discipline might have been an issue elsewhere, “you would say, at least it’s not Senn,” Principal Susan Lofton said.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

When Wrong Answers Lead to the Right Outcomes

Moderator Ki Sung (L) listens as Camille Farrington (R) explains the role non-cognitive research plays in schools. (Credit: Mikhail Zinshteyn/EWA)

In a second-grade classroom outside of Palo Alto, Calif., students were sharing their answers to a math quiz. A young boy named Michael held up his answer, and, as was customary, his classmates showed their verdict on the answer – thumbs up or thumbs down.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Beyond the Buzzwords: Understanding ‘Deeper Learning’

Students work on robotics projects as part of the LEGO Education program, one approach to a "deeper learning" mindset in classroom instruction. (Flickr/Jeff Peterson)

Focusing on student learning, and structuring the school to fit students’ varied learning paces, is proving to be a game changer, said panelists at EWA’s recent National Seminar in Chicago, moderated by journalist Katrina Schwartz of Mindshift at KQED Public Radio.

Report

Mindset Interventions Are a Scalable Treatment for Academic Underachievement
Stanford University

We quickly discovered two good reasons schools weren’t implementing mindset interventions: Schools didn’t know how to implement mindset interventions, and Schools didn’t know whether mindset interventions would work for their students. We had something important in common with them: We didn’t know either! To turn mindset interventions into something that schools could (and should) practically use, we first needed to develop a mindset intervention that schools could easily implement. We also needed to test whether this easy-to-use intervention was effective for various kinds of students.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

White House School Arts Program Expands to D.C., New York

Yo-Yo Ma performs at the 2008 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. He's one of several dozen artists affiliated with Turnaround Arts. (Source:
By World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

A program that pairs celebrities with struggling schools to develop their arts education is expanding to more large cities, The U.S. Department of Education announced today. 

Known as the Turnaround Arts initiative, the $10-million effort pools public and private funds to teach music, dance and other arts disciplines at schools that are considered among the worst in their respective states.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Students, Teachers Thrive at U. of Chicago Charter School

Kindergarteners at the NKO campus of the UChicago Charter during a visit by EWA members in April 2015. (Beth Hawkins for EWA)

What’s most notable about the Chicago kindergarten class where assistant teacher Nichelle Bell is temporarily in charge is what is not happening. Teachers are not redirecting pupils, who are not off-task. Hands are not in other people’s spaces. Voices—those of children and adults—are not raised.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Students, Teachers Don’t Study The Way Science Says They Should

Henry Roediger listens as Bror Saxberg answers a reporter's question at EWA's 68th National Seminar in Chicago. (Photo credit: Mikhail Zinshteyn/EWA)

Most students don’t study using methods backed by scientific research, panelists at the Education Writers Association’s deep dive on the science of learning told reporters in Chicago at the association’s 68th National Seminar.

“Why do people find learning so hard?” asked Henry Roediger, a psychology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who participated in the April event.

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NAEP 2014 U.S. History, Geography, and Civics Assessments

Nationally, eighth graders’ average scores on the NAEP U.S. history, geography, and civics assessments showed no significant change in 2014, compared to 2010—the last assessment year. However, several student groups have made gains. In 2014, eighteen percent of eighth-graders performed at or above the Proficient level in U.S. history, 27 percent performed at or above the Proficient level in geography, and 23 percent performed at or above the Proficient level in civics.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Educators: Common Core Standards ‘Are the Floor’

From left: Educators Luann Tallman, Mark Sass, Merlinda Moldanado and Kristy Straley talk with moderator Liana Heiten of Education Week at the University of Colorado Boulder on February 26, 2015. (EWA/Emily Richmond)

For teacher Merlinda Maldonado’s sixth graders at Hill Middle School in Denver, it’s not necessarily about getting the answer right. It’s not about memorizing procedures, either. If Maldonado’s classroom is clicking, frustration can be a good thing.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How One Charter Group Took a Start-Up Approach to Teaching

Classroom with Chromebooks Flickr/kjarrett (CC BY 2.0)

At Summit Public School: Denali, young learners do it differently. Most of the students at this Bay Area-area school complete their coursework on school-issued Chromebooks, where they access a portal to online videos, assigned readings and interim assessments they take at their own pace. It’s a competency-based approach to proving they have mastered the subject at hand. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Common Core: What Educators Say About the Standards

Educators discuss the Common Core during an EWA seminar at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill on Jan. 12, 2015. (EWA)

When education analyst Maria Ferguson looks at data from across the country, she sees record-setting confidence levels among school district leaders that the Common Core State Standards are more rigorous than what states had in place before. At the same time, Ferguson told reporters at a recent Education Writers Association seminar, these new expectations are barreling down on educators faster than they are able to prepare.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

For Undocumented Immigrants, High Schools Can Play a Key Role

Gymnasiums like these can be sites for explaining to families the process of applying for DACA. By Tedder (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

As many as 3.7 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States are eligible for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which sets aside the threat of deportation and grants work privileges to eligible residents. Among the several conditions necessary to qualify for DACA approval is a high-school degree or its equivalent. That’s where schools enter the picture.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

School Discipline Policies Can Backfire

Source: Flickr/cdsessums (CC BY 2.0)

If tough school discipline measures are meant to maintain stability in the classroom, then a new definition of stable might be in order: A new study argues high use of suspensions and expulsions brings down all students – even the ones who behave well.

A researcher with the Albert Shanker Institute flagged the study, which was published this month in the American Sociological Review. Here’s more on the paper from the Shanker Institute scholar Esther Quintero:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Webinar Wednesday: Are Teachers Making Use of Student Data?

As tools and data profiles of students become easier to use, are teachers sufficiently data literate to make sense of the information at their fingertips? Do teachers have the skills and access to data in useful formats, and are the school leaders and institutions responsible for their professional development providing them the training they need?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Study: Surprising Student Benefits to Live Theater Field Trips

Ohio Shakespeare Festival production of “Hamlet” at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. (Flickr/Phil Kalina for Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens)

In Watertown, N.Y., the local school district recently debated scaling back field trips for students, with administrators citing the cost of providing transportation and chaperones – money that instead needs to be devoted to more purely academic endeavors.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Impact Academy: Rethinking Student Assessment

Sophie Wellington at Impact Academy, Nov. 19, 2014. (EWA/Lori Crouch)

On a recent Wednesday morning, 11th-grader Sophia Wellington took to the undersized stage at the front of her high school gym and with seamless poise demonstrated what smarter student assessment could look like.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What It Takes to Build Great Teachers

Author Elizabeth Green speaks to EWA members in Detroit on Oct. 21, 2014. (Emily Richmond/EWA)

If 49 multiplied by 5 is 245, why would a student think the answer is 405? And who is more likely to know this – a mathematician or an elementary math teacher?

Elizabeth Green, the author of “Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (And How to Teach It to Everyone), posed this question to a roomful of education reporters at EWA’s October seminar in Detroit.  

Blog: The Educated Reporter

EWA Webinar: What About the Arts?

Decades of research suggest that some types of arts education can lead to academic improvements. But even though No Child Left Behind designated arts a core subject, student access to dance, theater and visual arts declined between 2000 and 2010. What are the challenges educators face in teaching a discipline many researchers say spurs student achievement, reduces absences and boosts graduation rates?