Data & Accountability

Overview

Data & Accountability

From test scores to teacher salaries, from graduation rates to grade-point averages, the education world is full of data. The federal No Child Left Behind law, signed in 2002, created an unprecedented demand for detailed information about students and schools. No longer are public schools judged simply by average test scores for all students. The law requires states, school districts and campuses to break out (“disaggregate,” in education-speak) test scores by race, gender, English proficiency, socioeconomic status and more.

From test scores to teacher salaries, from graduation rates to grade-point averages, the education world is full of data. The federal No Child Left Behind law, signed in 2002, created an unprecedented demand for detailed information about students and schools. No longer are public schools judged simply by average test scores for all students. The law requires states, school districts and campuses to break out (“disaggregate,” in education-speak) test scores by race, gender, English proficiency, socioeconomic status and more. Students in every group must meet the same academic standards.At the same time, people want to know which individual teachers have the most success working with various groups of students. 

The demand for data is growing in higher education, too. Parents, policymakers and taxpayers want to know which college freshmen need remedial education. They want to know how many students graduate on time, and whether graduates find good jobs. In both K-12 and higher education, some political leaders and others want to track academic performance with spending to see which schools and colleges seem to provide the best bang for the academic buck. This Topics section examines what this proliferation of data means for education reporters and offers links to key data resources.

This national push for accountability in education means that schools and colleges must first collect lots of useful, timely and precise data. Then, they must analyze and use that data — that is, make good decisions based on evidence — all with an eye toward improving student success. 

Here’s how Jeffrey Wayman, assistant professor of education at the University of Texas at Austin, describes the goal on his Data Use website: “If offered in a useful form, such data can help teachers, principals and other educational personnel learn more about their students, improve their teaching craft, and ultimately impact a variety of educational outcomes.”

When the Data Quality Campaign, a national coalition advocating for better data, formed in 2005, no states had extensive longitudinal databases for education. The campaign created “10 essential elements” it deemed the state data systems should have. By 2011, the group reported that 49 states (all but Montana) have eight or more of the elements. Now the group is focusing on what states should do with all of that data.

Aimee Guidera, the campaign’s executive director, says: “The need is urgent: state policymakers need to allocate scarce resources based on what works to help students, and they cannot do that without data.”

Sources of data

Federal, state and local agencies now keep a wealth of education data. At the federal level, one of the best sources is the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education. The center publishes annual reports (namely the Condition of Education and the Digest of Education Statistics) with state and national education trends on student enrollment and demographics, school staffing, education funding, graduation and dropout rates, and much more. The center also keeps searchable and downloadable databases, such as the Common Core of Data (for K-12 education) and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (for higher ed). While the information at NCES is comprehensive, it’s also often dated, lagging two years behind.

State education agencies also offer a trove of data on student achievement (test scores from state exams, SATs, ACTs, Advanced Placement), graduation and dropout rates, student demographics, school funding, teacher salaries and staffing levels, and more. Some states put many databases online so they’re easily downloaded, while other states may not readily post such information — and that means reporters will need to specifically request it.

School districts also keep data on student test scores, employee salaries, budgets and the like. Again, the type and availability of information vary by district.

Keep in mind that federal privacy laws, namely the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA), restricts disclosure of individual student education records. In practical terms, that means a journalist can’t ask a school district or state agency for a list of student names with their race, gender and test scores. But a journalist can ask for student-level data with all identifying information (names, social security numbers, etc.) removed. Depending on the state, education agencies may even redact information in particular for small subgroups of students (for instance, test scores for the only four white, female students in a school, under the theory someone could still deduce the individual students’ scores).

Controversies, challenges and caveats

As schools and education agencies are able to collect powerful data, and they’re able to analyze it with more sophisticated tools, controversies have risen.  Some school systems around the country rate teachers based on how much academic growth students made while in their classrooms. These “value-added” models look at which teachers are the most (and least) effective with their students by these measures. Some education leaders want to tie teacher pay or raises to their students’ academic growth, instead of compensating them solely on their education credentials and years of experience. Skeptics say the value-added models have too much statistical error to rate individual teachers accurately.

There can be other problems with education data. If students or their teachers cheat on state exams, the test scores (and everything they’re based on, such as state academic ratings) become meaningless. If schools don’t accurately report the reasons students leave school, then dropout and graduation rates aren’t accurate. Some colleges have been accused of reporting false or exaggerated data to U.S. News & World Report so they do better in the magazine’s annual college rankings. Journalists, and anyone else who uses data, need to ask questions about data when they see red flags.

With so much emphasis on data, some experts advise that journalists, policy makers and others should also examine things that can’t be easily measured — classroom observations of students and teachers, portfolios of student work, parent involvement, and school culture. And we don’t have sufficient data for all students, such as those who are exempt from state exams, or part-time college students who don’t count in the official graduation rates.

In the classroom, meanwhile, educators face the challenge of taking all of the data on students and using it well. The research isn’t yet extensive on the use of data to improve instruction or make decisions about teachers or students, but the research that is available shows that districts need to offer extensive training to principals and teachers to make the data useful. If educators don’t receive the training, they won’t use the data.

“The greatest perceived area of need among districts is for models of how to connect student data to instructional practice,” a U.S. Department of Education study found in 2010. “Districts want examples of how to identify which practices work best for which students and how to adapt instructional strategies to meet the needs of individual students.” 

Latest News

Grade Changing Investigation Spreading to Other Shelby County Schools

The investigation into improper changes to students’ transcripts is expanding beyond Trezevant High School.

An audit found high rates of grade changes at other schools that need to be investigated, Shelby County Schools Chief of Communications Natalia Powers said.

Board chairwoman Shante Avant said board members advised Superintendent Dorsey Hopson to extend the district’s contract with Dixon Hughes Goodman, the audit firm SCS used as part of the six-month investigation into Trezevant that was released this week.

Latest News

Rethinking High School (and Accountability, Choice, and Philanthropy): Russlynn Ali of XQ Institute

As the CEO of the XQ Institute, Russlynn Ali oversees the ‘Super School Project,’ a high-profile, $100+ million competition aimed at spurring the “reinvention” of U.S. high schools.

As managing director of education at the private “impact investing” entity known as the Emerson Collective, she’s also on the frontline of some tectonic shifts in the world of education philanthropy.

Latest News

How Effective Is Your School District? A New Measure Shows Where Students Learn the Most

In the Chicago Public Schools system, enrollment has been declining, the budget is seldom enough, and three in four children come from low-income homes, a profile that would seemingly consign the district to low expectations. But students here appear to be learning faster than those in almost every other school system in the country, according to new data from researchers at Stanford.

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.

EWA Radio

When Cyber-Hackers Attack, School Districts Are Paying the Ransom.
Data security, student privacy, employee records at risk

From Georgia to California, school districts are facing a growing security threat: hackers. They target everything from employee payroll accounts to student records, and demand ransom in exchange for not taking advantage of sensitive information. Tawnell Hobbs of The Wall Street Journal discovered that school districts are surprisingly vulnerable to cyber attacks. And many are opting to pay the ransom and not reporting the crime to authorities. Is your school district a target?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Building Your Digital Audience: Tips From CNN
At Atlanta-based news giant, data helps guide coverage

To engage and grow their digital audience, journalists at CNN study the numbers.

That sort of data is front-and-center at the broadcast news giant’s Atlanta headquarters – on the screens throughout the newsroom and even emphasized in the newsroom layout. Look at the large screens at the front of the room, and you can see what topics are trending on social media, popular online searches, how certain headlines perform, and how much traction stories get on social media.

Latest News

Bill Gates Wants to Boost Education Through Data, ‘Big-Bet’ Innovations and Charters, He Tells Nation’s Big-city School Leaders

Microsoft founder Bill Gates told leaders of the nation’s big-city school districts today that he is looking for creative use of data, charter schools and a few “big-bet” innovations to make the biggest difference in improving education in the next few years.

Gates, who has spent millions of dollars on education causes over the last decade through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, gave a lunchtime talk at the Council of the Great City Schools national conference here in Cleveland moments ago.

Member Stories

October 12 – October 19
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Annie Martin, Leslie Postal and Beth Kassab at the Orlando Sentinel blow the lid off of Florida’s state scholarships to private schools in a multi-part investigative series.

 
 

Natalie Bruzda at the Las Vegas Review-Journal recognizes the top-notch reporting of the UNLV student newspaper in the wake of the recent shooting.


 

Latest News

Feds Measure Graduation Rates of Part-time and Transfer Students for the First Time

The National Center for Education Statistics is out this morning with a major development in higher education data, results from the Outcome Measures survey. The survey for the first time ever shows how part-time and transfer students in college are progressing toward graduation. Historically the federal government has only tracked outcomes measures — namely graduation rates — for first-time, full-time college-goers. But those students account for fewer than half of college students, and the data out today provide a much more complete picture than we’ve ever had before.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Show, Don’t Tell: The Power of Visualizing Data

In an era when data is more accessible than ever, how can journalists convey that information in a compelling way that gets beyond the numbers?

One strategy is to convert the data into visual representations that help to tell the story. Such visuals range from elaborate, interactive maps to a simple dot.

Latest News

Student Loan Servicer Navient Lands in the Crosshairs of Pennsylvania Attorney General

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Navient, one of the largest student loan management companies in the country, for allegedly steering borrowers into costly repayment plans and peddling predatory loans.

“Navient repeatedly engaged in misleading practices meant to boost their profits at the expense of Pennsylvania students,” Shapiro said in a statement. “They crossed the line in pursuit of profit, and we’re here to change their behavior and help the people who’ve been harmed.”

Latest News

For-Profit Schools Get State Dollars For Dropouts Who Rarely Drop In

Last school year, Ohio’s cash-strapped education department paid Capital High $1.4 million in taxpayer dollars to teach students on the verge of dropping out. But on a Thursday in May, students’ workstations in the storefront charter school run by for-profit EdisonLearning resembled place settings for a dinner party where most guests never arrived.

In one room, empty chairs faced 25 blank computer monitors. Just three students sat in a science lab down the hall, and nine more in an unlit classroom, including one youth who sprawled out, head down, sleeping.

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.

Member Stories

September 21 – 28
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Jennifer Chambers of the Detroit News reports on Ivanka Trump’s visit to Detroit to help advance a $500 public-private partnership to promote STEM and computer science in the nation’s schools.

 
 

Education Week’s Evie Blad examines the First Amendment rights of students in light of recent protests at national sporting events, and gives advice to educators on how to turn such events into a teachable moment. 


 

Latest News

Sending Parents Useful Information About Attendance, Course Progress Has Big Effects, Social Scientists Find

When Todd Rogers, director of the Student Social Support R&D Lab at Harvard University, started doing research in schools, he found focusing on parents could offer big returns.

“Parents get so little information and so little of what they get is useful,” Rogers said.

A behavioral scientist at the Harvard Kennedy School, Rogers has completed a number of experiments measuring the impressive effects of simply mailing parents information about how important school attendance is.

Key Coverage

Inside ESSA Plans: How Are States Looking Beyond Test Scores?

School officials: Get ready to figure out whether your students have a problem with chronic absenteeism. And while you’re at it, see if you’re getting them ready for college and the workplace. 

Attendance—particularly chronic absenteeism—and college-and-career readiness are by far the most popular new areas of focus for accountability among the 40-plus states that have filed their plans to implement the Every Student Success Act, an Education Week review shows.

Latest News

Indiana Lawmakers Appealing for Reprieve from Federal Graduation Rate Changes

Indiana’s congressional delegation is seeking a moratorium on federal guidelines that would drastically lower Indiana’s high school graduation rate.

Thousands of Indiana diplomas would not count toward Indiana’s graduation rate under new rules put in place by the U.S. Department of Education and the Every Student Succeeds Act, a new federal education law. 

Indiana’s rate would fall to 76.5 percent, from 89.1 percent, for the 2016 class if the rule had taken effect earlier. 

Key Coverage

Your One-Stop Shop for ESSA Info on Teachers, Testing, Money, and More

For teachers, parents, principals, and others, the Every Student Succeeds Act is no longer on the horizon. Now it’s in their schools.

Yes, ESSA has officially taken effect this school year. All but four states have turned in their plans for the education law’s implementation to the federal government—and some states’ plans have already gotten approved by the U.S. Department of Education. But there’s a decent chance you’re still gathering information and learning about ESSA.

Latest News

Florida Submits Its Every Student Succeeds Act Plan

After months of planning and feedback, the Florida Department of Education submitted its federal Every Student Succeeds Act accountability plan on Wednesday.

Originally, the department had intended to request waivers relating to percentages of students tested, assessment exemptions for English learners and the use of demographic subgroups to differentiate accountability.

EWA Radio

Are the Feds Ignoring Segregated Schools?
EWA Radio: Episode 140

(Pexels/Pixabay)

In a cover story for The Nation, Emmanuel Felton of The Hechinger Report argues that the federal government has substantially abandoned Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in which struck down the doctrine of “separate but equal” education. Felton found nearly 200 school districts still under federal orders to desegregate, but many of them have failed to submit the requisite progress reports.

Key Coverage

Rivalries, Political Infighting Marked States’ ESSA Planning

The grinding, two-year process of drafting accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act has upended states’ K-12 political landscape and laid bare long-simmering factions among power brokers charged with putting the new federal education law into effect this school year.

Latest News

Gov. Hogan Refuses to Sign Off on Maryland Education Plan

Gov. Larry Hogan is refusing to endorse the Maryland school board’s plan for helping low-performing schools, saying state board members were hamstrung by a new law limiting what the plan can include.

The General Assembly passed legislation this year that limits ways the state can try to reform its lowest-performing schools — those in the bottom 5 percent. The Republican governor vetoed that bill, but the Democratic-controlled legislature overrode him.

Key Coverage

On State Accountability Plans, Another Test for Betsy DeVos

Monday marks the final deadline by which nearly all states must have submitted a K-12 accountability plan to the U.S. Department of Education, marking a pivotal – if not yet final – step in how schools will operate under the new federal education law.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, gives states new flexibility to create accountability systems that suit their unique needs. Those plans must be vetted and cleared by the Department of Education before states begin implementing them in the near future.

Latest News

State Superintendent Says Plan Aims at Reaching All Students in Need

State officials in Washington are proposing a plan they say will help every child succeed.

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal visited Marie Curie STEM Elementary School in Pasco to announce the submission of the state’s plan to meet the requirements set out in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

The law, which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act, requires each state to develop a plan showing how they will spend federal dollars. The Department of Education has 120 days to comment on the plan before making a decision about it.

Latest News

Iowa Sends Every Student Succeeds Act Plan to U.S. Department of Education

Iowa officials submitted their plan to meet new education standards under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act to the U.S. Department of Education on Monday.

The Every Student Succeeds Act replaced the No Child Left Behind policy and was signed by President Barack Obama in 2015. In Iowa, it is intended to be fully implemented by Fall 2018.

The legislation maintains some of No Child Left Behind’s focus on school accountability, though not its sanctions against underperforming schools, and gives states more control over how schools are assessed and monitored.

Key Coverage

Testing Remains Key Part of Georgia’s Education Plan

Georgia hopes to embark on a new education plan that shifts away from the tough test-and-punish regime of the past that some say was unrealistic and unfair but others say held schools accountable for all students, including their worst performers.

On Monday, the state will submit its plan for compliance with the latest updates to the federal education law, known as the No Child Left Behind Act under President Georgia Bush and now as the Every Student Succeeds Act, after it was amended with bipartisan support under President Barack Obama more than a year ago.

Key Coverage

Is Iowa’s ESSA Plan Doing Enough for Low-Income and Minority Students?

Iowa’s minority and low-income students will have different — sometimes lower — goals than their white, affluent peers under a new school accountability plan developed by the Iowa Department of Education.

That is drawing attention to the sticky crossroads of educational aspirations and the reality of helping students who are sometimes three to four grade levels below their peers.

Latest News

Minnesota Set to Revamp How Public Schools Are Graded

After years of intense pressure on school test scores, the state’s education department on Monday submitted a final plan to the federal government that broadens its previous reach — promising to evaluate more schools than before, and in a well-rounded fashion.

With the federal No Child Left Behind education law being replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) nationwide, Minnesota will focus on the lowest-performing schools that get federal money for low-income students.

Latest News

Pennsylvania Submits Its Every Student Succeeds Act Plan to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

Gov. Tom Wolf signed off on Pennsylvania’s roadmap for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act on Monday and submitted it to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for her approval.

The plan, which was made public Monday, establishes what the department describes as “ambitious yet attainable” goals of raising student performance, increasing graduation rates and having English learners move toward achieving English language proficiency.

Latest News

Public Needs More Data in Annual Snapshot of Public School Districts, Officials Say

How public schools are rated annually needs to be expanded to shed light on gaps in access to the best teachers, race and income, state officials said.

Under current rules, districts are given letter grades yearly based largely on how students fare on key tests.That would not change.But doing so ignores the wide range of school performance in a district, including access to certified teachers, officials said.

Member Stories

September 8 – 14
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Aliyya Swaby writes in The Texas Tribune on how Hurricane Harvey has reignited anxieties in an annexed school district. 

 
 

Edsource’s Carolyn Jones reports on how California leaders are pledging millions of dollars to support “dreamers” with financial aid and legal services. 


 

Webinar

Covering State ESSA Plans: What Reporters Need to Know

Covering State ESSA Plans: What Reporters Need to Know

States across the nation are taking another look at their school accountability systems in response to the Every Student Succeeds Act, a rewrite of the main federal law for K-12 education. So far, 16 states and the District of Columbia have submitted their ESSA plans for review by the U.S. Department of Education. Another 33 states have until Sept. 18  to do so.

Latest News

What Happens to 5,000 CMS Kids Who Failed Grade 3 Reading?

In 2012 North Carolina lawmakers decided they could improve education by requiring third-graders to show they could read at grade level before advancing to fourth grade. The idea was that educators, students and families would be more motivated to develop reading skills early.

But five years later, the law that was billed as ending “social promotion” hasn’t created a more literate student population. In North Carolina and CMS, third-grade reading proficiency has actually dropped slightly in the ensuing years, according to 2017 data released last week.

Latest News

Counting DACA Students

How many students are affected by President Trump’s decision to end the program that shields young, undocumented immigrants, ages 15 and up, from deportation?

Counting students who have received approval for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) isn’t easy. The reason is that schools, both high schools and colleges, generally don’t ask students if they have DACA status. So the data aren’t collected. 

Member Stories

August 11 – 17
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

ChalkBeat’s Julia Donheiser walks us through the steps educators across the country are taking to prepare for next week’s “Great American Eclipse.”

 
 

Jennifer Chambers of The Detroit News looks at how school supplies get into the hands of students where many children live in poverty, and parents cannot afford the long list of required items.


 

Member Stories

August 4 – 10
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

KPPC’s Kyle Stokes reports that while vaccination rates in California schools reached an all-time high in the prior academic year, one subset of public schools still appears to be lagging behind: charter schools.

 
 

Jenny Rankin provides commentary for the L.A. Times on why 41% of teachers leave the profession within their first five years.


 

Webinar

Follow the Money: Digging Into School District Finances

Follow the Money: Digging Into School District Finances

When it comes to school district finances, the numbers aren’t easy to add up. But tracking and analyzing this information is a powerful tool to drive smart news coverage. 

Veteran education journalist Tawnell Hobbs of The Wall Street Journal shares tips and tricks for digging into district operating budgets and actual expenditures, as well as salary databases, overtime requests, check registers and credit card accounts, purchase orders, and more. Learn how to evaluate fiscal data that’s readily available and make the most of open records requests. 

Member Stories

July 21 – 27
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

As AP test scores fall, Diana Lambert and Phillip Reese of the Sacramento Bee ask the question: are students ready for college-level coursework? 

 
 

Suzanne Pekow and the APM Reports team are back with a new episode of the Educate podcast, outlining the current school trend back towards segregation.


 

Member Stories

July 28 – August 3
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

The Florida Times-Union’s Denise Smith Amos reports on a local district’s disproportionate rates of suspension and discipline amongst black students.

 
 

Writing for EducationDive, Linda Jacobson speaks with educators still working out how to get the right balance of testing without sacrificing valuable instructional time.


 

Member Stories

July 14 – 20
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Bracey Harris of The Clarion-Ledger has the latest on the federal investigation into allegations that a school district discriminated against Hispanic students by retroactively changing their transcripts and schedules in a bid to make the students ineligible for state exams.

 
 

From the Virginia GazetteAmanda Williams discusses the concerns that led to the signing of a bill mandating schools test their water for unsafe levels of lead.


 

Member Stories

July 7 – 13
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Kevin Richert reports for Idaho Ed News that barely 12 percent of Idaho’s class of 2016 graduated high school with AP college credits in hand — lagging well below the national average.

 
 

Jennifer Palmer writes for Oklahoma Watch about how some districts are now raising a long-held cap on the number of students in pre-K classrooms, a move that could dilute the state’s most admired and arguably successful educational initiative.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Beyond Boundaries: Deeper Reporting on School Attendance Zones

When Baltimore County school officials wanted to move boundary lines in 2015, some parents predicted declining property values and voiced fears of sending their children to school with “those kids.”

Liz Bowie, a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, pushed for clarity on the coded language. Doing so, she told a packed room at the Education Writers Association’s recent National Seminar, is crucial to news coverage of school boundaries and the often related issues of segregation, class bias, and equity.

Member Stories

June 30 – July 6
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Adam Harris of The Chronicle of Higher Education provides an update on the month of stagnation since Betsy DeVos has taken reporters’ questions, or made other senior officials available to explain policy shifts.

 
 

Key Coverage

The Fight for Fairmount Park Elementary

She applied her “listen-to-me lipstick,” a hot pink that commanded attention, and got into her Toyota 4Runner for the long drive to Fairmount Park Elementary. It was time for some frank talk with the teachers who were struggling in one of Pinellas County’s toughest schools.

Key Coverage

Test Drive: New Hampshire Teachers Build New Ways to Measure Deeper Learning

Just outside Concord High School, a delivery truck has spilled its chemical supplies. The students’ mission: Investigate the properties of the spill and develop a detailed plan to clean it up safely.

Teenagers wearing safety goggles squat down, sucking up samples of the clear liquid with pipettes. The simulated spill has been “contained” in a fish tank. But the students play along, first by developing some “testable questions” with their partners: How acidic is it? How does it compare with the properties of each substance on the truck?

Member Stories

June 9 – 15
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Liz Bell of Education NC found that some North Carolina teachers had to mark students’ final grades as “incomplete” because they received final exam scores before their grading deadlines, and in some cases, teachers were asked to come back to school—after their contracts are over—to amend students’ final grades.

 
 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Advocates Fear Impact of Trump Budget on Arts Education

President Donald Trump’s plans to eliminate some big-tickets items in the federal education budget — such as aid for after-school and teacher quality programs – have sparked sharp criticism. At the same time, supporters of the arts are rallying against the president’s proposal to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts — which provides some grants for arts education.

Webinar

Covering ESSA Accountability in the Trump Era

Covering ESSA Accountability in the Trump Era

With states revamping their school accountability systems under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, recent actions by Congress and the Trump administration raise important questions about what’s ahead. First, the Senate last week narrowly approved a bill to repeal ESSA accountability rules issued by the Obama administration. (President Donald Trump is expected to sign the measure.) Also, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos just issued new ESSA guidelines for states.

EWA Radio

“Rewarding Failure”: Education Week Investigates Cyber Charters
EWA Radio: Episode 107

Reporter Arianna Prothero discusses Education Week’s eight-month investigation of online charter schools,  including how some companies aggressively lobby states to craft regulations that allow them to flourish despite spotty records on student achievement. Why do some students opt for this kind of alternative publicly funded education? What do we know about attendance, academic achievement, and school quality in cyber charters? Who are the big players in the cyber charter industry, and how much is known about their policies, practices, and profits?

Prothero answers these and other questions and shares story ideas for local reporters covering online charter schools in their own communities.

Report

Examining the Utility of Achievement Levels for the ‘Nation’s Report Card’
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds that while the NAEP achievement levels for reading and math can be a useful reporting tool, they are susceptible to misinterpretation and misuse.  The committee that conducted the study and wrote the report said that users of NAEP data need more guidance on the interpretations and use of achievement levels.

Report

Examining the Utility of Achievement Levels for the ‘Nation’s Report Card’
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds that while the NAEP achievement levels for reading and math can be a useful reporting tool, they are susceptible to misinterpretation and misuse.  The committee that conducted the study and wrote the report said that users of NAEP data need more guidance on the interpretations and use of achievement levels.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

What’s Next for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics?
A Q&A With Outgoing Executive Director Alejandra Ceja

Alejandra Ceja has been the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics since 2013 — a position she’ll give up at noon on Jan. 19, the day before the presidential inauguration. I recently sat down with her at the U.S. Department of Education to talk about the state of Latino education, the Initiative’s first 25 years, and what we can expect from the Initiative under the next administration. 

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length. 

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: The Educated Reporter

More Students Are Graduating, But That’s Not the Whole Story

As federal education officials tout a fourth consecutive year of improvement in the nation’s high school graduation rate, the reactions that follow are likely to fall into one of three categories: policymakers claiming credit for the gains; critics arguing that achievement gaps are still far too wide to merit celebrating; and policy wonks warning against misuses of the data.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Crossing Borders Means Repeated Grades, Denied Enrollment for Some Mexican-American Students

Source: Bigstock

There are hundreds of thousands of students who cross borders to attend schools in both the U.S. and Mexico during their elementary, middle and high school years, but poor communication between the two nations often results in significant obstacles for their academic advancement, researchers said at a binational symposium in Mexico this week.

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: 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: Latino Ed Beat

Latinos, Standardized Tests and the Opt-Out Movement

Karen Falla of Univisión Dallas, left, moderated a discussion on standardized testing and the opt-out movement with panelists Peggy McLeod of National Council of La Raza, José Palma of the University of Minnesota, and Ruth Rodriguez of United Opt Out National (not pictured). Source: Leticia Espinosa/ Hoy

While the number of parents who opt out of having their kids take their states’ standardized tests has grown nationally, much of this movement appears to be made up of white, wealthier families. Latinos and other minorities seem to be less inclined to avoid standardized testing.

That should not be the case, said Ruth Rodriguez, an administrator with United Opt Out National.

Report

No More Free Lunch for Education Policymakers and Researchers
Brookings Institution

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), like No Child Left Behind before it, requires states to report information on the academic achievement of students in each of their schools, both overall and for various subgroups of students. A subgroup of particular interest to policymakers and researchers is economically disadvantaged students, who, on average, score much lower on standardized tests than their higher-income peers.

Report

Drop Out, Push Out, & School-to-Prison Pipeline
GLSEN

Educational Exclusion: Drop Out, Push Out, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline among LGBTQ Youth provides an in-depth look at the conditions that effectively push LGBTQ youth out of school and potentially into the criminal justice system. The report provides specific, real world guidance to address the hostile school climates and damaging policies and practices that contribute to pushing LGBTQ youth out of their schools.

Read the report.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Meeting Parents’ School-Data Needs

It's essential for parents to be competent at managing their own children's educational data, and for school districts to be transparent about what information is stored and shared, experts say. (Flickr/Knight Foundation)

Parents need more than a report card to know how their children are doing in school. And as they evaluate their local educational options, many parents struggle to find key information, whether it’s course offerings, school-safety statistics, or the quality of teachers.

Reporter Guide

A Reporter’s Guide to Microsoft Access
For education journalists with basic and intermediate Access skills

Figure1

Published May 2016

What is Microsoft Access?

Microsoft Access is a great database manager. It allows you to use queries to pull specific information from a database. For instance, if you have a database with a million rows of information and 30 columns, you can specify what information in that data you want to see by using a query – it’s like creating a mini-database. It’s different than doing filters in Excel, because filtered information is still there but you just can’t see it. Access also allows you to join two files with ease.

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

Rethinking Accountability in the ESSA Era

Lauren Camera (far left) of US News & World Report moderates the ESSA panel discussion in Boston on May 2, 2016. (Jeffrey Solochek for EWA)

When President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act in December, he shifted significant power over educational accountability back to states and school districts.

They still face federal requirements on testing, identifying and assisting the lowest performing schools, and related matters. Money remains the carrot.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Behind the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Failure Factories Series

Kindergartner Tyree Parker sits at the front doors of Maximo Elementary as he waits for school to open. (Tampa Bay Times/Dirk Shadd)

Cara Fitzpatrick was in labor when her husband – and colleague at the Tampa Bay Times – asked her “So what can you tell me about segregation in Pinellas County?”

The paper had just decided to do a large-scale investigation into the district’s schools that were serving predominately low-income, black students. Two years later, Fitzpatrick’s son is walking and talking and she and the rest of the team have earned a Pulitzer Prize for their series Failure Factories.  

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Identifying ‘Gifted’ English-Language Learners

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

When students don’t speak English well, it can be easy for their outstanding academic abilities to get overlooked. 

In a recent NPR story for All Things Considered, Claudio Sanchez tells listeners about a program in Arizona’s Paradise Valley Unified School District that has figured out a way to identify the talents of gifted students  – even as they’re still learning the English language.

Report

National Benchmarks for State Achievement Standards
American Institutes for Research

State achievement standards represent how much the state expects their students to learn in order to reach various levels of academic proficiency. In the past, these achievement standards were used by each state to report adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind federal legislation, and are now being used for federal reporting under the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.

Report

National Benchmarks for State Achievement Standards
American Institutes for Research

State achievement standards represent how much the state expects their students to learn in order to reach various levels of academic proficiency. In the past, these achievement standards were used by each state to report adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind federal legislation, and are now being used for federal reporting under the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.

Report

Evaluating the Content and Quality of Next Generation Assessments
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute

Evaluating the Content and Quality of Next Generation Assessments examines previously unreleased items from three multi-state tests (ACT Aspire, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced) and one best-in-class state assessment, Massachusetts’ state exam (MCAS), to answer policymakers’ most pressing questions: Do these tests reflect strong content? Are they rigorous? What are their strengths and areas for improvement? No one has ever gotten under the hood of these tests and published an objective third-party review of their content, quality, and rigor. Until now.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Making Sense of Global Comparisons in Education

Chinese girls in their classroom. Shanghai drew widespread attention for its high test scores on PISA in 2012. Later this year, new results will be released for PISA and another international exam, putting a spotlight once again on how the achievement of dozens of countries and education systems compare. (Flickr/Brian Yap)

Nearly 50 years ago, the U.S. first got a snapshot of how its students compare with their peers in other countries based on a standardized test. The news was sobering.

“Look towards the bottom of this list, and see the U.S. coming in 11th out of 12 [industrialized] countries” in math, said Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution, pointing to a chart he presented last month at an Education Writers Association seminar in Washington, D.C. “Only Sweden scored below the U.S.”

Report

Quality Counts 2016: Report and Rankings
Education Week

The 2016 edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts report—Called to Account: New Directions in School Accountability—examines how new state and federal strategies are transforming the assessment of school performance and reshaping the consequences for poor results. The new Every Student Succeeds Act is widely believed to herald a shift in authority away from the federal government and back to the states and school districts. Pressure is also mounting for accountability systems to go beyond test scores and incorporate other academic and non-academic factors in meaningful ways.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

This Is What’s New in 2016 from EWA

Here’s something to add to your list of New Year’s resolutions, and it might even make it easier to keep that pledge to exercise more often: Subscribe to EWA Radio! Each week, we feature education journalists sharing the backstory to their best work. You’ll hear tips for managing the daily beat, as well as ideas for localizing national issues for your own audience. 

Here are a few more opportunities from EWA to help ramp up your reporting in 2016: 

Webinar

Exclusive Access: Education Week’s ‘Quality Counts’ 2016

Exclusive Access: Education Week’s ‘Quality Counts’ 2016

EWA journalist members received an early opportunity to review Education Week’s newest Quality Counts report, which includes a special focus on school accountability.

As part of its annual Quality Counts report, Education Week grades states on a wide range of indicators, including the Chance-for-Success Index, K-12 Achievement Index, and school finance.

Report

High School Closures in New York City

In the first decade of the 21st century, the NYC Department of Education implemented a set of large-scale and much debated high school reforms, which included closing large, low-performing schools, opening new small schools and extending high school choice to students throughout the district. The school closure process was the most controversial of these efforts. Yet, apart from the general sense that school closures are painful, there has never been a rigorous assessment of their impact in NYC.

Report

LOCKED OUT: Improving Educational and Vocational Outcomes for Incarcerated Youth
The Council of State Governments Justice Center

There is perhaps no population of young people who have a greater need for access to quality education and who experience more barriers to access than incarcerated youth. How are educational and vocational services being made available to them? How are states collecting and tracking student outcome data? How are juvenile correctional agencies and education agencies working together to ensure that these youth transition to a community-based educational or vocational setting after release from incarceration?

Report

State Capacity to Support School Turnaround
Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

More than 80 percent of states made turning around low-performing schools a high priority, but at least 50 percent found it very difficult to turn around low-performing schools. 38 states (76 percent) reported significant gaps in expertise for supporting school turnaround in 2012, and that number increased to 40 (80 percent) in 2013.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Cultural Values and the Path to Early Academic Success

Selma Caal of Child Trends Hispanic Institute, Paulina Sodi of Telemundo Houston, and José Lizárraga of the University of California, Berkeley participated in a panel discussion on educating young Latinos during the 2015 Spanish-Language Media Convening in Orlando on Sept. 17. Source: Twitter/ via @PaulinaSodi

Latino children enter kindergarten with socioemotional skills that are on par and sometimes even better than their non-Latino peers’ abilities. This means they’re on track in their capability to make friends and behave in school. But Latinos also have a greater probability of arriving to their first day of classes behind their peers academically.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

PARCC Test Results Coming Soon, But State Comparisons Limited

(Flickr/USAG- Humphreys)

New details on Common Core-aligned assessments came to light yesterday, as officials with one of the state testing consortia shared information on cut scores for the roughly five million students who took the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests this spring. In addition, the officials revealed the timeline for when those results will be made public.

EWA Radio

Summer Reading List: “The Prize”
EWA Radio: Episode 38

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In 2010, billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced an unprecedented gift: he would donate $100 million to the public school district of Newark, New Jersey (dollars that would eventually be matched by private partners).

Dale Russakoff, a longtime reporter for The Washington Post, spent more than three years reporting on what turned into a massive experiment in top-down educational interventions—with decidedly mixed results. 

EWA Radio

When Artists Visit a Low-Income School to Teach Theater and Music
EWA Radio: Episode 37

(Staten Island Advance/Lauren Steussy)

Over the summer The Staten Island Advance published a three-part series about an arts residency program that tasked professional artists to teach elementary school students to teach them theater and music – arts instruction that otherwise didn’t exist at PS 57, a largely low-income school in the New York borough. Reporter Lauren Steussy followed the kids, teachers and parents of the school as they took in the sights and sounds of a campus suddenly abuzz with the stomps and squeaks of performing arts.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Report: Skipping School Hurting Younger Learners

(Flickr/April)

While too many students at all grade levels are regularly skipping school, many preschoolers and kindergarteners are missing nearly as much seat time as teenagers, according to a new report.

The lost learning time, particularly in the younger grades, translates into weaker math and reading skills that become long-term deficits for students even years down the road, according to the new report from Attendance Works, a national advocacy organization, and the nonprofit Healthy Schools Campaign.

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

Connecting Education, Workforce Data Key to Strong State Labor Markets
National Governors Association

As the individual with the platform and budget authority to guide public education and economic development at the state level, the governor plays a central role in ensuring that public educational institutions provide students with the knowledge and abilities required for a successful life and career. The systemic use of data from education and labor markets informs governors and other policymakers of the effectiveness and efficiency of their existing postsecondary systems and students and employers of labor market conditions.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Back-to-School: Story Ideas That Shine

Flickr/OddHarmonic

While it may seem that every back-to-school story has been written, the well is far from dry. Are you following the blogs teachers in your district write? Have you amassed the data sets you’ll need to write that deep dive explaining why so many local high school graduates land in remedial classes when they first enter college?

No? It’s OK. You’re not alone.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Schools With Tough Tests Send More Low-Income Kids to College

Morris Jeff Community School in Louisiana, an  International Baccalaureate school. (Source: Flickr/Bart Everson)

Schools that that teach low-income students a notoriously demanding curriculum are almost twice as likely to see those students enroll in college, a new report shows.

This news comes on the heels of growing research suggesting that challenging assessments, which are a staple of the International Baccalaureate program featured in the report, help students develop a deeper understanding of key subjects like math and history. That “deeper learning,” in turn, may lead to more college opportunities. 

Webinar

Is It Bon Voyage For No Child Left Behind?
Webinar on Federal Policy

(Flickr/Patrick)

Education Week reporter Lauren Camera, David DeSchryver, senior vice president of Whiteboard Advisors, and Bethany Little, principal at Education Counsel, break down the future of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for journalists.

Now that both the Senate and the House of Representatives have passed bills renewing the act, journalists can examine the potential impact of the new provisions. Learn how you can cover these in your state and district and find out questions you should be asking.

Speakers

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: The Educated Reporter

The Secret to Great School Budget Stories? Dig, Dig, Dig

A Dallas Independent School District's Citizen Budget Review Commission meeting in 2011. Dallas Morning News reporter Tawnell Hobbs found rampant misspending in an investigation of the district's finances that covered four years of financial records.  (Flickr/Todd Overman for DISD)

News stories on school district budgets often stick to whether spending is up or down, whether employees received raises or not. So Dallas Morning News reporter Tawnell Hobbs helped attendees at the Education Writers Association National Seminar delve deeper into school spending and unlock the juiciest stories during a session in Chicago on April 20.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Too Many Tests?

(Flickr/Cybrarian77)

An opt-out movement gained momentum this spring, with tens of thousands of students sitting out of new standardized tests in states including New York, Maine and New Mexico.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, a panel of testing experts gathered at the Education Writers Association’s recent National Seminar in Chicago to discuss the very predicament.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Common Core Testing in Action: How Did It Go?

Flickr/Judy Baxter

This academic year marks a critical juncture for the Common Core, as most states started testing students on the standards for the first time. The beginning has had some rough moments, with thousands of students opting out of the tests, especially in New York and New Jersey, and technology glitches in some states disrupting the assessments.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Benefits of Investing in Early Childhood Education

(Flickr/Barnaby Wasson)

Preschool advocates have had a tough time convincing lawmakers that spending money in the earliest years of a child’s education has a long-term payoff.

Just ask Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner.

At this year’s Education Writers Association conference in Chicago, Rauner said her husband, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, understands the value of early childhood education.

Multimedia

Guardians of the Gigabytes: Who Is Protecting Students’ Data?
2015 EWA National Seminar

Guardians of the Gigabytes: Who Is Protecting Students’ Data?

Children are the future, but they’re also the source of billions of data points, and the battle over that information has just begun. Startups are angling for a piece of the multibillion-dollar education market those kids represent, while government agencies are touting data collection to improve instruction. But who’s keeping student data safe?

Moderator:

  • Benjamin Herold, Education Week

Speakers:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How to Get Dollars to Schools That Need Them

"Covering the Economics of Education," April 20, 2015.

At a speech in December, Janet Yellen, the chair of the Federal Reserve, took the United States to task for the way it funds schools.

“Public education spending is often lower for students in lower-income households than for students in higher-income households,” she told the audience at the Conference on Economic Opportunity and Inequality, in Boston.

Story Lab

Story Lab: Making Federal Data a Gold Mine for Your Reporting

Need a state or national statistic? There’s likely a federal data set for that. From fairly intuitive and interactive widgets to dense spreadsheets — and hundreds of data summaries in between — the U.S. Department of Education’s various research programs are a gold mine for reporters on the hunt for facts and figures.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Teachers Keep Teaching, Contrary to Conventional Wisdom

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan meets with teachers in Los Angeles on October 21, 2014. Photo credit: Flickr/U.S. Dept. of Education

Despite previous reports that new teachers are ditching their professions in record numbers, new federal data suggest that a grand majority of novice classroom instructors are showing up for work year after year.

Eighty-three percent of rookie teachers in 2007 continued to educate public school students half a decade later, according to the 2007–08 Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study. Ten percent of teachers left the field after just one year.

Report

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

Protecting Student Data: Even Experts Are Just ‘Figuring It Out’

Protecting Student Data: Even Experts Are Just ‘Figuring It Out’

The last decade’s increasing reliance on data-driven education tools has policy leaders scrambling to safeguard personal information as Americans increasingly become concerned about their children’s digital footprints.

Chief among the challenges lawmakers face is juggling the extraordinary growth of an industry and the personal safety of students.

Reporter Guide

Making Sense of Education Research

Most education reporters from time to time will tread into the world of education research, whether to gauge charter school achievement, the impact of teacher quality, or the effects of a reading program, among myriad possibilities. But making sense of the research, with its often-impenetrable prose, dizzying figures, and mathematical formulas, can be daunting. Despite the challenge, gaining some basic skills and knowledge in navigating research makes for stronger journalism. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Motivation May Not Improve Student Scores, While Girls Still March Forward

By Jorge (originally posted to Flickr as School girls) CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

At schools around the globe, girls outscore boys, and bored students are better test-takers than their more motivated peers. These topsy-turvy observations are the latest findings in a report from the Washington-based Brookings Institution, research that is part of a long-running series that aims to put a finger on the pulse of academics in the United States and abroad. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Common Core Opponents Turn Up Heat on Testing Front

Panelists and moderator Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week discuss the political situation for common standards and testing at an EWA seminar on Feb. 26.

Source: EWA/ Natalie Gross

Fiery anti-Common Core campaign rhetoric hasn’t translated into many victories for those seeking to repeal the standards. Legislators in 19 states introduced bills to repeal the Common Core this session. So far none has succeeded. Repeal bills in even the reddest states – states like Mississippi, Arizona, and both Dakotas – have failed to make it to governors’ desks this year.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

U.S. High School Graduation Rate Inches Higher

For interactive map, scroll down. 

More students in the United States are graduating from high school, according to newly released data from the U.S. Department of Education.

“America’s students have achieved another record-setting milestone,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a prepared statement. “This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country, and these improvements are thanks to the hard work of teachers, principals, students and families.”

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Which States Do Best at Graduating Latino Boys from High School?

Source: Flickr/Alex Thompson (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

When it comes to giving high-school diplomas to Latino males, Alaska does it best. Nevada has some work to do.

According to a report released today by the Schott Foundation for Public Education – which focuses on the graduation rates of black and Latino males — graduation rates among Latino males have risen from 59 to 65 percent since 2009-10. The gap between whites and Latinos has also decreased 5 percentage points since that time.

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. 

Report

Data Dashboards: Accounting for What Matters
Alliance for Excellent Education

As Congress works to rewrite the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and improve accountability systems for public schools across the country, this report highlights how going beyond a test score when assessing achievement in schools and districts provides more transparent and precise ways to continuously track performance, monitor accountability, and ensure the most at-risk students are not lost in the numbers.

Read the report.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The 2015 Education Beat: Common Core, Testing, School Choice

Students at New York University work on a computer programming project. More interactive learning is expected to be a hot topic in the coming year on both the K-12 and higher education beats. (Flickr/Matylda Czarnecka)

There’s a busy year ahead on the schools beat – I talked to reporters, policy analysts and educators to put together a cheat sheet to a few of the stories you can expect to be on the front burner in the coming months: 

Revamping No Child Left Behind

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: Replacing Principals Tied to Boost in Student Test Scores

Flickr/ecastro (CC BY-SA 2.0)

As more research emerges on the sizable effect school principals have on student learning, some experts are asking whether removing principals who are rated poorly can lead to learning gains among students.

A new report scrutinizing schools in the nation’s capital suggests replacing low-performing principals with new ones is correlated with a modest boost in student academics.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

White House Proposes Tougher Accountability Standards for Teacher Colleges

EWA seminar panel on teacher college accountability, Oct. 21, 2014, Detroit. From left: Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week; Jim Cibulka, CAEP; Segun Eubanks, NEA; Kate Walsh, NCTQ. (NEA Media)

In 2011, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called it “laughable” that in the prior decade the majority of states had failed to rate even one teaching preparation program as inferior. On Tuesday, the White House released draft accountability regulations that are no joke for the nation’s teacher colleges, and could result in a loss of federal funding if their graduates fail to do well on the job.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Using Teacher Data to Drive Education Reporting

Tom Nehil and Beth Hawkins of the MinnPost speak with EWA members in Detroit on Oct. 21, 2014. (EWA/Emily Richmond)

In the Minneapolis Public Schools, nearly two-thirds of the district’s enrollment are students of color. Additionally, 65 percent of the district’s more than 35,000 students qualify for free and reduced-price meals. Beth Hawkins, a reporter for the MinnPost, had a hunch that the best-paid local teachers were working in the wealthiest schools, teaching white students. But this was just a guess, and her colleague at the nonprofit news site, data editor Tom Nehil, wanted to see the numbers. 

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

The ACT, STEM and Latino Students

Fewer than half of Hispanic students who took the ACT this year met the college readiness benchmarks in math or science, according to a new report. Source: Hoodr/ Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Fewer than half of Hispanic students who took the ACT this year met the college readiness benchmarks in math or science, but those who actually expressed interest in STEM fared better on the college admissions exam.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Veterans Day: Leaving the Battlefield for the College Classroom

Veterans Day: Leaving the Battlefield for the College Classroom

Last fall at EWA’s Higher Education Seminar, we examined the challenges of military personnel making the transition from soldiers to students. Given today’s holiday, it seemed like a good time to re-share this post about the panel discussion, held at Northeastern University in Boston. 

Far more students seeking higher education degrees are part-time, older than the traditional 18-22 set and well into their careers. And colleges have been flagged for their lagging efforts to address the unique needs of these mature students.

EWA Radio

Principal Turnover: What’s Happening in Denver?
EWA Radio, Episode 13

Why are so many principals in Denver leaving their jobs? And what is the local school district doing to try and stem the churn? EWA Radio speaks with Katharine Schimel of Chalkbeat Colorado about her story looking into the high rate of principal turnover, and what it means for student learning and campus climate in the Mile High City.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Developments Signal More Growth for Charters

The nation’s charter schools sector appears poised for still more growth — and potentially increased geographic diversity — as several states that have long resisted the push for charters may finally allow them. Also, a fresh round of federal grants and new expansion plans by charter networks are fueling the upward trend.

Reporter Guide

Reporter Guide: Campaign Finance

Campaign finance might seem like the exclusive province of political reporters, but there are many good reasons why you should be paying attention – both in races for education positions and in other key races at the local, state, and federal levels with implications for education. You’ll need basic math and it helps to have familiarity with a spreadsheet, but you’ll find that once you’ve mastered the basics, a good campaign finance story can take on the fun of light detective work.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How Much Time Do Students Spend Taking Tests?

Amid the strong and growing drumbeat of complaints about overtesting at the K-12 level, many education reporters and others may be left wondering how much time students really spend taking standardized tests. And who is demanding most of this testing, anyway? The federal government? States? Local districts?

Report

A New Era for Educational Assessment

Among education researchers, there is a growing consensus that college and career readiness depends on not just academic knowledge and skills but on a wide range of social and developmental competencies, as well—such as the ability to monitor one’s own learning, persist at challenging tasks, solve complex problems, set realistic goals, and communicate effectively in many kinds of settings. Yet, most U.S. schools continue to use standardized achievement tests, focusing exclusively on reading and math, as their primary means of gauging student progress.

Report

National Math and Science Initiative

DALLAS – The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) boosted student enrollment in college-level math, science and English courses by more than 50,000 in the 2013-14 school year. Based on the most recent data from the College Board, NMSI’s College Readiness Program—working in just 566 schools—also raised the number of Advanced Placement* qualifying exam scores by more than 18,500 exams, representing more than 13,000 additional students who are better prepared for college after this past school year.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

A Lesson in Using Data for Education Stories on Latinos

When investigative reporter Mc Nelly Torres got a parking ticket on a college campus, her first thought wasn’t for her wallet. Instead, her mind raced toward story ideas: Could there be a database of all previous offenses? What’s the most ticketed spot on campus? Which officers give out the most citations?

Seminar

Bursting the Bubbles: Reassessing Assessments

Since the advent of No Child Left Behind 12 years ago, standardized, fill-in-the-bubble tests have become a major part of the school experience. Some say too much of a part. 

Report

Principals Have Lots of Teacher Effectiveness Data, But Don’t Use Them

Time and timing are two other key barriers to principal data use, noted Jason A. Grissom, assistant professor of public policy and education and a collaborator on the study. “Principals face so many demands on their time already, so it can be difficult to find the time to access and analyze data, particularly when those data are not always available to principals at the time talent management decisions need to be made,” he said.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Accessing Student Data: What Reporters Need to Know

While there has been a substantial uptick in the quality and quantity of data being collected on students and educators in schools around the country, accessing it and understanding it is still a challenge.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Chicago’s Dropout Prevention Initiative Targets Ninth Graders

Efforts to address the dropout problem often focus on a host of factors over which educators have little, if any, control – poverty, violence, crime and health, among others.

But educators in Chicago have used a simpler, more precise indicator to keep more students in school: ninth grade course performance.

“That one indicator was more predictive of who would graduate than anything else,” said Elaine Allensworth, Director of the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Open Records, Open Campuses: The Reporter Guide to Access

Betsey Hammond and Daniel Connolly speak at the 67th National Seminar

Education reporters are constantly negotiating access — to schools, students and data. In their session at EWA’s National Seminar, Betsy Hammond of the (Portland, Ore.) Oregonian and Daniel Connolly of the (Memphis, Tenn.) Commercial Appeal discussed two approaches for getting past gatekeepers and to stories worth telling.

Hammond, who described herself as a “data nerd” to the EWA audience at Vanderbilt University in May, focused on data available through public records law.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Are 4th Graders Ready For Online Writing Tests?

Are fourth graders computer-savvy enough to have their writing skills measured in an online assessment? A new federal study suggests that they are, although it’s not clear whether old-fashioned paper and pencil exams might still yield useful results.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Study: Minority Youth Health May Improve With Better Schools

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics finds that low-income Latino and black youth who attend high-performing schools tend to engage in fewer risky health behaviors.

Researchers surveyed 930 high school students in Los Angeles — 521 who by lottery gained admission to top charter schools, and 409 not offered admission. Researchers noted that both groups were similar in demographics and in performance on exams in the eighth grade.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Follow-Up Friday: Get Up To Speed With EWA Webinars

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for EWA Summer School, our webinar series designed to help education reporters sharpen their skills, deepen their knowledge, and develop story ideas. If you missed out on the webinars the first time around, you can catch the replays:

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Kids Count Report Measures Child Well-Being

Three states with large Latino populations lingered in the bottom five states ranked in the annual Kids Count report on child well-being — New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona. Mississippi ranked last.

Overall, states in the Southwest with high poverty rates and large Latino populations tended to be near the bottom.

The Southeast and Appalachia also lingered near the bottom.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Will ‘Portfolio District Model’ Yield Returns on Investment?

The idea has a simple, seductive appeal. Expand the things that work, cut short the things that don’t.

The notion, drawn from the investment world, has manifested itself in public education as the “Portfolio District Model.” Instead of managing stocks and bonds, school districts manage schools, creating or expanding successful ones, closing unsuccessful ones, focusing with zeal on academic results.

Story Lab

FERPA and Clery Act Explained

Credit: EWA

This is a transcript of EWA’s webinar “Data Privacy Rules and Ruses” and has been edited for length and clarity. 

Mikhail Zinshteyn: Welcome everybody to today’s webinar, entitled Data Privacy Rules and Ruses. I’m Mikhail Zinshteyn of EWA and joining us is Frank LoMonte of the Student Press Law Center. For the next half hour, Frank will give us an in-depth look at the chief federal student data privacy law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Webinar

Where Is Your State Hiding Vital Education Data?

Dakarai Aarons and Elizabeth Dabney of Data Quality Campaign will identify the various state and local government agencies storing education data that are vital for your reporting. In many states, the state school board, department of education, mayor’s office, higher-education advisory board, and other agencies keep useful public information – and it’s on the reporter to know where to look. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

OECD Report: U.S. Teens ‘Lack Financial Savvy’

In a new report comparing financial literacy skills among 15-year-olds in 18 countries, U.S. students scored in the middle of the pack on basic questions about savings, bank accounts and credit/debit cards, and weighing risks and rewards in deciding how to spend their dollars.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Which Education Research Is Worth the Hype?

Source: Holly Yettick (http://hollyyettick.com/)

Education reporters may have the power of the pen, but when it comes to navigating the complex methods of research studies, we may feel powerless. As researchers churn out report after report, how can journalists on deadline figure out which studies are worth covering?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Reporter’s Guide to Research: Getting Smart About Education Studies

Academic research can serve up some of the most original and meaningful stories journalists could hope to cover, if only we know where to look. But Holly Yettick, a reporter-turned-researcher at the University of Colorado-Denver, says hardly anyone in the news business today is writing about the latest research on schools.  In one of the conference’s first sessions, Yettick shared her tips for finding good studies to write about and writing about them without overselling the results.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Student Data Privacy: Politics and Practicalities

One of the most contentious topics in education news today may also one of the least understood: student data policy.

People who want to tighten laws and procedures around sharing student data with online learning providers say they students are being targeted by advertisers and others with nefarious intent. Those who want to use student information to customize their learning online say the worries are exaggerated and proposed laws will get in the way of personalized student learning.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Standing Out On Social Media

Today’s post features guest blogger Michelle Gininger, media relations and outreach manager at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who attended EWA’s National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville last month.

Are you ready to take your social-media initiatives to a new level? Do you want to get beyond the “press release” tweet and the “come to our event” Facebook post?

Seminar

Diving Into Data Workshop

Data journalism is more than just reporting on numbers.  It’s taking the records of a half-million students and uncovering alarming absentee rates. It’s tracking the attrition of students from neighborhood schools.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Common Core: Angles on Assessments

Jacqueline King speaks at the 67th National Seminar.

The current generation of assessments being taken by students across the country is something like a bad boyfriend. 

That’s according to Jacqueline King of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, who made the point at EWA’s National Seminar held last month at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. When a better guy (or test) comes along, she continued, it’s hard to take it seriously.

Report

Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future

Marking the 60th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v Board of Education, the UCLA’s Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles assessed the nation’s progress in addressing school segregation, and found that–contrary to many claims–the South has not gone back to the level of segregation before Brown. It has, however, lost all of the additional progress made after l967, but is still the least segregated region for black students. New statistics show a vast transformation of the nation’s school population since the civil rights era.