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?
Leaders of a group of charter schools and Los Angeles Unified School District officials were working up to the last minute to avert a public fight at Tuesday’s school board meeting over district rules the charters find onerous.
Portrayal of Afghan Women and Girls in Primary School Textbooks Varies Based On Ruling Powers, Stanford Research Finds
A Stanford Graduate School of Education study of Afghan schoolbooks from 1980 to 2010 shows that the portrayal of women and girls has fluctuated sharply over the years – from egalitarian to nearly nonexistent to largely traditional – depending on the regime in power.
In many rural towns throughout Appalachia–and across the world, for that matter—the school and the church may be the only public spaces where a community can see itself. The livelihood of one of those spaces is currently at the mercy of state-level redistricting.
Heading into their Nov. 7 meeting, Pasco County School Board, located in northwest Florida, members said they harbored concerns about superintendent Kurt Browning’s proposal to transform Ridgewood High School into a magnet technical school.
This episode of the inewsource podcast is about best intentions and shortcuts, struggles and triumphs, journalism and empathy. It’s about Gompers Preparatory Academy.
The venerated charter school is in Chollas View, San Diego, where nearly half the children under 18 live in poverty. In the early 2000s, Gompers was a public middle school besieged by a culture of drugs, gangs and violence.
Whatever way you look at it, the Aurora school board election on Nov. 7 is likely to be a game-changer.
Four of the board’s seven seats are up for election — a majority that could potentially redirect the school district’s reforms. Of the nine people who will appear on the ballot for those four seats, only one is an incumbent. The other candidates include a lawyer who is married to a teacher, a former board member, a truck driver, a fire inspector, and a graduate of Aurora Central — one of the district’s lowest performing schools.
The Riverview Gardens School District is falsely boosting its attendance numbers under an orchestrated effort to regain full state accreditation, two district principals allege in federal lawsuits.
Kansas Schools May No Longer Group Students By Grade Level As Part of Plan to Remake Education System
Kansas public school officials are launching a project to overhaul the way education is delivered in the state through a project that they say is so ambitious, they are likening it to the NASA moon missions of the 1960s.
Chicago Charter Schools Hired 163 Public School Staffers Banned For Misconduct, Including Sexual Abuse
More than 160 staff barred from Chicago Public Schools, including three for sexual abuse, four for drugs or alcohol violations, and nearly two dozen for physically abusing students, found work in city charter schools, according to a CPS inspector general report released Tuesday.
Portland Public Schools paid a law firm more than $11,000 to keep secret the trove of records detailing its mishandling of sexual misconduct complaints against an educator.
The Oregonian/OregonLive used those records as a primary basis for a news story that revealed how district officials protected educator Mitch Whitehurst time and again at the expense of children. That article spurred the school district to launch an outside investigation of its own into how it handled Whitehurst.
After Julie Rodriguez enrolled her 10-year-old autistic son at a public school on Chicago’s Southwest Side last year, she found herself navigating a maze of paperwork that she said seemed designed to prevent her son from getting the special education services he needed.
A total of 8,700 students from the Christina district attend non-district schools. That’s 38 percent — far more than any other district.
Each year, there’s more empty seats at Christina schools, as parents are increasingly “choicing” into other districts, or picking charter or vo-tech schools, according to state and school district data analyzed by WHYY.
Elizabeth Paige, a Christina school board member who served as board president until recently, said the ever-rising number causes her and others on the board and across the district deep concern.
When a school shuts down, students lose more than a place of learning; they lose friends, mentors and a community. This is an experience that disproportionately affects black students in the U.S. Shereen Marisol Meraji looks at what it’s like when a predominantly black suburb outside Pittsburgh loses its only public high school.
Over the summer, the city announced what it billed as improvements to its year-old centralized, online application system. But the rollout this fall backfired in many corners of the city, parents and Chicago Public Schools preschool teachers told WBEZ. They say the application process was overly complicated, and it resulted in empty seats and long waiting lists on the first day of school.
As South Dakota works to meet its goal of increasing its lowest-in-the-nation average teacher salary, some school districts aren’t helping the cause.
Thirty-eight school districts violated either one or both of two “accountabilities” established by the state Legislature to ensure schools are using the appropriate amount of funds generated by a half-percent sales tax increase to bolster teacher salaries.
The attorney for a suspended Houston ISD principal credited with helping to turn around a struggling school is denying allegations that she didn’t adhere to the district’s decision to relax the student dress code after Hurricane Harvey and that she once threatened a student.
San Juan, Puerto Rico — Can Puerto Rico’s schools get back on their feet in just over a month after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria? The U.S. territory’s top school official has an urgent need to do just that.
Schools may be open again in most parts of storm-ravaged Florida and Texas, but things are hardly back to normal as students and staff deal with cleanup, rebuilding, and the emotional disruption of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
Chris Garcia is in 11th grade at Marathon Middle High School, in the central Florida Keys, which reopened Sept. 27 after being shut down for 15 days because of Irma. The school is part of the Monroe County school district, which includes all of the hard-hit Keys.
Beth Slovic, a longtime education journalist in Portland, Oregon, was making dinner for her family when she noticed a bearded guy on a bicycle pulling up outside her house.
Slovic thought maybe one of her neighbors had ordered takeout. Instead, the man, a process server, came to her front door: Portland Public Schools was suing to block her public-information request for employee records.
Natalie Pate of the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon, reports on how Congress’ failure to reauthorize two federal programs – the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program – will potentially affect millions of children and vulnerable families nationwide.
In Minneapolis, record numbers of families are abandoning their neighborhood schools for charters and other educational options, forcing the district to cut staff, programs, and services as the state’s per-pupil funding leaves with students.
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.
Bethany Barnes of The Oregonian discusses “The Benefit of the Doubt,” her investigation into how Portland Public Schools botched its handling of multiple allegations of a middle school teacher’s sexual misconduct stretching back more than a decade.
On the afternoon of Thursday, Aug. 10, at the Theodore Levin United States Courthouse, attorneys representing Gov. Rick Snyder argued that the state of Michigan, which has been so intimately involved with Detroit Public Schools for almost 20 years, has no responsibility to ensure students in the district are taught how to read.
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.
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.
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.
Every evening for the past two weeks, 8-year-old Chardrea Hayes insisted that her mother, Charlotte, drive by Codwell Elementary School so she could see the Houston ISD campus.
Hayes said Chardrea was devastated when she learned the planned first day of school on Aug. 28 would be delayed after Hurricane Harvey brought-record breaking floods to the Houston area. But on Monday, Chardrea couldn’t stop grinning as she scampered up to the school.
It’s illegal to run schools designed to keep out black students, but the Department of Justice is letting districts get away with it.
New York City closes the door on Mayor Bloomberg’s boot camp for principals, marking end of an era
Ahigh-profile principal training program that started with a bang under Mayor Michael Bloomberg has gone out with a whimper.
The Aspiring Principals Program, a cornerstone of former Chancellor Joel Klein’s approach to the school system, graduated its final class in June and will no longer train new school leaders in New York City.
The stakes are higher than ever for state education chiefs under the Every Student Succeeds Act — but whether they’re being compensated any better is a much murkier picture, an Education Week salary review shows.
State schools superintendents today lead often-emaciated departments tasked with lengthy federal and state to-do lists. They’re also directly in charge of designing and implementing state accountability systems and improving their states’ worst-performing schools under the new federal K-12 law that kicks into high gear this school year.
This week was supposed to be the start of a brand-new school year for the 200,000, or so, students in the Houston Independent School District.
Instead, kids, teachers and staff are dealing with the fallout from Harvey’s record-breaking rainfall and devastating floods.
Public school students in Houston — the nation’s seventh-largest district — had expected to start a new academic year this week. Instead, many of their campuses were converted into emergency shelters, and many students as well as educators are now homeless. Shelby Webb of The Houston Chronicle discusses the latest developments, and shares some personal perspectives on reporting under emotionally charged circumstances.
On what was supposed to be the first day of school in some Texas districts, the state with the nation’s second-largest K-12 student population was in educational crisis Monday, with hundreds of thousands of families reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey. Teachers, students and parents were unsure when classes would be in session, and who, exactly, would be reporting to which schools, when opening bells finally ring.
Valarie Honeycutt Spears of the Lexington Herald Leader reports on the Eastern Kentucky school districts struggling to keep the doors open after taking hits of $1 million or more in a year from a combination of economic and demographic factors.
Anna Burlson spoke with students at Weber State University for the Standard-Examiner as they prepare for another school year with optimism and hope.
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.
Tovin Lapan of The Hechinger Report visited Greenville, Miss., to examine how President Trump’s proposed budget cuts could impact rural school communities that depend heavily on federal aid for after-school and student nutrition programs. What does research show about the connections between connecting students’ eating habits and test scores?
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.
Journalist Kelly Field recently won a top honor at EWA’s National Seminar for her compelling series, “From the Reservation to College,” on the education of Native American students. Field’s coverage for The Chronicle of Higher Education — supported by an EWA Reporting Fellowship — follows several students from the Blackfeet Indian reservation in Montana. Their experiences highlight the significant educational challenges facing Native communities in the U.S. today.
One of the most important things a reporter can do, particularly on the education beat, is follow the money. Tawnell Hobbs, the national K-12 reporter for The Wall Street Journal, shared insights and advice drawn from many years on the beat during an EWA webinar last week.
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.
Lisa Miller, an associate editor at New York magazine, discusses her new profile of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Miller discusses the unwillingness of people close to DeVos to discuss her on the record — including current Department of Education employees — made this one of the most challenging profiles she’s ever written. What do we know about DeVos’ vision for the nation’s public schools that we didn’t know six months ago?
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.
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.
Tensions between charter schools and traditional public schools are a fact of life nationwide, but few places have seen the debate play out with higher stakes and public glare than Washington D.C.
Marked for decades as one of the country’s most under-performing public school systems, the District of Columbia Public Schools gradually lost half of its students to charter schools.
Ann Schimke and Marissa Page of Chalkbeat Colorado discuss the unexpected closure of Clayton Early Learning, a highly regarded Head Start program in the Denver area. Parents were left scrambling, and early education advocates across the country wondering what went wrong.
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 Gazette, Amanda Williams discusses the concerns that led to the signing of a bill mandating schools test their water for unsafe levels of lead.
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.
Although the GOP effort to replace Obamacare appears to have stalled, Congress and the Trump administration still may take important steps on health-care policy and funding with big stakes for schools.
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.
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.
The Rivard Report’s Bekah McNeel explains that while changes to the funding formula are the ultimate goal for most public school advocates in Texas, some districts are not waiting around for legislative relief.
Valarie Honeycutt Spears writes for the Lexington Herald Leader about the Kentucky middle school chorus teacher whose recent coming-out as bisexual lent comfort to some of his LGBT students, but also cost him his job.
Chalkbeat Detroit reporter Erin Einhorn won an EWA award this spring for outstanding beat reporting. Her enterprising coverage included stories about the impact on communities when neighborhood schools are slated for closure, unconventional methods of filling Head Start staffing vacancies, and how many families struggle to find educational options for their children that are safe, high quality, and — just as importantly — accessible.
EdSource’s Jane Meredith Adams reports on an apparent high school suicide cluster in Clovis Unified School District that has fast-tracked district efforts to do more to address students’ mental health.
Jennifer Pignolet of the Commercial Appeal checks on the closure of an AmeriCorps program called City Year in Memphis, which is wrapping up a pilot year at Brownsville and Westside Achievement Middle, a state-run school in Frayser.
Heather Vogell of ProPublica discusses a new investigation into how districts utilize their alternative schools — campuses set up to handle struggling and troubled students. ProPublica concluded that by reassigning students unlikely to graduate out of mainstream classrooms, some traditional high schools were “hiding” their true dropout numbers, and boosting their own ratings within their state’s accountability system.
Jamie Hopkins of The Center for Public Integrity discusses her new investigation (produced in partnership with Reveal) into how proximity to busy roadways is impacting the air quality at thousands of public schools. How close is “too close” for campuses? Why are students of color and those from low-income families more likely to be at risk? Where are parents and health advocates gaining ground in addressing air quality concerns near schools? And how can local reporters use CPI’s online databases to inform their coverage of these issues?
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.
Shelby Webb of The Houston Chronicle discusses her reporting on the gender disparity among superintendents in Texas. She and EWA public editor Emily Richmond also explore some of the reasons behind this statewide — and national — trend, its impact on learning, and what some experts say would help make school and district leadership jobs more appealing to female educators.
Teachers of Low-Income Students Are Nearly as Effective as Teachers of High-Income Students
Mathematica Policy Research
Although children from wealthier families outperform children from poorer families on achievement tests, a new study from Mathematica Policy Research finds that teachers of low-income students are nearly as effective as teachers of high-income students, on average.
The Detroit public-school system was contending with an operating debt of more than $500 million, and the Citizens Research Council of Michigan had estimated that the total debt topped $3.5 billion. For years, money intended for students has instead been paying off old loans, and academic achievement has consistently ranked among the worst in American cities.
The school districts in Texas’ eight largest cities all have Latino superintendents at the helm, as do half of the top 20, Dallas-based KERA News reported Tuesday. The story comes after the recent hire of Richard A. Carranza as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, the largest in the state and seventh largest in the country.
Today’s assignment: Reporting on the nation’s largest school district, with 1.1 million students and an operating budget of $25 billion. Patrick Wall of Chalkbeat New York has dug deep into the city’s special education programs, investigated whether school choice programs are contributing to student segregation rather than reducing it, and penned a three-part series on on one high school’s effort to reinvent itself. He talks with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about his work, and offers tips for making the most of student interviews, getting access to campuses, and balancing bigger investigations with daily coverage. A first-prize winner for beat reporting in this year’s EWA Awards, Wall is spending the current academic year at Columbia University’s School of Journalism as a Spencer Fellow.
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.
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.
Veteran education writer Paul Jablow and multimedia journalist Dorian Geiger discuss their documentary of a young man who escaped the drugs and violence of his West Philadelphia neighborhood thanks to the intensive interventions of a network of support, including his mother, teachers, and social workers. Glen Casey is now a successful student at the University of Pennsylvania and plans on a teaching career. But how unusual is his story, particularly in a public school system of ever-dwindling resources?
Getting High-Quality Teachers to Disadvantaged Students
Video Resources from the 69th EWA National Seminar
Low-income and minority students are less likely to have experienced, high-quality teachers, research shows. What steps can school districts and educators put in place to improve these statistics? Panelists share some strategies.
- James Cole, U.S. Department of Education
- Sonja Santelises, Education Trust
- Dyan Smiley, American Federation of Teachers
- Jeffrey Solochek, Tampa Bay Times (moderator)
For education reporters, coming up with fresh ideas for back-to-school stories is an annual ritual. And if you’re balancing the K-12 and higher education beats, it can be an even bigger challenge.
What will be the impact of the new Every Student Succeeds Act on states and schools, both in policy and practice? EWA will examine an array of issues with the federal law, including testing and accountability, Title I funding, teachers, stakeholder engagement, and curriculum.
Getting in Deep: Immersing Yourself in a Difficult Education Story
Video Resources from the 69th EWA National Seminar
Award-winning Boston Globe journalist Meghan Irons shares lessons from her reporting on two complex stories about students and race: one on equity and campus climate at Boston Latin, the nation’s oldest public school; and another that looked closely at school desegregation 40 years after the tumultuous debut of court-ordered busing in Boston.
- Meghan Irons, The Boston Globe
- Denise Amos, The Florida Times-Union (moderator)
Chalkbeat, the Indianapolis Star and WFYI are teaming up for a joint project to examine why inequality and segregation continue in Indianapolis 60 years after the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education outlawed “separate but equal” schools — and solutions that could lead to change.
As Casey McDermott reports for New Hampshire Public Radio, teachers in the Granite State are increasingly functioning as de facto case managers for vulnerable students. She talks with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about the issues facing youth and their families, ranging from homelessness to food insecurity to substance abuse. The focus on vulnerable students is part of NHPR’s new “State of Democracy” project, examining the real-world implications of policy decisions.
The K-12 investigative reporting track offers a how-to session on digging into public documents that help reporters examine special education policies, highlights journalists’ work on how teachers charged with abusing students are staying in the classroom, and explores how five elementary schools were allowed to become “failure factories.”
Schools in New York City are being asked to consider voluntary diversity plans in an effort to combat widespread segregation in the city’s schools.
According to its online call for proposals under the Diversity in Admissions Initiative, the city’s education department ”seeks to empower schools to strengthen diversity among their students through targeted efforts to change their admissions process.”
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.
Most reporters dread seeing the next school board meeting on the calendar. But as more states take over failing schools, removing them from local control, some journalists are finding open and easily accessible meetings harder to come by, and recognizing the value of what they’ve lost.
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.
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.
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.
Update: On May 2, “Failure Factories” won the $10,000 Hechinger Grand Prize in the EWA National Awards for Education Reporting.
The Pulitzer Prize for local reporting this year went to the Tampa Bay Times for an exhaustive investigation into how a handful of elementary schools in Pinellas County wound up deeply segregated by race, poverty, and opportunity.
Is “school choice” a misnomer in Detroit, where options for students hinge heavily on their ability to find their own transportation?
Steve Reilly, an investigative reporter and data specialist for USA Today, talks with EWA public editor about his newspaper’s groundbreaking year-long project examining shortfalls in how states track, and share information, about teacher discipline and licensing issues.
Iowa prides itself on holding the first caucuses of the presidential election year. EWA public editor Emily Richmond talks with statewide education reporter Mackenzie Ryan of the Des Moines Register about what it’s like to be at the epicenter of the presidential race insanity, her coverage of Republican hopeful Marco Rubio, and the big concerns for Iowa voters when it comes to public schools.
Published December 2015
For already struggling students in high-poverty schools, frequent turnover among their teachers – and an over-reliance on substitutes – can hurt achievement.
For years, common experience and studies have prescribed that humans learn best in their earliest years of life – when the brain is developing at its fastest. Recently, though, research has suggested that the period of optimal learning extends well into adolescence.
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.
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.
What does it really take to help students succeed at school and life, and how much of those gains can really be measured by test scores?
Those are some of the questions journalist Kristina Rizga set out to answer in her reporting on a San Francisco high school, first published by Mother Jones magazine. Her investigation turned into a four-year project and the new book “Mission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail It, and the Students and Teachers Who Made It Triumph.”
In 2013, Chicago education reporter Sarah Karp asked a question: Why was a no-bid contract for $20 million awarded to a relatively unknown company chosen to provide professional development services in the nation’s third-largest school district?
Discipline practices thought to disproportionately affect students of color have been at the center of debates across the country. And with a growing body of research showing the negative long-term effects of zero-discipline policies, especially on minority youth, many school districts have moved to abandon them.
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.
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.
Does an Arizona law banning Mexican-American studies curriculum in public schools intentionally discriminate against Hispanics? That’s the question a federal appeals court has claimed warrants a trial.
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.
Back in December, reporter Lauren Foreman of the Bakersfield Californian sent an email titled “Banned from classrooms” to a group of education journalists.
“One of my district’s assistant supes told me today reporters aren’t allowed to observe classroom instruction, and parents aren’t even allowed to freely do that,” she wrote. Foreman wanted to know what policies were in other districts and how she ought to respond.
EWA’s 68th National Seminar kicks off today in Chicago, and it’s going to be a fantastic three days of discussions, workshops, and site visits. The theme this year is Costs and Benefits: The Economics of Education. Be sure to keep tabs on all the action via the #EWA15 hashtag on Twitter.
Latino and black students in Montgomery County, Md., told school district officials they are sometimes perceived as “academically inferior” and want change under the district’s next leader. The speech by a group of seven minority students was given at a community gathering hosted by the Montgomery County Education Forum amid the district’s search for a new superintendent.
Top tweets from #EWAChoice’s third Saturday session.
Top journo tweets about the first session of the second day of #EWAChoice.
Top tweets from “Eye on Denver” — the second session at #EWAChoice
Top Tweets from #EWAChoice’s first session
A petition addressed to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña is asking the administration to end the use of metal detectors in schools, claiming the added security measures unnecessarily treat black and Latino students like criminals.
Grappling with achievement gaps between their rich and poor students, a growing number of schools and districts are resolving to add more minutes or days to the academic calendar, and Boston has emerged as a leader in this trend.
A non-profit Hispanic group in Palm Beach County, Fla. has asked the school district for a role in helping select the next superintendent — a person they say should have a proven track record of improving graduation rates among minority students.
In Texas, Senate Hispanic Caucus leaders aim to make education a priority for the 84th Legislative Session, which started Jan. 13 and runs through June 1.
Their agenda, announced Monday, includes education along with health care, immigration, civic engagement and economic opportunity, the El Paso Times reported.
Behind every good teacher is a good principal, research shows. How can school districts make sure they have the right leaders in place? Too many school districts have haphazard ways of recruiting and nurturing potential principals.
School districts in Texas’ Bexar County are offering more options for parents to further their education in order to get more involved in their children’s, including after-hours classes in learning English as a second language or preparing to a GED.
IT’S ABOUT TIME draws on a statewide survey to examine how learning time is distributed across California high schools. The survey, conducted by UCLA IDEA during the 2013-2014 school year, included a representative sample of nearly 800 teachers. Survey findings highlight inequalities in the amount of time available for learning across low and high poverty High Schools. Community stressors and chronic problems with school conditions lead to far higher levels of lost instructional time in high poverty high schools.
One outcome of Tuesday’s midterm elections: Nevada can expect to retain the dubious distinction of having one of the nation’s lowest rates of per-pupil funding. A ballot measure that would have levied a new tax on large businesses to benefit public schools failed to garner support, with nearly eight out of 10 Silver State voters opposing it.
The midterm election results have big implications for education, from Republicans’ success in retaking the U.S. Senate to new governors coming in and a slew of education ballot measures, most of which were defeated.
The widely watched race for California’s schools superintendent came down to the wire, with incumbent Tom Torlakson edging out challenger Marshall Tuck — a former charter schools administrator:
Today is a day off from school for millions of students as campuses in some districts and states — including Michigan and New York — are converted into polling stations for the midterm elections. To Peter Levine, the director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, that’s a missed opportunity to demonstrate democracy in action.
District superintendents are increasingly confident in the potential of the Common Core State Standards to help improve student learning even as the school leaders question whether there’s enough time and resources for a smooth implementation, a new survey finds.
EWA’s Emily Richmond and Mikhail Zinshteyn speak with Annie Gilbertson of KPCC, Southern California’s NPR affiliate, about her investigation into the Los Angeles Unified School District’s $1.2 billion investment in classroom technology.
Early education gets support from both sides of the aisle. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce runs campaigns advocating for it. So does Hillary Clinton. And research appears conclusive that it’s important.
But as states respond to the data, a new challenge emerges: implementing early education programs successfully. Several recent stories provide different looks at how some locales are scaling up their early education offerings.
EWA’s Emily Richmond and Mikhail Zinshteyn speak with Money Magazine education reporter Kim Clark about the publication’s first-ever college rankings, which focus on the return-on-investment factor of earning a degree from a particular institution.
In a month dominated by news reports of racial tension, a significant milepost in American race relations garnered less attention: For the first time in this country’s history, white students will this year no longer comprise a majority of the nation’s schoolchildren.
A Chicago Tribune investigation turns up instances of lawmakers intervening in teacher licensing decisions on behalf of their friends and donors. Tribune education reporter Diane Rado speaks with EWA’s Emily Richmond and Mikhail Zinshteyn about her ongoing coverage of licensing issues, and what it means for local students and schools.
State takeover districts have been lauded as the savior of children left behind by inept local school boards — and derided as anti-democratic fireworks shows that don’t address the root causes of poor education. Three panelists took an hour during EWA’s National Seminar in Nashville to get beyond the flash and noise and discuss the real challenges of state school takeovers, a process all acknowledged is disruptive.
The July 21 issue of The New Yorker takes us deep inside the Atlanta cheating scandal, and through the lucid reporting of Rachel Aviv, we get to know some of the teachers and school administrators implicated. We learn not only how and why they say they cheated, but also about the toxic, high-pressure environment they contend was created by Superintendent Beverly Hall’s overwhelming emphasis on improving student test scores.
A year-long investigation into Michigan’s charter schools by the Detroit Free Press uncovered wasteful spending, cozy contracts, and missed opportunities to shut down long-struggling campuses, according to the newspaper.
Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
A school’s leader matters enormously to its success and that of its students and teachers. But how well are U.S. districts identifying, recruiting, selecting, and placing the best possible candidates in principals’ offices? To what extent do their practices enable them to find and hire great school leaders? To what degree is the principal’s job itself designed to attract outstanding candidates?
Tennessee joins a phalanx of other states in ending its relationship with one of the two Common Core-aligned assessment groups.
The state’s top three education leaders sent a letter to Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) announcing that Tennessee will be seeking a new set of tests and leaving the consortium. Education Week has more.
Will Louisiana be the fourth state to bow out of the Common Core State Standards? The state’s governor indicated today in a speech that he intends to do just that, but other state leaders are pushing back. The Times-Picayune has the story on what Gov. Bobby Jindal said and the subsequent fallout.
School leaders are critical in the lives of students and to the development of their teachers. Unfortunately, in too many instances, principals are effective in spite of – rather than because of – district conditions. To truly improve student achievement for all students across the country, well-prepared principals need the tools, support, and culture that enable them to be the best.
Preparing Principals to Raise Student Achievement: Implementation and Effects of the New Leaders Program in Ten Districts
By Susan M. Gates, Laura S. Hamilton, Paco Martorell, Susan Burkhauser, Paul Heaton, Ashley Pierson, Matthew Baird, Mirka Vuollo, Jennifer J. Li, Diana Lavery, Melody Harvey and Kun Gu
New Leaders Principals Affect Student Achievement in Their Schools
- Students who attended schools led by New Leaders principals experienced slightly larger achievement gains on average than similar students in schools led by non–New Leaders principals.
- The magnitudes of achievement effects varied substantially across districts. They also varied across principals.
A Variety of Factors Could Explain the Observed Relationship Between New Leaders Principals and Outcomes
I’ve often made the case that there’s no reporting beat where the reporters are more collegial – or more committed to their work – than education. EWA’s 67th National Seminar, hosted by Vanderbilt University, helped to prove that point.
EWA is at Vanderbilt University this week for our 67th National Seminar. We invited some of our community members to contribute posts from some of the sessions. Today’s guest blogger is Swati Pandey of The Broad Foundation.
When Felice Nudelman asked a group of college presidents to share their worst fears, the first was obvious: a crisis on campus. The second was a little more surprising.
For the first time in U.S. history the nation’s high school graduation rate rose above 80 percent, according to the 2014 Building a GradNation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic report released April 28 by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education.
When it comes to the decisions that most directly affect the business of public education and what happens in classrooms, few people are as influential – and often as unacknowledged – as local school board members.
Indeed, a new report from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute suggests the makeup of local school boards can have a measurable effect on student achievement.
You may know that teachers make up roughly half of the education staff in school districts, but who are the other employees on the rolls? To provide a clearer picture, I broke down data from the U.S. Department of Education on district staffing to visualize this often-overlooked slice of the workforce.
Education Week’s annual “Quality Counts” project was published Thursday, and it’s loaded with data, story ideas and thought-provoking reporting on how school systems are responding to new demands for improvement and accountability.
This week, we’re revisiting some of the top sessions from EWA’s 66th National Seminar held at Stanford University. We asked journalists who attended to contribute posts, and today’s guest blogger is Kyla Calvert of San Diego Public Radio. Stream any session from National Seminar in your browser, or subscribe via RSS or iTunes.
With today marking the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death, I thought I would share a post I wrote last year.
In his commencement speech at San Diego State College, the president of the United States covered unsurprising territory in describing the challenges facing the nation’s public schools – inequities for minority students, a high dropout rate, and the need for better teacher training.
Are parents who withdraw their children from standardized tests similar to those who choose not to vaccinate their kids?
When it comes to student success, “smaller is better” has been the conventional wisdom on class size, despite a less-than-persuasive body of research. But what if that concept were turned on its head, with more students per classroom – provided they’re being taught by the most effective teachers?
The “Nation’s Report Card” is out today for fourth and eighth graders in reading and math, and while there are some positive trends over the past two decades, a significant achievement gap persists among minorities and for America’s students when compared with their peers internationally.
More teachers are seeing their incomes and performance reviews tied to student test scores, a new national report shows.
As the federal government restarts — along with the National Zoo’s Panda Cam, which I know is what was really worrying everyone — here are a few quick hits from the education front:
A new report highlighting the growing rate of poverty among suburban residents warns that traditional policies aimed at combating indigence aren’t designed to address the problem adequately.
Do reporters who cover major efforts to improve schools focus on incremental developments at the expense of the big picture? Do they pay too much attention to leaders with star power and too little to quieter contributors? The authors of two new books on urban education reflect on media coverage of efforts to revamp big-city schools. Moderator: Benjamin Herold, WHYY; Richard Colvin, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship; David Kirp, University of California, Berkeley. Recorded at EWA’s 66th National Seminar, “Creativity Counts: Innovation in Education and the Media,” May 2-4, 2013
When it comes to making sure students are college and career ready, middle and high school guidance counselors play a critical — and often underreported — role.In this EWA webinar, attendees received an advance look at the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center’s second-annual survey of guidance counselors, in which respondents outlined some of the challenges of helping students meet ever-increasing expectations, as well as identified shortfalls in their own training and professional development.In this recording, you’ll also hear from experts in the field as to the implications
So you’ve managed to get your hands on all the records your school district keeps about its budget and spending. Now what? How can you turn a giant data dump into a compelling story for your readers?
In this EWA webinar, you’ll hear how reporters at the Dallas Morning News used public records to create databases of district spending and budget information, and how they used those databases to uncover everything from fraud and mismanagement to cozy vendor-employee relationships to the misuse of federal grants.
The Mayor of Newark, NJ speaks at EWA’s 65th National Seminar on education inequality, innovation, and the need for tough questions in school coverage.
Anthony Cody, a longtime teacher and blogger who is now a consultant and expert on teacher leadership, and Lisa Goncalves Lavin, a first grade teacher and member of the Turnaround Teacher Team (T3) at Blackstone Elementary School in Boston, Mass., share their views of how teachers are experiencing turnaround efforts.
Ellen Holmes (NEA) and Judy Hale (AFT-West Virginia) discuss the unions’ programs developed in response to the national push to turn around low-performing schools.
How does the charter school model factor into efforts to turn around low-achieving campuses? Why haven’t more charter management organizations signed on for school turnarounds? What questions should reporters be asking when faced with conflicting data on charter school performance?
In this excerpt from his presentation at EWA’s March 24 conference in Chicago, Professor Daniel Duke of the University of Virginia reviews the history of recent school turnaround efforts, lessons that can be drawn from successes and setbacks, and issues and concerns that persist as the reform effort moves forward.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Jason Snyder of the U.S. Department of Education provides an overview of federal reform efforts and the Obama administration’s goals for the SIG program.
Timothy Knowles, director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute, talks about key findings from studies of Chicago’s turnaround initiative.
Recorded at EWA’s March 24, 2012 conference on school turnarounds at the University of Chicago
William Guenther, president and chief executive of Mass Insight, discusses his organization’s role in facilitating “Partnership Zones” in numerous districts nationwide.
Published May 2003
We spend quite a bit of time talking about cheating on standardized tests — who does it, how to prevent it, the pressures that might be contributing to it. What we don’t talk much about are the errors that occur before a student is ever handed a bubble sheet and the mistakes that can occur after the completed exams are turned in.
The Wallace Foundation is a national philanthropy, based in New York City, that aims to improve the educational opportunities for disadvantaged students. The foundation has invested heavily in research and resources aimed at improving the positive effect principals can have on school and student performance. They have also put significant funding toward expanded learning, summer learning, and after-school.
The American Association of School Administrators counts more than 13,000 educational leaders from across the United States and the world in its membership. These members include chief executive officers, superintendents and senior level school administrators along with cabinet members, some professors and others who manage schools and school systems. AASA was founded in 1865. Regarding NCLB, AASA has asserted that “The accountability system should be made up of measures of growth that differentiate levels of success.
The National School Boards Association is a nonprofit organization that works with federal agencies and other national associations to influence education policy as it pertains to school boards.
The Association has been particularly vocal on issues of the quality of the academic programs some cyber charters offer, citing in a report from May 2012 a “troubling” lack of “good information about results and accountability.”
The National Association of State Boards of Education “works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking, promote excellence in the education of all students, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, and assure continued citizen support for public education.” The organization is a nonprofit founded in 1958.
The Council of Chief State School Officers is “a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions,” according to the group.
If a teacher is successful in the classroom, does it matter how she got there, or how long she intends to stay in the profession? Should personal qualities like perseverance and grit count just as much as completing the requisite coursework in curriculum and instruction?
Those are some of the questions being asked in the wake of a new study that reflects favorably on Teach For America’s corps members who teach mathematics in schools that have typically struggled to fill teaching vacancies.
Cincinnati has improved students’ test scores by fostering cooperation between teachers, administrators, and local community service organizations.
In the first of what will be an annual report, Education Week’s Leaders To Learn From spotlights 16 district-level leaders from across the country who seized on creative but practical approaches to improving their school systems and put those ideas to work.
Some districts—particularly those in small and rural communities—are finding that sharing administrators is an efficient way to make the most out of limited budgets.
EWA 2012 National Reporting Contest winner. Crumbling school buildings can impede academic achievement, but what happens when the public votes down bond measures to upgrade the infrastructure? This series of articles looks at the impasse between school boards and the voters, and cost-saving tricks to fine tune the walls of public instruction. (The Journal News)
This examination of whether the Broad Prize has spurred districts to implement the measures that that the prizewinners have used includes discussion of how administrators decide which reforms to adopt.
This report was the first national survey of school boards in almost a decade. It compiles responses of more than 1,000 school board members and superintendents. The key findings include the discovery that the membership of school boards tends to reflect their community better than their representation in Congress or their respective state legislatures does, three-quarters of school board members have a bachelor’s degree, and more than 88 percent of board members rely on their superintendent for key decisions.
EWA 2010 National Reporting Contest winner. This series details a 16-month investigation by the paper. The report “has turned up no-bid contracts, questionable property deals and supposedly self-supporting ventures that failed, lost money or drew formal complaints and lawsuits.” (Statesman Journal)
Using the city of Rochester as an example, this article examples the advantages and disadvantages of mayoral takeovers of school districts. The article offers a quick survey of the different types of takeovers that cities nationwide have tried in recent years.
This research brief examines the results of the Wallace Foundation’s efforts to build Cohesive Leadership Systems — i.e., better cooperation among school leaders at the school, district, and state levels. The researchers conducted more than 400 interviews in Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oregon, and Rhode Island; and surveyed more than 600 principals. The researchers find that interagency cooperation can be effective.
This book by Brown University professor Kenneth Wong examines mayoral control of urban school districts, starting with Boston’s in 1992 and examining more than 100 school districts in 40 states. Wong’s examination concludes that mayoral control of schools, while not appropriate for every district, can improve accountability and enable the school district to strengthen its educational infrastructure and improve student performance.