District Management

Overview

District Management

How are the policies for America’s local school districts set? Who is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of those policies? What happens when control over public schools shifts from a school board to the mayor? 

Questions about the governance, leadership and management of local school districts are often at the heart of conversations about how to improve U.S. public education, whether through incremental change or sweeping reform. This Topics section focuses on the lines of authority over public school systems, including the superintendents and other leaders entrusted with running them.

How are the policies for America’s local school districts set? Who is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of those policies? What happens when control over public schools shifts from a school board to the mayor? 

Questions about the governance, leadership and management of local school districts are often at the heart of conversations about how to improve U.S. public education, whether through incremental change or sweeping reform. This Topics section focuses on the lines of authority over public school systems, including the superintendents and other leaders entrusted with running them.

The U.S. has more than 13,000 local public school districts, and in most of them a local school board — with its members elected, appointed, or a combination of both — governs the decisions that affect the schools.

Superintendents 

The most significant decision for virtually every school board is the hiring of a superintendent to carry out the board’s policies and operate the district. Pressure on those executives can be intense. Responsibility for meeting districtwide challenges flows through the central office, and the superintendent is typically held accountable for successes — or failures.

Superintendents typically have a central office management team of deputies assigned to specific areas such as technology, finance and operations, community and government relations, and human resources. An increasingly popular position is a chief academic officer, who oversees programs related specifically to student achievement. 

Superintendent searches — the hiring process for district leadership — are typically considered “open” or “closed” processes. In an open search, the names of applicants are public knowledge. With a closed search, the more common practice, a school board typically hires an outside firm to vet the first round of applicants and then make recommendations for a list of finalists. 

Some people contend that closed searches are the best way to attract highly qualified candidates who don’t want to jeopardize their current employment through an open search process. But some critics argue that grand-scale superintendent searches work against in-house applicants, who can also be strong candidates. 

Smaller districts, particularly in rural areas, may struggle to find qualified candidates for their top executive positions. In some cases, school boards have opted to hire part-time superintendents. 

Most of the nation’s school districts are run by career educators, but not all. Some schools chiefs come from other fields, such as business, government, the military, finance and law. One well-known effort to attract and train such nontraditional leaders is the Broad Superintendents Academy, a corporate-style training program. Started in 2002, the academy’s graduates have run many of the nation’s largest urban school systems. 

School Boards

More than 95 percent of school board members are elected, typically in low-spending, nonpartisan races. School board elections typically draw significantly less general interest — and, along with it, voters — than other public offices. In many districts, incumbents are unchallenged for re-election, and open seats might have only one or two candidates. 

Compensation for school board members varies widely. In some smaller districts, trustees receive only a small stipend to cover incidental expenses. In larger districts, it can be a full-time job with trustees earning in the mid-five figures. But even in some of the biggest urban districts, school board members’ compensation is relatively low compared to the scope of their fiscal responsibilities. 

A district’s operating budget is typically derived primarily from local and state tax revenues, supplemented by federal funding. Everything from large-scale textbook purchases to negotiated labor contracts typically require school board approval and are voted on during public meetings.

School boards can go into “closed sessions,” which allow for private conversations among members and district staff, when discussing certain personnel matters or circumstances in which a student’s privacy must be protected. But generally the business of the board is conducted during open meetings using a “consent agenda” published in advance to give the public a chance to weigh in. 

The relationship between school boards and superintendents is crucial. In recent years, there’s been a trend toward “policy governance,” an approach to district management in which the school board functions as a board of directors with the superintendent as chief executive. The board sets expectations for districtwide performance but leaves decisions about how to achieve those goals — i.e., which programs or services to implement — up to the superintendent. In other districts, the superintendent and the central office staff are still expected to seek board approval on all major decisions.

Mayoral and State Control

Governance by independently elected school boards emerged as the norm more than a century ago, as a means of distancing education from politics. In the 1990s, a push for mayoral control of school systems emerged in response to perceptions of widespread dysfunction that stemmed in part from poor relations between superintendents and school boards.

An early example of mayoral control in a major urban district was in 1991 when Massachusetts Gov. William Weld signed a bill handing control of the Boston Public Schools to the city’s mayor and a seven-person appointed school board. Since then, several midsize and large school systems have adopted some form of mayoral or state control. They include Chicago, Cleveland, the District of Columbia and New York City. Whether a district stays under mayoral control also varies, in accordance both with the performance of the schools and the politics of the city.

Proponents argue that by placing accountability for schools squarely with a city’s top elected official, mayoral control is conducive to carrying out reforms needed to improve student performance. Opponents, including many teachers’ unions and school board members, say the model has a sketchy track record and leaves parents, teachers and community groups with inadequate opportunities to engage in the decision-making process. 

When entire school systems are judged to be failing, states sometimes step in and wrest control from local authorities. Since 1989, nearly 30 states have adopted policies that allow them to take over local school districts. Such has been the case in Philadelphia, Detroit, Oakland, Calif., and at least seven school districts in Mississippi. 

Much like experiments with mayoral control, takeover results have been mixed. Some have made great strides, while others still grapple with problems related to central office administration, fiscal management and student achievement.

Member Stories

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

In a new radio documentary, APM Reports’ Emily Hanford looks at why teaching reading has become so controversial — and ineffective — in many U.S. classrooms. 

At a time of federal “zero tolerance” policies on immigration, students from immigrant families in the Washington, D.C., area are struggling to stay focused on their academics, reports Jenny Abamu of WAMU. 

EWA Radio

When School Funding Isn’t Fair
What does educational inequity look like in Pennsylvania's schools?
(EWA Radio: Episode 180)

image of bleachers at Aliquippa Junior-Senior High School's football field

In recent years, multiple U.S. Secretaries of education, appointed by both Republicans and Democrats, have called access to quality public schools a civil rights issue. At the same time, a growing number of states face court challenges to how they fund their K-12 systems, amid concerns that current approaches exacerbate inequities, particularly for historically underserved groups like students of color.

Latest News

As D.C.-Area Schools Grapple With Overcrowding, Parents Wonder Why Enrollment Projections Are so off

In Montgomery County, a Washington suburb with sought-after public schools, Bethesda Elementary School opened an eight-classroom expansion three years ago to relieve pressure on the overcrowded campus.

A year later, the school spilled over again into a portable classroom. When this school year started Tuesday , it had four portables and 639 children — 80 more than it’s built to hold and 100 more than school system demographers predicted six years ago.

Member Stories

August 31 – September 6
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

The National Education Association is hoping a crash course in campaigning will help educators running for public office, reports Education Week’s Sarah Schwartz.

For the Tampa Bay Times, Claire McNeill examines why some students of color feel isolated at Florida’s flagship university.

In Washington state, Katie Gillespie of The Columbian asks teachers on the picket lines what keeps them going despite frustrations with the job.

Latest News

New York’s Schools Chancellor Is Talking About Integration. Can He Make It Happen?

Richard Carranza is eager to talk about segregation.

New York’s new schools chancellor wants to talk about how the nation’s largest school system is clustering the poorest children (mostly black and brown) in one set of classrooms, and the richest children (mostly white) in another set — and failing to live up to its progressive ideals.

Member Stories

August 24 – August 30
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

To address chronic absenteeism, schools are experimenting with punishments and rewards, reports The Wall Street Journal’s Tawnell Hobbs.

As The Oregonian’s Bethany Barnes reports, the reopening of a historic middle school is shedding light on Portland’s complicated history of educating black children.

For the Associated Press, Sally Ho examines Bill Gates’ investments in education reform, new and old.

Latest News

Kentucky District Put Kids In Special Education To Get Better Scores

The Floyd County Schools District earned numerous accolades for achievements on state tests, including multiple “District of Distinction” honors, and in 2016, a ranking of sixth statewide, but a scathing audit suggests that some in the district may have been more concerned with test results than the quality of education provided to students.
 

The Kentucky Department of Education required the school district to implement a corrective action plan this year, following an audit of the district’s services for children with special needs.

Latest News

Middle Schools Face Concentrated Poverty and Gaps in Opportunity, Report Finds

As New York City’s middle schools emerge as the focus of desegregation attempts, a report released Wednesday highlights just how much work there is to be done.

About a third of the city’s roughly 600 middle schools serve overwhelmingly poor students, and more than half of the city’s low-income adolescents are clustered in just a quarter of middle schools, according to the study from the New York City Independent Budget Office.

Latest News

The School Shootings That Weren’t

This spring the U.S. Education Department reported that in the 2015-2016 school year, “nearly 240 schools … reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting.” The number is far higher than most other estimates.

Latest News

Pasco School Board Seat Comes Down to Harding vs. O’Connor

Two hopefuls aiming to grab a rare vacant seat on the Pasco County School Board appeared on track to a face-off in November.

Hudson attorney Tara O’Connor and Fox Hollow Elementary teacher Megan Harding each held about a third of the vote, with all but some mail ballots counted.

Candidates Mike Aday and Kassie Hutchinson trailed.

“Woo-hoo! I’m super excited,” Harding said when reached at her campaign party. “Obviously, the community agrees we need to put a teacher on the School Board.”

Latest News

Here Are the Noblesville, Carmel School Board Races That Could Get Interesting

Most of the candidates running for Hamilton County school boards this November will have to fight for a spot.

The deadline to file as a school board candidate was noon Friday, and the updated list shows some current board members running for re-election will face opposition, including current Carmel Clay Schools board president Layla Spanenberg.

Seven candidates filed to run for Noblesville Schools’ two open board seats. 

This election comes as many Hamilton County school districts face big decisions.

Member Stories

August 17 – August 23
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

As a new school year begins, The Oklahoman’s Ben Felder explores the impact of teacher walkouts and where Oklahoma schools go from here.

In Puerto Rico, students recently returned to schools where the effects of Hurricane Maria are still evident, reports Education Week’s Andrew Ujifusa.

Chalkbeat’s Caroline Bauman examines whether Tennessee has delivered on a promise to turn around its lowest-performing schools. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How Much Do Charter Schools Cost Districts?
As charter school enrollment grows, researchers disagree on extent of financial impact and who's to blame.

It’s a refrain heard often in arguments against charter schools—they divert money and resources from already cash-strapped traditional public schools.

But determining to what extent that criticism rings true is anything but simple. Despite several studies, estimates of the costs traditional public schools bear as they lose students to charter schools are imprecise and vary considerably.

Latest News

Brevard School Board Election Has Power to Flip Decision Not to Arm Staff Through Marshal Program

The fate of a controversial program to train Brevard County school employees to carry guns at schools across the county could be decided in this upcoming school board election. 

Three months ago, the school board voted 3-2 to postpone indefinitely Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey’s Sheriff-trained Onsite Marshal Program, also known as STOMP, to prepare employees who volunteer for the program to carry concealed guns on campuses.

Member Stories

August 10 – August 16
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

In New Orleans, students who drink from a school water fountain may be exposed to lead, reports Marta Jewson of The Lens.

The Washington Post’s Moriah Balingit examines a new legal strategy to improve literacy instruction in resource-deprived schools.

For Parkland students, recovery comes in many forms, reports WLRN’s Jessica Bakeman.

Latest News

Back-to-School Shopping for Districts: Armed Guards, Cameras and Metal Detectors

Fortified by fences and patrolled by more armed personnel, schools will open their doors to students for the start of the new year with a heightened focus on security intended to ease fears about deadly campus shootings.

The massacre in Parkland, Fla., one of the most lethal in American history, unnerved school administrators across the country, who devoted the summer to reinforcing buildings and hiring security.

Member Stories

August 3 – August 9
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Education Week’s Franciso Vara-Orta takes an in-depth look at hate and bias in schools. 

A slowdown in charter school growth in California has some advocates worried, report Louis Freedberg and John Fensterwald of EdSource.

For The 74, Mark Keierleber examines the booming business of school security.

Latest News

How Private Schools and Districts Partner Up on Special Education

Less than 2 percent of school-aged students with disabilities—about 85,000 of them in fall 2016—are enrolled by their parents in private schools, according to records maintained by the federal government.

But the education of those students, including their rights under federal law and the resources available to them, has taken on an outsized importance since Betsy DeVos was appointed U.S. secretary of education under the Trump administration.

Member Stories

July 27 – August 2
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

An analysis by the Palm Beach Post’s Andrew Marra uncovers significant salary declines for veteran teachers even as the cost of living has climbed.

Ryan McKinnon of the Herald Tribune examines child care in Florida, where providers are just scraping by while parents are breaking the bank.

Latest News

With Big Names And $200 Million, a New Group Is Forming to Push For The ‘Portfolio Model’

Several big names in education reform are teaming up to start a new organization designed to change how schools are managed in cities across the U.S. — and they say they’ve already raised $200 million.

The City Fund, as the group is being called, will push cities to expand charter schools and district schools with charter-like autonomy. It represents a big increase in visibility and influence for advocates of the “portfolio model” of running schools, a strategy that’s been adopted by cities like New Orleans, Denver, and Indianapolis.

Latest News

Can Schools Be Fairly Ranked on a Five-star System? D.c. Is About to Try.

The highest-performing public schools in the District could soon boast they are city-approved, five-star campuses. And the lowest-performing schools could be stuck with just one or two stars.

The star system, expected to roll out in December, reflects a strategy to make school data more accessible to families and provide a uniform approach to assessing charter and traditional public schools.

Member Stories

July 20 – July 26
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

AL.com’s Trisha Crain crunches the numbers to see if Alabama’s rising graduation rate is translating to greater college and career readiness for its students.

In California, historians and Native Americans are urging lawmakers to to expand Native California curriculum in the state’s K-12 schools, reports Carolyn Jones of EdSource.

WLRN’s Jessica Bakeman examines a troubling climate of racism at an elite private school in Miami.

Member Stories

July 13 – July 19
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

The Associated Press tracked nearly half a billion dollars that have flowed from philanthropies to charter school organizations, reports Sally Ho.

Rising national debt and a growing elderly population may force drastic cuts to federal programs that serve children, writes John Fensterwald for EdSource.

Education Week’s Madeline Will reports on the unprecedented wave of teachers running for political office.

Seminar

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

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

Member Stories

July 6 – July 12
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Aditi Malhotra of The Teacher Project profiles a young refugee in Chicago struggling to finish school while supporting family back home.

A debate in New York City about high school admissions raises questions about how to define merit and fairness, writes Stacy Teicher Khadaroo and Harry Bruinius of The Christian Science Monitor.

Member Stories

June 29-July 5
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Sally Ho of the Associated Press explains where and why prominent charter school supporters are wading into state elections.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of Detroit students ends in disappointment for its supporters, reports Lori Higgins of the Detroit Free Press. 

For EdSource, Theresa Harrington examines why teachers in Oakland are preparing to strike.

Member Stories

June 22-June 28
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Eva-Marie Ayala of The Dallas Morning News examines the relationship between a shelter for immigrant children and a charter school that wants to educate them.

For migrant teachers in Dallas, performance evaluations could mean the difference between staying in the U.S. and facing deportation, writes Mario Koran for The 74.

Latest News

Making Schools Safer: Harsh Consequences, or Second Chances?

The school discipline policies in Broward County, Fla., designed to be more equitable and more effective than what they replaced, have become exhibit A in what’s already a national debate.

The debate in many ways comes down to this: What’s more important — cold steel or warm hugs? Harsh consequences or second chances? Do we achieve safety and security by making schools harder — or making them softer?

Latest News

About a Quarter of D.C. Public Schools Teachers Lack Required Certification

About 1,000 teachers in D.C. Public Schools — a quarter of the educator workforce — lack certification the city requires to lead a classroom, according to District education leaders.

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education, which handles teacher certification, said it made the discovery during an internal investigation this winter.

Member Stories

June 15-June 21
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Emmanuel Felton of The Hechinger Report investigates charter schools where the student population is significantly whiter than neighboring district schools.

A lawsuit alleges that school districts across the country are excluding immigrant students. Zoë Kirsch of The Teacher Project explores the issue for Naples Daily News.

Member Stories

June 8-June 14
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

A school district in Florida failed to report crimes that occurred on its campuses, including at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, write Scott Travis, Megan O’Matz, and John Maines for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

In The Military Times, Natalie Gross reports on a significant drop in the number of veterans and dependents using the GI Bill at U.S. colleges.

Key Coverage

Betrayed: Chicago Schools Fail To Protect Students From Sexual Abuse

They were top athletes and honor-roll students, children struggling to read and teenagers seeking guidance.

But then they became prey, among the many students raped or sexually abused during the last decade by trusted adults working in the Chicago Public Schools as district officials repeated obvious child-protection mistakes.

Their lives were upended, their futures clouded and their pain unacknowledged as a districtwide problem was kept under wraps. A Tribune analysis indicates that hundreds of students were harmed.

Key Coverage

Education Writers’ Conference Weighs School Violence, Teacher Unrest

Education journalists from across the nation gathered here this week with a focus on diversity in their profession, recent activism by teachers, and the scourge of school violence, among other topics.

The Education Writers Association’s top award for education reporting went to John Woodrow Cox of The Washington Post for a compelling three-part series on children and gun violence, which was published last June.

Member Stories

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

Education Week’s Andrew Ujifusa and Alex Harwin examine pronounced fluctuations in the number of desegregation cases reported by school districts.

In Charlotte, N.C., officials want more money to hire mental health workers because of increased demand in schools, Gwendolyn Glenn reports for WFAE.

 

Key Coverage

Children Face Potential Poisoning From Lead, Mold, Asbestos in Philadelphia Schools, Investigation Shows

Every school day in Philadelphia, children are exposed to a stew of environmental hazards, both visible and invisible, that can rob them of a healthy place to learn and thrive. Too often, the district knows of the perils but downplays them to parents.

As part of its “Toxic City” series, the Inquirer and Daily News investigated the physical conditions at district-run schools. Reporters examined five years of internal maintenance logs and building records, and interviewed 120 teachers, nurses, parents, students, and experts.

Member Stories

April 27 – May 3
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week.

In suburban Illinois, vocational training is getting fresh attention — and funding, writes Rafael Guerrero of The Courier News. 

Reporting for Colorado Public Radio, Jenny Brundin looks at allegations of misconduct and abuse against a teacher at a public school for the arts. 

 

Member Stories

April 20 – April 26
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week.

Denver Post reporter Danika Worthington explains why Colorado teachers are walking out of class and rallying at the state capitol.

 

In DeKalb County, Ga., a school bus driver sickout is drawing complaints — and sympathy — from parents, Marlon A. Walker reports for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

 

Member Stories

March 30 – April 5
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week.

Moriah Balingit of The Washington Post shows how low pay and ballooning class sizes have left Oklahoma teachers in dire straits, fueling current calls for a strike.

 

Laura Pappano profiles the “privileged poor”— low-income first-generation students at elite colleges who must navigate the rocky transition across class lines — in an article for The Hechinger Report

 

Member Stories

March 16 – March 22
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s underdog success story plays out on the court and in the classroom, writes Erica L. Green for The New York Times

 

A new natural gas pipeline could be a boon for a struggling Ohio school district, reports Ashton Marra via State Impact Ohio. 

 

Webinar

Pedal to the Metal: Speeding Up Stalled Records Requests

Pedal to the Metal: Speeding Up Stalled Records Requests

You file a freedom of information request with your local school district concerning financial data or a personnel investigation, but months later, there’s still no answer. What are the next steps, especially if your newsroom’s budget can’t stretch to cover the costs of suing for access? A veteran journalist and an expert on records requests offer strategies for success in making inquiries at the federal, state and local levels.

EWA Radio

Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed.)
How local politics are influencing public school programs, teen birth rates

The Central Valley is home to six of the 10 counties with the highest teen pregnancy rates in California. The same communities also have some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted disease. But as reporter Mackenzie Mays discovered by crunching the numbers in a new series for The Fresno Bee, those statistics vary widely by ZIP code, as does access to school-based health programs and services.

Seminar

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

EWA 71st National Seminar Los Angeles graphic

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

EWA Radio

The Tax Bill: What Education Reporters Need to Know
Public schools and universities on edge over Republican plan for overhaul

The tax legislation congressional Republicans are rushing to complete has potentially big stakes for education. Critics suggest it will translate into a big financial hit for public schools and universities, as the rules for education-related deductions, revenue-raising bond measures and more are potentially tightened. Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week and Eric Kelderman of The Chronicle of Higher Education offer a primer on the House and Senate versions of the tax-code overhaul, including key differences lawmakers still must hammer out.

Key Coverage

Can These Chicago High Schools Survive?

In Chicago, where funding follows students, Tilden is one of more than a dozen shrinking neighborhood high schools that has been starved of resources, leaving students like Averett to prepare for their futures in largely empty buildings that can make dreaming big a daily struggle.

“Why should we go without because of our student body?” asked Averett, who dreams of attending college and pursuing a career in law enforcement. “I feel like it’s unfair. We should get the high school treatment too. But, you know, it is what it is.”

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

Why Is the Portland School District Suing an Education Reporter?

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.

Key Coverage

How Detroit Students Made a Federal Case Out of the City’s Broken Schools

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.

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.

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.

EWA Radio

Houston Schools Reporter: After Harvey, ‘Everyone’s in Survival Mode’
EWA Radio: Episode 137

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.

EWA Radio

On the Menu: Trump’s Proposed Budget Cuts and School Nutrition
EWA Radio: Episode 135

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?

EWA Radio

‘Eddie Prize’ Winner Kelly Field: Reporting on Native American Students
EWA Radio: Episode 134

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Tapping Data on School Finance
Tips to drive enterprising reporting

Tapping Data on School Finance

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.

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. 

EWA Radio

Betsy DeVos: Many Questions, Few Answers
EWA Radio: Episode 133

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?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

In D.C., a Tale of Two School Systems

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.

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.

EWA Radio

Best on the Beat: Chalkbeat’s Erin Einhorn
EWA Radio: Episode 126

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.

EWA Radio

Alternative Schools: Are Districts ‘Gaming’ the System?
EWA Radio: Episode 112

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.

EWA Radio

Invisible Hazard: Traffic, Air Quality, and the Risks for Students
EWA Radio: Episode 110

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?

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.

EWA Radio

Wanted: More Women Superintendents in Texas (and Beyond)
EWA Radio: Episode 96

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. 

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

In Texas, Latinos Run the Largest City School Districts

Source: Flickr/ via Tim Patterson (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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. 

EWA Radio

Bright Lights, Big City: Covering NYC’s Schools
EWA Radio: Episode 89

(Unsplash/Pedro Lastra)

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.

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.

EWA Radio

‘Glen’s Village’: From Childhood Trauma to the Ivy League
EWA Radio: Episode 82

Glen Casey, a young man who escaped the drugs and violence of his West Philadelphia neighborhood, looks on as his school is demolished. (Philadelphia Public School Notebook/"Glen's Village")

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?

Multimedia

Getting High-Quality Teachers to Disadvantaged Students
Video Resources from the 69th EWA National Seminar

Getting High-Quality Teachers to Disadvantaged Students

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)
Multimedia

Getting in Deep: Immersing Yourself in a Difficult Education Story
Video Resources from the 69th EWA National Seminar

Getting in Deep: Immersing Yourself in a Difficult Education Story

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)
EWA Radio

When Schools Become Crisis Centers
EWA Radio: Episode 75

Flickr/Will Foster

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.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

NYC Schools Initiative Aims to Improve Student Diversity

Source: Flickr/ via Mikel Ortega (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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.” 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

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

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

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

Blog: The Educated Reporter

When States Take Over Schools

Students at Roose Elementary School in Detroit in March 2016. (Flickr/A Healthier Michigan). The Motor City is just one example of where a state has intervened to assume oversight of a struggling public education system.

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.

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

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

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

Blog: The Educated Reporter

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.  

EWA Radio

Inside Tampa Bay Times’ Pulitzer Prize-Winning ‘Failure Factories’
EWA Radio: Episode 70

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

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.

EWA Radio

Iowa Is First: The Presidential Candidates – and Their Education Plans
EWA Radio: Episode 57

(Flickr/Phil Roeder)

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. 

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

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.

EWA Radio

Beyond Test Scores: “Mission High” Redefines Student Success
EWA Radio: Episode 46

(Nation Books)

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.”

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Seattle Schools Ban Elementary Suspensions

Journalist Claudia Rowe, middle, speaks about discipline policies in Seattle schools during a panel discussion at the 2015 EWA National Seminar. (Source: Lloyd Degrane for EWA)

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. 

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. 

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
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

Reporting on Schools: Why Campus Access Matters

Hallway of Bryan Adams High School in Dallas, Texas. (Flickr/Dean Terry)

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.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Minority Students in Md. School: We’re Perceived as ‘Academically Inferior’

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. 

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

School Districts Put Emphasis on Educating Parents

Adults meet at the English Club for English Language Learners at the Rockaway Township Free Public Library in New Jersey. 
Source: Flickr/RT Library (CC BY 2.0)

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. 

Report

It’s About Time
Learning Time and Educational Opportunity in California High Schools

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. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Education and the Election: What Happened and What It Means

Source: Flickr/Ginny (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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: 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Are Students Learning Lessons of Midterm Elections?

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Early Education Plans Hit Snags

Students play at an early education center in New Orleans (Source: Mikhail Zinshteyn/EWA)

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 Radio

Illinois Lawmakers Use Influence on Teacher Licensing
EWA Radio, Episode 10

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Happens When States Take Over School Districts?

Dan Varner of Excellent Schools Detroit speaks at the 67th National Seminar.

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Atlanta Cheating Scandal: New Yorker Magazine Gets Personal

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.

Report

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?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Common Core a Tainted Brand?

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam addresses attendees at the 67th National Seminar.

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.

Report

Great Principals at Scale
Bush Center and New Leaders

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.

Report

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

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Live From Nashville: EWA’s 67th National Seminar

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

EWA Community Member Insights: Making Sure Your Voice Is Heard

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.

Report

Building A GradNation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic (2014)

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Report: Don’t Underestimate School Boards’ Impact

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Beyond Teachers: Who Else Is Your District Employing?

Credit: Flickr/ecastro

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Urban School Reform: Beyond Stars and Scandals

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 RadioStream any session from National Seminar in your browser, or subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

A Troubling Time Capsule: JFK on the State of Public Education

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.

EWA Radio

Urban School Reform: Beyond Stars and Scandals

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

Webinar

Giving Guidance: Counselors’ Role in College and Career Readiness
1 hour

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

Webinar

Follow the Money: What’s Hiding In Your School District’s Spending?
56 minutes

Follow the Money: What’s Hiding In Your School District’s Spending?

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.

Multimedia

Buskin Lecture: Mayor Cory Booker

Buskin Lecture: Mayor Cory Booker

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.

Multimedia

In the Trenches: Teachers’ Take on Turnarounds

In the Trenches: Teachers’ Take on Turnarounds

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.

Multimedia

Charter Schools’ Role in Turnaround and Transformation

Charter Schools’ Role in Turnaround and Transformation

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?

Multimedia

Lessons Learned: What We Know About School Turnarounds

Lessons Learned: What We Know About School Turnarounds

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.

Multimedia

Turnaround Schools: Federal Priorities and Research Findings

Turnaround Schools: Federal Priorities and Research Findings

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

Organization

The Wallace Foundation

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.

Organization

The American Association of School Administrators

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.

Organization

The National School Boards Association

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.”

Organization

National Association of State Boards of Education

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.

Organization

The Council of Chief State School Officers

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teacher Effectiveness: How Much Should the Route to the Classroom Matter?

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.

Report

Leaders to Learn From

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.

Key Coverage

Too Big to Fix

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)

Report

School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era

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.

Key Coverage

Taking School Into Their Own Hands

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.

Report

Building Cohesive Systems to Improve School Leadership

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.

Report

The Education Mayor: Improving America’s Schools

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.