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?
Why Public Research Universities Are Struggling
Higher education enrollment downturns, federal funding predictions, and how U.S. global competitiveness could be at risk.
For a growing number of public universities, particularly in the midwest, what was once a push for academic excellence is now more like a battle for survival, as detailed by The Hechinger Report’s Jon Marcus in a new piece for Washington Monthly. What happened? Enrollment drops, funding cuts and shifting public attitudes toward higher education.
Girls Outscore Boys in the Middle East on Math and Science. But That’s Not the Whole Story.
Amanda Ripley, a New York Times bestselling author, discusses gender gaps and student motivation
When U.S. education experts look overseas for ideas and inspiration, they usually turn to places like Finland and Singapore. But journalist Amanda Ripley recently traveled instead to the Middle East to get underneath some surprising data about gender gaps in a recent story for The Atlantic. More specifically, why do girls in Jordan and Oman earn better grades and test scores than boys, even without the promise of lucrative jobs?
The public education system in Puerto Rico was already struggling before two historic hurricanes — Irma and Maria — wreaked havoc on this U.S. territory. Reporter Andrew Ujifusa and photographer Swikar Patel of Education Week discuss their recent reporting trip to Puerto Rico, where they met students and teachers who have lost their homes — as well as their schools — and are now struggling to get the basic essentials, like food and shelter.
A new radio documentary by APM Reports concludes that American schools are failing to use proven methods for helping dyslexic students learn to read — techniques that could also benefit their classmates. Emily Hanford, a correspondent and senior producer for APM Reports, discusses why school districts are often resistant to identifying students as dyslexic, and how long-standing debates over how best to teach reading have kept some schools from adopting best practices.
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.
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.
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.
What do teachers learn from their most challenging students — the interrupters, the ones who push back or whose difficult home lives spill over into the classroom? Sarah Carr, the editor of The Teacher Project at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, discusses a new podcast partnership with The Atlantic, featuring candid conversations with educators and students, as each recall pivotal moments in their relationships.
With the Trump administration’s announcement of plans to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), a key focus is on college students who fear deportation. But ending DACA, which offers protections to roughly 800,000 immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children, has significant repercussions for K-12 school communities as well.
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.
In the aftermath of the white supremacy gathering in Charlottesville, Va., some universities are under pressure to take action against students who attend rallies organized by hate groups. Nick Roll of Inside Higher Ed discusses the situation and how postsecondary institutions are responding. How do universities balance respect for free speech with concerns about cultivating an inclusive campus environment?
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?
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.
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?
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.
Teddy Fischer and Jane Gormley of Mercer Island High School in Washington State discuss how they landed a lengthy Q&A with U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who has given few interviews since joining President Trump’s cabinet. Fischer, a rising junior, and Gormley, the immediate past editor of the school’s student newspaper, worked with their journalism class and faculty advisor to prepare for the 45-minute conversation on Memorial Day.
Dana Goldstein of The New York Times discusses the summer reading lists being assigned to incoming first-year college students, and what those choices reveal.
Laura Isensee of Houston Public Media discusses Furr High School, which recently received a $10 million grant to help it reinvent what, when, and how students learn. The changes are already underway: a veteran principal was lured out of retirement to take the helm; students are able dig into their own areas of interest during regular periods of “Genius Time”; and even the hiring process for teachers and staff has taken some innovative turns. What’s been the response of the school community to these new developments?
A new investigation by NerdWallet’s public-interest journalism team focuses on student loan debt-relief companies that promise consumers savvy fiscal help but too often do little to actually lighten their load — and, in some cases, actually increase borrowers’ financial burdens. Reporters Richard Read and Teddy Nykiel discuss who is — and isn’t — holding these companies accountable. What would need to change at the state and federal levels to improve consumer protections?
Alyson Klein of Education Week and Andrew Kreighbaum of Inside Higher Ed discuss recent developments on the federal policy front, and what’s been a busy month for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The Education Department has hit the “pause button” on regulations aimed at reining in for-profit colleges, announced plans to scale back civil rights investigations, and suggested federal scrutiny of state accountability plans for K-12 education could be more forceful than some people — particularly Republicans — were expecting.
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.
Cory Turner discusses the NPR education team’s deep dive into school vouchers, with a focus on Indiana, home to the largest voucher program in the nation. Among NPR’s findings: less than 1 percent of participating students transferred out of public schools that had been labeled by the state as low performers, and many students using vouchers were already attending private schools. With school choice as a centerpiece to President Trump’s education policy agenda, what does the evidence show when it comes to academic outcomes for students using vouchers?
Emma Brown of The Washington Post discusses President Trump’s budget proposal for education, with fresh analysis of the priorities and politics behind the line items. She also explains the prospects in the GOP-led Congress for the Trump plan. Overall, the president’s budget envisions deep cuts to the U.S. Department of Education budget, even as he wants to step up federal aid for school choice. Which education programs are up for major cuts or outright elimination and why? How do some of the largest programs, like Title I aid for disadvantaged students and Pell grants, fare?
Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed discusses a proposal by a coalition of elite private schools to abolish the traditional letter-grade high school transcript. Instead, the coalition touts a new approach that it argues would give colleges a more in-depth look at what applicants know and are able to do.
Lauren Camera of U.S. News & World Report discusses a little-noticed, and potentially troubling, trend: Dozens of cities nationwide have broken off from their counties to create new school districts, increasing student segregation by race, ethnicity, and family income. What are the implications of a recent U.S. district court ruling in Alabama that allowed such a move?
Leah Askarinam of The Atlantic discusses a new study that raises questions about the value of the school voucher program for low-income families in the nation’s capital. On average, test scores were lower for students who used federal aid to attend private schools, when compared with those who attended D.C. public schools.
Jane Hammond of the Daily Press in Newport News, Virginia, discusses the anniversary of the rampage, in which a student gunman killed 32 people before taking his own life. In the decade that’s followed, Virginia has put strict new protocols in place related to emergency response, as well as new standards for mental health services.
A recent Baltimore Sun series by reporters Liz Bowie and Erica Green offers a penetrating look at issues of race and segregation in Maryland public schools. The four-part project, supported by an EWA Reporting Fellowship, examines hurdles to school integration, community resistance to redrawing boundary lines, and how well-intentioned efforts to create more diverse campuses often fall short.
Dana Goldstein of The New York Times looks at issues of equity when it comes to PTA fundraising, and how those dollars are being distributed and spent.
Some school districts are experimenting with ways to get students more engaged in their own learning, and to connect their individual interests to long-term goals. John Tulenko, a contributor to The Hechinger Report, visited Vermont, where a statewide investment in personalized learning is starting to gain traction. What kinds of learning opportunities are students creating for themselves? How are teachers responding to the instructional shift?
Ashley Smith of Inside Higher Ed discusses why the Golden State is leading the nation in free community college initiatives. Currently, a quarter of all such programs nationally are located at California institutions. The growth is a mix of grassroots efforts by individual campuses, cities, and community organizations. At the same time, California’s Democratic lawmakers are pushing for a statewide effort to add even more free seats at two-year colleges.
Kavitha Cardoza of Education Week and the PBS NewsHour visited the early learning and daycare center at a Marine Corps base in North Carolina to find out why such programs are rated among the best in the country. What spurred the Department of Defense to invest so heavily in teachers and support for the littlest learners? What evidence is there that these investments pay off in the long run?
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.
White House Rolls Back Guidance on Transgender Students. Episode Extra: “Dear Betsy DeVos …”
EWA Radio: Episode 111
Evie Blad of Education Week discusses President Trump’s decision to rescind Obama-era guidance on accommodations for transgender students. New Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos contends that further consideration and study is needed on the Obama administration’s instructions to districts, including on whether students should be allowed to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity — rather than their gender at birth. DeVos also said the issue is best left up to local schools and states to decide. What does this mean for public schools? Who should decide which bathrooms transgender students should be allowed to use? How will the federal policy shift influence pending legal challenges, including a forthcoming Supreme Court case?
And in a special addition to this week’s podcast, hear what Chalkbeat readers say they want DeVos to know about public education. Sarah Darville, the education news outlet’s national editor, discusses common themes in reader responses, including an emphasis on the vital role schools play in communities, and the need for greater resources to help students succeed.
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?
Peabody Award-winning radio journalist Linda Lutton of WBEZ in Chicago discusses her new documentary following a class of fourth graders in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Is a “no excuses” school model a realistic approach for kids whose families are struggling to provide basics like shelter and food? How does Chicago Public Schools’ emphasis on high-stakes testing play out at William Penn Elementary? How can education reporters make the most of their access to classrooms, teachers, students, and families? And what lessons from “Room 205” could apply to the ongoing debate over how to best lift students out of poverty?
Kimberly Hefling of Politico discusses the new U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, who was confirmed Tuesday after Vice President Mike Pence was called in to break a 50-50 tie in the Senate. What will be her top priorities moving forward? How aggressively will the new secretary push school choice, and how likely is President Trump’s $20 billion school choice plan to gain traction? Has DeVos lost political capital during the bruising confirmation process? Was she held to a higher standard than other nominees for President Trump’s cabinet? And how much power will the Republican mega-donor have to roll back the Obama administration’s education policies and initiatives?
Best-selling author Dale Russakoff discusses her profile of Indira, an undocumented college student, in this week’s cover story for The New York Times Magazine. Indira, who was granted legal status under the Deferred Act for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, now fears that President Trump’s revisions to immigration policy will derail not just her college plans, but her ability to stay in the country she calls home. Why is Delaware State University, a historically black college, recruiting students like Indira, and how does that factor into discussions about equity and opportunity? How likely is it that Trump will seek to overturn DACA?
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.
Journalist Daniel Connolly spent a year embedded at a Memphis high school to learn first-hand about the educational experiences of Hispanic immigrants’ children. Connolly’s new book focuses on star student Isaias Ramos, “the hope of Kingsbury High.” The author explores how Isaias, born in the U.S., seeks to overcome obstacles to his plans for college. How did Connolly (The Memphis Commercial Appeal) gain such extraordinary access to the students, educators, and families of this school community? What does Isaias’ journey tell us about the hopes and aspirations of Hispanic immigrant families? And how are real world realities pressuring public schools to redefine expectations for student success?
Education Week’s Mark Bomster (assistant managing editor) and Sterling Lloyd (senior research associate) discuss the 2017 “Quality Counts” report, which examines and rates state-level efforts to improve public education. This year’s edition features a special focus on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind as the backbone of the nation’s federal K-12 policy. How ready are states, districts, and schools for the policy shifts — and new flexibility — on school accountability, testing, and teacher evaluations under ESSA, among other issues? What are some story ideas for local reporters covering the implementation? Also, which states scored the highest on Education Week’s ratings when it comes to student achievement, equitable education spending, and the “Chance for Success” index? How can education writers use this data to inform their own reporting?
Kate Zernike, The New York Times’ national education reporter, discusses what’s ahead on the beat in 2017. How will President-elect Donald Trump translate his slim set of campaign promises on education into a larger and more detailed agenda? What do we know about the direction Trump’s nominee for U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, will seek to take federal policy if she’s confirmed? Zernike also offers story ideas and suggestions for local and regional education reporters to consider in the new year.
Benjamin Herold of Education Week discusses why media literacy is in the spotlight in the wake of the presidential election, and the troubling findings of a new Stanford University study that showed the vast majority of students from middle school through college can’t identify “fake news.” Why are so many digital natives flunking when it comes to evaluating the reliability of material they encounter online? How are policymakers, researchers, and educators proposing that schools address this deficit in critical-thinking skills?
Veteran education reporters from the Detroit Free Press and The Washington Post discuss Betsy DeVos, the billionaire school choice advocate nominated by President-elect Donald Trump. David Jesse of the Detroit newspaper sheds light on DeVos’ Michigan track record on legislative causes, and what is known about her tactics and negotiating style. Plus, he explains how DeVos’ strong religious beliefs have influenced her policy agenda. Emma Brown of The Washington Post details why Trump’s proposal for $20 billion in school vouchers might be a tough sell, even to a Republican-controlled Congress. And she sheds light on the potential for the next administration to dismantle President Obama’s education initiatives, including scaling back the reach of the Office for Civil Rights at the Education Department.
Liz McMillen, the editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education, looks back at a half-century of milestone stories, memorable headlines, and key moments on the national higher education beat, many of which continue to echo today. Among them: equity and diversity, classroom technology, and free speech on campus. She discusses the Chronicle’s commitment to narrative journalism, lessons to be learned by looking back, and what’s ahead for the nation’s colleges and universities.