69th Education Writers Association National Seminar
Journalists and other communicators must reach out to their audiences to share information, stories and messages, but that begs the question: Which social media tools are most effective, beyond Facebook and Twitter?
Several communications experts tackled this issue during the Education Writers Association’s National Seminar earlier this year.
The panelists said it’s critical to start by being clear about the target audience, or audiences, as well as the message they want to share. Those factors influence which platforms are most effective.
Here’s why I attended this year’s Education Writers Association National Seminar: As a high school student, I wanted to gain a new perspective on public schools and what is being done to improve them. And as an aspiring journalist, I was hoping to learn more about news coverage of education and why it is so important.
I attended many sessions over the course of the three-day event, but the session that stood out to me and that I continue to think about months later is Students At Center Stage.
The red-brick building of Ashburn Community Elementary School sits on a quiet street of bungalows, two blocks from the commuter rail line that cuts through the city’s Far Southwest Side.
The principal, Jewel Diaz, is a veteran who’s led Ashburn since 2003, the year after it opened. Nearly all of her students are low-income children of color, and a survey the school conducted last year showed that dozens of them don’t have internet access at home. To make up for this, Diaz has tried to compensate at school.
At a time when the volume of student achievement data can seem overwhelming, brace yourself: A wave of international test results for dozens of countries, including the U.S., is coming soon.
Inside Higher Ed Editor Scott Jaschik started his annual listing of higher education stories ripe for coverage this upcoming year by asking journalists to do better when choosing which news developments to cover.
In May, just before Jaschik’s presentation at the Education Writers Association’s conference in Boston, President Obama’s daughter Malia had recently committed to attending Harvard University and taking a “gap year.”
As many immigrant children navigate a new language in a new country, some schools across the nation are ill-equipped to meet their needs. What strategies have been successful to help these children develop the language and academic skills necessary to succeed? And what will changes to federal education policies mean for this demographic group?
Getting High-Quality Teachers to Disadvantaged Students
Video Resources from the 69th EWA National Seminar
Low-income and minority students are less likely to have experienced, high-quality teachers, research shows. What steps can school districts and educators put in place to improve these statistics? Panelists share some strategies.
- James Cole, U.S. Department of Education
- Sonja Santelises, Education Trust
- Dyan Smiley, American Federation of Teachers
- Jeffrey Solochek, Tampa Bay Times (moderator)
Given the key role that strong leadership plays in providing effective schools, experts, superintendents and universities say principal training deserves a “needs improvement” on its report card.
The nation’s numerous principal-preparation programs are hit or miss, according to Vincent Cho, assistant professor of educational leadership at Boston College.
“There are thousands and thousands of leadership programs operating right now,” and they aren’t all equal, Cho said.
Even as college enrollment among low-income students has risen, so too have college costs, leaving many students without the means to buy their next meals. From food pantries to food stamps, this session explores what colleges are doing to help the growing number of students facing “food insecurity.”
From the University of Missouri to Yale, protesters are advocating for solutions to racial tensions on campus, fueled recently by rhetoric from a polarizing presidential campaign. How do student activists decide it’s time to take a stand, and how do protests get organized? What effect could the presidential election have on campus climate?
The federal Every Student Succeeds Act ushers in a new era that gives states and districts considerable leeway to reshape school accountability. What’s flexible and what’s not in the new K-12 law? What changes are on tap in states? And what are the implications for ensuring that schools serve all students effectively?
In early May at Match Public Charter School in Boston, 18 freshmen are preparing to discuss themes from “Lord of the Flies.” Their English teacher is Ashley Davis, a 26-year-old native of Cincinnati who’s in her second year of teaching, but acts like a veteran.
Davis will soon have her students explaining the biblical allusions in the 1954 novel and debating whether mankind is naturally good or evil.
The fourth grade students sit on a carpet, wriggling, shaking their hands, looking in all directions as a teacher uses the most basic of tools — a red sharpie and a big white pad — to deliver her lesson.
The day’s agenda: teaching the Common Core standard of finding “whole number quotients.” She writes an equation on the board, and the answer works out to be 100. But she’s not done.
What implications does the presidential election hold for the future of pre-K -12 policy? What direction would the leading candidates pursue? How might a shift in Congress’s political balance complicate matters? Meanwhile, a dozen governors’ seats are in play, from Oregon to Indiana and North Carolina, setting the stage for state-policy shifts.
Getting in Deep: Immersing Yourself in a Difficult Education Story
Video Resources from the 69th EWA National Seminar
Award-winning Boston Globe journalist Meghan Irons shares lessons from her reporting on two complex stories about students and race: one on equity and campus climate at Boston Latin, the nation’s oldest public school; and another that looked closely at school desegregation 40 years after the tumultuous debut of court-ordered busing in Boston.
- Meghan Irons, The Boston Globe
- Denise Amos, The Florida Times-Union (moderator)
Reporters face increasingly complex ethical and legal questions when it comes to interviewing and reporting on children in the digital age.
A sensitive story that once would have rolled off the presses and been recycled the next day, or lived on the air for less than a minute, now remains online with no expiration in sight.
This report examines perceptions of university programs that prepare the nation’s future school principals, barriers to their improvement and the state’s role in encouraging program upgrades.
EWA Express Talks: Equity, Poverty, and Education
Video Resources from the 69th EWA National Seminar
This special, morning-long session features a series of speakers aiming to illuminate under-recognized or under-reported facets of the challenges of providing equitable opportunities for all students. Topics examined include social mobility, cultural questions, combatting trauma, and solutions focusing on equity.
When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced his $100 million pledge to transform the downtrodden schools of Newark, New Jersey, then-mayor Cory Booker and Governor Chris Christie were beside him, vowing to help make Newark “a symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation.” Dale Russakoff’s book tells the story of what happened next.
- Dale Russakoff, author
- Leslie Brody, The Wall Street Journal (moderator)
The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), like No Child Left Behind before it, requires states to report information on the academic achievement of students in each of their schools, both overall and for various subgroups of students. A subgroup of particular interest to policymakers and researchers is economically disadvantaged students, who, on average, score much lower on standardized tests than their higher-income peers.
I spent an academic year as an embedded reporter inside a Memphis high school that enrolled hundreds of children of Mexican immigrants. Many of the young people I met that year had lived most of their lives in the United States, and in some cases were born here. Most spoke fluent English.
As I followed these English-speaking students around the school, I paid much less attention to another group of young people: kids who had recently arrived from other countries and spoke little English.
Most education journalists probably remember last year’s viral video depicting members of the University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity singing a racist chant.
“I thought it was a really isolated, terrible incident,” recalled Kimberly Hefling, then an education reporter for The Associated Press. But her colleague, Jesse Holland, didn’t see it as a major news event at all.
Developing a phone app to ensure students know their rights. Crafting legislation to advocate for student press freedom. Creating a civic engagement class.
Those are just a few examples of “student-centered learning” in action, high schoolers told an audience of education journalists recently.
Undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children are often known as “DREAMers,” for the failed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. In the face of instability, many DREAMers have turned to advocacy. DREAMers share their immigration stories and discuss the media’s approach to reporting on the undocumented.
The grim subject of violent attacks in schools seems unlikely to go away. While the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School appeared to be a watershed moment in the national conversation about how to keep schools and students safe, school shootings have continued and little has changed in how the issue is covered in the news media.
Most stories about school security center tend to focus on extreme events or threats.
Students of color represent more than half of the United States’ public school population, but their parents are the most underrepresented group of stakeholders in local and national conversations about whether policies and reforms are working for their students.
A panel of experts who engage parents of color on local and national levels shared these and other observations with education reporters in Boston at the Education Writers Association annual national conference. And their message was clear: No longer can these voices be ignored.
Some student assessments don’t look much like standardized tests at all, even when they’re being used for school accountability.
Strong voices can mean the difference between good stories and great ones. Journalists gain practical insights to sharpen their skills in this narrative writing workshop session led by Louise Kiernan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and editor at the Chicago Tribune, and now associate professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
- Louise Kiernan, Northwestern University
- Cornelia Grumman, Robert R. McCormick Foundation (moderator)
When David DesRoches learned in 2013 that a small, wealthy Connecticut town was failing to educate its special-needs children properly, he began some textbook investigative journalism work: filing public records requests, cultivating dozens of sources, and trekking to meeting after meeting. What resulted was one of the most in-depth reporting projects ever on the rights of students with disabilities and the failures of their school districts to respect them.
As education becomes increasingly digital, it creates a world of opportunities for students, who can now visit world-famous museums or collaborate with other students without ever leaving the classroom.
But it also creates potential barriers for families lacking access to adequate devices or high-speed internet and can lead to a growing opportunity gap.
The first total solar eclipse to sweep across the entire continental United States in 38 years will occur on August 21, 2017. Don’t expect reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) anytime before then.
The HEA expired at the end of 2013 and it’s likely nothing will happen with it in an election year or soon thereafter, agreed a panel of journalists discussing key higher education issues and the 2016 presidential election, at the Education Writers Association National Seminar in Boston in May.
For Nancy Barile, who teaches English at Revere High School, turning around a reluctant reader meant turning on her own TV.
The student wouldn’t read or do homework, Barile said, but he was “obsessed” with The Walking Dead and urged his teacher to watch the program. So Bartile, who has taught at Revere for 21 years, made a deal: She would watch the TV show if he would read.
Participation in the Advanced Placement program has more than doubled over the past decade, with nearly 2.5 million students taking one or more AP exams in 2015. But with that growth has come questions about the push to ramp up the AP presence, especially initiatives that target low-income and minority students.
How well do AP courses prepare students for the rigors of college? And are students who may lack adequate preparation benefiting from the coursework?
Imagine you’re a student: You walk into school and check an electronic board for your name and where you go for the day. At the assigned station, you and a small group of fellow students work with a teacher on algebra, which builds on the lesson you mastered the day before. Then, you take a short quiz that helps to create your class schedule for the next day.
In the shadow of Boston’s Fenway Park, young playwrights do a read-through of a student script. Down the hall, dancers are flicking their toes in soulful precision.
On a tour of the Boston Arts Academy during the Education Writers Association’s national conference in May, visiting journalists listened in as students in a photo class talk about composition and critique one another’s work.
After an unarmed Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones watched events unfold from afar. But she was struck when the 18-year-old’s mother, standing at the edge of the crime scene where her son’s dead body lay, asked if the authorities knew how hard it is to get a black boy to graduate from high school.
Divisive dialogue erupted last year after students from the University of Missouri formed a wall to prevent reporters from entering a public space — an area that the students who were protesting racism on campus wanted to designate as a “safe space.” But for Mizzou student journalist Caroline Bauman, the incident revealed a disconnect between reporters and the communities they cover.
The issue of race and diversity in college admissions once again is front and center, as the U.S. Supreme Court will rule soon on the high-profile affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas.
Panelists during a discussion at the Education Writers Association’s national conference in May offered mixed predictions about how the court will rule on whether the use of race in admissions is constitutional and how far the effects of the ruling could reach.
The K-12 investigative reporting track offers a how-to session on digging into public documents that help reporters examine special education policies, highlights journalists’ work on how teachers charged with abusing students are staying in the classroom, and explores how five elementary schools were allowed to become “failure factories.”
National record-keeping on teacher misconduct is inconsistent and incomplete, allowing those accused of malpractice to move into teaching jobs in other school districts that are unaware of the charges. Even some convictions may slip through the cracks.
There’s a perfect storm of poor conditions fueling America’s troubling achievement gap.
Six of the country’s top thinkers on equity in education recently laid out some of the reasons why poor students of color struggle academically. And it’s not just because of what happens inside of classrooms.
“The gaps (when students enter school) account for the majority of the gaps later on,” said Jane Waldfogel, a professor at Columbia University who participated in an Education Writers Association discussion this month on equity, poverty, and education.
How do you get the best teachers in front of the students who need them the most? It’s an issue getting increased attention, but a tough problem to solve.
Many conversations about school improvement skip an essential element: student voices. This session stars students who are learning to advocate for themselves — both inside and outside the classroom. What’s firing them up, particularly in “student-centered learning” environments? What do they want reporters to know about the real world of schools?
In the 10 years since Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey posted his first tweet — “just setting up my twttr” — a lot has changed in social media. Which platforms — next-generation and old school — should you be using for audience engagement, and how? This session examines a range of platforms and takes a deep dive on a few highly effective tools.
Parents need more than a report card to know how their children are doing in school. And as they evaluate their local educational options, many parents struggle to find key information, whether it’s course offerings, school-safety statistics, or the quality of teachers.
The not-so-old teacher evaluation model was based on a “30-minute drive-by,” according to education policy expert Thomas Toch of Georgetown University.
At Codman Academy Charter Public School, the walls in the lower school hallways aren’t covered in the bright reds, yellows, and oranges visitors might expect in an elementary setting. Instead, they’re subdued neutrals, mostly creams and browns. Rather than large chart paper displays and murals, there are natural wood panels, internal and external windows, and glass panels decorated with branches and leaves.
Who succeeds in life? Angela Duckworth, whose new book on grit debuts in May, reviews her research on the tendency to pursue long-term goals with perseverance and passion. She explains the predictive power of grit and shares her thoughts on how to cultivate this hotly debated trait.
If you’re like a lot of reporters in my newsroom, your social media skills amount to scanning Twitter and Facebook.
To say that we have fallen behind is an understatement. The good news is that you don’t need programming skills to be good at mining social media.
When it comes to the story of Massachusetts’ public schools, the takeaway, according to the state’s former education secretary, Paul Reville, is that “doing well isn’t good enough.”
Roughly 25 years after the first charter school opened in Minnesota, the debate over these publicly funded but independently operated campuses remains polarized.
Juan Cofield, the president of the NAACP’s New England Area Conference opposes a looming public referendum in Massachusetts to lift that state’s cap on the number of charter schools.
EWA Executive Director Presents Findings From First-Of-Its-Kind Survey
State Of The Education Beat 2016
Education journalists have the critically important task of informing the public about education at the local, state, and national levels. But little is known about this sector of the news media. What does this workforce look like? Do education journalists believe their work matters? Are they satisfied in their jobs? What challenges does the field face to better informing public dialogue on education?
For education journalists, writing about poverty poses many challenges. But one of the most overlooked is that it’s often difficult to know much about the socioeconomic background of students in a given school. Reporters often rely on two things: anecdotal evidence and the percentage of students who receive a free or reduced-price lunch.
Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, known for “Bowling Alone,” examines the state of the American dream in his newest work. He discusses whether equality of opportunity still exists and whether all kids, regardless of background, have the chance to improve their lot in life.
- Robert Putnam, Harvard University
- Claudio Sanchez, NPR (moderator)
The stereotypes of the financially struggling college students are well-known. They live on ramen, share an apartment or house with several roommates, and work part-time for money to buy beer. They get summer jobs to cover college tuition and expenses. And they come from middle- and upper-class families, so if they do struggle sometimes to pay the bills, that scarcity is hip and cool.
The film “Paper Tigers” opens with what looks like phone camera footage of a fight. There’s a splatter of blood, shouting, a chair flying across a classroom.
The voiceover is a patchwork of voices saying things like: “This place is absolute chaos.” And: “All the kids were forced to be here.” And: “That’s where the bad kids went.”
As states and districts debate which standardized tests are best for students, they are evaluating many factors, including curriculum alignment, the amount of time the assessments take, and how soon the results come in.
During an Education Writers Association conference in Boston this month, analysts and education leaders explored how students, teachers, and school systems are adjusting to changes in testing, and probed the challenges in making sense of this complex topic.
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.
Colleges Experiment With New Ways of Graduating More Students
Paying students not to work and introducing psychology surveys are some of the actions
With the number of well-paying jobs open to those without college degrees becoming scarcer by the day, policymakers have adopted an ambitious goal to increase the number of Americans with college credentials to 60 percent by 2025. As of 2016, that rate stood at just 45 percent.
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.
Equity. Testing and curriculum. Restorative justice.
Look for those themes in education coverage over the coming year, suggested a panel of journalists at EWA’s 69th annual National Seminar earlier this month. Guided by moderator David Hoff of the social marketing firm Hager Sharp, the panelists were asked to share their thoughts on the education stories to watch in the 2016-17 academic year.
When it comes making prekindergarten available to all children, the question for policymakers is not whether it’s a good idea or not. The issue is whether it’s possible to make high-quality pre-K universal, and what makes pre-K effective in the first place.
That was the main message from experts who spoke earlier this month at the Education Writers Association’s national seminar in Boston.
An affordable college education. Politicians and bus stop ads promise it, students and parents dream of it. But can anyone define it?
Authors of one data-rich report tried their best to bring this vague yet crucial concept into focus by answering a simple question: What percent of your income would you need to pay to go to college in each state?
Here’s a quick quiz. Rate the following statements on a scale from one to five, with one meaning you totally disagree and five meaning you wholeheartedly agree:
Beginners and experts essentially think in the same way.
Most people are either left-brained or right-brained.
Students learn more when information is tailored to their unique learning styles.
Last month, The Washington Post ran a front-page profile about Edwin Ordoñez: a high school valedictorian who swam across the Rio Grande with his father at age 9. Now he has protection from deportation and is choosing between admissions and scholarship offers from Emory, Williams and Princeton.
College students enter their institutions excited about learning and eager to succeed. Yet many don’t.
Hurdles like the cost of attendance certainly exist, but researchers are also now starting to examine the effects psychological barriers such as social group dynamics, self-confidence and feelings of isolation have on college students’ success.
For every savant who’s skilled enough to ditch class and still ace the course, many more who miss school fall way behind, increasing their odds of dropping out or performing poorly.
The implications are major: If a school has a high number of students repeatedly absent, there’s a good chance other troubles are afoot. Feeling uninspired in the classroom, poor family outreach, or struggles at students’ homes are just some of the root causes of absenteeism, experts say.
In some classrooms, students are learning deeply. These students not only master the subject, but they are able to articulate why they are learning about something and apply what they’ve learned to real-life situations. Advocates of “deeper learning” say the approach has become even more important in a changing economy that demands critical thinking.
Dakarai I. Aarons is the director of communications and external affairs for the Data Quality Campaign. Previously, he served as education and policy manager for CommunicationWorks, where he managed key messaging, outreach and interactive projects focused on urban education, school leadership, school improvement and policy change in K-12 education, and also on projects involving student access and success in postsecondary education.
Sunday, May 1
8:00 a.m. – 8:45 a.m.
New to the Beat
8:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
New to the Beat is EWA’s orientation and mentoring program for journalists with less than two years’ experience on the beat. This workshop session, led by seasoned newsroom experts, covers beat basics including accessing open records; using education research in everyday reporting; building sources; and tips for interviewing teachers and students.
Match Beyond has a bodacious goal: To invent a college program that wipes out undergraduate debt and cures poverty.
Not the rarefied college designed for that by-the-bootstraps, defy-the-odds high school senior trotted out for interviews and inspirational speeches when visitors come to high-poverty schools looking for their scholarship success stories.
One of the most important and welcomed provisions of the Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) is the removal of so-called adequate yearly progress – the federal mandate that came to symbolize everything that was wrong with the way No Child Left Behind defined and measured accountability. AYP imposed rigid and narrow measures for school improvement, improperly labeling many schools as low-performing and imposing punishment when they were unable to meet the unrealistic expectations for proficiency.
When President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act in December, he shifted significant power over educational accountability back to states and school districts.
They still face federal requirements on testing, identifying and assisting the lowest performing schools, and related matters. Money remains the carrot.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker spoke at the 69th EWA National Seminar in Boston. Journalists and outlets are free to use EWA’s photos of the event. If you do, please credit “Katherine Taylor for Education Writers Association”
Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. spoke at the 69th EWA National Seminar in Boston. Journalists and outlets are free to use EWA’s photos of the event. If you do, please credit “Katherine Taylor for Education Writers Association”
Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. spoke at the 69th EWA National Seminar in Boston. Journalists and outlets are free to use EWA’s video, audio, and photos of the event. If you do, please credit Education Writers Association.
K-12 education hasn’t been a top theme this presidential campaign cycle, but reporters could be more aggressive in mining information from the candidates on the topic, analysts said at a national forum this week.
Historically, education hasn’t played prominently on the campaign trail, said Martin West, an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The 2016 presidential election is no exception – although this race for the White House has also proven wildly unpredictable.
Massachusetts has long been the poster child for education.
For years now it’s ranked at the top in the country for math and reading achievement, boasted impressive graduation rates and made a significant financial investments over the last few decades to get there.
It’s no slouch when it comes to higher education either. Massachusetts harbors some of the best colleges and universities in the world, and it’s joining a growing number of states looking to make college more affordable.
“The most expensive degree is the one you don’t get.” That’s Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell quoting former U.S. Ed Secretary Arne Duncan at the Education Writers Association’s National Seminar on Monday. Mitchell’s talk focused on how to prevent such a costly slip.
Racial diversity and the socioeconomic integration of schools can be powerful tools to help improve educational opportunities for students, but much depends on whether states and local communities prioritize them, Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. stressed in remarks here on Monday.
In the dozen years that Angela Duckworth has researched the concept of grit, she’s found new ways to test its validity, identified examples of it in popular culture, and worked to bust myths about its application in schools. But she hasn’t developed a just-add-water curriculum package that interested schools can use to develop the character trait in their students.
Cara Fitzpatrick was in labor when her husband – and colleague at the Tampa Bay Times – asked her “So what can you tell me about segregation in Pinellas County?”
The paper had just decided to do a large-scale investigation into the district’s schools that were serving predominately low-income, black students. Two years later, Fitzpatrick’s son is walking and talking and she and the rest of the team have earned a Pulitzer Prize for their series Failure Factories.
Registration & Badge Pick Up
Sunday – Tuesday
Opens at 7:45 a.m.
925 Commonwealth Ave
Badges are required to attend all seminar events and meals.
925 Commonwealth Ave
EWA is able to provided limited travel scholarships to qualified journalists. Scholarships may be able to cover or reimburse your costs to attend the seminar. Scholarships are granted first come, first serve.
Three days of dynamic programming and networking opportunities await the estimated 600 journalists and education experts who will gather this spring in historic downtown Boston for the Education Writers Association’s 69th annual National Seminar.
Conference registration rates for journalist and supporting community members.
On April 19, requests for scholarships closed for this year’s National Seminar.
EWA provides limited scholarships for working journalists to attend the National Seminar. Do not register or book your travel and hotel until you’ve received an award letter by email from EWA. Your application must be reviewed by EWA first. Learn more about the scholarship process.
EWA Announces Date and Venue of 2016 National Seminar
Flagship Conference Coming to New England’s Largest City
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.