School Climate & Safety

Overview

School Climate & Safety

There was a time when the idea of creating a desirable school climate was practically redundant because there were few, if any, obstacles. “In the earliest public schools, teachers taught and students listened,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has written approvingly about that simpler era in American education. “Teachers commanded, and students obeyed.”

In the modern era, however, maintaining a good school climate is a continuing challenge for teachers, administrators, and policymakers.

There was a time when the idea of creating a desirable school climate was practically redundant because there were few, if any, obstacles. “In the earliest public schools, teachers taught and students listened,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has written approvingly about that simpler era in American education. “Teachers commanded, and students obeyed.”

In the modern era, however, maintaining a good school climate is a continuing challenge for teachers, administrators, and policymakers.

There are multiple definitions of school climate, but most revolve around the environment affecting students and teachers. The University-Community Partnerships at Michigan State University defines a comprehensive school climate as a physical environment that is welcoming and conducive to learning, a social environment that promotes communication and interaction, an “affective” environment that promotes a sense of belonging and self-esteem, and an academic environment that promotes learning and self-fulfillment.

The National School Climate Center, a New York City-based research and advocacy organization, says that a positive school climate is one where norms, values, and expectations support people feeling socially, emotionally, and physically safe; students and others are engaged and respected; educators model and nurture attitudes that emphasize the benefits of learning; and each member of the school community contributes to the operations of the school and the care of its physical environment.

Such definitions are helpful as ideals, but at many schools there is still a wide gulf between the goal and the reality. This Topics section discusses how students, teachers, administrators, and policymakers navigate and shape the climate on school campuses.

School Violence

Consider the most basic element of a good school climate—one that is free of violence and disruption. In the 2009-10 school year, 85 percent of public schools recorded one or more incidents of violence, theft, or other crimes, according to the “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2011.” That report is a compendium of statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the U.S. Department of Justice. The report says there were some 1.9 million crimes committed at schools during that academic year.

Also during that year, there were 33 violent deaths at schools, and students age 12-18 were the victims of some 828,000 non-fatal “victimization” incidents, including 470,000 thefts and 359,000 violent incidents.

While those figures are sobering (and there are many more in the report), the silver lining is that in several important categories school violence was on the downswing. The 33 violent deaths in 2009-10 were down from a recent peak of 63, in 2006-07. Meanwhile, the rate of non-fatal victimization for students 12-18 (incidents per 1,000 students) has been on a steady downswing since 1992.

While statistics present a cold look at trends in school safety, an ambitious journalistic effort can bring such numbers to life. In 2011, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a multi-part series that detailed how a climate of violence was stifling the city’s public schools. The “Assault on Learning” series included vivid images of high school girls smearing Vaseline on their faces and donning scarves before engaging in a planned fight. Such measures would help keep their skin from scarring and their hair from being pulled out. On an average day, 25 students, teachers, or other staff members in the 146,000-student district were beaten, robbed, sexually assaulted, or were the victims of other crimes, the paper reported.

For the series, which won the Pulitzer Prize for meritorious public service in the spring of 2012, the Inquirer developed a database and calculated a violence rate for each public school. One particularly disturbing part of the series found that young children, from kindergartners to 10-year-olds, “have been assaulting and threatening classmates and staff members with increasing ferocity and sophistication.”

The newspaper found that effective violence-prevention programs were flourishing “in small pockets,” but the school district “has failed to replicate them on a large scale.”

Bullying

Another key challenge to a safe school climate is bullying, the age-old intimidation tactics that can rise to the level of violent incident but often wreaks subtler, more insidious damage. There have been renewed efforts in the past few years to address the scourge of bullying in school classrooms, hallways, and playgrounds, as well as in that newer neighborhood where young people hang out—cyberspace.

According to the “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2011” report, about 28 percent of students aged 12-18 reported being bullied in school. Common categories included being taunted or insulted; being pushed, shoved, or spit on; being the subject of rumors; being threatened with harm; being made to do things the student didn’t want to do; and being excluded from activities.

For this age group of middle school and high school students, 6th graders reported the highest proportion of being bullied (39 percent), with the proportion declining each grade through 12th, which had a 20 percent rate of students facing bullying.

As for the newer phenomenon of cyberbullying, the federal report found that about 6 percent of students 12-18 reported facing such a problem anywhere (inside or outside of school) during the 2008-09 year. Cyberbullying was defined as reporting that another student posted hurtful information about them on the Internet; or harassed them via online instant-messaging services, SMS text messages, e-mail, or while playing games online. Harassing text messages were the largest category of cyberbullying, with 3 percent of students reporting experiencing them, the federal report said.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have drawn attention to the problem of bullying, leading White House conferences and promoting multi-agency responses at the federal level. “Bullying is definable,” Duncan said at a 2010 federal bullying prevention summit meeting. “It has a common definition and a legal definition in many states. Good prevention programs work to reduce bullying. And bullying is very much an education priority that goes to the heart of school performance and school culture.”

The Education Department’s office for civil rights took the stance in 2010 that a school’s failure to properly respond to bullying could amount to a violation of a student’s civil rights. Many lawmakers at the state and federal level believe that more protection is needed.

Most states have some form of anti-bullying legislation on their books, but many have sought to strengthen their protections. New Jersey, for example, has a law requiring each school to have an anti-bullying specialist and to report incidents of the behavior to the state. Other provisions in a new crop of state anti-bullying measures include expanding the definition to include cyberbullying, increasing protections for victims of bullying and those who report incidents, and requiring professional development for teachers and awareness programs for students on the issue.

According to a 2011 federal Education Department report, 46 states have anti-bullying laws, and 45 of those laws direct school districts to adopt policies to combat bullying. One conclusion of the report is that “one of the most significant challenges to legislation has been in defining what types of behavior, and what conditions, constitute school bullying (e.g., what actions, what frequency, intent, location, and what degree of harm to victims), which can take place under often varied and difficult-to-define circumstances. Since there is no standard definition of bullying that is universally accepted in the research field or at the federal level, the states must establish their own definitions through legislative debate and administrative action.” Meanwhile, at the federal level, Congress in 2011 and 2012 was considering its own measures to combat bullying. One measure, sponsored by Senators Robert Casey, D-Pa., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., would require federally funded school districts to establish codes of conduct that prohibit bullying and harassment, including on the basis of students’ sexual orientation or gender identity. The measure, called the Safe Schools Improvement Act, also would require states to report bullying statistics to the federal Education Department. Another measure, by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., would add specific anti-bullying protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students. In April 2012, President Obama publicly endorsed the two measures, though they had not moved forward as of June 2012.

LGBT Issues

On a related front for gay and lesbian issues in schools, the president participated in the “It Gets Better” project, a series of public service announcements aiming a positive message at gay young people, especially those who have considered suicide. “We’ve got to dispel this myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage, that it’s some inevitable part of growing up,” President Obama said in his 2010 contribution. “It’s not. We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our kids.”

The It Gets Better campaign underscores that bullying and discrimination against gay and lesbian students in school is not condoned or tolerated to the degree it was perhaps just a generation ago. But a major study of the school climate for LGBT teenagers suggests there is still work to be done. Just a few years ago, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, a resource for students, teachers, and others, published its most exhaustive look at the issue, titled “The 2009 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools.” The study reports that schools nationwide remain “hostile environments for a distressing number of LGBT students—almost all of whom commonly hear homophobic remarks and face verbal and physical harassment and even physical assault because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.”

Nearly 89 percent of LGBT students in the survey had frequently or often heard the term “gay” used negatively at school, such as in the phrase “That’s so gay.” Some 72 percent heard other homophobic remarks frequently at school. Forty percent of survey respondents reported being physically harassed, such as being pushed or shoved, at school in the previous year because of their sexual orientation. Some 19 percent of respondents reported more serious physical assaults based on their sexual orientation.

Some 64 percent of students did not feel confident reporting such harassment to school officials because they did not think it would be taken seriously. And about one-third of all respondents said they had reported bullying or other harassment and that school officials had done nothing.

The report outlined problems of higher absenteeism, lowered educational aspirations, and poorer psychological well-being among gay and lesbian youths who had faced such situations in school.

On a positive note, the study outlines that students at schools with gay-straight alliances (student support clubs), gay-positive curricula, and supportive educators faced fewer instances of harassment and bullying.

GLSEN also reports that looking back as far as its first climate survey in 1999, there has been a decline in the hearing of homophobic remarks in school (though the rate has been steady in more recent years), there has been a significant increase in the number of gay-straight alliances as that movement spread across the country, and there has been a significant increase in the number of educators who are supportive of LGBT students.

There are other significant issues raised in the context of the school climate question—student mobility, sex discrimination, social support and counseling for students. The complexity of the topic underscores that American schools are far removed from the era when “teachers taught and students listened.” 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Ready to Design a New School? ‘Start With the Student.’
Educators share insights on building next-generation schools

Imagine creating a new public high school from scratch — not just the building, but the learning experience itself. How would you start? What would a typical day look like? How would it differ from most high schools?

At a recent EWA seminar, several educators who have faced this challenge shared their insights as they sought to better serve students by upending traditional school models.

Latest News

Republicans Stuff Education Bill With Conservative Social Agenda

A 590-page higher-education bill working its way through Congress is a wish list for a wide range of people, groups and colleges saying that their First Amendment rights — freedom of speech, religion or assembly — are being trampled. Many of them are religious, right-leaning or both, and the Republicans behind the bill have eagerly taken up the cause, correcting what they see as antipathy toward conservative beliefs on American campuses.

Latest News

Cafeteria Inspections Reveal Critical Health Violations at New York City Schools

At Public School 398 in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, elementary school students were offered a lunch of beef patties, zucchini and pears on March 20. A city health inspector discovered some unappetizing conditions in the cafeteria and kitchen that day: live roaches and close to 600 fresh mice droppings – all conditions primed to cause illness.

Latest News

Can A School Ban Its Students From Kneeling During The National Anthem?

What started as a demonstration among professional athletes against racism and police brutality has spread to high school athletes, including cheerleaders, and ignited debate over students’ First Amendment rights. Half a century after the US Supreme Court ruled that an Iowa high school had illegally barred students from protesting the war in Vietnam, V.A.’s lawsuit could set new precedents on free speech protections for public school students.

Member Stories

Jan. 25 – Feb. 1
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week.

Andrew Ujifusa and colleagues from Education Week are reporting from Puerto Rico — and its schools — about ongoing efforts to recover from devastation Hurricane Maria wreaked four months ago. 

 

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Megan Burks of KPBS examines San Diego Unified’s revamped sex ed. curriculum, which emphasizes consent and communication. 

 

P-12 Topic

Educating for Character & Citizenship

image of teacher and children sitting in circle in classroom

The intensive focus in public schools on boosting achievement in core subjects has sparked concerns that the U.S. education system is neglecting an important responsibility: to help foster in children strong character and prepare them for active citizenship in a democratic society.

Latest News

‘Why Can’t I Have My Life Back?’: In Puerto Rico, Living and Learning In The Dark

Neida and her 7-year-old brother, Julio, lost so much when Hurricane Maria struck in September — clothing and schoolwork, books and Neida’s anime drawings and then, after the floodwaters receded, days and days of school. Julio did not return to class until late October, and Neida in mid-November. They were lucky. In other parts of the island, children did not return until December, missing nearly three months.

Latest News

Schools Close as Flu Epidemic Spreads

Schools in at least 11 states have closed as the worst flu epidemic in nearly a decade intensifies.

The dominant strain of flu this season, H3N2, known for being particularly virulent, has resulted in the deaths of at least 37 children and is expected to cause more as the epidemic persists several more weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projected on Friday.

Member Stories

Jan. 19 – 25
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week.

Megan Raposa of the Argus Leader (a 2017 EWA New to the Beat rookie) takes a close look at the educational opportunities for students growing up on South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation. 

 

Writing for The Atlantic, Melinda Anderson explores how hiring biases could be holding back efforts to improve the number of teachers of color.  

 

Latest News

These Girls Say a Classmate’s Racist Taunts Drove Them From Elite College Prep Program

The U.S. Department of Education is investigating allegations of racism in Mira Loma High School’s prestigious International Baccalaureate program after the National Center for Youth Law filed a civil rights complaint saying school officials did nothing when African American students were harassed and belittled because of their race.

The complaint also charges that African American students at Mira Loma are suspended at unusually high rates, and that the school has denied African American students access to educational opportunities.

Latest News

Herriman High Students Cry Censorship After Story Is Pulled From Website

Student journalists at Herriman High School are crying censorship after their school newspaper’s website was temporarily disabled when they published two stories alleging inappropriate messaging between a former teacher and a student.

Less than 12 hours after students at the Telegraph student newspaper published their investigation about the teacher’s departure from the school, the two articles disappeared from the publication’s website, which featured a message saying the page was down for maintenance.

Latest News

CMS Adds Support for LGBTQ Students After Intense, Raucous Public Hearing

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board voted 7-2 Tuesday to take a stronger stand on supporting LGBTQ students. The vote followed an impassioned and sometimes raucous public hearing.

The board approved a revised multiculturalism policy that expands the definition of diversity to include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, along with such attributes as race, gender, national origin and religion. It also strengthens the mandate to “intentionally (incorporate) diversity throughout the curriculum, instruction, and professional development.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Covering School Shootings? First, ‘Do No Harm.’

Soon after reports first circulated about a student opening fire at a Kentucky high school on Tuesday, Gov. Matt Blevin took to Twitter and urged people to show restraint:

“Shooter is in custody, one confirmed fatality, multiple others wounded. … Much yet unknown. … Please do not speculate or spread hearsay. … Let’s let the first responders do their job and be grateful that they are there to do it for us.”

Latest News

Women Say SF Driving Instructor Harassed, Groped Them As Teens

A popular driving instructor harassed and groped several underage San Francisco schoolgirls over a number of years, making sexual comments, forcing kisses on many, and in some cases taking them to secluded places before touching them inappropriately, according to 10 women who shared their allegations with The Chronicle.

Latest News

For FSU fraternity, A Wild Night Turned Tragic

The night of initiation was the most that the brothers of Florida State University’s Pi Kappa Phi chapter said they had ever seen their pledge class drink.

That was the plan, court records said: Pledges would arrive at the fraternity house Nov. 2 and hail rides to an off-campus house. There, the “big brothers” would reveal themselves to their underage pledges and present them with a token of acceptance: their “family bottle” — a liquor bottle their new “little” was expected to polish off that night.

Member Stories

Jan. 12 – 18
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week.

Portland Public Schools has cut ties with a special education teacher who was on leave for alleged misconduct — two years after a district administrator declared him a danger to students and paid him to resign, reports Beth Slovic of the Portland Tribune.

 

Latest News

Department of Education Publishes List of Active Civil Rights Investigations

The Department of Education on Wednesday published a searchable database of all active civil rights investigations that will be updated monthly by the department.

The list includes the institution under investigation, its state, the institution type, the type of discrimination complaint and the date the investigation was opened.

Latest News

MPS Agrees to Settle U.S. Civil Rights Complaint Over Discipline of Black Students

Milwaukee Public Schools has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to resolve a complaint that it discriminated against black students in suspensions and other disciplinary actions.

Under the terms of the agreement, MPS must, among other things, improve its monitoring and data collection, better train staff, update its disciplinary policies and develop early identification and intervention strategies for students at risk for behavioral problems.

Latest News

Colleges Brace for Tumult in 2018 as White Supremacists Demand a Stage

Kent Fuchs, the president of the University of Florida, was in the living room of his stately campus residence last fall when he saw the first televised images of a parade of terror unfolding in another college town further north.

There were protesters. Counterprotesters. Angry confrontations. The night sky was lit by tiki torches in the grips of young white supremacists marching on the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. And later a car, recklessly roaring toward the crowd, killed a counter-demonstrator named Heather Heyer and injured others.

Latest News

124 Sex Offenders Live Near Collier Public and Charter Schools

Forty-seven Collier County traditional public and charter schools have at least one sex offender living less than 1 mile from the school’s campus. In total, 124 sex offenders live within 1 mile of a K-12 school.

The offenders are acting within their rights; Florida law prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a K-12 school.

But a provision in the minimum distance law exempts offenders in two instances: if the crime was committed in Florida before Oct. 1, 2004, or if the offense occurred in another state before May 26, 2010.

Member Stories

Jan. 4 – 11
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week.

Something crucial is missing when the academic year starts in some of America’s largest school systems — a full slate of full-time teachers. Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum requested and examined data and explains what it all means for students.

 

Theresa Harrington of Ed Source explains a school’s push to boost the quality of students’ writing in an effort that spans every class, including P.E.

 

Latest News

It’s Not Just Freezing Classrooms in Baltimore. America’s Schools Are Physically Falling Apart

This week, as the “bomb cyclone” ravaged cities along the East Coast, schools across the northeastern and southern United States were forced to shut down due to inclement weather and freezing temperatures. But Baltimore schools remained open during the first half of the week despite broken heating systems that caused some classroom temperatures to dip below 40 degrees. And although schools closed on Thursday and Friday, the debate over who’s responsible for the inadequate heating and water systems in t

Latest News

The #MeToo Movement Goes to School

When Hollywood’s glitterati walked the red carpet for the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday evening, it was the #MeToo movement that took center stage, not the directors, actors or actresses there to fête and be fêted – many of whom donned black clothing to draw attention to reports of sexual harassment that have rocked Tinsel Town, sent politicians packing and exposed chronic abuses in higher education, finance and other societal spheres.

EWA Radio

2018: What’s Ahead on the Education Beat
Betsy DeVos, Tax Reform, and DACA in the spotlight (EWA Radio: Episode 153)

Veteran education journalists Greg Toppo of USA Today and Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed offer predictions on the education beat for the coming year, as well as story ideas to help reporters cover emerging federal policies and trends that will impact students and educators at the state and local level. Top items on their watchlists include the effect of the so-called “Trump Effect on classrooms, and whether the revamped tax law will mean big hits to university endowments.

Latest News

Most Big Public Colleges Don’t Track Suicides, AP Finds

Nearly half of the largest U.S. public universities do not track suicides among their students, despite making investments in prevention at a time of surging demand for mental health services.

Tabulating student suicides comes with its own set of challenges and problems. But without that data, prevention advocates say, schools have no way to measure their success and can overlook trends that could offer insight to help them save lives.

Latest News

Camden Schools Face Influx of Children From Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico

Elba Ramos, like any proud grandmother, beamed as she showed photos of four of her grandchildren, each smiling broadly in their brand-new school uniforms. She laughed as she showed video of the youngsters, ages 4 to 8, playing in the mid-December snow, the first they’d ever experienced.

But Ramos’ Camden home is a lot more crowded than she’s used to, as her three daughters and four grandchildren have all been forced to join her here after losing their own homes in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria struck the island Sept. 20.

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

Bovard with Hahn Plaza/Gus Ruelas

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.

Member Stories

December 7 – 14
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

An apartment complex in Atlanta is providing a free after-school program as an amenity to help promote stability in a largely immigrant community, reports Linda Jacobson for Education Dive. 

 

The Democrat and Chronicle’s Justin Murphy investigates the $300,000 deal between a New York charter school and a real estate firm that allegedly has ties to a reclusive Turkish mogul. 

 

Latest News

Newtown Anniversary: Schools Disagree Over How to Prepare for Active Shooters

In 2013, Las Cruces High School in New Mexico created a training video to teach students how to perform a “lockdown” drill.

Today, the way schools prepare for active shooters on campus runs the gamut. Some, like Las Cruces, practice lockdowns. Others, conversely, plan to evacuate students. There are also efforts to train school resource officers and even arm teachers. But mostly, there’s major disagreement on what the best approach is.

Seminar

Beyond Academics: Covering Education for Character and Citizenship

The intensive focus in many public schools on basic academics has sparked concerns that the U.S. education system is neglecting a fundamental responsibility: to foster in young people the character traits and social-emotional skills needed to be successful students and engaged citizens. Empathy, collaboration, and self-efficacy, for instance, are essential in a democratic society. They also are important for success in a fast-changing job market.

Member Stories

November 30 – December 7
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Emily Hanford and Alex Baumhardt explore the higher education divide for rural students in the first part of a series from The Atlantic and APM Reports. 

 

Parents and community leaders are faced with tough choices in Denver’s child care deserts, as Ann Schimke and Yesenia Robles report for Chalkbeat Colorado. 

 

Member Stories

November 23 – November 30
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

A new project by The Hechinger Report, The Teacher Project, and Slate features early learners.  

 

In California classrooms, teaching LGBT means teachers face difficult questions about historical figures who were not necessarily “out,” explains EdSource’s Theresa Harrington.

 

The AP’s Maria Danilova looks at U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ plans for scaling back the Office for Civil Rights. 

 

Latest News

Is DeVos Near Ending School Discipline Reform After Talks on Race, Safety?

The investigation began with a racist slur and a punch to the face. A white high school student at California’s Lodi Unified School District spat a racial epithet at a black classmate, who lashed out with his fists in the school hallway the next morning.

Although OCR didn’t rule in the black student’s favor, it launched a compliance review spanning several years, reaching a settlement with the district in 2016 to address “concerns that it disciplines African-American students more harshly than white students.”

Member Stories

November 9 – November 16
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Victoria Pasquantonio reports on how a professor uses her story of personal tragedy to teach students about media literacy, for PBS Newshour

 

A Florida couple whose son attends a private school for special-needs students contested U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’ use of their story to promote voucher programs, reports Ann Schimke for Chalkbeat Colorado

 

EWA Radio

‘Raising Kings’: A Portrait of an Urban High School for Young Men of Color
Education Week-NPR series features social-emotional learning and restorative justice at new D.C. campus

Can schools ever fully fill the gaps in students’ life experiences that often keep them from succeeding in school? Two reporters, Education Week’s Kavitha Cardoza and Cory Turner of NPR, spent hundreds of hours at Ron Brown College Prep, a new boys-only public high school in Washington, D.C. that primarily serves students of color.

EWA Radio

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

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

Member Stories

October 19 – October 26
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Ann Dornfeld at KUOW public radio examines how an extremely high rate of homelessness at a Seattle elementary school, exacerbated by recent redistricting, has overwhelmed the school’s support structure. 

 
 

Wayne D’Orio reports for Wired on a Colorado school that is incentivizing project-based learning with a paycheck. 


 

EWA Radio

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?

Member Stories

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

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

 
 

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


 

EWA Radio

After the Storms: Uncertain Futures for Puerto Rico’s Students
EWA Radio: Episode 144

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.

Member Stories

October 5 – October 12
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Lauren McGaughy of The Dallas Morning News follows the controversy of a cancelled conservative speaker at a Houston HBCU that led to a war of words and accusations of infringement on free speech.

 
 

Jason Gonzales examines the results of The Tennessean’s two-year investigation of the challenges for teaching literacy in Nashville schools, which reveal stark differences in reading levels fueled by poverty and environmental factors. 

Member Stories

September 28 – October 5
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Natalie Pate of the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon, reports on how Congress’ failure to reauthorize two federal programs – the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program – will potentially affect millions of children and vulnerable families nationwide.

 
 

Member Stories

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

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

 
 

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


 

Member Stories

September 14 – 21
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

The Sacramento Bee’s Diana Lambert reports on a school board’s decision to keep policies that allow the teaching of potentially controversial topics, after the reading of a kindergarten book about a transgender child caused months of uproar from parents divided along ideological lines.

 
 

Edsource’s Mikhail Zinshteyn reports on possible changes to remedial education requirements in California, with potentially huge effects for the state’s community colleges. 

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Is the Solar Eclipse Too Risky For Students?

When a total solar eclipse passes over the United States on Monday, the best viewing will be in a handful of states stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. But some school districts are planning to keep students indoors, citing concerns over the potential health risks of viewing the historic event for themselves.

Key Coverage

Benefit of the Doubt
How Portland Public Schools Helped An Educator Evade Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Something broke inside 17-year-old Rose Soto when Marshall High teacher Mitch Whitehurst called attention to her pants.

“You know why they’re so great?” Whitehurst said as he walked behind her up an empty stairway, according to an account she would tell police and school officials. “It’s because of the zipper in the back. You just unzip them and boom we’re on it.”

The 2001 remark capped a year of unrelenting sexual advances from the Portland educator who’d tapped her to be his student aide, she told police.

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?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Trump Era Serves Up ‘Teachable Moments’ for Character Ed.

Days after Donald Trump won the White House, the Brookings Institution published an essay suggesting the 2016 presidential election should serve as a “Sputnik moment” for character education.

The campaign’s “extraordinary vitriol and divisiveness” offers a strong argument for a “renewed emphasis on schools’ role in developing children as caring, empathetic citizens,” wrote Brookings scholar Jon Valant.

EWA Radio

A Houston High School’s Transformation
EWA Radio: Episode 129

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?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Details, Data and Voices: K-12 Reporters Tell ‘How I Did the Story’

A teacher shortage in Oklahoma. Data-driven analysis of the Detroit School Board election. Teen suicide. The impact of an influx of Central American youths on a high-poverty Oakland school. Four of this year’s Education Writers Association award finalists recently shared their stories and took questions from a packed room at the EWA National Seminar on how they did their work.

Rocking the Beat

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Risks and Rewards: Social Media as a Reporting Tool

Many education journalists are savvy enough to use social media as a way to attract readers to their stories. But if that is all they are doing with social media, they are not harnessing its full potential.

“Especially in our beat, it can be a really valuable — if potentially risky and dangerous tool — both for connecting with hard-to-reach sources and for generating story angles and ideas,” said Sarah Carr, who runs The Teacher Project, a fellowship program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

EWA Radio

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. 

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

“The View From Room 205”: Can Schools Conquer Poverty?
EWA Radio: Episode 109

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?

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Education Deans Share Ideas for Recruiting, Retaining Latino Teachers

Last summer, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics convened a meeting of education deans from Hispanic-serving institutions across the country to brainstorm ideas for getting more Latinos into the teaching profession. The group recently released a white paper with their recommendations — among them a challenge to recognize and remove implicit bias in education.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

For Trump Pick DeVos, Confirmation Hearing Is a Bear

Tuesday’s confirmation hearing for billionaire school advocate Betsy DeVos — President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. secretary of education — was a doozy.

DeVos sought to present herself as ready to oversee the federal agency, but some of her remarks suggested a lack of familiarity with the federal laws governing the nation’s schools.

In her opening statement before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, DeVos said:

EWA Radio

2017: Big Education Stories to Watch
EWA Radio: Episode 104

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. 

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: Latino Ed Beat

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

Source: Bigstock

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

Key Coverage

And Everyone Saw It

The seventh-grader’s sext was meant to impress him. Then he shared it. It nearly destroyed her.

When Maureen’s parents were in middle school, if a girl wanted to show a boy her body in the middle of the night, she would have to sneak out of her house, find a way to get to his, evade his parents and yank up her shirt. For their daughter, all it took was a few clicks.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Crossing International Borders for a Better Education

Public Domain

Crossing an international border can be a hassle. But some parents in Mexico do it every day in pursuit of a better education for their children. 

San Antonio-based KENS 5 recently aired a story of a father who walks his two young children across the Mexico-Texas border daily so they can attend school in the U.S. The trek is worth it, he says.

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

Revisiting “Savage Inequalities” of School Funding
EWA Radio: Episode 85

HarperPerennial

For more than two decades, “Savage Inequalities” — a close look at school funding disparities nationwide — has been required reading at many colleges and universities. And with a growing number of states facing legal challenges to how they fund their local schools, author Jonathan Kozol’s work has fresh relevance. Education journalists Lauren Camera (US News & World Report) and Christine Sampson (East Hampton Star) talk with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about how Kozol’s book has influenced their own reporting.

EWA Radio

Why the ‘After-School Satan Club’ Is More than a Stunt
EWA Radio: Episode 84

(Flickr/Charles Rodstrom)

Why is an organization known as the Satanic Temple launching a national push to add after-school clubs in public elementary schools? And what does the group hope to accomplish when it comes to challenging perceived violations to the separation between church and state? Journalist Katherine Stewart, a contributing writer to The Washington Post, discusses her reporting on the controversy, which developed in response to the “Good News Clubs” — backed by a fundamentalist Christian organization — that have sprung up in thousands of elementary schools nationwide.

Stewart and EWA public editor Emily Richmond also discuss ideas for local reporters covering First Amendment and religious freedom issues in their own communities. 

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

D.C.-Area Latino Youth Programs Get Financial Boost

Source: Flickr via ||read|| (CC BY 2.0)

A community program working to reduce violence through soccer and an after-school robotics class serving Latino youth in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region have each received up to $50,000 in grants to aid their efforts from the Inter-American Development Bank.

Reporter Armando Trull provides insight into these two programs in a story for WAMU. 

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?

Report

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

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

Read the report.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

School Security: Inside or Out?

A public safety officer participates in a safety demonstration with schoolchildren in Charleston, South Carolina. (Flickr/South Charleston)

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.

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.

EWA Radio

Are ‘No Second Chances’ Discipline Policies Hurting Florida’s Students?
EWA Radio: Episode 74

Infinity Moreland, now a senior at North Port High School, was expelled in the fall of 2014 for a fight she did not start. (Sarasota Herald-Tribune/Rachel S. O'Hara used with permission)

Education journalist Shelby Webb of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune spent six months digging into student suspensions and expulsions in Florida, and her findings took the local school board by surprise: Sarasota County has the second-highest rate of expulsions in the Sunshine State. But the district’s process for expulsions was certainly built for volume: as many as 14 students have been expelled with a single “yes” vote by school board members, some of whom haven’t even read the background on the individual students’ cases. The Herald-Tribune’s project also examines questions of equity of school discipline policies across Florida where — echoing a nationwide trend — many students of color face more severe punishments than their white peers.

EWA Radio

Palo Alto’s Student Suicides
EWA Radio: Episode 73

(Pixabay/kaleido-dp)

What’s behind a cluster of student suicides in the heart of ultra-competitive Silicon Valley?

In a cover story for The Atlantic, journalist Hanna Rosin investigated a disturbing cycle stretching back more than a decade for Palo Alto and Gunn high schools. She spoke with EWA public editor Emily Richmond: How are local educators, parents, and students are responding to the crisis? What’s next for the investigation by federal health officials? And how can reporters improve their own coverage of these kinds of challenging issues? Rosin’s story, “The Silicon Valley Suicides” won 1st Prize for magazine feature writing in the EWA National Awards for Education Reporting.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Student Protests Spread in Oregon After Latest ‘Build a Wall’ Clash

This election season, it has become common to read about candidates’ anti-immigrant rhetoric trickling down into schools and, in many cases, being used to insult Latino students. Over the past several days, the polarizing phrase “build a wall” — presumed to be inspired by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s immigration plan to curb illegal immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border — has been making headlines in Oregon, as it has inspired hundreds of studen

EWA Radio

Transgender Student Rights Debate Goes National
EWA Radio: Episode 72

(Flickr/Jzee)

A new federal directive intended to protect the rights of transgender students is causing waves for states and school districts.

Evie Blad of Education Week discusses the fallout from North Carolina’s new law — the first of its kind in the nation — setting limits on bathroom access for public school students who identify as transgender. She and EWA public editor Emily Richmond also discuss what might happen if states ignore the White House’s guidance, and how education journalists can approach their reporting on these issues with cultural sensitivity.

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.

Report

The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation’s Schools
Southern Poverty Law Center

Every four years, teachers in the United States use the presidential election to impart valuable lessons to students about the electoral process, democracy, government and the responsibilities of citizenship.

But, for students and teachers alike, this year’s primary season is starkly different from any in recent memory. The results of an online survey conducted by Teaching Tolerance suggest that the campaign is having a profoundly negative effect on children and classrooms.

EWA Radio

Chicago’s Noble Charter Schools: A Model Network?
EWA Radio: Episode 60

Flickr/Mike Procario

In the Windy City, one out of every 10 high schoolers is enrolled at a campus in the Noble Network of Charter Schools. And while Noble students typically perform well, the network is facing some growing pains in the nation’s third-largest school district. Among the challenges: An increasingly diverse student population, competition for enrollment from traditional Chicago Public Schools campuses seeking to reinvent themselves, and concerns about Noble’s strict discipline policies and emphasis on preparing for the ACT college entrance exam.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Do Boys Need ‘Manhood’ Lessons?

Chinese students in the classroom. The country's education officials are trying to increase the ranks of its male teacher workforce with an eye toward developing more "manly" qualities among boy students. (Flickr/Mike Hetherington via Creative Commons)

Two powerful new stories — one from China, the other set in Oakland, California — explore how educators are addressing perceived shortfalls in boys’ education: namely, bestowing them with the qualities needed for “manhood.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

EWA Radio: Here Are Your Favorites of 2015

It’s been a terrific year for our scrappy little podcast, and we’re thrilled to report an equally stellar lineup coming to EWA Radio in 2016.  

I’d like to take a moment to thank the many journalists and education experts who made time to join us for lively conversations, and to all of you who have offered suggestions for stories and guests to feature. Please keep the feedback coming! 

Here’s a quick rundown of the 10 most popular episodes of the year:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

A View From Abroad: Exchange Students Highlight Differences in Schooling

A panel of exchange students spoke at EWA's recent conference on U.S. education in a global context. From left to right, they are Valentina Tobon of Virginia, Lili Hofmann of Germany, Chun-Te Wang of Taiwan, and Kamila Mundzik of Poland. Photo by Emily Richmond, EWA

Chung-Te Wang had never seen a calculator in school before traveling to the U.S. this year as an exchange student.

“We always calculate with our brain. No offense,” said the 16-year-old from Taiwan, spurring laughter in a room full of reporters at the Education Writers Association’s recent seminar on covering U.S. education in a global context.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

When Grit Isn’t Enough

Tyrone Howard, a professor and associate dean at UCLA, speakers to reporters about student trauma at EWA's seminar on Motivation Nov. 11, 2015. (Photo credit: EWA/Michael Marriott)

The first time I heard a preschooler explaining a classmate’s disruptive behavior, I was surprised at how adult her four-year-old voice sounded.

Her classmate “doesn’t know how to sit still and listen,” she said to me, while I sat at the snack table with them. He couldn’t learn because he couldn’t follow directions, she explained, as if she had recently completed a behavioral assessment on him.

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. 

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

Schools Slow to Wake Up to Research on Sleepy Teens

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging public schools to start middle and high school classes later, to give adolescent students more time to rest. (Creative Commons/Psy3330 W10)

For the first time, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging education policymakers to start middle and high school classes later in the morning to improve the odds of adolescents getting sufficient sleep to thrive both physically and academically.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Back-to-School: Story Ideas That Shine

Flickr/OddHarmonic

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

No? It’s OK. You’re not alone.

EWA Radio

Rethinking Classroom Discipline
EWA Radio: Episode 32

Conversations about classroom discipline typically focus on ways to teach kids there are consequences to their actions as a means of controlling future behavior. But a new approach gaining ground removes the sliding scale of punishment from the equation.

Clinical psychologist Ross Greene — whose books are well known to parents of so-called “problem kids,” is rewriting the rules for how some schools respond to challenging students.

Multimedia

Ways to Examine School Discipline
2015 EWA National Seminar

Ways to Examine School Discipline

Schools often say they suspend misbehaving students to restore order and keep others safe. But a recent study questions the link between suspensions and school safety. This session flips the script, as a researcher moderates a panel of reporters who have explored alternatives to the usual diet of suspensions and expulsions.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

A Chicago High School’s Turnaround

Reporters visit Nicholas Senn High School in Chicago's North Side as part of EWA's 68th National Seminar (Jessica Smith for EWA)

Five years ago, Nicholas Senn High School on the Near North Side of Chicago was one some educators felt lucky to avoid. While student discipline might have been an issue elsewhere, “you would say, at least it’s not Senn,” Principal Susan Lofton said.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Solutions, Not Punishment, Focus of School Discipline Policies

Ed White Middles School in San Antonio uses restorative discipline methods in an attempt to mediate issues with student to improve academic performance. (Kin Man Hui, San Antonio Express-News)

As school districts across the country work to address racial inequities in discipline, some campuses are trying alternative approaches to keeping students out of trouble and in the classroom.

Among the approaches gaining in popularity: positive behavior support programs, which reward students for good behavior, and restorative justice programs, in which students are brought into the process of identifying solutions, rather than simply punished.

Story Lab

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

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

Blog: The Educated Reporter

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.

Report

When Schools Close: Effects on Displaced Students in Chicago Public Schools
University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research

This report reveals that eight in 10 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students displaced by school closings transferred to schools ranking in the bottom half of system schools on standardized tests. However, because most displaced students transferred from one low-performing school to another, the move did not, on average, significantly affect student achievement.

The report demonstrates that the success of a school closing policy hinges on the quality of the receiving schools that accept the displaced students.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

From the Beat: Memorable Education Stories of 2014

Cadets celebrate graduation at West Point. A USA Today investigation of  congressional influence over the nomination process at elite military academies was one of the year's most memorable education stories. Flickr/U.S. Army (Creative Commons)

When you write a blog, the end of the year seems to require looking back and looking ahead. Today I’m going to tackle the former with a sampling of some of the year’s top stories from the K-12 and higher education beats. I’ll save the latter for early next week when the final sluggish clouds of 2014 have been swept away, and a bright new sky awaits us in 2015. (Yes, I’m an optimist.)

Blog: The Educated Reporter

School Discipline Policies Can Backfire

Source: Flickr/cdsessums (CC BY 2.0)

If tough school discipline measures are meant to maintain stability in the classroom, then a new definition of stable might be in order: A new study argues high use of suspensions and expulsions brings down all students – even the ones who behave well.

A researcher with the Albert Shanker Institute flagged the study, which was published this month in the American Sociological Review. Here’s more on the paper from the Shanker Institute scholar Esther Quintero:

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: Latino Ed Beat

Latino, Black Students Disciplined More Harshly Than Other Students

Source: Flickr via Eric E. Castro

Ever since my second week living in the District of Columbia, when I found myself alone on a commuter train the conductor had apparently deemed malfunctioning while I was lost in my music, I like to keep all five senses focused on my surroundings.

But on Monday, I decided to give the headphones another try. I’d heard good things about the podcast “This American Life” and decided to download the latest episode from Oct. 17 – “Is This Working?”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

In California, the Tide Shifts on ‘Willful Defiance’ Discipline

By Neon Tommy (originally posted to Flickr as Jerry Brown) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

California has limited schools’ ability to suspend or expel students for “willful defiance,” passing a law over the weekend that curbed the practice.

Approved by Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown, the measure is considered the first statewide law in the nation to apply limits on a school’s ability to punish a student for “willful defiance” – a catch-all term that many social justice advocates say disproportionately targets minority students for allegedly disobeying school officials.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Moving the Wrong Way on Student Health?

There’s a section in the new Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll out this week that hasn’t gotten much attention: what parents think about schools and student health. (You can read my overview of the full poll, which focuses heavily on questions about teacher quality and preparation, here.)

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Does Your School District Own Grenade Launchers?

U.S. Army Photo by Gary L. Kieffer
Does your school district own a grenade launcher?

Prompted by the controversy over the type of equipment the Ferguson police department used during protests over the death of Michael Brown, news organizations across the country started requesting information about a U.S. Department of Defense program that provided police departments with defense equipment.

Why should education reporters care?

Some of those police departments happen to belong to school districts, colleges and universities.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Los Angeles Schools End Zero Tolerance Discipline Policy

For years, students attending the Los Angeles Unified School District could earn citations from police officers for behaviors such as fighting.

The criminalization of routine offenses committed by students now appears to be coming to an end. The school system announced this week that it would stop giving citations for such offenses, and would instead focus on programs for students who misbehave.

EWA Radio

To Avoid Suspension, Students Talk It Out
EWA Radio, Episode 9

In Texas, a state known for its zero-tolerance approach to school discipline, 80 percent of its prisoners are high school dropouts. And as more research finds a link between suspensions and quitting school early, the evidence is mounting that keeping kids from learning for behavioral reasons hurts their academic outcomes. Against this backdrop is White Middle School in central Texas.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Schools Increasing Focus on Student Mental Health

More students are walking into classrooms with high stress levels than in previous generations, but a few innovative schools are helping kids cope with these challenges and succeed academically.

For students who have experienced trauma at home, nothing replaces a caring adult at school, said Bill Bond, the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ specialist for school safety. And teachers the most likely to provide counseling at school, said Bond during an EWA National Seminar panel discussion on student mental health.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Denver Group Sees Improvement in Colorado School Discipline Data

An organization of Latino parents and youth has released a new report praising Colorado for progress the state has made in the discipline of Latino students.

The group has been critical of how strict disciplinary policies can contribute to a “school-to-prison pipeline,” reports Fox News Latino. The organization previously accused Colorado schools of using zero tolerance policies that swept students of color into the legal system.

Report

School Discipline Data: A Snapshot of Legislative Action – CSG Justice Center

Research suggests that suspensions, expulsions, and other disciplinary actions that remove  youth from their classrooms put students at greater risk for poor academic and behavioral outcomes. These students are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, receive future disciplinary actions, or become involved in the juvenile justice system. Youth of color, English Language Learners (ELLs), LGBT youth, and those with identified special education needs tend to experience exclusionary discipline actions at higher rates than their peers.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Do Students Suffer When Snow Days Pile Up?

I’m in Atlanta right now, where schools took every precaution to avoid a repeat of the logistical nightmare that unfolded two weeks ago when two inches of snow paralyzed the city. And with the roadways iced over and the precipitation piling up, it looks like education officials made the right decision.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Do Small Schools Work for Latinos?

Former New York CIty Mayor Michael Bloomberg viewed breaking up large failing high schools and creating smaller ones as one potential remedy to closing the achievement gap.

Now his successor, newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio will have the opportunity to reverse the program.

In a commentary piece for Education Week, University of California, Berkeley education professor Bruce Fuller writes that many of the smaller campuses just furthered segregation by race and class. Small schools sometimes have just 200 students.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Should Schools Nurture Students’ Emotional Intelligence?

The New York Times Magazine’s annual education issue is out, and as always there’s a healthy mix of policy, practice, real-world realities for schools and students, deep dives, and memorable profiles.I imagine Carlo Rotella’s lead story on No Child Left Untableted will get generate quite a bit of response in the classroom technology debate.But I was just as interested in Jennifer Kahn’s piece on the attempt to cultivate

Multimedia

How I Did the Story: Title IX and Sexual Assault on Campus

How I Did the Story: Title IX and Sexual Assault on Campus

Justin Pope of the Associated Press talks about how he approached the timely and difficult topic of how universities are applying the Title IX gender discrimination law to sexual assault cases. Pope’s coverage won a special citation in Single-Topic News, Series or Feature in a Large Newsroom in EWA’s 2012 National Awards for Education Reporting.

Multimedia

How I Did the Story: Reporting From a Turnaround School in “Following Trevista”

How I Did the Story: Reporting From a Turnaround School in “Following Trevista”

Jenny Brundin of Colorado Public Radio talks about following a group of teachers, administrators and students going through a turnaround effort at a failing school in Denver. “Trevista” was awarded first prize, Single-Topic News, Series or Feature in Broadcast in EWA’s 2012 National Awards for Education Reporting. Recorded at EWA’s 66th National Seminar, May 4, 2013, at Stanford University.

*Please note: Due to technical difficulties during recording, the audio in the first half of this video is distorted. There is nothing wrong with your speakers.

EWA Radio

Opportunity Gaps and Out of School Factors

Much attention has focused on achievement gaps among children from different demographic groups, and on teacher effectiveness as the chief in-school influence on student performance. But what about factors that carry more weight than teachers? And how can society close opportunity gaps often associated with widely decried achievement gaps in school? Sarah Garland, The Hechinger Report (moderator); Prudence Carter, Stanford Graduate School of Education; Michael Petrilli, Thomas B.

Webinar

Beyond Victims and Villains: Covering Bullying and Suicide
1 hour

In the wake of several high-profile cases involving students who took their own lives, states are focusing heavily on making bullying prevention programs mandatory in public schools. But how much of the responsibility really rests with educators, and what steps should the broader community be taking to help students make smarter choices about their own behavior on campus, after school, and online?

Key Coverage

Recess in Schools: Research Shows It Benefits Children

 Repeated studies have shown that when recess is delayed, children pay less and less attention. They are more focusedon days when they have recess. A major study in Pediatrics found that children with more than 15 minutes of recess a day were far better behaved in class than children who had shorter recess breaks or none at all.

EWA Radio

School Violence: What Can Reporters Uncover?

In many communities, campus violence and student discipline issues are ever-present concerns for educators struggling to make schools safe places to work and learn. Members of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team from The Philadelphia Inquirer and others discuss the newspaper’s year-long project on school violence and its impact on the community.

Webinar

Homeless Students: Covering the School Safety Net
1 Hour, 3 minutes

From Maine to California, school districts are reporting significant increases in the number of homeless students. Our webinar takes a closer look at the underlying issues, and also gives participants a blueprint for localizing this important story. Our presenters will include Barbara Duffield, policy director of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children; Pamela Hosmer, Program Manager for the San Diego Unified School District’s Children and Youth in Transition program; and Dr.

Multimedia

Alex Kotlowitz on “The Interrupters”

Alex Kotlowitz on “The Interrupters”

The author of There Are No Children Here talks with Wall Street Journal education reporter and EWA President Stephanie Banchero about The Interrupters, a documentary he made with director Steve James. The film, which follows a group of anti-violence activists working in inner-city Chicago, airs on the PBS series Frontline Feb. 14, 2012.

For more information: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/interrupters

Recorded at EWA’s 64th National Seminar, held in April 2011 in New Orleans.

Key Coverage

New Rules Aim to Rid Schools of Junk Food

The Agriculture Department said Thursday that for the first time it will make sure that all foods sold in the nation’s 100,000 schools are healthier by expanding fat, calorie, sugar and sodium limits to almost everything sold during the school day.

That includes snacks sold around the school and foods on the “a la carte” line in cafeterias, which never have been regulated before. The new rules, proposed in February and made final this week, also would allow states to regulate student bake sales. 

Multimedia

President Obama: It Gets Better

President Obama: It Gets Better is part of a national campaign started in 2010 to reassure gay and lesbian teens—who face disproportionate bullying and commit suicide at higher than average rates—that they could overcome the abuse and other struggles. (The text of this post was written by the White House deputy director of public engagement.)

Organization

The National School Safety Center

The National School Safety Center “identifies and promotes strategies, promising practices and programs that support safe schools for all students as part of the total academic mission.” The NSSC worked with the U.S. Justice Department to create campus safety guidelines and practices for institutions following the shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. The organization also works heavily with K-12 schools.

Organization

The National School Climate Center

The National School Climate Center, headquartered in New York City, focuses on the issue of creating a “positive and sustained school climate: a safe, supportive environment that nurtures social and emotional, ethical, and academic skills.” The center originally was founded in 1996 as part of the Teachers College, Columbia University.

Organization

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network “strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.” In addition to researching and compiling data regarding the school lives of LGBT students, the network also advocates actively on their behalf.

Organization

The Cyberbullying Research Center

The Cyberbullying Research Center “serves as a clearinghouse of information concerning the ways adolescents use and misuse technology.” Since it went online in 2005, the website—founded by two criminal justice professors—has been gathering news and other resources that could assist reporters covering the topic of digital bullying.

Key Coverage

Why Johnny Can’t Add Without a Calculator

This shortfall in mathematical preparation for college-bound students has existed for a long time, but it is being exacerbated by the increased use of technology. College-level math classes almost never use graphing calculators, while high-school classes invariably do. College professors want their students to understand abstract concepts; technology advocates claim their products help teach students such abstractions, but in practice they simply don’t.

Key Coverage

Helping or Hovering? When ‘Helicopter Parenting’ Backfires

As the first generation of overparented kids continues to graduate into the world, a slew of studies now show that youngsters whose parents intervene inappropriately — offering advice, removing obstacles and solving problems that kids should tackle themselves — actually wind up as anxious, narcissistic young adults who have trouble coping with the demands of life. 

Key Coverage

With Police in Schools, More Children in Court

Since the early 1990s, thousands of districts, often with federal subsidies, have paid local police agencies to provide armed “school resource officers” for high schools, middle schools and sometimes even elementary schools. Hundreds of additional districts, including those in Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, have created police forces of their own, employing thousands of sworn officers.

Key Coverage

Alliance of Big City School Dstricts Aims for More Healthful Meals

School districts in L.A., New York, Chicago, Dallas, Miami and Orlando, Fla., plan to announce Thursday efforts to use their collective clout — 2.5 million daily meals served and $530 million annually spent — to make wholesome food a national standard. The districts are also aiming for more eco-friendly practices — replacing polystyrene and plasticwith biodegradable trays and flatware, for instance.