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.” 

Latest News

Why a Pediatric Group Is Pushing to Reopen Schools This Fall

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a reputation as conservative and cautious, which is what you would expect from an organization devoted to protecting children’s health. But this week, the academy made a splash with advice about reopening schools that appears to be somewhat at odds with what administrators are hearing from some federal and state health officials.

Latest News

Districts’ Back-to-School Shopping List: Masks, Gloves, Sanitizers and $25 Billion to Pay for It

For the last several weeks, medical supply vendors have swamped Martin Pollio with flyers, emails, and phone calls. He’s one of their most sought-after customers.

Pollio, the superintendent of the 100,000-student Jefferson County district in Louisville, Ky., has made tentative plans to reopen school buildings this fall. To do so, he estimates his district will need to spend close to $10 million on face masks alone, in order to abide by recently issued state health guidelines.

Latest News

On Reopening Schools, Scientists Say Proceed With Caution

In order for schools to safely reopen in the fall, public health experts say we’ll all need to do some homework over the summer.

As Massachusetts starts down the months-long road to reopening public schools, scientists say success and safety require caution both inside and outside the classroom — and preparation must begin now.

Latest News

NYC Ed Dismantles Guidance Counselor Program

A South Bronx school still reeling from the loss of students’ parents to COVID-19 and the unexpected death of a beloved principal is now losing five of its eight guidance counselors due to city budget cuts.

Bronx Letters is one of dozens of middle and high schools in the South Bronx and Brownsville, Brooklyn, losing more than 100 critically-needed guidance counselors and social workers after city officials slashed the “Single Shepherd” initiative. Mayor de Blasio once touted the program as central to his education agenda.

Latest News

Students Push UC to Abolish Police Departments

Ahmad Mahmuod was headed home from the library late one night during his freshman year at the University of California at Berkeley when he sensed someone following him. 

The person’s shadow came closer, and then a voice called out, “Young man.”

Latest News

More Than 100 Memphis Nonprofit Leaders Call For City to Fund Education And Criminal Justice Reforms

More than 100 Memphis nonprofit leaders are speaking out in support of protester demands for the City of Memphis to provide more money for K-12 education.

The letter, led by Black nonprofit leaders and supported by non-Black peers, was sent to elected officials and local corporations Monday and says nonprofits “see the direct impact of systemic racism and oppression daily.”

Latest News

What’s Next for School Policing in Minneapolis

Issues of race and justice have roiled the Minneapolis school district for months. As the district’s chief of accountability, research, and equity, Eric Moore has been immersed in much of that debate.

In March, when the coronavirus pandemic shut down Minneapolis schools, the district found itself facing a profound digital divide: 70 percent of the district’s African-American students did not have a computer they could use for remote learning.

Latest News

Students in Masks? Sick Kids Staying Home? Teachers Aren’t Convinced Plans Will Keep Them Safe.

Christian Herr is only 35, but he has been on medication ever since he suffered a heart attack in his classroom nine years ago. His cardiologist is clear: Herr’s condition puts him at risk of dangerous complications if he contracts the novel coronavirus.

So two months after his school closed, and with next school year on the horizon, Herr, a sixth-grade science teacher in the District, wonders: Can he go back when classrooms reopen? Will he be safe? How will he know?

Latest News

Portland Superintendent Says He’s ‘Discontinuing’ Presence Of Armed Police Officers In Schools

Portland Public Schools will no longer have city police officers patrol the halls of its nine high schools.

Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero on Thursday announced that the state’s largest school district is “discontinuing the regular presence of school resource officers,” saying he intends to invest in more social workers, counselors and culturally specific supports for students.

Latest News

Are You Ready For Socially Distant School? How 1 N.J. District Is Planning To Reopen.

It’s the first day of school in Mount Olive Township, and masked students wait in line for their initial test: a mandatory temperature screening.

Those who pass are allowed to enter the building and follow designated one-way hallways to their classrooms, possibly a gymnasium or an auditorium to maintain strict social distancing requirements.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Word on the Beat: School Resource Officer
In wake of nationwide protests over George Floyd's death, role of school police is questioned

On June 2, the Minneapolis School Board voted unanimously to sever its ties with the city’s police department, which had provided training and oversight for its armed school resource officers. The decision came in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a city police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest. Several officers involved in the incident now face felony charges.

Latest News

Gordon Parks Showed America the Rage Behind Decades of Racial Unrest. On Thursday, Minneapolis Rioters Burned the School Named for Him

On the third night of the anarchy that is reducing my city to cinders, someone started a fire at Gordon Parks High School. It was one of hundreds of fires that have accompanied protests over the killing of a black man by Minneapolis police officers. The school fire did not make national headlines — no surprise, given that the main event the night that building was torched was the burning of the police department’s Third Precinct and several beloved and historic surrounding blocks.

Latest News

CPS Suspends Food Distribution Program ‘Based on The Evolving Nature of Activity’ in Chicago

Thousands of families will now have to look for another way to feed their kids after Chicago Public Schools suspended its meal distribution program “based on the evolving nature of activity across the city,” officials announced late Sunday night.

The district, the nation’s third largest, has given out more than 12.5 million meals since the start of the coronavirus pandemic through a food program that has been widely praised by parents who rely on schools as a primary food source. Of CPS’ 355,000 students, 271,000 come from low-income families and about 17,000 are homeless.

Seminar

73rd EWA National Seminar

EWA’s National Seminar is the largest annual gathering of journalists on the education beat. 

This multi-day conference is designed to give participants the skills, understanding, and inspiration to improve their coverage of education at all levels. It also will deliver a lengthy list of story ideas. We will offer numerous sessions on important education issues, as well as on journalism skills.

Latest News

Minneapolis School Board, Teacher Union Call on District to Cut Ties With Police

The Minneapolis Public School Board on Friday wrote a resolution to cut ties with the city’s Police Department in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

The district’s current budget puts over $1 million toward funding 11 school resource officers in the district’s buildings. School Board Chair Kim Ellison said she wants to end that contract because she can no longer trust the city police department’s values.

Latest News

After George Floyd Killing, Denver School Board Member Wants Police Out Of Schools

The morning after heated protests erupted in Denver over the police killing of George Floyd, school district leaders pledged to “stand up for justice,” and one school board member renewed his call to remove police officers from the district’s schools.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova and three of the district’s seven school board members made a statement Friday on Facebook Live about the killing in Minneapolis.

Latest News

School Superintendents Dismiss White House, Will Follow Leaked CDC Guidance on Reopening Schools

School district superintendents – those responsible for making decisions about how and when to reopen schools – are planning to follow detailed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was shelved by the White House last month instead of the official guidance published Thursday.

Education officials have been clamoring for more thorough direction from the Trump administration as to how and when they can safely reopen schools, but the long-awaited CDC guidance published to its web site last night – a one-page decision tree – left them underwhelmed.

Latest News

High School Seniors Protest Plan For Large Graduation Ceremonies in Alabama Next Week

Jeanarry Hernandez, one of 17 valedictorians in the senior class at Hoover High, says she will sit out her own graduation ceremony, a gathering of 650 seniors now planned for next week.

The seniors are heading to the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on May 21, and each can invite four family members to watch. The crowd will be asked to maintain distance. And every senior will be issued a mask.

Tip Sheet

EWA Tip Sheet: Covering Adolescents Through Data

Stories about adolescents present the opportunity for a variety of compelling characters, from parents and teachers to the teens themselves who feel passionately about the issues. But data can also be a powerful tool in crafting such narratives, as it provides vital context for the audience. 

Latest News

School Meal Programs Seek Relief, Plan For Uncertain Summer

School districts are distributing millions of meals for students per week — primarily through grab-and-go sites and school bus deliveries — but nutrition experts are shifting their focus toward how to keep feeding students over the summer.

Read the full story here.

Latest News

Teachers at Higher Risk of COVID-19 Wonder: Should I Even Go Back?

When school buildings reopen, many teachers might not be there.

About 18 percent of all teachers are aged 55 or older. That age group accounts for about 92 percent of deaths in the United States due to COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although adults who are 65 and older are most at risk. Teachers with underlying medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, are also at high risk for severe illness caused by the coronavirus.

Latest News

Amid Extended School Closure, Colorado To Allow Small-Group Instruction In Some Districts

Some Colorado districts are planning to have staff and students return to the classroom in the coming weeks for small-group instruction, even as the governor has extended school closures until the end of the academic year.

An amendment to Colorado’s school closure order makes it clear that this is allowed, with Gov. Jared Polis saying he applauds the innovation. One superintendent described it as a trial run for a fall semester that could look very different from the old normal.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teen Mental Health: Barriers to Treatment, Tips for Nuanced News Coverage
Don't leave your reader, viewer 'reeling' from your stories

When Nygel Turner was 5 or 6 years old, he would wake up in the middle of the night unable to breathe, with a lump in his throat.

He’d run to his father, who would put Vaseline on his chest. Turner’s father had written “breathe cream” in Sharpie on the Vaseline jar. It would calm Turner down every time.

Latest News

In Denmark, the Rarest of Sights: Classrooms Full of Students

LOGUMKLOSTER, Denmark — The cluster of red brick buildings in a remote part of southern Denmark looks unremarkable from the outside, but this week, its classrooms housed some of the rarest people during the pandemic in Europe.

Schoolchildren.

Latest News

Exhausted and Grieving: Teaching During the Coronavirus Crisis

Stress isn’t new to teachers, but what they’re experiencing now makes their typical stress seem like a picnic. Driven by a pandemic to the front lines of an unprecedented rush to distance-learning, the nation’s teachers are scrambling to manage an armful of new challenges. And they’re exhausted.

Latest News

Transgender Students Worry About Being Outed

North Carolina’s transgender students are worried that their privacy and safety are being put at risk as schools switch to teaching students online during the coronavirus pandemic.

North Carolina’s public schools use a version of the PowerSchool student information system that lists the student’s legal name and gender instead of the preferred name and gender identity. LGBTQ advocates say the PowerSchool data is now being used for online learning programs, resulting in some transgender students being outed to their classmates without their consent.

EWA Radio

COVID-19 and New York City Schools
Covering the coronavirus pandemic, remote learning from the nation’s largest district
(EWA Radio: Episode 233)

With more than 1.1 million K-12 students, New York City’s public schools are dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on a massive scale. While district officials scramble to close the technology gap and get computers to students who need them, teachers are getting a crash course in the “do’s and don’ts” of remote instruction.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Child Care and Early Learning During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Five Stories to Tell
How is COVID-19 impacting early childhood education?

The new coronavirus outbreak is sending shock waves through the nation’s K-12 and higher education systems. But how is the spread of COVID-19 affecting the littlest learners, ages 0 to 5, and the adults who teach and care for them?

The situation is fast evolving, and each state is responding to the child care conundrum differently. Here are five story ideas reporters can pursue to dig into the pandemic’s effects on their local early education workforce and the children and families they serve.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Talking With Teens: Tips for Interviewing Adolescents
How finding, and elevating, teen voices enriches reporting

While reporting on a school in a neighborhood with a high homicide rate, Los Angeles Times reporter Sonali Kohli stressed to students she interviewed that they were empowered to control the conversation. 

Many teenagers view a professional journalist as an authority figure and might feel pressure to give “correct” answers, Kohli said. That’s why she starts each interview with the premise that a student can end the conversation at any time or ask their own questions.

EWA Radio

EWA Radio: The Impact of the Coronavirus on Education
How the health crisis is impacting students, schools
(EWA Radio: Episode 232)

As the coronavirus pandemic expands in the U.S., education reporters are on the front lines of the news coverage, with nearly three-quarters of public schools either closed or planning to close in coming days, and many colleges and universities moving to online learning or ending the semester outright.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Responsible Reporting on LGBTQ Students
Tips for coverage of youths' mental health, well-being, and more

Editor’s note: This post was updated on June 15, 2020, to reflect the U.S. Supreme Court decision that protects LGBTQ employees from being fired.

The news media must do a better job of covering the challenges faced by LGBTQ youths, a trio of advocates and educators told journalists attending an Education Writers Association seminar on adolescent learning and well-being in February.

EWA Radio

When College Students Aren’t College-Ready
Thousands of students struggle at Chicago’s two-year colleges. Is an overhaul of developmental ed. programs enough to help?
(EWA Radio: Episode 231)

In Chicago, thousands of students are earning high school diplomas but showing up at the city’s two-year colleges unprepared for the next step in their academic journeys. In a new project, Kate McGee of WBEZ looked at efforts to buck that trend, including an innovative program developed not by outside experts but the system’s own faculty.  Along the way, she explored a number of questions: Do students benefit more from remedial classes that re-teach them material they were supposed to master in high school, or from being placed directly into college classes with additional support like tutoring

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Five Tips for Education Reporters Covering the Coronavirus
How COVID-19 health crisis could impact students and schools, and what education leaders are doing to prepare

As the number of reported cases of the COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, continues to mount in the U.S., here are five things education reporters should keep in mind when covering the health crisis and its impact on schools and colleges. (This post will be periodically updated as circumstances warrant.)

Tip Sheet

EWA Tip Sheet: Using Data on Risky Youth Behavior
Here's how to use CDC survey findings in your reporting

Today’s teenagers are generally steering clear of risky behaviors compared to young people in years past, but they still face hazards, especially if they identify as LGBTQ. The biennial Youth Risk Behavior survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looks at key risk factors that can make high schoolers more susceptible to diseases, violence, and death. 

“You don’t have to know Excel to find story hooks in here,” said Daniel Willis, education journalist and session moderator.

Participants who contributed to this advice:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Finding the Details: How to Report on Seclusion and Restraint in Schools
News investigations put spotlight on troubling practices

When former WAMU education reporter Jenny Abamu first saw a seclusion room, she was shaken. 

She described the spaces she viewed in Fairfax County, Virginia: rooms built within rooms with no windows or ventilation, and discolorations where students had defecated on the floor. 

“Some of those kids were in that room over a hundred times in a school year,” Abamu recalled. “People thought it was normal. I was scared. I thought, ‘This is not normal.’” 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Covering Education Amid Threats of War or Terrorism
Veteran education journalists offer suggestions on working through national security threats

On the spectacular blue-skied morning of 9/11/2001, I was a staff writer for U.S News & World Report attending a not particularly exciting press conference a few blocks from the White House. Suddenly, someone burst into the room and announced “Our nation is under attack.” We all rushed outside, where thousands of office workers were milling in the streets because the government and all transportation had just been shut down. Warnings of a plane heading toward the White House (and, thus, us) sparked through the crowd like an electric arc. 

EWA Radio

‘Terrified’: Illinois Education Reporters Find Massive Misuse of Student Seclusion
Reporters from ProPublica Illinois and The Chicago Tribune newsrooms team up to investigate into misuses of student seclusion brings swift action from lawmakers
(EWA Radio: Episode 224)

In a joint investigation, ProPublica Illinois’ Jodi Cohen and Jennifer Smith Richards of The Chicago Tribune teamed up to investigate  the use of seclusion rooms in Illinois’ public schools. In the process, they discovered that seclusion — billed as a humane way to control misbehaving students — was misused, overused and ended up being disproportionately inflicted on students with disabilities.

EWA Radio

The Missing Data on Student Restraint and Seclusion
Federal audit finds school districts failing to report the use of physical behavioral interventions
(EWA Radio: Episode 210)

School districts have been vastly underreporting instances when some of their most vulnerable students are physically restrained or sent to seclusion rooms by campus staff — that’s the conclusion of a new report from the Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog agency. Two reporters on opposite sides of the country were already deep into the reporting on this issue: Jenny Abamu of WAMU in Washington, D.C., and Rob Manning of Oregon Public Broadcasting.

EWA Radio

Back to School: Story Ideas, Tips and Trends to Watch
School choice, immigration raids, cultural competency top the list
(EWA Radio: Episode 214)

With a new school year getting underway, how can education reporters find fresh angles on familiar ground? Kate Grossman, the education editor for WBEZ public media in Chicago, offers story ideas, big trends to watch for, and suggestions for networking with parents, teachers, and administrators.

EWA Radio

Lessons From Parkland: Covering the Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting
Journalists Aric Chokey and Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel discuss the newspaper's Pulitzer-winning reporting
(EWA Radio: Episode 204)

Heartbreaking. Frightening. Infuriating. All those words apply to the remarkable coverage by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The newspaper’s reporting since the February 2018 killings earned journalism’s top award this year, the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The newspaper pushed back on stonewalling by district leadership and public safety officials to uncover missed opportunities that might have mitigated — or even prevented — the school shooting that left 17 people dead and dozens more seriously injured.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Resources for Covering Hate, Shootings and Trauma
Journalists share advice on interviewing children and writing about race.

Education reporters, alas, are increasingly experienced in covering violence directed at students, teachers and school staff.

This weekend’s mass shootings added to the horrible list. In El Paso, the gunman apparently targeted Latino families doing their back-to-school shopping at a Walmart. Among the victims: parents and other relatives who shielded children, and at least one teacher. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Want Safer Schools? It Takes Human Capital.
Counselors, school resource officers, educators play key roles, experts say

During an assembly at the high school where she was principal, Liz Dozier once asked 1,000-plus students if they knew someone who had been shot.

Every single student raised a hand.

“When I first got to the school, I didn’t understand all the effects of trauma — I just knew that our school was in crisis,” Dozier said. “The whole ecosystem that we had set up around kids was dysfunctional.”

Report

GAO Report: School Districts’ Efforts to Address Lead-Based Paint

The most common source of lead exposure for children comes from paint in buildings built before 1978—the year the government banned the sale of lead-based paint. In schools, lead dust can come from disturbing lead paint during renovations, deteriorating lead paint, and lead-contaminated soil.

We surveyed schools across the U.S. on how they deal with lead paint. Among other things, we found

EWA Radio

Want to Know What Students Think of Your Reporting? Ask Them.
Los Angeles Times asks teens for feedback on coverage of homicides near campuses
(EWA Radio: Episode 205)

Do students in the nation’s second-largest district feel their communities are portrayed fairly in media coverage of homicides near schools? As part of her project on teens’ challenges navigating a safe path to schools, education reporter Sonali Kohli asked students critique news stories. She also crunched the data, finding surprising examples where the reality contradicted perceptions of the “most dangerous” schools. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

School Discipline Reform: Easier Said Than Done?

For years, kicking students out of school was a common discipline move for administrators. Now, suspending students, a practice that disproportionately affects black and Hispanic youngsters, is out of favor, as educators work to respond to bad behavior without cutting off educational opportunities.

But the change hasn’t been easy, and many educators are still grappling with how to handle discipline problems in ways that don’t hurt students’ education, according to a panel at the Education Writers Association’s annual conference this spring in Baltimore.

EWA Radio

When Schools Spy on Students
K-12 districts ramping up digital surveillance in the name of campus safety
(EWA Radio: Episode 212)

Ever feel like somebody’s watching you? If you’re in a in a K-12 school these days, you’re probably right. Education Week’s Benjamin Herold took a close look at the surge in digital surveillance by districts, such as tapping facial recognition software and scanning social media posts for worrisome language.

EWA Radio

The Underreporting of Student Restraint and Seclusion
New GAO report details inaccuracies in district data
(EWA Radio: Episode 210)

School districts have been vastly underreporting instances when some of their most vulnerable students are physically restrained or sent to seclusion rooms by campus staff — that’s the conclusion of a new report from the Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog agency. Two reporters on opposite sides of the country were already deep into the reporting on this issue: Jenny Abamu of WAMU in Washington, D.C., and Rob Manning of Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How to Better Understand and Cover Student Suicides

After a 10-year-old boy died by suicide in the middle of doing his chores, reporter Allison Ross was tapped to interview his grieving mother.

Ross struggled with how to share the Louisville family’s story sensitively, without being sensational in her coverage for the Courier-Journal newspaper.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Financial and Emotional Costs of School Security

School safety is an important part of every education journalist’s beat, as states and districts invest billions in preventative measures, including those intended to stop the next campus shooting.

But how much of those investments are reactions to public perceptions about potential risks rather than grounded in best practices? And what questions should reporters ask when it comes to not just the financial costs but also the potential emotional toll such efforts take on students and staff?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Gun Violence in Schools and Communities: A Conversation With Journalists

It’s probably every reporter’s worst nightmare: Your co-worker rushes over from the police scanner and blurts out, “Active shooter at Such-and-Such School.”

When that happened to South Florida Sun-Sentinel education reporter Scott Travis on Valentine’s Day 2018, “I headed there hoping more than anything that this was a false alarm,” he told EWA seminar attendees May 6. But he was headed to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Key Coverage

Lost Days: Poverty, Isolation Drive Students Away From School In California’s Rural Districts

Twenty-six percent, or about 600 students, at Oroville Union High School District were chronically absent during the 2017-18 school year, according to an EdSource analysis of California Department of Education data.

Statewide, more than 700,000 students, or about 11 percent, were chronically absent. About 10 percent of the 1,000 districts statewide had rates near the level of Oroville Union High’s or significantly higher. Most of those districts were in rural areas, the analysis found:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Mental Health: A Hidden Crisis in Schools?

Mental health can influence all sorts of basic issues in education, from test scores to attendance and school discipline. Yet it’s a topic that education journalists often overlook.

That was the message of Steve Drummond, education editor and an executive producer at NPR, who moderated the panel, “Mental Health: A Hidden Crisis in Schools?” at this year’s EWA national conference. NPR chronicled the problem in a 2016 package called “A Silent Epidemic; The Mental Health Crisis in Our Schools.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

EWA Awards Finalists Tell ‘How I Did the Story’

Want to tell a gripping tale? Be prepared to be patient — and really listen — when you do the reporting for your story.

That’s what Chalkbeat Chicago education reporter Adeshina Emmanuel said as he spoke to a room full of education reporters in the EWA session “How I Did The Story, K-12,” describing his method for a story about a 16-year-old Chicago student who could not read.

Key Coverage

Deserted in the Desert

Thousands of records examined by the Las Vegas Review-Journal show a yearslong history of abuse and neglect allegations at Northwest Academy, a private boarding school for at-risk youth.

EWA Radio

‘Surrounded’: Risky Routes for Los Angeles Students
A Los Angeles Times project examines dangerous commutes for kids in the nation’s second-largest school district
(EWA Radio: Episode 205)

For many Los Angeles students, getting to and from class can be a risky proposition, as they navigate neighborhoods with high rates of homicides. In a new project, education reporter Sonali Kohli crunched the data and found surprising examples where the reality contradicted public perceptions of the “most dangerous” schools. 

Key Coverage

A Search For Answers, A Search For Blame

Max Eden didn’t even want to read about Parkland. He saw the news on Valentine’s Day, after a dinner date with his girlfriend at a little French place in Washington, D.C., taking an Uber home. There was the gut-punch—“oh shit, another school shooting”—then the queasy afterthought that none of this hits as hard as it used to. He knew what would follow. For a few angry weeks, Democrats would demand gun control and Republicans would call for arming teachers. He decided he’d sit it out this time, ignore the news as much as possible.

EWA Radio

The Story Behind the Sun Sentinel’s ‘Parkland’ Pulitzer Prize
Reporters discuss covering Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and its aftermath, holding officials accountable, and lessons learned
(EWA Radio: Episode 204)

Heartbreaking. Frightening. Infuriating. All those words apply to the remarkable coverage by the South Florida Sun Sentinel of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The newspaper’s reporting since the February 2018 killings earned journalism’s top award this year, the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The newspaper pushed back on stonewalling by district leadership and public safety officials to uncover missed opportunities that might have mitigated — or even prevented — the school shooting that left 17 people dead and dozens more seriously injured.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

On 20th Anniversary of Columbine, Rethinking How We Cover School Shootings

April 20th marks a somber milestone: two decades since what author Dave Cullen has called the first school shooting to be televised.

The ongoing debate over how to implement preventative measures without turning schoolhouses into fortresses means education reporters will continue to focus on this seminal tragedy and its ripple effects long after the anniversary date passes.

Report

Can Restorative Practices Improve School Climate and Curb Suspensions?
An Evaluation of the Impact of Restorative Practices in a Mid-Sized Urban School District
RAND

Across the country, school districts, their stakeholders, and policymakers have become increasingly concerned about suspensions, particularly about suspending students from elementary school and disproportionately suspending ethnic/racial minority students. Suspended students are less likely to graduate, possibly because they miss the instructional time they need to advance academically. Restorative practices have gained buy-in in the education community as a strategy to reduce suspension rates.

Key Coverage

When You Give a Teacher a Gun

The question is no longer “should we arm teachers?” Now, it’s “how many armed teachers are already out there?” GQ flew down to Ohio to embed with the men and women behind FASTER Saves Lives, a group that has trained thousands of teachers from all across the country how to shoot to kill.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Do Teachers Really Think About School Discipline Reform?

Not long ago, a student who got into a fight at school would likely face an automatic suspension. Now, in schools across the country, that student might be back in class the next day.

That change is part of an expansive effort to rethink the way public schools respond to misbehavior. In many schools, punitive measures like suspension and expulsion are being replaced with alternative strategies that aim to keep students in the classroom and address underlying issues like trauma and stress.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How a Reporter Enlisted Teachers to Expose Hazards in Philly Schools

/sites/main/files/file-attachments/barbara-laker-toxic-city.pdf

Barbara Laker isn’t an education reporter. She doesn’t have a long list of teachers’ phone numbers in her contacts. So, it’s amazing that she was able to find and convince 24 teachers and other school employees from 19 elementary schools to swab pipes, drinking fountains and suspicious patches of black on classroom walls.

Webinar

Trauma in the Classroom: What Reporters Need to Know

Trauma in the Classroom: What Reporters Need to Know

Attention is growing to the detrimental impact stress and trauma have on children’s learning and development. In response, some schools are rethinking everything from student discipline and support services to teacher training. The shift has also given birth to a whole new set of terms and practices for education reporters to understand and break down for their audiences.

Seminar

72nd EWA National Seminar
Baltimore • May 6-8, 2019

EWA’s National Seminar is the largest annual gathering of journalists on the education beat. This year’s event in Baltimore, hosted by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education, will explore an array of timely topics of interest to journalists from across the country, with a thematic focus on student success, safety, and well-being.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

More Than Numbers: Getting Inside the Data on Student Absenteeism
As states prepare for new ESSA reporting requirements, advocates push for accountability, raising family awareness

With a new federal accountability mandate looming, teachers and school administrators are trying just about everything to improve student attendance — from offering cold cash to students who show up regularly to texting warning messages to parents when their kids miss class.

These efforts come as some advocates and researchers warn that the nation faces a “chronic absenteeism” crisis.

Multimedia

Rethinking Student Discipline
EWA 71st National Seminar • Los Angeles May 17, 2018

Rethinking Student Discipline

At a time when student discipline is the subject of increased attention and debate, education journalists often struggle with how to better understand and cover the issue. During this EWA session, speakers addressed flashpoint issues, including zero tolerance policies, racial disparities in disciplinary actions, and the rise of so-called “restorative justice” practices. Along the way, they explored – and debated – the best ways to balance competing concerns to ensure fairness, equity, and a safe and productive learning environment. 

EWA Radio

What Does Hate Look Like in Schools? Education Week and ProPublica Show Us.
Is President Trump's Fiery Rhetoric Fueling Incidents at Public Campuses?
(EWA Radio: Episode 177)

Swastikas scrawled on bathroom walls. A confederate flag hanging behind a teacher’s desk. Chants of “build the wall” aimed at Hispanic students. As part of ProPublica’s “Documenting Hate” project, Education Week tallied incidents of harassment, bullying, graffiti and more at public schools across the country. The team, including Education Week’s Francisco Vara-Orta, sifted through thousands of tips, as well as news coverage of incidents from across the nation.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

After District Error, Reporters Publish Hidden Details on Parkland Shooter’s History
Broward County School Board wants Sun Sentinel reporters held in contempt for publishing redacted details

For reporters, it’s second nature to hold up a redacted paper document to the light to see what might still be visible. Two reporters at the South Florida Sun Sentinel are facing a possible contempt of court charge for using a digital version of this technique on a report — commissioned by Broward County Public Schools — about the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Covering LGBT Issues in the Classroom
Shifts seen in textbooks to reflect gay, lesbian historical figures

When the new academic year begins for California public schools, for the first time instructional materials will be available to ensure every K-12 classroom has access to accurate and unbiased depictions of the sexual orientation and gender identity of historical figures.

The FAIR Education Act – FAIR stands for Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful – requires history and social studies curriculum to include references to contributions by people with disabilities and members of the LGBT community.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Tawnell Hobbs: ‘Always Get the Data’
The Wall Street Journal reporter offers advice about tapping data on the education beat.

Tawnell Hobbs doesn’t shy away from data.

When reporting on credit-recovery programs in public schools, she analyzed U.S. Department of Education figures on the number of students taking those courses. For context, she added stats about the nation’s high school graduation rates, which are climbing, compared to national test scores, which remain flat.

EWA Radio

In First-Ever Survey, School Police Speak Up
Campus safety, student civil rights, and active-shooter readiness in the spotlight (EWA Radio: Episode 170)

image of School Resource Officer

Who are the nation’s school police officers? Have they received adequate training to work with youths? And how prepared do they believe their campuses are for a mass shooting event? In a first-of-its-kind survey, Education Week got answers to these and many more questions from school resource officers. Reporter Evie Blad and Holly Yettick, the director of the Education Week Research Center, discuss the findings and their implications on this episode of EWA Radio.

EWA Radio

Digging Up Dirt: This Reporter’s Investigation Finds Filthy Chicago Schools
Lax oversight of private custodial services a big factor, Chicago Sun-Times finds (EWA Radio: Episode 169)

image of Chicago Sun Times article CPS's Dirty Little Secrets

When Chicago Public Schools decided to privatize its custodial and facilities maintenance services in 2014, district officials promised it would mean cleaner campuses. But as Lauren FitzPatrick of the Chicago Sun-Times reports in a new series, that’s a far cry from the reality. Instead, inspectors found rat and bug infestations, filthy bathrooms, and potentially hazardous conditions for students and staff.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Shifting Response to School Shootings

School safety experts recently weighed in on how states and school systems are — and should be — responding to the spate of campus shootings.

They also shared best practices for journalists when covering the issue of school shootings, including how to analyze school districts’ prevention efforts, what stories to look for, and how to report on shootings while minimizing harm to mourning communities.

The May 16 panel came two days before yet another school shooting, this time at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, that led to 10 deaths.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Why Race and Equity Matter in Education Reporting

Education journalists must think more critically about the ways in which race, ethnicity and gender play into the stories they tell, a panel of experts said at the first keynote session at the Education Writers Association’s national seminar in Los Angeles last week.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Parkland Survivors and Other Youth Activists: ‘You’re Going to Listen to Us’ on Gun Violence
EWA National Seminar puts spotlight on students

Parkland Survivors and Other Youth Activists: ‘You’re Going to Listen to Us’ on Gun Violence

In an emotionally charged session at the Education Writers Association’s national seminar, several student activists urged journalists to keep the national spotlight on gun violence and not let the shootings at a Florida high school and elsewhere be forgotten.

Finalist

‘Benefit of the Doubt’: Evading Allegations of Educator Sexual Misconduct
Single-Topic News or Feature: General News Outlets, Print and Online (Medium Staff)

About the Entry

After a lengthy solo battle to obtain Portland Public Schools’ records related to teacher discipline matters, reporter Bethany Barnes uncovers a paper trail of questionable actions by district administrators that allowed a troubled teacher to stay on the job despite multiple accusations of sexual misconduct.

Finalist

‘Too Young?’ Sex Education Controversies in California’s Central Valley
Single-Topic News or Feature: General News Outlets, Print and Online (Medium Staff)

2017 EWA Award Finalist Banner image

About the Entry

In a series for the Fresno Bee, Mackenzie Mays looks at the local politics influencing enforcement of California’s law requiring schools to provide comprehensive sexual education, and how that might be a factor in teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among students in the Central Valley.

Entry Credit

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Ins and Outs of ‘Restorative Justice’ in Schools
What is it? Does it work as an alternative to traditional student discipline?

When students misbehave at school, traditional approaches to discipline say you should punish them to deter future offenses.

But a growing movement toward “restorative” approaches to discipline focuses more on repairing the damage rather than suspending or expelling students.

Though details vary from school to school, so-called “restorative justice” programs instead encourage students to reflect on their transgressions and their root causes, talk about them – usually with the victims of the behavior – and try to make amends.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Teacher Strikes: What Reporters Need to Know

Teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky are on the picket lines this week, pushing for better compensation for themselves and more money for schools in their respective states.

These strikes come just weeks after West Virginia’s schools were shuttered statewide for almost two weeks in March, eventually sparking the legislature there to award teachers pay raises.

Such work stoppages are historically rare, but the teachers involved say they were necessary to force resolutions to months - or even years - of stalled negotiations.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Covering Teens: Lessons from the “Raising Kings” Journalists

Getting heartfelt, personally revealing comments from teenage boys is difficult enough for parents. So reporters Kavitha Cardoza and Cory Turner had to take a few creative risks to get good audio for their National Public Radio series on an all-boys public high school in Washington D.C. last year.

EWA Radio

‘Reading, Writing, Evicted’: How Housing Woes Hurt Students and Schools
New series looks at academic and health effects of student mobility (EWA Radio: Episode 161)

image from the Oregonian of teacher and student in classroom

In Portland, Oregon, so-called “no cause” evictions are forcing hundreds of students to switch schools — sometimes more than once — during the course of the academic year. That leaves individual kids struggling to stay on track academically, and schools scrambling to high rates of student turnover.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Questions to Ask as Schools Weigh Response to Student Walkouts
With student-led protests for stricter gun laws spreading, journalists probe districts' policies, preparedness

In the wake of one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, a groundswell of student activism has jolted the gun control debate and left some school districts coping with the surge of civic engagement.

For education journalists, the developments present an opportunity to examine how local schools and districts are responding to and preparing for student demonstrations and walkouts. Are they encouraging students? Threatening to suspend them? Struggling to come up with a clear strategy?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What You Missed at EWA’s Seminar on Educating for Character & Citizenship

photo of students at EWA Character & Citizenship event..

Dozens of journalists gathered in New Orleans this month to explore a dimension of education that often gets short shrift both in schools and in news coverage: developing students’ character and preparing them for active citizenship.

Reporters heard not only from educators, experts, and fellow journalists, but also students from New Orleans and beyond. Issues on tap included the moral education of young people, social and emotional learning, media literacy, and the rapid rise of ”restorative justice” as an alternative to traditional disciplinary practice.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

School Shooting in Florida Sparks Rethinking on News Coverage
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Lead Fresh Calls for Gun Control

As the nation faces the fallout from the most recent school shooting, which claimed 17 lives in Parkland, Florida, some education reporters are rethinking their professional best practices.

Among the questions: How should news outlets tally school shootings, given that advocacy groups and researchers often disagree on how to “count” campus incidents involving guns?

What is a news organization’s obligation to counter intentional misinformation aimed at influencing public conversations around gun control?

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.

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Covering School Shootings? Here’s What You Need to Know.

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.”

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.

EWA Radio

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

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

Seminar

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

EWA 71st National Seminar Los Angeles graphic

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

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.

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?

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.