School Safety & Security

Overview

School Safety & Security

School is one of the safest places for children and adolescents to spend their days. Even so, risks still exist, whether that involves bullying, fights, bomb threats or armed campus intruders.

School is one of the safest places for children and adolescents to spend their days. Even so, risks still exist, whether that involves bullying, fights, bomb threats or armed campus intruders.

School violence and bullying are detrimental to students’ academic performance and can carry lifelong negative consequences to their physical and mental health, including drug use and a higher risk of suicide. It’s no surprise, then, that polls have consistently found that school safety and security are top of mind for parents and students. 

Today, school districts maintain “emergency operations plans” that help educators prepare for, respond to, and recover from a range of dangerous situations, such as campus intruders, bomb threats and even infectious disease outbreaks. All states maintain anti-bullying rules, with laws generally requiring schools to create prevention procedures. Sworn police, known as school resource offers, roam the halls of many schools (especially at the middle and high school levels). Administrators deploy a range of security and surveillance technology — often at large expense — from door locks and metal detectors to surveillance cameras and digital platforms that monitor student activities online. Yet, even as schools have generally become safer in recent years, the topic remains controversial.

For reporters, school safety and security can become a top priority the second the newsroom police scanner begins to chatter. Journalists are tasked with covering everything from breaking news about campus crime to watchdog investigative reporting that holds officials accountable for ensuring the safety of kids every day. 

Safety a Top Priority for Educators

When people think about safety and security measures to keep children and educators safe, their minds often jump to perhaps the most devastating form of violence: Mass school shootings. The topic evokes the gut-wrenching memories of tragedies such as Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland. 

These statistically rare incidents often drive divisive political debates and generate front-page headlines. But other — more commonplace — safety and security issues are daily challenges. From playground fights and cyberbullying to shootings and natural disasters, the wide range of scenarios require school leaders to be ready. This often includes threat assessment policies (and teams) for assessing and intervening when student behavior poses a risk to peers or faculty. In addition, extensive emergency plans allow school staff and first responders to react quickly, appropriately and decisively when the need arises. 

As you report on this critical topic, the following modules offer a brief history of school safety and security in the U.S., key research and a few story ideas to help get you started. 

Updated July 2021.

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Data/Research: School Safety & Security

Following you’ll find a selection of key data and research to better understand school safety and security issues. 

School Safety 

SchoolSafety.gov offers a brief overview and federal resources on multiple school safety issues, including the creation of emergency response plans, combating cyberbullying and strategies that help schools recover after tragedies. 

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History and Background: School Safety & Security

Each year, public schools in the U.S. collectively spend billions of dollars to keep students and educators safe. Although security measures have evolved and expanded dramatically in the last several decades — and become far more expensive — the need to protect students and staff is nothing new.

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5 Story Ideas: School Safety & Security

Assessing emergency preparedness plans: School districts maintain comprehensive emergency preparedness and response plans that highlight a range of potential scenarios that could unfold on campus. For example, such contingency plans often focus on responding to active shooters, tornadoes and gas leaks. When did the districts in your area last make substantive revisions to these plans and what local or national scenarios led to those changes? Were consultants hired to make recommendations, and how were those “experts” vetted?

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A Security Mindset

The strategies that officials use to provide campus safety — like school-based policing, student surveillance and discipline policies, including suspensions — have long been the subject of passionate disagreements. Schools’ “zero tolerance” policies have prescribed strict discipline, including expulsions and arrests to punish students, but in recent years, educators have turned to strategies like “restorative justice” to address misbehavior. 

Latest News

Big Ideas for Education’s Urgent Challenges

Welcome to the start of a new school year and the 2021 edition of our Big Ideas report.

While returning children to school buildings safely and making the year as normal as possible is driving you and your work, we understand how much more complex your job has become.

The cover of this year’s report and the 10 essays inside reflect this complicated moment and the constellation of emotions we know you’re experiencing: hope, excitement, grief, urgency, trepidation, and determination.

Key Coverage

The Tragedy of America’s Rural Schools

Harvey Ellington was 7 the first time someone told him the state of Mississippi considered Holmes County Consolidated School District a failing district. Holmes had earned a D or an F almost every year since then, and Ellington felt hollowed out with embarrassment every time someone rattled off the ranking. Technically, the grade measured how well, or how poorly, Ellington and his classmates performed on the state’s standardized tests, but he knew it could have applied to any number of assessments.

 Brain Waves: Covering How the Science of Learning Translates to the Classroom
Webinar

Brain Waves: Covering How the Science of Learning Translates to the Classroom

Cognitive science has vastly expanded the body of knowledge on how people learn in the last 25 years. Yet, little of that knowledge has trickled down to the classroom. 

A small, but growing, number of schools and districts are working to change that. More educators are looking at the science of learning after concerns expressed about learning disruptions and recovering from the pandemic. To learn more, watch the webinar recording below.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

With Schools Reopening Full-Time, What Pandemic-Driven Changes Will Last?
Get 7 story ideas to help you cover K-12 and higher education shifts that may have staying power.

Despite the many hardships the pandemic caused, the COVID-19 disruption also sparked – or in some cases accelerated – changes to K-12 and higher education that leaders say should stick.

The speakers pointed to the power of flexibility, the need to focus energy and resources that will serve the “whole student,” and how increased outreach and new communication strategies with students and families could be transformative during a plenary at the Education Writers Association’s 2021 National Seminar. 

photo of Madisyn Slater
EWA Radio

Student Pays High Price for Reporting Teacher’s Misconduct
Tampa Bay Times investigation finds questionable actions by school officials in handling complaint, and raises concerns about loopholes for holding misbehaving teachers accountable (EWA Radio Episode 275)

For Madisyn Slater, a senior at Blake High School in Tampa, Florida, there was little question that popular biology teacher Tiffany Johnson crossed the line with students. Slater’s decision to report Johnson’s sexual comments and other inappropriate behavior led to the student  – not the teacher — facing a school district investigation.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

5 Questions to Ask Educational Leadership Before Schools Reopen This Fall
Principals share lessons learned from leading schools through COVID-19 pandemic

For education reporters writing about the impact of COVID-19 on school communities, it makes sense to pay close attention to the experiences of teachers, students, and families. But the principal often sets the tone for the school community, and helps shape and influence the campus climate in important ways.

During the pandemic, principals had to reimagine how schools operate, deliver instruction, serve students, and provide key programs and services.

Latest News

How NYC Has Failed Black Public School Students In Queens

A growing legion of black parents in Queens say the Department of Education has failed their kids through mismanagement and neglect — fueling an exodus out of the public school system.

Fed-up families in District 29 — a primarily black area which includes Hollis, Rosedale, and Cambria Heights — said the DOE has long tolerated abysmal math and English proficiency rates, despite high per-student spending.

EWA 74th National Seminar  graphic
Seminar

74th EWA National Seminar
Virtual, May 2-5, 2021

The Education Writers Association’s 74th National Seminar will focus on the theme of “Now What? Reporting on Education Amid Uncertainty.” Four afternoons of conversations, training and presentations will give attendees deeper understanding of these crises, as well as tools, skills and context to help them better serve their communities — and advance their careers. 

To be held May 2-5, 2021, the seminar will feature education newsmakers, including leaders, policy makers, researchers, practitioners and journalists. And it will offer practical data and other skills training. 

Tracking State Policies Around Children’s Well-Being
Webinar

Tracking State Policies Around Children’s Well-Being

The ongoing pandemic has heightened  concerns about children’s mental and physical health, food insecurity and trauma. One factor that can have a big impact on children’s health that is too often overlooked by the media: a state’s policies governing schools’ responses to student health and safety issues.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

EWA Radio: Your Top 10 of ‘20 Holiday Playlist
From COVID-19 coverage to the politics of textbooks, catch up with the top podcast episodes of the year

While most of us won’t be traveling far this holiday season, we still need those essential holiday playlists. Catch up with the most popular episodes this year of the EWA Radio podcast, which features journalists discussing the backstories to their best education reporting. (It’s also a good time to subscribe, so you don’t miss any new episodes in ‘21!)

photos from Tampa Bay Times of students and parents
EWA Radio

‘Targeted:’ Sheriff Secretly Used School Records to Profile Students
Shool officials, parents had no knowledge of controversial program using grades, family histories to ID kids as potential criminals.
(EWA Radio: Episode 257)

In Pasco County, Florida, the sheriff’s department used students’ school records, including their grades and information about their family lives, to identify them as potential troublemakers.

What Education Reporters Need to Know About the Science of COVID-19
Webinar

What Education Reporters Need to Know About the Science of COVID-19

As scientific understanding of the novel coronavirus continues to evolve, states, school systems, and higher education institutions must weigh what is known — and unknown  — about the risks to guide decision-making. What’s the appropriate threshold to reopen or close schools? What safety precautions are most important on campuses? The list of questions goes on. 

photo of sad girl sitting in school hallway
EWA Radio

Battling for ‘The Souls of Black Girls’
Facing ‘double whammy’ of racism and sexism, Black girls are most at risk of unfairly punitive school discipline, a New York Times investigation finds
(EWA Radio: Episode 251)

When it comes to school discipline, Black girls are significantly more likely to receive harsh treatment than their white female peers, including referrals to enforcement. That’s the conclusion from a new analysis of federal education data by Erica Green and her colleagues at The New York Times. The project was a deeply personal one for Green, who spent two years digging into how racial and gender biases devastate the emotional well-being and academic trajectories of Black girls.

Student Privacy in the Era of Remote Learning
Webinar

Student Privacy in the Era of Remote Learning

As schools scrambled to create remote learning plans and adjust to the new online reality, parents worried about the increased access to their children’s online data. An early summer survey of approximately 1,200 parents by the Center for Democracy and Technology found widespread worries about children’s online safety and privacy. But only 43 percent of parents said someone at their school had discussed student privacy with them. 

Key Coverage

‘A Battle for the Souls of Black Girls’

Zulayka McKinstry’s once silly, sociable daughter has stopped seeing friends, talking to siblings and trusting anyone — changes Ms. McKinstry dates to the day in January 2019 when her daughter’s school principal decided that “hyper and giddy” were suspicious behaviors in a 12-year-old girl.

Ms. McKinstry’s daughter was sent to the nurse’s office and forced to undress so that she could be searched for contraband that did not exist.

EWA Radio

‘Too Young To Die’ in Montgomery, Alabama
How community violence is shaping a generation of students
(EWA Radio: Episode 243)

In Alabama’s capital city, an epidemic of violence has shadowed the class of 2020 throughout their high school careers. Nearly a dozen of their classmates were killed before making it to graduation day. Reporter Krista Johnson of the Montgomery Advertiser set out to learn more about those who died, and to understand how trauma is shaping a generation of young people and their school communities.

EWA Radio

The Future of School Police
Some school districts rethinking security guards and armed officers in wake of George Floyd death and protests of racial injustice (EWA Radio: Episode 242)

The tension over having armed police on public schools campuses isn’t new, but it’s moved back into the spotlight in recent months. In early June, the school board in Minneapolis — where George Floyd was killed during an arrest by the city’s police — voted unanimously to sever its ties with the city’s police department.

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.

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.

Tip Sheet

EWA Tip Sheet: Using Data to Improve Your Stories About Adolescents

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. 

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.

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 to Report 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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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Blog: The Educated Reporter

How a Reporter Enlisted Teachers to Expose Hazards in Philly Schools

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.

Trauma in the Classroom: What Reporters Need to Know
Webinar

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.

Rethinking Student Discipline
Multimedia

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

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.

image of School Resource Officer
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)

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.

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

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.

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

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.

image from the Oregonian of teacher and student in classroom
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)

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?

photo of students at EWA Character & Citizenship event..
Blog: The Educated Reporter

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

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.

image of teacher and children sitting in circle in classroom
P-12 Topic

Educating for Character & Citizenship

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.

EWA 71st National Seminar Los Angeles graphic
Seminar

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

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. 

(Unsplash/Pedro Lastra)
EWA Radio

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

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.

Source: Bigstock
Blog: Latino Ed Beat

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

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.

Public Domain
Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Crossing International Borders for a Better Education

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.

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas
Blog: The Educated Reporter

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.

HarperPerennial
EWA Radio

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

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.

(Flickr/Charles Rodstrom)
EWA Radio

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

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. 

Source: Flickr via ||read|| (CC BY 2.0)
Blog: Latino Ed Beat

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

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. 

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")
EWA Radio

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

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.

A public safety officer participates in a safety demonstration with schoolchildren in Charleston, South Carolina. (Flickr/South Charleston)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

School Security: Inside or Out?

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.

Flickr/Will Foster
EWA Radio

When Schools Become Crisis Centers
EWA Radio: Episode 75

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.

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)
EWA Radio

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

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.

(Pixabay/kaleido-dp)
EWA Radio

Palo Alto’s Student Suicides
EWA Radio: Episode 73

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

(Flickr/Jzee)
EWA Radio

Transgender Student Rights Debate Goes National
EWA Radio: Episode 72

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.

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

Behind the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Failure Factories Series

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.  

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

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

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.

Flickr/Mike Procario
EWA Radio

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

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.

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)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Do Boys Need ‘Manhood’ Lessons?

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:

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
Blog: The Educated Reporter

A View From Abroad: Exchange Students Highlight Differences in Schooling

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.

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)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

When Grit Isn’t Enough

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.

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)
Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Seattle Schools Ban Elementary Suspensions

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
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)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Schools Slow to Wake Up to Research on Sleepy Teens

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.

Flickr/OddHarmonic
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Back-to-School: Story Ideas That Shine

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.

Ways to Examine School Discipline
Multimedia

Ways to Examine School Discipline
2015 EWA National Seminar

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.

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

A Chicago High School’s Turnaround

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.

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)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Solutions, Not Punishment, Focus of School Discipline Policies

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.

Hallway of Bryan Adams High School in Dallas, Texas. (Flickr/Dean Terry)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Reporting on Schools: Why Campus Access Matters

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.