Student Life

Overview

Student Life

In theory, the main focus for schools and students is academics – what they learn in their classes. But in reality, students’ experiences outside of classrooms account for some of their most important learning gains, make key contributions to their academic and professional success, and play important roles in their financial, mental and physical health. 

In theory, the main focus for schools and students is academics – what they learn in their classes. But in reality, students’ experiences outside of classrooms account for some of their most important learning gains, make key contributions to their academic and professional success, and play important roles in their financial, mental and physical health. 

Students who are hungry, experiencing housing stress, obsessed with video games, or victimized by online bullying, generally don’t learn as well. On the other hand, students who actively participate in extracurricular activities or, by the time they are in college, work reasonable hours at a part-time job, are more likely to thrive in school and after graduation.

The coronavirus pandemic brought attention to just how different the lives of students are outside of the classroom and the implications those inequities have on their performance in school and in the job market. 

So coverage of students’ lives – from their housing situations to their student clubs – can generate fresh and important stories for education journalists.

Student life stories can be challenging because privacy laws often give educational institutions the cloak to withhold information. Because access to records can be a challenge, especially for K-12 reporting, source development and interviewing are especially important in covering student life. 

The resources below should also give you a good start.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Covering Parent Activism and Engagement? Go Beyond Critical Race Theory
‘Sexy headlines’ about the latest education controversy often grab attention. Learn why reporters shouldn’t limit their coverage. Plus, get research and the history of parent engagement in education.

A new generation of parent activists has arrived, and its members are far more concerned with “ballot boxes, legislative agendas and school district policy priorities than bake sales,” according to a new report from the public policy think tank FutureEd.

Latest News

What You Should Know About The Plyler Case

A Supreme Court case known as Plyler v. Doe that protects the education of undocumented students marked its 40th anniversary this year.

Now, with the high court seemingly poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, another long-standing precedent, one prominent politician hopes Plyler is next.

“I think we will resurrect that case and challenge this issue again, because the expenses are extraordinary and the times are different than when Plyler v. Doe was issued many decades ago,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said recently. 

Why Reporters Should Cover Middle School
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Why Reporters Should Cover Middle School
Learning about the middle school years will help journalists better cover youth learning and brain development.

Although middle school is often treated as just a way station between elementary and high school, there’s much more to the story. In fact, the middle school years are a time of profound change for young people – physically, emotionally, and intellectually. These years are a crucial time for learning and brain development, a reality that is often overlooked or misconstrued. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

A Guide to the Guides: What to Know About LGBTQ Style Guides for Journalists

There are numerous LGBTQ style guides for journalists. Most include similar advice for what is and isn’t appropriate to ask gay and trans sources as well as how to steer clear of some oft-repeated misinformation. Offering your pronouns — e.g. she/her/hers, they/them/theirs — at the start of a conversation invites your interviewee to reply with the information they want you to have about their identity.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Getting Out of the Statehouse and Into the Schoolhouse When Covering LGBTQ Students

A consistent criticism from LGBTQ organizations of media coverage of assault on gay and trans rights is that it features too few of the people most affected. Here are three suggestions for education reporters seeking to counter this.

Challenge the narrative: Francisco Vara-Orta is a former Education Week staff writer and EWA board member who is now director of diversity and inclusion for Investigative Reporters and Editors. Reporters need to push back on misleading or false assertions, he says.  

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How to Better Cover LGBTQ Students in the Pandemic Era of ‘Don’t Say Gay,’ Book Bans and Other Issues
This deep dive catches reporters up on the legislation and issues affecting LGBTQ students. Read this main story and two other related pieces to improve your coverage.

Ranging from “Don’t Say Gay” laws to bans on transgender students’ participation in sports and on gay- and trans-themed books in schools, a record 238 anti-LGBTQ bills were filed in U.S. statehouses during the first three months of 2022. Even before the first were signed into law, the new measures had an impact in K-12 schools and on college campuses.

Latest News

A School Created A Homeless Shelter In The Gym And It Paid Off In The Classroom

The idea of optimizing school district property for evening and weekend use isn’t new, but Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 Community School (BVHM, for short) in San Francisco appears to be the first modern public elementary school to have hosted a long-term, overnight family shelter.

Some objected: Shelter should not be the responsibility of a school, they argued.

And yet, “We were the folks that were willing to do it,” said Nick Chandler, the BVHM community school coordinator.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Education Labs: The Past, Present and Future of Grant-Funded Journalism Units
“Community-funded journalism is not a silver bullet, but it’s potential support that can help you cover important service journalism.”

Some hope is rising amid the financial destruction that has decimated the newsrooms of local for-profit newspapers. At least five legacy news outlets have expanded their education coverage by raising grant funding in the last several years. 

Of course, nonprofit news organizations are nothing new, considering The Associated Press is a 176-year-old cooperative. But these new projects are creating unusual hybrids: grant-funded reporting teams within traditional for-profit companies. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Examining HBCUs During Black History Month
From Jan. 1 to Feb. 22 this year, Nexis listed a total of 89 articles that included “HBCU” and “bomb threats.” Only 29 articles mentioned “HBCU” and “enrollment” during the same time period.

Nearly a century since Black History Week was created, and more than 50 years since February was first recognized as Black History Month, many states and school districts are trying to suppress or control what the public learns about the history of Black people in America.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Parents Really Want Useful Education News. They Aren’t All Getting It.
“White parents seem to be able to leverage their informal networks with greater efficiency. These networks work better for white parents than they do for parents of color.”

This article was republished with permission from Nieman Lab.

American parents identify information about education and schools — their local schools, in particular — as their top news need, and that need has only grown during the pandemic. Brand-new studies conducted in the spring of 2020 and August of 2021 show that interest in news about schools increased substantially over the period.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Martin Luther King Jr. Said, ‘Education is a Battleground.’ Reflecting on His Words
King’s remarks on education continue to be relevant in 21st century America.

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. accepted the John Dewey Award from the United Federation of Teachers in 1964, he spoke of education being a battleground in the freedom struggle.

“It was not fortuitous that education became embroiled in this conflict,” King said. “Education is one of the vital tools the Negro needs in order to advance. And yet it has been denied him by devises of segregation and manipulations with quality.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

These New Education Books Make Perfect Gifts. (Trust Us.)
What we’re giving the education reporters (and education enthusiasts) on our list this year

Shopping for the education writer in your life this holiday season? Any reporter can tell you which is the best seat in the school board meeting room: It’s the one near the only working wall outlet. While this popular version of a portable battery pack will set you back about $50, it’s reliable, durable, and speedy. (No, EWA does not do paid product endorsements. I actually use this.) It also has the benefit of being cable free if your gift recipient uses a compatible smartphone.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

How to Put the HBCU Story in Context
Journalists share strategies for reporting on the chronic underfunding of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

If the disparity in underfunding Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) could be told through two schools, consider Texas Southern University (TSU) and the University of Houston (UH). Both started around the same time with similar missions, serving populations with similar economic backgrounds. The colleges were even located across the street from each other.

EWA Radio

How Rural Schools Get Left Behind
Journalist Casey Parks shares insights on culturally competent reporting, building trust with sources, and why more reporters should pay attention to rural education. (EWA Radio Episode 277)

Writing for The New York Times Magazine, veteran education journalist Casey Parks takes readers deep inside the struggles of a rural school district in the Mississippi delta that is poised for a state takeover. She also profiles Harvey Ellington, a 16-year-old Black student with big college dreams but few opportunities for advanced learning in his cash-strapped and understaffed high school. 

EWA Radio

Home Ec’s ‘Secret History’
New book explores how home economics influenced American life and public education beyond 'stitching and stirring' (EWA Radio Episode 276)

Often overlooked and misunderstood, home economics is about far more than learning to bake cakes or sew lopsided oven mitts, argues education journalist Danielle Dreilinger. She discusses her new book, “The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live.” 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Lack of Sleep Affecting Adolescent Learning? Coverage Tips for Early School Start Times
Get background, story ideas and advice.

“What’s keeping you up at night?” 

Science journalist and author Lydia Denworth posed that question to a pair of experts on adolescent development during the Education Writers Association’s 2021 National Seminar. 

“Sleep!,” speakers Adriana Galván of UCLA and Denise Pope of Stanford University both said at a panel. Adolescents, they agreed, don’t get enough of it.