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.
As communities nationwide grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, educators are struggling to provide young people with meaningful opportunities to continue learning even with most public schools now closed. In this installment of Word on the Beat, we look at how digital tools are being put into quick action for K-12 education — and how that’s creating both opportunities and challenges for teachers, students, and families.
Threatened But Still Standing: The Federal Program for After-School, Summer Learning
Despite Trump's attempts to eliminate it, bipartisan support persists
Three times, the Trump administration has tried to ax federal funding for after-school and summer learning programs, and three times Congress has responded by adding more money to the pot.
Most recently, the U.S. House, where Democrats hold a majority, approved a $100 million increase for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative—the primary source of federal funds for local after-school and summer learning programs. That line item, which stills needs approval from the Republican-led Senate, would primarily support activities during the 2020-21 school year.
The federal Every Student Succeeds Act is about to unleash a flood of new data, on everything from school-by-school spending to chronic absenteeism and achievement results for vulnerable groups of students.
But all those facts and figures don’t mean much if reporters can’t explain what they really mean to parents and the public.
That was the message from a trio of experts – and a veteran journalist – who spoke at a panel at the Education Writers Association’s recent national conference in Baltimore.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to Address Journalists on May 6 at EWA Conference
Trump Official Will Take Questions During Baltimore Event
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, one of President Trump’s longest serving Cabinet members, will speak on Monday, May 6, at the Education Writers Association’s National Seminar in Baltimore. This will mark the first time she has appeared at an EWA event.
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.
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.
Nearly three quarters of states now include chronic absenteeism in their rubrics for assessing schools under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This reflects the metric’s value for identifying students headed off track academically and targeting resources to students and schools who need the most support. But the increased scrutiny brings increased pressure to ensure data are accurate and used effectively.
Teacher Residencies: The Future of Teacher Prep?
The hands-on approach is growing but whether it can deliver on promises remains to be seen.
Stubborn achievement gaps, troubling rates of teacher turnover, and a student population that is increasingly more black and brown than its teachers.
These are just a few of the realities that have prompted a rethinking of how teachers are prepared and trained in the United States today, with many questioning the traditional, college-based teacher prep programs that are the typical gateway to the classroom.
With States at the Wheel, What’s Next for School Accountability?
Issues to watch under ESSA, from report cards to achievement gaps
The federal Every Student Succeeds Act has put states back in the driver’s seat on school accountability.
No longer must states abide by what many perceived as the one-size-fits all federal mandates associated with ESSA’s predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act.
But what will this newfound freedom look like? And what should education reporters watch for to ensure states remain focused on closing achievement gaps and parents get an accurate and easy-to-grasp picture of school performance?
What “chronic absenteeism” means: Researchers typically define chronic absenteeism as missing at least two days of school each month or 10 percent of all their classes. That amounts to about 18 days over the academic year in the average district. One out of every 10 students in public schools is chronically absent nationwide, according to the advocacy group AttendanceWorks.
Does Trump’s Education Budget Even Matter?
Big cuts to popular programs, boosting school choice proposed
President Trump’s proposed federal budget, unveiled Monday, calls for major cuts to existing education programs and a huge increase for school choice initiatives. The first question stemming from his blueprint is this: How seriously will Congress take his administration’s plan, even with Republicans controlling both chambers?
How Does Your State Fare on the Education Week Report Card?
Nation overall gets 'C' grade; State leadership a factor in slow improvement, experts say (EWA Radio: Episode 155)
Education Week’s annual “Quality Counts” report offers a wealth of state-level data on students and schools, from academic indicators to equity in funding formulas. But how can reporters make the most of these numbers — and the state rankings — to tell compelling stories about their own local schools? Assistant director Sterling Lloyd and reporter Daarel Burnette join EWA Radio to discuss the national and state-by-state results. Which states made gains, which slipped behind, and why?
‘Evergreen’ Education Stories for the Holiday Week
Wish lists, good deeds, and challenging realities for K-12 and higher ed students
Even when school is out for winter break, education reporters are still on the hunt for smart stories. Here are few “evergreen” ideas that will age even better than that fruitcake you scored in the office gift swap:
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.
While news stories about President Trump’s trickle-down influence on voters claimed the national spotlight during this election cycle, education issues still managed to eke out a respectable showing on Tuesday.
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.
Given the opportunity to go beyond a singular focus on test scores to measure schools’ success, will states begin holding schools accountable for teaching skills like perseverance, empathy, and self-control? As Education Week’s Evie Blad reports, the answer appears to be “no,” at least for now.
States across the nation are taking another look at their school accountability systems in response to the Every Student Succeeds Act, a rewrite of the main federal law for K-12 education. So far, 16 states and the District of Columbia have submitted their ESSA plans for review by the U.S. Department of Education. Another 33 states have until Sept. 18 to do so.
When it comes to arts education, geography matters. A student in the Northeast region of the United States is significantly more likely to attend a school with a full-time art teacher than a student in the West or Midwest.
Lisa Miller, an associate editor at New York magazine, discusses her new profile of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Miller discusses the unwillingness of people close to DeVos to discuss her on the record — including current Department of Education employees — made this one of the most challenging profiles she’s ever written. What do we know about DeVos’ vision for the nation’s public schools that we didn’t know six months ago?
From coast to coast, states are starting to decide how they will capitalize on a law that could usher in a new era of national education policy.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have submitted plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act, while others are in the final stage of crafting proposals. As states head to the finish line, officials are watching to see if and how they take advantage of newfound flexibility over testing, evaluating and intervening in schools.
When U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos declined EWA’s invitation to speak at its 70th National Seminar, it prompted coverage from The Associated Press, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, among others, in part because of her already limited press availability in the nearly four months since she was appointed to the cabinet post.
President Donald Trump’s first budget blueprint begins to flesh out the areas in which he sees an important federal role in education — most notably expanding school choice — and those he doesn’t. At the same time, it raises questions about the fate of big-ticket items, including aid to improve teacher quality and support after-school programs.
With states revamping their school accountability systems under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, recent actions by Congress and the Trump administration raise important questions about what’s ahead. First, the Senate last week narrowly approved a bill to repeal ESSA accountability rules issued by the Obama administration. (President Donald Trump is expected to sign the measure.) Also, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos just issued new ESSA guidelines for states.
The U.S. Senate, by a 50 to 49 vote yesterday, all but sounded the death knell for Obama administration regulations governing how states must carry out school accountability requirements under federal law. President Donald Trump said he will sign the measure, which was backed by all but one Senate Republican (and earlier won approval in the House).
So, what exactly does this mean for states and schools, and what happens now?
A Senate committee is slated to vote tomorrow on President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. secretary of education — philanthropist and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos. The Education Department is one of the newer federal departments, created during President Jimmy Carter’s administration and beginning its work in May of 1980.
Education Week’s Mark Bomster (assistant managing editor) and Sterling Lloyd (senior research associate) discuss the 2017 “Quality Counts” report, which examines and rates state-level efforts to improve public education. This year’s edition features a special focus on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind as the backbone of the nation’s federal K-12 policy. How ready are states, districts, and schools for the policy shifts — and new flexibility — on school accountability, testing, and teacher evaluations under ESSA, among other issues? What are some story ideas for local reporters covering the implementation? Also, which states scored the highest on Education Week’s ratings when it comes to student achievement, equitable education spending, and the “Chance for Success” index? How can education writers use this data to inform their own reporting?
It’s shaping up to be a contentious year on the education beat, fueled in part by Donald Trump’s upset victory in the presidential election.
For reporters looking to pitch stories on changes to the main federal K-12 education law, Chalkbeat Indiana Bureau Chief Scott Elliott has some advice: Don’t say “ESSA.”
The acronym refers to the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law last December, which gives states and school districts – among other things – more freedom in how they set classroom expectations.
Veteran education reporters from the Detroit Free Press and The Washington Post discuss Betsy DeVos, the billionaire school choice advocate nominated by President-elect Donald Trump. David Jesse of the Detroit newspaper sheds light on DeVos’ Michigan track record on legislative causes, and what is known about her tactics and negotiating style. Plus, he explains how DeVos’ strong religious beliefs have influenced her policy agenda. Emma Brown of The Washington Post details why Trump’s proposal for $20 billion in school vouchers might be a tough sell, even to a Republican-controlled Congress. And she sheds light on the potential for the next administration to dismantle President Obama’s education initiatives, including scaling back the reach of the Office for Civil Rights at the Education Department.
Should schools measure skills like cooperation, communication, self-confidence and the ability to organize? Efforts to gauge these so-called “soft skills” are gaining traction in the classroom, especially with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The new federal law calls on states and school districts to incorporate at least one measure beyond test scores and graduation rates in their accountability systems.
Time for Action Building the Educator Workforce Our Children Need Now
Center on Great Teachers and Leaders
States are now deeply engaged in developing plans for their federal education spending for the next several years. Decades of experience and education research indicate that states must strengthen and organize the educator workforce to implement change successfully. Now is the time to rethink systems and strategies and to focus funds and efforts on what matters most for learning: great teachers and leaders for every student and school.
Teacher Effectiveness in the Every Student Succeeds Act: A Discussion Guide
Center on Great Teachers and Leaders
Systemic challenges in the educator workforce require thoughtful and bold actions, and ESSA presents a unique opportunity for states to reaffirm, modify, or improve their vision of educator effectiveness. This GTL Center discussion guide focuses on one challenge that states face as part of this work: defining ineffective teacher in the absence of highly qualified teacher (HQT) requirements.
The day Eric Guthertz found out he was the principal of one of the “worst schools in California” started out fairly routine.
Guthertz heard a TV announcer mention a list of low-performing schools as he put on his tie.
“Hope we dodged that bullet,” he recalled joking with his wife.
But his school, San Francisco’s Mission High School, did not. Because it made the state’s list of lowest performing schools, Mission High was the subject of several news stories highlighting its poor performance.
Benjamin Wermund of Politico discusses the uncertainties ahead for the nation’s colleges and universities following the presidential election. While Donald Trump has offered few specifics on education policy, his surrogates suggest he will reverse course on many initiatives put in place under President Obama. That could have a significant impact on areas like Title IX enforcement, federal funding for research, and more. Higher education leaders are also facing a surge in reports of hate crimes and harassment on campuses that were already struggling with issues of free speech and diversity.
Donald Trump spent little time on education issues during his campaign, but his victory is sure to have big implications. Journalists Alyson Klein of Education Week and Andrew Kreighbaum of Inside Higher Ed discuss the likely impact on P-12 and higher education. What will be President-elect Trump’s education priorities, and how will the GOP-controlled Congress respond? Will Trump follow through on his campaign pledge to provide $20 billion for school choice? What will be the fate of existing federal policy like the new Every Student Succeeds Act? And how will Trump approach the hot-button higher education issues like student loan debt and accountability?
Here’s a secret about federal laws: Even after Congress passes them and the president signs them, federal agencies can take actions –through writing regulations — that change their impact considerably. That worry is on full display almost a year after Congress overhauled the nation’s main K-12 education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
The Every Student Succeeds Act gives local and state leaders a chance to dream up new accountability systems that consider a lot more than just test scores, and chart their own course when it comes to fixing struggling schools.
That flexibility could spur big – and potentially powerful – changes, but there are plenty of possible pitfalls that reporters should keep in mind as the states and districts they cover tackle implementation of the new law, a panel of experts said earlier this month at the Education Writers Association conference on ESSA.
Craig Brock teaches high school science in Amarillo, Texas, where his freshman biology students are currently learning about the parts of a cell. But since many of them are refugee children who have only recently arrived in the U.S. and speak little or no English, Brock often has to get creative.
Usually that means creating PowerPoint presentations full of pictures and “just kind of pulling from here and there,” he said — the Internet, a third grade textbook or a preschool homeschool curriculum from Sam’s Club, for example.
When schools consultant Tequilla Banks considers how best to ensure America’s low-income and minority students have access to effective teaching, her personal history is a helpful guide. Growing up in Arkansas, Banks witnessed first-hand how educational accountability can work – or not work, as the case may be — when state governments call the shots.
What she saw left her thankful for federal government intervention.
Experts and advocates assess how early childhood and K-12 education issues are factoring into the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They offer analysis of the candidates’ campaign positions and explore the complex politics of education policy. They also discuss other key elections around the nation with big stakes for education.
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.
The federal Every Student Succeeds Act ushers in a new era that gives states and districts considerable leeway to reshape school accountability. What’s flexible and what’s not in the new K-12 law? What changes are on tap in states? And what are the implications for ensuring that schools serve all students effectively?
For education reporters, coming up with fresh ideas for back-to-school stories is an annual ritual. And if you’re balancing the K-12 and higher education beats, it can be an even bigger challenge.
What will be the impact of the new Every Student Succeeds Act on states and schools, both in policy and practice? EWA will examine an array of issues with the federal law, including testing and accountability, Title I funding, teachers, stakeholder engagement, and curriculum.
What implications does the presidential election hold for the future of pre-K -12 policy? What direction would the leading candidates pursue? How might a shift in Congress’s political balance complicate matters? Meanwhile, a dozen governors’ seats are in play, from Oregon to Indiana and North Carolina, setting the stage for state-policy shifts.
One of the most important and welcomed provisions of the Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) is the removal of so-called adequate yearly progress – the federal mandate that came to symbolize everything that was wrong with the way No Child Left Behind defined and measured accountability. AYP imposed rigid and narrow measures for school improvement, improperly labeling many schools as low-performing and imposing punishment when they were unable to meet the unrealistic expectations for proficiency.
When President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act in December, he shifted significant power over educational accountability back to states and school districts.
They still face federal requirements on testing, identifying and assisting the lowest performing schools, and related matters. Money remains the carrot.
We know many American students struggle with math and trail many of their international peers. Conventional wisdom says that’s keeping them from developing the kind of critical thinking skills they need for high-paying STEM careers, and to be successful in a 21st century global economy. But is that shortsighted view of a bigger — and more positive — picture?
Beyond Ratings: Re-envisioning State Teacher Evaluation Systems as Tools for Professional Growth
To date, most of the public narrative and pushback on new teacher evaluation systems has centered around their use for high-stakes personnel decisions such as pay, promotion, and dismissal. But these systems were always intended to promote and support improvements for all teachers—not just the superstars or laggards.
Scott Jaschik, editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed, shares his thoughts on the coming year with EWA Radio. Among the topics he and public editor Emily Richmond tackle in this episode: Will 2015’s widespread campus protests over racial issues carry over into the New Year? How will community college factor into state funding formulas for higher education? Why are younger U.S. military veterans an ever-growing market for universities? And what should reporters watch out for when reporting on the intersection of politics and education policy?
America brought home a middling report card with 74.4 out of 100 points – a “C” grade — in Education Week’s 20th annual “Quality Counts” report this week, which ranks the nation and individual states on a variety of student factors, from test scores to graduation rates to “chance of success” later in life. (That’s about the same grade earned last year, as well.)
With school back in session and a new federal education law on the books, K-12 reporter Motoko Rich of the New York Times shares her predictions for the hot topics on the education beat in 2016, as well as some of her favorite stories of the past year produced by other journalists. She also offers some smart tips for reporters looking to localize national issues for their own audiences.
Here’s something to add to your list of New Year’s resolutions, and it might even make it easier to keep that pledge to exercise more often: Subscribe to EWA Radio! Each week, we feature education journalists sharing the backstory to their best work. You’ll hear tips for managing the daily beat, as well as ideas for localizing national issues for your own audience.
Here are a few more opportunities from EWA to help ramp up your reporting in 2016:
EWA journalist members received an early opportunity to review Education Week’s newest Quality Counts report, which includes a special focus on school accountability.
As part of its annual Quality Counts report, Education Week grades states on a wide range of indicators, including the Chance-for-Success Index, K-12 Achievement Index, and school finance.
Journalists share their insights about covering education in the White House race, and offer practical tips and strategies for penetrating coverage.
- Lauren Camera, U.S. News & World Report
- Nirvi Shah, Politico Pro
- Michael Stratford, Inside Higher Ed
- Caroline Hendrie, Education Writers Association
Experts and advocates take stock of how early childhood and K-12 education issues are factoring into the presidential campaign. They offer analysis of the candidates’ track records, campaign rhetoric, and specific plans (or lack thereof), and explore the complex politics of education policy.
In the first decade of the 21st century, the NYC Department of Education implemented a set of large-scale and much debated high school reforms, which included closing large, low-performing schools, opening new small schools and extending high school choice to students throughout the district. The school closure process was the most controversial of these efforts. Yet, apart from the general sense that school closures are painful, there has never been a rigorous assessment of their impact in NYC.
Testing in the nation’s schools is among the most debated issues in public education today. Much of this discussion has centered on how much we are testing students and how we use test results to evaluate teachers, inform instructional practice, and hold schools and educators accountable. A recent national poll by Phi Delta Kappa underscores the fact that the public at large is concerned about the extent of testing in schools, and these concerns are influencing how people think about the nationwide move to adopt and implement the new Common Core State Standards.
A good test of reporters’ skills is how they handle breaking news – and last week’s surprise announcement that Arne Duncan would step down as U.S. Secretary of Education was a prime example.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is on the road this week for his sixth annual back-to-school bus tour.
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.
Education Week reporter Lauren Camera, David DeSchryver, senior vice president of Whiteboard Advisors, and Bethany Little, principal at Education Counsel, break down the future of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for journalists.
Now that both the Senate and the House of Representatives have passed bills renewing the act, journalists can examine the potential impact of the new provisions. Learn how you can cover these in your state and district and find out questions you should be asking.
For education reporters, coming up with fresh angles for back-to-school stories is an annual challenge. Two veteran education journalists—Steve Drummond (NPR) and Beth Hawkins (MinnPost)—share smart tips for digging deep, and keeping ahead of the curve on the latest trends. We discuss new ways of approaching the first day of school, ideas for unique profiles, strategies for data projects and how to make the most of your publication’s multimedia resources.
In the flurry of media coverage of the political fight to replace No Child Left Behind, one issue hasn’t gotten much attention: a proposal to require states and districts to track the academic progress of children from military-connected families.
Fifty years ago, the federal government enacted the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty. The newest version of the ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act, became law 13 years ago and has stayed in place ever since. On Thursday, a new version of the federal government’s most far-reaching K-12 education law moved closer to adoption. The U.S. Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act, one week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own version, the Student Success Act.
It’s been a hugely busy week for education reporters on Capitol Hill, as the Senate plowed its way through the Every Child Achieves Act, one of the leading contenders to replace No Child Left Behind as the nation’s framework for funding public schools.
The Senate approved passage of the bill Thursday with 81-17 vote.
After countless false starts and protracted negotiations, a bill to reauthorize the main federal law for K-12 education is slated for consideration by the U.S. Senate this week.
This is the closest the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act has come to reality since the law was last updated in 2002 under President George W. Bush. The law, also known as the No Child Left Behind Act, was slated for renewal in 2007.
In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama noted that the nation’s graduation rate had hit a 30-year record high of 81 percent. But how accurate is that number? National Public Radio’s education team decided to find out, assigning 14 regional reporters to cover the story. What they found is that while there is likely some genuine improvement in student achievement, there are also plenty of instances where schools and districts are lowering expectations in order to raise the grad rate.
EWA Radio spoke with the lead journalists on the multimedia project: Anya Kamanetz and Cory Turner. They discussed the origins of the assignment, lessons learned along the way, and some smart tips for local reporters looking at the data in their own communities.
Urban education leaders crammed a marathon of Chicago’s public education woes and wonders into a 45-minute session (more akin to a 5K race) at the Education Writers Association’s recent National Seminar in Chicago.
Sara Ray Stoelinga, the director of the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute, joined colleague Timothy Knowles for a breakfast panel titled “10 Lessons to Take Home From Chicago” at the EWA event.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan subjected himself to what might have been the ultimate edu-press conference in Chicago Tuesday, allowing hundreds of reporters to grill him on testing, No Child Left Behind, college ratings (and yes, White Suburban moms) at the Education Writers Association’s 68th National Seminar.
Speakers, including U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-IN, offer reporters the lay of the land and discuss how rewriting the No Child Left Behind Act may affect their school districts and states. Some speakers say NCLB is already dead, but they’re still not certain what will take its place, other than policies handed down through the U.S. Department of Education’s waivers from NCLB provisions.
EWA’s 68th National Seminar kicks off today in Chicago, and it’s going to be a fantastic three days of discussions, workshops, and site visits. The theme this year is Costs and Benefits: The Economics of Education. Be sure to keep tabs on all the action via the #EWA15 hashtag on Twitter.
A congressional compromise is at hand to rewrite No Child Left Behind, removing many of the more onerous provisions of the federal education law while giving states greater flexibility in accountability.
While the “Every Student Achieves” bipartisan bill announced Tuesday still has significant hurdles to clear before passage, it’s certainly the closest Congress has come to an agreement on revising the education law in nearly a decade.
While we can’t do anything about your dismal bracket selections, EWA can help reporters with story ideas for covering “March Madness” and college sports. Catch a replay of our recent webinar, which highlighted some smart ideas, the latest research, and expert sources on the intersection of higher education and athletics.
As Congress works to rewrite the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and improve accountability systems for public schools across the country, this report highlights how going beyond a test score when assessing achievement in schools and districts provides more transparent and precise ways to continuously track performance, monitor accountability, and ensure the most at-risk students are not lost in the numbers.
EWA Radio recently spoke with several national reporters about what the president’s State of the Union address said (and also, what it didn’t say) about his plans for public schools. They also provided some thoughtful insights about what’s looming on the federal education policy landscape.
President Obama’s address to Congress laid out ambitious plans for higher education reform. But there was scant mention of initiatives for elementary and secondary students.
In a union vote Wednesday, Boston teachers approved the school district’s plan to add 40 minutes to the K-8 instructional day at more than 50 campuses, a move experts say could help improve the quality of classroom instruction, boost student learning, and yield long-term benefits to the wider community.
Expanded Learning Time: A Summary of Findings from Case Studies in Four States
Center on Education Policy
Many low-performing schools across the nation have increased learning time in response to federal requirements for the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. The conditions governing federal waivers of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) also require certain schools to redesign the school day, week, or year to include additional time for student learning and teacher collaboration. Furthermore, the waivers allow greater flexibility to redirect certain federal funding streams toward increased learning time.
There’s a busy year ahead on the schools beat – I talked to reporters, policy analysts and educators to put together a cheat sheet to a few of the stories you can expect to be on the front burner in the coming months:
Revamping No Child Left Behind
Nearly 10 percent of K-12 students in the United States are not native English speakers. That’s 4.4 million children enrolled in school who have been identified as English language learners.
Amid the strong and growing drumbeat of complaints about overtesting at the K-12 level, many education reporters and others may be left wondering how much time students really spend taking standardized tests. And who is demanding most of this testing, anyway? The federal government? States? Local districts?
States receiving waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act are getting more time to grapple with how to conduct teacher evaluations using student test scores, particularly the new Common Core State Standards-based assessments.
According to Education Week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the postponement at an event on Thursday in Washington, D.C., which earlier this summer announced its plan to delay its new teacher evaluations.
The July 21 issue of The New Yorker takes us deep inside the Atlanta cheating scandal, and through the lucid reporting of Rachel Aviv, we get to know some of the teachers and school administrators implicated. We learn not only how and why they say they cheated, but also about the toxic, high-pressure environment they contend was created by Superintendent Beverly Hall’s overwhelming emphasis on improving student test scores.
Education reporters can access a treasure trove of public documents that track significant changes to state exemptions to the most sweeping federal education law of the 21st century, experts said in May at EWA’s 67th National Seminar.
And reporters will need those documents to piece together the patchwork of state policies that have been created out of the NCLB waiver process established by the U.S. Department of Education, said the panelists speaking at the EWA event at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Several recent studies have examined the impacts of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on school operations and student achievement. We complement that work by investigating the law’s impacts on teachers’ perceptions of their work environments and related job attitudes, including satisfaction and commitment to remain in teaching.
Based on an extensive analysis of state waiver plans, this report shows that recent progress in holding schools accountable for how many students they graduate from high school—the ultimate goal of K–12 education—may be slowed in some states based on waivers recently granted under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The report includes a review of approved waiver plans submitted by thirty-four states and the District of Columbia.
In episode 3 of EWA Radio, Michele McNeil and Alyson Klein of Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog stop by for some post-State of the Union analysis.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a right-leaning think tank focused on education policy. According to its mission statement, the institute aims to advance “educational excellence for every child through quality research, analysis, and commentary, as well as on-the-ground action and advocacy in Ohio.”
While it’s become a common refrain for students, teachers and parents to complain that too much time is spent preparing for – and administering – standardized tests in public schools, the level of dissatisfaction is arguably reaching previously unheard decibels.
The National Education Association is the nation’s largest teachers’ union with nearly 3 million members. Its members work at every level of education, from preschool through postsecondary, but the bulk of its members work in K-12 education.
The National Center for Fair and Open Testing is known more commonly as FairTest. The organization “advances quality education and equal opportunity by promoting fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial evaluations of students, teachers and schools. FairTest also works to end the misuses and flaws of testing practices that impede those goals.” For journalists, this group has become the go-to resource for statements critical of standardized tests. They have been a vocal critic of the regimen of testing that NCLB mandated.
Education Sector is a Washington, D.C.-based, non-partisan think tank that has followed NCLB from its legislative development through its implementation. Their experts can offer a range of information about impact of the law’s requirements.
The Alliance for Excellent Education “is a Washington, DC-based national policy and advocacy organization that works to improve national and federal policy so that all students can achieve at high academic levels and graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century.” With regard to NCLB, the Alliance says the law “has played an important role in highlighting achievement gaps, but it has steadily proven to be inadequate in providing sufficient remedies and flexibility.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals, founded in 1916, is the leading professional organization for the nation’s middle school and high school principals.
The American Association of School Administrators counts more than 13,000 educational leaders from across the United States and the world in its membership. These members include chief executive officers, superintendents and senior level school administrators along with cabinet members, some professors and others who manage schools and school systems. AASA was founded in 1865. Regarding NCLB, AASA has asserted that “The accountability system should be made up of measures of growth that differentiate levels of success.
The Council of Chief State School Officers is “a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions,” according to the group.
States’ Perspectives on Waivers: Relief from NCLB, Concern about Long-term Solutions, by Jennifer McMurrer and Nanami Yoshioka at the Center on Education Policy
This report describes states’ early experiences in applying for flexibility from key requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as NCLB waivers, and their plans for implementing the new systems outlined in their applications. Findings from the 38 survey states indicate states believe that the waivers address several of the problems they see with the NCLB accountability requirements, however, many state officials are concerned about what will happen to the programs and policies in their waiver plans if ESEA is reauthorized.
The waivers being granted to 10 of 11 states that applied for flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act would allow them to make potentially broad changes in how school performance and the performance of student subgroups are judged under the decade-old law.
States seeking waivers under the No Child Left Behind Act are hoping to replace what is widely considered an outdated, but consistent, school accountability regime with a hodgepodge of complex school grading systems that are as diverse as the states themselves.
EWA 2012 National Reporting Contest winner. After 10 years as the federal education law of the land, what has No Child Left Behind achieved? One reporter put the law up to letter-grade scrutiny as she consulted nearly two dozen education experts. The results were mixed.
It would be tough to find a slope that’s potentially more slippery than this one: public schools setting different achievement expectations for students based on their race and ethnicity.
The leeway to set the new academic goals tacitly acknowledges that the 100 percent goal is unrealistic. But it also means that members of racial and ethnic minorities, English-language learners, and students with disabilities will fail to master college- and career-readiness standards by the end of the 2016-17 school year at greater rates in most waiver states.
At least half the schools in Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and West Virginia are considered rural by the National Center for Education Statistics. Alabama also has a high number of rural students, while Hawaii’s single, state-run school district educates some students who live in remote island areas.
This interactive timeline provides links to dozens of articles as they appeared when first published, providing a treasure trove of information, particularly the evolution of No Child Left Behind. The timeline can be organized by topic and chronology.
A publication out of Teachers College, Columbia University, offered this round up of the chief debates and controversies surrounding the Highly Qualified Teacher provision of NCLB through its accompanying blog. It focuses on a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision limiting the HQT provision and Congress disregarding that ruling.
John Kline’s No Child Left Behind Bills Strike at Values of Brown v. Board of Education, Coalition Writes
This Huffington Post article examines the frustrations various advocacy groups have with national education laws, specifically the U.S. House of Representative’s effort to reauthorize ESEA. While this article looks into the fallout over accountability measures for minorities, English language learners and low-income students, it brings up the bigger issue of how much accountability and closing the achievement gap matter to stakeholders.
The NAF offers this 2012 comparison of the House and Senate ESEA reauthorization bills.
This analysis piece from New America Foundation, a small but influential Washington D.C. think-tank, provides a clear account of several Title I funding issues tied to NCLB. While the article’s author focuses on House Republican efforts to rewrite the national education law, her revenue allocation insights are likely to aid journalists wanting a technical edge in their reporting moving forward.
This CEP report reads like an almanac of every useful, crucial, rarefied and fun fact about U.S. education.
Politicians, analysts, teachers and administrators wrote short essays on what NCLB achieved and what it failed to achieve or never even took up as an issue. The contributing authors can make for good sources as the push to overhaul NCLB picks up steam.
This 2012 essay written by Andrew Rotherham, who co-founded the seminal education groups Education Sector and Bellwether Education, offers a defense of NCLB, painting a picture of how the law forced education players to recognize an achievement gap existed between races, gender, and the rich and poor.
Another NCLB retrospective, this one written by Michael J. Petrilli, offers reasons to respect the national education law and several things to learn from its tenure. His insights tend to resonate with Republican lawmakers.
This Center on Education Policy report estimates 48 percent of states missed AYP in 2011. In general, CEP provides informative reports and large-scale surveys testing the moods of educators and administrators.
This Center for American Progress analysis and summary of the first 11 waiver applications to opt out of NCLB approaches the topic from the perspective of feasibility, cost, and honoring the terms set forth by the Obama administration. A list of small corrections can be found here.
Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales: Variation and Change in State Standards for Reading and Mathematics, 2005-2009
This National Center for Education Statistics report compares state standardized scores that measure AYP and how they measure up to the rigors of NAEP. The authors conclude states vary widely in how they define proficiency in a subject. For added context, read Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post’s respective articles summarizing the report, via This Week in Education.
Implementation and Effectiveness of Supplemental Education Services (SES): A Review and Recommendations for Program Improvement
A draft report from the Center for American Progress and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research on the price tag and efficacy of SES programs on a national level.
This article from 2009 highlights the ineffectual but costly role supplemental educational services played in improving achievement for at-risk and low-performing students in the Las Vegas region. A 2011 draft paper looked at SES programs nationwide, concluding few are effective.
The American Institutes for Research, through the U.S. Department of Education, concluded in 2007 that while most teachers are highly qualified, the distinction doesn’t seem to matter.
This 2002 article characterizes the moods of 45 state heads of education as mostly positive. Many were looking forward to NCLB, particularly the emphasis on tougher standards and the billions more in Title I funds the new law would bring.