Although adult learners are often assumed to be rarities on college campuses, adults have always been an important part of the student body. And as the job market increasingly demands workers with more postsecondary training and America faces the results of a “baby bust” starting in 2008, adult students have become crucial players in improving the economy and keeping colleges financially viable.
Offered at schools and community sites throughout the country, after-school programs have been used for years as a means to provide a safe place for children when many parents are at work and unable to provide supervision.
Backed by research that shows the hours from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. are a peak time for students to engage in dangerous, illicit, and delinquent behavior, these programs have been proven to not only reduce misbehavior, but to improve students’ motivation and attendance in school.
Paints, pantomimes and piccolos – the arts are on display in our movies, on TV sets, and along city streets. But in recent years schools have had an uneasy relationship with arts education, sidelining stand-alone classes here while adding elements of the arts there. Yet after years of debate over perceived declines in access to arts education in U.S. schools, efforts are underway to expand funding and opportunities for students to draw, drum or dance.
If learning begins at birth, then so does the education beat. Research shows the first three years are the most important period of development in what experts call “brain architecture.” This architecture “provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health,” according to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.
Today’s education reporters may often find themselves following students out of the classroom and into their first jobs. Though academic achievement remains paramount, high schools and colleges are putting greater focus on helping students navigate careers and ready themselves for work.
Over the past two decades, charter schools have emerged as the fastest growing form of school choice, outpacing other alternatives such as vouchers, magnet schools, and homeschooling. Charters have also become a touchstone for how people feel about a host of related issues: job protections for teachers, the role of elected school boards and teachers unions, and the privatization of schools. The materials compiled in this Topics section examine the ways charter schools and other school choice options play out in the education process.
Are students ready for life after high school? What does “college and career readiness” really mean, exactly, and why should the pursuit of this goal matter to reporters who cover education? The next time you find yourself writing a story on the topic, don’t forget to check out our college and career readiness topics page with news articles, reports, blogs, podcasts, videos and more to get you up to speed.
What is actually being taught in college classrooms? What should be taught?
The academic instruction of students – arguably the main activity of a college – is a crucial area of coverage for journalists since it touches on some of society’s most fundamental questions. Many of the controversies that generate headlines emerge from two enduring and intertwining debates: What is the purpose of college? And what cultures should be at the center of the curriculum: Western European traditions, or the experiences of historically marginalized people?
“Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma,” President Obama said in a February 2009 address to a joint session of Congress.“And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education, and half of the students who begin college never finish.” With those remarks, the president put the issue of college completion front and center on the national stage.Calling the situation a “prescri
Writing about higher education faculty and staff? Perfect. This is fertile ground for so many stories about higher education.
The faculty and staff are very visible and prominent on every college campus. The staff run the campus by handling such responsibilities as maintaining buildings, overseeing admissions, distributing financial aid, and increasingly, new but vital tasks such as providing mental health counseling.
America spends nearly $700 billion a year on higher education, including paying instructors, funding research, keeping the facilities running and much more. At public universities, the biggest chunk of this comes from taxpayers, who deserve accountability for their money. So do students and their families, who fork over tuition and fees, and a fast-growing additional amount for room and board. At private, nonprofit institutions, the proportions are reversed, with more money coming from students than from taxpayers.
There are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, ranging from open-enrollment community colleges to highly selective Ivy League institutions, from colleges with historical missions to educate the underserved to universities exploring the cutting edge of online education.
So—which college is the best in the nation?
In 2010, state after state took a remarkable—and unprecedented—step: They adopted common academic standards. Once the dust had settled the following year, 46 states and the District of Columbia had signed on to the Common Core State Standards.
A community college has a bit of a split personality. One side of the college is full of students trying to take classes at a less expensive rate before transferring to a four-year school to finish up a bachelor’s degree. The other side is full of students working on the latest manufacturing robots, learning to cook or brushing up on their welding skills in a short time frame.
The rapid spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) — which the World Health Organization has declared a global pandemic — has big implications for P-12 and higher education in the United States. Education journalists around the country are playing a vital role in helping communities understand the situation, from school closures to plans for distance learning and making sure high-need students maintain access to wraparound services like health care and meals.
The content taught in American classrooms has been in the spotlight for years, particularly as researchers have shown what a difference a quality curriculum can make for P-12 students’ achievement.
Reporters can take a closer look at the quality of curricula, teachers’ experiences in implementing them and what effect these have on student outcomes.
From test scores to teacher salaries, from graduation rates to grade-point averages, the education world is full of data. The federal No Child Left Behind law, signed in 2002, created an unprecedented demand for detailed information about students and schools. No longer are public schools judged simply by average test scores for all students. The law requires states, school districts and campuses to break out (“disaggregate,” in education-speak) test scores by race, gender, English proficiency, socioeconomic status and more.
As the U.S. population grows more diverse, it’s impossible to tell the story of American education without considering the many ways our schools and colleges are shaped by the demographic make-up of the people inside them.
Online education was once hyped as a silver bullet for revolutionizing education, providing broad access to high-quality learning tools to all regions and bringing down the high cost of college. But while it didn’t transform education completely, the online format is booming, as schools expand their offerings to reach students everywhere, and benefiting people like adult learners who can’t stop their lives to go back to campus.
How are the policies for America’s local school districts set? Who is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of those policies? What happens when control over public schools shifts from a school board to the mayor?
The education beat doesn’t begin when 5-year-olds enter kindergarten. Expanding knowledge on how young children learn, combined with an array of early education models, means reporters also cover the different settings in which children spend their earliest years.
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.
Education is said to be the great equalizer. The modern U.S. school system was created in the 19th century with the intention of educating the masses — not just the privileged or religious elite. A public role for higher education, and systems for broadening access to it, was carved out over time, too — through the creation of land-grant colleges during and after the Civil War, the passage of the G.I. Bill after World War II, and the establishment of community colleges in the 1960s.
The Every Student Succeeds Act is the long-awaited rewrite of the main federal law for K-12 education, and replaces the much-maligned No Child Left Behind Act.
Pressure to meet testing benchmarks and close the achievement gap have spurred growing interest nationally in examining new ways to think about the structure and use of time within schools. One such emerging reform, called Expanded Learning Time (ELT), adds hours and/or days to the traditional school schedule under the assumption that more classroom time will help disadvantaged, minority students “catch up” to the speed of their higher performing peers.
While states and local school districts control day-to-day operations in classrooms and provide most of the funding to schools, the federal government’s importance in both areas should not be discounted. It plays a significant role in promoting educational equity and protecting students’ civil rights, and has influenced everything from school accountability systems and academic standards to school safety and the education of students with disabilities.
The federal government provides billions of dollars in student aid and tax breaks to the nation’s colleges and universities each year, and it demands remarkably little in return.
Financial aid describes the money that the federal government, state or municipal programs, colleges, private foundations and individual companies give to students in the form of grants, scholarships, below-market loans or tax breaks. Without aid, higher education — and indeed the American dream — would be out of reach for many low- and middle-income families.
For-profit colleges and universities are a growing presence in American higher education. The sector accounted for an estimated 13 percent of all U.S. college students in 2009—up from 5 percent in 2001—as well as an outsize share of the federal financial-aid dollars that help students cover the cost of higher education. For instance, nearly 25 percent of Pell Grant funds—need-based awards that the federal government provides to students from low-income families—go to students of for-profit schools.
Interest has mounted over the past several years in how U.S. students stack up academically against their peers abroad, as well as the potential lessons educators and policymakers here might glean from high-achieving nations.
In late 2016, a raft of fresh student performance data is expected out from a pair of major international assessments best known by the acronyms PISA and TIMSS. PISA tests 15-year-olds in reading, math, and science. TIMSS tests fourth and eighth graders in math and science.
At a 1979 meeting of The University of Texas Arts and Sciences Foundation in San Antonio, Peter Flawn, then-president of UT-Austin, railed against what he dubbed the “widget theory” of education. The notion, he said, is “that a college or university is a manufacturing enterprise that produces products called academic degrees in basically the same way as a company such as Universal Widgets Inc.produces widgets.” He went on to forecast “that the struggle for excellence in higher education over the next decades will be a struggle against the widget theory in higher education and against those who knowingly or unknowingly espouse it.”
There’s an online-learning boom going on in higher education. The focus is on a relatively new model that promises to teach tens of thousands of students at a time for free, with a mix of short Web videos and automatically graded (or peer-graded) assignments. These new offerings are called massive open online courses, or MOOCs.
Just a little over a decade ago, online learning for many educators fell into the realm of science fiction, or worse, snake oil.Visions of students accessing an array of courses on their computers, interacting with teachers over the Internet, and participating in virtual “field trips” seemed more fantasy than reality.
When its governing board abruptly dismissed the president of the University of Virginia in 2012, the flagship state university quickly became the focus of national attention. The decision—prompted by board complaints that the president had not moved fast enough to address the university’s challenges—embroiled the board, faculty, and president in two weeks of public confrontations. It also prompted a board member’s resignation before ultimately culminating in the president’s reinstatement.
Backed by decades of research, a movement is afoot to rethink how students learn inside and outside of classrooms. As a result, momentum is building to introduce students to fresh ideas that will help them confront their anxieties about homework, tests and their own ability to learn, making them more motivated learners along the way.
Money matters. That’s the conclusion of a growing number of studies on how to improve the academic outcomes of America’s public school students. And it’s why education journalists should keep central to their reporting how districts and schools receive and spend money.
Public education is a massive – and costly – enterprise, with annual spending that exceeds $700 billion. The single biggest expenditure by far, about 80%, is for salaries and benefits to teachers and other employees.
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.
Sex is one of the most difficult topics that journalists cover. Make the topic allegations of sexual misconduct or assault involving students at a school, and the emotions — and risks — become especially intense.
So journalists covering Title IX — the federal law that bans discrimination based on sex in education programs — should be especially careful.
Social and emotional learning has gained widespread attention and focus in K-12 education – with that growth accelerated even more by the pandemic and education recovery. Just as it sounds, the concept is about teaching students the social and emotional skills they need to thrive in school, work, and life. It’s a broad idea that encompasses some of the concepts traditionally associated with life skills and character education.
There are few questions more crucial to the field of education than what students should learn and how that learning should be measured. This Topics section examines several currently hot topics – including common standards, international comparisons, and cheating – in the often-contentious realm of standards and testing.
Calls to improve education in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math have taken on fresh urgency in recent years. With U.S. prospects for prosperity increasingly seen as tied to performance in the STEM fields, the education community has stepped up efforts to rethink and revamp how U.S. students are educated in those subjects and groomed for technical careers.
In efforts to improve public education in the United States, much of the attention has been on helping teachers maximize their own abilities, and to make campuses effective – and efficient – at the business of schooling. But what if students themselves were the focus, and the primary goal was to structure their learning in the way that best met their individual needs? That’s the question put forth by advocates of student-centered learning, an educational approach that is gaining ground, bolstered by federal incentives to encourage innovation in the classroom and new research connecting students’ engagement to their academic success.
When students are unwell — whether they have a run-of-the-mill cold, a chronic illness, or a mental health condition like depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — it is more difficult for them to learn. Many more students face chronic physical and mental health challenges than in years past, making this a vital area about which education reporters should learn.
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.
Recognition of the importance of summer to the traditional school year is growing nationally, as more districts realize just how detrimental months away from school can be to students – especially those who are already struggling academically.
But how best to use the summertime to foster student learning and development remains undetermined, although more research has emerged on what works best.
In 2009, a now often-cited study of teacher evaluations in multiple states found that just 1 percent of teachers were labeled unsatisfactory. That implicitly glowing appraisal of teacher performance stood in contrast to alarming achievement gaps among students of different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and to a more general slippage of U.S. students in international rankings of student achievement. The study, titled “The Widget Effect,” came at a critical moment.
Coverage of teachers and the teaching profession is central to the education beat, but it requires an understanding of some complex issues — preparation, licensure, compensation, recruitment and retention, professional development, and unionism.