Trump Era

Overview

Education in the Trump Era

The election of Republican Donald Trump as president, coupled with the GOP's success in retaining control of Congress for two more years, appears likely to reshape federal education policy in significant ways, from preschool to college. Already, Republican lawmakers have moved to repeal key Obama administration regulations on school accountability and teacher preparation. The Trump administration made waves by backing away from Obama-era guidance for schools on bathroom access for transgender students.

The election of Republican Donald Trump as president, coupled with the GOP’s success in retaining control of Congress for two more years, appears likely to reshape federal education policy in significant ways, from preschool to college. Already, Republican lawmakers have moved to repeal key Obama administration regulations on school accountability and teacher preparation. The Trump administration made waves by backing away from Obama-era guidance for schools on bathroom access for transgender students. And early signals suggest expanding school choice will be the president’s top educational priority, one that could find favor among GOP lawmakers.

Even before the 2016 election, the bipartisan rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act handed states and localities significantly greater control over school accountability and other aspects of education. In 2017, all states are revamping their accountability systems, which must be approved by the U.S. Department of Education now led by Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Beyond the K-12 level, Congress is overdue in reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. And the Trump administration is widely expected to pivot away from Obama priorities such as Title IX enforcement on sexual assault and increased oversight of for-profit colleges. Other issues that may gain favor include new strategies to pay for college, such as “risk sharing” arrangements, as well as competency-based education and more skills training at community colleges.

Meanwhile, the 2016 elections didn’t just shake up things in Washington. Republicans made further inroads in states, particularly notable given the push to give states and localities greater power over education. Currently, the governors of 33 states are Republican, while just 16 are Democrats and one is Independent. Republicans have what Ballotpedia calls a “trifecta” in 25 states (compared with six for Democrats), where the party controls the governorship and both legislative chambers.

Furthermore, there are plenty of fresh faces in key state positions of power that influence education policy. As Education Week recently noted, half the nation’s state legislatures have at least one new education chairman in 2017, and one-quarter of state superintendents are less than one year into the job.

EWA Radio

2019 Will Be a Big Year for Education Stories. Here’s Why.
School safety, teacher activism, and Betsy DeVos top list of hot topics
(EWA Radio: Episode 192)

Will school districts change their approach to student discipline in light of recent actions by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos? To what extent will the wave of teacher and student activism in 2018 influence public policy in the new year, at both the state and national levels? And why is a forthcoming federal court ruling on affirmative action likely to be a bellwether for elite college admissions? Dana Goldstein, a national education reporter for The New York Times, discusses hot topics to watch in the new year, plus ideas for reporters to localize them. Among her picks: how local districts and colleges might be opting to retain their Obama-era Title IX and civil rights policies, rather than embracing U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ rollback; the growing push to improve civics education, especially as it relates to schools’ responsibilities to prepare students to be informed voters; and the potential impact of a looming federal court decision on whether Harvard’s affirmative action policies discriminate against Asian-American applicants. Also, Goldstein offers insights for reporters covering what’s next in light of of last year’s wave of teacher walkouts and school shootings, and offers suggestions for taking fresh angles on familiar school choice stories. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What’s Ahead for Private School Choice Policy in 2019?
Vouchers and voucher-like programs may grow in some states, face pushback elsewhere

Arizona voters in November gave a decisive thumbs down to a ballot measure that sought to expand a voucher-like program in that state. The same voters, however, opted by a wide margin to re-elect Republican Gov. Doug Ducey — a champion of private school choice who threw his support behind the failed referendum.

And so it goes. For education overall, the 2018 election outcomes revealed a case of seeming contradictions, as we reported right after the election.

EWA Radio

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is Resigning. These Students Will Remember Him as a Great Interview.
How two high schoolers scored a rare chance to question the cabinet official.
(EWA Radio: Episode 131)

With U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ Dec. 20 announcement of his forthcoming resignation from President Trump’s cabinet, here’s a chance to revisit our conversation with two student journalists who scored a rare interview with the highly regarded military leader. 

Teddy Fischer and Jane Gormley of Mercer Island High School in Washington State discuss how they landed a lengthy Q&A with U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who has given few interviews since joining President Trump’s cabinet. Fischer, a rising junior, and Gormley, the immediate past editor of the school’s student newspaper, worked with their journalism class and faculty advisor to prepare for the 45-minute conversation on Memorial Day. Among the issues Mattis discussed: the role education plays in combatting the rise of radicalization and extremism, and suggestions for how U.S. high schools might foster better relations between the U.S. and other countries. Fischer and Gormley share the backstory to their surprisingly wide-ranging interview, the editorial process that went into its publication, and what they’ve learned from the experience.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How Do Teachers’ Unions Move Forward in Wake of ‘Janus’ Decision?
High court ruled against collecting 'agency' fees from non-members

In June, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling to prohibit public sector unions from collecting “agency” or “fair share” fees, some observers saw it as the beginning of the end for teachers unions.

But such dire predictions may be premature, according to education analysts and a union leader at the Education Writers Association’s October event on the teaching profession.

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.

Key Coverage

Rally Had Minor Impact on Admissions as UVa Addresses Financial Needs and Its Own History

The University of Virginia can seem like a textbook college campus: white columns and porticos, long lawns and statues of Thomas Jefferson and Homer.

In 2017, though, UVa’s Rotunda steps were transformed into a maelstrom as white supremacists carried torches and attacked protesters. For months, the school was roiled by protests and political soul-searching.

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.

Seminar

Covering Higher Education’s New Political Landscape
Washington, D.C. January 28-29, 2019

A big increase in college student voter turnout helped flip the U.S. House of Representatives to Democratic control and elected scores of new state and local officials. Now, it’s clear that higher education will be shaped by—and will shape—the new political landscape of 2019.

To help journalists cover the impact of the midterms on education beyond high school, the Education Writers Association is holding a two-day intensive training seminar January 28-29 in Washington, D.C.

Key Coverage

Teachers in America: No Matter Where They Work, They Feel Disrespect

It’s shortly after dawn when Edward Lawson, one of America’s 3.2 million public school teachers, pulls his car into the parking lot of Thomas Elementary in Racine, Wisconsin. He cuts the engine, pulls out his cell phone and calls his principal. They begin to pray.

Lawson is a full-time substitute based at a school with full-time problems: only 1 in 10 students is proficient in reading and math.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Education Dept. to Change College Scorecard, Be Less ‘Prescriptive’ With Accreditors, Officials Say

Federal education officials say they want to help students make more informed decisions about where to go to school, what college will cost, and what return on investment to expect – reflecting U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s vision for reducing regulation of higher education while improving the public’s ability to exercise school choice.

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.

EWA Radio

Want Reporting With More Impact? It’s Complicated.
In age of Trump, researchers look to high-quality journalism as tool for bridging divides (EWA Radio: Episode 176)

At a time of deep political polarization in the United States, how might journalists play a role in bridging the divide among Americans? Complicate the narrative, suggests veteran journalist Amanda Ripley. “We need to find ways to help our audiences leave their foxholes and consider new ideas,” she writes in a new piece for the Solutions Journalism Network.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Covering Immigrant Students and Families in the Time of Trump

Covering immigrant students and their families – always challenging given legal and privacy concerns — has arguably never been more timely, as recent shifts in federal policy have thrust them into the national spotlight.

A panel of researchers and journalists offered advice on pressing issues, including: how reporters can explain the stakes of their stories to sources, whether undocumented students should be named, and how to discuss complicated immigration policy shifts in a clear and compelling way that draws in readers.

Seminar

Seminar on the Teaching Profession
Chicago • October 18-19, 2018

From state capitols to the U.S. Supreme Court, teachers are making headlines. Perennial issues like teacher preparation, compensation, and evaluation continue to be debated while a new wave of teacher activism and growing attention to workforce diversity are providing fresh angles for compelling coverage.

Seminar

Higher Education Seminar Fall 2018
Las Vegas • UNLV • September 24-25, 2018

The Education Writers Association will hold its 2018 Higher Education Seminar Sept. 24-25 on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The theme of this year’s intensive training event for journalists will be “Navigating Rapid Change.” This journalist-only event will offer two days of high-impact learning opportunities. The seminar will focus on how both postsecondary education and journalism are adjusting to an increasingly divisive political environment, the decline of traditional revenue sources, and continuing technological innovations that are upending much of the economy.

EWA Radio

Districts Double Down on Student Data
Will investments in digital accountability, family engagement pay off for schools?
(EWA Radio: Episode 173)

All Systems Go! Andrew Hart Flickr

From test scores to parent portals, districts are making big investments in data management systems intended to inform everything from classroom instruction to staffing decisions. But as Jenny Abamu reports for EdSurge, school systems are also struggling to hire qualified data managers to oversee these often complex networks, and to make sure that educators are both inputting — and using — the collected information appropriately.