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32 minutes | Jun 21, 2022
Was His Former Teacher a Sexual Predator? This Reporter Had to Find Out.
For senior investigative reporter Matt Drange of Business Insider, this was a reporting assignment like no other: investigating his former high school journalism teacher on allegations of sexual misconduct. He spent more than three years reporting the story, pulling back the curtain on more than two decades of questionable behavior by the accused teacher as well as evidence that school officials sought to dodge accountability. How did the story land on Drange’s radar, nearly 15 years after he graduated? What was it like reporting such a high-stakes story that was also deeply personal? How did Drange build trust with former female students who say they were groomed for sexual relationships by the popular and charismatic teacher? And what advice does veteran journalist Drange have for education reporters navigating the tricky waters of FERPA and education records requests?
29 minutes | Jun 8, 2022
Revisiting America’s Reading Wars
For decades, millions of children have been taught to read using a popular method that’s out of step with the scientific research on how our brains really learn. Amid pushback and criticism – including from researchers, parents, and education journalists – that’s starting to change. Dana Goldstein, national correspondent for The New York Times, shares the latest from her reporting on the growing pushback to the widely used “balanced literacy” approach advocated by Lucy Calkins, a charismatic professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Why is Calkins’ recent acknowledgment that her methods need revising such a groundbreaking shift? What might this mean for how schools teach reading? Will the broader push to emphasize phonics produce a sea change in the nation's literacy levels? What questions should education reporters ask local teachers about the materials and instructional models they use? And what are some story ideas on curriculum and instruction, especially amid recent efforts by some grassroots advocacy groups to put new limits on how – and what – students are taught?
29 minutes | May 17, 2022
Can the Latino College Gap Be Solved?
For San Antonio student Javier Hernandez, the difference between fulfilling his dream of attending a four-year university hundreds of miles from home and opting for a lower-cost local community college was an unexpected bill for a family funeral. In her five-part series “The Enduring Gap,” Texas Public Radio’s Camille Phillips explored which support systems and services make the biggest difference for Latinx and other students who face barriers to educational success. Phillips gleaned fascinating insights from her survey of 2,600 local college students. What does it really take to build a college-going culture among young people? How did San Antonio’s long-standing racial and economic disparities put Latino students at greater risk of missing out on college amid the COVID-19 pandemic? Plus, Phillips shares story ideas for other reporters covering Latino/Latina students and college access and completion issues more broadly.
23 minutes | May 3, 2022
‘Unlevel Playing Fields’ for Girls’ Sports
Title IX prohibits gender-based discrimination in school programs that receive federal funding – but how fairly is the law being applied, especially when it comes to girls’ high school sports? A reporting team of nearly two dozen student journalists at the University of Maryland, College Park, set out to answer that question in a wide-ranging project. Kara Newhouse, a longtime education reporter who is completing a master’s degree in data journalism, spent seven months analyzing the federal Title IX data. She found it fails to account for female students who play on co-ed teams, an omission that surprised many legal experts. How are these data errors making their way into the larger narrative around girls’ sports, specifically the perception of greater gender equity? Where are the bright spots of girls and families advocating successfully for improvements? And what are compelling stories ideas for local reporters looking to use the TItle IX anniversary as a springboard for compelling coverage?
22 minutes | Apr 12, 2022
The Revolving Door to the Superintendent’s Office
Good superintendents can be hard to find, and even harder to keep. That’s proving to be the case In Boston. Brenda Cassellius is stepping down this summer after less than three years at the helm. James Vaznis, who has covered the schools beat for The Boston Globe since 2008, shares insights on how the leadership churn impacts students, families, and staff. Amid the challenges facing the city’s schools: helping high-need students catch up on learning time lost during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic; reconfiguring the grade levels at some of Boston schools amid an enrollment downturn; and the possible switch to an elected school board instead of the current, mayor-appointed. Plus, Vaznis offers suggestions for covering superintendent searches, and story ideas for education reporters.
25 minutes | Mar 29, 2022
The Hopes and Fears of Teenagers
“People can't tell me what they're going to college for. But they put themselves in thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars of debt—that doesn't sound like it makes any sense. That's like buying a car and not knowing how to drive.” That’s just one of the answers Rebecca Koenig of EdSurge got from teenagers on the cusp of adulthood by asking a deceptively simple question: What are your hopes and fears? Koenig’s new project sheds surprising light on the too-frequent disconnect between teenagers’ aspirations and the college paths and job training programs they’re encouraged to pursue. Among the big takeaways: not enough people who design postsecondary pathways are talking to teenagers and really listening to their answers. Koenig profiled nine teenagers from a diverse range of backgrounds and educational experiences. She also spoke with two dozen educators, economists, psychologists, employers and other experts, to figure out the intersection between adolescent brain development and the best educational programs that can actually tap into a young person’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning.
32 minutes | Mar 15, 2022
What’s Next for School Police?
In the early months of the pandemic, many districts were rethinking their policies and practices around campus safety. Now, with buildings reopened and some educators reporting a rise in bad behavior, the conversation is once again shifting to how to best keep children safe, and what role – if any – school police should have on campus. Corey Mitchell of the Center for Public Integrity shares insights from covering racial, gender, and economic inequality in education. How did the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis change the conversation around school resource officers, especially in regards to how Black students are treated? Why have some districts and states reversed course on pledges to scale back the police presence in school? What does research show about the impact of having armed police on campuses? Plus, Mitchell offers tips for education reporters looking to add more student voices to their reporting on campus safety, as well as story ideas for digging deeper into school police.
31 minutes | Mar 1, 2022
When Public Schools Require Ethnic Studies
In a handful of states, students are learning about race and racism, and how it impacts their lives, their learning, and their future opportunities through ethnic studies courses. The class, most often found in high schools, is now required for every public school student in California. It’s also an integral part of the curriculum in districts in at least 10 other states, including Austin, Albuquerque, Denver, and Seattle. In a cover story for The Boston Globe Magazine, education journalist Linda K. Wertheimer visited ethnic studies programs at public schools in Holyoke, Mass., and San Francisco. She describes what these courses typically look like and evaluated their impact on student learning and campus communities. Why are some education researchers urging caution about ramping up these kinds of programs too quickly? How did Wertheimer seek to gauge their impact on student outcomes like graduation rates? And what are some story ideas for education journalists covering issues related to race and ethnicity in their own school systems?
28 minutes | Feb 15, 2022
Inside a Critical Race Theory Class
Conservatives around the country are protesting what they claim is the teaching of a formerly obscure legal theory - Critical Race Theory - to America’s schoolchildren and undergraduates. While of course CRT isn’t in the formal second or even eleventh grade curriculum, reporter Molly Minta of Mississippi Today and Open Campus asked herself: what are they afraid of? So she took her readers inside the state’s only dedicated Critical Race Theory class to find out what it would really be like to study CRT. She found a challenging curriculum focused on debate and discussion of the complex academic theory which explores how race influences American society. Minta also introduced readers to Brittany Murphree, a white, conservative law student who says she’s now rethinking some of her previously held beliefs and perceptions. Minta shared insights building trust with sources who might be uneasy talking about controversial topics and covering academic freedom issues and digging into the special interest groups who are pushing for CRT bans both in Mississippi and nationwide. Plus, she shares tips for data mining, including tracking how postsecondary institutions are spending their federal COVID-19 relief fund.
27 minutes | Feb 8, 2022
Schools Are Open. But Where Are the Students?
Most school districts have returned to in-person learning, but enrollment numbers have taken a hit – and so have daily attendance rates. Chronic absenteeism – typically defined as missing at least 15 days of school – takes a heavy toll on students' academic progress, and can also decrease a district's state funding. Lily Altavena of The Detroit Free Press puts Michigan’s numbers in national context, shares insights into why chronically absent students were a problem for many districts even before the COVID-19 pandemic, and what new approaches educators are trying to get kids back into class. Where can education reporters find reliable data to put their own local stats into context? What are some of the surprising reasons many families struggle to consistently get their children to school? And how can local education reporters include more student voices in stories on this crucial issue?
31 minutes | Feb 1, 2022
Miguel Cardona’s First Year
President Biden’s education secretary, Miguel Cardona, is marking his first year in office. And what a year it has been – not just for the federal agency but for schools, educators, students, and families. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Eric Kelderman and Education Week’s Andrew Ujifusa look at the highs and lows of Cardona’s first year at the helm of the federal agency. How has Cardona fared as a crisis manager amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including his role facilitating how states spend their federal relief funds? What grades would he get from the nation’s teachers, college leaders, and parents? Where will he focus his attention in his second year? (Hints: Expect a big push to support students' mental health and well-being, plus improving college access and affordability). And how does Cardon's approach to the job differ from his predecessor Betsy DeVos, who in many ways was his polar opposite?
25 minutes | Jan 11, 2022
P-12 Education’s Big Stories to Follow in 2022
How many days of instruction have students really lost amid the pandemic, and what's the impact? How are districts tracking and reporting COVID-19 infection rates among students and staff? Who’s making sure the services districts invest in to help struggling students recover academically are high quality and grounded in research? Erin Richards, who previously spent 15 years covering public schools for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, shares story ideas for reporters in 2022. In addition to COVID-19 angles, she advises paying close attention to who’s running for local school boards, and efforts by outside groups to limit how and what is taught about race and racism. Richards, a newly named EWA Reporting Fellow, also shares her plans to look closely at early education, and how the ripple effect of the pandemic will affect young children’s social-emotional development and school readiness.
27 minutes | Jan 4, 2022
New Year, New Higher Ed Stories
This will be a momentous year for higher education - as colleges attempt to recover from COVID shutdowns, student loan bills come due again, and big changes come to admissions offices. What will college look like this year? How are institutions planning to spend billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds? And how bad a hit are overall enrollment numbers going to take in the third year of the pandemic? Delece Smith-Barrow, education editor for Politico, shares some of the top priorities on her radar this winter. Those hot topics include the impact of the extended pause on federal student loan repayments, and a potential landmark Supreme Court case on affirmative action in admissions. She also offers story ideas for education journalists following the continued evolution of hybrid instruction, campus health and safety protocols, and why so many potential first-generation college students are delaying their higher education plans. Plus, she shares some innovative angles on the nation’s student loan debt crisis, including focusing on borrowers who took advantage of the zero-interest window to make big dents in what they owe.
26 minutes | Dec 14, 2021
The Nation’s Reading Problem
When it comes to reading, America’s students are struggling. And the pandemic has only made a tough situation harder for those kids who were already most at risk of falling behind. Jill Barshay of The Hechinger Report – who coordinated a reporting project with five other newsrooms – explains how the pandemic shutdown exacerbated the nation's literacy crisis. She also probes the mystery behind a pre-COVID slide in reading achievement, and discusses new research that found one of the most widely used methods of literacy instruction was largely ineffective. Barshay is joined by Rebecca Griesbach of the new Alabama Education Lab at AL.com, who shares insights from her local reporting for the project, including why the state is investing heavily in adding instructional aides to support high-need readers. Plus: what are some red flags reporters should watch for when it comes to district programs intended to boost reading scores? And what are smart questions to ask teachers and families to get underneath the challenge to improve literacy?
24 minutes | Nov 30, 2021
$100K in Debt for a $50K Job
The Wall Street Journal’s investigations team is tackling the student loan debt crisis from multiple angles, including digging into questionable recruiting and loan practices by top schools. Case in point: the University of Southern California’s online graduate program in social work. It charged $115,000 for a master’s last year. The school offered very little grant aid, so the many students who couldn’t afford that high tuition were encouraged to borrow. The median debt of recent graduates who borrowed: a whopping $112,000. The debtors’ median salary in their first two years after graduation was less than half that: just $52,000. Data journalist Andrea Fuller explains how the WSJ team found unexpected stories while crunching the available federal numbers on what students and parents owe, and how they came up with estimates of the short-term returns on big-ticket degree programs. She shares tips for identifying red flags in College Scorecard and loan data, and suggestions for how reporters can avoid perpetuating a false narrative that postsecondary education is never worth the cost.
24 minutes | Nov 16, 2021
School Librarian Stories Are Overdue
In districts from Boston to Seattle, school librarians are wearing multiple hats these days, from helping teachers with the tech side of remote learning to working with high-need students who lost academic ground during the pandemic shutdown. Librarians are also fending off budget cuts that threaten their positions, and responding to a surge in demands that reading materials about topics like race, racism, and gender identity be removed from the shelves. Kara Yorio, news editor for the School Library Journal, shares insights from the magazine’s new project on the uncertain state of the profession, why having school libraries that are stocked and staffed is an important measure of educational equity, and how reporters can make better use of librarians as story sources.
28 minutes | Nov 2, 2021
What Happened to $190 Billion in School COVID-19 Funds?
Congress allocated nearly $200 billion to help schools mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they have until 2024 to spend all the funds. But a new investigation by ProPublica found that there’s been minimal tracking by education officials as to how districts have so far allocated the funding. Reporter Annie Waldman and Reporting Fellow Bianca Fortis dug into the data from 16,000 provisional reports from state agencies and determined half the money was spent on programs, services or goods categorized as “other,” meaning no specifics are readily available. That’s raising questions as to whether districts are upholding the spirit of federal expectations that the money would primarily be used to benefit the neediest students. (Most of the stimulus dollars were targeted to school districts.) How can local reporters find out how COVID-19 relief funds are being allocated in their local school systems? Where should reporters be especially cautious when looking at the COVID-19 expenditure reports, such as the difference between money that’s been spent vs. obligated for a later purchase? And what are story and sourcing ideas to help education reporters do a more thorough job on school finance reporting more broadly?
26 minutes | Oct 19, 2021
When School Board Meetings Become Battlegrounds
Across the nation, school boards find themselves on the front lines for debates over COVID-19 mask mandates and teaching about racism. Heated exchanges during public comment periods have expanded to public protests, threats of violence, and a surge in conservative slates of candidates running for school board seats. In Iowa, Des Moines Register reporters Samantha Hernandez and Melody Mercado are closely covering all angles of the story. How politicized were Des Moines area school boards before the pandemic? What happened when a superintendent defied the governor’s order that all schools resume face-to-face instruction? Are school board protests a grassroots effort in local communities or a well-coordinated campaign by outsiders? Also, Hernandez and Mercado offer tips to journalists on how to report responsibly on controversial topics like critical race theory, make the most of social media as a reporting tool, and successfully seize school board meetings to cultivate new sources.
25 minutes | Oct 5, 2021
The Real Story Behind Teacher Shortages
Across the country, school districts are grappling with staffing shortages that are making it tough to recover from the disruptions of the COVD-19 pandemic. Matt Barnum, a national reporter at Chalkbeat, shares insights on the current landscape for school staffing, and debunks some of the often-repeated – but unsubstantiated – assumptions about what might be driving what appears to be a growing crisis. What were some of the preexisting issues around teacher shortages that have been exacerbated by the pandemic? What are districts doing to lure — and keep — more teachers? Who’s tracking the data nationally? And what does the research show about the risk to student learning of frequent teacher turnover? He also offers story ideas for local reporters, smart questions to pose to HR directors and school board members, and what to ask teachers themselves about their decisions to either quit or stay.
33 minutes | Sep 21, 2021
How Rural Schools Get Left Behind
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. What does a rural school's teacher shortage look like from a student’s perspective? Where can reporters find reliable data on rural student achievement? And what does research say about the impact on local communities from state takeovers? Parks, a rural Louisiana native who recently joined the staff of The Washington Post, shares candid details about why this story was personal for her. She also offers advice on how to build compelling long-form narratives and provides story ideas on rural schools.
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