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23 minutes | 12 days ago
No School, No Work, No Chance
The only federal program intended to help disconnected young adults find meaningful job training has turned into a $1.7 billion boondoggle. That’s the big takeaway from a new investigation by Anne S. Kim of Washington Monthly. The Job Corps’ residential model has remained largely unchanged since its inception in the 1960s. Kim argues that the program is now ill-equipped to meet the needs of the population it is intended to serve: young people ages 16-24 who are already facing challenges including poverty or aging out of the foster care system. And it’s a population that’s only grown in size amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Kim, an EWA Reporting Fellow, shares insights from her project, including how local journalists can find valuable data on private contractors operating Job Corps centers in all 50 states, as well as broader stories about disconnected youth.
28 minutes | 19 days ago
Children, Schools and Guns
America’s gun violence crisis is leaving its mark on multiple generations of young people, who don’t need to be victims or even direct witnesses to shootings to suffer lasting harm. That’s the big takeaway from Children Under Fire; An American Crisis, a new book by The Washington Post’s John Woodrow Cox. Why are school districts spending billions to turn campuses into fortresses, despite a lack of evidence of effectiveness? What’s been the psychological toll for millions of students who have endured “lockdowns” on campus? And what questions should reporters be asking school leaders and policymakers about efforts to reduce gun violence not just at school but in wider communities?
26 minutes | a month ago
The Billions of Dollars in Hidden Student Loan Debt
The impact of America’s $1.5 trillion in student loan debt makes a lot of headlines. But one team of reporters dug into a little-known corner of the student debt market and discovered a pattern of rule-evading and abuses that is destroying the educational opportunities and careers of tens of thousands of Americans. Sarah Butrymowicz and Meredith Kolodner of The Hechinger Report’s investigations team share insights from their new series, “Hidden Debt,” which looks at the how, why and devastating impact of, many for-profit colleges’ practices of packing their students up with private - in other words, non-federal - loans. These colleges typically load their students up with some standard federal loans, and then, to avoid some government regulations, the colleges themselves issue additional loans to the students. These private loans typically charge high interest rates and lack the consumer protections of the federal loans. Listen in to learn about this important, but little-covered aspect of the student debt crisis. And find out how you can investigate the for-profit colleges serving your community.
27 minutes | a month ago
Let’s Talk About Teachers’ Unions
The growing clout of teachers’ unions is becoming one of the nation’s most attention-getting education stories. Before the pandemic, successful “Red for Ed” unionized teacher strikes and demonstrations won long overdue funding increases for schools and pay raises for instructional staff. And since COVID-19, teachers unions have become key players in decisions such as when and how schools will reopen. Howard Blume of The Los Angeles Times has covered teachers unions for two decades, and watched their tactics and power evolve. He says that while they often push back against demands from administrators and parents, one often overlooked story is that they also share surprising common ground on some important issues. Listen in as he explains how teachers’ unions demands helped make LA the last big city school system to announce reopening plans, and how journalists can better cover union activism, and… how tap dancing helps combat the COVID blues.
28 minutes | 2 months ago
When the Child Care Gap Is a Chasm
In many communities, the demand for reliable, affordable child care has long outstripped the number of available spots. The coronavirus pandemic has only worsened the shortage, and many mothers have left the workforce to stay with their young children. In central Washington, the situation is taking a bite out of the local economy, and putting young learners at risk of falling behind, reports Janelle Retka of the Yakima Herald-Republic in a new series – The Growth Gap. Retka, an EWA Reporting Fellow, shares what she's learned about the human and economic tolls in her community. She also explains what the research shows about the longer term value of high-quality early care and education, and how public-private partnerships are helping families. In addition, Retka discusses why making the project stories available in both English and Spanish was a top priority, and how using a newsletter format for distribution is helping her connect and engage with readers.
29 minutes | 2 months ago
A Busing Program's Troubled Legacy
Can busing Black students to schools outside of their immediate neighborhoods make public education more equitable? How can reporters better cover the history of such desegregation efforts, and the impact on young people, families, and communities? Reporters Olivia Krauth and Mandy McLaren share insights from their in-depth series into the longstanding busing program in Jefferson County, Kentucky, which was ordered by a court to desegregate its schools in 1975. sing extensive historical records, first-person interviews, and data analysis they showed how busing has shortchanged students. Among the key findings: the busing program allowed white families to take advantage of loopholes and snag their first picks for higher-quality campuses, which were more likely to be in their immediate neighborhoods. In contrast, the predominantly Black and less affluent West End of Louisville saw many of its schools shuttered. Black students were bused to predominantly white schools where they were less likely to be placed in higher-level classes and were more likely to be disciplined.
28 minutes | 3 months ago
Oregon’s ‘Class of 2025:’ Meet the Middle Schoolers
Imagine keeping tabs on the same group of students and families for nearly a decade -- Oregon Public Broadcasting has done it, and plans to keep going through the next four years. OPB editor Rob Manning and education reporter Elizabeth Miller share stories from the cast in this project, which is supported in part by an EWA Reporting Fellowship. Among the surprising plot twists: a big jump in screen time is changing how kids communicate and build friendships, and some Black students say they prefer learning at home where they worry less about encountering racism. How did the OPB team’s plans for the current season of its podcast series adapt amid the COVID-19 pandemic? What are teachers doing to keep their students engaged, and keep tabs on those who are struggling academically and emotionally? And what are lessons for other education journalists looking to build trust with students, parents and teachers?
31 minutes | 3 months ago
Why More Men are Missing Out on College
COVID-19 is remaking the college landscape, especially when it comes to who’s pursuing - and who’s pausing - on higher education. New data shows the decline in enrollment is seven times as large for men as for women. That’s exacerbating an already existing gender gap, and it could have serious long-term consequences for men’s career paths, says Jon Marcus, higher education editor for The Hechinger Report. He also discusses the impact of the coronavirus on rural colleges, special challenges for first-generation students, and how the decision by many postsecondary institutions to go “test optional” temporarily hasn’t solved the inequality issues in the college admissions game. Marcus, who teaches journalism at Boston College and Northeastern University, shares his syllabus for the semester, and what he’s learning from his students about the challenges of pursuing a degree amid the pandemic.
27 minutes | 3 months ago
Who’s Tracking Student Learning Loss?
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, states are largely leaving it up to individual districts to decide how to track how much -- or little -- of the standard school curriculum are K-12 students learning during the pandemic. One reporter surveyed her state and discovered that many communities aren’t even trying to find out. Joy Resmovits of The Seattle Times offers insights, tips, and questions to ask of state and local education officials when looking at student learning loss amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a new series, Resmovits asked districts in Washington state for data and found just a handful are even administering the academic screeners and diagnostic tests that would usually be given to students throughout the academic year to keep tabs on their progress. Like many other states, Washington is taking a hands-off approach to monitoring districts’ tracking of student achievement. What were the challenges this reporter encountered in obtaining and analyzing the available data on student performance? What surprised Resmovits about her findings on which students are most likely to have fallen behind? Why have so many districts hit the pause button on testing students, and what are the long-term implications of that decision moving forward? And what are some important precautions other reporters tackling this issue can take when weighing mid-pandemic testing data?
29 minutes | 4 months ago
Who Is Miguel Cardona?
Connecticut education commissioner Miguel Cardona has surged into the national spotlight as President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Education. Connecticut Mirror education reporters Jacqueline Rabe Thomas and Adria Watson share insights from covering Cardona’s two-year tenure as the Nutmeg State's top education official, and his years in his hometown of Meriden, where he spent the bulk of his career as a classroom teacher, principal, and administrator. What's been Cardona's strategy for managing COVID-19's impact on students and schools in Connecticut, and how might that inform his approach as U.S. education secretary? How does Cardona’s Puerto Rican heritage, and experience as a former English language learner, influence his approach to education and public policy? Where does he come down on potentially controversial issues like charter schools and school choice? And what’s known about his stance on key higher education issues like student loan debt, given his limited public profile in that realm?
32 minutes | 4 months ago
New Year, New Education Stories to Watch
Student absenteeism, budgetary struggles, and sharp drops in college enrollment are likely to be some of the big stories on the K-12 and higher education beats as the pandemic continues in 2021. Daarel Burnette II, an editor at Education Week, and Sara Hebel, the co-founder of the nonprofit higher education news site Open Campus, share story ideas and tips for innovative coverage. Why should education reporters focus on how K-12 schools keep tabs on students, especially as pandemic-driven remote learning continues to be the norm for many schools? What are the looming challenges for local districts on the fiscal front, and the potential impact of new federal stimulus aid? How has COVID-19 upended college admissions and raised concerns about equity for already underrepresented student groups? And why should reporters pay special attention to community colleges and regional public universities, which are at particular risk amid the downturn in overall enrollment?
25 minutes | 5 months ago
‘Targeted:’ Sheriff Secretly Used School Records to Profile Students
In Pasco County, Florida, the sheriff’s department used students’ school records, including their grades and information about their family lives, to identify them as potential troublemakers. School officials say they knew nothing about this longstanding practice -- until the Tampa Bay Times’ investigation broke the story wide open. Kathleen McGrory, the deputy investigations editor, and Neil Bedi, who reports and analyzes data, discuss how they structured the project, and what they learned. Among their key findings: School officials didn’t know how the sheriff’s office was using student data, and they do not plan to modify the information-sharing agreement. And sheriff’s deputies made repeat visits to the homes of students solely based on the department’s questionable metrics for identifying “high risk” individuals. The two journalists also offer tips for mining open records on campus safety and school discipline, explain the risks to students from criminal-profiling programs, and share story ideas for local reporters looking to follow their lead.
24 minutes | 5 months ago
Learning to Read on Zoom
How do you capture both the experience of a young student learning to read remotely, and the challenges for their teacher on the other side of the screen? Education reporter Perry Stein masterfully weaves it together -- both the compelling story of one family and a teacher, plus the bigger picture of teaching and learning in the pandemic -- in a new article for The Washington Post. Her article focuses on a class of second graders that has fallen behind in its reading skills, after their bricks-and-mortar charter school closed. Among the vivid details she gleaned: Kathy Lloyd searches the city for free books to build up her daughter, Zalaunshae’s home library. Stein discusses the challenges to this kind of nuanced story, including conducting observations and interviews both online and in person. Why is this age group particularly vulnerable? How are teachers and families are trying to minimize learning loss? And what are story ideas for education reporters covering literacy, curriculum and instruction, especially for younger students?
28 minutes | 5 months ago
When Schools Get Hacked
Across the country, increasingly aggressive hackers are breaking into school computer systems and holding sensitive student information for ransom. Education leaders often quietly pay big bucks to regain control of their networks. Tawnell Hobbs of The Wall Street Journal is tracking this growing trend, which takes on even more significance given how reliant schools and colleges have become on remote learning in the COVID-19 pandemic. What factors make education institutions especially vulnerable to attack? What kind of student and family information are hackers obtaining, and how are they exploiting it? How can reporters safely minimize their own digital footprints when reporting these stories? Hobbs shares how she ventured into the “dark web” to interview hackers, and discovered a cottage industry that includes private contractors who negotiate on behalf of school systems for reduced ransom payments. She also shares story ideas on student data privacy, and tips for reporters covering these issues in their own communities.
24 minutes | 6 months ago
No Sports. No Band. No Fun. (And Less Learning?)
From basketball to band, debate club to dance teams, the coronavirus pandemic has curtailed extracurricular activities for many of the nation’s K-12 students. That could have a long-term impact on student enthusiasm for school overall, experts warn. Longtime education journalist Greg Toppo, writing for The 74, looks at how educators are working to keep kids connected to school, and the research showing a strong link between extracurricular participation and academic achievement. While COVID-19's disruption of school sports gets a lot of attention, Toppo said finding ways to continue fine arts programs is also of particular concern to parents as well as students. Also, Toppo discusses ways education journalists can avoid burnout on the daily grind of what’s become a pandemic-heavy beat. He also shares story ideas on what's ahead for education policy with President-elect Joe Biden preparing for office.
25 minutes | 6 months ago
Science! (in Education Reporting)
How can education reporters do a better job of incorporating science into their coverage of students and schools, especially as the evolving research around COVID-19 dominates discussions about how and when to reopen campuses? What’s known about the relative health risks to students and staff, and what are some examples of responsible coverage of this ongoing debate? Hannah Furfaro of The Seattle Times’ Education Lab offers tips for digging into a scientific study, including making sense of the methodology, conclusions, and limitations. What are some red flags to watch out for when research is cited to back up a policy decision like closing -- or reopening -- schools? What are the top questions journalists should ask themselves, and their sources, when they write such stories? Furfaro, who has covered both the education and science beats, also shares story ideas for reporters covering the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on education.
26 minutes | 6 months ago
Who takes a cross-country reporting road trip in the midst of a pandemic? NPR’s Elissa Nadworny decided it was the only way to find out for herself what life is really like on college campuses these days, and how students, faculty and administrators are dealing with a new world of logistical challenges. Nadworny, who covers higher education, has visited more than a dozen campuses in eight states so far. What’s at stake for postsecondary institutions that opted to let students return to campus? Who’s requiring mandatory COVID-19 testing of students and faculty, and how are those results driving policy decisions? And why is educational equity a top consideration for some college presidents in their decision on whether or not to keep campuses open? Plus, Nadworny shares story ideas for local and regional reporters to consider when covering college life, and how to use social media to find valuable sources. This episode of EWA Radio originally aired on October 13, 2020.
28 minutes | 6 months ago
Biden v. Trump: Their Education Plans
What would a second term for President Donald Trump mean for K-12 and postsecondary education? And conversely, what might change if Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins the election? Lauren Camera of U.S. News & World Report and Michael Stratford of Politico Pro break down the candidates’ education policy priorities and share insights from covering their campaigns. Did Trump keep his 2016 promise to make school choice a top policy priority? What are the prospects of his recent pledge to require “patriotic education” in the nation’s public schools? Could the pandemic help Biden push through long-standing plans for universal preschool and upgrading school infrastructure? Why are community colleges and HBCUs on both candidates’ radars as postsecondary goals? Plus, Camera and Stratford offer concrete story ideas pegged to the election for reporters on both the K-12 and higher education beats.
30 minutes | 7 months ago
Battling for ‘The Souls of Black Girls’
When it comes to school discipline, Black girls often receive harsher treatment than whites, including referrals to enforcement. That’s the conclusion from a new analysis of federal education data by Erica Green and her colleagues at The New York Times. The project was a deeply personal one for Green, who spent two years digging into how racial and gender biases devastate the emotional well-being and academic trajectories of Black girls. How did The Times use data mining to find new insights in existing data from The U.S. Department of Education? What’s driving the growing shift from focusing on the harsh discipline of Black boys -- a problem that still needs intensive attention -- to their female counterparts? What studies, research, and nonfiction books helped inform Green’s work? This episode addresses those questions and provides practical advice to local journalists on covering gender and racial disparities in school discipline.
26 minutes | 7 months ago
On the Road With NPR's Higher Ed Reporter
Who takes a cross-country reporting road trip in the midst of a pandemic? NPR’s Elissa Nadworny decided it was the only way to find out for herself what life is really like on college campuses these days, and how students, faculty and administrators are dealing with a new world of logistical challenges. Nadworny, who covers higher education, has visited more than a dozen campuses in eight states so far. What’s at stake for postsecondary institutions that opted to let students return to campus? Who’s requiring mandatory COVID-19 testing of students and faculty, and how are those results driving policy decisions? And why is educational equity a top consideration for some college presidents in their decision on whether or not to keep campuses open? Plus, Nadworny shares story ideas for local and regional reporters to consider when covering college life, and how to use social media to find valuable sources.
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