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28 minutes | Jul 13, 2021
Student Pays High Price for Reporting Teacher's Misconduct
For Madisyn Slater, a senior at Blake High School in Tampa, Florida, there was little question that popular biology teacher Tiffany Johnson crossed the line with students. Slater’s decision to report Johnson’s sexual comments and other inappropriate behavior led to the student -- not the teacher -- facing a school district investigation. Bethany Barnes of The Tampa Bay Times shares how she used an extensive digital paper trail to tell the story, and to take readers deep inside the lives of Slater and other students who weighed in on Johnson’s case. What was the fallout for Slater's personal relationships and school life? And how did Barnes’ reporting change the trajectory of the district’s response? Also, Barnes offers ideas for keeping big projects organized and provides tips for making the most of open records requests.
25 minutes | Jul 7, 2021
What Is Critical Race Theory?
The Tulsa Race Massacre’s centennial has recently drawn headlines nationwide, but most Americans – including many educated in Oklahoma public schools – never previously learned about the tragic episode. Nuria Martinez-Keel, a Tulsa-born education reporter for The Oklahoman, shares what Sooner State’s students are now being taught about the killings and destruction perpetrated by a white mob in a Black neighborhood in 1921. Why has the anniversary taken on renewed significance amid a growing reckoning with the nation’s legacy of racial injustice and violence? How are some Black educators reframing discussions of the massacre around the loss of the Greenwood community and what that’s meant to generations of Black Tulsans? Also, Martinez-Keel discusses the simmering culture war around “critical race theory” and how racism in America is taught in public schools. And she explains why some Oklahoma educators are pushing back against efforts to impose stricter limits on classroom instruction. This episode of EWA Radio first aired June 7, 2021.
30 minutes | Jun 29, 2021
What You Need to Know About HBCUs
While only 3 percent of the nation’s undergraduates attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), they produce almost 20 percent of the nation’s Black college graduates. And they contribute 25 percent of Black STEM graduates, as well as countless doctors, lawyers, and political leaders. As The Houston Chronicle’s Brittany Britto found in reporting her new series, HBCUs are making these important contributions despite a long and ugly history of underfunding, especially in the Lone Star State. She also found that Texas’s two public HBCUs -- Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern -- get significantly less support than the state’s other public postsecondary institutions. As a result, they could be missing out on an opportunity to boost enrollment and expand badly needed career training programs. Britto shares found fresh angles on a topic that’s attracting significant attention nationally as HBCUs bask in the spotlight of recent big-dollar donations from philanthropists. . Plus, she shares ideas for reporters looking at HBCUs in their own communities, as well as databases to tap and tips for cultivating sources.
22 minutes | Jun 22, 2021
Rethinking ‘Town & Gown’
As both municipal and higher education leaders tried to fend of COVID-19, the two camps sometimes found themselves at cross-purposes when it came to fiscal and public health challenges, reports Sara Hebel, co-founder of Open Campus. How has the pandemic redefined longstanding relationships among postsecondary institutions and their surrounding communities? Where is the data on how much colleges actually contribute to local coffers, and what’s the true price of their tax exemptions? What happens when you add big-revenue athletics programs into the mix? And how can education reporters find unexpected sources beyond the expected college presidents and booster group leaders? Hebel, an EWA Reporting Fellow, also shares story ideas for higher education reporters looking toward students’ return to campus in the coming fall.
22 minutes | Jun 15, 2021
Lessons From the Educational Equity Beat
From an inside look at a 12-year-old struggling with remote learning to revealing that districts had wrongly forced parents to sign away their children’s rights to special education services, The Boston Globe’s Bianca Vázquez Toness put the spotlight on families whose educational experiences were most disrupted by the pandemic. In this year’s EWA Awards, Vázquez Toness was named the nation’s top education beat reporter, with the judges citing her track record for richly detailed stories that forced public officials to reconsider their policies and practices. She shares insights from her work as a member of the Globe’s educational equity team, and how she builds trust with her interview subjects, especially children. Plus, Vázquez Toness explains how she uses data as the backbone to her storytelling, and offers tips for more nuanced coverage of immigrant students, connecting with families, and more.
25 minutes | Jun 7, 2021
Teaching the Tulsa Race Massacre
The Tulsa Race Massacre’s centennial has recently drawn headlines nationwide, but most Americans – including many educated in Oklahoma public schools – never previously learned about the tragic episode. Nuria Martinez-Keel, a Tulsa-born education reporter for The Oklahoman, shares what Sooner State’s students are now being taught about the killings and destruction perpetrated by a white mob in a Black neighborhood in 1921. Why has the anniversary taken on renewed significance amid a growing reckoning with the nation’s legacy of racial injustice and violence? How are some Black educators reframing discussions of the massacre around the loss of the Greenwood community and what that’s meant to generations of Black Tulsans? Also, Martinez-Keel discusses the simmering culture war around “critical race theory” and how racism in America is taught in public schools. And she explains why some Oklahoma educators are pushing back against efforts to impose stricter limits on classroom instruction.
28 minutes | May 25, 2021
The Billion-Dollar School Safety Boondoggle
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? This episode of EWA Radio originally aired April 20, 2021.
25 minutes | May 18, 2021
Racism at VMI
The impact of reporter Ian Shapira’s deep dive into the troubled culture at the nation’s oldest state-support military college was seismic: within days, the Virginia Military Institute’s leader had resigned, and Gov. Ralph Northam pledged an independent investigation. Shapira won the Hechinger Grand Prize in this year’s National Awards for Education Reporting for his stories on VMI, which detailed a culture and climate that venerated the Confederacy and too often tolerated racist language and behavior. Shapira shares how he built trust among sources, including college students who had experienced harassment, and how he overcame hurdles such as getting access to disciplinary records to verify allegations that Black and brown students were more often targeted for harsh treatment.
29 minutes | May 11, 2021
How Kids Think
How do adolescents learn to make healthy choices? When does the desire for status and respect most influence the teenage brain? The answers are evolving as neuroscientists learn more about what drives human behavior. Lydia Denworth, a contributing editor to Scientific American and an EWA Reporting Fellow, explains why some researchers advocate for viewing adolescence not as a “dark and stormy” time but as a window of opportunity for young people to develop habits and behaviors that will serve them well into adulthood. How might this reframing apply to how education reporters approach their stories on youths? What’s known about the pandemic's impact on adolescent friendships? And how might understanding these issues lead to richer, more nuanced stories?
23 minutes | Apr 27, 2021
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 | Apr 20, 2021
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 | Apr 13, 2021
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 | Mar 30, 2021
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 | Mar 9, 2021
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 | Mar 2, 2021
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 | Feb 16, 2021
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 | Feb 9, 2021
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 | Jan 26, 2021
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 | Jan 19, 2021
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 | Jan 5, 2021
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?
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