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.
19 Oct 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.
5 Oct 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.
21 Sep 2021
Home Ec’s 'Secret History'
Often overlooked and misunderstood, home economics is about far more than learning to bake cakes or sew lopsided oven mitts, argues education journalist Danielle Dreilinger. She discusses her new book, “The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live." Dreilinger explores the fascinating -- and largely forgotten -- origins of home ec, including how it became a staple of the K-12 curriculum, and opened the door to higher education for countless women in the 19th century. Also, how does home ec continue to shape the daily lives of countless Americans? What complicated role did the discipline play in civil rights and gender equity activism? Plus, what are some story ideas for education journalists interested in how home economics is taught today in their local schools?
24 Aug 2021
Most Popular Podcasts
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.
13 Jul 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.
7 Jul 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.
29 Jun 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 Jun 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.
15 Jun 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.
7 Jun 2021