Education Story Ideas for Journalists

Update: Here is 1 more idea, the most urgent of them all.

I spent last Friday at the Carnegie Corporation of New York along with a handful of other teacher bloggers and a number of education journalists for an Education Writers Association seminar on “The Promise and Pitfalls of Improving the Teaching Profession.” I hope to write more about the experience soon, but despite some major flaws in the setup of the event, I walked away with an overwhelming sense of excitement.  This was in part from having met some wonderful, like-minded educators, but it was also because of the many wonderful conversations I had with journalists from around the country who are genuinely interested in getting better at their jobs, asking tough questions, and then actually listening to what the teachers have to say.

In talking with some of the journalists during and after the conference, many said that they didn’t come away with many story ideas, so I thought I would take the time to give some suggestions here for some good, meaty education stories that are out there for which I have not seen much reporting.  I shared the idea with my colleagues in attendance, some of whom beat me to the punch.  There are links to their posts below.

National Stories

Why would anyone want to be a teacher?: I can’t remember how many times on Friday when, after describing one of the many challenges we face, a reporter askd me why anyone in their right mind would choose to become a teacher these days.  There are a number of great pieces to be written looking for the answers.

Parental Views of Good Teaching: There is much conversation and debate around evaluating teaching performance, but I would love to read a piece about what parents want for their students at different levels.  This could be a great series: how does this change from early years through high school?  Does this vary by class, race, ethnicity?

Accountability for Administrators: There has been widespread national dialogue recently on increasing accountability for teachers; however, there has been little examination of what accountability for administrators does and should look like. I would love to see a story examining how principals are held accountable throughout the country.

The Testing Industry: With new national Common Core Standards, there is a giant windfall for testing companies who will be paid to develop these new tests.  Who are these companies?  Who works for them?  How do they know what their tests measure?  What is the definition of a good test, anyway?

Local Stories

Where did all the central administration’s money go?: The Klein/Black/Bloomberg Department of Education has been proud that they have cut the budgets of central administration and put this money “back” into schools.  However, with an increase in the number of schools, are there more administrators at the school level?  And, with every school having to “pay” for services from a network, is there any difference in how much money makes its way to students?

The Consortium for Performance Assessment: Operating without much public attention, 28 high schools have waivers from content-based Regents Exams.  Instead, their students complete rigorous performance assessments.  Most of these schools survive from an earlier wave of the small schools movement in the early 1990’s.  How do these school’s students fair in college and life compared to others from more traditional schools in the city?

More ideas for news stories:

8 thoughts on “Education Story Ideas for Journalists

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  2. Your four story ideas are brilliant–and nowhere to be found in the MSM.

    Why would anyone want to be a teacher, indeed? Reminds me of a comment made by one of my doctoral cohort (a TFA “corps member”) when I told him I’d been in the classroom for 30 years: “I can’t believe any sentient person could teach for 30 years.” Thereby negating my entire career, not to mention my life passion.

    • Or how about this one: When my current principal interviewed for the position, we asked him why he wanted to be a principal and he said that after 12 years in the classroom, he felt he had already accomplished everything he could in the classroom. What about reaching the 2700 other students he would have taught in another 18 years of teaching? What about doing something you are passionate and good at for an extended period of time? What about making something, as you wrote, your life passion?

  3. Steve:

    I’m so glad to have met you at the EWA Conference, and look forward to staying in touch. And your suggestions for journalists are right on. I especially love the administrator accountability theme. As a former administrator who has worked with dozens of other administrators, I’ve never met an effective school leader who did not hold her/himself accountable for her/his staff’s professional development and performance. Great administrators don’t take credit when their schools succeed, but they accept blame when their schools fail.

  4. Steve, it was great meeting you on Thursday night and Friday at the conference. This issue with retention is a problem, and one in which NYC struggles with more than my district. Perhaps it is a result of NYC using TFA participants? I don’t know, but struggling communities need devoted people to help the village grow. I’ve been in my district for 15 years. My past students come back to see me. I am teaching siblings and now we are starting to see children of past students. The parents build trust and when there is trust you can have a far greater impact on the community and your students. My greatest pleasure is to watch my students grow as individuals, and I am lucky to watch that growth for years to come after they leave me.

    • Peggy – thanks for the comment and it was great to meet you as well. While I’m willing to blame TfA for a lot of things, this actually isn’t one of them, as this is not a new problem in NYC. I wrote a piece earlier in the year as to what I think the reasons for the problem are at my school: http://j.mp/9XsLbl.

  5. Great stuff. i would love, love, love to see a piece on the consortium. In a narrow messaging sense, it’s the “success story using models outside the testing juggernaut.” Those types of stories need to be more widely circulated if we’re ever going to broaden the discussion, let alone make change.

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