Best education news of the week




hurricane maria

The Dallas Morning News reports that the state is bracing for big school-related costs from Hurricane Harvey. The Guardian explores the story of Frida Sofia, the 12 year-old girl Mexico City quake ‘survivor’ who never really existed. Miami-Dade schools are already promising to do better the next time, according to the Miami Herald.

The New York Post notes that De Blasio expects exodus of Puerto Rican hurricane victims to hit NYC (including school-age kids). Ditto for Holyoke (MA) schools. The Virginian-Pilot tells the story of how Hurricane Matthew helped spark a turnaround at an elementary school. WBUR tells the story of one teacher from Puerto Rico who wants to get back to school. And the NYT reports that the mother of the NYC kid who knifed a fellow student to death is one of many people currently stuck in Puerto Rico.



California’s test scores finally came out this week, creating an interesting opportunity to compare coverage among different outlets.

KPCC’s version of the story – California math, language arts test scores level off — and achievement gaps persist – focuses largely on the persistent and well-known achievement gaps shown in the results.

The LAT’s version – California’s students stagnate on standardized tests — but the lowest scorers are improving – takes a different approach when it comes to looking at the data, focusing on schools rather than kids and noting that, “over the last two years, these [450 bottom-scoring] schools posted larger gains than the state as a whole.”

It was a neat extra bit of work by the LAT to identify the lowest-scoring schoolsin the state – a key issue for ESSA and a bit of data that the state was unable or unwilling to produce — but it seemed strange to some that there wasn’t any big mention of massive gaps in test scores by demographic subgroup. “The LAT story was shockingly lacking regarding the achievement gap,” wrote a longtime California journalist familiar with the results.

Or, perhaps, the education team was simply taking a different approach? Gaps in achievement scores between different subgroups are well-known and have been reported numerous times in the past. “Between [focusing on schools and kids], I actually think the focus on schools is more interesting and novel,” noted an education insider. The LAT’s focus on schools also “calls attention to the state’s complete refusal to identify schools for improvement.”

Other folks who covered the story include EdSource, the SF Gate, and the Fresno Bee.


State and local outlets are still leading the way when it comes to ESSA coverage. Some standouts this week include AZ Central’s About 18 percent of Arizona schools will get ‘A’ grade under new ranking system, which gives us some concrete ideas about how the new system is going to pan out.

There’s also a great KCUR piece titled Kansas officials cast small net for comments, which drags the state department of education for its public engagement efforts.

And trade publications like EdWeek continue to do great work on state ESSA plans, such as this roundup of school rating systems in state plans. See also The74’s weekly roundup of ESSA news, in collaboration with the Collaborative for Student Success (which helps fund The Grade).

Kudos to NPR, which posted a new ESSA-focuses overview: Most States Plan To Use Student Absences To Measure School Success. We’re still waiting for the NYT, WSJ, AP, and other national outlets to write something about the latest ESSA news.


Little Rock

There was a handful of stories about the 60 anniversary of Little Rock, including herehere, and here.  But perhaps the most interesting story to use the anniversary as a hook is this CityLab piece, America’s Most Integrated School Has Segregated Again.


Washington Post: New SAT scores sow confusion over how to tell a good result

Cincinnati Enquirer: Why does West High kick out so many kids?

NYT: De Blasio Pledged Progress for Schools. For $582 Million, Change Is Slow.

Boston Globe: How teaching in two languages is helping at-risk kids succeed at an innovative Boston high school

CalMatters: ‘Education foes fight to a draw in Sacramento’


anxious garbage

This week’s column (by contributor Wendy Paris) explores the problems created by the New York Times’ ongoing mischaracterization of the NYC high school admissions process, making it seem much harder to get in than it really is. Not helpful. Please stop.


The effects of recent hurricanes on kids and schools seems likely to remain top news for the next several weeks, in terms of real-world importance – though there are ongoing concerns about insufficient media coverage of Hurricane Maria. See also FiveThirtyEight. Don’t miss out on a big story that affects real lives.

A recent column by the Hechinger Report’s Jill Barshay came under fire this week for its apparent failure to give readers proper context on US educational spending. The piece highlights that US spending is going down. Critics like Rick Hess note that the US still spends more than most other countries in the world. Asked to respond, Barshay noted, “As the body of my story explained, how you spend can matter more than what you spend.”



The EWA board of directors just approved an “action plan” from the Diversity & Inclusion task force that’s been meeting for the last year and change, an event that was accompanied with a flurry of tweets announcing the successful accomplishment of this step.

Kudos to all. What I still don’t know, however, is whether the plan is any good, or how it compares to plans that other news support organizations have initiated. Silicon Valley is stuck in “raising awareness” mode, according to Ellen Pao, writing in Vox. This feels like it could be a problem for education journalism, too.


There are a bunch of education journalism jobs out there. Prestige-wise, the biggest job opening is the Washington Post’s national K-12 education spot. Though, strangely, there’s a typo in the announcement. Another big spot is the education editor at US News & World Report.

Phi Delta Kappan magazine is staffing up — maybe you’re just what they’re looking for? The Seattle Times has a one-year education reporter position with the possibility (but no guarantee) of turning into something longer. There are at least three jobs at EdWeek right now – Assistant Managing Editor, Producer/PBS NewsHour, & Web Designer.


Chalkbeat finally has a weekly national newsletter, which I’m hoping will help soothe the ongoing pain of the loss of the lovely afternoon roundup that they used to put out. Sign up here.


As you may already have seen, Rachel Cohen has moved on after three years at The American Prospect and is now a weekly contributor at The Intercept. She’s also got her first piece in The, though she’s written for CityLab in the past.

Former PBS NewsHour special education correspondent John Merrow’s book, Addicted to Reform, has been out a couple of months now and continues to generate a lot of discussion. Fordham Foundation alumnus Checker Finn pans it here. Former Oklahoma high school teacher and author John Thompson commends it here.


saudi yoda

Telegraph: Saudi Arabia accidentally printed a textbook showing Yoda sitting next to the king

ALEXANDER RUSSO (@alexanderrusso) is editor of The Grade.

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