High-quality education news coverage has only grown more important in recent years. From the effects of the pandemic to emerging trends and test scores, education media helps keep the public informed about the state of learning in our country.
Every year, the Education Writers Association brings together reporters, editors, and other media professionals to learn from practitioners, researchers, and each other about how to improve and grow their practice around education storytelling.
This year’s conference, which took place in Atlanta, included educators, parents, and students alongside media professionals. Across dozens of panels, speakers were asked what topics in education they want people to pay attention to.
Here are three themes that rose to the top:
Principals need support
The session “Principals Navigating the New School Climate” began with data from RAND’s American Educator Panels research, which found that principals are bearing the brunt of political polarization in schools. Researchers found that principals could be better supported with more dedicated training in their preparation programs on how to navigate family and community relations, as well as from more opportunities to connect with colleagues about how they are navigating similar challenges. Following the research presentation, three current or former principals shared their experiences over the last several years of facing pushback from families and community members on politicized issues like LGBTQ+ rights and racism to COVID mitigation measures. Two of the three principals on the panel left the principalship over the last few years due to these challenges, and they underscored the importance of supporting principals as they navigate these difficult issues.
To read more on how principals can be better prepared and supported, check out a recent report by the Learning Policy Institute, Developing Effective Principals: What Kind of Learning Matters?
Pass the mic to students
A theme across several sessions was the importance of including student voices in education storytelling and decision making. One high school student who spoke on a panel said that she is often told her voice is important, but students also need to be shown how to use their voices and see examples of how powerful their voices can be.
Educators who work closely with student leaders noted that there can be a fine line between protecting students and getting in their way. Journalists and other storytellers must always take care to prioritize student safety, while also making an effort to include student perspectives on topics that affect them the most.
To capture youth perspectives on out-of-school-time (OST) programs, we recently commissioned a youth-led research project that identifies common challenges to and leading practices toward equity in OST. Hear what they had to say in our podcast series, Beyond the Classroom.
Decision makers are seeing the potential in OST
The sessions on afterschool and summer learning were rife with success stories and examples of innovation in out-of-school time. One Mississippi educator spoke about the program she leads, IMPACTO, which connects students to apprenticeships on topics of their choosing—from astronomy to equine care. A representative from the Oregon Department of Education spoke about how ESSER funding allowed her department to prioritize summer learning and realize its full potential. While decision makers are seeing the kind of impact OST programs can have on students, there is also real concern about what will happen when the federal funding runs out next year. State agencies and districts are working on sustainability plans, such as braiding funds, to continue to serve their students, but they are still relying on policymakers and other state leaders to continue to see the value in these programs.
Hear more about how Oregon and other states are tackling summer learning on our podcast, A Hot Time for Summer Learning.