Ed News tapped for national Common Core seminar

CHICAGO – What does Idaho Education News have in common with The Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Sun-Times and NPR?

All of us were selected from a pool of journalists to participate in a national seminar this week dedicated to covering the Common Core State Standards.

This wasn’t a Common Core is good/Common Core is bad type of seminar.

Instead, the biggest takeaway I had from the conference was that covering only the screaming and yelling doesn’t really cover the new English and math standards at all.

“The reason we’re doing this is there is a lot of bad information out there about Common Core, and it’s sort of gone from zero to 60 in a very short period of time,” said seminar director Kelly McBride, vice president of academic programs for the Poynter Institute.

Instead, the faculty team from Poynter and the Education Writers Association helped us develop strategies for moving beyond the political rhetoric.

  • To tell the story, we should assess the implementation of the standards.
  • Examine curriculum.
  • Identify problems or failures.
  • Develop working relationships with educators and students on the front lines.
  • Report on teacher preparation and professional development.
  • Examine the testing procedures and the stakes for students, schools and educators as Idaho students take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium for real in 2015.

There’s a section in my notes I highlighted in all caps.

MOVE BEYOND THE OBVIOUS. FIND THE NUANCE.

For me, the most useful part of the seminar was working with expert journalists from across the country who have covered Common Core.

We broke into small groups to dissect what we’ve learned, talk about ways to improve our coverage and identify expert sources who can place things in context.

Working with reporters from the Chicago Sun-Times, Public Broadcasting Atlanta and Grand Rapids Press, I developed a strategic plan for scrutinizing local implementation as Idaho prepares to administer SBAC tests.

Once the school year begins, I’ll head into a variety of classrooms, and share what I learn.

All told, 24 reporters were tapped to participate in the Poynter seminar – based on essays of application, resumes and reporting duties. I was the only reporter from Idaho to participate, though journalists from several other Western states took part.

Speakers and teachers included Poynter Vice President of Academic Programs Kelly McBride, Education Week reporter Andrew Ujifusa, former StateImpact Indiana education reporter Elle Moxley and The New York Times’ Javier Hernandez.

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation, established through the will of a longtime Chicago Tribune publisher, covered expenses and travel for participating journalists.

Along with a plan, I flew home with a boost in confidence. I learned that Ed News spends as much time in classrooms as anybody who attended the seminar. The depth of our coverage of Common Core – known locally as Idaho Core Standards – also stands on its own.

But I hope to bring a little more precision, and a little less reaction to my coverage going forward.

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