Beyond the Board Meeting: Improving School Coverage

November 2006

Video recordings of sessions at "Beyond the Board Meeting: Improving Your Education Coverage," a one-day workshop on covering schools, are now posted on the World Wide Web. The conference was for Kentucky reporters and editors, but presenters discussed various education-coverage principles, ideas and issues that could be useful to education reporters in any state.

The workshop was presented Nov. 14 in Frankfort by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, in cooperation with the Kentucky Press Association and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. Click here for opening remarks from Al Cross, director of the Institute, and Robert Sexton, executive director of the Prichard Committee.

Kentucky’s Standards-Based Education System: Helen Mountjoy of Owensboro, former chair of the Kentucky Board of Education, gives essential background by explaining the state’s standards-based education system.

Kentucky’s testing system and response to No Child Left Behind: The federal No Child Left Behind Act has created conflict and confusion in a state that already had a high-stakes testing system. The state and federal systems are explained by Rhonda Sims, director of assessment support for the Kentucky Department of Education, and Lisa Gross, interim associate commissioner of the department's communications office.

The changing federal impact on local schools: Alan Richard, communications director for the Southern Regional Education Board and former rural-education reporter for Education Week, talks about the problems faced by rural schools, especially the requirements of No Child Left Behind, and how to translate those issues into stories that your readers will want to read. Perhaps no other journalist in America has a better grasp of how these issues relate to rural schools. He, Lisa and Rhonda also answered questions about testing and accountability.

Governance: Who calls what shots at the local level? Though it has been 16 years since the Kentucky Education Reform Act took effect, local school boards and school councils -- the decision-making entities created by KERA -- are still sorting out their respective roles. Susan Perkins Weston, a coach for school councils, helps journalists understand who's supposed to do what and whom to call first.

How to find, organize, analyze and present education data: Perhaps the greatest challenge of education reporting today is the use of data -- test scores, dropout rates and so on. To help understand what information is available, how to access it, how to understand it and how to translate it into readable stories, hear from Lisa Gross; Linda Johnson, computer-assisted reporting coordinator at the Lexington Herald-Leader; and Michael Childress, executive director of the Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center. The moderator is Michael Jennings, former education reporter for The Courier-Journal.

Sources, tips and putting ideas to work in your newsroom: To help put all this knowledge into action, Brad Hughes of the Kentucky School Boards Association, a former reporter in the Bowling Green area, offers a comprehensive set of sources and tips for gathering information. Brad and Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and former political writer for The Courier-Journal, direct a roundtable discussion with journalists.

If you have comments or suggestions about these or future presentations, please don't hesitate to contact us by sending an e-mail to al.cross@uky.edu.

The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues helps non-metropolitan media define the public agenda in their communities, through strong reporting and commentary on local issues and on broader issues that have local impact. Its initial focus area is Central Appalachia, but as an arm of the University of Kentucky it has a statewide mission, and it has national scope. It has academic collaborators at Appalachian State University, East Tennessee State University, Eastern Kentucky University, Georgia College and State University, Indiana University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Marshall University, Middle Tennessee State University, Ohio University, Southeast Missouri State University, the University of Illinois, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Washington and Lee University, West Virginia University and the Knight Community Journalism Fellows Program at the University of Alabama. It is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the University of Kentucky, with additional financial support from the Ford Foundation. To get notices of Rural Blog postings and other Institute news, click here.

Institute for Rural Journalism & Community Issues
School of Journalism and Telecommunications, College of Communications & Information Studies
122 Grehan Building, University of Kentucky, Lexington KY 40506-0042
Phone 859-257-3744 - Fax 859-323-3168

Al Cross, director al.cross@uky.edu

Last Updated: 09/14/2007