sneak peak

Before our Common Core event, previewing the work on display

It turns out that our event tonight about the Common Core is actually kind of aligned to the new standards.

The Common Core’s English language arts standards call for students to base their arguments on hard evidence in authentic texts. Similarly, our theory has been that a productive discussion about the opportunities and challenges of the Common Core needs to be rooted in the real experiences of teachers and students.

That’s why we asked educators to bring real examples of student work to provide a springboard for the panel discussion, which will feature a Bronx teacher, Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky; and Sandra Stotsky, an advocate of standards who has criticized the Common Core.

(The event starts at 5 p.m. on the Upper East Side. Details are here.)

The half-dozen educators who volunteered to share student work come from middle schools and high schools, special education and general education classrooms, and four of the five boroughs. Here are tastes of the “texts” that a few of the educators will be presenting.

Mark Anderson, a special education teacher at Jonas Bronck Academy in the Bronx who also contributes to the GothamSchools Community section, is bringing his students’ efforts to draw meaning out of “The Sniper,” a 1923 story about the Irish Civil War. Holly Obernauer, from Manhattan’s M.S. 131, will show off students’ essays about character change that takes place in Langston Hughes’ “Thank You, Ma’am.” They each said the new standards are proving challenging for their students with special needs.

Ryan Fanning, an assistant principal at Brooklyn’s Abraham Lincoln High School who has helped support the department’s rollout of the Common Core, is bringing student essays about battles between ancient Greeks and Persians. He’s also bringing notes about the characteristics of each student to emphasize the potential he thinks the new standards have to push high-needs students forward. One six-paragraph essay is by an overage student with special needs who last year got a 44 on the global history Regents exam.

Chris Fazio, from Queens Metropolitan High School, will be showing off one ninth-grader’s work over time on a memoir project. His goal, he said, is to show that teachers can make the Common Core’s detailed standards feel more manageable by breaking them down into smaller-scale steps.

“Many teachers I talk to get anxious when they see five bullet points for each standard,” Fazio said. “That level of detail actually makes my job easier.”

An Introduction

Indiana education is evolving. Here’s how Chalkbeat is growing to keep you informed.

PHOTO: Alan Petersime
Indianapolis Public Schools students line up at CFI 27.

When I first came to Indianapolis eight years ago, the failures of the city’s largest school district were on full display.

Indianapolis Public Schools was losing thousands of students to township, charter, and private schools. The continued dismal performance of several district schools put them on the brink of unprecedented state takeover.

Marion County was home to so many children living in poverty that they could fill the Indianapolis Colts’ football stadium, the local newspaper calculated, and then form a line outside it more than three miles long.

Among the first people I met in the city was an Indianapolis teacher who went Dumpster-diving at suburban schools for classroom supplies.

Still, the city was coming together in critical ways to support students and schools. Nonprofit organizations filled gaping needs, with school supplies, uniforms, and mentoring services. Education leaders searched for solutions as small-scale as targeted neighborhood initiatives and as big-picture as completely making over the entire school district.

Today, there’s a lot that has changed — and a lot that hasn’t. People across the state are re-thinking public education. Yet in many places, our students, teachers, and schools continue to face many of the same challenges.

I recently joined Chalkbeat as the new Indiana bureau chief to lead our coverage of the city’s schools and the state’s education policy landscape.

I’m coming from the Indianapolis Star, where I reported on education, politics, and diversity issues. I’d collaborated with Chalkbeat on stories about school integration and English-language learners.

I’ll be overseeing the work of our Chalkbeat Indiana reporting team: Shaina Cavazos covers state education policy, dissecting complex legislation and the politics that drive changes. Shaina has been investigating the underperforming Indiana Virtual School, raising ethical questions about its spending of public dollars, and revealing it hired few teachers and graduated few students.

Reporter Dylan Peers McCoy has been following the dramatic changes as Indianapolis Public Schools embraces charter partnerships, turning over control of some of its schools to outside groups.

I’ll also be contributing my own reporting, with a focus on charter schools and Indiana’s recent moves to publicly fund early childhood education, a topic that has gained greater attention with research showing how critical a child’s first years are to future academic success.

We’ll continue to do what Chalkbeat has always strived to do: provide strong, independent, in-depth coverage of efforts to improve public education for all kids, especially those from low-income families.

Please let me know about stories you’d like to see us write, or share feedback about anything our team has written. We’d love to hear from you.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at

Holiday Reading

Here are five Chalkbeat stories to read this Presidents Day

PHOTO: Getty Images
A statue of George Washington with the American flag in the background in front of Independence Hall.

Happy Presidents Day! We’re off today, and we hope you’re enjoying a three-day weekend too.

I’m planning to spend part of today catching up on Chalkbeat stories. Since last summer, when I started as executive editor, I’ve felt like a student again. I’ve never worked in education journalism before, so I’ve tried to read as much as I can — and there’s no better place to start than Chalkbeat’s reporting.

In honor of the holiday celebrating George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and our other past presidents, I’ve rounded up a special reading list — for myself and for you, our trusted Chalkbeat community.

Two stories that take place in schools named after U.S. presidents:

Why one Brooklyn high school is making a big bet on teacher training

Indianapolis needs tech workers. IPS hopes that George Washington will help fill that gap.

Two stories about local education leaders (even though they probably won’t ever get a national holiday in their honor):

Can this Detroit principal help her students learn quickly enough to save her school?

Meet the Memphis educator leading the charge to take down her city’s Confederate monuments

And one recent story that has nothing to do with Presidents Day but is so terrific I had to include it:

Tight-knit and tightly budgeted: Inside one of Denver’s smallest schools


P.S. Got other education stories you think I should read? Send them my way!