Hechinger Welcome

The Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media is dedicated to promoting fair, accurate, and insightful coverage of education, from pre-kindergarten throughout life. We serve the needs of education journalists with seminars, publications, and projects like this Web site.

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What’s Here and How It Can Help You on the Beat

A good classroom is colorful and purposeful. Sometimes it’s abuzz with many conversations as kids talk about work they’re doing together. Other times only one voice can be heard. It might be the teacher’s voice, explaining a concept, asking a question, giving directions. But maybe what you hear is the voice of a single student hesitantly working her way toward understanding aloud, with only an encouraging word or two from her teacher. That doesn’t happen without a skilled teacher. And that skill deserves to be recognized. 

Journalists know it’s not always easy to get into classrooms. When they do, it’s hard to make sense of what’s going on. Classrooms are complex environments—and good classrooms are even more complex than bad ones. This Web site is a place to go before you venture into the classroom. The Hechinger Institute has partnered with the folks at the Cotsen Foundation to bring you their insights into what makes for great teaching and our insights into how to use this information in your reporting. Look at the videos linked from the home page, each of which illustrates a fundamental aspect of teaching. You’ll hear commentary from Cotsen’s team of experts and be able to read commentary from Richard Lee Colvin, former education correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. The Cotsen team stresses, and we agree, that there isn’t a single version of great teaching. Different situations and classrooms call for different styles. That’s why this Web site includes the views and research of other experts and you should consult them as well. Also on the home page are excellent teachers offering their views on what journalists should look for. In Exemplary Journalism, you'll find examples of great journalism about teaching. And check out the guide Reporting on Classrooms and Instruction: A Journalist's Primer.

To Cover the Action, You Have to Know the Game

Can you imagine a baseball correspondent who never wrote about the game? Would anyone read a story about Tiger Woods winning his seventh straight PGA tournament that gave his hole-by-hole score and didn’t mention the incredible chip shot that saved a par? Or a story about tennis legend Roger Federer that didn’t talk about how he moved on the court and the power of his serves?

In education, the “game” is teaching. It’s what happens when a teacher and his or her students deal with important content in the context of expectations about what’s supposed to be learned. It’s absolutely true that what happens in classrooms is shaped by the school’s principal, school board decisions, state policies, federal laws, and the community the school serves. Good education coverage takes all of that into account and nothing here should be understood to minimize that. But good coverage also should help readers or viewers understand what excellent teaching looks like. Stories about charter schools, successful schools, struggling schools, high school reform, No Child Left Behind—in fact, just about every story—can be enhanced by images and descriptions of teaching, and the views of teachers. But journalists need to know what to look for. Thus, this Web site.

Our Goals for This Web Site

We want journalists to recognize that it takes more than just passion and charisma to make a great teacher and that popularity isn’t the best criteria for judging teaching quality. Don’t fear; we don’t think journalists should become experts on teaching. But we do think that if journalists are knowledgeable about and better observers of teaching, they’ll ask better questions of the experts—the teachers whose classrooms they visit. They’ll produce better stories. And such journalists, we believe, will write more about why good teaching is so important—especially for those kids who see very little of it. More coverage will lead, we think, to greater public understanding. Shouldn’t that be what motivates journalists?