UEI hosts 68th Annual Education Writers Association National Seminar

April 20, 2015

On April 19, 2015, the Urban Education Institute kicked off the 68th Annual Education Writers Association National Seminar with an opening talk by UEI Chairman Tim Knowles on the University of Chicago campus. As the host of this year's seminar, UEI welcomed nearly 600 journalists, experts, and education community members from across the country for three days of sessions designed to help reporters connect with experts, sharpen their reporting skills, and deepen their knowledge of the education space.

"This is my prompt to you, as our nation's sense-makers," said Knowles during his talk, "I'm worried about the moment we're in, the political discourse, the pendulum of reform." Knowles noted real progress across sectors in the rising recognition of a need to improve training and evaluation systems, as well as the continuing struggle to find better ways forward. The presentation also highlighted Chicago's successes and struggles as potential lessons for the nation, including the city's rising graduation and on-track rates and the impact of school closings and the teacher evaluation debate.

University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer and UEI Director of Policy and Strategic Communications Cornelia Grumman gave welcoming remarks before Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner's opening keynote on the first day of the conference. A number of UEI experts presented throughout EWA2015, including Knowles and Sara Ray Stoelinga, UEI's recently named Sara Liston Spurlark Director, giving the Tuesday breakfast presentation "10 Lessons from Chicago." Elaine Allensworth, Camille Farrington, and Molly Gordon of the Consortium spoke as expert researchers in sessions covering school discipline, academic mindsets, and school closings, with UChicago Charter Chief College Officer Alix Coupet joining the Consortium's Jenny Nagaoka for a panel examining current challenges and promising strategies for increasing college success. Reporters also had the opportunity to visit the UChicago Charter NKO Campus with school CEO Shayne Evans and participate in a guided tour of Senn High School with Consortium researcher David W. Johnson, an author of the 2012 International Baccalaureate Programme study that spurred the city to expand the IB program at Senn and throughout other schools in the district.

The EWA National Seminar and the work it highlighted in sessions, site visits, new coverage, and connections demonstrated what is possible when research, practice, and the public interest converge to focus on the problems and promises of education.

See the full list of UEI and University of Chicago panelist sessions below and EWA's page for all news stories generated from the conference. The live Twitter conversation can be found under #EWA15.

UEI and University of Chicago Panelist Sessions

Chicago: Attainment City? —Sunday April 19, 2015 | 5pm at University of Chicago Quadrangle Club

Defying the national rhetoric, Chicago has seen a number of remarkable successes in education reform in recent years. UEI Chairman Tim Knowles dives into the lessons the Windy City has for the nation.


Opening Doors: Helping Students Make Their Way to College —Monday April 20, 2015 | 3:15pm in Valencia, Intercontinental Chicago

Research suggests that many students who could succeed in college never get the chance to enroll. But studies also show this circumstance can be overcome by getting students more information about options in colleges, scholarships and financial aid. Gain insights from experts on what approaches help these students succeed.

Speaker Alix Coupet, Chief College Officer, The University of Chicago Charter School
Speaker Harold Levy, Executive Director, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
Speaker Jenny Nagaoka, Deputy Director, The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research
Speaker Oscar Sweeten-Lopez, Program Director, Dell Scholars Program
Moderator Larry Gordon, Higher Education Writer, Los Angeles Times


Breakfast Talk: 10 Lessons To Take Home From Chicago —Tuesday April 21, 2015 | 8:00 am in Grand Ballroom, Intercontinental Chicago

Take home some lessons from Chicago’s sometimes exciting, sometimes tumultuous education experience. Learn from the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute what research, practice and experience tells us can be applied in other districts.

Moderator Linda Lenz, Publisher, Catalyst Chicago
Speaker Timothy Knowles, Chairman, The University of Chicago Urban Education Institute
Speaker Sara Stoelinga, Sara Liston Spurlark Director, The University of Chicago Urban Education Institute



The Economic Impact of Early Childhood Education —Tuesday April 21, 2015 | 11:30am in Seville Ballroom, Intercontinental Chicago

The economic benefits of early childhood education have long been perceived to extend beyond individual students. What is the latest evidence for and against that premise? And what do we know about how to get the biggest bang for the early childhood buck?

Moderator Liz Willen, Editor in Chief, The Hechinger Report
Speaker James Heckman, Professor, The University of Chicago
Speaker John King, Senior Adviser, U.S. Department of Education
Speaker Diana Rauner, First Lady of Illinois/President, Ounce of Prevention Fund


Covering School Closures —Tuesday April 21, 2015 | 3:15pm in Burnham, Intercontinental Chicago

Big-city school districts are increasingly shuttering schools, often citing low enrollment or poor performance. What happens when schools close, and how can reporters probe school officials’ assumptions about savings resulting from closures? How often do students end up at schools that are better than the ones that closed?

Moderator Dale Mezzacappa, Contributing Editor, Philadelphia Public School Notebook
Speaker Becky Vevea, Producer and Reporter, WBEZ Public Radio
Speaker Molly F. Gordon, Senior Research Analyst, UChicago Consortium on Chicago School Research


Ways to Examine School Discipline —Tuesday April 21, 2015 | 4:45pm in Holabird, Intercontinental Chicago

Schools often say they suspend misbehaving students to restore order and keep others safe. But a recent study questions the link between suspensions and school safety. This session flips the script, as a researcher moderates a panel of reporters who have explored alternatives to the usual diet of suspensions and expulsions.

Speaker/Moderator Elaine Allensworth, Lewis-Sebring Director, The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research
Speaker Sarah Karp, Deputy Editor, Catalyst Chicago
Speaker Claudia Rowe, Education Reporter, The Seattle Times
Speaker Francisco Vara-Orta, Education Reporter, San Antonio Express-News


SITE VISIT: UChicago Charter North Kenwood/Oakland Campus (PreK-5) — Wednesday April 22, 2015 | 9:00-11:00am

The UChicago Charter School North Kenwood/Oakland Campus is one of the highest-performing non-selective enrollment public schools in the city. UChicago Charter's college-enrollement rate is the second highest for public schools in the Chicago region and the NKO Campus was cited by Harvard economist Richard Murnane as one of the most promising replicable education solutions.


SITE VISIT: Nicholas Senn High School International Baccalaureate — Wednesday April 22, 2015 | 9:00-11:00am

Senn High School expanded its International Baccalaureate program to all new students who attend the school and went from the bottom third to a top-tier rating. A University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research study showed positive effects of Chicago’s IB program. Chicago Public Schools is now expanding IB throughout the district.

Guide David W. Johnson, Associate Director of Research and Development, University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research


Deep Dive: Science of Learning: Part 2 —Wednesday April 22, 2015 | 8:30am-12:00pm in Seville EAST, Intercontinental Chicago

Is there an ideal way to learn? Decades of research in the fields of cognitive and social psychology, child development and the science of test-taking strongly suggest schools and colleges can take specific steps to boost teaching and learning. This three-part session explores proven research on how students from pre-K to college take in knowledge.

Moderator Ki Sung, Editor, Mindshift at KQED Public Radio
Speaker Camille Farrington, Senior Research Associate, The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research
Speaker Carissa Romero, Director of Programs, Project for Education Research That Scales (PERTS) at Stanford University


Lunch Keynote with Vassar College President Catharine Bond Hill —Wednesday April 22, 2015 | 12:00-2:00pm in Grand Ballroom, Intercontinental Chicago

Vassar College was awarded the inaugural $1 million prize from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation in 2015 for supporting high-performing, low-income students. As colleges and educators across the country begin to recognize the need to better support students through graduation, President Catharine Bond Hill speaks to Vassar's successful strategies.

Speaker Catharine Bond Hill, President and Professor of Economics, Vassar College
Discussant David Attis, Senior Director of Academic Research, Education Advisory Board
Discussant Elaine Allensworth, Lewis-Sebring Director, The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research
Moderator Cornelia Grumman, Director of Policy and Strategic Communications, The University of Chicago Urban Education Institute