A New Focus for This Week In Education, and a New Site for the New Year

As many of you know, I've been trying to make changes to this website in order to make it bigger and better within the confines of the time I have to dedicate to it. That effort continues.

To read all about the latest changes -- and give your two cents -- click below. The news includes changes to this site and the creation of a second blogsite.


The "big" news here is that, starting this week, I've created a second blog, District 299: An Unhealthy Obsession with Education in Chicago, for all my Chicago-related tidbits and notions, of which there have always been too many to fit into the original site. It's all Chicago, all the time -- something many of my Chicago-based readers have suggested for months.

At the same time, I am going to focus This Week In Education on a narrower set of issues than in the past, based on what's interesting to me and fits my background -- and also on what needs doing (ie, isn't being done better by someone else). So far, these main areas I've identified are federal policymaking, media criticism, and the business of education.

So as to not increase your reading burden, you'll be able to see the content from each site on the front page of the other site. This Week In Education will get you District 299, and District 299 will get you to TWIE. Either would make a great homepage for all your education news needs.

The long story of how I got here is as follows:

This site, started as a weekly email to friends and colleagues nearly two years ago, has been a lot of fun, a really good marketing tool, and a lot of work -- at times threatening my "day" job, which is writing articles about education that someone is actually willing to pay for. (Thanks to everyone on that list!)

Still, the quality and reach of the site has always been limited by how much time I can spend on it, and so part of what I've been trying to do over the past couple of years is to find financial support for the site that would allow me to dedicate more time to it and make it better.

Making money off of advertising or via charging for access to the site never seemed like a viable or fun way to go, so I haven't done much on that front (even though it's the way everyone says I'll end up going eventually).

Instead, my first effort on this front -- started almost from the start -- was was to find a "home" for the site within an existing media or education organization, of which there are many that I like and admire. This effort resulted in lots of interesting converstations but no perfect fit and/or timing. This was disappointing to me, but entirely understandable.

My next effort -- most of it this past fall -- was to try and find direct financial support for the site from a foundation or other type of sponsoring organization. This was also a good excuse to get lots of input and ideas but didnt' result in anyone writing a check. Again, disappointing, but understandable.

Over all, what I learned was that people like and value the site -- especially since I made the change from gathering links in as many as 10 categories to writing more commentary on a narrower set of topics-- but that the site still is trying to do too many things rather than digging into topics a little more deeply, thinking about them more thoroughly, and covering them better.

That's where the notion of creating a separate site for CPS-related content emerged, as well as the idea to narrow This Week In Education to a more defined set of issues that aren't being fully covered by others already.

Despite all the good coverage of Chicago education that's out there, no one covers the beat on a day to day basis like a good blog can -- including both links to MSM coverage, tidbits, and rumors. That's what District 299 is for.Check it out.

Right now, at least, there are a couple of organizations designed to help improve education writing (EWA and Hechinger), and lots of Romenesko imitators out there who know much more than I do, but there's no one besides me who's writing regularly online about education coverage from a critical-minded perspective.

No one covers the $500 billion a year "business" of education, so that's an obvious area where more might be needed.

There are lots of folks in the blogosphere with lots to say about NCLB, but few with any substantial federal legislative experience or first-hand knowledge.

The plan is to go with this format for a few months and see how it goes. Let me know -- what do you think?


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