Mission and History

Editorial Projects in Education has its origins in the Sputnik era, when anxiety over the United States’ ability to withstand a concerted challenge to its technological pre-eminence touched off a wave of initiatives to improve the nation’s schools and colleges. Although EPE today is recognized as the premier source of news, information, and analysis on American precollegiate education, it grew out of a bold experiment by 15 editors of leading university alumni magazines to speak with one voice to their readers as higher education sought to respond to the deep national concerns of that time.

The Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of the first manmade satellite to orbit the earth riveted attention on space and inspired the editors to call their collaborative research and writing project the “Moonshooter.” With a $12,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, they produced a report the next year formally titled American Higher Education: 1958. Eventually, 150 colleges signed up for the 32-page report, which reached nearly 1 million college-educated Americans.

The success of that first venture led to the group’s incorporation as Editorial Projects in Education, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, and the production of further reports and publications oriented to higher education. The most notable of those endeavors was The Chronicle of Higher Education. Launched in November 1966, on the eve of an extraordinarily turbulent period for America’s university campuses, The Chronicle was soon recognized as an unparalleled observer of the higher education scene.

In 1978, EPE sold The Chronicle to its editors – a decision that set the stage for a fundamental shift in direction by EPE to K-12 education. Inspired by the example of The Chronicle, EPE determined that the precollegiate field likewise needed independent, first-rate journalistic coverage of national scope. With the support again of the Carnegie Corporation as well as other philanthropies, EPE founded Education Week in September 1981.

Just as the launch of The Chronicle had occurred on the cusp of an epochal period for higher education, the debut of the “chronicle of precollegiate education” came as the first stirrings of a remarkable age of ferment in K-12 schooling were being felt. And even as Education Week’s early issues were airing the still-new Reagan administration’s plans to curtail the federal role in education, the field’s upstart “newspaper of record” was pointing to new anxieties about the state of the nation’s schools that echoed those of EPE’s earliest days. Those concerns, emerging against a backdrop of global competition and economic dislocation, gained rhetorical force and policy momentum with the 1983 report A Nation at Risk. The ensuing waves of K-12 improvement measures known simply as “the reform movement” helped establish, in turn, Education Week’s role as the most trusted source of news and analysis on one of the biggest continuing stories in American society.

At the newspaper’s founding in 1981, EPE had 18 employees. That had grown to 68 as of 1995, and 94 in Spring 2007. With attrition and staffing cuts, the number in Spring 2010 was 72 (plus interns), and the current annual budget was about $13 million.

Seeking over the years to build strategically on Education Week’s reputation as the single “must read” news source for K-12 leaders and policy experts, Editorial Projects in Education has extended its reach through a host of print and online offerings that complement its flagship publication and position the organization for sustainable success in the 21st century.

The launch of edweek.org in 1996 ushered EPE into the Digital Age and created a platform for the evolution of Education Week into a hybrid print-online news organization that provides distinctive staff-written original reporting while also aggregating high-quality content from other sources and offering Web 2.0, multimedia, and other features. The current frequency of print publication – 37 issues a year, down from a high of 45 – reflects the migration of news to the Web, yet still allows a significant presence for the newspaper. The 2010 introduction of a new series of Education Week special reports, on topics such as the economic stimulus, and e-learning, testifies to the continued value of print, as does the popularity of the Quality Counts, Technology Counts, and Diplomas Count annual reports. At the same time, edweek.org has opened up new audiences well beyond Education Week’s core readership of administrators and enabled reporters to connect in real time with readers through blogs and online chats.

EPE’s commitment to an increasingly “24/7” understanding of the news is also reflected, meanwhile, in the August 2009 debut of the daily EdWeek Update e-newsletter, which has spurred the increased timeliness of Education Week’s reporting and enabled the paper to “push out” same-day coverage of major stories, from Race to the Top winners to the release of National Assessment of Educational Progress results.

The hybrid approach also characterizes EPE’s offerings for teachers, who have a lively forum for news, information, advice, and opinion on the Teacher channel of edweek.org, while also receiving a mix of articles and useful directory listings in the twice-yearly Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook. Likewise, EPE has reached out to a new audience of school district technology leaders through its Digital Directions channel on edweek.org and its thrice-yearly Digital Directions magazine.

EPE seeks to advance the quality of K-12 education in other ways as well, using a variety of tools both old and new. Its EPE Research Center amasses authoritative data for the high-profile Counts reports, does commissioned work for outside clients, and packages topically themed Education Week Spotlight reports. A new line of Education Week Leadership Forums connects school leaders with colleagues and leading experts, and EPE webinars bring fresh insights and advice to educators online. A centuries-old medium, books, has a place in the mix through the Education Week Press.

In the sixth decade since its founding, EPE remains true to its mission: raising the level of understanding and discourse on critical issues in American education.