Guidelines for EdSource Commentaries

EdSource welcomes and encourages commentaries representing diverse points of view focusing on topics related to California education policy and reform. EdSource seeks commentary that is timely, persuasive and written for a general audience. Before sending EdSource your submission, make sure the text can answer these questions. 

  1. Why are we talking about this topic today?
  2. What are you persuading the reader to do or perspective to take?
  3. Does it clearly explain any terms or concepts that an average reader would not understand without further explanation?

We have drawn up the following guidelines to help those wishing to submit a commentary to EdSource. These guidelines are intended to clarify what we have in mind, not to discourage any prospective authors.

What is the process for submitting a commentary?

If you are interested in submitting a commentary, you can run your idea first by Smita Patel, who is coordinating commentaries for EdSource. Or, if you already have a draft ready, please send it to her directly. Click here to email.

Please submit the commentary as a Word or Google Docs document, double spaced. At the end of the commentary, please insert the author’s name and title, with a brief description of your organization. It should be no longer than two sentences, as in this example.

While we do our best to respond to all commentary submissions, if you do not hear from us within five working days after your submission has been acknowledged, please assume that we are not able to use your commentary, and feel free to offer it elsewhere.

What topics are suitable for a commentary?

As you will see from our website, we are interested in commentaries  representing a wide range of views and on a wide range of topics. We are especially interested in commentaries that relate to reforms currently underway — or that you feel should be underway — in California and nationally. In particular, we encourage commentaries that have a strong California angle. Commentaries that appear designed to promote a product, business, or organization, or do so excessively, will not be accepted.

How long should the commentary be?

Commentaries should be no longer than 750 words.

Who is the audience for the commentary?

Because of our broad audience, we strive to ensure that all content published by EdSource is clear and accessible to a wide range of readers. One of EdSource’s principal goals for many years has been to “clarify complex education issues” for policymakers, education leaders and the general public. Commentaries should do that as well, and should be written to reach the average reader with an above-average interest in education. Someone should be able to read the commentary all the way through one time, and be able to understand it.

Who is responsible for fact checking?

It is the responsibility of the author or authors to check submissions to ensure 100% accuracy in facts and figures, assertions regarding education reforms, spelling of names, dates, and titles of any persons referred to in the articles.

Should I include hyperlinks in my submission?

Yes, definitely. In Word documents, links can be easily inserted by highlighting the text to be hyperlinked, hitting Control or Command K, and inserting the link.  Links should be inserted to provide backup for assertions in the commentary, to  refer readers to legislation mentioned, or to provide more details on something you have referred to. However, links should never be used as a way out of explaining clearly in the body of the text what you are trying to say.

What is the editing process?

All commentaries will go through EdSource’s normal process for editing.

We try to respond to submissions in a timely fashion. However, EdSource does not have a full-time opinion page editor like many large news organizations. As a result, you may not get an immediate response to your submission. We value your work, will read it closely, and do detailed editing, if needed, as soon as time permits at our end.

We may ask you to rework or revise your submission. Our goal in editing is not to change your opinion or argument as expressed in the commentary, but to ensure clarity and make it accessible and understandable to the widest possible audience. In making changes to a piece, we will strive to keep the style and point of view of the author. However, we retain final editing decisions for clarity and brevity. We will share our changes with the writer before publication.

Do you have any tips that will help me write my commentary?

  • Make a clear argument, and argue it all the way through to the end of your commentary. Think about stating your point early on in the piece—either in the first paragraph, or somewhere in the first several paragraphs. Avoid stating what may be common knowledge.
  • In general, try not to make too many points in the same piece. Think through very carefully: 1) the main point you want to leave the reader with, and 2) any other information you will need to support that point.
  • However technical the issue you are addressing, state high up in your commentary why the reader should care about the point you are making and what impact that issue or concern will have on real people – students, teachers, parents, etc.
  • Try to use a conversational style. Include real people – the human face – whenever possible.
  • The first sentence is arguably the most important sentence in your entire commentary. It is what will engage  readers and determine whether they will continue to read the piece. For that reason, make it as engaging and interesting as possible.
  • In general the first sentence should not have a lot of facts and figures or names of programs. Try to stick to the substance of your commentary. Get to the facts and figures later, once you have hooked the reader. Avoid stating the obvious in the first sentence e.g., “Everyone knows that…” or “All schools are implementing the new  standards.”
  • Instead of acronyms, either write out what they stand for, or even better, write around them. (For example, instead of “LCFF,” say  “the new school funding law;” for  LCAP: the district’s accountability plan.)
  • Avoid sweeping statements and generalities. This is especially the case when it comes to making assertions about California, with its 1,000 school districts and 10,000 schools.
  • If you accuse any individual, organization, school, or district of wrongdoing, malfeasance, incompetence, or abuse, you need to make sure you have evidence to back up your assertion — and to cite it.
  • Be generous in your use of hyperlinks so that readers can get more details, or find backup information for your assertions. However, hyperlinks do not substitute for explaining terms or concepts.
  • If your commentary is accepted for publication, you will need to provide a high resolution image of the author(s), ideally a square headshot at least 600 px in width.
  • While we understand that many commentaries are created through a process of collaboration, we do expect that the primary author of the piece is the person whose name is in the byline.

We look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Want more advice from the experts?  Check out this advice from the New York Times’ columnist Bret Stephens.