Write for us

Writer's Guidelines

As the nation's oldest education publication, founded in 1891, American School Board Journal has a reputation for independence, professionalism, and accuracy. Although ASBJ is published by the National School Boards Association, it is editorially independent and does not reflect the positions of the association.

These writer's guidelines are designed to lead you through the process we use to add outside writers to our mix of staff-written news and features.

We are not 'scholarly.' Although we are American School Board Journal, we are not a peer-reviewed journal. And, as a news and feature magazine, we generally do not publish footnotes and references.

What do we want? We strive to give the best, most comprehensive accounts of emerging education trends and solutions available. We are looking for good writing and good ideas, intelligently presented, aimed at our audience of school board members, superintendents, and other administrators. We don't publish theme issues; instead, we're always looking for a mix of practical, thought-provoking, and timely articles. We cover just about every educational topic, with special emphasis on district-level leadership.

What we don't want. Few teachers read our magazine, so articles aimed specifically at classroom educators aren't right for us. And we don't publish articles that push a particular product or service.

Getting Started

We feature two kinds of writers in ASBJ. One is the professional writer or journalist who researches and writes articles that are objective and present different viewpoints. The other kind of writer is the school board member, administrator, teacher, or professor who writes about what's going on in a local school, district, or community.

If you're a professional writer or journalist, query us with story ideas. Include clips that show you can handle education subjects and that you can write magazine-length articles. Your best chance of getting in the magazine is through our on-assignment stories, so if you have a controversy or interesting education story brewing in your backyard, let us know. Payment varies with the length and nature of the article. Also, we sometimes make assignments to journalists, so let us know you're out there.

If you're a school board member, administrator, teacher, professor, or anyone else who doesn't write for a living, send us your completed manuscripts. What we want from you is your experience and expertise. Did your board save your taxpayers $1 million this year? Write about it. Did your district raise achievement scores 10 points? Write about it. Did your university work with a local district to offer standards-based professional development? Write about it.

Before submitting a manuscript, LOOK AT OUR MAGAZINE. Check to see what subjects we've covered. Read the articles for subject matter, style, tone, and length. We can provide you with sample copies, or you can check out selected articles on this web site.

Our readers are school board members and administrators. Focus your article on how your subject might interest or affect them. For example, if you're a professor writing about a professional development program at your university, include information about how much the program will cost a district or school or how it can be tailored to fit local or state standards.

Forget the jargon. Educators probably will know what you're talking about, but not all of our readers have education backgrounds. Avoid passive voice when you can. Not good: "A decision was made to effect paradigm shifts in educational teaming, in order to promote the impacting of educational outcomes." Better: "We formed teams to help students achieve."

Be specific. Provide facts, figures, and examples. Not good: "Few people in our community have children in school, and few citizens vote in bond elections." Better: "Only 20 percent of the people in our community have children in school, and well under half of our citizens voted in each of the last two bond elections."

Write from personal experience. Use the pronouns "I" or "we." Write as though you're having a conversation with a friend. When you make a point, give specifics. Not good: "The board made suggestions on how to change the program." Better: "The board suggested we lengthen the school day by seven minutes and give each ninth-grade teacher a laptop computer." If you don't know details, talk to people who do and include what they say in your article.

A lead is not a thesis statement. Instead of thinking back to your papers in English 101, pattern your manuscript after an interesting newspaper article or magazine story. Begin your article with an anecdote or a statement that focuses on your subject. Not good: "I'm writing this article to explain how education can be improved." Better: "Our principal issued a challenge to her teachers: Bring more parents into their classrooms."

A magazine article is not a graduate school paper. Leave out the "review of the literature" and the footnotes. If the topic warrants, include a short list of suggested readings. If you want to quote another author, include the citation in the text. Example: As John Smith pointed out in his 1998 book Raising Student Achievement, ...

Don't worry. If your writing skills are rusty, but you have a great story to tell, we'll work with you.

Expect to be edited. If you believe every word in your manuscript is a jewel, don't send it to us. We edit everyone, in varying degrees, for length, style, clarity, even content.

After You Write

When preparing your manuscript, whether by typewriter or word processor:

  • Double-space on white paper. Put your name on each page and number the pages.
  • Include brief biographical information, including a daytime telephone number, a fax number, and your e-mail address.

Your manuscript should be approximately five to 10 double-spaced pages, or 1,250 to 2,500 words.

If you want to submit your manuscript on a computer disk, please send it to us using Microsoft Word. We cannot return disks. You also may send your manuscript as an e-mail attachment to articles. Either way, please keep the formatting of the document simple.

Do not send your manuscript to multiple magazines at the same time. We do not accept simultaneous submissions. Also, we accept articles only when all copyrights—including electronic ones—are offered to our magazine.

We cannot return manuscripts submitted to us for review.

Acceptance and Publication

We will acknowledge your manuscript when we receive it. We make decisions to accept or reject articles as quickly as possible. The review process usually takes between six to eight weeks, but sometimes longer when we receive large volumes of manuscripts.

As a monthly magazine, we plan months in advance for each issue, so expect several months between acceptance and publication. Once your article has been accepted, our editors will be in touch with you. We'll send you a copy of the edited manuscript before it goes to press, and we'll send you copies of the magazine in which it appears.

Send your manuscripts to:

American School Board Journal
1680 Duke St.
Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone: (703) 838-6739
Fax: (703) 549-6719
E-mail: editorial
Director, Editorial Services
Kathleen Vail