According to the Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli, who fired off a blog post lamenting liberal bias and poorly-considered story assignment, this was a bad week for education journalism.
The right-leaning Petrilli makes some points that merit future discussion, but I’m more of a half-full glass kind of person this week:
There was a big AP investigation into under-reported sexual assault in schools (by students, mostly), some sharp-eyed reporting about the health care bill that just passed the House (but seems likely to undergo serious changes in the Senate), and a few other laudable pieces.
Plus, an education reporter won a big fellowship (again). And #fidgetspinners are finally getting the attention they deserve. (Let the backlash begin.)
Let’s take a look and see what we’ve got:
HEALTH CARE AND SCHOOLS
The Times’ Erica Green seemed to be first to the story of how the House health care reform bill was going to affect special education. CJR’s Media Today gave her a shout-out:
SCHOOLHOUSE SEXUAL ASSAULT
Read the first installment of AP’s yearlong investigation into sex assaults in K-12 settings and you’ll find out it’s other kids much more than teachers who are the offenders. However, adults are still deeply involved: some K-12 educators downplay sexual assaults by students to protect their schools.
Getting information about sexual assault in K-12 schools can be extremely difficult for parents and journalists. There’s no data collection requirement in federal law. Many states don’t collect the information (see map) and “schools have broadly interpreted rules protecting student…privacy to withhold information about sexual attacks”
Want more? #SchoolhouseSexAssault. Or check out this 90-second AJ+ video:
After being bullied and raped in middle school, this teen says the school could have done more. pic.twitter.com/RXtz3OsLRe
— AJ+ (@ajplus) May 3, 2017
Speaking of AJ+, their videos/text format seems like a really effective combination. Someone in education news should try experimenting with it, right? Perhaps they already are.
“LET GIRLS LEARN” TRIAL BALLOON?
Something very strange happened with the story about Let Girls Learn, the Obama-era initiative. First, CNN and others (USA Today, NYT) reported that the Trump folks were going to kill or at least rename the program, based on a Peace Corps memo going around. Then the White House and cabinet agencies denounced the story. (See USA Today, CNNPolitics.) Did CNN get the original “Let Girls Learn” story wrong? Was the Trump team floating a trial balloon or trying to distract reporters? Was someone throwing the Peace Corps under the bus? Nobody seems to know.
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is scheduled to give a commencement speech at an historically black college, which seems like obvious (and so far effective) trolling of Trump and DeVos opponents. Cue the outrage. Pay no attention to policy and budget moves for the rest of the spring.
Politico’s Caitlin Emma got this amusing DeVos snapshot and snippet:
After meeting DeVos one student exclaims, “She pay for this?!” (Referring to school) Principal says, “Well, kinda!” pic.twitter.com/lmToOsrgOg
— Caitlin Emma (@caitlinzemma) May 4, 2017
MINORITY PARENTS REPORT RACISM
There was some fascinating coverage of a poll of nonwhite parents from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights showing what they think about school, starting with the HuffPost, US News, EdWeek, EdSource. Black and brown parents are not nearly as happy with the education their kids are getting than many might know, though their concerns and beliefs are different.
These findings are a good reminder for education journalists to use polling data to go along with anecdotes, budget data, and student outcomes. Now all we need is someone to collect and compare all the different education polls (PDK, Gallup, USC, this one) and to remind us to cite poll results when our news stories overlap with useful findings.
The NYT takes a look at choice in NYC and deems it “broken.” Few would argue that the options are equitable, though not everyone agrees that the problem is choice per se (vs. adequate supply). It’s still very much worth a read, especially paired with last week’s NYT story about white parents clustering in a small number of schools.
The Howard Country (Maryland) schools superintendent who sued her school board stepped down, reported the Washington Post – in part because of comments made about her sexual orientation by board members. The Baltimore Sun has more. I’m surprised this hasn’t gotten more attention.
Auditors said that 44 percent of all new students at Hartford’s Capital Prep were admitted outside the lottery process, reported the Courant, despite a long history of the school denying such moves.
Another week, another set of fake news stories that Snopes and others have to knock down: No, Samantha Bee’s Husband is NOT “Fighting to Keep Poor People Out of His Child’s School.” No, a Missouri Teacher did not staple her students’ lips shut.
FROM THE GRADE
New column: April’s Best & Worst Education Journalism http://ow.ly/gOOj30bpcco
Who’s covering ESSA implementation so far? The 74 & EdWeek, most of all, not Hechinger or Chalkbeat, interestingly http://ow.ly/CUZG30bmxzE .
In case you missed it, On Morning Education, NPR’s Rachel Norris provided a *great* example of a journalist pushing back against a source w/o getting distracted during an interview. We should all practice being able to do this.
Subject expertise is the top reason people pay for news, according to the Nieman Journalism Lab http://pllqt.it/IBRryJ. We should all pay attention to that.
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PEOPLE PLACES THINGS
Matt Barnum announced he’s joining Chalkbeat as the outlet’s “national reporter, covering education research, trends across states, and federal policy.” Congrats to Barnum and Chalkbeat. Condolences to The 74.
USC professor and friend of education journalism Morgan Polikoff won an award at AERA and gave a great speech.
There were at least 3 DeVos/education-related jokes at the White House Correspondents Association dinner events this weekend – did you catch them all? Here’s one: http://pllqt.it/EEaD14.
Speaking of the WHCA, education writer Franscico Vara-Orta was at the event last weekend. Anyone else? Those student journos who uncovered holes in their principal’s resume.
The fidget spinner craze finally hit the media, including a Guardian piece about their origins, a Vox explainer here, and a WSJ story about how they’re driving some teachers crazy enough to ban the spinning devices.
Speaking of bans, some schools are warning kids away from a series about teen suicide called “Thirteen Reason.” The PBS Newshour looks at the controversy here. NPR here. Canadian schools are going all out against it.
Last and perhaps lest, this year’s AP Literature exam inspired a ton of memes https://t.co/yjj49nI4Ox.