ICYMI: Debating school discipline coverage, podcast pros and cons

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There’s no single Best of the Week recommendation from me this week, but there’s LOTS of great journalism:

🏆 This American Life: Throw the Book at Them
🏆 EdWeek: AP World History Rewrite Draws Criticism From Teachers and Students
🏆 NYT: Where Boys Outperform Girls in Math: Rich, White, and Suburban Districts
🏆 EdWeek: Why Do Some of the Nation’s Wealthiest Districts Have the Worst Gender Gaps in Math and Reading?
🏆 New Trier News: Testing accommodations four times the national average

🏆 Miseducation: The Other End of the Spectrum
🏆 NYT: Decades Ago, New York Dug a Moat Around Its Specialized Schools
🏆 The 74: Camden’s Paymon Rouhanifard Reflects on 5 Years in One of NJ’s Poorest Districts
🏆 Detroit Free Press: Detroit schools had 16,000 suspensions last year, aims to reduce them
🏆 Chalkbeat Chicago: What happened to Sylvana Gavilanes after her school closed?
🏆 Houston Chronicle: Middle College High School in Gulfton offers a chance to make up for lost time 

🏆 Inside Higher Ed: Education Department staff down 13 percent
🏆 Chalkbeat: In contentious interview, Betsy DeVos’ husband Dick DeVos says ‘everybody wins’ with charter schools.
🏆 LA Times: Betsy DeVos to California: Not so fast on that federal education plan
🏆 The Intercept: A War Between Nevada Teachers Unions Spills Over Into Democratic Gubernatorial Primary.
🏆 LA Times: Villaraigosa reflects after a bruising loss in California governor’s race.
🏆 NYT: Cynthia Nixon’s Education Plan: Ambitious, Progressive, Expensive [see also Chalkbeat]

🏆 Sun-Sentinel: Broward school district failing to report many campus crimes to state as required
🏆 NBC6 South Florida: Parkland Tragedy: Comprehensive Timeline
🏆 NYT: Teachers Training to Carry Firearms Where They’re Not Allowed
🏆 Washington Post: Unproven facial-recognition companies target schools, promising an end to shootings

🏆 Chalkbeat: How the 2018 teacher of the year manages a class of 12 languages.
🏆 KPCC: One school year later, how did veteran LA teacher’s experiment work out?
🏆 Voice of San Diego: Officials Agreed to Keep Quiet About Teacher Who Report Found Harassed and Groped Students
🏆 The Atlantic: The Controversy Over Just How Much History AP World History Should Cover

🏆 NYT: School’s Closed. Forever.
🏆 Charlotte Observer: CMS graduate overcomes mistakes and bad breaks with help
🏆 Washington Post: ‘The sky’s the limit now’: A graduation, and a statement about a troubled school 
🏆 WSJ: A New Way to Avoid Summer School for Failing Students [credit recovery]
🏆 NYT: For Survivors of a 9-Hour Chinese Exam, a Door Opens to America

🏆 The Guardian: France to ban mobile phones in schools from September 
🏆 VICE: School Nurses Can Now Give Kids Medical Marijuana in Colorado 
🏆 YouTube: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Students Perform At The 2018 Tony Awards


four education podcasts 2018

This week’s column describes the recent surge in interest in audio podcasts, the wide of podcasts about education that are being made, and the pros and cons of producing one.

There are LOTS of education podcasts — including a handful produced by news outlets (see above). And there are some great standalone pieces from the likes of This American Life, Malcolm Gladwell, and others. But there’s no consensus “must listen” podcast out there — yet. And one reason may be that producing a high-quality education podcast is a big challenge to pull off.

Far as I can tell from reporting this piece, the best case for making a high-quality education podcast may be that the format forces journalists to think differently about their stories and get closer to the lives of the people and the challenges that are being described. I get the sense that it’s a pretty transformative experience — even for education journalists who’ve already worked with radio.

Some of the podcast gurus who helped include Taylor McGraw (Miseducation), Sarah Carr (What My Students Taught Me), Emily Richmond (EWA Radio), Alex Baumhardt (Educate), Kevin McCorry (Schooled), Emily Richmond (Educate), and Linda Lutton (WBEZ Chicago). Thanks!

“If you work in education and you’re not subscribed to @alexanderrusso‘s @thegrade_, you’re living life wrong,” tweeted L’Oreal Thompson Payton. Sign up for The Grade’s newsletter here. It comes out on Fridays, and then gets posted online the following Monday. 


📰 INVESTIGATING SCHOOL DISCIPLINE REFORM: According to Max Eden’s report on an NYC high school where one student stabbed another to death in class, the main factor behind the tragedy was the failed effort by the school to implement discipline reform/restorative justice at the school. Some applauded the piece. Jay Greene wrote an endorsement of the piece titled Max Eden May Be One of the Only Education Reporters Left, and He Isn’t Even a Reporter. But others pushed back. The HuffPost’s Rebecca Klein noted that Eden should have been identified for readers as “a writer had specifically advocated for certain discipline policies.” This is a very good point. [The piece has since been updated.] “I object to the suggestion there haven’t been ed journalists out here questioning the logic of these [restorative justice] policies, whether or not Jay Greene has heard of us,” tweeted Mario Koran. However, the point remains that there’s a lot of controversy and concern about how the media have reported efforts to revamp school discipline. One of the teachers quoted in the Eden piece claimed that media coverage of the murdered student was deeply flawed: “They painted it like he was the bully, like he was a thug. Fit it to their stereotypes, and forgot about it.”

📰 ABOUT THAT DETROIT SEGMENT FROM VICE: In this week’s segment on charter schools in Detroit, Vice reporter Gianna Toboni “primarily leaves out other factors that contributed to Detroit’s problems, such as population loss and the financial fallout from job losses, the mortgage crisis, and other challenges,” according to ChalkbeatDET’s Erin Einhorn. There’s no mention of the use/misuse of charter school results in the Chalkbeat recap. The segment features a combative interview with Dick DeVos, the EdSec’s husband.

📰 BEWARE THE OUTLIERS: “If I see anyone in this room put a women’s studies major with $100,000 of debt in their article I’m going to come find you,” said Susan Dynarski, an educational economist at the University of Michigan,  in Debunking the Myths Behind Student Loan Debt. [For more about the media’s obsession with elite institutions and outlier events, check out this 2016 column: Shut Up About Harvard (And TFA, Charters, Closings).]

📰 WHAT ROLE FOR THE REPORTER? A big problem in education journalism is the reporter “who imagines him or herself as a mini-social scientist who adjudicates for us what ‘the research says,'” wrote political scientist Jay Greene. The statement brought about some reaction from reporters. Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum described Greene’s view as “a pretty impoverished vision for how ed journalists ought to interact with research—humbly transcribing what The Experts tell us.” Others may disagree, but my view is that there are just way too many of examples where journalism has gotten the research very wrong — and way too few reporters who have the time and skills to interpret researchers’ findings better than researchers and their colleagues can.

📰 ENDORSEMENTS IN HIGH PLACES: It can’t have hurt to have a pair of tweets from Chelsea Clinton telling her followers that the recent Marshall Project story on a high school inside a New Orleans jail “shows how hard & important this work is.”

📰 WHAT DOES SHE WANT? There’s a big profile of Laurene Powell Jobs in the Washington Post this week, addressing her interests in both journalism and education. Want more? Check out my deep dive into how her ownership of The Atlantic has (so far) affected its education coverage very little, if at all.

📰 CAREFUL ABOUT THOSE ASSUMPTIONS: Every so often Robert Pondiscio reminds us that “there’s no evidence for an epidemic of stressed-out kids. For every parent who pushes too hard, there’s a multiple who don’t push at all.”

📰 THE CONVERSATION: Anyone else curious about The Conversation, whose articles are getting published all over the place? Far as I can tell, the articles are written by university folks and edited by journalists, with the help of funders and partners listed here. Interesting, if potentially problematic, model.

📰 SUMMER READING: Looking for some summer reading suggestions? We have you covered. Among the “11 essential books about education as recommended by top journalists” are Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars, Monique W. Morris’s Pushout, and Dave Cullen’s Columbine.

This is the web archive version of the weekly newsletter, Best of the Week, which comes out on Fridays. Sign up here to get it first. 


action shots collage

🔥 Images of education journalists at work (above) are THE BEST. Here are a few of them, featuring folks like NPR’s Cory Turner and KPCC’s Priska NeelyTake a look, and share any others. The more the merrier.

🔥 News came out this week that the LA Times’ Joy Resmovits has been named the new education editor at the Seattle Times, replacing Linda Shaw. “Joy brings a deep understanding of education policy and a deft storytelling voice,” writes Deputy Managing Editor Ray Rivera.

🔥 Meantime, Seattle Times education reporter Claudia Rowe is heading off to do book-related things. “As a long-time member of the Claudia Rowe fan club, it deeply pains me to write this,” Rivera wrote in an announcement to colleagues about her leaving.

🔥 That means that the Seattle Times is hiring a reporter for its award-winning Education Lab team. The reporter would be working with Neal Morton and under the guidance of the newly hired Joy Resmovits. “I’m not entirely the worst so submit your application today,” tweeted Morton.

🔥 Chalkbeat NY is hiring another reporter to help cover the country’s largest school system. “Come work with me!” tweeted Alex Zimmerman, adding that though not mentioned in the job description, “a love of pizza is a strong plus.” Take a look and see if you’re a fit. The national reporter job posted in March is also still listed, as is the Chicago reporter position.

🔥 Let’s all welcome Chalkbeat Chicago’s summer intern Elaine Chen, who just finished her first week on the job covering this protest. And also Chalkbeat NY’s Amanda Zhou, who wrote her first piece for the outlet.

🔥 Last week, EdWeek’s Evie Blad and Holly Yettick published a first-ever survey of school resource officers. This week, they talked to EWA’s Emily Richmond about what they found.

🔥 “Love seeing [Maggie Gordon] reporting on Education again,” commented PDK’s Josh Starr, pointing to her story “Students at a Houston high school fight the odds for one last shot at graduation” and offering high praise. “She was just starting out in Stamford when I was super there and was outstanding.”

🔥 “Things that made Adam Harris a great freelancer, and that other young journos could/should do,” according to Vox’s Kate Dailey. “Turned in clean copy. Worked on deadline. Replied to emails with speed. Jumped on projects in need of a writer. Took edits gracefully and returned drafts quickly.”


ire18 logo jpg 1267×639

⏰ This year’s Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) conference in Orlando doesn’t seem quite as education-focused as it was last year in Phoenix, but there’s still lots for education journalists who are there to take in — and there are lots of folks who are going. Check out our unofficial guide for education reporters and a partial list of education writers who are planning to be there: What to do in Orlando at #IRE18 this week.

⏰ EWA has scholarships available to its upcoming Spanish-language event at the annual National Association of Hispanic Journalists conference in Miami. The boot camp, which will be held in Spanish, will explore pressing education issues for Latinos, and those who receive scholarships will be reimbursed for reasonable travel and hotel expenses.  #NAHJ18 runs July 18-21, and the boot camp runs July 20-21#ewaEnEspanol 

⏰ Coming in October, Eve Ewing’s Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and school closings on Chicago’s South Side. “At its core, this is a book about what schools really mean to Americans and to African-Americans in particular, beyond the brick and mortar that compose them or the test scores and graduation rates that garner the most public attention.” From the University of Chicago Press.

⏰ Hard to believe, but last week marked 10 years since we launched GothamSchools, which grew into @Chalkbeatcommented Chalkbeat honcho Philissa Cramer. Congrats to all involved — that’s quite an accomplishment. Oh, and it’s also ProPublica’s 10th anniversary. They’ve been OK, too.



It’s not Shoots and Ladders, but Scoops and Layoffs. The classic game, now for journalists! Via Columbia Journalism Review.


That’s all, folks. Have a great weekend. Send any comments and suggestions to thegrade2015@gmail.com.

You can read all the back issues of The Grade’s newsletter, Best of the Week, here. Don’t forget to sign up while you’re there!

ALEXANDER RUSSO (@alexanderrusso) is editor of The Grade.

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