ICYMI: #MeToo comes to education reform, DeVos plays favorites, fixing journalism’s ‘fellowship’ model

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Excerpt from Kittredge accuser account in Politico NY.
Excerpt from Kittredge accuser account in Politico NY.

The best of the week — newsy, timely, and full of scoops — has been Politico’s ongoing coverage of the professional demise of school reform wunderkind Jeremiah Kittredge and the end of charter school advocacy group Families For Excellent Schools. It’s “a #MeToo story from the charter school community,” as described by Caitlin Emma. For more Kittredge/FFES coverage from Emma and Eliza Shapiro, go here and here.

It’s no easy task beating the competition in New York City for such a juicy story, especially given how much time and attention competing outlets have Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy, who are both closely associated with the story.

News outlets typically hate “following” competitor’s stories, seeming to think that readers pay attention to or care about who covers what first. But in situations like this, follow they must. Chalkbeat has an interesting and helpful backgrounder on the shifting tactics and alliances that preceded Families’ demise. Way down near the bottom of the New York Times’ desultory version of the story comes the admission that Politico was first to report the story — but no link.


🏆 PBS NewsHour: PR’s education system hangs in the balance amid [50,000-student] Hurricane Maria exodus 
🏆 The 74: As PR’s Governor Embraces Major School Reform Agenda, New Orleans Offers Inspiration, Caution
🏆 AP: PR’s gov seeks charter schools, raises for teachers
🏆 Hartford Courant: Some Puerto Rican Families Who Fled After Hurricane Are Returning

🏆 Vox: Paul Ryan tweets — then deletes — brag about public school worker who saw $1.50 pay raise
🏆 NYT: Idaho Stripped Climate Change From School Guidelines. Now, It’s a Battle.
🏆 WSJ: High-school debaters deliver their lines at breakneck speed. Ted Cruz is not amused

🏆 The 74: MN Cheers Booming Graduation Rate Even as Fewer Can Do High School Reading & Math
🏆 AP Analysis: Public schools leave out some gifted minorities
🏆 NPR: Why Schools Fail To Teach Slavery’s ‘Hard History’ [WNYC audio segment here]
🏆 InsideSchools: Kids of color left behind in richest NYC schools
🏆 Bemidji Pioneer: Minority students suspended and expelled more than white students
🏆 WP: A chemistry professor got his kids ready for school. Then ICE arrested him on his front lawn. See also the Kansas City Star

🏆 Citizen Times: WNC children caught in the opioid epidemic are flooding foster care
🏆 EdWeek: When students assault teachers, effects can be lasting
🏆 Chalkbeat: Four-day school weeks aren’t just for rural districts anymore.
🏆 WP: Private school with global ambition to open in D.C. and China in 2019


Clockwise from upper left: Reveal fellowship co-director Martin Reynolds, EWA public editor Emily Richmond, Columbia J-School fellowship alumna Alexandria Neason, and The American Prospect fellowship alumna Rachel Cohen.
Clockwise from upper left: Reveal fellowship co-director Martin Reynolds, EWA public editor Emily Richmond, Columbia J-School fellowship alumna Alexandria Neason, and The American Prospect fellowship alumna Rachel Cohen.

Fellowship programs are everywhere in journalism these days, seeming to have replaced the old model of the unpaid internship. But there are questions about how these programs are serving a new crop of journalists and the industry in general. Are they doing any good for young journalists – or for journalism?

Those are some of the difficult questions raised in contributor Kristen Doerer’s new column in The Grade, which describes programs run by The American Prospect, Columbia University’s journalism school, Mother Jones, and others. One key issue is that low pay for fellowships limits who can enter the journalism field and contributes to a diversity problem that education journalism is all too familiar with. (See last year’s newsroom snapshot.)

Teacher Project alumna Alexandria Neason — now at CJR — believes fellowships have the potential “to open doors that, for underrepresented groups, are really difficult to get access to.” However, she was the only person of color during her two years at the Teacher Project.

Responses to the piece include Rachel Cohen’s note about the impact of newsroom unionization on fellowship pay at The Prospect. “If we’re trying to build better programs and attract more diverse applicants, unionizing newsrooms is a good way to go.”


Politico story on DeVos as she completes her first year as Education Secretary.
Politico story on DeVos as she completes her first year as Education Secretary.

📰 USDE PLAYING FAVORITES: So the USDE invited Politico, EdWeek, WaPo, & NYT reporters for a group interview with DeVos earlier this week — hence all the DeVos pieces you saw — but the agency did not invite other outlets like AP, US News, USA Today, or The 74 who have requested time and have reporters based in DC. Seemingly returning the favor, USA Today’s Greg Toppo covered the union protest against DeVos on the anniversary of her swearing-in. Then again, so did the NYT’s Erica Green.

📰 COVERING STAGED EVENTS: On the topic of covering staged events like these — the group interview with DeVos and the protest outside the USDE — I don’t have much more to say. They might be beat sweeteners (aimed at smoothing relationships with important sources in order to gain or preserve access), but I generally don’t think they’re newsworthy and I don’t think covering them serves readers’ interests. At very least, reporters owe it to readers to explain the motivation behind the event (in this case, DeVos/union counterprogramming). Did anyone note this for readers? Not that I saw. Here’s the Washington Post writeup, which seems fairly basic, and the Politico piece, which gives a much stronger context to the sit-down but features a pursed-lips image of DeVos that strikes me as antagonistic.

📰 It was a year ago that NPR’s Anya Kamenetz first included the possibility that DeVos coverage was tinged with sexism. This is also the anniversary of the deeply flawed coverage of the DeVos confirmation, which was depicted as a cliffhanger but really was never in serious danger.

📰 MAPPING K12 CYBERATTACKS: The K-12 Cyber Incident Map @K12CyberMap  is “a visualization of cybersecurity-related incidents reported about U.S. K-12 public schools and districts from 2016 to the present.” According to Doug Levin, accurate reporting of the scope of K-12 data breaches is a big issue. “I suspect that what public info exists understates issue by orders of magnitude.”

📰 SCHOOL SHOOTINGS, IN CONTEXT: Last week, you found out that the New York Times and other outlets were overstating the number of “school shootings” by using an overly broad definition. Since then, The 74 and EdWeek now both have launched school shooting trackers, focusing on gun violence incidents that cause injuries or fatalities. For context, The 74 notes that less than three percent of youth homicides and less than 1 percent of youth suicides occur at school, according to a recent report by the National Center for Education Statistics.

📰 SUBSCRIPTIONS VS. PHILANTHROPY: The next round of Report For America newsrooms has been announced, and fellowship applications are now open. Read more about philanthropy in journalism from CJR. Enough is enough, says the NYT’s Farhad Manjoo. Local news needs to start — gasp! — charging for content. Read more from The Grade about the RFA model, based in part on Teach For America.

📰 UNCONSCIOUS BIAS IN MEDIA CRITICISM? AEI’s Rick Hess and Brendan Bell recently slammed mainstream media outlets for biased coverage of the Higher Education Act provisions in the recent tax bill: “If professional journalists can’t manage to [cover serious policy debates] when it comes to education, it’s hard to imagine how they can do it on the most important and polarizing issues of the day.” But Hess and Bell have not yet shared the data they used or their methodology. And the only three reporters whose bylines are featured — Erica Green (NYT), Adam Harris (Inside Higher Ed), and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel (Washington Post) — all happen to be journalists of color.


📰 PASSIVE CONCERN ABOUT GENDER IMBALANCE DOESN’T WORK: The Atlantic’s Ed Yong tried to re-engineer his journalism so that it wouldn’t be so biased towards men. “I knew that I care about equality, so I deluded myself into thinking that I wasn’t part of the problem. I assumed that my passive concern would be enough.” His efforts are described by Nathan Martin as “a simple step but one that allows well-meaning individuals to make a real change, bringing more voices into the conversation. Should see this more in education reporting.” See image above.

📰 Earlier this week, it was reported that the NJEA had endorsed Black Lives Matter in schools week. What about other states and districts? The relationship between Black Lives Matter and the nation’s teachers unions is an important and under-reported topic.

📰 THE BOTS THAT INFLUENCE THE MEDIA: Politico’s recent story about how Twitter bots and political extremists manipulate social media is important and quite frightening, notes Audrey Watters. You might not notice it, but social media is being manipulated. Journalists seem unaware that they’re being played. More about bots and the education debate here.

📰 To better serve its community, Minnesota Public Radio s developing new Somali-language content. Not many of the rest of us can say we’ve gone so far. Via Current.


🔥 EWA announced a new class of fellows, its fourth, including Jason Gonzales, Elissa Nadworny, Mary Nied, and Claire McInerny. Two of the most intriguing projects come Aliyya Swaby (Texas Tribune), who’s focusing on recovery from Hurricane Harvey, and Chandra Whitfield (ESPN/The Undefeated), who’s going to report on attrition in the African-American teacher workforce. Congrats to all – now get to work!

🔥 NYU history professor and reform critic Diane Ravitch has announced that she’s writing a new book about the successes of the movement to push back against school reform. One tale that DR won’t likely include in her new book — and that has never really been told — is the fascinating story of Parents Across America, the original the Ravitch-supported advocacy group now limps along, mostly-forgotten.

🔥 Welcome aboard to Nico Savidge (@nsavidge), the relatively new EdSource reporter who penned a strong piece about how the California DOE has asked 250 schools with strikingly high attendance rates to go back and check their figures.

🔥 ProPublica and WNYC are teaming up to launch an investigative Trump podcast, which is all well and good but it means we’ll lose Heather Vogell from the education beat. Come back soon, Heather! We miss you already.

🔥 Molly Hensley-Clancy is leaving the education beat to cover national politics and the Democratic Party. “I’m starting in mid-February and am extremely excited about it,” wrote Hensley-Clancy the other day. Some of you may recall The Grade’s profile about her from 2015. CJR reports that BuzzFeed is having trouble making enough money to continue its traditional journalism. But Laurene Powell Jobs is also apparently interested in investing in the effort.

🔥 Last month, the Washington Post’s Perry Stein was named as the DC schools reporter, a pretty hot beat right now. She’s been with the Post since 2015 and has filled in on the education team numerous times since her arrival, the announcement notes. And she’s apparently fluent in Spanish and conversant in Swahili.

🔥 Speaking of DC schools coverage, it’s hard to miss ABC7’s Nathan Baca, who’s been all over the DCPS grad rate scandal in recent weeks.

🔥 As he himself noted, USA Today’s Greg Toppo is among very few education reporters to make The Grade’s best and worst monthly roundup in both categories. It’s a special privilege, reserved for very few.

🔥The Chicago Sun-Times and Dallas Morning News are among the additional newsrooms that have been awarded Report for America grants to hire an additional reporter. Applications for the one-year position are now open. Other participating newsrooms: Billy Penn and The Incline in Pennsylvania; KRWG in Las Cruces, N.M.; The Telegraph in Macon, Ga.; Mississippi Public Broadcasting; Mississippi Today; and the Victoria Advocate.

🔥 The Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, Colo. is looking for a full-time reporter to cover higher education. The position calls for a reporter who with at least two years of experience and who is ready to spend a lot of time covering the University of Colorado.

🔥 Have at least 5 years’ experience under your belt? Think you can fill Linda Shaw’s shoes? The Seattle Times is looking for an assistant metro editor who will also be the Education Lab editor.


⏰ Apply for the Investigative Fund’s Ida B Wells Fellowship by February 15. The fellowship looks to increase diversity in investigative reporting by investing in reporters of color. “The one-year fellowship helps reporters complete their first substantial work of investigative reporting, by providing a $12,000 award and editorial advice from a dedicated Investigative Fund editor.”

⏰ EWA’s conference in New Orleans, “Beyond Academics: Covering Education for Character and Citizenship” runs Feb. 15-16. For many of us, that means traveling on Valentine’s Day. I’ll be there.

⏰ Chalkbeat Newark has a launch date! Patrick Wall, who is leading the new bureau, is starting coverage March 1. Read all about the Newark situation here. Can he get settled over there in time?

⏰ The Boston Globe and @Participant Media are accepting applications for the Spotlight Investigative Journalism Fellowship until March 31. Fellows get $100,000 and the help of the Boston Globe Spotlight Team to carry out their investigation.

⏰ Don’t forget to register for the EWA’s national seminar from May 16–18, 2018 in Los Angeles. The recently announced theme is “Room for All? Diversity in Education & the Media.”  Travel scholarships are available for working journalists. Drinks on Toppo.


If you haven’t seen these kids breaking into dance after being told they will go to see new “Black Panther” movie together, you haven’t lived. According to the director of curriculum, the students at Ron Clark Elementary in Atlanta will read the “Black Panther” comic books in class to learn about imperial history and African art.

This is the web version of the weekly email newsletter from The Grade, which comes out on Fridays. Sign up here to get it first!

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

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