ICYMI: Remembering Newtown, net neutrality & schools, ‘unicorn’ coverage, & how liberal whites avoid integrated schools


This week’s best education journalism comes from the Washington Post’s Eli Saslow: After Newtown shooting, mourning parents enter into the lonely quiet. Though it was written four years ago, it’s “still one of best pieces of journalism I’ve ever read,” notes Erica Green (NYT). “Still think about this incredible Washington Post story about the family of Daniel Barden, who was killed in Sandy Hook, and the “lonely quiet” of their mourning,” notes Molly Hensley-Clancy (BuzzFeed).

This year’s Newtown anniversary stories include the Washington Post legacy of Newtown, ABC News: Sandy Hook’s legacy: More security in elementary schools, and Naples Daily News: Sandy Hook, Immokalee school pen pals still writing five years later. Since Newtown, school shootings have become something common. See for example this recent example from TIME: “Not a drill.” Students hid in classrooms as shooter kills 2 at school.


🔥 EdWeek: FCC Dismantles ‘Net Neutrality’ Policy, and K-12 Schools Await Impact http://ow.ly/UEhC30hfhqL [See also NPR: How A Deregulated Internet Could Hurt America’s Classrooms https://t.co/xFh8IRO1I1]

🔥 LA Times: Schools are closed amid firestorms, but campus kitchens stay open https://t.co/21ERTkZAty

🔥 Chicago Sun-Times: How Janice Jackson rose from Chicago Public Schools student to its CEO http://bit.ly/2AKJYUD via Philissa Cramer

🔥 Hechinger Report: Reading ability among younger children hadn’t been a source of concern in the US. Until now. http://ow.ly/gWHw30hfeY0

🔥 EdWeek: Educators’ Political Leanings, Who They Voted For, Where They Stand on Key Issues http://ow.ly/eeUl30hff6x

🔥 NPR: Kansas’ 2012 Tax Cut Experiment Could Serve As A Cautionary Tale t//ow.ly/gfkS30hcm9l 

🔥 California Sunday: The two-hour commute https://t.co/tBPI0MHsb4 via Alex Neason


This week’s column from The Grade focuses on the return of old-fashioned email newsletters, and which ones are most essential for education journalists. My essential list includes Local Matters, Sunday Long Read, Politico, my own Best of the Week, and the soon-to-be Edu-Clips from The 74. How about yours?

For next week’s column, I’m working on a roundup of the best education journalism of the year. Here’s last year’s version. Send recommendations to thegrade2015@gmail.com or @thegrade_.


A week ago today, the NPR public editor posted a review of NPR’s reporting on Ballou high school, and she doesn’t seem entirely convinced that the original story should have been given the green light or that the clarification provided since then was enough.

Education historian Diane Ravitch describes the Ballou story as “A touching story. But a false story. Made even worse by the fact that it was reported by NPR, which is a usually reliable and trustworthy source for news.” And The 74’s Beth Hawkins reports that there’s apparently a Minneapolis high school with a similarly questionable turnaround reported last spring in the Star Tribune.

However, most folks are still focused on the station’s follow-up reporting, which exposed problems behind the scenes. Education wonk Anne Hyslop tweeted out that she was ramping up her giving to WAMU/NPR because of Kate McGee’s “tremendous story on Ballou HS & the continued excellence of the @npr_ed team.”



🔥 All eyes on Christian Scheckler, the South Bend Tribune reporter who was just named one of ProPublica’s local investigative reporters. He won’t say what he’s going to look into, but there may be some hope. A profile of Scheckler notes that he “joined the Tribune in 2013 to cover police and public safety stories and recently took on a new assignment covering education.”

🔥 Big congrats to KNTV’s Bigad Shaban, Michael Bott & Mark Villareal for Arrested At School, their series about misuse of police officers in schools, which won a duPont-Columbia prize.

🔥 EdWeek’s Mark Walsh notes that “another duPont-Columbia award went to a documentary called America Reframed: Class of ’27, which provides “three stories about educating children in rural areas: Appalachia, the upper Midwest, and in a West Coast migrant camp.”


⏳ Today at midnight is the deadline for the @EdWriters National Awards for Education Reporting. Crossed fingers all the best education journalism of the year gets submitted.

⏳ This could be you: Educating Children in Mississippi and New Orleans Fellowship, at The Hechinger Report https://t.co/edj5L5yzPR

⏳ The Spencer Education Journalism Fellowship at Columbia Journalism School has a February 1 deadline, is not as hard to get as you think (you don’t even have to be a journalist), and will spoil you forever: http://ow.ly/CSAM30hfCP9


It’s always good to hear what NYT Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones has to say, and in this Atlantic interview with Jeff Goldberg she once again describes how “the tolerance [among liberal white parents] for increasing particularly the percentage of black kids is very low, and even lower if those black kids are poor.”

There’s only one problem: the intro to the interview suggests that charters, along with magnets, are the major avenues for white parents to avoid integrated or majority-minority neighborhood schools. It happens sometimes, sure, but it’s hardly the norm. In most places I know about, white parents seeking to escape integrated schools are applying to specialized programs, going private, or just moving districts or neighborhoods. Let’s resist the urge to slap charter schools onto everything.


📰 Last week, the NYT’s Emily Badger bylined a piece showing that districts’ effects on student achievement varies widely, but so far at least there’s been strangely little followup from other outlets. Above are the districts with highest and lowest growth rates. So interesting, right?

📰 The #metoo movement has expressed itself in school settings (click here for an EWA interview with EdWeek’s Evie Blad) and many newsrooms, but the suspension of onetime education writer Hillel Aaron for offensive tweets may the closest it’s come to education journalism so far. Aron wrote about education for the LA School Report, which I helped found and edited in its first year.

📰 Nearly everyone who’s reviewed Eva Moskowitz’s book has noted her critique of the press coverage she and her schools have received. But what are they, exactly? A auick look reveals a series of complaints including how Kate Taylor’s “got to go” story found just a single example of a school where school were in danger of kids being pushed out — not proof of a broader practice and a WNYC data story about charter attrition that generally contradicted Taylor’s NYT story but was largely ignored.

📰 Speaking of Success Academy, charter chronicler Richard Whitmire says he’s stopped focusing on Success Charters and Eva Moskowitz because “all that unicorn coverage distorts what’s really going on with charters around the country.” Whitmire recommends covering Uncommon Schools and Brett Peiser as an alternative. But he also lets us in on the news that Robert Pondiscio is working on a book about Success that is going to come out next fall.


For lack of a simple bit of headline punctuation, Snopes confuses the Keaton Jones bullying story rather than clearing it up http://ow.ly/F5Wd30hcWgx

The middle schooler hasn’t returned to school, according to this story from The Independent.

That’s all, folks. Have a great weekend.

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.


  • EB

    Alexander, I have a question unrelated to this article: why does the Hechinger Report, which seems to have a lot of resources, print/publish stories that are so thin on documentation? They lift up important issues, then do stories that are basically anecdotes. A good example is their recent series on how students with disabilities do not fare well during and after high school. I have several times left comments/letters asking about this approach, but so far no replies. Your take?

    • russo

      Good question. I’m not sure. Have you seen this on more than one story?

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