ICYMI: A school shooting in Florida, covering the Alabama decision, counting school violence, & more great education journalism

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Some of the students killed in and around the "freshman building" at Douglas high school this week.
Some of the students killed in and around the “freshman building” at Douglas high school this week.

The best education journalism of the week has to be coverage of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, including stories by EdWeek’s Evie Blad and by mainstream outlets including the Washington Post, Miami Herald, and New York Times. Some examples:

NYT: As Shots Ring Out, a Student Texts: ‘If I Don’t Make It, I Love You’
WashPost: ‘A horrific, horrific day’: At least 17 killed in Florida school shooting
Miami Herald: Teacher’s first-hand account of Florida school shooting
Politico: DeVos calls for Congressional hearings on school shootings
NYT:  Gunfire Erupts at a School. Leaders Offer Prayers. Children Are Buried. Repeat.

The tragedy also raised difficult issues about how to count and report school shootings, described below.


🏆 The Intercept: For Immigrant Students, the Wrong T-Shirt Could Get You Deported
🏆 NYT: As DeVos Approves Education Plans, She Finds Skeptics in G.O.P. Governors

🏆 San Jose Mercury News: How Medicaid became a go-to funder for schools
🏆 Detroit Free Press: Detroit schools chief: Weak curriculum leaves our kids at a disadvantage
🏆 Chalkbeat: When diversity backfires: How schools can lose funding as they try to integrate
🏆 The American Prospect: The Staying Power of Black History Month

🏆 Washington Post: D.C. teachers will not be assessed on how many students they pass
🏆 The 74: 3 teachers mourned as flu leads to school closures in more than 20 states
🏆 EdWeek: Does It Make Sense to Offer Housing Perks for Teachers?

🏆 NPR: Inside The Virtual Schools Lobby: ‘I Trust Parents’
🏆 Indianapolis Monthly: The Magnet School Conundrum

🏆 EdWeek: Appeals Court Rules Mostly White City Can’t Form Segregated School District
🏆 US News: Court Blocks White Alabama Community from Creating Its Own School System
🏆 AP: Court in desegregation case blocks Alabama school split
🏆 The 74: Citing Racial Motive, Federal Appeals Court Blocks Alabama School Secession Plan

🏆 AP: Bill and Melinda Gates answer ‘tough’ questions
🏆 Business Insider: Bill and Melinda Gates are not yet satisfied
🏆 Chalkbeat: Bill and Melinda Gates say they may move beyond education



📰 COUNTING SCHOOL SHOOTINGS: Two weeks ago, the NYT was using Everytown’s extremely problematic school shooting numbers, which the Washington Post debunked in 2015. On Thursday, the Times began using the Gun Violence Archive numbers, which are different but still too high. No, there haven’t been 18 school shootings in 2018. That number is flat wrong, notes the Washington Post. There’s no need for exaggeration. The real numbers are bad enough. Under EdWeek’s school shooting tracker, the Florida incident was the 6th this year – not the 18th. According to The 74’s tracker, this was the 11th school gun incident resulting in injury or death. For more on this, check out the Atlantic’s excellent explainer, The Murkiness of School-Shooting Data.

📰 SHARING GRAPHIC IMAGES: One of the most immediate questions in covering a school shooting is how much or little to show. EdWeek’s Benjamin Herold shared what experts told him about what graphic images journalists should share – or not. By and large, the experts urged restraint. EdWeek embedded social media from the school but “described the most graphic material in words only,” Herold said. Early on, cable news shows were uncertain whether to show a frightening but not gory video of kids cowering in the corner with gunshots firing nearby. However, there’s a case to be made for more graphic presentations of school violence. A recent HuffPost story about Las Vegas notes that, in the absence of gruesome detail, “media coverage often serves to sanitize the graphic, uncomfortable reality of these tragedies.” Here’s more advice about covering mass shootings and making tough choices from Poynter and the Dart Center at Columbia.

📰 QUESTIONING ALL THAT BUDGET COVERAGE: The week began with LOTS of detailed coverage of the proposed budget levels. But why, considering that Congress regularly ignores White House wish lists? According to Vox, proposed budget requests “are a window into the administration’s priorities and can set the table for future policymaking.” Seems pretty abstract to me, and — more to the point — few folks cover them that way: as a symbolic part of a long, frankly dreary political process.

📰 BLACK LIVES MATTER AT SCHOOL: There wasn’t as much coverage of Black Lives Matter at School as I thought there would or should be, especially since this year’s push was in part supported by the National Education Association and also because — as this Chalkbeat NY story illustrates — bringing BLM into schools can be extremely controversial.

📰 DEVOS WATCH: Betsy DeVos “still has a transparency issue,” notes US News’ Lauren Camera, who reported on the EdSec’s secret trip to Indianapolis. According to Camera, DeVos’s spokesperson rejected the characterizations, writing that she’s “disappointed in the way the Chalkbeat Indiana is trying to portray the Secretary’s visit as ‘covert.'” Speaking of DeVos, Politico, NPR, & the NYT are all using this pursed-lip Getty image of DeVos to accompany their stories. Seems pretty antagonistic, though of course news outlets do these kinds of things all the time.

📰 WHAT HAPPENED TO ED TECH COVERAGE? In a thoughtful thread, Frank Catalano says he’s troubled “that the amount of regular reporting of what’s happening inside the K-12 #edtech industry appears to have fallen off.” Catalano makes the case that the day-to-day reporting is what’s most important to educators and parents and says that excessively critical or credulous coverage isn’t what really helps. “No one is well-served by either extreme as a regular diet.” Amen. Now go read Tawnell Hobbs’s WSJ piece on online education.

📰 GOOD NEWS GOING UNREPORTED: Sometimes it’s hard to figure out when and how to report good news, but not doing so can leave readers with a misapprehension of key facts. For example, the child poverty rate in the U.S. has dropped to a historic low in 2016. A new analysis put out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the child-poverty rate came down to 15.6% in 2016. It was 18.1% in 2012.


Reporting while female is no easy task, notes CJR
Reporting while female is no easy task, notes CJR

🔥 Carrie Melago is leaving the Wall Street Journal to join the team at Chalkbeat next month, where she will be editing education news in NYC and Indianapolis.

🔥  “Most days, even a brief step away from a laptop or television can put a casual reader of the news far behind; as a media reporter, it severely inhibits my ability to do my job, even as it damages my health,” writes former Teacher Project fellow Alexandria Neason for CJR in a piece called The burnout year.

🔥  Also at CJR, a provocative piece called Reporting while female. “The work of a journalist is to be accessible, discerning, and persistent. For a woman, this also makes her a target.”

🔥  Meet Lulu Ramadan, the 23-year-old Palm Beach County reporter who’s covering her third mass shooting. Her tweet about the experience led to a New Yorker interview.

🔥  Earlier this week, ProPublica won 35 Society for News Design awards, including a design award for Where Alternative School Enrollment May Signal Problems.

🔥  Education Week is hiring and has open positions in their editorial, business, and digital operations departments. Take a look at their career page.

🔥  EdWeek’s Evie Blad was supposed to be in New Orleans for the character conference, but instead she’s down in Florida, reporting on the aftermath of the shooting. Read some of her coverage here.

🔥  There have been a lot of different Washington Post reporters & editors involved in DC Public Schools coverage over the past six years. Too many, perhaps, to provide adequate coverage. That’s the subject of a forthcoming column from The Grade.

🔥  This new Walter Mosley piece about white reporters and race reminds me of some of the things Nikole Hannah-Jones said about white education reporters’ fear and complicity at Poynter last year.


⏰ Couldn’t make it to NOLA for the EWA seminar this week? Several of the key panels, including a presentation from NPR’s Cory Turner and EdWeek’s Kavitha Cardoza about their podcast, Raising Kings, have been livestreamed and published on Facebook. Also check the hashtag #EWAcharacter.

⏰ “Come and learn about tools you need to dig deeper into stories and give readers, viewers and your online audience the information they’re demanding.” IRE and NICAR hosts their annual conference devoted to data journalism, March 8-11, 2018 in Chicago.

⏰ Coming in April, the Yale School of Management’s annual education summit will feature a keynote from former EdSec John King.

⏰ EWA’s national seminar runs from May 16–18, 2018 in Los Angeles. The theme is “Room for All? Diversity in Education & the Media.” You may have missed the early bird rate, but travel scholarships are available for those that can’t cover the entire expense.

⏰ 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.


Student reporter interviews classmates during shooting. David Hogg, a senior and student reporter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, recorded interviews with some of his classmates on February 14 as they were hiding from an active shooter in the school.

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. 

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

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