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BEST OF THE WEEK

ESSA implementation coverage is continuing to come along nicely. While ESSA is supposed to make things easier for them, states aren’t necessarily liking the feedback they’re getting from USDE or having an easy time contemplating the law’s requirements, according to an NPR story filed from the ECS meeting in San Diego.

Some of the first plans are getting dinged for not addressing needs of all kids, notes SI&A Cabinet Report (a California-based outlet you should be reading). Even Massachusetts has gotten some negative responses, notes EdWeek. The stakes are high for states like California that are still working on their plans. The LA Times reports on the challenges of addressing issues related to ineffective teachers.

One thing I haven’t seen (yet) is a comparison of the USDE feedback for the nine states to the Bellwether/Collaborative reviews. How closely are the two reviews matching up so far? Might be interesting to see.

Speaking of stories I’d like to see, how about a close look at the 10 projects awarded $10 million as XQ Prize winners last year? These are the “break the mold” high school redesign plans that won the big contest and have been hard at work for almost a year now. The folks behind the XQ Prize are ramping up for an announcement in a couple of months (September 8th, to be exact). The Hechinger Report has a profile of one effort in San Diego that apparently involves skateboarding. But a $100 million-plus initiative like this deserves much more.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

📰  AL.com: Alabama schools struggle with teacher diversity http://ow.ly/ydGa30dDLRY

📰  LA School Report: At 4.2 Percent, CA Teachers received largest average pay increase in the nation last year, report shows https://t.co/RMuykq81wS

📰  Washington Post: Hate-based incidents surge in suburban school system in Maryland https://t.co/semzigdmMl

📰  NPR: Holding Kids Back A Grade Doesn’t Necessarily Hold Them Back https://t.co/PfhjqBJbp3

📰  The Nation: Americans Oppose School Segregation in Theory-but Not in Practice http://ow.ly/yNo730dCut0 

📰  SCPR: LAUSD board members will soon rank among California’s highest-paid municipal officials https://t.co/L3cqmK5EA9 [See also LA Times]

📰  The Atlantic: Schools for immigrants seek to boost their achievement—but the segregation may be harmful https://t.co/jtZ8nOuK0A

📰  Seattle Times: Classroom failure drives memoir about the power of teaching https://t.co/TVN8tp1J1H

FROM “THE GRADE” 

After umpteen weeks (156 days, according to USA Today’s Greg Toppo), EdSec Betsy DeVos finally sat down and took questions from reporters (image above).

The session wasn’t something on the schedule at the start of the week, but was added after a Wednesday NYT story quoted appointee Candice Jackson making a flippant remark (for which Jackson quickly apologized).

Still, the event wasn’t all that lengthy or substantive, according to those who were there. It ran under 15 minutes. Outlets were called on, one by one, and given no more than one question. It was “very tightly scripted,” according to Toppo. “For first time in my memory, they called on outlets. One Q apiece.”

According to a super helpful live-tweeting effort from the Chronicle’s Adam Harris, Toppo is said to have asked DeVos “Does having a president that’s admitted, at least in private, to sexual assault make it harder?” DeVos did not respond directly.

DeVos’s lack of responsiveness was critiqued by Jennifer Berkshire, the former EduShyster, on Alternet. But what about the education reporters who attended – how’d they do?

In all, there were six questions asked (NYT, WSJ, EdWeek, CBS, CNN, USA Today). All but one of the questioners – EdWeek’s Alyson Klein – stuck to the intended topic (sexual assault rules/procedures).

Klein’s out-of-bounds question was about school choice funding being left out of the House appropriations bill went unanswered. But “she will not be asked back to the Inner Chamber” for the infraction, quipped Toppo. Outlets including Politico, AP, BuzzFeed, Chalkbeat, Inside Higher Education, and the Washington Post either weren’t there or didn’t get questions.

Reporters were allowed to record and take pictures, though it took more than 24 hours for one of them – the Chronicle – to post the audio so others could hear for ourselves how she (DeVos) and they (national education reporters who attended) performed. This seems slow, given how much attention was being paid and all the calls for transparency. Or perhaps I’m just overly impatient.

Over all, the much-anticipated event seemed docile rather than charged, the results anticlimactic rather than dramatic or just substantive. It seems likely that reporters are going to have to get much more persuasive and creative if they expect to get real information from Team DeVos.

Moving along:

There was more coverage of the controversy surrounding Bernie Sanders’ wife this week, from the NYT and also Washington Post. But I still feel like there would be more coverage if the focus was on a conservative figure rather than the wife of a liberal darling.

While we’re on the topic of the appearance of bias, NPR broadcast a story about how the petroleum industry has supplied training and materials to schools, but failed to mention that this is a strategy employed by all sorts of interest groups, including left-leaning ones. Shouldn’t that have been noted?  Yes, it should have.

PEOPLE, PLACES, & THINGS

💯 On Monday, EWA will release the results of its first-ever member survey on diversity and inclusion. The survey is part of its efforts to help address diversity issues in education journalism.

💯 Chalkbeat is adding an executive editor, mirroring positions at other nonprofit ed outlets such as @edweek@hechingerreport, & @The74. Read the announcement here. I’m still not sure what an executive editor does but I’ve been told that this will help free Philissa Cramer to do more work directly with stories and shaping coverage, which sounds good. She’s also promised to tweet more, BTW.

💯 The national team may also expand at Chalkbeat, which is now a $4 million, 30-employee organization. They’re hiring (see here) and “expect to expand to new locations, probably 2-3, in the next year,” according to co-founder Elizabeth Green. Wow.

💯 Happy 4th birthday to Politico’s @Morning_Edu. Hard to believe it’s been that long.

💯 Speaking of anniversaries, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Lauren FitzPatrick celebrated her 5th anniversary covering education. The same week, her paper appears to be on the brink of being bought by a union-backed former alderman. She’s quoted in the CJR story.

💯 Meantime, NPR and its on-air staff are fighting over a new contract. How would we live without NPR Education? For example, NPR’s Anya Kamenetz was back on the PBS NewsHour, talking about the latest DeVos moves on student lending rules.

💯 Longtime journalist Beth Hawkins announced she was joining The 74 as the outlet’s first-ever national correspondent. Read the announcement here.

💯 The first copies of longtime PBS NewsHour education correspondent John Merrow’s new book, “Addicted to Reform,” are finding their way to bookstores.

💯 After three decades in journalism, Nan Austin took the buyout from the Modesto Bee and announced her departure with some reflections on the experience.

KICKERS

Snopes: Verizon backpack giveaway is sorta true http://www.snopes.com/2017/07/13/verizon-backpack-giveaway/

San Antonio Express-News: Austin guy spends $15K to make a tiny home out of a school bus  http://ow.ly/HYIX30dDXMC

Some teenage journalists from Mercer Island High School figured out SecDef Mattis’ cell phone and snagged an interview. The transcript is here. The backstory is here.

Jared Kushner doesn’t follow many folks on Twitter, but at least one of them is an education-related journalism person. Can you guess who it is?

Here’s the archive of past newsletters, plus a handy-dandy signup form if you’re not already following or are sick of passing it on to colleagues.