Best education journalism of the week (August 12-18, 2017)



Featuring great journalism about Charlottesville, the just-released EdNext poll results, back to school stories, &Monday’s eclipse(!).

See also this week’s column from The Grade — no #sheetcaking allowed — and news about education journalists on the move.


There were at least a handful of education-related angles to the Charlottesville story. TIME magazine found a Boston University student who was leaving school in the face of backlash for attending the event. The Root interviewed one of the protestors – a special education classroom aide – who was assaulted by what it described as white supremacists.

Horrified and overwhelmed by what you’re seeing? For sure. Inspired by the journalism? I sure hope so.

Perhaps the best among a flood of Charlottesville stories is the Vice New Tonight segment Charlottesville: Race and Terror, a 22-minute deep dive into the experience of some of the white supremacists who organized the event. It’s been viewed more than 30 million times.

Poynter has some helpful advice about how journalists should handle racist words, images and violence.


The Education Next public opinion poll uncovered some interesting news, especially a big one-year drop in public support for the formation of charter schools and a somewhat improved view of voucher programs. See coverage from ChalkbeatEDSourceAP, and NPR.

It’s understandable if somewhat problematic that so much of the coverage was focused so narrowly on the charter school question rather than a broader set of results. One of journalism’s worst habits is leaving readers hanging after an issue’s controversy has died down.

Some of the findings that got overlooked or downplayed include stable support for Common Core, which had been in a decline, along with rising support for Common Core among teachers, and rising support for common standards.

However, the coverage of the charter school decline was generally responsible and nuanced, in terms of things like not attributing the decline entirely to Trump. And a few outlets found unusual angles, like MSN’s story on the public’s under-estimation of what teachers make (under a new contract, rookie Detroit teachers will make more than their suburban counterparts) and The 74’s story on public confusion over what opting out means.

Remember that August 28th will bring the release of polling results from PDK (the publishing partner of The Grade). The PDK poll will provide a point of comparison to the EdNext poll, and also (new this year) will provide state-level poll results for Georgia and New York.


Well done, Oregonian: Its “Benefit of the Doubt” story reveals the delays and diversions by Portland Public Schools educators and administrators after students accused teacher Mitchell Whitehurst of sexual harassment and abuse.  Reporter Bethany Barnes first reported the accusations last year, then FOIAd the district when it settled the case. After a five-month battle, the paper won access to the records. Then the real reporting began.

“Officials called it ‘rumor’ when 14 girls complained about this guy’s creepy behavior,” noted fellow Oregonian reporter Kale Williams (who is, coincidentally, the grandson of one of my mother’s dearest friends). “He finally lost his job when ONE DUDE complained.”


USA Today: Schools’ eclipse fears drive kids inside

The 74: For Schools, an Eclipse Conundrum: To Open or Close? For Fun or for Science?

EWA has a nice roundup of eclipse stories.

The Washington Post explores why some schools are closing and others are staying open on eclipse day (Monday 8/21).

A cool animation from Vox lets you find out what time the eclipse is coming your way, and what (approximately) it’ll look like.


Voice of San Diego: District Admits Pushing Struggling Students Toward Charters 

Washington Post: Virginia’s test scores hold steady overall but English learners make strides

The Atlantic: Suburban schools are inflating kids’ grades, pushing their poor peers further behind

WashPost: Despite test gains, fewer than a third of D.C. students rated “college and career ready”

Politico: How Free Eyeglasses Are Boosting Test Scores in Baltimore

The 74: A Massachusetts Teachers Union Votes to Kill a Successful Charter School, as Families Scramble for Answers

NYT: The growing number of homeless children is part of the fallout of New York City’s housing crisis

LA Times: Despite California’s strict new law, hundreds of schools still don’t have enough vaccinated kids

Wired: Chill, Robots Won’t Take Our Jobs



This week’s big column is about all the different ways to come at the ESSA story this fall. There’s going to be lots of action at the state level, and a long-running attempt to inform and engage parents and educators. But what if anything does the public know about ESSA, and what if anything new are states promising to do to comply with the new law?

Figuring out how to explain ESSA to editors and readers is hard, but it’s not #sheetcaking hard. You can do this. (Plus: you have to.)


Former Teacher Project reporter Alexandria Neason wrote a new Village Voice piece (To Fight Institutional Racism, Teachers Are Going Back to School) and had a long feature in Harper’s about school choice in Arizona at roughly the same time it was announced she’s joining CJR as a senior staff writer.

Crossed fingers she’ll get/want to do some writing about education journalism from her new post.


CJR asked some prominent journalists (Ben Smith, Corey Johnson, Rukmini Callimachi) to share the best reporting advice they’d ever gotten. The best reporting advice I ever got was to talk to clerks, crossing guards, & lunchroom staff, not just teachers & admins.

Dakarai Aarons got his from a former @memphisnews editor: “Your story should always answer why it exists, and if not, readers will fill in the gaps.” How about you?


Journalism – including education news outlets and teams – needs all the help we can get. A new study comparing newsroom diversity of NYT, Washington Post, LAT to surrounding communities found bits of progress but big gaps.


Early in October, researchED is hosting a panel about the “US Education Media’s Role in Covering & Broadcasting Evidence-Supported Practices” in NYC, moderated by Ben Riley (Deans for Change) and featuring Matt Barnum (Chalkbeat), Richard P. Phelps (Nonpartisan Education Review), and Emily Richmond (Education Writers Association).

As you may have heard, EdWeek is partnering with ProPublica to measure hate crimes in schools.

Get ready for school nurses and teachers to struggle with teen drug addiction. The Guardian reports that teen drug overdose rate in US rose 20% in 2015 after years of decline.


Great news: ProPublica’s latest crop of Emerging Reporters includes folks like @_NatalieEscobar @mielafetaw who are interested in education journalism. This “Reveal” roundup of black talent in public media features KPCC education reporter @priskaneely & former WBUR edreporter @TonyaMosley.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Moriah Balingit @ByMoriah tweeted out the news that she’ll be “pitching in with national education coverage for the time being.” Last week, Emma Brown announced her move to another part of the Post.

The Village Voice is taking a look at the education landscape in New York City, “including diversity training, cybersecurity programs, and initiatives designed to unite students from across the globe.” Want to know what Julia Stiles really learned in college, or How Cybersecurity Became 2017’s Hot New Major?

A bunch of new APM Reports education documentaries are coming out, and the ones I’ve previewed have been great. Shadow Class comes first, next week, followed by Keeping TeachersShackled Legacy and Hard to Read. Each documentary comes out online on its release date and on the Educate podcast. Then stations air them throughout the fall and winter.


NYT: Malala Yousafzai, Shot by the Taliban, Is Going to Oxford

Snopes: Did Barack Obama Order Harvard to Reverse His Daughter Malia’s Suspension?

Business Insider: What the first day of school looks like in 12 countries around the world

WTOP: The D.C. public school that opened its doors to a president’s child (Amy Carter).

Scheduling note:  I’ll be away for most of the next two weeks, so you’ll have to wait until the first week of September for the next column and newsletter.

Meantime, The Grade is looking for help growing its reach & engagement during 2017-2018. So if you are an/know any amazing audience development/social media types, let me know. 

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.

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

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