Best of the week (#RaisingKings) & the future of the education beat

The Grade Hed

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The best piece of the week by far has to be the NPR/EdWeek/CodeSwitch collaboration called “Raising Kings,” the first episode of which aired this week.

The series examines the first year of an all-boys DC public high school called Ron Brown, where the focus is on restorative justice. There’s a care team. There’s lots of circling up. Kids don’t get kicked out of class or suspended for swearing at each other. (Their punishment is to have to compliment each other, or to talk about their feelings.)

There are lots of pieces to check out, including a short video introduction and some lovely illustrations. However, be extra sure to listen to the full 43-minute podcast version of the story, rather than the shorter snippets on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. It’s deeper and more detailed, and highlights the contributions of the CodeSwitch team, who focus on race and identity.


NYT: Caught Sleeping or Worse, Troubled Teachers Will Return to New York Classrooms

Cabinet Report: Current High Schoolers Make Up 15 Percent of Community College Ranks

Crooked Media: Internal White House Policy Wish List Memo

NPR: Many Puerto Rican Students Are Heading To The Mainland For School


This week’s big column focused on innovations in education journalism and found lots of experimentation going on – and much more needed.

There’s collaboration among different outlets, and innovation in how stories are being presented. Some folks are adjusting their playbooks to suit readers better. Others are flipping the script and asking readers what’s most interesting to them before they pick stories to report.

Outlets and organizations featured in the piece include the Seattle Times, Hechinger Report, NPR’s education team, EdWeek, New York Times, Chalkbeat, Vox, WBEZ Chicago, Hearken, Journalism That Matters, the Ida B. Wells Society, IJJ, Spaceship Media, the Reveal Investigative Fellowship, Renaissance Journalism, and others. 

As you’ll see in the column, NPR education editor Steve Drummond talked up the big #RaisingKings partnership with CodeSwitch. There are lots of outlets and podcasts focused on race, culture, and social justice these days, including HuffPost’s BlackVoices, the NYT’s Race/Related, The Griot, ShondaLand, The Root, Another Round, Two Dope Queens. Maybe education teams and outlets who want to reach new audiences might consider similar partnerships? 




On Thursday, New Jersey education blogger Laura Waters expressed some strong objections to Chalkbeat’s coverage of a new Harvard study of student achievement gains in Newark, suggesting that the story (written by national reporter Matt Barnum) must have been rushed or he was slanting his coverage. Barnum protested the characterization. A Twitter hullabaloo ensued.

Harvard researcher Tom Kane’s only public comments, via communications director Miriam Greenberg, focus on Barnum’s effort and intelligence: “Barnum asked some very sophisticated questions (overall, he was very impressive).” However, he has not publicly commented directly on the results of Barnum’s reporting, and probably never will – even if they disagree.

Greenberg says that “interpretation of the findings and the questions that become the focus of coverage is going to vary” among different reporters. Which sounds nice and is certainly a very polite thing to say. But I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with the notion of reporters interpreting studies however they see fit (as long as they are factually accurate). First and foremost, I think they have a pretty serious obligation to convey to readers what the researchers think are the most salient aspects of a study they conducted, even if they decide to focus elsewhere. And if substantial interpretation seems called for, putting it in the hands of experts sources seems like a sharper way to go.

Anyway, here’s how some other outlets covered the study: USA Today, EdWeek, The 74. What do you think?


CJR: Media reporting on campus protests plays into culture war narrative

“New Documents Confirm Betsy DeVos Is Paying For Her Own Private Plane Travel” [Seriously, BuzzFeeed?]

Rachel Cohen has written a postscript to her recent Atlantic story about the role of education in economic mobility, which some (including me) thought had problems.

The most underreported education story these days must be what AFT/NJEA conflict over Sweeney. The NJ Spotlight has it covered. So does The Intercept, and (of course) The 74. Anyone else?

Harvard’s Shorenstein Center will figure out best practices for single-subject news sites including Chalkbeat & the Hechinger Report. 



CJR’s Alex Neason (always an education writer to us) has written up Bethany Barnes’ Oregonian investigation in teacher misdeeds.

The NYT’s Nikole Hannah-Jones was a keynote speaker at #NPE17CA, a very active advocacy group known for its support of neighborhood schools not school integration. For a profile:

Wait, what? NYT edreporter (and new mom) @DanaGoldstein is taking concert pictures for VICE now, too?  Impressive.

There’s a new, Facebook-only product from the Atlantic, focused around “School Myths”

These “introduce reporters to readers” bits are really a thing, now, aren’t they?


“Mississippi school replaces Jefferson Davis’ name with Obama”

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

One Comment

  • EB

    To put it simply, Rachel Cohen is using a definition of income mobility that is not the only one. Most researchers mean, by that term, the likelihood that an individual will rise relative to her/his peers as a result of education or some other factor; that s/he will go, for example, from the second income quintile to a higher one. Cohen is using a different (and less common) definition, one that tracks a general rise in the income level of all of those who start below the median.

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