Best of the week


Resegregation. DeVos’s campus assault announcement. The opioid epidemic’s effects on schools. DACA do’s & don’ts. The untold story of DeVos’s stint as a Grand Rapids elementary school tutor. It’s all here.

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Earlier this week, EdSec DeVos announced plans to revamp Title IX guidance on school sexual assault, which The Atlantic’s Emily Yoffe writes had become sprawling and unfair under the Obama administration (others disagree vehemently with that view).

There is no immediate change to the guidance, however, and no new laws have been created yet. The LA Times calls it a formal review. The NYT calls it a rewrite. See also PoliticoInside HigherEdNPRBuzzFeed. The Hartford Courant described “mixed reactions” to the announcement.


There were lots of heated opinions around the Trump DACA announcement earlier this week, even though the announcement changed nothing immediately and Congress may still take action on the issue. It’s not DACA “repeal” – not yet – and shouldn’t be couched that way. And please also be super careful about how you identify DACA sources, even if you think they’ve given you permission.


There were two big articles about race and schools this week; both focused to some extent on a secession attempt in Birmingham, Alabama:

The first was Emmanuel Felton’s piece in The Nation. One of the big takeaways is the graph showing that the Obama administration closed far fewer segregation cases than the Bush administration – but still closed a hefty amount of them.

The second was Nikole Hannah-Jones’ NYT Sunday Magazine cover story, headlined The Resegregation of Jefferson County.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the Birmingham story has been told. You may recall Alvin Chang’s excellent Vox story about the evolution of school segregation.

Pictured above: Historian Michael Beschloss reminds us that it was 60 years ago as of September 4th that the National Guard was summoned to block entry of African-American students at Little Rock Central High School.


For all the coverage DeVos has received over the past nine months, none of it I’ve seen has gone so deep as This American Life’s recent segment about her stint as a school volunteer in a traditional Grand Rapids elementary school for roughly five years.

Think about that. DeVos tutored kids in a traditional Grand Rapids elementary school for five years but it wasn’t until now that we get to hear from teachers & students at the school there.


More than a dozen state ESSA plans have been approved by the USDE. Thirty-four states’ plans are due the 18th of this month. EdWeek is all over the story, but can only do so much. After an upward blip in coverage, the massive federal law is again getting too little mainstream attention given its overall importance.

Some exceptions: Life after No Child Left Behind: Washington state to submit plan for new federal K-12 law (Seattle Times), East Coast experts criticize California’s plan to satisfy a federal education law (LA Times), and Lawmaker wants to revise A-F accountability ratings(

Not sure how to approach and explain the process to your editor and readers? That’s totally understandable. Here’s how.


The latest column from The Grade, penned by freelancer Joyce Tsai, focuses on the impacts of the opioid epidemic on schools and the lack of in-depth, nuanced coverage by education reporters.

Those who’ve written about the issue include Kristen Graham (Inquirer), Elizabeth Harris (NYT), Allison Pohle (Boston Globe), and Mike Connors (Virginian-Pilot). The New York Daily News’ Ben Chapman has also been writing about the issue lately. However, coverage of the epidemic needs to go deeper than overdoses & naloxone distribution, writes Tsai.


Stories in both The Atlantic and the New York Times came under a fair amount of criticism this week, predictable and otherwise.

In The Atlantic, Erika Christakis’s piece about criticism of public education got slammed by reform advocates (no surprise, perhaps) and education journalists. EdWeek’s Stephen Sawchuk Tweeted, “I did find this pretty sloppy,” and Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum noted that the piece, “felt like regurgitated talking points to me — a depressing reminder of how repetitive the education debate often is.”

New York Magazine’s pro-charter columnist Jonathan Chait wrote that the NYT Sunday Magazine story about charter schools in Michigan (by Mark Binelli) puts vivid outlier anecdotes over broad-based results – again. As you may recall, Kate Zernike’s Michigan charter schools story from earlier this year was nominated by me for Worst of the Year.

In another part of its annual education issue, the Times magazine notes “White families in cities like Washington are flocking to private schools, where fewer black students are in attendance.” The claim raised a few eyebrows, given that white kids are on the rise in DCPSprivate school enrollment has been declining, and DCPS had to start a fraud unit because suburban parents were faking residence to get their kids into district schools. Apparently the claim is made based on this UCLA Civil Rights project report (see p. 45). And it’s worth noting that DCPS is a bit of an exception.


The Guardian: The school beneath the wave: the unimaginable tragedy of Japan’s tsunami 

Pod Save the People: Deray McKesson interviews Arne Duncan

SCPR: Most LA Unified grads make it to college, but only a quarter finish on time, new data shows See also LA Times

AP: Can computers enhance the work of teachers? The debate is on

Washington Post: New ACT scores show huge achievement gaps


Smith, Clark, Terrell


At long last, the Washington Post names a fulltime education editor to replace Josh White. It’s the Boston Globe’s Stephen Smith. Welcome.

EWA announced the addition of Kim Clark to its staff as an assistant director. And Kenneth Terrell’s Twitter bio indicates that he is no longer project director there.

Nikole Hannah-Jones appeared on CNN last month to talk about the importance of newsroom diversity in the context of race coverage.

CityLab seems to have given contributor Mimi Kirk the job of covering education, youth, and aging for the site. Belated welcome! Check out this piece about how some cities’ housing authorities are working with local schools to reduce school turnover.

EdWeek’s Madeline Will announced that she’s now on the “Chance the Rapper loves teachers” beat.


This weekend, EWA is hosting a seminar on Latino Education in the Trump Era, featuring NPR’s Claudio Sanchez and others.

CJR is holding a September 18 event in Charlottesville on Race, Racism, and the News: Lessons for journalism, and an October 4 event in Atlanta on The Year That Changed Journalism. Tell them Russo sent you.

Over at the HuffPost, a 23-city tour will address education issues in Fort Wayne (Indiana) & elsewhere. Click the link to see if they’re coming your way. Education editor Rebecca Klein promises to keep us posted.


Twitter is supposed to be journalists’ favorite social media channel, and social media is (still?) all the rage. But a look at last month’s Top Education People and Organizations on Social Media reveals a surprising lack of education journalists and big-brand education outlets among the top ranks.

There are some big moves and newcomers. In terms of Twitter followers, EdWeek’s Politics K-12 blog is way up the list from #21 two years ago. The LA Times’ Joy Resmovits is down nearly 10 spots. List newcomer Nikole Hannah-Jones from the New York Times comes in at #9. Newbie Spencer Education Fellow Audrey Watters makes the “other folks to watch” list.

Notable organizations/outlets missing or at the very bottom of the Fordham lists include the New York Times, WSJ, AP, BuzzFeed’s education team, WBEZ’s education team, SCPR’s education team, the LA Times’ education team, WAMU, Politico’s Morning Education, RealClear Education, and Chalkbeat. Among individual journalists, Dana Goldstein is the sole NYT education reporter to make the list. Politico’s Caitlin Emma is the sole Morning EDU reporter. NPR’s Anya Kamenetz is the sole NPR reporter. BuzzFeed’s two education reporters aren’t on the lists. Nobody from the Washington Post’s education team is on the list. Next year, if all goes as planned, The Grade will break in.


The Guardian: Trojan Horse: The real story behind the fake ‘Islamic plot’ to take over schools

Washington Post: Daily Caller spins unfathomable defense of Barron Trump hit piece

Wow, this audio sharing gizmo in beta at This American Life is super fun & easy to use I Is there anything like this that could be used for other audio?

CJR: Covering the disability beat without relying on “inspiration porn” – CJR

Nieman Lab: Some interesting questions for nonprofit education outlets and the folks who fund them


Above: The fake SAT scoresheet for former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin that went around in 2008.

NY Daily News: Seriously, no one cares about your kids’ back-to-school pictures

Jeff Dwoskin: “#2 pencils are losers that will never be #1. Sad. Use a pen!” #TrumpBackToSchoolTips @HuffPostComedy

Suzanne Tobias (Kansas City Star education reporter): Another school year, another reminder…The plural of “bus” is “buses.” Thanks, AP.


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

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