The Grade’s favorite education bylines, teams, and outlets for spring 2018

The Grade Hed

A spring 2018 celebration of education writers, teams, and outlets.

By Alexander Russo

One of the great pleasures of producing The Grade is having the chance to find, read, and share some of the great reporting being done on education.

Often under difficult conditions, education reporters, teams, and news outlets are producing timely, informative, and compelling news about schools, educators, and students.

Here are some current favorite education reporters, teams and outlets that I’m hoping might inform, amuse, and perhaps inspire you as they do me:

SIX LOCAL AND REGIONAL REPORTERS

bethany barnes twitterBethany Barnes (The Oregonian): Barnes may be my favorite local/regional reporter out there right now. She came to lots of folks’ attention with her investigations into inadequate teacher hiring and discipline/removal procedures. (See Benefit of the Doubt.) Her more recent series on housing and schools is a model that I’m hoping others will use as a launching point for their own coverage. (A new national database on evictions from Matthew Drummond should help.)

Example: Reading, Writing, Evicted.

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Mario Koran (Voice of San Diego): Though he toils in relative obscurity at a nonprofit local news outlet located in the southwestern corner of the country, Koran has done excellent work lately. He watchdogs the school board and the district. He puts out a strong weekly newsletter. And he seems to be up on national trends and issues, connecting local coverage to what’s going on in other places.

Example: ‘Restorative Justice’ Can Make Schools More Violent if Not Done Right.

Linda Lutton (WBEZ Chicago): There’s something compelling about Lutton’s reporting. It’s no real surprise her hour-long audio documentary just got nominated for a Peabody award. Maybe it’s the sense of authenticity she conveys? Maybe it’s her deep knowledge base? In 2018, she’s focusing more on Chicago’s suburban schools, some of which have students as low-income as many CPS schools, and not all of whom produce the results that might be expected given the demographics. It should be interesting.

Example: The View From Room 205.

Ben Felder (The Oklahoman): Covering education in a state that’s now in week two of a teachers strike is no easy feat, especially when there’s so much scrutiny and so many national outlets trying to tell some version of the same story. Felder has carried out the task with great steadiness and care.

Example: Teachers return to Capitol to demand legislative action.

Eliza Shapiro (Politico NY): Reading Shapiro’s coverage of New York education politics these last few years has been a major pleasure. She’s broken stories, explained important power dynamics going on behind the scenes, and brought tremendous energy and skill to the work. It’ll be sad when she’s away from the beat next year (doing a Spencer Education Journalism fellowship) but exciting to see what she does next.

Example: After a political rout, New York’s wealthiest charter group searches for an identity.

Jessica Calefati (CALmatters). Another name and outlet you may not be familiar with yet, CALmatters’ Calefati is productive, on top of what’s going on, and gives an investigative edge to the stories she picks.

Example: Why is San Francisco the worst county for black student achievement in California?.

For more favorites, check out the weekly “Best of the Week” newsletter, the monthly “Best & Worst” roundup, and the annual “Best of the Year” overview.

EIGHT NATIONAL REPORTERS

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Erica Green (New York Times): Green is probably the least familiar name among the NYT’s national education reporters, compared with Dana Goldstein and Nikole Hannah-Jones. (That’s why we’re working on a profile about her for later this year.) But her reporting has been steady and strong since she arrived from the Baltimore Sun, during a particularly challenging period for education news. And she’s a warm, generous presence on Twitter. Get a head start and follow her now.

Example: Charter School Founded by DeVos Family Reflects National Tensions.

claudio sanchez npr headshot

Claudio Sanchez (NPR): What makes the reporting of Sanchez stand out these days is its clear sense of history. Sanchez has been covering education for a while now and has increasingly shared personal reflections in his pieces about how much has changed (or stayed the same). It’s a lovely way for him to take advantage of his unusually long history on the beat.

Example: A Kindergarten Story, 13 Years Later.

Evie Blad (EdWeek): Like many others, Blad has produced a ton of coverage of the Parkland shooting and the subsequent student-led protests. What makes Blad stand out is her sharp-tongued Twitter feed. It’s refreshing to come across her observations on the education world, even when she turns her sharp eye to something disagreeable I’ve written or said.

Example: Columbine Shooting Survivors Form Pen Pal Group for Stoneman Douglas Students.

Lauren Camera (US News): Once hidden behind the paywall at CQ Roll Call, Camera’s work at US News covering national education news has been enormously informative and helpful. She’s careful but prolific. She knows how government agencies and Congress work. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next as US News changes its approach to covering education to focus more on stories taking place outside of DC.

Example: Big gap between the GOP and the Trump White House.

Alvin Chang (Vox): An honorary education writer by virtue of his frequent coverage of issues affecting education, Chang has produced a series of helpful, accessible stories on issues like housing segregation, affirmative action, and the impact of school attendance zones on school integregation that have been a great pleasure to see in recent weeks and months.

Example: We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated. This is how well your district does.

John Woodrow Cox (Washington Post): I got to know Cox’s work last year through his much-admired piece about the long-term effects of a school shooting (Twelve seconds of gunfire). I came to appreciate him even more this year as school shootings have become such a high-profile part of the gun violence debate.

Example: No, there haven’t been 18 school shootings in 2018.

Emily Badger (New York Times): Badger is another reporter whose work isn’t solely focused on education but whose work is nonetheless tremendously valuable and important to the beat. As part of the Times’ data visualization effort (called The Upshot), her recent piece showing economic inequality among different races is a great example. Her previous work showing the range of district effectiveness is another. It’s no surprise that researchers who want their work covered carefully and compellingly go to Badger.

Example: How Effective Is Your School District?

Nikole Hannah-Jones (New York Times): Even though she’s on leave right now and not writing as much as she normally would, you can still find her on podcasts and Twitter, and I’m still enormously grateful for the renewed energy and interest she’s brought to the topic of education. I can’t wait to read the book she’s working on – even if I’m not entirely on board with the notion that school integregation is the best and only way to achieve racial equality.

Example: Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City.

For more favorites, check out the weekly “Best of the Week” newsletter, the monthly “Best & Worst” roundup, and the annual “Best of the Year” overview.

FIVE EDUCATION TEAMS & OUTLETS

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EqualEd (Christian Science Monitor): I don’t link to their work enough, but the CSM Equal Ed project (which also includes a helpful email newsletter) has been producing great stories on its own and in collaboration with the Hechinger Report, many focusing on progress against difficult challenges.

Example: Rural schools unite to make college the rule, rather than the exception.

PBS NewsHour: The NewsHour broadcasts a valuable weekly education segment supervised by Leah Clapman and Murrey Jacobson. (A sizeable chunk of the content comes from the EdWeek video team.) There’s also a web page devoted to education issues, run by Vicky Pasquantonio. It’s nothing flashy, but the broadcast and web page make a strong combination going out to a broad range of folks who might not otherwise be following along.

Example: At an innovative high school, students get support battling their addictions while they learn.

National Desk (Chalkbeat): Chalkbeat’s national news team (soon to include a second reporter) is a great spinoff for the network of local bureaus that make up Chalkbeat’s core operation and a welcome addition to the education news ecosystem. The weekly newsletter includes a mix of national stories, regional coverage, and – best of all – items of interest from non-Chalkbeat outlets. I highly recommend it.

Example: As national debate over discipline heats up, new study finds discrimination in student suspensions.

The Atlantic’s Education Page: Between the online page and the print magazine, The Atlantic has been a strong presence in education journalism these past few years. Now Adam Harris is on board covering higher education, and Alia Wong is going to be freed up to do more writing about K-12. We should be seeing even more good things from the outlet this spring and summer.

Example: Julie Washington’s Quest to Get Schools to Respect African-American English.

Teen Vogue: Not widely known for producing serious journalism, Teen Vogue has been doing great work on kids and social justice lately. Crossed fingers that the outlet will find more excuses to cover education in the rest of 2018.

Example: Why “Hardening” Schools Won’t Stop Violence and School Shootings.

For more favorites, check out the weekly “Best of the Week” newsletter, the monthly “Best & Worst” roundup, and the annual “Best of the Year” overview.

Related coverage:

Best Education Journalism of 2016

Best Education Journalism of 2017

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

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