In 2015, the new generation of school reformers Chalkbeat has been covering since we first started officially grew up — with all the upheaval, backlash, and new directions that can entail. It made for some pretty interesting, and important, stories.
Here are four of my favorites, drawn from the hundreds we wrote that led to real changes in laws, policies, understanding, and practice:
1. The student group most likely to be expelled in Colorado is not eighth-graders or high school sophomores, but children enrolled in preschool. With attention increasingly on helping students get a solid start from their earliest years, our story opened up this hidden trend, and described efforts to make sure all students are served.
2. In 2015, critics of the Michael Bloomberg school of education reform got their wish as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his signature public school initiative: a “Renewal” program aimed at improving 94 struggling schools by flooding them with resources, rather than shutting them down and starting again. De Blasio boasted of the schools’ ambitious turnaround goals. But our reporting revealed that the city’s actual goals for these schools — only publicly released after we wrote about how impossible they were to find — in fact asked for just one year of improvement stretched over three years.
3. With rising immigration, the number of students who enter Indiana schools not fluent in English has more than doubled in the past decade. Part of an award-winning series that spurred a doubling of funding to services for students still learning English, this story describes how one Indiana school began serving a ballooning refugee population.
4. Of any state, Tennessee was perhaps the most affected by Race to the Top, the Obama administration’s signature education initiative. To understand Race to the Top, you must read our story from Tennessee, on the delicate dance between tougher teacher evaluations, on one hand, and higher learning standards, on the other.
Want to read more? Here are our roundups of the most important stories of 2015, from Colorado, Indiana, Tennessee, and New York.
Finally, an invitation. As a nonprofit, Chalkbeat can’t produce high-impact reporting without reader support. Will you help us continue telling America’s education story by making a contribution? Only with readers’ support can we show that an independent press can be sustained, even in the digital age.