Best & Worst Education Journalism: October 2016

There’s a lot of solid education journalism being produced, day in and day out. But what were the best and worst examples of schools coverage produced in the last month?


Perhaps the most ambitious piece I read all month was Danielle Dreilinger’s series on efforts by KIPP NOLA to help graduates make it through college. The series took a hard look at the experiences of a handful of KIPP graduates, a fledgling program called KIPP Through College, and the services (or lack thereof) available at the colleges KIPP kids pick. I found it depressing to read (and watch), and embarrassing for some of the colleges depicted in the series. Go back and check it out if you haven’t already.

I was also a big fan of Alexandria Neason’s late-September Harper’s feature about Detroit Public Schools, which took a deep and extremely human look at what’s on there without pointing simplistic blame in any one particular direction.

If you’re looking for something newsier, check out this WBUR Boston dive into the $30+ million being spent on a charter school ballot measure in Massachusetts. Reporter Max Larkin manages to provide balance, insight, and make it interesting (at least to political types like me).

Last but not least, it’s hard to beat John Oliver’s deep dive into Northern white hypocrisy about racism and school segregation, which came out Sunday night:


The Washington Post’s decision to categorize blogger Valerie Strauss’s analysis of President Obama’s graduation rate speech as news rather than opinion is a mystery to me, but not a new one.

By far the worst piece of journalism I read in October [technically late September] was the Slate look into charter school efforts to block unionization. The piece, written by freelancer Hella Winston, funded by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, and published by Slate, included so many journalistic and intellectual flaws that it was hard to take seriously.

There continued to be too many poorly-considered teacher shortage kinds of stories this past month, including one from NPR that I found particularly irksome. I know that teachers love NPR and vice versa, but if you’re going to tell us the annual attrition rate for teachers, tell us how it compares to other similarly large occupations — and tell us if and how it’s going to affect kids. Or, tell us about teachers leaving for better schools and districts, or clustering at particular schools that are becoming dumping grounds or all-star campuses. Otherwise, it feels like you’re just trying to scare us for no particularly good reason.

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