It’s awards season for journalism as well as movies and music, and as the New York Times reported just a few days ago there were at least a couple of education-related stories awarded 2015 Polk Awards:

“Three reporters from The Tampa Bay Times won for education reporting. The three — Cara Fitzpatrick, Lisa Gartner and Michael LaForgia — traced the decline of black student achievement in Pinellas County to a 2007 school board rezoning decision that effectively resegregated five schools.”

As noted in the citation announcing the award, “After spending 18 months analyzing data on black student performance and behavior, interviewing hundreds of students and teachers from the affected schools and gathering documents from the 20 largest school systems in Florida, Times reporters demonstrated that black students had the least qualified teachers, attended school on the most violent campuses and were far more likely to be suspended for minor infractions. After the series ran U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan flew to St. Petersburg to meet with black families, accusing the district of “education malpractice.”

“The award for radio reporting went to Nikole Hannah-Jones for “The Problem We All Live With,” broadcast on the public-radio program “This American Life.” Ms. Hannah-Jones, who wrote for ProPublica and now writes for The New York Times Magazine, investigated the Normandy School District in Missouri after Michael Brown was killed in nearby Ferguson, days after he graduated from high school.”

As noted in the award citation, “Struck that the first reaction of Michael Brown’s mother on learning of his death in Ferguson was how hard it been to get him to graduate from high school, Hannah-Jones decided to investigate Brown’s school district. She came away with a fascinating and ultimately appalling narrative that reinforces the importance of school integration for the success of minority students and demonstrates how resistance to it in largely white communities drives officials to ensure that schools remain divided along racial lines.”

Both of these pieces have been much-read and acclaimed highly among journalists and educators, both for shining a light on important issues and finding compelling ways of telling complicated stories.

Congrats to everyone involved!

Related posts: Florida Re-Segregation Story Wins Prestigious IRE AwardSome Questions About This American Life’s School Integration Story.



Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.