Education Reporting in Gotham: Lessons I’ve Learned

During graduation week in May, one of my favourite professors said that if journalists can work the education beat in New York City, they will likely have a long, successful career. I only realized that she meant after diving into the education beat this summer, just days after graduating.

Covering education in New York City means you cover politics, race, class differences, social injustices, did I mention politics? Unions, charter schools, public schools, teachers, students, concerned parents – they all play a role in the way the city’s education system runs.

I’ve loved every moment of covering education while interning at GothamSchools, an independent news  organization dedicated to reporting on K-12 education in the city. I’ve attended rallies, visited schools in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx. I’ve talked to political figures but had more fun talking to interesting students and principals.

I’ve learned to always come prepared by researching information beforehand, to expect that some educators will be hesitant to talk, that students have great stories to tell if I can encourage them to speak to me, and behind the politics, there are people who truly care about education.

Here are some of the stories:

After their children finished gruelling state exams, parents opposed “field” tests that New York State’s test publisher, Pearson, created to assess the quality of their test questions. They later led a colourful protest in front of Pearson’s Manhattan headquarters.

The city’s Department of Education announces funding changes for the next fiscal year, including new mental health centers.

A troubled central Harlem charter school wins a five-year renewal to stay open after fighting to stay open in December – the maximum amount given to charter schools.

Homecare workers, those who take care of children in their homes instead of daycare centers, fear they will lose their jobs because of changes to the city’s budget for childcare services.

A charter-district school tour brings charter schools, which are publicly funded but independently run, together with district public schools despite a history of tension between the two groups.

A busy Bronx special education principal gives a readers a rare glimpse of how she manages five campuses across the city.

Students and teachers showcase their technology innovations just as the city loses federal funding.

Just days before the New York legislature closed, immigration advocates urge Governor Andrew Cuomo to support the state’s DREAM Act, which would help students who are illegal immigrants pay for college.

In a rare collaboration, the president of the city’s teachers’ union makes a joint announcement with the Department of Education’s chancellor about a grant that would help six schools establish “community school” models.

A student activist talks about her future plans after leading the fight to keep her historic Queens school open.

New York University’s Steinhardt School invited 300 educators from across the city and country to learn how to incorporate cultural sensitivities and deal with race and social class differences in the classroom.

Ever wonder what teachers are up to over the summer? Well a group of physics teachers got together to take a three-work workshop to learn how to improve their physics curriculum to increase student interest.


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