Reports about urban education, principal turnover, the use of restraints in schools, resegregation, charter schools, and testing were among the subjects of the first-place winners in the Education Writers Association annual contest announced Thursday.
The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, and the Baltimore Sun won first prizes in the large-staff general news outlet category for, respectively, single-topic news, beat reporting, and investigative reporting.
The Dallas paper’s Jeffery Weiss won for a report about a battle that undid testing in Texas, “How the Testing Bubble Popped.” The Times‘s Javier C. Hernandez won for a range of stories on his beat, including the Common Core State Standards through a 9-year-old’s eyes. At the Sun, Luke Broadwater, Scott Calvert, and Erica L. Green won for reports about violence in the city’s schools that the judges said “combined [an] ingenious approach to public records with dogged personal reporting.”
The small- and medium-staff general news outlet categories reflected a change in the contest’s setup. The EWA eliminated its longstanding categories for “education-only outlets” because, the association said, it had “heard from education-only and general-interest outlets that they welcomed the opportunity to have their work compared to one another.”
Thus, those categories included first prizes to outlets that included education-specific titles such as The Hechinger Report, for beat reporting by Jon Marcus about higher education, and Chalkbeat Colorado, for a report on principal turnover by Kate Schimel. Catalyst Chicago and The Chronicle of Higher Education were education-specific publications that were among the finalists in the general outlet categories.
The public-service news organization Pro Publica won two first prizes in the medium-sized staff category, one on the use of restraints and seclusions in schools, and the other on the resegregation of U.S. schools.
Prizes in the data journalism category, which debuted last year, went to EdSource, for a report on the debate surrounding childhood vaccines in California, and to WBEZ-Chicago Public Radio, for a report on how the city’s school choice policies are sorting students into different high schools based on achievement.
The first prize in the opinion category went to David Cook of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, for columns that one judge said made “impassioned arguments against the over-testing of our schoolchildren.”
The EWA eliminated its categories for the work of non-journalists such as teachers, think tank experts, and researchers, saying the goal of the contest is to honor the best of “independent education journalism.”
The 17 first-prize winners will be eligible for the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, to be announced next month at EWA’s annual conference in Chicago.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.