Dec. 04, 2020

Best of the States

All-formats package reveals challenges of rural education during the pandemic

On the sparsely populated fringe of the Navajo Nation, AP Report for America journalist Cedar Attanasio saw a storytelling opportunity: the bus system used by the Cuba, New Mexico, school district to solve distance-learning challenges for some of the country’s most isolated, vulnerable students during the pandemic. 

Reporting for text, photos and video, Attanasio rode one of the school buses used to transport meals, assignments and counselors to remote students, a number of whom do not have electricity, let alone internet. When the bus driver was forced to quarantine, Attanasio took to his car, chasing buses on their routes and interviewing students and their families.

For delivering an insightful multiformat package that reveals the pandemic’s impact on education in a disadvantaged community — prompting one reader to donate $1000 to the school board — Attanasio earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive AP analysis reveals pandemic learning setbacks

used AP’s exclusive access to the first district-by-district breakdown of pandemic test scores to report on massive learning setbacks during the pandemic.The pair, both members of AP’s Education team, previewed their analysis for AP members who could tailor their stories for local and statewide audiences — it was precisely that reach into local newsrooms around the U.S. that led researchers to share their data exclusively with AP.Lurye’s analysis required tremendous speed and accuracy, as data was delayed or updated on deadline. And Toness incisively summarized the national implications of the data: the scope of the pandemic’s disruption in kids’ lives, from the shortcomings of online learning to the trauma many American kids lived through, especially poor children.Read more

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Sept. 02, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Months of prep, source work propel AP to dominance on student loan forgiveness

How President Joe Biden would deliver on his campaign promise to forgive student loan debt was one of the most closely watched decisions coming out of the White House this summer.

As anticipation built, and other news organizations couched their reporting in terms of what Biden was “expected to” announce, AP’s Washington bureau worked sources to deliver a massive scoop, confirming and reporting the details 16 hours before Biden stood in front of the cameras.

What followed was no less impressive: All nine of AP’s stories, breaking and enterprise, centered on real people, with on-camera reaction from borrowers, as well as a Q&A updated by search trends, an engaging Instagram reel, a Twitter Spaces session and more. In all, AP’s coverage pulled in 1.1 million views on AP News and 1.2 million interactions on Facebook. For preparation and determined reporting that produced a major scoop, deep coverage and resourceful engagement on an issue affecting millions of Americans, AP is delighted to honor the team of Seung Min Kim, Zeke Miller, Chris Megerian, Michael Balsamo, Collin Binkley, Bianca Vázquez Toness, Adriana Morga, Cora Lewis and Alex Connor as Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Oct. 14, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Joint reporting reveals hidden suspensions of students with disablities

set out to document ways students with disabilities are excluded from the classroom — and from learning. Their reporting led to advocates who described working with families whose children were essentially kept out of school, with none of the records that come with formal suspensions. The families claimed their schools couldn’t or wouldn’t accommodate their students’ disabilities — a violation of federal law — and said the practice had gotten worse during the pandemic.Ma, race and ethnicity reporter in Washington, partnered with Kolodner, of the nonprofit Hechinger Report, who had been pursuing the same topic. Together, they interviewed 20 families in 10 states, and a top Department of Education official. Read more

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Dec. 08, 2017

Best of the States

AP analysis finds disproportionate segregation in charter schools

It began as an effort to find something new to say about a well-documented trend: the growing levels of racial segregation in American schools. Data journalist Larry Fenn, working with Ivan Moreno and the Education Beat Team, began analyzing enrollment data, looking for areas where segregation has become especially severe. Fenn spent long hours building the data set, both for AP reporting and for distribution to AP members.

What jumped out, in city after city, was the prevalence of charters among schools with the most extreme racial segregation. After months of analysis and reporting, AP revealed that fully 17 percent of charter schools nationally, or over 1,000 of them, have 99 percent minority enrollment.

Fenn's dataset for distribution to members had the most downloads and most unique users of any of AP's data offerings to date. For a project that led to record levels of engagement, Fenn and Moreno share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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July 01, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP delivers sweeping multiformat coverage of Title IX at 50

collaborated on a comprehensive all-formats package marking the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the groundbreaking law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools or education programs.Journalists in multiple disciplines — sports, education, race and ethnicity, and others — teamed up to develop story ideas and execution, coordinating resources to address the most important topics regarding Title IX: how the law was born, the impact it has had on athletes and women in general, the challenges it faces, the progress made and where the law falls short.The package included exclusive interviews with sports legends Billie Jean King and Ann Meyers, stories on transgender athletes, campus sexual assault, inequalities in opportunities for women of color, a scoop on an NCAA report examining the current status of Title IX, an AP Poll of Americans' perception of the progress made by Title IX, and more. All delivered over the course of 10 days in a curated presentation incorporating text, video, photos and graphics.Read more

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April 22, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive AP data reveals popularity of US homeschooling

obtained data across the country to establish the continued popularity of homeschooling for American families — even as schools reopened and vaccines became widely available.Because the federal government does not have a current database of homeschooling numbers, Thompson built her own by reaching out to education departments in all 50 states for their data. She also interviewed families for their perspectives on homeschooling, and used her experience on the education beat to put the trend in the context of homeschooling regulation debates, concerns over neglected students and a broader decline of public school enrollment.Read more

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Nov. 10, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Intimate reporting and stunning access show how the housing crisis has created missing students 

For the past year, education writer Bianca Vázquez Toness took on the difficult reporting task of finding students who have slipped through the cracks since the pandemic, and looked to Los Angeles, where advocates say the housing crisis is causing students to go missing from school.

She met a homeless mother renting space in strangers’ apartments, sleeping on a twin bed with her two children. The situation had devastated the teenage son Deneffy’s mental health and school performance.

After multiple visits to LA to meet Deneffy’s mother, and eventually Deneffy himself, he confided in Toness, allowing her to capture their narrative.

Photographer Jae C. Hong waited weeks for the family to feel safe having him inside, capturing powerful visuals when he was able to. Illustrations by Peter Hamlin anchored the story’s presentation. Eunice Esomonu put the Spanish version of the story in the immersive design, a first for AP.

Education journalists and readers alike have reached out to share how remarkable and powerful they found Toness’ reporting.

For building trust and cinematic reporting that showed the great lengths homeless kids must go to attend school, Best of the Week — First Winner is awarded to Bianca Vázquez Toness and Jae C. Hong.

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March 17, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP shows why young Americans are shunning college

News outlets had widely reported a drop in U.S. college enrollment, but nobody had really explained why. Education reporter Collin Binkley and Ohio-based video journalist Patrick Orsagos figured the best way to find out was to talk with young adults themselves.   

Binkley won a grant from the Education Writers Association and traveled with Orsagos to western Tennessee, where the pair conducted cross-format interviews with high school graduates whose stories exposed the reasons behind the trend: The high cost of higher education. Fear of student debt. A hot job market. General disillusionment with education after high school experiences disrupted by the pandemic and school closures.   

The story sparked wide discussion about the cost of college, the need for reform in higher education and the relevance of a bachelor’s degree in today’s economy. The day after publication the story landed on Reddit’s “popular” page, thanks to a post on the “Futurology” subreddit that received more than 25,000 upvotes and 3,000 comments. It appeared on at least 21 newspaper front pages, with good play on The Tennessean, The Jackson Sun, The Columbus Dispatch, The Roanoke Times and the Ithaca Journal, among others.

The story was tweeted by several members of Congress, including Sen. Marco Rubio. Parents, professors and other readers reached out via email and social media, saying the story resonated with them and demonstrated the need for America’s colleges to offer something young people see value in. And the former admissions director at Jackson State Community College offered to advise one of the students in the story on her college options; that student said she plans to contact him.  

For going to the source to find the reasons behind a major trend, Binkley and Orsagos share this week’s Best of the Week — First Place honors.

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Oct. 21, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Conservative PACs target local school board races

analyzed how national conservative groups have targeted school board races that more typically have been sleepier, civil affairs. The reporting was built on research Carr Smyth began in 2021, looking at national conservative groups’ involvement in school board recruitment and candidate training seminars around the country.By reviewing campaign finance filings, education reporter Binkley and Columbus, Ohio-based reporter Carr Smyth revealed that one group — the 1776 Project PAC — has spent millions to support conservative candidates in multiple states.The story, capturing how national money and attention has changed the tenor of many of these local races, detailed how many Republicans are seizing on “parental rights” and accusing incumbents of “grooming” and “indoctrination” as a tactic to unseat Democrats.Read more

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Dec. 08, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Investigation uncovers private school selling diplomas, no classes required

In a package featuring multiple scoops and exclusives, an AP team investigating Louisiana’s rise in unapproved private schools stumbled on a school selling diplomas to anyone whose parents said they had completed their education — even years later. That revelation rocked the state and reverberated across the nation.

Education data reporter Sharon Lurye partnered with Charles Lussier of The (Louisiana) Advocate to secure stunning interviews with an operator of the school defending the practice as an extension of parents’ rights and also met multiple graduates who had gained their diplomas. On the other side of the investigation Lurye and Lussier demonstrated the depth of the risks in sending a child to such a school, landing a rare interview with a mom who says a teacher offered her teen daughter money for sexually explicit photos and wanted to warn others against enrolling their kids in an unapproved school.

Lurye and Lussier were the first to quantify the rise in popularity among Louisiana’s unapproved schools — over 21,000 students, nearly double the number before the pandemic. Many of the families using unapproved schools are homeschooling. But 30 of the schools have more than 50 students.

The project ran on the front page in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Arcadiana. Lurye did radio interviews on WWL in New Orleans and for the “Louisiana Considered” program on the public radio stations in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Prominent pickups included Fox News, Newser and ABC News. The project was named one of the best stories of the week by “The Grade,” a well-read education blog.

For a strong investigation, securing multiple exclusives while providing a public service to the people of Louisiana, Lurye wins this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Dec. 23, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Focused on learning loss, AP’s reporting asks: Are adults doing enough to help vulnerable kids?

doggedly focused on kids’ academic recovery, delivered a powerful tale about adults trying – and failing – to change school in the face of massive pandemic learning loss.

Previous reporting on pandemic-related education issues uncovered this tale of two districts: Facing Richmond kids’ massive learning losses, the superintendent had already tried twice to extend the school year – something experts recommended for struggling kids to get more time with teachers. Teachers, wealthy parents and school board members had defeated the proposal, leaving supporters bereft. But in Hopewell, backing from teachers and low-income parents had led to the unthinkable – the remaking of the academic calendar, introducing year-round school.Read more.

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