COVID and the pandemic’s many effects continued to disrupt education in 2022. School communities are grappling with mental health challenges and the broad impact of longstanding inequities. Families are dealing with homelessness, food insecurity, and other challenges.
How do we know? Because you told us.
In 2022, Chalkbeat’s reporting had an impact on schools and families across the U.S. because the teachers, students, parents, and communities in these places were willing to help us tell the story of education in this moment.
Here are eight Chalkbeat stories that made a difference in school communities in 2022 — impact that would have been impossible without the people who support our work.
A Chicago reporter’s award-winning work highlights education gaps for boys of color
Since the outbreak of COVID, Chalkbeat Chicago senior reporter Mila Koumpilova has dedicated herself to documenting the experience of students and families through a lens of exposing inequity. This year, her work was recognized by the Education Writers Association with the Beat Reporting award for a midsize newsroom. Judges cited her in-depth series on the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Black and Latino boys as particularly impactful. (Mila’s reporting was also published in USA Today.)
“Three Black and Latino teens, Leonel Gonzalez, Derrick Magee and Nathaniel Martinez, took my breath away, and [I] even got teary-eyed in this extraordinary story by Mila Koumpilova,” one judge said.
Only one reporter covered this virtual charter school in Indiana. It made a difference
Chalkbeat Indiana’s Aleksandra Appleton was the only reporter to write a story on a virtual charter school offering cash stipends to families who enrolled their children.
The payments would have violated a state law that bans schools from offering enrollment incentives. But after Chalkbeat’s story, the school received overwhelmingly negative responses at its public hearing and ultimately withdrew its application.
We were the only publication covering the school.
Asking the right questions leads to school funding accountability in Pennsylvania
Sometimes, data is wrong, as Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum found in reporting on a high-stakes school funding court case in Pennsylvania. State officials used data from the Urban Institute to argue that funding in Pennsylvania is fair. But this data differed from what appeared in other research.
After Chalkbeat asked about the discrepancy, the Urban Institute “updated a national study of school funding patterns to fix how it accounted for funds flowing to charter schools,” we reported in April. “The results now show that students from low-income families in Pennsylvania have received slightly less funding for their schools than wealthier students for many years.”
“Researchers acknowledged … that an analysis used by Pennsylvania officials to argue that the state’s funding system doesn’t shortchange poor students was flawed — and the revised version comes to the opposite conclusion.”
Colorado students narrowly missed being taught Holocaust misinformation
“A Republican State Board of Education member who believes socialism poses grave dangers at home and abroad has put his stamp on how Colorado students will learn about the Holocaust,” Chalkbeat Colorado Bureau Chief Erica Meltzer reported in October.
What happened next changed the way Colorado students would learn about history going forward — in a good way.
Chalkbeat’s reporting drew attention to how Republican board member Steve Durham had shaped the state academic standards related to the Holocaust and genocide to connect Nazis to socialists, and had overridden expert recommendations in the process.
The Colorado State Board of Education ended up changing its academic standards, adopting language describing the Nazi Party as fascist and restoring references to genocide in Bosnia, Rwanda and the Darfur region of Sudan.
Multiple people told Chalkbeat that our reporting made a difference in this decision and in spotlighting the importance of State Board of Education races and academic standards.
Funding for restorative justice programs saved in New York
New York City was planning to cut funding for restorative justice programs, Chalkbeat reported in August. Less than a month later, that was no longer the case.
“After intense pushback from dozens of advocacy groups, New York City’s education department is no longer considering cuts to restorative justice programs,” Chalkbeat New York’s Alex Zimmerman reported in a follow-up in September.
An official said that Chalkbeat’s coverage of those planned cuts played a role in influencing the city to keep funding for restorative justice programs steady.
Shedding light on a controversial charter school partnership in Tennessee
Chalkbeat Tennessee’s intrepid senior statehouse correspondent, Marta Aldrich, was the first to report the details of Gov. Bill Lee’s intentions to bring more charter schools to Tennessee after he announced during his annual state address that the state was “formalizing a partnership” on civics education with Hillsdale College, a small private Christian school in Michigan, without giving details.
Other news organizations followed our report with their own stories, and the ACLU of Tennessee later called for the state to release all records related to the partnership.
Marta tracked the story as outrage over remarks by Hillsdale’s president disrupted the charter school plans. But the saga isn’t close to done.
“A group linked to Michigan’s conservative Hillsdale College is formally exploring opening schools in five Tennessee counties, just months after a controversial failed attempt to open its first charter schools in the state,” Chalkbeat reported in December.
Tutoring gets a boost in Michigan
In early May, Chalkbeat Detroit (along with our partners at Bridge Michigan) reported that Michigan was behind other states in the use of ESSER dollars to support tutoring programs that help students catch up from COVID-related learning losses. The report cited a lack of action from state officials and the governor’s office, and multiple requests for comment got no response.
But in late May, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a proposal to use $280 million in state funds to create a tutoring program. Only some of that made it into the school aid budget, but the governor continues to talk about tutoring as a potential recovery tool for Michigan students, even bringing it up on the campaign trail. Chalkbeat’s reporting also continues to draw media attention to tutoring.
The public learned how Newark failed students with disabilities
The New Jersey Department of Education found that Newark Public Schools failed to meet six responsibilities under federal law for students with disabilities. Chalkbeat Newark’s Jessie Gomez was the first to report this news.
“The findings are a fraction of the issues district leaders continue to face after the pandemic as they relate to students with disabilities,” Chalkbeat reported in August. “Previously, the district was cited in 2019 for failing to meet key mandates related to education plans for students with disabilities.”
The director of the district’s Office of Special Education presented the state’s findings during a September parent advisory council meeting where they addressed their failures and said they would work to fix those issues by providing additional training to staff.
The state’s findings would not have been presented to the public without Chalkbeat reporting.
Thank you, readers
None of this impact on schools, students, and communities would have happened in 2022 without the people who are willing to support our work through interviews, readership, and more.
Support our work today with a donation so we can continue bringing change to the education landscape.
Susan Gonzalez is Chalkbeat’s social media strategist. Connect with her at email@example.com.