NPR Leader Explains Importance of Education Reporting

Sep 17, 2018

Both WKAR and NPR are committed to education reporting you can find nowhere else. Every Tuesday on Morning Edition, Kevin Lavery tells you about the challenges and triumphs in turning around literacy here in Michigan. NPR also has an education unit, headed by native Michigander Steve Drummond, who talked about the importance of covering this topic with WKAR’s Reginald Hardwick.

STEVE DRUMMOND: The thing that I love about education reporting is it ends up touching on all of the major stories that affect us in our society today. I was just talking to one of your reporters about a story about the third-grade reading law [in Michigan] and how that affects how kids learn. It talks about inequities and the way we pay for things. It talks about how we are preparing our kids for the future. If we just look across the education spectrum, fake news - where are going to learn about fake news and how to identify it? In the schools. Civics education - so much of what's happening in our country and in the democracy walks back to education and how education can either be the solution or the part of life that reinforces some of these things.

REGINALD HARDWICK: Is there a particular story that your team in Washington has broke that you're proud of?

DRUMMOND: We actually had a pretty good story a couple of weeks ago about a number that the US government put out this year. It's part of what's called the Civil Rights data collection. And we noticed down in this big giant data dump a number that asked schools 'has there been a school-related shooting in your school this past year?' And the numbers the government put out said that 240 incidents had been recorded. That's a way higher number of school shootings that we've heard of anytime before. Again, these are numbers that Secretary DeVos and the Trump administration had put out in the spring of 2018. But it was based on a survey of schools around the country. So they had to rely on schools to fill out the survey properly.  Well, we just started looking into the story thinking 'wow there's a lot more school shooting than anyone knew about.' Well, it turned out we started making a lot of calls and schools were telling us 'we didn't have a shooting last year.' Or Cleveland schools said 'we didn't have 37 shootings last year.' And so it looked like - it wasn't intentional on anyone's part - but it was the first year the survey had been issued. Many schools were confused by the question or they may have entered the information on the wrong line. So it was kind of an important story to say hey this number that everyone's been citing about school shootings is actually far, far lower than this survey from the government reported.

HARDWICK: You're a parent and a professor. How can parents use this education reporting as a resource?

DRUMMOND: One of the things that we found over and over again. The stories that have so much impact, the stories that resonate with listeners on the radio, the stories that get them the most views on the web are stories that really relate to on-the-ground, in the classroom type things. How do I raise a smart child? How much time should my kids spend in front of a digital screen? What do I do about anxiety? How do I make sure that our schools are safe? These are not stories about Washington, DC and bills and Congress and everything, they're stories about teachers and students. And we found there is a great hunger among parents out there for information that will help them get the best education for their kids.

Listen for Kevin Lavery’s reports on Michigan education – Tuesday’s at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on Morning Edition on 90.5 WKAR, your NPR station for the Capital region.