March 30 — 4:34 pm, 2012

Cheating coverage honored

february happy hour Photo: Joseph Kemp

For the second year in a row, the Notebook has garnered an honor from the Education Writers Association. In this year’s National Awards for Education Reporting, the Notebook has received a special citation for its online coverage of the issue of cheating on standardized tests.

The citation recognizes the work of reporter Benjamin Herold; Contributing Editor Dale Mezzacappa; Chris Satullo, vice president of news and civic dialogue for WHYY/NewsWorks, who helped edit the coverage; and myself. The stories on cheating were the first fruit of an innovative arrangement with WHYY; last July, we brought on Herold as a reporter shared by both organizations.

It started when we asked whether the state regularly commissions forensic analyses of PSSA test results. In response, to our surprise, we received a wealth of statistical information regarding the 2009 test administration that flagged 89 schools statewide for irregularities. Our coverage was picked up statewide and nationally, and it prompted a state investigation that continues. Herold’s "Confessions of a Cheating Teacher," in which a teacher explained why she helped her students even though she knew it was wrong, became the most widely read story ever on our site.

A total of 61 awards for excellence on the education beat will be presented at EWA’s annual national seminar here in Philadelphia May 17-19.

Last year the Notebook‘s blog was honored with EWA’s second place prize in the category of "community blogging."

Traditions new and old

We now celebrate the release of each new print edition with a happy hour. The celebration of the April edition release is Wednesday, April 4, from 4-6 p.m. at the Dock Street Brewing Co., 701 S. 50th St., in West Philly.

If you are learning about that April event after the fact, I encourage you stay connected via the Notebook website or Facebook page for news of the next one in mid-May. Even better, become a member to get notice of our events.

Thanks to all who came to our last happy hour at Johnny Brenda’s on February 8. We launched our February edition, which focused on the dropout problem from the vantage point of one neighborhood – Kensington. The crowd braved one of the year’s few snowfalls to celebrate with us. Our partner was the Young Friends of PYN (Philadelphia Youth Network). Special thanks to Johnny Brenda’s for welcoming us with a friendly staff and providing delicious snacks.

On the subject of events, our annual Turning the Page for Change celebration is Tuesday, June 12, at Dorrance Hamilton Hall at the University of the Arts (details on p. 32). Please plan on joining us. You can provide critical support for the Notebook‘s publishing by becoming a host or sponsor, or by purchasing admissions. For more information, call 215-951-0330 x2144 or write event@thenotebook.org.

News of partnerships

A new network is taking shape in Philadelphia to ensure robust local news coverage of critical topics like education, and the Notebook is supporting this effort. It’s called the Philadelphia Public Interest Information Network. Founding CEO Neil Budde is a veteran journalist who’s been an important player in some major online news initiatives. We hope this formation can help news organizations like our own become sustainable and more effectively serve grassroots communities. For now, the project is housed at Temple’s Center for Public Interest Journalism.

Other outlets help our stories get wider distribution. Reports from our recent dropout edition were not only aired on WHYY’s NewsWorks Tonight but picked up by Huffington Post, Education Week, and NBC10. One of our blog posts was picked up by the Washington Post.

Thank you for being part of our community of readers. If you haven’t joined us already, please support that community by becoming a Notebook member.

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