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To Write About Curriculum, Reporters Need Classroom Access

A former reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer remarked to my colleague Lesli Maxwell that for journalists to better cover classroom issues in schools, they need to have better access to classrooms. Lesli included the views of Dale Mezzacappa in a story about a report by the Brookings Institution that documents a lack of education stories on the front pages of mainstream newspapers nationwide. The report also concludes that education gets scant attention in the top news stories produced by radio and television reporters.

Mezacappa's remarks resonated with me because I've found that the ability I have to provide examples of how a school's curriculum plays out in the classroom depends on whether I'm permitted to spend a lot of time observing in classrooms.

I sometimes find it difficult to convince school administrators that when I visit a school, I want to spend at least a whole day observing students and teachers, rather than taking a tour of the school and mostly interviewing administrators. With observation, I can identify examples to show how a curriculum is implemented. See this story I wrote about summer philosophy classes to get a sense of examples I gleaned from a day of observation. And even in this policy story about Striving Readers, a federal adolescent-literacy program, I was able to provide a classroom example at the end of the story because Chicago public schools gave me good access to classrooms during a site visit.

The Brookings Institution report decries the lack of news coverage of curriculum.

One way that school officials might be able to urge reporters to take a greater interest in curriculum is to invite them to observe in classrooms.

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