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Sigma Delta Chi Award to Education Week for New Orleans Package

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Journalism award season continues, with Education Week winning an honor from the Society of Professional Journalists for its special report on New Orleans schools 10 years after Hurricane Katrina.

"The Re-Education of New Orleans," a multimedia package that debuted in August 2015, won SPJ's Sigma Delta Chi Award for non-deadline reporting by a non-daily publication.

The Sigma Delta Chi Awards honored two other education entries. Television station WDSU in New Orleans won in the documentary, small market category for an hourlong report on the "Children of Katrina," which included a look at education effects of the hurricane disaster.

Meanwhile, the McAlester News-Capital newspaper of Oklahoma won a public service journalism writing award for its series on nepotism and the misuse of public funds in the McAlester school district.

Education Week's report on New Orleans schools after Katrina said the hurricane's "ruptures set off a cascade of profound changes to public schooling that have never before been seen in a single American city."

"Believers in the new way" based on a proliferation of charters and school choice "say it's for the best," Education Week said. "Graduation rates have ticked up. More kids are going to college. And achievement on state tests has grown."

"But, skeptics counter, there are casualties of such progress," the report continued. "School closures that leave families stranded. Languishing special education students. And a growing class of young black men who never finish school and don't have jobs."

Arianna Prothero, the lead reporter on the package, said she and other Education Week journalists reported the stories over several months that included multiple trips to New Orleans.

"For me, what I loved the most about the package and our coverage was the way we really prioritized the parents' and students' and educators' point of view," she said.

And Prothero cited the final segment of the package, "The Last Word," which invited those with a stake in the outcome of the effort to improve education in New Orleans to offer their perspectives.

"We really handed the last word over to the residents of New Orleans," Prothero said.

Besides Prothero, the team behind the package included reporters Denisa R. Superville and Corey Mitchell; photographers Charles Borst and Swikar Patel; videographer Deanna Del Ciello; artists Laura Baker, Gina Tomko, and Vanessa Solis; and web editors Stacey Decker and Del Ciello.

The team was led by Lesli A. Maxwell, an assistant managing editor of Education Week who, as a reporter for the newspaper, spent the 2007-08 school year traveling to New Orleans to report on the early stages of the education rebuilding effort following Katrina.

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