Blog: The Educated Reporter

Listen to EWA Radio’s Most Popular Episodes of 2019
From fake AP tests to the fight over reading, these behind-the-scenes stories are perfect for holiday travel

It’s been a busy year for the EWA Radio podcast, with guests coming from across the country to discuss a wide range of education-related news stories — from school segregation to the science of teaching reading to how reporters covering traumatic events deal with the emotional toll.

I’m immensely grateful to the many talented reporters who take time out of their busy schedules to talk with me about their work. Getting to have these conversations, and to learn about the backstory to their reporting, is one of the best parts of my job as EWA’s public editor.

As you set off on your holiday travels, here’s a quick-hit playlist of the 10 most popular EWA Radio episodes of 2019. We’re looking forward to another stellar lineup in 2020. Remember: if there’s a story you want to know more about, drop us a line at We’re listening — and thank you for listening, too!

The Top Ten

10. The Schools Named for Segregationists. Corey Mitchell and Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week teamed up to build a database of campuses named for prominent lawmakers who backed keeping schools and other public spaces segregated. How are districts dealing with demands to rename those campuses, and how do students feel about the controversy?

9. The Strange Tale of the Fake AP Test. Cassidy Alexander of the Daytona Beach News-Journal discusses what it’s like to cover a scandal in a district where you were once a student — in this case, a principal who created a fake exam to avoid having to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the real thing and who never told students their scores wouldn’t count.

8. Behind Bars and In College. Lee Gaines of Illinois Newsroom focused her EWA Reporting Fellowship project on efforts to improve access to educational programs in the state’s prison system. Her coverage of the issue won First Prize in the 2018 National Awards for Education Reporting.

7. The Story Behind the Sun Sentinel’s ‘Parkland’ Pulitzer Prize.  Reporters Scott Travis and Aric Chokey share insights and challenges from the South Florida newsroom’s team effort to cover the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In addition to the Pulitzer, the newspaper’s coverage won three top prizes in the EWA Awards.

6. What’s Betsy DeVos Up To? Alyson Klein of Education Week looks back at the U.S. Secretary of Education’s first two years in office, and how she was outlasting the timeline many of her critics had predicted for her tenure.

5. 2019 Will Be a Big Year for Education Stories. Here’s Why. Dana Goldstein of The New York Times offered some predictions for the education beat, including how a federal court ruling on affirmative action might play out, and why stories could shift on teacher strikes and charter schools.

4. For These Boston Valedictorians, Good Grades Weren’t Enough. In a series that was both poignant and infuriating, Malcolm Gay and Meghan Irons of The Boston Globe tracked down dozens of local valedictorians to check on their post-high school paths — and where support systems fell short. 

3. The Fight to Fix Reading Instruction. It’s not a surprise to see this episode of EWA Radio in the Top 3 of the year. Emily Hanford’s reporting on how schools teach reading — and the science behind what works — went viral, sparking both public debate and calls for a massive overhaul of teacher preparation.

2. The Battle Over New York City’s Specialized High Schools. Christina Veiga of Chalkbeat explored Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to scrap a controversial entrance exam that critics say keeps too many underserved students from gaining access to the best programs in the nation’s largest school system.

And the most popular EWA Radio episode of 2019 is … (Drumroll, please):

1. Operation Varsity Blues: The Real Story Isn’t the Scandal. Daniel Golden, a senior editor at ProPublica, explains how education reporters can go beyond the federal investigation’s  headline-grabbing celebrity arrests to look at systemic inequities in college access.