Blog: The Educated Reporter

From Pandemic Impact to School Board Battlegrounds: 21’s Top EWA Radio Episodes
2021’s Most Popular EWA Radio Episodes

For those traveling this holiday season, the right playlist is essential to helping those hum-drum miles slip away. And even if you’re staying home, there’s no better time to catch up on the top EWA Radio episodes of 2021. 

From teachers’ unions to school board battles to tracking what really happened to students amid the pandemic, this year’s podcast guests covered just about all the bases. Some of the nation’s top education reporters explain how they got the big stories, and also provide tips for other journalists looking to follow their leads. 

Before you get to the top 10, let me extend my gratitude to all of the guests who made time for the EWA Radio podcast this past year, often under extraordinary circumstances. It’s no exaggeration to say that these conversations were among my favorite – and most informative –  hours of my work week. Thank you for another wonderful year!

Without further ado, here are the top 10 episodes based on listenership: 

10. Racism at VMI (May 5, 2021)

Ian Shapira of The Washington Post won the Hechinger Grand Prize in this year’s National Awards for Education Reporting for his investigative stories on the Virginia Military Institute His coverage detailed a culture and climate that venerated the Confederacy and too often tolerated racist language and behavior. 

9. Who’s Tracking Student Learning Loss? (Jan. 26, 2021)

Writing for The Seattle Times, Joy Resmovits offered insights, tips, and questions to ask of state and local education officials when looking at student learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

8. Why More Men Are Missing Out on College (Feb. 9, 2021) 

New data shows the decline in higher education enrollment is seven times as large for men as for women, exacerbating an already existing gender gap. This disparity could have serious long-term consequences for men’s career paths, said Jon Marcus, higher education editor for The Hechinger Report.

7. Let’s Talk About Teachers’ Unions (March 30, 2021)

How has the pandemic reconfigured the power structure in the nation’s second-largest school district? Howard Blume of The Los Angeles Times, who has covered public education for more than 20 years, laid out a blueprint for beat reporters looking at the reach of labor unions, especially amid the uncertainties and political turmoil of the pandemic. 

6. How Rural Schools Get Left Behind (Sept. 21, 2021) 

With vividly drawn characters and heartbreaking detail, veteran education journalist Casey Parks took readers of The New York Times Magazine deep inside the struggles of a rural school district in the Mississippi delta that is poised for a state takeover. 

5. The Real Story Behind Teacher Shortages (Oct. 5, 2021)

Across the country, school districts are grappling with staffing shortages that are making it tough to recover from the disruptions of the COVD-19 pandemic. Matt Barnum, a national reporter at Chalkbeat, broke down the data on the current landscape for school staffing, and debunked some often-repeated – but unsubstantiated – assumptions about what is driving what appears to be a growing crisis.

4. A Busing Program’s Troubled Legacy (March 3, 2021) 

Using extensive historical records, first-person interviews, and data analysis, reporters Olivia Krauth and Mandy McLaren of the Louisville Courier Journal dug into the longstanding and still controversial busing program in Jefferson County, Kentucky, which was ordered by a court to desegregate its schools in 1975. 

3. When School Board Meetings Become Battlegrounds (Oct. 19, 2021)

Across the nation, school boards find themselves on the front lines for debates over COVID-19 mask mandates and teaching about racism. Des Moines Register reporters Samantha Hernandez and Melody Mercado discussed what’s happening on the ground in Iowa, and how they approached covering heated meetings and campus controversies. 

2. Children, Schools and Guns (March 20, 2021)

America’s gun violence crisis is leaving its mark on multiple generations of young people, who don’t need to be victims or even direct witnesses to shootings to suffer lasting harm. That’s the big takeaway from The Washington Post’s John Woodrow Cox, who discussed his 2021 book, “Children Under Fire.” 

And the most popular EWA Radio episode of 2021 is … 

1. Who Is Miguel Cardona? (Jan. 19, 2021) 

Connecticut education commissioner Miguel Cardona surged into the national spotlight last winter as President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Education. Connecticut Mirror education reporters Jacqueline Rabe Thomas and Adria Watson offered insights from covering Cardona’s two-year tenure as the Nutmeg State’s top education official, and his years in his hometown of Meriden, where he spent the bulk of his career as a classroom teacher, principal, and administrator.