First Prize

REBIRTH: New Orleans

Source: Learning Matters

REBIRTH: New Orleans

Judges’ Comments

“John Merrow’s efforts in trying to understand the creation of an entirely new school system from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is exemplary reporting.  Crucial historical context, stats and research to add context, vibrant personal stories, strong pacing that keeps us engaged from the start. Marsalis’s music score is icing on the cake. Explains the issues, raises the important questions surrounding the new mission of ‘rebirth.’  An important topic, with lessons for the rest of the country, really gets into the nitty-gritty of school politics, the risks of privatization vs. the risks of staying with a failing status quo. Lots of tension and strong storytelling.  Powerful storytelling and an important historical document which, despite its unique story about New Orleans schools after Katrina, speaks to issues facing other urban districts. A winner.”

“It’s clear that years of deep reporting went into the project, and the repeated check-ins with superintendents, students, and charter-school leaders pay off, giving the piece some compelling characters and a strong narrative arc. Interviews with a very wide pool of experts, observers, and skeptics provide very valuable context throughout, and the piece does a solid job of exploring the upside and the downside of Teach for America and charter schooling.”