Tags : education

Data leads way to suspect tutoring companies

A little creative thinking and some simple tricks using Microsoft Access and Excel allowed us to report how criminals, cheaters and insiders were benefitting from subsidized tutoring in Florida.

Federal law requires the state to pay contractors to tutor poor kids in failing schools, and, because of the loose way in which the program was run, I expected to find abuses.

While trying to test this theory I did some seriously jury-rigged data work, but it got the job done.

First, I visited an online state directory of so-called supplemental educational services providers and exported a list of more than ...

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New digital book on future of journalism doubles as classroom tool

The Knight Foundation has published a new book titled "Searchlights and Sunglasses: Field Notes from the Digital Age of Journalism," which looks at the challenges facing journalism and includes essays on investigative reporting.

Written by Eric Newton of the Knight Foundation, the text is intended to double as a tool for journalism educators, with more than 1,000 lesson plans and resources.

The text is available at searchlightsandsunglasses.org. You can read more about the project on the Knight Blog or follow the conversation on social media with #edshift.

New webinar: Watchdogging Lions, Tigers, Bears, et al: Inside college sports

Jill Riepenhoff of The Columbus Dispatch shares tips on investigating college sports, from how to examine the rule book and find story ideas to using the NCAA's infraction database and digging into athletes' mysterious departures from their teams. Watch it here.

Riepenhoff has worked at The Columbus Dispatch since 1985 and as a projects reporter since 2004. She has investigated issues ranging from naughty teachers to naughty college athletes and coaches to naughty mortgage brokers. She's spent the past year peeling back the onion on the shadowy operations of the national credit-reporting agencies, which largely ignore complaints from ...

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Behind the Story: Orange County Register reporter stays patient and follows the money trail

Melody Petersen of The Orange County Register has two pieces of advice to offer reporters: stay patient and follow the money trail. Petersen investigated school bonds in Orange County after realizing schools were opting for expensive agreements that would push costs onto taxpayers decades after the initial bond was distributed. She found that school districts were accepting deals that would cost taxpayers more than 10 times the original amount in a special bond known as a capital appreciation bond.

Other reports from the Orange County Register state that the bond deals will cost Orange County districts $2 billion over the ...

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Fraud in the classroom: Cooking the books to make grades better

Test scores rocketed and plunged over several years at Annette Officer Elementary School in East St. Louis, Ill., often a telltale sign of tampering. The school district determined that cheating was “accepted practice. Photo: Hyosub Shin, AJC

In Atlanta, 35 educators were indicted in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal, all but three of whom had surrendered at the Fulton County jail by Wednesday morning. The cheating scandal was first reported by Atlanta Journal Constitution reporters, who used statistical tests to document test score irregularities. John Perry, who did the statistical analysis for the stories, explains in the latest IRE ...

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Behind the Story: Sweeping FOIAs, document-mining reveal problems with Norway kindergartens

By John Bones, Verdens Gang

Rather than a traditional front page, VG created this cover, which reads "Mom and dad think I am safe in the kindergarten, but is it true?"

It started like an ordinary news story last October. One of our reporters, Frank Haugsbo, made Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the five biggest cities in Norway to get access to the kindergarten inspection reports. While reading them, he saw a pattern of violation of law.

This gave VG the idea to investigate the whole country. The inspections are done by the different municipalities, so Frank Haugsbo ...

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Analysis shows cost of teacher absences

It didn't take too many records for us to realize that teacher absenteeism was a problem in western Pennsylvania public school districts. Districts were paying millions of dollars every year to place (sometimes under-qualified) substitute teachers inside classrooms, while paying teachers for taking time off for reasons that ranged from field trips to maternity leave, professional training to family sickness.

To gather the data needed for this project, we submitted state Right-to-Know Act requests to 73 school districts in seven counties.

One of the first challenges we faced was simply obtaining the requested public records.

In Pennsylvania, public agencies ...

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IRE part of new Google Journalism Fellowship

Investigative Reporters and Editors is pleased to be part of a new opportunity Google is launching for college journalism students. 

It's an exciting program, and here at IRE, the selected student will have the opportunity to do meaningful work with data, gain a deeper understanding of investigative reporting, be part of the annual IRE Conference that attracts journalists from around the world, and much more. Students start the program with a week at the Knight Foundation in June and conclude things with a week at Google headquarters in early August.

Here's what Google has to say about the ...

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Behind The Story: Comparing databases on bullying

Students head to lunch at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Council Bluffs. The school district reported 58 alleged incidents to the state in five years, arguably a low rate for an urban district of 9,000 students. David Purdy/The Register

In reporting, timing is everything.  For Des Moines Register reporter Kyle Munson, the topic of bullying in Iowa schools was reaching a climax as his work was being finalized.  During the release of his series “Bullying in Iowa,” Iowa had faced two deaths related to bullying incidents, the most recent involving a northwest Iowa teen who committed suicide after ...

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Going beyond the campus for coverage

By Mayra Cruz
@MayraC27

Campus coverage can be daunting, but looking beyond the campus is a way to get the story, Jennifer Wheeler of The Register-Mail said at “DataU: the databases you need to cover higher ed.”

From grants to graduation rates, one of the major databases to mine for information is the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS, which is compiled by the National Center for Educational Statistics. The IPEDS information contains a general overview of institutions, including enrollment, retention rates and budgets, among other items.

“It’s a robust source of information,” said Alex Richards of the ...

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