Philadelphia’s The Notebook gets the scoop on school cheating

Communities / Article

Cross-posted from informationneeds.org

The Notebook, a Knight Community Information Challenge winner that covers education in Philadelphia, is featured in The New York Times as an example of a small news organization that was able to produce a significant investigation through persistence and partnerships.

A partnership with a local public radio station, WHYY, enabled The Notebook’s editor, Paul Socolar, to hire a fourth reporter for the site in July. On the new reporter’s third day on the job, he was asked to take a look at a large data file that had been sitting unexamined for a couple of months because no one had time to look at it.

By day’s end, the site broke the story that a “total of 89 schools — 28 in Philadelphia — had been flagged by the state for, among other things, an improbably high number of erasures, as well as questionable gains on reading and math tests.”

Thus, the small site broke the Pennsylvania chapter  of a story that is sweeping the country. Describing the work of The Notebook, the Times said:

And that is how Pennsylvania became the latest in a growing list of states facing a cheating scandal. Never before have so many had so much reason to cheat. Students’ scores are now used to determine whether teachers and principals are good or bad, whether teachers should get a bonus or be fired, whether a school is a success or failure.

The Notebook is a project of the William Penn Foundation.