The Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) has awarded the Alabama School Connection a grant to support a journalism project to examine schools that are showing measurable success educating students with disabilities through special education.
The SJN grant will allow us the opportunity to visit and see for ourselves what successful schools are doing to educate children with disabilities as part of our year-long look at special education. We will bring back to our readers real solutions and provide a fresh look at how Alabama’s students in special education could achieve at higher levels.
SJN President and Chief Operating Officer Keith Hammonds shared why they support reporting projects such as this one: “We believe that these powerful, evidence-informed stories — like the Alabama School Connection’s investigation of special education — can reframe public discourse by surfacing new opportunities to help communities come together and engage in collaborative action.”
We wrote about achievement levels of Alabama’s children in special education in January.
With evidence from national assessments showing students in surrounding states achieving at higher levels, we want to find out why…and, specifically we want to find what schools in those states are doing that result in more student success.
The SJN grant will support expenses incurred while traveling to schools in surrounding states to learn first-hand what teachers and students are doing.
While we’re at it, we’ll talk with teacher preparation program officials to learn how they’re preparing teachers for the challenges they’ll face educating children with disabilities.
I was fortunate to be chosen to attend a workshop in Seattle in late January where selected journalists could learn more about Solutions Journalism as it relates to education reporting. The two-day workshop, sponsored by the SJN and hosted by The Seattle Times, gave participants an up-close look at how solutions-oriented stories are created.
While I’ve been a fan of solutions journalism since discovering it a few years ago, being given the opportunity to explore the solutions-oriented approaches alongside education journalists from across the country was nothing short of fantastic.
SJN partnered with The Seattle Times in 2013 to create Education Lab, where the Times’ journalists are given a deeper space to explore and create solutions-oriented stories.
And wow, what a space they’ve created. Check it out. And check out this video highlighting how Education Lab has “moved the needle”.
Hammonds, who led the Seattle workshop, offered this explanation as to why a solutions-oriented approach is so important: “By highlighting credible possibilities, solutions journalism stories subvert historic narratives that suggest that society’s challenges are too daunting or too complex to fix. This technique shifts the traditional journalistic framing of questions from: ‘How did we get here?’ and ‘Who is to blame?’ to future-oriented concerns such as: ‘Who is doing this work better?’ and ‘What can we learn from them?'”
Hammonds further described his organization’s mission: “The Solutions Journalism Network is an independent, non-profit organization that works to build capacity for credible and compelling reporting on the responses to social challenges. We offer selected newsrooms the training, financial support, and other resources to pursue ambitious reporting projects that examine effective or promising (but often under-reported) responses. We look for projects focused on education, public health, violence, and other issues that are likely to generate important stories and lead to social impact.”
We are deeply grateful for the opportunity the SJN’s support provides.
Look for the completed project in late summer.