BGA Shares Award Nomination For Education Stories

Among the articles recognized was a BGA/WBEZ story about false graduation rates at Chicago Public Schools.

A series of news stories on Chicago Public Schools co-authored by Sarah Karp and Becky Vevea in conjunction with the Better Government Association, Catalyst Chicago and WBEZ radio was announced as a finalist in the 2015 National Awards for Education Reporting.

The awards are overseen by the Education Writers Association and recognize excellence in education reporting.

The BGA/Catalyst/WBEZ stories were collectively titled “Dropouts in Chicago: How the City Both Helped Them and Ignored Them,” and were honored in the investigative reporting category for “magazines & weeklies.”

Among the news stories recognized was one from June 10, 2015, headlined “Emanuel touts bogus graduation rate.

The article begins:

“Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been talking proudly about something that is really a bit of a miracle: Even during a time of tight budgets and leadership chaos, Chicago Public Schools graduation rates have climbed to a record 69.4 percent.”

“But new data obtained by WBEZ and the Better Government Association shows that number is wrong.”

“CPS records recently obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act show at least 2,200 students from 25 Chicago high schools were counted as having transferred out of the district between 2011 and 2014. In reality, they were dropouts. The transfers aren’t factored into CPS graduation rates, while dropouts are.”

Later, CPS revised the rates and changed the way they are calculated in response to the findings of the Karp/Vevea investigation.

The final winners of the contest will be announced in May. Meanwhile, the judges remarked about this series:

“The journalists did consistently, fairly and well the type of questioning work that every good beat reporter owes the public. In doing that, they got behind the facades of success that are easy to gin up, and they exposed a corrupt system for what it was. Their work was significant enough that the authorities responsible had to go back and revise the inaccurate numbers they had claimed were the hallmarks of their success, and an investigation was launched. That is a crowning hallmark of success for a journalist."