Feedback loop

After one month as Chalkbeat, a few more website tweaks on the way

Happy one month anniversary to being a Chalkbeat New York reader!

It was a month ago today that we relaunched with a new name and a new look. Since then, we’ve focused on our core mission: reporting and publishing thorough education journalism about New York City’s schools.

But we’ve also been paying close attention to the emails, phone calls, and conversations we’ve had about our new site. We’ve gotten rave reviews, fierce criticism, and lots of questions about the decisions we made.

Now, we want to explain some more of those decisions, preview a few changes, and ask for additional feedback that we can use in the coming months as we make adjustments.

The critique we’ve heard most often is that Rise & Shine is less accessible. Our goal in overhauling the look of Rise & Shine was to address criticism that the bullet-point list we used to publish was hard to read, so we expanded the font size and added subject headers to orient readers. But we agree that now it takes too long to get through something that should be a quick read at the beginning of the day. So starting next week, the font size on Rise & Shine will be smaller and it will take you less time to scroll through each morning.

We’ve also heard from readers who miss our Remainders feature, where we collected interesting links about education every day. As we noted when we launched, we wanted to feature links on an ongoing basis instead of once a day, so we built the What We’re Reading — and that’s working great for our other bureaus. But in New York City, it just doesn’t accommodate the volume of content that’s worth highlighting. So in the near future, we will start experimenting with ways to bring links roundups back to Chalkbeat New York. Stay tuned.

The third big bucket of questions we’ve gotten has been about reader comments. Some readers have questioned why our new homepage doesn’t display recent comments, and others have noted that it’s impossible to see from the homepage whether a story has comments. We value reader comments, but we had to make choices in our redesign, and those were some of the things that got left out. (We tried to compensate by showing how many comments a story has at the top of each article; clicking the speech bubble there will zoom you down to the comments section.) How do you think our comments section can be more accessible?

We’re going to continue to improve our website over time, and we’re happy to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment or contact us with your ideas.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.