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'Grading the Teachers' wins Scripps Howard public service award

March 18, 2011 | 12:42 pm

Editor Russ Stanton announced the following honors from the Scripps Howard National Journalism Awards:

Jason Felch, Jason Song, Doug Smith, Sandra Poindexter and Ken Schwencke on Friday were named winners of the public service award in the 57th annual Scripps Howard National Journalism Awards program for their groundbreaking series, "Grading The Teachers."

The judges said the project "involved both sophisticated data analysis and good old-fashioned reporting. A team of Times reporters looked at one of the most vexing questions in education today: how to identify effective and less-than-effective teachers. The Times conducted a "value added" analysis of teacher performance based on how students progressed year to year. It also sent reporters into more than 50 classrooms while other reporters spoke to teachers, administrators and parents. The Times then made all the data public and within hours, more than 200,000 Los Angeles residents logged on to see how their children's teachers rate. The series was a tremendous public service that shined a light on an important issue."

In addition, national reporter Faye Fiore was a finalist for the program's prestigious Ernie Pyle Award for human interest writing for her moving series on how the families of U.S. soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country are dealing with their loss. And freelancer Ted Rall was a finalist in editorial cartooning.

The Scripps Howard awards program is one of the oldest in journalism, having begun in 1953. It recognizes the best work in journalism in 18 categories. Times reporters and photographers previously have won 16 Scripps Howard awards, including current staffers Rob Greene, Steve Lopez, Ken Weiss, Davan Maharaj, Michael Robinson Chavez, Rick Loomis, Brian Vander Brug and Don Bartletti. The Scripps Howard awards are administered by a foundation of the same name, after the founders of the Cincinnati-based media company

The Scripps public service award is the second major honor to be bestowed on "Grading The Teachers." The series also won the Philip Meyer Journalism Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors and the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting. The judges in that contest called "Grading the Teachers" a "first-rate example of strong watchdog story-telling combined with innovative use of social science methods.''

The Meyer award is named for the professor emeritus and former Knight Chair of Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who wrote a 1972 book called "Precision Journalism," which explored the idea of using social science methods to do better journalism.

Congratulations to our winners and finalists.