Class size report reaches diverse communities

California Watch, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, is implementing a new distribution model to reach diverse California communities in multimedia formats.

On November 19, California Watch published an in-depth report, which found that class sizes in K-3 grades in California are reverting in some districts to levels not seen for over a decade, despite more than $20 billion spent on a program to reduce class size.

Since then, the story has been distributed in five languages, through a variety of media outlets – web, broadcast, and print – highlighting California Watch’s approach of focusing on important statewide issues with local appeal and collaborating with media outlets to customize the content and engage local communities. The combined daily print circulation was close to 1,000,000. Many more Californians had access to the story through television, radio and Web-based media.

Distribution outlets included the following:

  • Through a new collaboration with New America Media, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese translations of the story were distributed to ethnic media around the state. The story ran in The Cali Today (Vietnamese), La Opinion (Spanish), Nguoi Viet (Vietnamese), Sing Tao Daily (Chinese), sina.com (Chinese), Sun-Reporter (African-American), TheLoop21 (African-American), Viet Tribune (Vietnamese), IndyBayArea and topix.com. New America Media also supplemented California Watch’s coverage, with essays by young people from the Central Valley about how crowded classrooms impact their learning experience, and with a report on how class sizes affect African-American students.
  • The Los Angeles Daily News, San Diego Union Tribune, Modesto Bee and Oakland Tribune published the story on their front pages. The Contra Costa Times, San Mateo County Times, Tri-Valley Herald, Fremont Argus and Hayward Daily Review also carried the story.
  • KGO-TV (San Francisco) and KCRA-TV (Sacramento) produced television news reports to supplement the California Watch story. (KCRA is a new media partner for California Watch.)
  • As part of a newly formed partnership with KQED FM, a 6 ½ minute radio report on class size, produced by Michael Montgomery, hired jointly by KQED and California Watch, was broadcast on KQED’s The California Report, airing on 28 public radio stations around the state. KQED’s call-in talk show Forum dedicated an hour to the subject, including participation by the story’s co-author, Louis Freedberg.
  • The story appeared on more than a dozen Web sites, including truthdig.com, newamericamedia.org, educatedguess.org, and those of all the media partners. It was made available to Associated Press subscribers around the state through AP’s Marketplace feature.

The story was accompanied by a set of interactive tools produced by California Watch including a state-by-state comparison of teacher-student ratios, a Web video featuring interviews with teachers from Plummer Elementary School in Los Angeles, and an interactive map with detailed information on class sizes in the state’s 30 largest school districts. The full report, plus related multimedia material, can be viewed at www.californiawatch.org.

About The Investigation

California Watch reporters Louis Freedberg and Hugo Cabrera took an in-depth look at a class-size reduction program initiated in 1996 that provided generous subsidies to schools that limited K-3 classrooms to 20 students per teacher. Since then, the state has invested over $20 billion to keep classes at or close to that level. Today, most of California's largest school districts are increasing class sizes – some to as many as 30 students -- eroding the most expensive education reform in the state’s history. The shift has parents and teachers concerned that the academic performance of millions of children will suffer. California’s K-12 teacher-student ratios already rank 48th in the nation. The overall project was coordinated and edited by editorial director Mark Katches.

About California Watch and The Center for Investigative Reporting

California Watch, the largest investigative team operating in the state, was launched in 2009 by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR). Priority areas of coverage include education, health and welfare, public safety, the environment and the influence of money on the political and regulatory process. The goal is to expose hidden truths, prompt debate and spark change. California Watch receives funding from The James Irvine Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Founded in 1977, the Center for Investigative Reporting is the nation's oldest nonprofit investigative news organization. CIR reports have reached the public through television, print, radio and the web, appearing in outlets such as 60 Minutes, PBS Frontline, NPR, The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Politico and U.S. News & World Report. CIR stories have received numerous journalism awards including the Alfred I. du Pont-Columbia University Silver Baton, George Polk Award, Emmy Award, Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, and National Magazine Award for Reporting Excellence. More importantly, its reports have sparked congressional hearings and legislation, United Nations resolutions, public interest lawsuits and change in corporate policies. CIR founded California Watch to help create a new model for regional investigative and other high-impact reporting.

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