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Home > Publications > Quill > Winner: Mills College Public Radio Reporting Class of 2007, KALW-FM


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Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Winner: Mills College Public Radio Reporting Class of 2007, KALW-FM

“The Drop Out Dilemma”

Jim Poyser

We can find out in five minutes how many cars crossed the Bay Bridge last month. It is shameful that we cannot know last year or in the decades prior how many students actually dropped out of California schools.

Mills College public radio reporters spent months with students in Oakland’s public schools, a district so beset by financial and organizational troubles that the state took over control of it in 2003.

They found a shocking statistic: in high schools around Oakland, as many as half of the current ninth-graders will leave school one day and never come back. For black and Latino males, the estimate is even higher: Studies show up to 75 percent of these young men will not graduate.

Something else stood out to these reporters: No one was paying much attention to this.

These undergraduate reporters — five sophomores and three seniors — spent the semester investigating funding, small schools, the achievement gap, charger schools, No Child Left Behind and more. The stories they brought back illustrated the root causes behind the problem and assessed the reforms the district is implementing to confront the issues.

This is all part of the larger mission of According to director Holly Kernan, “We focus on covering issues in a sustained manner over time, doing depth and enterprise reporting and creating a newsroom that reflects the diversity of the communities we cover. We are also dedicated to training the next generation of public interest reporters.”

Judges said, “The most outstanding element of this well-produced and compelling radio documentary was how the listener could feel the pain, challenges and struggles of the students, teachers and administrators interviewed. Each reporter is commended for their ability to draw out honest responses from each person they talked to.”

For one reporter, Melissa McDonough, an underlying issue became apparent: “Many of the students we encountered were not only having difficulty getting through school, but difficulty getting through life.”

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