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What we’re doing to listen more closely and feature new voices

Last month we began previewing the changes underway as we transition to Chalkbeat New York. Here’s the latest: more chances for you to shape the conversation about New York City schools.

We’ve always invited readers to comment on our stories, contribute to our community section, and attend our events. But we think it takes more than that for our coverage to reach new readers and reflect diverse experiences with the school system.

My job as community editor, a new position we designed with these goals in mind, is to create more opportunities for you to interact with reporters, share your experiences, and deepen our coverage of public schools. Here are four ways to get involved:

Talk to us

Chalkbeat Conversations are open-ended conversations between Chalkbeat reporters and community members, hosted by organizations in neighborhoods throughout the city. Instead of setting the agenda by interviewing participants about stories we already plan to write, we ask, “What most excites and frustrates you about the schools in your neighborhood?”

We held four conversations with parents this fall in collaboration with community organizations such as the New Settlement Parent Action Committee in the Bronx and La Union in Brooklyn. I attended each meeting, along with at least one other editor or reporter. If you’re interested in hosting or participating in a conversation with parents or teachers, email me at emmasr@chalkbeat.org.

Hold us accountable

For three years, our team has been meeting with a reader advisory board made up of teachers and other education professionals who help guide our direction, give us feedback, and keep us responsive to what readers actually care about. I keep in touch with our advisory board members and plan and facilitate meetings every other month. Steve Lazar, Sanda Balaban, Andy Snyder, and Chad Gleason are the founding members, and I’ll introduce each of them in more depth next month.

Write about your experience

When we launch our new website, this section will be renamed “First Person” to highlight what Philissa Cramer originally designed the section to provide: informed perspectives based on first-hand experience with the school system. There are limits to what we as journalists can know and understand. The First Person section is a place readers can hear directly from teachers, administrators, students, policymakers, and soon, we hope, from parents as well.

At a Chalkbeat Conversation in Brooklyn, reporter Patrick Wall hears about participants’ varied experiences as parents of English Language Learners.

At a Chalkbeat Conversation in Brooklyn, reporter Patrick Wall hears about participants’ varied experiences as parents of English Language Learners.

U.S. Department of Education

Email me if you’re interested in writing a First Person post, or if there’s a perspective missing from the section you’d like to see. As the editor of this section, my job is to build a diverse and dynamic network of contributors and edit the submissions we select for publication.

Bring students into the conversation

For the first time this fall, we teamed up with three teachers who wanted to expose their students to education reporting and encourage them to write about their own experiences in school.

One teacher built a unit on education journalism into her English class, another is teaching a journalism elective, and a third is helping students in the newspaper club she advises think about how to connect their articles to broader conversations about education.

As part of this project, I run workshops for the participating teachers’ students, who then write and submit their own pieces to First Person. We’ve received submissions from other schools as well, and I’m currently working with several students to edit their work for publication. Keep an eye out for their posts in the next few weeks, and for updates on all of these projects in the new year.