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SNN is having an impact on the perception of local education

Prepared by Erin Albanese, associate managing editor for School News Network

“Eighty-one percent of parents and 87 percent of school staff who are School News Network readers say that SNN helps them be more informed about their schools.”

When we started SNN, an innovative journalism effort covering Kent County area schools, in 2013, one of the outcomes we were hoping for was to inform people about local education. We wanted to cover schools like no other media outlet were doing — to provide consistent, accurate and quality coverage of the learning taking place inside classrooms every day, in every school district. We wanted to shine a light on the accomplishments and hard work of teachers and students.

Related: Our ‘Window into Your Public Schools’ builds confidence

Telling the stories of our public schools

That’s our mission. Thank you for reading and keep those suggestions coming!

Now, six years later, according to our Winter 2019 School News Network Readers Survey completed by marketing and community research firm Gartner and Associates, it’s clear we are fulfilling that mission.

To date, our professional reporters have written well over 3,000 stories covering myriad topics, delving into important issues and showing the engaging ways instruction is happening in our schools. We’ve covered successes, but also the challenges and issues facing educators, students and their families. We’ve been advocates for public education from the start, and now have so many examples of how and why it’s working and serving children in West Michigan.

Two more statistics show the impact SNN has had on people’s views of education:

  • Almost three-fourths of parents, or 71 percent, and school staff, 73 percent, who read SNN say our articles have favorably influenced their view of their district. This includes 20 percent of parents and 21 percent of school staff who replied “much more favorably.”
  • Three-fourths of parents, or 74 percent, and 79 percent of school staff who read SNN say our articles have favorably influenced their view of public education in the West Michigan area. This includes 25 percent of parents and 31 percent of school staff who replied “much more favorably.”
  • 86% of parents and 84% of school staff who are SNN readers give an A or B grade to their own district in which they reside.
  • Slightly more than three-fourths of parents (76%) and school staff (77%) who are SNN readers give an A or B grade to West Michigan public school education.

Another reason we began SNN was to counter the common national perception that public schools are failing. The survey results are particularly important because SNN is working to show this isn’t the case – that there’s robust learning taking place every day inside schools.

Said one respondent, “It brings programs and people, and what schools are accomplishing, much more to the forefront than any other source of information.”

And from a teacher: “I can read about all the unique, exciting and positive things that are going on in many school districts. I love how it celebrates the positive. It also inspires me to be a better teacher, gives me a deeper perspective about my students and reminds me to think outside the box.”

Survey respondents also indicated that they are getting more of their education news at SNN than from other media outlets.

  • Two-thirds of parents (66%) and three-fourths of school staff (75%) who read SNN say we are more informative about West Michigan public education and its related issues compared to other sources of news and information. This includes 31% of parents and 36% of school staff who replied “much more informative.”

Readers also told us what they would like to see more of: sports; special education; and issues on funding, equity and other challenges. We are listening! We take reader suggestions seriously and over our six years, many of our improvements have come from you.

To that end, we are about to launch Sports Spotlight, aimed at featuring interesting stories of athletes and teams in our schools.

As for funding, this package was being developed as our survey was finishing:

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


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