Staying Objective About School Coverage When you cover schools, you're supposed to look for hard evidence that educators are succeeding — test scores, graduation rates, lower rates of violence. But sometimes the little things create a strong impression. And it's hard to remain objective.

Staying Objective About School Coverage

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NPR's education correspondent Larry Abramson has been visiting schools in New Orleans. Here are some first impressions from his Reporter's Notebook.

LARRY ABRAMSON: I knew little about the school's test scores, about the qualifications of the teachers, whether they had a good music program, but the impression that lingered is that of an armed camp. Compare that with what I found across the town.

MANNING: Unidentified Students: Good afternoon, Mr. Manning.

ABRAMSON: KIPP Believe College Prep has a completely different aura. I have to confess I have a soft spot for this school. I visited it twice over the past school year. Why is that? Is it because of the nonstop thank yous?

MANNING: Thank you, Mendel(ph). Thank you, autumn, Casa(ph), and our team, Wellington, looks very focused and ready, and I wonder why.

ABRAMSON: There are lots of other ways to take the pulse of a school. Is there trash on the floor? Is the front office full of parents appealing suspensions? Is the building in good shape? Is there toilet paper in the bathrooms? These things often sound very damning on the radio and they stick in your mind, but how much do they really matter. For these kids, the future may depend more on numbers, graduation rates, test scores than on first impressions.

YDSTIE: Larry Abramson covers education for NPR. You can see and hear his stories on New Orleans schools at

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