New season of WHYY’s ‘Schooled’ podcast explores student trauma, charter school debate

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Public education is a topic many care deeply about. Creating successful schools that serve poor students of color is thought to be a defining civil rights issue of our time.

But what does that quest really look like up close, on a school day-by-school day basis?

Morning Edition host Jennifer Lynn discusses this with Kevin McCorry, host of the WHYY podcast “Schooled.” The second season of “Schooled” began this week and delves into this very question.

Good morning, Kevin.

Good morning, Jennifer.

Kevin, tell us about “Schooled,” Season 2.

It’s all about John Wister Elementary in Philadelphia’s East Germantown neighborhood. The school serves a predominantly poor, African-American student body. I spent more than two years following the changes that occurred in this school to produce this four-part narrative podcast.

A big part of the story follows Wister’s principal, Jovan Weaver. Jovan grew up poor in Philadelphia in the ’80s and ’90s and overcame a very difficult childhood. He never knew his father, and his mother became a drug dealer during the crack epidemic.

Kevin, Jovan’s story changes. As an adult, he becomes the principal of an elementary school, and this is no ordinary elementary school.

That’s right. As an education reporter, I covered this extensively at the time. It was a school run by the School District of Philadelphia that the superintendent said should be turned into a charter school based on low test scores and declining enrollment.

This podcast explores all the intrigue that went into this debate, and then it follows what happened after the charter conversion took place.

That’s right. I really ask these questions: Did that change make a difference for the kids who are some of the most vulnerable, needy children in our region? And if so, why? And at what cost?

So Jovan is the new principal who comes in, and the story becomes about if he can really live up to the promise of transformational change. Along the way, we get to know the school intimately through the eyes of students, parents, and teachers.

There’s going to be a lot of follow. It’s going to be very interesting. And we really appreciate your reporting.

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