Post and Courier education writer Diette Courrégé's coverage of controversial improvements in standardized test scores at a downtown Charleston school has been given top honors in the 2008 National Awards for Education Writing.
Courrégé received a first-place award in the "series or group of articles" category. The awards are given by the Education Writers Association, the national professional association of education reporters and writers. The annual contest honors the best education reporting in print and broadcast media.
"Diette worked tirelessly on this story, not only to get the story but also to make sure it was fair and accurate," said City Editor Shirley Greene, her supervisor. "She was meticulous and thorough, and her hard work paid off. We are all proud of her."
Courrégé's stories focused on Sanders-Clyde Elementary, a high-poverty downtown school that was one of the worst-performing in Charleston County. Everything changed when MiShawna Moore became its principal. The school improved dramatically, outscoring district and state averages. Moore was so successful that the district gave her another high-poverty school to transform, and the district held up her work as a model.
The school district decided to monitor the school's testing process, and Courrégé began hearing rumors about the validity of Sanders-Clyde's earlier test scores.
When new test results were released last fall, those at Sanders-Clyde had dropped dramatically, an average of 30 percentage points.
Courrégé recognized what it meant, not only for the school but also for the community.
She aggressively explored the reasons behind the massive test score plummet. She researched the school's previous test scores and found major inconsistencies that should have been red flags, and she expanded the scope of the story to pioneer an investigation into the state's efforts to track down educators who cheat. She doggedly pursued Moore until she agreed to her first interview on this issue.
The school's test score inconsistencies are under investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division.
Read the coverage for which Diette Courrege was recognized by the National Education Writers Association
The Miracle Worker: Leadership fuels change at Sanders-Clyde, Fraser, published 05/11/08
School under scrutiny: Test scores plummet after dramatic gains, published 09/10/08
Test-score decline stuns school community, published 09/11/08
High-stakes testing puts pressure on educators, published 09/14/08
Analysis reveals scores don't jibe; Second school's test scores also in question, published 09/28/08
Former principal breaks her silence; Moore denies any impropriety on tests, published 10/07/08
Teachers criticize test monitoring, published 10/12/08