A Parent’s Guide to Public Schools (2019 Finalist)


Before launching the guide, Voice of San Diego (VOSD) did a podcast episode about the challenges parents faced in dealing with the system of school choice in San Diego, as the schools children attend aren’t dictated by geography. We were immediately inundated with questions, which led to the creation of the print guide that could function as a consumer reports-style tool for schools.

The year we began, California had just launched a new online dashboard tracking student performance and other factors like suspension, absentee, and graduation rates. We realized we could collect other data like which schools offered dual language or International Baccalaureate programs, or which were charter or magnet schools.

In early 2018, we published the first issue. The second edition was released in February 2019, with plans for future editions in the works.

The guide explains what’s available, provides advice about how to choose a school, and presents school performance data in an easy-to-use format. It’s available in English and Spanish, both electronically on our website and as a printed magazine. An interactive map showing the location and performance data of each school is also available online.

VOSD works with two partners to produce the content. UC San Diego analyzes and formats the data and the San Diego Workforce Partnership covers topics like vocational training. We also partnered with the local Univision affiliate to share the guide with their audience. They created on-air ads promoting the community meetings and featured several pieces of content on their evening news program.

We expanded distribution to 50,000 families in 2019 and partnered with community organizations, public libraries, and preschools to ensure parents with children entering kindergarten have access to the information.

We hosted community meetings at local library branches in a variety of neighborhoods. Our journalists introduced the guide’s content, answered questions, and solicited feedback on the project. Attendees were unanimously enthusiastic; several stopped by our office to pick up additional copies to distribute within their communities. 

Based on reader feedback, we included prepaid reply cards in each copy to help shape future content for the guide. We also added more information about the availability of subsidized after-school care and simplified the explanations with more visuals. All of the content created for the guide can be repurposed in our education newsletter, on social media, or on our podcast, and has helped us generate new story ideas for our reporting.

Read Current’s coverage of this project.