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Lupe Sanchez, an undocumented student born in Mexico, sits in a class on the UCLA campus where she is in her first year. The Hechinger Report is dedicated to top-notch higher education coverage and keeps an eye on the issues unique to immigrant students at all levels.
Lupe Sanchez, an undocumented student born in Mexico, sits in a class on the UCLA campus where she is in her first year. The Hechinger Report is dedicated to top-notch higher education coverage and keeps an eye on the issues unique to immigrant students at all levels. Credit: Iris Schneider

Since we started our end-of-the-year fundraising campaign, we’ve raised nearly $20,000 from readers who trust us to bring them in-depth, thoughtful news coverage of America’s schools. Thanks to the generosity of the Knight Foundation, many of those dollars will be doubled. Knight’s promise to match any donation of up to $1,000 extends until January 19. We still need your help to reach our goal of raising $25,000 by that date. Please, join us. Become a member today. Read more about why we think robust, unbiased education coverage matters now, more than ever in this story from December.

We didn’t hear much about schools during this year’s brutal presidential campaign, but we know now that education played a huge role in deciding the outcome. The lines dividing our country are often nurtured in the nation’s kindergartens and grow wider as young people split off to enroll in elite colleges, public universities, community colleges – or don’t go to college at all.

Education can also unite us. This idea is the bedrock of our public education system.

Public schools enroll 91 percent of the country’s preschool through 12th grade students. What happens in American classrooms and, later, on American campuses will determine if those 50.4 million children will grow into adults who can compete for the new jobs of the 21st century. Just as importantly, it will determine whether they’ll see each other as fellow citizens and neighbors, or treat each other as the enemy within.

Here at The Hechinger Report, we’re inside those classrooms and exploring those campuses every day to find out whether we’re on track to a better future. And we need your help.

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Often, the problems we find seem overwhelming: Schools in rural towns and burgeoning cities both have been plagued by critical teacher shortages. Discipline policies that can result in criminal charges target black and Hispanic children, fueling the school-to-prison pipeline. Achievement goals change without corresponding help for schools, sowing anger and confusion among teachers and parents. American students still lag behind their international counterparts, with some states and groups of students falling far behind others. And the stark segregation, along lines of both race and class, that has long bedeviled efforts to make public schools a level playing field and help unite Americans seems only to be getting worse.

Social class and race still largely determine whether students get access to the best colleges and universities. College costs are rising, putting quality higher education further out of reach for many students. And even as colleges pledge to diversify, black professors say racism is alive and well in academia.

But our reporting also gives us hope that there are solutions, even for the most intractable challenges in American schools. A high school in Brooklyn where every black male student, most from poor households, graduates and most go to college shows that “achievement gaps” aren’t a given. A school in New Hampshire that’s transformed from one of the worst in the state to a Petri dish of innovative ideas proves school turnaround can work. Oklahoma has embraced a statewide universal preschool program that could be a model the whole country could replicate. College students in Hawaii are getting needed help to graduate in just four years, and micro-loans offered to low-income students at Georgia State University have increased graduation rates while costing the school less than replacing drop-outs with new students.

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At The Hechinger Report, we keep a needed eye on our country’s largest taxpayer-funded system and we remain constantly on the lookout for better ways forward.

The news business is struggling. Revenues have declined and education desks have been decimated. At The Hechinger Report, we are offering a nonprofit solution, but we can’t do this critical work alone. We depend on donations to help us produce the high-caliber stories our readers have come to expect. As our editor-in-chief, Liz Willen, puts it: “Knowing we can count on your support will allow us to reach further, aim higher and innovate faster.”

Please, join us. Become a Hechinger member today. Be part of the solution.

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The Hechinger Report provides in-depth, fact-based, unbiased reporting on education that is free to all readers. But that doesn't mean it's free to produce. Our work keeps educators and the public informed about pressing issues at schools and on campuses throughout the country. We tell the whole story, even when the details are inconvenient. Help us keep doing that.

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