May 16, 2013

Colin Woodard's virtual schools report up for 2nd major prize

From staff reports

PORTLAND - Colin Woodard, a reporter for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, has been named a finalist for a Gerald Loeb Award for his report on the profit motive behind virtual schools that were seeking to open in Maine.

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Colin Woodard's stories revealed how out-of-state companies attempting to open virtual charter schools in Maine were shaping the state's digital education policies.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

The winners will be announced next month by the G. and R. Loeb Foundation Inc. The awards were established by Gerald Loeb, a founder of E.F. Hutton, to encourage business and financial reporting.

Woodard is a finalist in the category for small and medium-size newspapers.

Woodard, the state and national affairs reporter for the MaineToday Media-owned newspapers, previously won a George Polk Award for the investigative report, which looked at the influence exerted by for-profit online education companies on the Maine Department of Education.

The two-part report was published Sept. 2 in the Maine Sunday Telegram. The stories revealed how two out-of-state companies that wanted virtual charter schools in Maine were shaping the state's digital-education policies. His work also showed how the companies' schools in other states have fared poorly in studies of students' achievement.

The report exposed Mainers to the questionable records of K12 Inc. of Herndon, Va., and Connections Learning of Baltimore -- the nation's largest online education companies. Applications for charter schools backed by the companies were eventually rejected by the Maine Charter School Commission.

Woodard, a Maine native, has been a foreign correspondent and has written four books.

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