My favorite work from 2017

2017 was a big one for me. After three years, my great writing fellowship ended, and for the past four months I’ve been freelancing full-time. Over the course of the year I’ve branched out into new areas, including book reviews and reported essays. I also took up more local reporting on Washington D.C., where I’ve been working for four years and living for two; that’s been a meaningful way for me to learn more about my city.

I published more than 60 pieces this year, and in keeping with the roundup tradition from 2016 and 2015, I wanted to reflect on some of the work I’m most proud of.

1. The Hour of the Attorneys General
This American Prospect magazine feature outlined the role Democratic AGs would play in the Trump-era, trying to forestall his agenda. The story was published in March and its predictions have held up pretty well so far. (See: here, here, here, and here for examples.)

2.  Desegregated, Differently
This was my final feature for The Prospect, which detailed a three decades-long battle in Hartford, Connecticut over desegregating their public schools.

3. This is the Wrong Way to Fight Inequality
I reviewed Richard Reeves’s ‘Dream Hoarders‘ for The New Republic. Spoiler: I did not like the book, and worked to explain why.

4. The Untold History of Charter Schools
I wrote an essay for Democracy Journal debunking the popular notion that charter schools are the brainchild of former American Federation of Teachers president Al Shanker. This narrative is commonly championed by both teacher unions and education reform advocates, muddying the movement’s real origins.

5.  Where DC Has Failed on Adult Education, Charters Fill the Void
My first piece for Washington City Paper — and a cover story! — detailed the overlooked world of adult education in the nation’s capital. D.C has a reputation for being a ‘highly educated’ city — but nearly 60,000 adults lack high school diplomas, and an estimated 90,000 are functionally illiterate. I looked at what options are available for adult learners, and why charters now play such a big role.

6. Why ‘Pay for Success’ Could Cost Taxpayers More Than They Bargained For
This piece looked at the rise of the “Pay for Success” movement — whereby private investors put up funds for social programs with measurable outcomes, and if the goals are met, the government will pay the investors back with interest. My reporting for this story was supported by a grant through the Leonard C. Goodman Institute for Investigative Reporting and In These Times.

7. Discrimination is Not De Facto
I reviewed Richard Rothstein’s ‘Color of Law’ for Slate — an important book that you should read and probably get your family to read too.

8. The Hopes and Fears Surrounding Ben Carson’s Favorite Public Housing Program
Following up on prior reporting I’ve done on the Rental Assistance Demonstration, I wrote this story for City Lab on public housing’s future in the Trump-era. I also spoke with some tenants who have had difficult experiences with the RAD program.

9. Under Trump, Liberals Rediscover School Segregation
I looked at the increased attention progressive groups and teacher unions have paid to issues of segregation and school choice since Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump came to power. I also note their earlier silence, and continued silence on matters of charter segregation.

10. Why Education is a Limited Determinant of Mobility
My first piece in The Atlantic looks at a growing body of research that suggests school quality is not the main factor impacting intergenerational mobility. This surprisingly incensed a few people so much I wrote a short follow-up to my critics 🙂

11. Parents Involved, A Decade Later
This year marked the ten-year anniversary of the last school desegregation case to reach the Supreme Court. I wrote something for The Prospect on the decision, and how the integration movement has evolved since 2007.

12. Late-Stage Abortion Provider Won’t Succumb to Protestors Who Forced Him Out of His Last Maryland Clinic
For The Intercept I wrote about LeRoy Carhart’s new abortion clinic in Bethesda, Maryland — one of just three places women can go for late-sage abortion care in the United States. He’s a 76-year-old retired Air Force surgeon and for the last seven years he has flown every week from his home in Nebraska to offer the procedure.

13. DC Charters Prize Their Autonomy. Does It Come At The Cost of Public Accountability?
This was my second cover story for Washington City Paper, and it looked at the contentious oversight landscape for D.C’s fast-growing charter sector — and how that can complicate citywide policymaking.

14. Civil Rights Groups Sue Ben Carson For Delaying Anti-Segregation Housing Reform
In August the Trump administration announced it would be blocking a policy that would allow low-income voucher holders to use their subsidy to move into higher-income neighborhoods. I was the first to report on a civil rights lawsuit challenging this move. This past week (two months after the story was published in The Intercept) a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction, meaning the policy will go into effect in January.

15. Larry Hogan Can Be Beat
My hottest take of 2017 is still correct.

These are just a few of the stories I wrote this year. If you’d like to read more, or receive updates in 2018, you can sign up for emails here. Otherwise thank you for reading, and happy New Year!


One thought on “My favorite work from 2017

  1. rachel,

    looking forward to the time when David Brooks decides to include one of your pieces in his own end-of-the-year review of great journalism. 🙂

    good to know that you are also advising Rebecca Zimmerman. saw her at LM, and watched her in action pursuing a goal locating some folks to help her understand the history of LMSD’s C.A.R.E. committee.

    encouraging, as I wrote Rebecca, to observe each of you pursue the truth.

    as always, with you, I look forward to learning what you plan next.

    best wishes, for a new year of goodness, for you, and for the republic.





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