Why the Joyce Foundation Chose a Wall Street Journal Reporter to Lead Its Education Program

When journalists go into the foundation world, it's almost always to take communications jobs. And many are not exactly thrilled to leave their dying industry to become philanthro-flacks. But Stephanie Banchero is coming in on the program side, and at a high level. 

“It's not easy to leave journalism, wrote Banchero, a lead national writer for the Wall Street Journal. “It has been part of my identity and my soul for more than two decades.”

But it's a lot easier to leave journalism when you're moving to a plum job at a big foundation. So when the Joyce Foundation offered Banchero the position of Senior Program Officer for its Education Program, she took it.

We don't often see foundations hiring journalists for program jobs, but Joyce's decision in this case makes a lot of sense, and is refreshing, too. Banchero’s research and writing background make her exceptionally qualified. At The Wall Street Journal, she covered national and state Kindergarten through 12th grade education issues. “I am very excited about this new opportunity, and about the chance to become an ‘actor’ after having been an ‘observer’ for so long,” she wrote.

The Joyce Foundation was drawn to Banchero’s background because she wrote extensively about many of the issues that Joyce addresses with its grantmaking. K-12 teacher effectiveness and charter schools top that list. “We’ve followed her reporting of national education issues for years, and she demonstrates a rich understanding of the issues facing America’s educators, parents and students, Joyce President, Ellen S. Alberding, said in a press release.

Banchero graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor’s in Communications and from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism with a Master’s. She was once the president of the National Education Writers Association, and she won a Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University in 2008. Back in 2004, Banchero wrote a lengthy series about the “No Child Left Behind” transfer option, one of the most expensive education experiments in American history.

Banchero’s journalism career gave her a rare peek into American schools and insights that the average policymaker would never have access to. In her new role, Banchero will lead Joyce’s $8 million annual education grantmaking portfolio. She’ll be working with Education Program Officer Jason Quiara, who led the program while Joyce searched for a senior leader, to evaluate programs that improve teacher quality, charter school quality, and early literacy.

Similar to the Joyce Foundation itself, Banchero has education policy experience at both the local and the national level. Although much of her education reporting has covered large national issues, she also covered education issues in Chicago for 13 years at the Chicago Tribune. Banchero officially begins her new job on May 12, 2014. In the meantime, you can learn more about the grantmaking program that she’s walking into on the foundation’s Education Program page and follow her on Twitter