Lesson: Analyze the Pros’ Use of Documents in Reporting


Analyze the Pros Use of Documents in Reporting


Students will read and discuss the One Story selection ‘Obscene’ Paycheck:  Centinela Valley superintendent’s compensation of $663,000 comes as state wants more transparency, evaluate the reporting and sources used and discover what happened after the story was published.


  • Students will read and discuss an investigative story based on document research.
  • Students will review documents used in reporting.
  • Students will draw conclusions about how the reporting was conducted.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3 Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.


One 50-minute class

Materials / resources

Class set of Obscene Paycheck PDF (or access to Internet for http://www.dailybreeze.com/social-affairs/20140208/centinela-valley-schools-chief-amassed-663000-in-compensation-in-2013)

Access to Internet for http://www.dailybreeze.com/centinela-valley-investigation

Assessment and key

Lesson step-by-step

Flipped classroom option: Assign the reading noted in materials above as homework before class.

  1. Build background; tap prior knowledge – 10-15 minutes

Start by asking students for any examples of investigative journalist and journalism that led to changes in the world or community.  Two high-profile examples are the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team and the uncovering of child sexual abuse by priests, which finally caused the church to admit wrongdoing and defrock abusive priests, and the Washington Post’s Woodward and Bernstein Watergate team, which led to the resignation of President Nixon. Accept all examples, and push for explanations of outcomes to the reporting and discuss the work involved, including the need for documents and databases as sources.

  1. Read – 15 minutes

Students will read the first story about the Centinela Valley School superintendent with the “obscene” compensation package.  You may assign this as silent reading during class, or as homework before class. If assigned as homework, you may include this story as part of your overall discussion of investigative reporting or move more quickly to the next step.

  1. Activity and Assessment – 15 minutes

Pass out the assessment and ask students to work individually or in pairs to find the answers to the questions.  Question 10 requires them to search for subsequent coverage to discover what happened, so some Internet access will be required.  Allow students to work in groups or use their personal technology to look up the additional Daily Breeze stories.

  1. Closure – 5 minutes

Ask students to share what they thought of the story and its outcome. Discuss the use of documents that were complicated to understand.  Draw attention to the end of the story where one source is described as an expert who helped the report “deconstruct the contract.”

Collect completed handouts or assign as homework.


The teacher or a group leader may read the story aloud to groups of lower-level readers.  Providing the story ahead of time and assigning as homework will provide additional time for slower readers.  To complete the assignment, student may work individually or in pairs to help each other discover the answers to the questions.