Edward Snowden has been characterized as many things in recent weeks, but journalists' discounting him as a "high-school dropout" speaks volumes about media portrayals of education.
Bill O’Reilly– whose network is known on-air fantasies about murdering public figures, jokes about the assassination of the president, and is the only network named by more than one spree killer as having helped to inspire their murderous designs–is worried that the country is becoming too disrespectful.
You can get away with almost anything if you're attacking teachers' unions in the corporate media. New York Times columnist Joe Nocera (9/11/12) explains that while the so-called "reform" movement hasn't come up with the right answers on schools: On the other hand, the status quo, which is what the Chicago teachers want, is clearly unacceptable. In Chicago, about 60 percent of public school students graduate from high school. A Washington Post editorial (9/11/12): The administration has championed reforms much like those the Chicago local is fighting. And with good reason: A scandalously low 56 percent of Chicago students graduate […]
Labor actions like the current strike by the Chicago Teachers Union usually involves two sides presenting very different takes on the important issues that separate them. The New York Times story on the strike (9/10/12) by Monica Davey gives a fairly comprehensive account of what the school district thinks about its offers to the union. But the union's side of the story is hard to find. The Times calls it "a dispute over wages, job security and teacher evaluations." That isn't false, but that framing makes it seem like teachers are looking to protect a narrow set of interests. If you […]
Last night (6/4/12) the PBS NewsHour launched "a series about teachers, testing and accountability in public schools." And while I'm sure there will be some bright spots, the rollout was a reminder of some of the big problems in media coverage of public education. At the top of the show anchor Jeffrey Brown announced, "Our first part includes the views of one of the more outspoken reformers and players in this debate." That terminology, so prevalent in the schools debates, should be avoided. If the corporate-minded, pro-charter test-obsessed are the "reformers," then what does that make someone who disagrees with […]
New York Times columnist Gail Collins had a good critique of standardized testing and the No Child Left Behind law (4/28/12), weighing in on the "Pineapplegate" controversy about a bizarre question that appeared on a New York English exam. She writes: We have turned school testing into a huge corporate profit center, led by Pearson, for whom $32 million is actually pretty small potatoes. Pearson has a five-year testing contract with Texas that's costing the state taxpayers nearly half-a-billion dollars. Indeed. But then comes this: This is the part of education reform nobody told you about. You heard about accountability, […]
The New York Times, along with a few other media outlets, went to court to win the right to publish Teacher Data Reports–the "value-added" ratings for some 18,000 New York City public schoolteachers. The Times explains today–accurately–that the numbers are seriously flawed: Even before their release, the ratings have been assailed by independent experts, school administrators and teachers who say there are large margins of error–because they are based on small amounts of data, the test scores themselves were determined by the state to have been inflated, and there were factual errors or omissions, among other problems. So why publish […]
A new research paper by a team of economists got a lot of pretty favorable press because it appears to deliver results that would seem to confirm what many in the media believe about American schools: If you could just use standardized test scores to weed out underperforming teachers, you would see serious improvement in school achievement. Media coverage often glosses over the core problem here, which is how you measure teacher performance in the first place. The "value-added" research that is touted by many pundits–using test scores to determine a teacher's effectiveness–is controversial in large part because critics don't […]
There's an interesting piece at the Huffington Post (9/27/11) by Joy Resmovits about what some critics of the corporate-backed NBC Education Nation conference are saying. Even though some are crediting NBC for a more balanced program than last year, not everyone's ready to give the network a passing grade: While some lauded the increased balance and depth at this year's Education Nation, retired New York City teacher and Grassroots Education Movement member Norm Scott gave [NBC News president Steve] Capus an earful on Tuesday. "People see an absence of the word 'class size' in these debates," he told Capus. "This […]
A headline today at the Washington Post (6/3/11) reads, "A Reprieve for Higher-Ed Companies?" A more honest headline might have been, "A Reprieve for Us?" The story discusses congressional action on a bill that would increase oversight of private, for-profit colleges, since many students take out government-subsidized student loans in order to attend such schools. Critics argue that the schools do a poor job of preparing students for the workforce. The Post discloses its interests, though a bit late–in the 14th paragraph of a 22-paragraph story: "Half a dozen leading firms in for-profit education–including the Washington Post Co. on behalf […]
Is the Washington Post hoping readers only read headlines? At a glance, "Study: KIPP Charter Schools Have Extra Edge" (3/31/11) would seem to be just another in the Washington Post Co.'s toutings of charter schools in general and KIPP schools in particular (Extra!, 9/10) Readers who actually click through though, might be surprised to learn what the "edge" consists of: A study by researchers at Western Michigan University found that the KIPP network "benefits from significant private funding and student attrition." Students receive more than $5,000 a year per pupil through private donations on top of regular sources of public […]