Sep
01
2010

Media's Favorite School 'Reformer'

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee

After Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty pushed for a mayoral takeover of the city’s school system and dissolved the school board, he chose a relative unknown to take charge. But it wouldn’t take long before she would become a national media darling. Fenty’s pick was Michelle Rhee, a Teach for America graduate who had taught for only three years at urban schools in Baltimore before founding a non-profit organization, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), where she spent the next 10 years. Under Rhee’s leadership, TNTP promoted the idea that since good education came from good teachers, the way to improve […]

Sep
01
2010

Knowledge Is Power-and So Is Ownership

This section was originally printed with Media's Favorite School 'Reformer'. The national charter school network KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) is frequently cited by media as an example of the cure for what ails the country’s schools. Few outlets are more zealous in this regard than Newsweek, which makes it noteworthy that KIPP’s D.C. branch boasts as a boardmember Donald Graham, chair of the Washington Post Co., owners of Newsweek until August 2010. (Also on the 12-member D.C. board are David Bradley, owner of the Atlantic, and Suzanne Clark, president of the National Journal Group.) Some of what Newsweek has […]

Sep
01
2010

Letters to the Editor

Concern for Kindle I love Extra!, but I have a concern with the August 2010 cover. Having the titles of the three main articles appear inside the Amazon Kindle leads the reader to assume, as I did, that the articles are critical of Amazon’s book reviewing, Amazon stealing literature from the public and Amazon’s profits and propaganda. I love Amazon and was disappointed when I saw this cover. I went on to read the articles and was pleased that they were not an attack on Amazon. But I was then confused as to why you would have set the titles […]

Sep
01
2010

First, Bash the Teachers

Media find a scapegoat for educational failure

Writing on the Wall Street Journal editorial page (10/1/09) under the headline “How Teachers Unions Lost the Media,” two education writers praised the press for turning on teachers, showing a “new attitude” that is in sync with today’s politics: Editorial pages of major papers nationwide have begun to demand accountability for schools, despite objections from vested interests. Since the Obama administration took an unexpectedly tough line on school reform, the elite media response has been overwhelmingly positive. But it’s hard to imagine that many people who follow the media would consider this much of a surprise. In fact, one of […]

Sep
01
2010

Tea Party vs. U.S. Social Forum

Mass movements that matter for media—Round 2

When it comes to covering activist gatherings, corporate media have established clear standards: Numbers don’t count nearly as much as politics do. Last fall, when tens of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists and their allies marched on Washington in a grassroots rally for equality, media gave it far less coverage than the similarly sized, largely corporate-funded Tea Party protest in Washington just a month earlier (Extra!, 12/09). So it came as little surprise that the Tea Party Convention this February would get more coverage than the June U.S. Social Forum, five days of strategizing, organizing and activism […]

Sep
01
2010

'Race to the Top' and the Bill Gates Connection

Who gets to speak about what schools need?

Race to the Top (RTTT), announced by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on July 24, 2009, is a $4.4 billion grant program generating more conversation than its relatively small money amount might suggest. What has people talking is its competitive structure that forces cash-strapped states to make radical changes in education in order to stay in the running—changes a National Research Council report (10/7/09) warned were not backed by research. Instead of dispersing grant money on the basis of greatest need, RTTT chooses a few winners based on the degree to which the states deliver what […]

Sep
01
2010

Teach for America's Opaque Agenda

Journalist Barbara Miner confronts a media darling

Photo Credit: Teach For America

Teach for America is Exhibit A for the corporate media’s notion that an army of talented teachers stands waiting to take on the most difficult schools—if only the unions would get out of the way. The Peace Corps-modeled project in which college graduates do two-year stints in low-income schools has been a feel-good media topic since the group’s 1990 founding by young Princeton grad Wendy Kopp. But where does TFA really fit in the debate over education reform? What happens when reporters try to find out? In an interview with CounterSpin (4/16/10), Barbara Miner of Rethinking Schools differentiated between Teach […]

Sep
01
2010

Soundbites

How Not to Report on the Estate Tax Under current law, after a one-year suspension, the federal estate tax rate will return to its pre-2001 level of 55 percent, with the first $1 million exempt. Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D.-Ark.) and Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.) have proposed a change that would lower the rate to 35 percent and raise the exemption to $5 million. This would save millionaires $440 billion in its first decade (Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, 4/10/09), and add the same amount to the federal deficit. How did Reuters (7/14/10) report on this massive transfer of wealth to […]