Saturday, March 28, 2015

Is NY Times Incompetent Ed Coverage Intentional?

Do reporters at the New York Times know that cheating occurs? We’re fairly sure they do! Just last Tuesday, a news report in the Times ran beneath this headline:“Closing Arguments Begin in Test Cheating Trial of 12 Atlanta Educators”. In the past few years, cheating scandals have been so huge that even our most famous newspapers have managed to report them. But by force of habit and dint of culture, reporters still fail to connect the dots when it comes to a topic like this.

Has Governor Cuomo thought about this? We don’t have the slightest idea! Our mightiest paper, the New York Times, seems disinclined to ask.... Daily Howler
One of my fave topics is the biased, but mostly no-nothing reporting on education - and probably most other issues. The tabloids have long-time ed beat writers who get to know the local ed scene but often distort their reporting to reflect editorial. The Times has a different tactic - inexperience - sort of a tfa for ed reporting. People who really know the beat, like Mike Winerip or Anna Philips, are pushed out for new blood that doesn't have a clue. Why? Because the more experience, the more the ed deform scam becomes clear and if honest, a good reporter can't really distort the issues in favor of the deformers.

Leonie has a good piece on her blog: NYC Public School Parents:
Is the tug of war on education policy between liberal "reform proponents" and the unions, as the NY Times argues, or the 1% and nearly everyone else?
in the process of writing about this ideological battle, the reporter, Maggie Haberman, characterizes Democrats for Education Reform, one of the principle hedge fund-backed lobby groups as a “left of center group,” which is absurd.  For some reason, DFER has managed to persuade reporters that it has any liberal credentials, despite the fact that as Diane Ravitch pointed out, the California Democratic Party has repudiated it.  

Parents Across America wrote an open letter to the NPR ombudsman in 2011, objecting to the fact that Claudio Sanchez, the NPR reporter, had called DFER a “liberal” organization, while quoting their criticism of the progressive participants in the anti-corporate reform Save Our Schools march in DC.   

We also pointed out that DFER’s founder, hedge fund operator Whitney Tilson, admitted that the only reason he put “Democrats” in the organization’s title and focused on convincing Democrats to adopt their pro-privatization agenda was that GOP leaders were already in agreement with most of their positions.
And the Howler takes the Times to task on reporting on the evaluation issue where he raises the purposeful ignoring of cheating as a factor -- go test some of Eva's charter kids at random in June - or September.




Posted: 23 Mar 2015 12:07 PM PDT
MONDAY, MARCH 23, 2015

It seems to us they failed:
We’re often amazed by the way our biggest newspapers report on the nation’s schools.

So it was this morning, when the New York Times published a 1600-word front-page report about the use of standardized tests to rate New York State teachers.

Governor Cuomo wants to extend the practice. According to reporter Kate Taylor, his proposals, which teacher groups largely oppose, “would both increase the weight of test scores, to 50 percent of a teacher’s rating, and decrease the role of their principals’ observations.”

Should test scores constitute 50 percent of a teacher’s rating? That strikes us as a bad idea. We were struck by Taylor’s failure to state an obvious reason why it seems like a bad idea.

For what it’s worth, we aren’t opposed, as a matter of principle, to the use of test scores in evaluating teachers. We assume that principals have always used test scores in some such way. Consider a hypothetical example from the distant past:

In the spring of 1970, we administered the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills to a class of Baltimore fifth-graders. At that time, the thought didn’t cross our minds that the test results would be used to evaluate us.

That said, suppose our principal noticed that Teacher Smith’s fourth-grade students got horrible test scores year after year. Wouldn’t she have been obligated to figure out why that was happening?

Governor Cuomo wants to go well beyond that. He wants to use student scores in the annual ratings of all teachers.

Near the end of her lengthy report, Taylor presented some objections to this idea. As you can see, her explanation was fuzzy:

TAYLOR (3/23/15): John Bierwirth, the superintendent of the Herricks school district, also on Long Island, where 93 percent of the teachers were rated highly effective, said that in devising his district’s evaluation system, he had intentionally tried to create a cushion to counterbalance the portion of the ratings based on test scores, which for an individual teacher can bounce up and down from year to year.

“I wasn’t gaming the system,” Dr. Bierwirth said, “but I was trying to protect teachers from whimsical results.”

[...]

[T]he movement to weigh scores heavily in teacher evaluations has lost some steam. The fact that ratings based on test scores can vary from year to year has led to concern about teachers being unfairly penalized. Additionally, the transition to tougher, Common Core-aligned tests, and the associated drop in scores, has left many teachers, administrators and parents skeptical of the validity of the results. In a Quinnipiac University poll conducted this month, disapproval of the use of test scores helped drag Mr. Cuomo’s approval rating down to 50 percent, his lowest ever.

“Most leaders, even those who support teacher evaluation reform, have decided to reduce the degree to which the evaluations depend on student achievement results,” Michael Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education reform organization, said.

“That’s partly to try to make the evaluations more palatable to teachers, but it’s also because they’re trying to make these evaluations more reliable, and there are legitimate technical concerns with the value-added scores,” Mr. Petrilli said, referring to the method by which teachers’ impact on their students’ test results is calculated.
That was pretty much it. Test scores can bounce up and down from year to year! Also, “there are legitimate technical concerns with the value-added scores,” the one quoted expert said.

None of those statements are “wrong.” That said, they constitute a very fuzzy tea. Meanwhile, we were struck by the problem which didn’t yodel:

What happens when teachers cheat?

Duh! Unless Cuomo has come up with a very strong security program, that would be an obvious problem with his proposal. Hoping to get a strong evaluation, today’s Teacher Smith might cheat his ascot off with his fourth-grade students.

This means that Teacher Smith will get an inappropriately good evaluation. And the problem doesn’t end there:

The following year, those kids’ test scores will come back to earth when they’re in the fifth grade with Teacher Jones. As a result, Teacher Jones, who didn’t cheat, will get an inappropriately bad evaluation.

Do reporters at the New York Times know that cheating occurs? We’re fairly sure they do! Just last Tuesday, a news report in the Times ran beneath this headline:

“Closing Arguments Begin in Test Cheating Trial of 12 Atlanta Educators”

In the past few years, cheating scandals have been so huge that even our most famous newspapers have managed to report them. But by force of habit and dint of culture, reporters still fail to connect the dots when it comes to a topic like this.

Has Governor Cuomo thought about this? We don’t have the slightest idea! Our mightiest paper, the New York Times, seems disinclined to ask.
http://dailyhowler.blogspot.com/2015/03/supplemental-times-attempts-to-report.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheDailyHowler+%28the+daily+howler%29

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