Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Does "Education Week" Violate Journalistic Standards?

Education Week, a national weekly read by the Ed cognoscenti, has been accused by Deborah Meier, David Marshak, Philip Kovacs, Susan Ohanian, Jerry Bracey, William Spady of violating journalistic standards by humping a point of view that backs the kind of insanity we've seen here in NYC. They sent a letter and want others to join them. Read this important letter at Susan Ohanian's place.

I had my own recent bout with an Ed Week editor when they printed an article biased in favor of a report on teacher quality by Britain's Sir Michael Barber who was embraced by Bloomberg/Klein for his half-baked policies in England (now under some repudiation – I'll check it out in an upcoming trip to London.)

An article called "Teaching Quality Matters" states (my emphasis):

The world’s top-performing school systems and those coming up fast have a lesson to teach the others: Put high-quality teaching for every child at the heart of school improvement....

Neither resources nor ambitious reforms have been the answer to the need for school improvement, say the authors, Sir Michael Barber and Mona Mourshed of McKinsey & Co., the London-based consulting firm responsible for the report. They point to “massive” increases in spending and popular reforms—prominently, class-size reduction and decentralization of decisionmaking—that have failed, they say, to much budge the needle of student achievement many places.

You know. The old line about all you have to do is fix teacher quality and you overcome all (I'll write more on this soon.) But then again, the UFT's Randi Weingarten, the Clintons, et al. all sign on to this bull.)

I sent the following letter to the editor, who I've spoken to a few times in the past (and have some sympathy for, as she was once trapped in a train station for hours with nothing to read but Education Notes.)

I was wondering if Michael Barber, a noted trasher of class size as a factor, cited specifics of the studies he cites? He says many places. Did he give one example? If not, shouldn't he be challenged to do so instead of being allowed to leave the impression that class size reduction doesn't work?

I received this reply:

There are a few references in the report, but it is not really a scholarly work. I don't have it with me. I think his argument rests more on the fact that there has been a lot of class size reduction in places where achievement has stayed relatively flat, such as in many U.S. school systems. I think that is generally true, although you could certainly argue that classes need to be still smaller. I didn't have much space to offer challenges and had to give what space I had to people assessing the general worth of the report, which you should be able to get on the Web. You might a letter to the editor if you think his conclusions are misleading.

"Generally true?" "Many US school systems?" How about which ones? Where's the actual research to cite this, not that I trust research, which can be slanted in so many ways. But Ed Week is part of the cabal against spending real money on Ed reform – is is so
much easier and cheaper to blame the teachers. How about Ed Week calling for an accurate study (like we really need a study to tell us that much smaller classes, which I bet the elite critics pay a fortune to assure their own kids experience - like Bloomberg's kids going to Spence with 14 in a class) instead of adopting the "generally true" standard of research.

The article, which you can read in full here, did include the following bone:

David P. Baker, who has extensively studied the results from international math and science tests, praised the study for clear conclusions that hold the possibility of pushing policymakers in valid directions. He said his own research showed that countries that reduced the spread in teacher quality tended to have higher test scores. At the same time, the Pennsylvania State University professor said the report might have taken better account of the effects of social disadvantage, which has a profound influence on school performance [the Richard Rothstein view].

I never wrote that letter to the editor, but I think now is a good time.
Here is a list if you wan to join the party.
Virginia Edwards, Editor and Publisher gined@epe.org
Gregory Chronister, Executive Editor gchron@epe.org
Lynn Olson, Project Editor for Quality Counts lolson@epe.org
Karen Diegmueller, Managing Editor kdieg@epe.org
Mark W. Bomster, Asst. Managing Editor mbomster@epe.org

1 comment:

  1. I emailed Chris Swanson last year who puts together the Quality counts rankings – asking him why Ed Week had taken out any examination of educational quality out of its measures – including class size – to focus almost exclusively on poverty measures, and testing to rate states and districts. Here is an excerpt:

    “The 2007 report does not include indicators related to school climate, teacher quality, or school finance, as it has in past years. Indicators on state standards, assessments, and accountability systems in K-12 are still included. “

    The 2008 rankings put back some measures related to teacher certification and resources, but again excluded class size and other critical measures.

    Below is my email message and his response. I encourage others to email him as well at cswanson@epe.org

    Leonie Haimson

    Executive Director

    Class Size Matters

    124 Waverly Pl.

    New York, NY 10011





    Please make a tax-deductible contribution to Class Size Matters now!


    From: Leonie Haimson [mailto:leonie@worldnet.att.net]
    Sent: Friday, January 05, 2007 4:54 PM
    To: Chris Swanson
    Cc: 'Leonie Haimson'
    Subject: a big thumbs down re new Quality Counts

    I’m very disappointed to see these changes. While adopting all these broader economic measures, and including more test score data and measures relating to standards etc., you drop any attempt to assess how well states are trying to improve their educational systems, by omitting the indicators on school climate, finance etc. – except for access to preK, as though this was the only educational program that mattered.

    These indicators had been the most valuable aspect of your reports. How are we to understand, for example, that NY state ranks so low in terms of graduation rates, while being above average in access to preK, income, etc?

    I must protest. You’ve sold us all short.

    Leonie Haimson

    Class Size Matters

    124 Waverly Pl.

    New York, NY 10011

    Thanks for your comments. As we move towards a somewhat different framework, we're especially looking for reaction.

    As you may have seen in the report, several of our policy categories are on a temporary hiatus this year. Most notably, that includes policies
    related to teacher quality and our finance/resource indicators. During the course of the year we have several events planned (and possibly more
    in the works) to engage the education community and rethink issues in these areas. Although we've tracked teacher and finance indicators over
    the years, we want to make sure that we are continuing to focus on the measures that are more important/promising/effective when we reintroduce
    these sections. There has been so much debate in these two areas recently that we wanted to be sure to take a deliberate approach as
    we put together the new framework.

    In the meantime, we have an online TalkBack feature where we are taking comments on these issues, so feel free to weigh in there if you would like.


    Chris Swanson


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