Sunday, April 12, 2009

Does Gotham Schools Have an Agenda?- UPDATE


Elizabeth Green
says "we really do not have 'an agenda,' besides good journalism."

NYC Educator and JD2718 think they do have an agenda. (And an added piece from NYCEducator.)

Good journalism is in the eye of the beholder. While the journalism of what gets covered can be great, what doesn't get covered is indicative of selective journalism.

To her credit, Elizabeth posted these links herself and often posts links to Ed Notes and the teacher blogger world. No one is more informed on the players from top to bottom in NYC Ed, as she ran rings around almost every other ed reporter in NYC at the NY Sun. For one of her first stories, she actually called me and quoted ICE's Jeff Kaufman in an article that got the dander of the UFT. Working in the belly of the conservative anti-union NY Sun, she did some great work in exposing the DOE and made many fans among NYC teachers.

Have things changed at Gotham? I have detected bias at times. Elizabeth recently had a story where she compared the ease with which Eva Moskowitz can get things done with the difficulty faced by the principal of PS 194 due to those nasty union contracts. Call it the "light bulbs to oranges" comparison. There was so much bias dripping out of that story, I had to wipe down my keyboard.

And the current lead side panel quote from Kitchen Sink, (supposedly a charter school principal who has a hell of a lot of time to blog at times one would expect someone to be working at running a school) a noted charter school defender, just might be viewed as bias.

I miss the idea of having a teacher's voice on Gotham. I know people who disagree, but I felt that Kelly Vaughan - former blogger Ms. Frizzle - at least brought the sense of a teacher to Gotham Schools. Now as a Teach for America alum, Kelly did bring some of those biases to the table, but her 7 years of teaching in NYC public middle schools gave her some perspective. She wasn't a hard news person, but she popped up at all kinds of events like ATR rallies, that are not being covered very well at Gotham at this time. Her leaving to go back to teaching, albeit at a charter school, was a loss for Gotham - and us.

Behind Gotham Schools is Mark Gorton. Wiki says:
The financial engine behind many of Gorton's business and civic interests is Tower Research Capital LLC, a financial services firm Gorton owns that he started in 1998, following a 4 1/2 year stint in the proprietary trading department of Credit Suisse First Boston (now Credit Suisse). At Credit Suisse Gorton traded stocks and built sophisticated hedging tools used to analyze markets. Tower evolved these models and specializes in quantitative trading and investment strategies based on proprietary trading algorithms using statistical methodology to identify non-random patterns in the stock markets. Buying and selling is done through an automated trade execution infrastructure, with many of trades placed through another affiliate, Lime Brokerage LLC.

Let's see now, a hedge fund kind of guy. Any chance of bias there?

One thing we would hope from Gotham Schools is a realistic picture of what is occurring in many NYC schools. I love that they have Aaron Pallas from Columbia, alias Skoolboy of Eduwonkette fame, but Ken Hirsch? With about a thousand teacher bloggers out there on the front lines, this is where they get commentary from?

Or how about the coverage of Arne Duncan without ever really examining the awful performance of Chicago schools under his 7 years there? Or the general failure of mayoral control in Chicago after 14 years of mayoral control? Or Paul Vallas following up Chicago with failure in Philly, followed up by the privatization of the New Orleans school system, making Vallas a 3-time loser?

But the UFT cue card case? WOW! What a scoop! Talk about elevating the trivial.

See Daily News reporter Meredith Kolodner's report on the UFT cue card caper with some perspective. Meredith may not be flashy, but since her days at The Chief, she has exhibited a nuanced understanding of major education issues – and without bias.


  1. I think that education reporting has markedly improved over the last few years. I remember reading unexamined, unadulterated press from City Hall for years in both the tabloids and the NY Times. Once, the NY Times reported on how inconvenient it was that the UFT fought on teachers reporting during February recess--it would inconvenience working parents. The Times did not know, as every city teacher did, that students would not have reported anyway.

    And the News used to have a reporter who printed anti-teacher blather right there in news stories. Reporters like Andreata, sadly gone from the NY Post seemed to change that. And Elizabeth Green was simply amazing, examining NYC like no one has before or since.

    I think I only bothered making one statement about Gotham a few months back. But it's pretty clear that qualifications take a back seat to persuasion when you see they grant a prominent voice to someone with no qualifications whatsoever simply because he likes charters and has a minor obsession with firing public school teachers.

    And, of course, there is the relentless parade of charter school news, and the utter neglect of kids like mine, who are regularly beaten down by the city in the fairly obvious hope our school will fail so the likes of Moskowitz can move in.

    It's really quite disappointing, and I expected great things from a new enterprise with Elizabeth Green at its forefront. Of course, hearing that it's funded by yet another hedge fund manager explains a lot.

    Clearly they want to do to public schools what they've done to our economy. And amazingly, Americans seem unperturbed by such a prospect.

  2. Norm:

    I disagree with you on two issues. First, I believe Elizabeth Green has been more than fair to our cause and she has quoted me a few times. Granted, she is not a teacher but as news reporters go she is as fair as they get. Second, while Ms. Fizzle was a NYC teacher for seven years, she worked at a school that only selected the very best of the students (3s and 4s). When she came back from Turkey, she ended up at a Charter School which also selects its students. She certainly did not represent me or many of the teachers that work with the diverse population of the NYC schools.

  3. Chaz
    Don't get me wrong. Elizabeth Green is the best education reporter, probably in the nation. But she does have her biases and at times they are revealed.

    As for Mz. Frizzle, she taught in another middle school before the one you talk about. Her last public school while probably attracting a higher level performing child, was not limited to 3's and 4's. I also met some of her kids at robotics tournaments and they seemed pretty much in line with other kids at the events, though teachers may tend to pick the easier kids to manage for these events. I appreciated her understanding and analysis of the teaching/learning process. I think that added perspective to Gotham.


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