Friday, November 14, 2008

Because I Said So

The media is kind of starting to drive me crazy. No, I'm not talking about their continued focus on Sarah Palin. I'm referring to the way they just accept what people tell them about education without actually analyzing it at all. Case in point is this article from yesterday's New York Times headlined: Most City High Schools Improved This Year.

At first that seems like a pretty okay headline. It's nice to see some positive news about education once in a whole too, so what could be the problem?

Well, anyone who reads into the article at all would see that the way we know the schools have improved is because the DOE is telling us they did through their progress report system. Never mind that they progress reports have really been pretty well discredited as giving more significance to statistical noise than actual achievement. Just look at the results. 83% of high schools earned an A or a B on the progress report. Despite the fact that nearly all of the schools are abovev average, the city still has a graduation rate below 50%. But the DOE says they're improving. It says so right on the progress reports.

I have a little problem with the way the DOE continually massages data to show what a great job they're doing. I have a big problem when the press just buys it. Would we believe it if George W. Bush gave himself an A or B on his job performance? Would we buy it if it came from AIG? So why does the Times give it an uncritical headline just because it comes from the schools?

Also, the second paragraph of the story says, "Chancellor Joel I. Klein, who has made accountability a cornerstone of his reform efforts ..." I love that sentence because it sounds like it came right out of the DOE press release. It's full of educational unspeak. I've already written about the phony accountability that the DOE supposedly accomplishes through high stakes tests. And reform is a great word because it always sounds positive. Is there even such a thing as negative reform? So we have a "reformer" pushing "accountability" and that has caused the high schools to "improve."

Words matter, people! Let's not buy into the hype just because Joel Klein says to.

No comments: