Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A challenge to Education Week

A challenge to Education Week

Yesterday Deborah Meier, Susan Ohanian, Gerald Bracey, and a few others sent a letter taking Education Week to task. This was not a run-of-the-mill complaint about inaccuracy or bias. Rather, it lodged a serious charge about journalistic ethics: that the newspaper’s Quality Counts feature makes a pretense of “objectivity” while covertly advocating for “the standards-and-testing industrial school paradigm of No Child Left Behind.”

It’s about time somebody pointed this out. As the authors note:

for more than a decade [Editorial Projects in Education] has published its Quality Counts annual volume, purporting to assess the condition of American public schooling from a neutral and fair-minded vantage. … But a quick inspection of the 2008 volume reveals the dishonesty in this presentation. Quality Counts is not reporting in any normal sense of the word. Rather it is advocacy. Its assertions and conclusions often support particular policy positions.

They go on to document how Quality Counts adopts the criteria of NCLB enthusiasts — “rigorous" standards, high-stakes testing to judge school quality, “sanctioning of low-performing schools,” “teacher evaluation tied to student achievement” — and uses them to grade states in their school reform efforts. In other words, Quality Counts promotes an ideology under cover of “objective journalism.”

I hope the editors of Education Week will take the criticism seriously and rethink what they are doing. As Meier et al. point out, this is an egregious breach of journalistic ethics. It’s also a disservice to an above-board and productive debate on education policy.
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