TRUE STORY! Just in! Reporter at big Virginia daily decides not to trust lyin eyes! // link // print // previous // next //
SATURDAY, MARCH 11, 2006
TRUE STORY: This is why we stopped calling journalists back in December 1999. Were not calling that a good decision. But you can perhaps see how human it was.
Yesterday afternoon, we spoke with an education reporter at a major Virginia daily newspaper. We had originally spoken with her on Tuesday, telling her about the states apparent inflation of school passing rates—and about the fact that Virginias school report cards had been removed from public view.
She seemed quite interested at the time, but nothing appeared in the paper. So we called her back. This is a close approximation of our short conversation:
HOWLER (3/10/06): This is Bob Somerby in Baltimore—I believe we spoke on Tuesday about the state test scores.We thought we heard an unspoken plea for the end of discussion and comment.
Surprising, isnt it? Anybody could have seen that the test scores had been down all week—still were, as a matter of fact. But then, if youre an education reporter at one of this states biggest newspapers, who are you really going to trust? The guy at the state Department of Ed? Or your own lyin eyes?
We post this here so you can ponder the way the news gets sifted for you.
By the way: We dont know why Virginias school report cards are still temporarily unavailable at the DOE web site. We dont know why they were taken down. But that remains a secondary issue. By contrast, here are the primary questions: How did the state come up with those high passing rates for Maury Elementary? Are those passing rates real—or are they inflated? And: Have other schools across the state been credited with artificial passing rates? We didnt get to these primary questions during yesterdays phone call. Lets face it—the message was clear.
THE THREE TENETS: Yesterday morning, President Bush spoke to a meeting of the National Newspaper Association, then took questions. The final question dealt with No Child Left Behind. At the end of his answer, Bush described the basic tenets of his approach to education:
BUSH (3/10/06): I'm a strong believer in No Child Left Behind. My secretary of education—my good buddy Margaret Spellings, who helped me put a similar program in place in the state of Texas, is now the secretary of education.We believe in high standards, we believe every child can learn, and we're going to measure, Bush said. For the record, this approach is hardly unique to Bush. These tenest also formed the basis of President Clintons approach to education, and of Bushs father before him. Having said that, heres our capsule reaction to the three tenets as they apply to low-income ed:
We believe in high standards. This statement is so vague as to be essentially meaningless. Do we believe in making third-graders take Calculus 1? Wouldnt that be a high standard? This is a feel-good, Brownie-points statement. It can only be judged be seeing what kinds of decisions it leads our pols to make.Has Virginias testing-and-reporting been honest? Or has the state been pimping pure piffle? Some news orgs just dont seem to care. Go check that approximate transcript.