‘ROUNDING THE GLOBE’-14: Critical Analysis of Boston Globe Education Coverage
The RTTT news story from hell
Boston Globe, how about giving me a night off?
I have already consigned James Vaznis, Globe education writer, to purgatory, as the need for purification is definitely indicated. But do I need to go further in my wrathful judgments? Is he pushing me? That is the question that preoccupied me as I read his latest views-ah, I mean, “news”- about the AFT decision not to support the state’s application for RTTT. The union’s decision, we learn, could doom the state’s chances in the transparently-scripted “dash for the cash.” And that script truly is amateur hour all the way.
This could be the worst news story I have ever read in my entire life, a life in which I have read one or two newspapers a day since the age of 18. (I am not even counting the “Bronx Home Edition” of the NY Post, which I read in my pre-college years). The only thing that is saving the story and its author from total damnation is the reporter’s note that he had trouble contacting the union. But please consider, the whole story, the entire enchilada, was about the union. Maybe he should have waited a day? Did he have some prior statements perchance to work with?
At approximately 5:30 pm, I was driving home on Storrow Drive when an NPR reporter told me what the Globe apparently couldn’t: just why the union took the position it did. If you stay tuned, I’ll tell you, though anyone with a passing acquaintance with this story knows, why even-no, especially-James Vaznis.
Vaznis’s lead delivered the news of the union’s decision straight up. The second graph was completely disingenuous. We learn that state education officials, “key” legislators, and “charities” were “stunned” by the decision. Oh, those charities, mind you! I can see it now…those evil unions members stealing bowls of soup from the hands of starving waifs!
Listen, no one need be stunned. Let me explain what apparently some Globe reporters do not know: there is a coalition-be it acknowledged or not-that is trying to push through a business model of education reform. This has been going on for some time. The coalition, whose dismal vision embraces high-stakes testing, merit pay based on test scores, and charters, is made up of the Massachusetts Dept. of Education, the Globe, the Boston Foundation (which is the charity is question), MassInsight, the High Tech Council and other business lobbying groups, and the conservative Pioneer Institute. They work hand in glove. Did I really have to spell this out? This is A, B, C stuff.
In the third graph, Vaznis describes RTTT in his understanding of what objectivity requires. It’s a program to encourage “classroom innovation” and “aggressive overhauls” of failing schools. Now who could possibly be against that except a crazed union? Perhaps this could have been phrased and framed in terms of what the Obama Administration claims the program will do. We have all been stunned enough today, but I will divulge that there are many teachers, parents, and students who do not believe that high-stakes testing is equivalent to “classroom innovations.” Everybody still OK?
The next number of graphs elaborate on the full dimensions of the stunning. The education commissioner calls the decision “shortsighted.” The next 6 graphs are indistinguishable from a Dept. of Ed press release. We also learn the stage may be set for the state removing the requirement for union approval. Again, various assertions are reported as simple fact, not “claims.” Then comes the education secretary calling the union position a “threat to the proposal.” A legislator expresses her deep disappointment to what this is going to do to children of the state. The Boston Foundation’s president calls the decision a crude tactic at the expense of children. This rising chorus of stunned voices is heard amidst what Vaznis describes as a “swirl of emotion.”
Apparently, the folks that Vaznis quotes are the only ones who actually care about the kids. The teachers? They hate the kids, couldn’t care less about them.
In the 23rd and last graph of this long story, the president of the MTA states rather generally that her union will not sacrifice principles for a pot of gold. She wants the RTTT application re-written.
Well, if you hung around this long, let me tell you what I heard at the Brookline ramp off of Storrow. The NPR reporter told me what I already know. And what the education commissioner and secretary know. And the legislature. And the Boston Foundation. And all the other elites working so seamlessly and selflessly with the Globe for the good of us all.
The NPR reporter said that the AFT decided not to support the RTTT application because the “turnaround” model for failing school authorizes-or is it requires?- the firing of half the faculty of a failing school, without the support of any data or evaluations. Does that sound vaguely American to you?
Folks, this isn’t about a one-time infusion of money and about “oh-my-gosh-quick-here’s
whatwe-need-to do-to get-it.” This is about money being used in a very conscious way as a bludgeon to impose a certain kind of standardized, data-driven education on American kids. It is the dreariest and most unimaginative understanding possible of education reform¬, which, I might add, few of the zealous reformers want for their own kids. President Obama did well to choose the Sidwell Friends School for his daughters. (I wonder what schooling choices Globe editors have made?)
This news story did not clarify reality or provide context. Not one reader would be the wiser about what’s actually going on. The story advanced a campaign, nothing more, nothing less.
Tomorrow the campaign continues with a Globe editorial. Its headline-already posted- could have been used for this new story as well: “Instead of racing to the top, union puts its own needs first.” A two-fer. Why not.