We asked Dale Penn and Kristin Gorski, hosts of our education News Hunt, for their input on certain trends in coverage we noticed in last week's top education stories, as well as their overall impressions of this project. Below is the full text of Dale's remarks; Kristin's can be found on her personal blog, Write Now is Good.
It was a pleasure co-hosting this topic with Kristin. I do feel I
have gained a much keener insight into the issues in education than I
expected at the outset. You were a great help submitting stories and
reviewing religiously all week.
looked for education stories that were national in nature, and (as you
point out) they all seemed to be opinion (or NYT or WAPO). I believe
the reason is this: Education (with the exception of No Child Left
Behind (NCLB), Head Start, Pell Grants, tax credits, student loans and
other Federal programs) is for the most part a function of local school
boards, and the State governments. That's where the majority of the
funding comes from and that's where the education journalists are
stationed. Consequently, the news about what is happening in schools
tends to end up as local or state level stories. The opinion pieces
were generally related to, or in response to, the stimulus which is a
I sorted through
literally hundreds of local school stories that were merely
announcements, award recognitions or stories that had no implications
beyond the local level to come up with the ones I submitted.
believe you will find that the news stories listed below actually do
have national implications, even if they don't jump out at first
glance. For instance the first story on Finland's education system ('Finland's education system offers lessons for Dallas'
deals with the a national approach to education (Finland's) vs. a local
approach to education (Dallas/U.S.). The story begins with the
sentence: "HELSINKI, Finland – This is the land where no child is left
behind" (as opposed to the U.S. where we have a national law that aims
for NCLB reality but misses the mark).
story on Miami-Dade schools ('Miami-Dade schools can yank book on Cuba
') is really a story about first amendment
rights. This book banning case is still working its way through the
courts and could well end up before the US Supreme Court to determine
if local school boards have the right to ban books based on community
sensitivity to a subject (i.e., today's Cuba is shown in a positive
light in a child's book and this is counter to everything many (most?)
Miami Cubans believe and have taught their children about the evils of
Cuba under Castro.)
example is the story from the Aurora Beacon News ('School study cites 'achievement gap''
). As I mentioned in my
review, this story echos a story from NYC. Demographics impact the
funding for local school districts. If a school is in an impoverished
area, with a high immigrant population, standardized test scores will
be impacted and funding will decline, ultimately leading to possible
closure of the schools. This is not in the strictest sense a
local/state issue, even though the story sites a local/state example ...
big national news last week was the stimulus, and while it had an
education component that popped up here and there, the components of
the stimulus are in such flux that the education piece pretty much got
buried in the reporting. There was nothing concrete to report. Obama
hasn't had a chance to tackle NCLB reform. The Education Secretary,
Arne Duncan, hasn't gotten to issues of policy yet and is still talking
in campaign speak - which is to be expected given the short time he has
been in the position. So the dearth of high quality journalism on a
national level also may have been caused by timing to some degree. The
opinion stories listed are born from discussions about anticipated
education reform under the stimulus and the new Administration.
I took to heart the focus of this week's collaboration with Ashoka and
looked for stories about early childhood to lifelong learning, global
literacy and digital learning. These were difficult stories to find.
Stories of women being trained in India, and fathers being coached in
India to support their daughters' desire to learn were micro-stories
pointing to a much larger and often not emphasized macro regional
problem. Hopefully these stories, if read, provided a sense of the
dire straights global literacy is in in developing countries. We need
to continue to develop media sources for these topics.