Fourth graders in traditional public schools did significantly better in reading and math than comparable children attending charter schools, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Federal Education Department.The findings of the study are uncritically accepted as fact and reported as such without qualification. And notice how it's a "report" not merely a study--an interpretation of data. Now let's see how Schemo tries to bring balance to the story in the next paragraph:
The report, based on 2003 test scores, thrust the Education Department into the center of the heated national debate over school choice. It also drew a barrage of criticism from supporters of charter schools, the fastest-growing sector in public education, who sent out press statements casting doubt on the reportÂs methodology and findings even before they were announced.She discloses that the study is based on old data, but fails to mention its significance. Error by omission. She also lets us know that the study drew a "barrage of criticism," but it came from "supporters of charter schools," thus discrediting the criticisms as coming from biased sources. The motives of the sources are further impugned as Schemo characterizes the means through which the criticisms were disseminated. These are borderline ad hominem attacks.
Now let's take a closer look at the criticisms.Tthe most significant criticism reported is buried deep down in paragraph 13:
Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a Washington group that advocates for charter schools, said the study used a flawed measure of poverty to find comparable students and failed to capture the variety of children attending charter schools and the many types of charters that exist.Schemo again downplays the criticisms by placing them in the mouth of an advocacy group. This is rather odd. The criticisms are both indisputed, unrebutted and easily verifiable. As such, they are at least as factual as the findings of the study.
Is it that Schemo doesn't know how to analyze research (a real possibility) or does she have an agenda she's trying to hawk? You decide but bear in mind this is the NT Times.
Now lets catalogue the deficiencies, both reported and unreported by Schemo:
- using old data (paragraph 2)
- using a flawed measure of poverty (paragraph 13)
- failure to account for student's prior academic achievement (paragraph 19)
- oversampling of charters (implied in paragraph 19)
- merely a correlation study, not a true experiment proving causation (not reported)
- charters are still new and it takes at least 5-6 years for achievement to stabilize (not reported)
- using NAEP scores which merely test a sampling of students (not reported)
Any serious journalist should be able to evaluate the criticisms and rebuttals of any research study before reporting the findings of the study as unqualified fact. Failing to do this means you are either incompetent or a partisan hack. I'm betting Schemo is both.
This is all too typical of journalism today. By and large, journalists do not meet the minimum standards needed to be a professionals. A deadly combination of incompetence, substandard training and preparation at their preparatory colleges, and ideological infection results in their failure to adhere to minimum professional standards. In this respect journalists are like educators and it is not surprising that both groups largely fail in their primary duties. You can't rely on journalists to report the news straight and you can't rely on educators to reliably educate.