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Thursday, September 02, 2010

How Messed Up is the Seattle Times?

For the past two months the Seattle Times has been running editorials about how students' standardized test scores reflect the quality of instruction they received and how standardized test scores absolutely should be part of a teacher's performance evaluation.

Then, yesterday, the MSP and HSPE pass rates for 2010 were released by the OSPI.

Now the Times accepts the idea that the low pass rates are primarily due to students' unfamiliarity with the tests, a change in math Standards, and inadequate resources to support struggling students.

The Times needs to decide their opinion on what drives student test scores. Are they determined primarily by teacher effectiveness - and therefore an appropriate part of a teacher's performance evaluation - or are they driven by student familiarity with the test, district-level support for struggling students, and the moving target of state Standards - and therefore NOT appropriate for use in measuring teacher effectiveness? Which is it, Seattle Times?

6 comments:

seattle citizen said...

Hmm, pretty messed up. Their main agenda, supporting Broadies, is apparent when their lead sentence about the tentative agreement is this:

By Katherine Long

Seattle Times staff reporter

"Seattle Public Schools and its teachers union reached a tentative agreement Wednesday on a contract that allows student test scores to be used as a trigger to more closely evaluate teachers when their students score poorly."

There is no other mention in the article about using test scores. Nothing about WHO (only some teachers - 3-10 core) would have test scores used; nothing about the still-nebulous efficacy of test scores; not a word about the variables...

It IS strange that the Times said WASL scores were effected by all sorts of things besides teachers, while they continue to support the idea that teachers (and education) can be quantified and measured, generally.

I wonder if the Times would write a story that said, "MAP scores were all over the, uh, map, and this is because of these factors [list here]. But we still believe teachers should be evaluated based on these scores."

The tentative contract did mitigate SERVE somewhat, but it still grants validity to the notion that learning can be quantified into expected outcomes, and that teachers should be able to achieve these expected outcomes.

I, for one, am against ANY recognition that the Broad agenda of quantifying education has ANY merit, because their goals are not better education but easier management, union busting, and standardization of learning outcomes (meaning "outliers" won't fit and will be punished, both students and teachers)

wseadawg said...

Charlie: As goes the media, so goes the Times. Thanks to the internet, reporters rarely actively investigate facts anymore. It's much easier to lift your facts from press releases and pseudo studies sent their way by the objects of their reporting ("research says..."). Writers seem to prefer being chummy with other writers and the people in their stories, instead of fact-checking or critically questioning information that so obviously supports an agenda.

The Johnny come latelys at the Times are just our local versions of Sam and Cokie, gadflying for a paycheck. It's sad, but typical that they're always trailing the real stories exposed by bloggers and REAL reporters.

Thank God for Horsey and the West Seattle Blog for providing real news and opinion.

Charlie Mas said...

This may be a direct result of the death of journalism and its replacement by the re-printing of press releases.

Why should the Times hire and pay reporters when people are going to provide them with content for free? The District sends the Times a press release, and the Times prints it. Various folks write "guest columns" and the Times prints them. The OSPI sends out a press release, and the Times prints that. There isn't any human judgement applied, there aren't any principles at work, there is no real perspective.

Any group of people can form an organization, give it a serious-sounding name, such as the "Council to Reform Academic Policy", and start sending out press releases. The Times will print them. So long as the fake group has a web site and claims some affiliation with a university and a few high profile experts, I doubt there will be much effort to investigate it.

The Times isn't special this way. There are a lot of media outlets that would run the story. I'm seriously tempted to conduct just such a hoax - if only to prove how unreliable and gullible the professional journalists have become.

wseadawg said...

Right on Charlie. That seems to be how it works these days. At least in years past, we had real, cranky curmudgeons like Emmet Watson who wouldn't drink the happy-go-lucky, positivity-based Kool-Aid we're now addicted to (read "Brightsided" by Barbara Eirenreich), but would speak their minds.

Many in the media today believe "getting the story" is just parroting what was said and by whom, and that its the reader's duty to decipher what it means. PR machines have figured this out, hence, stories are simply "planted" in the news media via press releases and self-promoting web articles as you say.

We need critical, skeptical, cranky, B.S. Detecting journalists, and we just don't have them right now. Perhaps its because of the "access" rules for professional journalists who don't want to offend, and thus be excluded from cocktail parties.

Thankfully, on a national level, we have John Stewart and Stephen Colbert (who's infamous White House Correpondent's Dinner speech will go down in history as the turning point in the GW Bush presidency - or should), to reveal real stories with satire. But, unfortunately, we have no such people in Seattle, no matter how bad we desperately need them.

dan dempsey said...

wseadawg---

I suggest you form the "Almost Live part II" production company.

Is Nancy Guppy still available?

wsnorth said...

Maybe this is an example of actual reporting for once! All the Blethens were probably on their family yacht somewhere for vacation, and the objective reporting slipped by accidentally.