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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Local Ed Reform Pushing Hard (But Looking Desperate)

The Times continues its ed reform push and, as we have previously reported, they continue to do it both editorially and in their reporting. 

The latest example is in an article about a "poll" for the A-F grading for schools bill currently in the Legislature.  (It passed in the Senate but hasn't gotten a committee vote yet in the House.)

(Sorry, I can't link the story because of the Times' paywall.)

The story does not say who commissioned the poll or who took the poll until the fifth paragraph.  That is very odd and would seem to indicate that the Times was more interested in pushing the results than what the poll was about and who created it.

The article only states how many people took the poll (402) but not how many questions were on it nor what the questions were.  We all know what a push poll looks like and I suspect this was one of them. 

It appears there was a question on the A-F bill which came out 66% for and 29% against (but what the other 5% thought isn't reported) and a question on "whether to increase taxes to give more money to education."  The latter is a very broad question and how it was phrased would have been important to know.  That question's polling came out 49% against and 46% for.

What's also telling is the quote from the Stand spokesperson then proudly says that "it's clear" that voters want funding and improvements.  Really?  A small poll with one measure at 49-46% is a clear message? 

The Times doesn't explain who Stand for Children is in the article.  Most readers would not know who they are.  And the Times again goes to the teachers' union well for a comment instead of say, asking the Washington State PTA for their comment.   The Times consistently makes this about the union versus everyone else and you have to wonder why.

I know both Brian Rosenthal and Linda Shaw who do most of the Times' ed reporting.  They are both bright and capable reporters.  They both tell me that editorial has no sway over what they write.  That might be true but that sway is apparent in the editing.

I'll give reader, Mary Griffin, the last word (she wrote this in the Tuesday Open Thread comments):

The article about the Stand for Children poll is curious. With 3,910,000 voters in the state of Washington and a sample size of only 402 survey respondents, that gives a margin of error of +/- 4.89% with a confidence interval of 95%, which would is a relatively wide margin of error. Why would this group plan a poll with such a small sample size knowing that it would have such a wide margin of error. They must have expected a wide variance between the two response groups. This leads me to believe that there was a certain amount of question bias by Strategies 360 in the first place in which they expected this kind of result...which leads to why this was reported before the actual methods/results can be examined. Very strange. Or not. As others have noted, the ed reformers have used the same company before to provide biased polls.

18 comments:

Disgusted said...

Will paywall not allow articles to be linked to ST stories?

Can't imagine the grading system getting passed out of the House. None the less, I agree with your points regarding Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times is supposed to have a journalistic quality and much of the behind the scenes maneuvering is left-out.

Eric B said...

Many many polls are at about a 4-5% margin of error. Also, I rarely see the actual poll questions in news reporting of poll results. A good pollster will make that public if you want to find it, though.

Wasn't the poll 49% against more taxes for education? If that's the case, the Stand folks are even further off in left field to say that the public supports more funding, unless there were other questions that were not reported.

Mark Ahlness said...

Try here for the article.

Anonymous said...

The way I was told the paywall works-we called to ask-and has proven correct so far is that ANYONE can read a certain number of stories per month for free, without any form of membership/subscription. However, once you've opened that total number (I believe it is 16), you cannot open any more for the rest of that month. And links are allowed. The risk is giving links is that some people who try to open them will have already opened their free total and won't be able to see them.

As I read at most one every other day, so far I have been able to read what I want.

1025 cauppin

Maureen said...

If it works like the NYT, you can access more than 16 if you clear your browser history and (maybe) if you hit ESC before it's finished loading(my kid and his classmates discovered this when they were required to read NYT articles for AP US History.)

suep. said...

It's true, Strategies 360/DMA Marketing has a history of conducting push-polls (biased polls that ask questions in such as way as to influence the answers and obtain the desired response of those who are paying for the poll).

Strategies 360/DMA conducted the push-poll for the Alliance for Education in 2009 that was then used to fabricate the "Our Schools Coalition." (See: Should the School District Be Allowed to Give Our Kids’ Phone numbers, Addresses and Photos to Every Tom, Dick and Pollster?)

It was also accused of conducting a push-poll for a city council candidate in Portland, Oregon in 2010.
Beaverton City Council candidate criticizes telephone survey as negative campaigning
(...)Fagin said he hired Seattle-based DMA Market Research to conduct the poll, which ended Sunday, at a cost of nearly $14,000.

Most recently, it conducted a poll about Seattle Public Schools for the Alliance for Education, in its latest attempt to legitimize its astroturf construct, the "OSC" and falsely claim that there is wide support for the Alliance/OSC ed reform "platform." Alliance for Ed CEO Sara Morris referenced this survey in her recent (Feb. 2013) op-ed in Publicola.

This survey can be found here.

Note, that according to Q5, it appears that 81 percent of the respondents to this survey about Seattle Public Schools do not have children in Seattle Public Schools.

So it is difficult to see how the views of these overwhelmingly non-SPS respondents about SPS and its collective bargaining agreement with its teachers (one of the questions on the survey!) is relevant.

Unknown said...

I think the bigger question is why does Stand for Children have any legitimacy? It's not a local group--it's simply a "reform in a box" outpost of a national organization. It is funded almost in its entirety by corporations and foundations with a corporate ed reform agenda. Not that the legitimacy of other education reform groups isn't called into question, but Stand for Children, more than any other group has no claim to claiming any kind of real legitimacy. One way that I think it and other groups attempt legitimacy is by tying their corporate reform agendas to civil rights issues or popular education issues such as funding. In this case it is failure.

Without information about the wording of the questions, the methodology of the poll and the margin of error, the implication is that this poll was just a marketing event, aka a "push poll." How and why does a marketing effort appear as a newspaper article in the Times?


suep. said...

You're right about Stand for Children, Incorporated., Mary. Why should a national, paid political corporate ed-reform lobbying operation be allowed to butt into the affairs of our schools and state? It is not a legitimate voice and does not represent our community.

To recap, Stand for Children, Inc. is a political lobbying enterprise that received money from the Gates Foundation to set up shop in Seattle a few years ago. Stand has received about $10 million from Gates overall so far.

Stand for Children Leadership Center

Date: September 2007
Purpose: to support the expansion of Stand for Children in Washington State
Amount: $682,565
Term: 36
Topic: Global Policy & Advocacy
Regions Served: GLOBAL|NORTH AMERICA
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Portland, Oregon
Grantee Website: http://www.standleadershipcenter.org/


Here's an insight into the true nature of Stand for Children, Inc. -- their CEO, Jonah Edelman, boasting at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2011 about how his operation manipulates legislators and the teachers' union to push Stand’s privatizing, teacher-bashing agenda, putting the lie to their false, grassroots, altruistic pretenses. (This revealing slip caused a firestorm of criticism for him and Stand.)

See: Jonah Edelman Spills the Oligarchs' Blueprint for Crushing the Teaching Profession

Footage of SFC, Inc. CEO Jonah Edelman from Aspen Ideas Festival 2011

Jonah Edelman on outfoxing teachers’ unions: Transcribed remarks (from Parents Across America site):

And here, a former SFC, Inc. member describes how it devolved from a more genuine organization to a lobbying tool of corp ed reform:
Stand for Children: A Hometown Perspective of its Evolution

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sue and Mary, clearly the Times is not going to even have the semblance of objectivity. There is no reason for this story except to push an agenda.

Melissa Westbrook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A-mom said...

The Seattle Times and objectivity seem to have parted ways.
Did any of you get to read the entire MAP article on Sunday, by Linda Shaw I believe?
I only got the front page,because I won't pay money for that rag.
It painted the creators of the MAP as earnest volunteers working to reform, and teachers as union protected hacks. Maybe it got more objective later but I doubt it.

Anonymous said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

A-mom, I did read that article. It was actually pretty good and balanced. (They do fine when they don't edit.) What was interesting is that in two places they said that NWEA said that MAP wasn't designed to find advanced students nor was it designed to evaluate teachers.

So why does SPS use it that way?

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