It's teacher hunting season!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Galling WNYC, Village Voice inconsistency re NYPD, DOE malfeasance coverage

Yesterday (Wednesday, August 25, 2010) I heard WNYC's Brian Lehrer speak about New York State's victory in the "Race to the Top." The voice of New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein graced the show. While there was at least one caller that bemoaned the rising stress on teachers from test-driven teaching to the test, the general reception of Klein was congratulatory in New York State's competition with neighboring New Jersey.
A blogger has cited the Broad Foundation's friendly relationship with WNYC after my open question: why is WNYC treating New York City's Department of Education with such kid gloves?
One would hope that the exposure of New York City's plummeting scores (when the notoriously easy New York State tests were made more difficult this year) would prompt WNYC to lessen the fawning treatment of Chancellor Klein. No. Klein was allowed to wax on an on, in an uninterrupted soliloquy. Valuable time that could have gone to parents or teachers was lost in deference to his ego.
In contrast to the kid gloves treatment that Lehrer gave Klein last Thursday, August 19, note these essential questions that a poster to Lehrer's site offered:
1. Isn't Klein a total failure? Eight years of an experiment on our kids and no progress?

2. Wasn't claiming progress on flawed tests a lie?
Wasn't he promoting and firing teachers on the basis of these flawed tests? And telling parents which schools are good on the basis of these tests? And so if he knew these tests were flawed why did he give all this bad advice and claim progress that didn't happen?

3. Shouldn't he just resign?

When Lehrer usually organizes a segment on an issue with opposing perspectives he invites guests from different sides of an issue. Not so with the NYC DOE. No Leonie Haimson, no Juan Gonzalez or no Norm Scott for balance. On Lehrer's show there is no speaking truth to the power of Mr. Klein.

So, it was grandly disappointing when Lehrer segued over to a piece dealing with insensitive treatment of police officers. The piece centered around "NYPD Tapes 5: The Corroboration," the latest of a series of journalistic pieces by The Village Voice that has looked into corrupt practices in the New York Police Department, New York City's police force. It was obvious --but Lehrer did not pick up on it-- that there is a direct parallel: in both the NYC DOE and in the NYPD there is a management culture that only values the professionals, teachers and police officers, respectively, on the basis of their statistics.

In both cases the public suffers. Students get a dullened education that only lives for tests (see Gabe Pressman's report from his interview of Diane Ravitch and see this City University of New York study, "Teaching to the Test: How No Child Left Behind Impacts Language Policy, Curriculum, and Instruction for English Language Learners"). No appreciation of knowledge, just prep for the test, all to the end of making the great Oz (his holiness Mike Bloomberg). In the case of police performance, police offices do not report larcenous thefts as such, police officers willy-nilly harass black and Hispanic New Yorkers (see this Times story and this New York Civil Liberties Union report), all in the name of protecting the great Oz (mayor Bloomberg, just to remind you) and his ever improving statistics.

The Village Voice's disturbing report is a good deed. Perhaps the Pulitzer Prize committee will reward the newspaper or its reporters. But why the attention to stats mania in the police department, but no attention to similar abuses in the Education Department? The allegations that police department supervisors pressure police officers, with a singular mind to statistics, in self-interest for promotion or bonuses resonate with the allegations that teachers make about principals that harass teachers over test statistics. Yet, neither The Village Voice nor WNYC will address the parallel patterns of harassing of teachers and mis-serving the students.

Where is our free press? Where are the investigative reporters? The "alternative" or "non-commercial" media outlets fail at their duty. We bloggers don't carry the same weight as these outlets or the daily newspapers. Otherwise, Bloomberg would have lost to Bill Thompson last fall.

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