Media: What The NYT Got (Wrong) Re NCLB Waivers
There was lots to like but at least a couple of key things wrong in Motoko Rich's Friday morning debut NCLB exclusive on the front page of the New York Times.
The issue of whether NCLB continues to exist at this point and the healthy skepticism about the impact of the waivers were both nice to see in the Times piece, as were the abundance of quotes from folks outside the Beltway. NCLB was from the start a patchwork of state accountability schemes with a national rating formula slapped on top, but 26 waivers from single subgroup accountability, among other things, is a whole other level of decentralization. Too often, reporters pass along Team Obama's assertions about all the nifty things waives will do without checking around to find out what those on the ground have to say.
But as I tweeted last week, a new education reporter -- like a new teacher -- learns out in the open in front of pretty much everyone. Rich makes a serious if common mistake in passing along the assertion that NCLB is guilty of "labeling all struggling schools as failing," which isn't what NCLB does when a school misses one or more AYP targets. And, even with the spicy Spellings quote, Rich gives complaining state and district officials a little bit too much unchallenged space for my taste. That NCLB unfairly stamps too many schools as failing is a favorite line of argument from whiny administrators, longtime NCLB critics on the left, and the current crop of accountability-averse reform types in the middle, but doesn't deserve to be presented so unquestioningly as in this piece.
There are lots of ways for a school to make or miss AYP under NCLB; whether a school is missing by an inch or a mile, and variations in the rigor of underlying state accountability schemes are still important distinctons (to me, at least). Understanding how NCLB really works and remembering that states and districts weren't helpless in shaping it, will be key to understanding whatever happens next.
Does anyone have a PDF or screenshot? Did any of the other outlets do any better or worse with their coverage?