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Media: NBC's Newer, Better "Education Nation 2011"

image from association.drupal.orgSo NBC News is ramping up for its second week-long series of programming and events known as "Education Nation," which will culminate kick off with a two-hour teacher town hall that host Brian Williams calls the week's "signature moment." Click below to read the release. This year, NBC has created an essay contest for teachers and will bring winners to NYC to participate.   

Looking back to last year's version, NBC News head Steve Capus admits that they "probably spent a little too much time" talking about things like Waiting For Superman and Michelle Rhee that were hot topics but not necessarily representative of the full range of issues and perspectives. (There wasn't any breakout star or viral moment from last year's event in part -- this is my take -- because the proceedings were so tightly controlled and the attendees came from partner organizations predisposed to one side of the discussion.) They're trying to make sure that this year's event is both more diverse in terms of views presented and more focused and in-depth on the topics it chooses to cover -- to get beyond the "tired talking points" as much as possible -- and to ensure that teachers come from not only all kinds of classrooms but all kinds of backgrounds and viewpoints.  

Capus and his team held a trade reporter / blogger conference call a couple of weeks ago and patiently heard out everyone's complaints and suggestions (and blatant sucking up). They're involving the unions as well as the reformy organizations in the recruiting of attendees. They seem sincere about wanting to make this a more credible, interesting event -- though of course the proof is in the pudding. 

In a perfect world, the event would be going out on NBC rather than the cable channel, and there would be some sort of lottery or open registration so that any educator could get in.  But the big question -- no news on this yet -- is what they're going to focus on and who they're going to have on their panels.  Ideally the weeklong event won't be limited to or dominated by super-predictable reform names (Kopp, Rhee, Duncan, Cristie, Klein, Gates, Canada, Brill) and ultra-reformy topics (value-added, national standards, LIFO, charter schools) with everyone  being in polite agreement but avoiding difficult issues of scalability, effectiveness, funding, and politics.  No one (but me) wants an all-out food fight-- I'm still looking for video of that 2008 exchange between Rhee and Klein Weingarten. But to get the credibility and traction they clearly hope for, Team NBC needs to make these into probing discussions among equals with different views on what needs to be done and leave room for some unexpected moments and eye-opening exchanges.

If that happens -- fingers crossed -- then maybe Education Nation will make some news along with informing us.  


 Brian Williams Will Moderate the Event in New York on Sunday, September 25th at Noon/ET

 EducationNation.com Launches Essay Contest Asking Teachers about Their Biggest Challenges and How They Measure Their Own Success; Winners Will Be Brought to New York to Attend the Town Hall

  New York, NY – August 3, 2011 – NBC News will host a gathering of teachers from across the country for the second-annual nationally televised “Teacher Town Hall.” This special event will be held on Sunday, September 25th, and broadcast live on MSNBC at Noon/ET.  The “Teacher Town Hall” is part of the 2011 “Education Nation” National Summit, which consists of live events and panel sessions on Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, and is complemented by education reports and programming across the network’s shows and platforms during the week of September 25th.

 Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News,” will moderate the discussion, with help from MSNBC’s Tamron Hall, who will facilitate questions from the audience. NBC News’ Chief Education Correspondent Rehema Ellis will also take part, moderating and reporting an online conversation with teachers across the country during the two-hour live event. The program—for and about teachers— will focus on the most important challenges and opportunities facing America’s teachers, and feature examples of great teaching from various schools and classrooms across the country.

 This year’s national “Teacher Town Hall” builds on the first annual event in September of 2010, as well as local town halls with teachers in Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia that were held as part of the “Education Nation On-The-Road” tour in May and June of 2011.

 “As the foremost authorities on what’s taking place in our schools today, teachers continue to play a critical role in our "Education Nation" events and programming,” said Steve Capus, President of NBC News. “Given the dynamic and impactful dialogue at last year’s national event, and the powerful conversations we had on the road with teachers in Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, we're looking forward to continuing the discussion and seeking solutions once again with this year's Teacher Town Hall.”

 As hundreds of teachers gather in-person at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, NBC News is also inviting teachers from across the country to join the conversation virtually by registering to take part in the conversation at EducationNation.com. The “Teacher Town Hall” will offer America’s educators on the frontlines an opportunity to voice their priorities, brainstorm new ideas, discuss key policy issues, and ask questions of each other to advance the conversation about teaching in the United States. Registration for this event will be available on EducationNation.com in early September 2011.

 In addition to the broadcast on MSNBC, the “Teacher Town Hall” will stream live online at EducationNation.comScholastic.comiVillage.com and msnbc.com

 In an effort to identify and confront the biggest challenges that teachers face on a daily basis, and to learn more about how educators measure their own success, EducationNation’s The Learning Curve blog is launching a teacher essay contest for teachers nationwide. NBC News will select three winners and bring them to New York City for the Teacher Town Hall. The winners will also have their essays published onEducationNation.com during the Summit in September. A panel of NBC News journalists and education experts will judge the essays, and will be looking for honest, personal accounts that show a unique side of teaching that isn’t read about in the daily headlines. For more information on the contest and to submit an essay, visit EducationNation.com. The contest closes on September 2, 2011 at 5:00 PM/ET.

 “Education Nation” was recently nominated for three News & Documentary Emmy Awards, including a nomination for EducationNation.com in the “New Approaches To News & Documentary Programming: Current News Coverage” category, and a nomination for MSNBC’s 2010 live “Teacher Town Hall” in the “Outstanding News Discussion & Analysis” category. To view last year's town hall, click here. For information about all of the “Education Nation” nominations, visit the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences website.

 The 2011 “Teacher Town Hall” is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Scholastic. Sponsors of the 2011 “Education Nation” Summit include University of Phoenix, State Farm®, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Bezos Family Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation and The Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation.

 "Education Nation" seeks to create a thoughtful, well-informed dialogue with policymakers, thought-leaders, educators and the public, in pursuit of the shared goal of providing every American with an opportunity to achieve the best education in the world. These discussions cover the challenges, potential solutions and innovations spanning the education landscape. By providing quality information to the public, NBC News hopes to educate Americans so they can make decisions about how best to improve our education system both in the near and long terms, and to shine a spotlight on one of the most urgent national issues of our time, so that America can once again become an Education Nation.


 For more information about “Education Nation,” visit EducationNation.com, check us out on Facebook:facebook.com/EducationNation or follow us on Twitter @EducationNation.


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I think NBC would get better ratings with my "Teaching for the Stars" idea.


So where are the parents?

There's no benefit to the programmers in flamboyantly excluding teachers and parents and their viewpoints as they did last year -- it has to have been done from sheer cluelessness. That's pretty extreme cluelessness, though. It's like doing a show on the state of medical care and forgetting to invite health professionals.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.