Fri
Jun 21 2013
08:56 am

One of the defining characteristics of contemporary politics has been the rise of think tanks, policy institutes, and corporately funded organizations with clear political agendas and sophisticated marketing departments to peddle advocacy “research” that provides a patina of legitimacy to what is otherwise little more than the play of power. [See Andrew Rich for a primer on the topic.] The collapse of investigative journalism and shrinking newsroom budgets has provided an opportunity for groups with political agendas to shape public debate, and it is working as planned. Today's KNS provides us with an excellent example of how the process works.



continued...

This opinion piece by Pam Strickland discusses the recent release of a “report” by the National Council on Teacher Quality that supposedly evaluates the effectiveness of teacher education programs in the United States. Not surprisingly, it paints a dire picture of failure. While I understand that this is an Op-Ed, I believe that it is incumbent that a journalist at least put forth some effort to scratch beneath the surface and to do her/his homework. Sadly, it looks like Strickland failed this test.

Had she done so she would have learned that NCTQ is a child of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation which has been pushing an agenda of corporate reform, alternative licensure, and de-professionalization for decades, and that to call this report a “study” is laughable. Hint: Reviewing syllabuses using standards that were changed as the “study” was being conducted does not constitute quality educational research. [Some good reads here, here, and here.] Even more troubling is that had Strickland made a simple phone call or email to the local college of education here in town she would have learned that UT's own Susan Benner will be offering the rebuttal at the official release of this report at the Education Commission of the States on June 27th. [You can find her review of NCTQ from 2011 here.] Sadly, Strickland did none of these very simple things. Instead, she carried water for a political group with a very specific agenda. This might fire up the KNS commentariat and generate clicks, but it does little to advance public debate over education in our state.

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Somebody's picture

Unfortunately, Ms. Strickland

Unfortunately, Ms. Strickland doesn't get paid very much for her columns, so she doesn't have time to do the kind of research you're talking about.

Stick's picture

I understand. However, just

I understand. However, just like teaching, a journalism career entails ethical obligations to society and the republic. Failure to live up to those obligations has real world consequences that affect us all. Again, all she had to do was make one phone call. Maybe two.

Stick's picture

Or... Maybe I didn't pick up

Or... Maybe I didn't pick up on the snark? Sorry to be such a hothead.

Stick's picture

More here

More here

Pam Strickland's picture

As I have explained to Dr.

As I have explained to Dr. Benner in a series of email exchanges today, I was aware of the criticisms of the study. However, I believed that the study raised enough questions overall that it merited a looksee. And at the last minute I decided to mention the Board of Education salary schedule rather than the criticisms. I didn't have space for both. Sometimes journalists on deadline make calls that look right at the moment, but in the long run weren't the best decision.

Nonetheless, I believe that the response that I got from UTK was telling because it spent more time tearing apart the study than it did telling what was right about the program. If the study was so blessed bad, why were they so up in the air about it. It was as if Dr. Bremmer and one of the folks she had contact me on her behalf were angry cats with backs arched and fur flying. It left me wondering what they were really mad about. Stick was much more mannered in his criticisms.

I write op-eds. It's more about my reactions than other folks reactions. I'd read national stories. I noted that Commissioner Huffman had endorsed it. Given what we know of the commissioner, that spoke volumes.

But weren't the rest of you curious about some of the other things out there. That other countries hold higher criteria for incoming teachers than does the United States. Abd that we are weak overall on requirements for math and reading teachers. Go look at the website. The study may not be perfect, but it raises enough concerns that it merits a look see.

You'll be glad to know it is my understanding that Dr. Brenner is writing a rebuttal op-ed to be published next week.

Stick's picture

Oh my

Let me address these points one by one...

If the study was so blessed bad, why were they so up in the air about it. It was as if Dr. Bremmer and one of the folks she had contact me on her behalf were angry cats with backs arched and fur flying. It left me wondering what they were really mad about.

Your journalistic instincts at work no doubt... As I noted in the post above, this "study" is part of a much larger web of political organizations making a power play by producing "studies" with the patina of academic legitimacy to advance a specific agenda. The marketing wing of these organizations gets the word out with press releases and such so that it trickles down the system to local papers such as our own KNS. I am, of course, oversimplifying the process, but you get the gist.

If you were on the pointy end of this spear would you be happy that a local columnist launched an attack on your institution in the local paper without even having the common courtesy of an email or phone call? Since you've been reporting on education for 20 years are you not aware that this process traces its lineage all the way back to the 1980's and Lamar's career ladder reforms?

I write op-eds. It's more about my reactions than other folks reactions.

As someone with a public platform, you have a responsibility to ensure that your reactions are informed ones.

I'd read national stories.

Note the process described above.

I noted that Commissioner Huffman had endorsed it. Given what we know of the commissioner, that spoke volumes.

Indeed. You don't seem to know much about this fellow or the organizations with which he is associated.

[We]ren't the rest of you curious about some of the other things out there. That other countries hold higher criteria for incoming teachers than does the United States. Abd that we are weak overall on requirements for math and reading teachers.

Now you have jumped into the field of international comparative education. First, the ability of other nations to hold higher criteria and to be more selective in teacher recruitment has more to do with the attractiveness of the profession in those societies than the institutional culture of universities. The attractiveness of the profession is a reflection of the level of professional autonomy associated with the position, the level of cultural respect afforded to members of the profession, the amount of compensation, etc. Second, do you know what the acceptance rate is for the various programs at UT? I would suspect that a phone call could provide you with that information. Third, you are carrying their water again. How do you know that our requirements are weak? Because the "study" says so? Finally, if you look at high performing nations around the world and their colleges of education it will look a lot like what we're doing here, perhaps with more resources and mentorship. More importantly, you will see them putting into practice ideas that were developed here in our colleges of education. I'm think PLC's in Singapore, for example.

You'll be glad to know it is my understanding that Dr. Brenner is writing a rebuttal op-ed to be published next week.

That's all well and good, but don't give us a false equivalence. The damage is done.

Look, this isn't about you, and I don't mean to attack you. We're all living in our iron cage. The reason I started the post was to express my frustration with a much larger problem. The mechanism by which our society disseminates information, while never perfect, is fundamentally broken.

Stick's picture

One more thing, my mother

One more thing, my mother read about this in her local paper and asked me about it today. When I explained the story, she asked me why newspapers don't provide readers all of the context involved in the articles they publish? Indeed.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

*

I will look forward to hearing from Dr. Benner/Bremmer/Brenner soon.

Rachel's picture

I hope that was meant to be

I hope that was meant to be funny because if not it was just gratuitously mean.

bizgrrl's picture

I thought it was funny.

I thought it was funny.

Bbeanster's picture

Me, too Cranking out a column

Me, too

Cranking out a column that's likely to be read by subject matter experts is not to be entered into lightly. Here be dragons.

Somebody's picture

Yeah, I think it's hilarious,

Yeah, I think it's hilarious, too. For one with so much pride of craft, there's so often very little pride of craft.

Pam Strickland's picture

So it was 11 pm, and I was

So it was 11 pm, and I was actually already in bed. My apologies for not proofing before I feel asleep.

Bbeanster's picture

Oops! Not that I'm calling

Oops!
Not that I'm calling Drs. Stick and Benner (I presume that's who Pam is referencing) dragons. I just believe in keeping folks like that in mind before venturing into their domain. Talk to them beforehand, seek advice. There are great resources available in this college town.

EconGal's picture

.

.

Pam Strickland's picture

I've been writing about

I've been writing about education reform since the 1980s. I'm OK.

Bbeanster's picture

Badass Teachers

Badass Teachers Association:

(link...)

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