June 24, 2008

Is the St. Pete Times covering the Pinellas Education Foundation's white paper appropriately?

On Saturday, the St. Petersburg Times printed an article discussing a proposed site-based management system in Pinellas County (home to St. Petersburg) floated by the Pinellas Education Foundation. As is appropriate, the article disclosed the role of two key Times executives on the foundation's board and advisory council. But the non-bylined article only discussed a few of the recommendations captured in the foundation's white paper: creating a site-based management system that would devolve budget authority to principals. Missing from the article was a discussion of one important substantive recommendation: "end[ing] social promotions" (on p. 5 of the proposal).

In some ways, the article is standard solid work of the Times, with multiple sources and including dissenting views (such as Jade Moore, the executive director of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association). There are also a few aspects of this article that concern me:

  • The article is not by-lined, which suggests it may have been written by an editor or an executive, not by one of the K-12 reporters on the newspaper's staff.
  • The article fails to mention the substantive recommendation in the white paper to end social promotion.

There is substantial research on what happens when you increase the retention rate, and it's highly mixed (especially with regard to addressing low graduation rates). To report on a major proposal and ignore a recommendation with significant consequences and controversy strikes me as a serious omission in reporting, and it's one that I hope the Times reporters fix in the next few days.

There is the other matter that the omission of the end-social-promotions proposal misses: how can a proposal be about decentralization if it contains within it a strong centralized mandate?

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Posted in Education policy on June 24, 2008 1:40 PM |