April 7, 2009

Mediocre education reporting #357

Sam Dillon's story this morning on the evident pending Giant Teacher Shortage IV: Postapocalyptic Horror... uh, pending retirement of many teachers struck me as extraordinarily poor reporting on a National Commission on Teaching and America's Future report because Dillon wrote his lede from the first two pages of the report.

Here's what the report says, or the gist of it: let's develop alternative models of socializing new teachers, models that take advantage of the demographics of teaching.

Here's the lede in the article: "Over the next four years, more than a third of the nation's 3.2 million teachers could retire, depriving classrooms of experienced instructors and straining taxpayer-financed retirement systems, according to a new report."

Do you see the same problem I do? The main argument of the report is not mentioned until paragraph #4 of Dillon's story. (In addition, like many other reporters Dillon fails to mention whether the report was peer-reviewed.) Then Dillon apparently called up Michael Podgursky for a publishable quotation, who dutifully responded with his usual skepticism about demographic Chicken-Littleism.

Except in this case, the primary Chicken Little was the reporter. Look at the chart in Appendix B, on p. 18, and you'll see quite a bit of room for optimism. For those who need a hint: the Baby Boom echo cohort is now beginning careers.

Update: Apparently USA Today has the same take on the report as Dillon, and like the Times, it fails to note that the report did not appear in a refereed journal. C'mon, reporters: raise your game when reporting on research.

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Tags: demography, reporting, teaching
Posted in Education policy on April 7, 2009 7:00 AM |