The promise and pitfalls of Improving the teaching profession

The sweeping title of this post is the name of the conference I attended in New York City last Friday, organized by the Education Writers Association and hosted by the Carnegie Corporation. About 50 journalists and a dozen teacher-bloggers spent the day talking edu-issues and I loved it.

Here are some of my takeaways about the state of education reporting:

  • Journalists do want to cover more on-the-ground stories about life in classrooms— but they can’t get teachers to talk to them or access to classrooms. Fear of reprisals from the administration silences these crucial stories from ever being explored and shared.
  • Since newspapers and investigative journalism have been butchered in recent years for a host of reasons, more and more reporters are being forced to cover more territory than they used to. Lots of journalists are playing out of position— getting stuck with education because departments are getting consolidated or eliminated. Many new ed reporters and not ed experts. Many of the ones are who ed experts are asked to cover an ever-expanding beat. They feel perpetually swamped and under-appreciated. (A familiar sentiment to many educators!
  • Editors are thirsty for exposes on bad teachers, bad schools, and overall badness in schools. Malfeasance sells. The pressure is on reporters to deliver these kinds of conflict-laden tales.
  • Many ed reporters sincerely reached out to teachers for ideas about how teachers perceive their work. They want to know what they’re doing right and wrong, and what they ought to be covering. (See my TLN colleague and fellow attendee Ariel Sacks’sexcellent suggestions here.)
  • During an open roundtable discussion between a mix of about 20 educators and journalists, the teachers took up a lot of airtime laying out critiques of high-stakes testing and using it exclusively to assess teacher effectiveness, teacher evaluations, and school rankings. It seemed like the dissent the other teachers and I were offering was news to some of the journalists.

There was a lot more to chew on: linking colleges of education to its graduates’ test scores, how to make the teaching profession selective, how to maximize the effectiveness of professional development.

I’ll have more on this fascinating conference in my next post, including a condensed version of the lucid rant I delivered to the panel on teacher recruitment. (Sneak preview: compensation matters.)

Here are some write-ups on the event from other teacher-bloggers:

TeacherKen: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/21/947980/-Education-writers-and-teachers-meet?showAll=yes

The Jose Vilson: http://thejosevilson.com/2011/02/21/3-stories-an-education-journalist-should-write-about-from-an-educator/

Teachermandc: http://teachermandc.com/2011/02/20/the-man-behind-the-curtain/

Stacey Snyder: http://tqp-stacey.blogspot.com/2011/02/just-what-is-effective-teaching.html?spref=tw

Stephen Lazar: http://stephenlazar.com/blog/2011/02/436/ 

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