Why is the image of public education distorted by media?

grabarart0920Here is an interesting essay by University of Georgia professor Peter Smagorinsky, a regular contributor to this blog.

He writes about the distance between the reality of public education and the images portrayed in the media.

By Peter Smagorinsky

A few years ago, Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly was invited to dinner in a Harlem restaurant by the Rev. Al Sharpton. Each has served as a foil for the other’s constituencies. To O’Reilly, Sharpton represents Black Wilding, the phenomenon that many in the Fox News audience assume is a daily urban occurrence: when a band of poor, black youths roam the streets engaging in social mayhem from assault to robbery to rape to vandalism to murder.

To Sharpton, O’Reilly represents those aspects of White society that believes that all Black people are Wild, based on media reports that emphasize crime and rely on fear to construct images that serve to characterize whole groups of people according to stereotypes based on the behavior of the few.

In O’Reilly’s reports in the wake of their night out, he expressed astonishment that, at a restaurant full of black people, there was no violence, no hostility, no Wilding. He reported to his audience that, in a restaurant full of black people, the only thing that happened was that black people ate food and talked pleasantly with one another, just as they might in any other restaurant.

I begin with this story neither to valorize Sharpton nor to mock O’Reilly, but to show one example of the perils of making judgments about people based on media images and accounts. Because he has had little direct experience with black people and works within a media bubble that constructs them as a society of Wilders — a demographic that in fact has little actual substance in daily life — O’Reilly approached his dinner in Harlem with some trepidation and anticipation of an evening of violence and danger.

His actual experience in a restaurant patronized by black people led him to a different perspective on a population he knew largely through media images. Going into their community and spending time, albeit only a few hours, among them led him to question his own stereotypical views, at least for a while.

Similarly, many people base their opinions of public schools on select media images, particularly those that depict schools as violent, shabby dungeons filled with indifferent and incompetent teachers and disaffected and ignorant students. These images have helped to create a feeling of panic and alarm about American global competitiveness, and, as a consequence, have fueled policy “reform” designed to rid our classrooms of terrible teachers and restore schools to the business of education, using accountability methods developed by edupreneurs and imposed by policy people who themselves have little direct experience in schools.

What happens, however, when you go into actual schools to see what’s taking place on a day-to-day basis?

Nearly 20 years ago, in “The Manufactured Crisis,” David Berliner and Bruce Biddle analyzed data that showed clearly that, while most people think that public education is in crisis and needs a massive overhaul, they believed that the schools in their own communities are pretty good. Not perfect, but pretty good; neither in need of massive overhaul nor ideal and fine just as they are. But on an A-F grading scale, about a B. Meanwhile, they perceive public education as a whole to be worthy of a grade in the D-F range.

As they say in the world of commerce, what we have here is an imaging problem. How can it be that schools in general are terrible, but the ones that people are most familiar with are pretty good? Upon what information is such a view based? Are we composed of a nation of people who, at a distance, accept the images that the media provides us and only skeptical when they misrepresent what we personally know something about?

Last fall, Mother Jones magazine — probably the antithesis of Fox News in political orientation, and so undoubtedly a dubious source for many who follow this blog — published a piece by Kristina Rizga called “Everything You’ve Heard about Failing Schools is Wrong.”

To write this report, Rizga did something akin to what social science researchers call an ethnographic study: She spent a full academic year in a “low-performing” public school in San Francisco, Mission High School, to see why it was regarded as a failure. What she found, however, was something quite different.

“The surprises began almost right away,” she reports upon first entering the school:

Judging from what I’d read about “troubled” schools, I’d expected noisy classrooms, hallway fights, and disgruntled staff. Instead I found a welcoming place that many students and staff called “family.” After a few weeks of talking to students, I failed to find a single one who didn’t like the school, and most of the parents I met were happy too. [Mission High School’s] student and parent satisfaction surveys rank among the highest in San Francisco. . . . people seemed friendly. Even the security guards were cracking jokes. . . . There were after-school programs — the Latino student club, soccer, creating writing. [A prospective student, Maria,] asked a few students if they liked Mission. To her surprise, all of them did.

Note that Rizga opens her account of the school by talking about how surprising it was that pretty much everyone there liked this “low-performing,” failing public school. The prospective student had had been warned about its dangers:

“Everyone Maria knew outside of Mission told her not to go there. Her mother’s friends said she should pick a better school. Maria’s friends said Mission had gangs.” But none of these perils materialized during actual visits to the school. Instead, she found a lot of happy people, from students to teachers to security guards, who liked being there — not because of scholastic laxity, but because it served their personal and developmental needs, including their academic goals for advancing in society.

In class, students worked on their assignments, with teachers providing a positive social updraft through their fields of study and encouragement toward destinations such as college. Meanwhile, the students — many of whom spoke English as a second language — performed poorly on standardized tests, suggesting to outsiders evidence of urban school failure.

Yet those on the inside saw what, according to Rizga, even such conservatives as David Brooks have found: that school policymakers are obsessed with reductive measurements such as standardized tests, while “the key to success is more often found in realms that resist quantification—relationships, emotions, and social norms,” factors through which young people may become engaged in their studies and develop feelings of affiliation with the school institution and the pathways it affords.

Rizga’s year-long observation showed that, even as tests may mismeasure achievement, and as policymakers award yet another contract to edupreneurs to raise scores and thus the appearance of rigor, kids at Mission High were engaged in challenging intellectual tasks.

Maria, the prospective student who eventually enrolled, illustrated “an intellect battling to find its voice: developing research and analytical skills, the ambition and empathy to immerse herself in worlds beyond her own, and the tenacity and confidence to tackle challenging problems and keep rewriting her papers even as she wrestled with the basics of her new language.” But such open-ended thinking and problem-framing are not the stuff of the accountability movement, in which multiple-choice tests determine the quality of teaching and learning.

Rizga, who went to Mission for a year in order to understand why schools fail, instead found why measurement is failing: because it views test scores as independent measures, in spite of what David Berliner calls exogenous factors: those outside the control of the school, particularly poverty. When superficial means of measurement, in conjunction with a barrage of negative media images, provide the basis of the public’s view of its schools, it’s no wonder that most people think that schools are failing, even though the one in their own community is pretty good.

“Reform” has become the educational word of our time, and reformers like Arne Duncan are making profound changes in how schools operate, away from those that are built on relationships and genuinely challenging intellectual thinking and toward reductive multiple-choice tests as the primary measure of school effectiveness. Too much evidence is mounting, however, that reforming schools in this manner is leading to schools that truly fail. They fail kids by taking all that’s worth learning in school and reducing it to trivial assessments.

They fail teachers by taking all decisions out of their hands, eliminating their judgment from the policy process and making their jobs dreary and repetitive. They fail administrators by forcing all into the same box regardless of school demographics and evaluating their effectiveness based on factors that are likely out of their control. They fail communities by undermining the historic role that schools have played as the epicenter of values and continuity. And they fail the nation by working from false images in order to produce schools that, unlike their recent predecessors, were doing quite well until forced by administrative fiat to adopt failed policies.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

61 comments Add your comment

Simmer Down

February 13th, 2013
8:33 am

A year long study in one school may impress some but a year long study in an entire school system like APS would be considered more appropriate before claiming that the state of public education is all a “perception problem”. What this does however show is something most of us already knew that what you get out of the school is what you are willing to put in, regardless of the school.

Michael Moore

February 13th, 2013
8:37 am

Tracy Kidder found out the same thing years earlier when he sat for a year in Mrs. Zajac’s fifth grade classroom in Holyoke, Massachusetts, a lower middle class school district. Kidder, the Pulitzer Prize winning author produced the book, Among School Children, chronicling his observations.

Peter is right about the ecology of the classroom and the larger school. The increasing numbers of programs that remove the teacher from the equation or at best reduce the role of teacher to technician is a direct result of failed reform efforts that have removed teachers and administrators from the important choices, like the Common Core State standards, that govern their lives.

Looking for the truth

February 13th, 2013
8:45 am

There is a reason why (according the Mr. Smagorinsky) people think their schools are fine and the others need reform. They see the schools in their neighborhood trying to reach and teach their kids every day.

This research, while it may be limited in scope, proves only one thing. The media isn’t happy unless it has a crisis to cover. If there isn’t one, they will create one to have something to talk about. Who ever thought 24/7 news was a good thing? Oh, wait! That genius Ted Turner – the father of created news.

skipper

February 13th, 2013
8:50 am

The fact that there are all kinds of misconceptions out there DOES NOT ENTER INTO THE FRAY when one is discussing the pathetic and abysmal state of Dekalb/APS, etc. Throwing the red herring out there by examining the views of a few pundits has nothing to do with these systems…..nothing!

Bad Parenting

February 13th, 2013
9:12 am

Bad parenting comes in all shapes and sizes. But we as a society, especially in Atlanta, have serious problem with a particular culture that pays no respect to education. .

skipper

February 13th, 2013
9:15 am

@Bad Parenting,
Kudos.

Steve Zemelman

February 13th, 2013
9:21 am

Peter– As you know, I’ve focused on the “perception problem,” at the website http://www.teachersspeakup.com . But how do we fix the perception problem? It’s certainly fine to criticize the “reformers” who are taking schools in a direction that won’t fix anything at all, but that still doesn’t address the perception problem. Instead, since parents & community people will only get to see what goes on in their local school, teachers everywhere need to speak up. They need to tell stories about the powerful learning that happens in their classroom, and tell not just to each other but to the press and the wider world. In spite of what some reformers are saying about the uselessness of stories, stories are what can solve the perception problem.
–Steve Zemelman

Pardon My Blog

February 13th, 2013
9:21 am

Perhaps a year spent in a DeKalb High School, one on the North side and one on the South side would be a real eye opener.

dad99

February 13th, 2013
9:22 am

Enter your comments here

Pardon My Blog

February 13th, 2013
9:23 am

May rethink letting my child attend UGA if a professor makes an assumption about an individual just because they may watch a certain news outlet, etc.

dad99

February 13th, 2013
9:25 am

The examples you guys list of APS/Dekalb are proof of what the author speaks of. These are not classroom, student or teacher related. These are elected represenatives in charge of schools who make decisions for the entire system. The media focus is on them, not the classroom.

Michelle-Middle School

February 13th, 2013
9:28 am

The public image of the educational system is flawed by the media and our legislators on a continual basis. As a recently retired teacher, I have seen first hand the incredible work of incredible teachers in a middle school. On a daily basis, if you could ever take the time to visit a classroom, you will find teachers who are professional, caring, educated, dedicated, and sincere in their efforts to teach their charges. Teachers work long hours at school, at home, on the weekends, and during their vacation time. You can never visit a school any time of the year at any time of the day or evening that you will not see a teacher at work. There are no harder working individuals in any community. I used to work a minimum of 60 hours a week, sometimes much more.

Everyone needs to get off the back of educators and respect their sincere efforts. Making them feel bad is unconscionable. Give the system the opportunity to do what most systems do so well.

skipper

February 13th, 2013
9:29 am

@dad99,
And that certainly bodes badly for the school system, and society in general. When folks (in the name of a power struggle) put in buffoons, the result can be nothing less than disaster. Folks can counter this, argue, and wail. Check back in with this system in ten years and see where it is. Incapable folks cannot make it happen. Either it will have been taken over by another entity, or it will still be the joke that it is.

Understanding Atlanta

February 13th, 2013
9:36 am

As a while things look dismal, I remember being in a south DeKalb high school as a student and my teachers worked hard everyday. They would stay after school tutoring students and offering extra instruction time on difficult concepts. Many actively involved parents see the teachers and school administrators trying to ensure students are prepared. From the outside looking in it seems no progress is being made due to test scores and other indicators.

It’s often a much different view when inside the school.

Michelle-Middle School

February 13th, 2013
9:37 am

@bad parenting
I agree with your statement and add my concern over the fact that the creation of a totally new culture within America is not a positive event. The language, or lack thereof, the pants on the ground, and the “bootie call” attitude only keeps individuals in the ghettos, stifling intelligence we all should recognize is present in their culture as well as others. Creating a separate culture only isolates and diminishes individuals within that culture in the eyes of others, keeping them from attaining goals of personal and group excellence. Why don’t they see this?

Mitch

February 13th, 2013
9:45 am

The air waves are blasted every day with what we call “talk radio”. Never a good word about our public schools. Too many people spend their time listening to this drivel. My Grand dad used to tell us that if we listen to a fool, we become one. How well a person does in life depends a great deal on what their parent(s) taught them from birth to about six years old. School helps everyone regardless their station in life. For Pre-K, I do believe we should be teaching young parents how to teach their little ones rather than expect the school system to do it.

Batgirl

February 13th, 2013
9:51 am

Dr. Smagorinsky, thank you for a great article. However, I suspect that because it was published by “Mother Jones”, many will just see it as part of some liberal agenda. Maybe if someone from Fox would deign to enter a public school and do something similar, people would believe it.

Leslie

February 13th, 2013
9:56 am

My expereinces echo those Peter discusses. I worked with teachers, students, and pre-service teachers at a “low-performing school” in Charlotte, NC. The teachers I knew were dedicated and caring, some of the best in county, as they had been recruited to this high school. The students and their parents were loyal and committed to building a community. A teacher at the school who was conducting her Masters research on parent involvement found that parents were very supportive of their children’s success in school, but they often had work schedules, transportation challenges, or child care responsibilities that kept them from being involved in school functions.
Because the schools test scores did not show growth in their AYP, the school was shut down, less than 10 years after it had opened. Students are now required to travel much longer distances to get to school, and the community lost a unifying institution. This is a community where most live under the poverty level. Until U.S. schools districts make serious efforts to bring equitable funding to all schools–and equitable doesn’t mean the exact same for all–certain media will continue to villanize the poor for staying poor.

bootney farnsworth

February 13th, 2013
10:23 am

@ Batgirl

;lets turn that around. if it had come from Townhall, many on your side would dismiss it automatically. Fox news and it would be denounced as lies.

physician, heal yourself

bu2

February 13th, 2013
10:24 am

This article says they fail tests and have trouble communicating in the English language. That’s NOT a perception problem.

Sure the socialization aspect is important in future success, but that doesn’t matter if you can’t get through college and can’t communicate. And other than teaching teamwork, what part of those socialization skills are public schools capable of teaching?

John Conlin

February 13th, 2013
10:31 am

I think this is missing the point. SAT reading scores are at a 40 year low. ACT reports 75% of incoming college freshmen are not prepared for college, only 4% of African-Americans are. Most 4th and 8th graders are not proficient in math or reading.

High school dropouts are 47 times more likely to be incarcerated than college graduates. A third of African-American high school dropouts were in prison in 2009 and only half of all African-American males graduate high school.

None of this is because of worthless teachers or administrators. The country is filled with hardworking, dedicated, loving teachers, administrators, para-pros and volunteers. We spend more per pupil than any country on the planet, save one.

The problem is in the design of the system. This top-down, expert driven system is failing. We need to unleash the wisdom of millions and we need to stop telling teachers and administrators what/how to do.

How do we do this? One simple change… let’s stop funding school districts and let’s start funding parents. That’s what we are trying to do at End the Education Plantation, http://www.EndtheEducationPlantation.org.

Let’s quit looking for people to blame and instead change the system. Join us.

bootney farnsworth

February 13th, 2013
10:34 am

@ Dr. Pete

after reading your piece twice, then taking time to reflect….

while I think I see where you’re headed, I sorta disagree. there is no doubt at all there are many educators doing God’s work in the worst of circumstances. I’ve met several in my time at GPC, many across the street at Clarkston HS.

but we have major issues for any number of reasons in public ed which I think make the conclusion we’re failing valid. DCSS, APS, Clayton, even GPC are classic examples which have backed themselves into bad corners by bad/irresponsible decisions.

we’re certainly not fully to blame, but we’re not innocent either.

Rick L in ATL

February 13th, 2013
11:21 am

@John C: Thank you for bringing rationality and logic into this screeching whinefest of a post. Our public ed model doesn’t have a perception problem, it has, as you correctly point out, a fatal structural problem. As I’ve said here many times, public ed isn’t a renovation project, it’s a tear-down-and-rebuild.

Public Ed 2.0 will not be–and cannot be– a free no-strings entitlement with nothing demanded of parents and (in most urban school systems, at least) nothing contributed.

To put it bluntly, the sooner we kill off the current system the fewer poor black kids will be victimized, and those of you who bleat so loudly about those kids’ fates should be clamoring to bulldoze the current system rather than whining about how it’s misperceived.

Here’s the REAL perception problem: your failure to perceive that the flatlining system you’re trying to resuscitate cannot be incrementally reformed. It is a goner, and good riddance to it. How many more thousands of poor urban kids will be victimized while you furiously apply CPR to this corpse?

Darwinism works. Adapt or perish. Let the money follow the child and public schools will have to adapt (instantly, radically and comprehensively) or they will indeed perish. Anything that fills that vacuum–anything–will be better than what we have now.

And in our future Public Schools 2.0, those great teachers who toil now inside our “unappreciated” schools (and there are many) will receive the credit they are certainly due.

Elaine

February 13th, 2013
12:13 pm

This reminds me of the study that I read about years ago. (Apologies, but I can’t remember the details, and Google didn’t turn anything up.)

A think tank surveyed over a thousand Americans about their perceptions of public schools. The average grade they gave “public schools” as a whole was “D”; however, the average grade given to respondents’ own neighborhood schools was an “A”.

I think a similar poll was done about Congress. The public approval ratings for Congress as a whole were in the cellar, but people gave high ratings to their own representatives. It’s all about public perception vs. your actual experiences.

Just a perception problem? Read the AJC

February 13th, 2013
12:35 pm

“I’d expected noisy classrooms, hallway fights, and disgruntled staff. But none of these perils materialized during actual visits to the school.”

So, it’s all just a “perception” problem, eh?

I think it might be Mr. Smagorinsky who needs to visit some real live schools.

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/report-officer-zaps-2-girls-with-taser-to-stop-fig/nWKcj/

http://midtown.patch.com/articles/state-of-the-grady-cluster-lots-accomplished-lots-to-do – “Daughter at Inman, small group of students within her team disrupt every class.”

And Inman and Grady are not even the “failing” schools – they’re APS’s crown jewel schools!

No, it’s not all bad. At least some of the time, caring teachers or administrators step in to try to break up the fights, at risk to their own safety. We thank them! And some teachers do get to spend some time in some classes preparing kids for the standardized tests that APS will then use to show that not all of its students are actually “failing”.

But to pretend that the problems don’t exist means there is no chance that things can be improved.

10:10 am

February 13th, 2013
1:32 pm

Smagorinsky’s snarky comments on Bill O’Reilly, Fox News and all who don’t agree with a worldview (his) featuring white guilt as its centerpiece—will no doubt continue to win him undeserved access to this column.

The AJC, after all, remains an unreformed mouthpiece of the political left. Despite the newspaper’s declining circulation and relevance.

Smagorinsky’s suggestion that the rest of us form our viewpoints based on something other than our own life experiences betrays his elitist contempt for readers. Perhaps that impresses college co-eds; those of us with real world experience are only tempted to return an equal amount of contempt … for him.

His ongoing battle to deny parents the right to choose (as he himself did?) non-traditional schools for their children is deplorable, given the shortcomings parents—especially inner-city parents—know to be everyday fact in too many public schools.

Local Control

February 13th, 2013
1:37 pm

The perception is that we live in an upper-middle class area where the local school district meets AYP and exceeds state averages so all is well.

Reality enters when there are no less than three curriculum changes in five years and the seventh grader who scored over 1500 on the SAT through Duke TIP no longer has access to accelerated or gifted studies because of local changes made for the NCLB waiver.

Peter Smagorinsky

February 13th, 2013
1:56 pm

Ah, 10:10, with another cowardly anonymous response. How about this, 10:10:

1. Since you are a conservative who demands accountability, be accountable for your own bold comments by signing your real name to them.
2. Tell us where you work and provide us with your own performance evaluations so we know the source of your tough comments and critiques, and what kind of work you are doing to feel so authoritative in writing them every day; or do you have a job? If so, you spend a lot of your work time reading the newspaper. (In case you’re wondering, commenting on these matters publicly IS part of my job as an educator.)
3. Tell us your own experiences as an educator, how many schools you visit and can talk about first-hand, and other direct experiences you have with the institution you claim to know so well.

That would be a nice start. At least finally, for the first time ever in this space, you would be accountable for your opinions. Otherwise, you’re just another coward hiding behind a pseudonym, taking potshots from the basement.

Peter Smagorinsky

February 13th, 2013
1:59 pm

Just a perception problem? Read the AJC: I’ve been in hundreds of schools. How about you?

Peter Smagorinsky

February 13th, 2013
2:05 pm

Just a perception problem? Read the AJC:
And yes, you are every bit the coward that 10:10 is, until you can answer the same questions.

10:10 am

February 13th, 2013
2:22 pm

@ Peter Smagorinsky:

If I’m misquoting you—that your own children have attended private schools—please let me know. Also please explain why you feel inner-city and other parents not as privileged as you should be denied that same choice.

And please consider how insulting you sound when denigrating all ideological opponents as know-nothing “racists.”

Beverly Fraud

February 13th, 2013
2:32 pm

@Peter, I’m not sure I understand how the merits of an argument depend on the person signing their name. If one says 2 + 2 = 4 is it any less valid because they use an anonymous blogger name?

Shouldn’t the debate rest on the merits of the actual argument than on whose name is behind the argument?

I would say there is some validity to “read the AJC.” For example South Atlanta High reported zero discipline problems a while back, but the AJC reported that the Atlanta Police Department responded (correct me if I’m wrong Maureen) over fifty times to violent incidents at the high school for the same reporting period.

Yes there is an attempt to demonize teachers for political purposes; but let’s not pretend that out of control students don’t dot the education landscape, and teachers are often not supported.

That dynamic does exists, but you are totally right in my view of Arne Duncan; but then he was one of the main ones propping up Beverly Hall after the cheating scandal broke out.

Beverly Fraud

February 13th, 2013
2:39 pm

Why is the image of public education distorted by media?

We are asking bloggers? I ask, because I can’t think of a single question more worthy of self reflection on behalf of the AJC.

Did not this very paper’s editorial board lend enormous political capital to a decade’s worth of academic genocide that was the “APS miracle”?

Has the AJC ever held itself accountable for its role in enabling academic genocide?

The closest anyone publicly at the AJC (correct me if I’m wrong Maureen) came to taking responsibility was Jay Bookman who said words to the effect that we wanted to “believe the narrative.”

Ironically the column is about the media bashing the public schools; but isn’t the question just as valid when it comes to the almost unabashed support the AJC editorial board gave to Beverly Hall, refuses to call for her resignation even after their reporters uncovered the largest cheating scandal in United States educational history?

Rick L in ATL

February 13th, 2013
2:46 pm

Wow, 10:10, I’m awarding you the TKO on this one. Somebody get the smelling salts for poor old Peter.

Beverly Fraud

February 13th, 2013
2:51 pm

Just a perception problem? Read the AJC: I’ve been in hundreds of schools. How about you?

You can virtually visit hundreds of schools at YouTube. You’ll see some awesome lessons for sure; but you’ll see more than your fair share of Jerry Springer material as well, will you not?

da bear

February 13th, 2013
2:52 pm

The media support sthe out of control kids. I have read reports in the news where the headline was “Parent says straight A student kicked out for _____”.

Upon reading the story, the parent also says sthe child is 16 and in the 8th grade, three years behind. Knowing a teacher at the school I call him and asked. The child had been in alternative school for three years, and is a social promotion.

Yes the parent did sya what the headline portrayed, but NO effort was made to find out if it was true. Liek using simple common sense. I find stories like htsi all them time.

Another story about a boy being suspending for hitting his principal with a cream pie during a pie in the face play. They left out that the boy hit the principal so hard it broke her nose.

Just recently Fox ran a story about two girls in a chater school being “suspended for wearing a t shirt honoring their marine father.” Actual story: T shirts were against the dress code, and they had violated the code multiple times and the parents had been repeatedly warned, but still encouraged them to continue violating it.

But making the school seem bad is good for circulation.

da bear

February 13th, 2013
2:55 pm

sorry should have spell checked.

Peter Smagorinsky

February 13th, 2013
3:11 pm

Cowardly 10:10, please tell me where I use the word “racist” in anything I’ve written, today or elsewhere.

Cindy Lutenbacher

February 13th, 2013
3:33 pm

Amen, Peter, and beautifully rendered. Thank you.

Peter Smagorinsky

February 13th, 2013
3:40 pm

10:10, you are a coward, and a disingenuous one at that. I’ve acknowledge many times here that my children attended BOTH private and public schools over the course of their education. Please don’t pretend that you’ve discovered some new and incriminating evidence to discredit me. At least I have a real name to stand behind when I comment here.

Beverly Fraud

February 13th, 2013
3:43 pm

The thing we seem to be missing is that you can see through the Arne “I support systemic cheating; I support Beverly Hall” Duncan and still see the validity of those who claim discipline is out of control (And yes, I have no doubt Dr. John Trotter uses his own name and has been in hundreds of public schools as well!)

And since we are looking for documented facts. Was it “media bias” that called the Atlanta Police department fifty times in one year for major crime issues or was it APS?

If you want to ask anything of media bias, ask why the AJC refused to back their reporters by allowing them to do a follow up and instead backed up Beverly Hall?

Beverly Fraud

February 13th, 2013
3:47 pm

At least I have a real name to stand behind when I comment here.

Again, how does the name on the post invalidate the validity of the argument? Aren’t we supposed to evaluate arguments using facts and logic not just based on the person who puts them forth?

Peter Smagorinsky

February 13th, 2013
3:49 pm

Ms. Fraud, it’s about accountability, which 10:10 insists on except when it comes to himself.

Beverly Fraud

February 13th, 2013
4:03 pm

@Peter, one does understand a frustration when one reads the following:

And please consider how insulting you sound when denigrating all ideological opponents as know-nothing “racists.”

As Peter asked, 10:10 regardless of how you sign your name, you lose credibility if you can’t point at (as Peter as asked you to) where he has ever used the term “racists”.

If you’re going to use a pseudonym, make your facts and logic as airtight as possible…

10:10 am

February 13th, 2013
4:06 pm

@ Peter Smagorinsky:

I’m confident most readers of your essay’s opening paragraphs will reach a disappointing conclusion re your tolerance of other opinions.

… one I’m equally confident is shared by your classroom students—who not unreasonably may expect a college classroom to be an open forum for the intimidation-free exchange of ideas. But perhaps I now risk sounding almost as pretentious as you do opining about the Fox News audience?

Dr. John Trotter

February 13th, 2013
4:15 pm

Perhaps I ought to check in on this matter. I certainly have been in hundreds and hundreds of public schools. Peter is right that part of the crisis is highly manufactured, viz., the crisis in teaching. For the most part, teachers are doing a darn good job, considering the horrendous circumstances under which they teach. And, as we say at MACE, you cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions.

I don’t think anyone would characterize me as operating under “white guilt.” I call it like it is, whether the culprits are white or black or whatever. I have been right on my severe criticisms of “the gangsta school systems” of Atlanta and DeKalb, systematic cheating, Beverly Hall, Crawford Lewis, Edmond Heatley, Michelle Rhee (Asian-American, by the way), Arne Duncan, Mark Elgart, Glenn Brock, Michael Hinojosa (Mexican-American, by the way), and Robert Avossa (Italian-American, by the way). Criticism needs to be cast where criticism is due, regardless of color or ethnicity. I am glad that Bill O’Reilly visited a restaurant with Rev. Sharpton in Harlem. That’s good. But, this says nothing about whether urban schools are out of control. They are. Trying to ameliorate this fact (and I am not saying that Professor Peter is) will not improve these war-zone schools. Only establishing and maintaining sound discipline with teachers being fully supported by the administration will improve these schools.

In these war-zone schools, the three most egregious problems are the defiant and disruptive children who disrupt the learning processes for those children who do want to learn, the irate and irresponsible parents, and the angry and abusive administrators. If you want to throw in systematic cheating for a full grand slam of problems, then O. K. Trying to window-dress these problems for fear of dealing with these schools head-on only makes the problems more flagrant. Trying to implement a water-downed and minutia-plagued curriculum (“Common Core”) with the devil being in the details of carrying out the lessons which are chock full of affective domain agenda will not help these urban school children to become learned individuals with the full hope of realizing their potential in the free market place of the U. S. economy. This curriculum, with its apparent anti-capitalistic and anti-American strain, is not taught to the students in private schools where the expectation is to perform well on the SAT or the ACT in order to matriculate (and hopefully earn an academic scholarship) to the finer colleges and universities in the U. S. to hopefully become a contributing member of our society instead of a global worker who wears, to quote one of our fellow posters, an “invisible serf collar.”

Dr. John Trotter

February 13th, 2013
4:19 pm

By the way, I have indeed been in South Atlanta High School dozens of times, even when it was called Walter F. George High School — but I am telling my age. Yes, when the school apparently reported zero disicplinary problems but the Atlanta Police Officers were called there 50 times, I am very familiar with that situation and with the person who was the “Principal” at the school at the time. No more comments. Ha!

@ Local Control

February 13th, 2013
4:23 pm

the seventh grader who scored over 1500 on the SAT through Duke TIP no longer has access to accelerated or gifted studies because of local changes made for the NCLB waiver.

Could you explain further? Is a school or district eliminating these? Or something else? Thanks.

Dr. John Trotter

February 13th, 2013
4:25 pm

I have to run. You guys have fun. And, Beverly Fraud, keep keeping it real.

Dawn O'Keeffe

February 13th, 2013
5:09 pm

Excellent article! Best overview of the image dilemma facing our public schools that I have read to date. I read a great deal of articles and opinion pages about education daily because we are in the midst of making a documentary called GO PUBLIC: A Day in the Life of an American School District. We had 50 crews follow 50 subjects on 28 campuses in 1 day to capture an authentic, inside look at one very diverse school district that serves 70% lower socio-economic students. We wanted to document the reality of a public school experience, from sun up to sun down, by following those who are involved daily; administrators, teachers, students, support staff and volunteers. All 50 short films (4 minutes each) are available to view on our website at http://www.gopublicproject.org, along with 175 interview clips under the VOICES section. We are currently in post production on the feature length documentary with the goal of showing an honest and authentic look inside the walls of public school. We hope this documentary project encourages people to once again champion their local public schools. Thank you for writing so persuasively about what we are trying to also shine a light on through our films…that there is much to celebrate in public education and people need to check their local schools before blindly accepting inaccurate and damaging opinions that keep being passed around as fact. We hope the GO PUBLIC Project raises awareness, understanding and advocacy for public education so local communities across our nation once again recognize the need to support and champion public education not undermine, weaken and potentially destroy it through poor policy decisions and image distortion.