|[December 12, 2012]
Hoover Institution Education Experts Identify News Hits and Misses in 2012 Education Coverage
STANFORD, Calif. --(Business Wire)--
After a close analysis of education coverage in the general news media
during 2012, the Hoover Institution's Koret
Task Force on K-12 Education today released its list of the five
most covered stories ("hits") and the five most important but neglected
The hits are based on content analyses of 21,514 education stories in forty-three
media outlets: newspapers, magazines, television networks, websites,
and more. The misses represent K-12 education issues that task
force members judged were important enough to deserve more extensive
coverage than they received.
No Child Left Behind
The cost of teachers' pensions
Common Core academic standards
International comparisons of student achievement
Online or digital learning
Louisiana's education reforms
"We analyzed news stories and opinion pieces in two dozen newspapers,
ten magazines, five websites, and four national TV news programs over a
twelve-month period," said Williamson
M. Evers, Hoover research fellow and project coordinator. "The media
did a decent job on the topics they covered, including the most
important current reform, charter schools, and the most important
political player, teachers' unions. But the issues the media neglected
are at least as momentous-fraught with consequences for American
education for years to come-and the public deserves to know more about
"Unfunded teacher pension costs are education's own 'fiscal cliff,'"
according to task force chairman Chester
E. Finn Jr. "The Common Core may well lead to enormous changes in
curriculum, instruction, and testing. What Governor Jindal has
accomplished in Louisiana should be a model for the nation. Shame on the
press for not giving such issues their due."
HITS - Most covered K-12 stories in the general news media
Number 1. Charter Schools
Charter schools are tax-funded schools operated by nongovernmental
groups under a contract or charter from an authorizing agency. State law
exempts charter schools from many commonly encountered regulations.
Nearly all are nonunion.
Number 2. Teachers' Unions
The national unions are the American Federation of Teachers and the
National Education Association. Each has state and local affiliates.
Number 3. Special Education
Special education refers to K-12 programs for and policies regarding
students with disabilities.
Number 4. Pre-Kindergarten Education
Pre-Kindergartern refers to formal schooling before Kindergarten.
Universal pre-Kindergarten would provide such early schooling to all
Number 5. No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)
The No Child Left Behind Act (2002) is the major statute governing
federal aid to K-12 education.
MISSES - Important but neglected issues and developments (ranked in
the order of importance assigned by task force members)
Number 1. Teachers' Pensions
This was the principal missing story on school finance. Public education
faces its own fiscal cliff as baby boomers retire from the classroom.
Decades of severe underfunding have put teacher pension funds in far
worse jeopardy than reported by the media because the figures reported
by states are premised on unwarranted, rosy assumptions. To cover their
true costs, states and districts will need to find hundreds of billions
of dollars that might have gone toward a better teacher salary
structure, including extra compensation for high performers.
Number 2. Common Core Academic Content Standards for English and
In mid-2012, a national poll asked Americans what they have seen, read,
or heard about the Common Core standards. Sixty percent said they had
heard nothing; 21 percent said, "Not much." This is an astonishing level
of public ignorance of a policy that already commands hundreds of
millions of tax dollars, has Washington and all the major education
groups buzzing, and is drving officials in forty-six states to prepare
their schools for compliance.
Advocates believe the Common Core will profoundly transform the central
features of modern schooling: curriculum, teaching, testing, and
accountability. The nationwide standardization that accompanies the
Common Core is also a major change for a country that has emphasized
state governance and local control of education. When 80 percent of the
public knows little about such a policy, the news media are not doing
Number 3. International Comparisons of Student Achievement
International test results are well covered by the media when new scores
are released, but then coverage disappears. That vacuum is filled by
pundits who distort the scores for their own agendas. It is particularly
troublesome when one policy is singled out as the cause of a nation's
success, followed by education tourism trips and glowing onsite accounts
of schoolchildren in foreign lands. Serious analytic work on education
policy has moved far beyond this. The media could help by giving broader
and deeper coverage of international assessments, describing, for
example, the characteristics of the various tests (TIMSS, PIRLS, and
PISA) and how they differ and, most important, educating the public
about what these tests can and cannot do in pinpointing influences on
Number 4. Online or Digital Learning
The school of the future will not look like the school of today. (It may
not even have a building.) What goes on inside-and outside-will be
different too. Education tomorrow will be altered by the digital
revolution and online and blended possibilities, much as other parts of
our lives have been. Although it's too new to be sure about all aspects
of its feasibility and effectiveness, digital learning looks to be an
education revolution in the making.
Yet the media tend to treat technology (at least in education) as an
add-on, somewhere on the periphery of business as usual. Instead, they
should help the public imagine schools in which the traditional
brick-and-mortar building, classroom, and teacher are not at the center.
Number 5. Louisiana's Educational Transformation
Public education in post-Katrina New Orleans is taking place almost
entirely in charter schools (see hit number 1, above). Disabled children
there are served with the help of multischool co-ops and risk pools.
Troubled schools in that city (and elsewhere in the state) have been
gathered into a new governance arrangement called a recovery school
district. Louisiana also has (if the courts assent) a full-blown
statewide voucher program. In 2012, Louisiana was the most
interesting-and fastest-changing-education reform state in the land. But
you wouldn't know that from the general media.
List of news media outlets analyzed: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bergen County Record, Boston Globe,
Buffalo News, Christian Science Monitor, Denver Post, Detroit
News, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Minneapolis Star Tribune, New York Daily
News, New York Post, New York Times, Orange (News - Alert) County Register,
Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
San Jose Mercury News, Tampa Bay Times, USA Today, Virginian-Pilot, Wall
Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, Atlantic
Monthly, The Economist, Forbes, Harper's Magazine, National
Review, New Republic, New Yorker, Newsweek, Time Magazine, U.S.
News & World Report, Atlantic.com, Daily Beast, Huffington Post (News - Alert), National
Review Online, Politico, ABC Nightline, CBS Evening News, Fox
News Channel's Special Report, and NBC Nightly News.
The Koret Task Force quantitatively analyzed coverage from October 15,
2011, to October 15, 2012, thus studying twelve months of articles and
broadcasts so as to release the analysis in December. (This analysis
benefited greatly from technical work by Stanford public policy graduate
student Victor Haug.) Because its analysis ended on October 15, the task
force could not include coverage of the results of the 2012 election but
was able to include almost all articles on the run-up to the election.
The descriptions of the importance of topics, however, do reflect task
force members' knowledge of the election results.
Koret Task Force on K-12 Education focuses on education policy
solutions that stress choice, accountability, and transparency. For more
information, visit Hoover.org
or find us on Facebook,
The media hits and misses project succeeds a previous Koret Education
Task Force project on the Best and Worst in American Education, which
issued reports in 2010
Members of the Hoover Institution's Koret Task Force on K-12 Education
M. Evers is project coordinator of the Koret Task Force on K-12
Education project on Education in the Media 2012: Hits and Misses. He
is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a former US
assistant secretary of education.
E. Finn Jr., Koret Task Force on K-12 Education chairman, is a
senior fellow at Hoover and president of the Thomas B. Fordham
E. Chubb is a distinguished visiting fellow at Hoover and interim
CEO of Education Sector.
Hanushek is the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at Hoover and
chairman of the Executive Committee for the Texas Schools Project at
the University of Texas at Dallas.
T. Hill is a Hoover Institution distinguished visiting fellow and
professor and founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at
the University of Washington.
M. Hoxby is a senior fellow at Hoover, the Scott and Donya Bommer
Professor at Stanford University, and director of the Economics of
Education Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Loveless is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
M. Moe is a senior fellow at Hoover and the William Bennett Munro
Professor of Political Science at Stanford University.
E. Peterson is a senior fellow at Hoover and the Henry Lee
Shattuck Professor of Government and director of the Program on
Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University.
J. Walberg is a distinguished visiting fellow at Hoover and
chairman of the board of directors of the Heartland Institute.
J. Whitehurst is the director of the Brown Center on Education
Policy at the Brookings Institution and former director of the
Institute of Education Sciences at the US Department of Education.
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