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Paul Farhi of the Washington Post created a stir this weekend with an American Journalism Review article ripping mainstream education reporting for being uncritical of school reform. His comments were particularly pointed when it came to television coverage of the subject, especially NBC’s.

NBC has concentrated on initiatives favored by self-styled education reformers. The network has been particularly generous to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into promoting teacher merit pay proposals and privately run charter schools—an agenda strongly opposed by many public school teachers, labor unions and educators.
During its first "Education Nation" summit in 2010, for example, "NBC Nightly News" aired a profile of a Gates Foundation initiative, "Measures of Effective Teaching," which seeks to create a database of effective teaching methods. The reporter was former NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw. During the second summit last fall, Brokaw showed up on "Today" with Melinda Gates to discuss the same Gates initiative. Turning from reporter to advocate, Brokaw told host Natalie Morales, "So what Bill and Melinda have done, and it's a great credit to them, and it's a great gift to this country, is that they have taken the kind of episodic values that we know about teaching and they've put them together in a way that everyone can learn from them. So that's a big, big step."
The media has indeed been obsessed with the teacher effectiveness agenda.

And Farhi’s not wrong; the media has indeed...


Paul Farhi’s smackdown of education reform and education reporting in the American Journalism Review may be inspirational to those who would march with the status quo, but it is dangerous coming from a publication that sets the standard for how newsrooms ought to conduct their affairs.

Newspapers B&W (4)
A cursory read of national news media should shatter any belief that journalists are making life easy for reformers or education entrepreneurs.
 Photo by NS Newsflash.

Farhi, a Washington Post reporter, argues that reformers and billionaire philanthropists have fooled us into believing that American education is in crisis. And worse, passive journalists have allowed this ruse to go unchallenged. Reformers may be used to these sophomoric critiques, but Farhi would have reporters believe that our system of public education has never been better and that their job is to contest any claim to the contrary.

AJR would do better to remind its readers that, yes, some of our education system is fine, but a lot more is mediocre, ragged, losing ground to international peers, leaving many of our poorest and poorest-performing children with worsening odds that they’ll ascend to success and to the higher education of their choice. And it would do better to remind its readers that some of our best education reporters and analysts like Sam Dillon, Thomas Toch, and...


The Fordham Institute's Rejected Super Bowl XLVI Commercial

Lunchtime in America

With some generous funding, Fordham filmed a commercial to be aired during Super Bowl XLVI. Unfortunately, the ad was rejected by NBC, but for the first time, you can see the unaired commercial here.

Shit Ed Reformers Say

Sh*t Ed Reformers Say

Implementation, Implementation, Implementation

At first, I really didn’t care. I’m a pretty easy-going guy, all-in-all. Every few years, we’d get some new transfer, another geek to teach the eighth graders Algebra I, like they need that! They’d just about choke on their single-serving chocolate milk from the cafeteria when they met me.

“Fordham? Your name is Thomas B. Fordham? Like those swivel-eyed crazies with the charter schools and the horseflies?”

“D. For Dayton. (Ohio pride, buddy!) Thomas D. Fordham, no relation. But everybody just calls me Tommy D.”

And that would be that; I could get back to the business of teaching seventh-grade gym at Toledo Central Middle School (Go Jackrabbits!). But every man has his limit, and I’m finally beyond mine.

Problem is, you Fordham types don’t quit. It’s not just the charter thing, mind you, or even the bugs. I mean, enough with the “accountability” nonsense, okay? It’s not enough for you to sponsor some random schools? You’ve got to stick your noses in my school, too? And the reports? Oy. Every year, like clockwork, with those Ohio report-card analyses. (Though they’re useful for evening out the legs on my desk the sixth-grade shop class gave me last spring.)

What really got me, though, was this Senate Bill 5 shenanigan. Charter schools just mean I have a smaller fourth-period class. Not all bad. But taking away my God-given right to a fraternal union contract and then saying I can’t strike over it? Oh no, no, no. This Terri Ryan lady...


Unfettered by karmic pronouncements, Rick Santorum has already begun designing lesson plans for homeschooling his kids in the White House. According to documents uncovered by the Twenty-first Century Democrats PAC, these plans include an Ayn Rand read-along, an uncritical analysis of the Federalist Papers, and Econ 101 via Hayek.

It was revealed during a friendly Saturday-evening game of Trivial Pursuit with Jeb Bush that Bob Wise is, in fact, the IBM supercomputer, Watson. He (or is it “it”?) was uncovered after correctly answering fifteen questions in a row, and then botching the wedge question, “What does the acronym NGA stand for?” with the non sequitur: “sand castles.” Upon further questioning he started smoking out of one ear.

Not wanting to anger, annoy, or antagonize members of “nontraditional” families, parents in PC County, Vermont are petitioning to ban use of the words “picket fence,” “mothers and fathers,” “straight,” and “marriage” in the district’s classrooms. They are to be replaced with “home-area accoutrements,” “guardians,” “linear,” and “coupling.” (“Traditional” is out, too, replaced by “archaic”.)

Not to be one-upped by reform-minded state chiefs,  Dennis Walcott, John Deasy, Jean-Claude Brizard, and John Covington have teamed up to form Superintendents for Superiority. From the new organization’s press release: “You think the Chiefs are the only ones who can be alliterative? Think again.” Coming soon: Principals for Proficiency, Teachers for Terrificness, and Janitors for Joviality.

During a ...


Noting the success of last summer’s Education Reform Idol bonanza, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute proudly announces its new event series, Dancing with the School-Reform Stars. The show pairs noted reformers with famed defenders of the status quo. The first episode features Checker Finn doing the cha-cha with Randi Weingarten, Ted Mitchell dancing the tango with Diane Ravitch, and Michelle Rhee break-dancing with Dennis Van Roekel. See the season’s full line-up here.

In this analysis from the Fordham Institute, our acclaimed research team steps in to solve an age-old debate: Which education blogger is most self-absorbed and self-referential? In particular, does Andy Rotherham’s persistent disclaiming of his many influential personal connections take the cake? Or is Rick Hess’s constant citing of his own books and articles more egregious? In Eduwonk v. Rick Hess Straight Up!, researchers analyze twelve months of data—March 2011 to March 2012—and tally all the parentheticals, endnotes, and asterisks in both authors’ blog posts. In the end, our experts determined that Rick annihilated Andy, with five times more bits of shameless self-promotion than Andy over this period of time. That said, both were far surpassed by the sheer volume of irrelevant material emanating from Mike Petrilli’s Twitter feed. The authors recommend that Rick and Andy take it down a notch, and that Mike commence a twelve-step program at a professional rehabilitation facility. For the full data set and analysis, click here.

April Fools' Day is just around the corner, but don’t let it distract you from Fordham’s serious takes on education this week. Here’s a brief rundown of what our bloggers were saying:

  • “Families and schools in Wisconsin should demand integrity and accuracy from the supposedly professional head of their education department,” argued Adam Emerson on Choice Words, criticizing the spin from the chief of the Department of Public Instruction on school vouchers.
  • “The appropriate reaction of Common Core supporters to the news that nearly three-fourths of teachers claim to be at least somewhat prepared to teach the new standards should be fear,” warned Kathleen Porter-Magee on Common Core Watch. “Because these results suggest that far too many teachers plan to make few, if any, changes to their instructional and curricular programs.”
  • “Alfie Kohn isn’t evil, as some social conservatives have implied,” wrote Mike Petrilli on Flypaper. “He’s right that what passes for education in too many of our
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