Everyone on the internet has a perspective to sell. Simply put, I don’t believe that there is anything remotely related to objective data being published about our schools right now.
Look too closely at any aspect of things and you are almost assured of detecting bias For example…
Charter schools are the big buzz these days. But are they the magic pill that’s being sold? Of course not. Yet are they commendable in a variety of ways. For sure.
To that end Stanford just put out a report on charters, a pretty sweeping one that is well-summarized in this L.A. Times article.
Now as I state all the time, I think the assessments for all these studies are flawed (i.e. have you heard me holla about bubble tests before?) so I don’t put all that much stock into much of the data I am fed. But it’s certainly interesting to see how people are viewing — and informing others — about what’s going on.
As written, the Los Angeles Times article says, “California charter schools stronger in reading than math.”
But it also could have said…
“Statistics prove charter schools outperform traditional schools.”
Or it could have said…
“For all the hoopla, charter schools only negligibly better.”
Or it could have said…
“Over 33% of charters deliver worse results than traditional schools.”
And each and every headline would have been acceptable (based on the information in the article).
The point is, how the news is framed matters immensely — it’s an activity I do with my students all the time to demonstrate bias in the media — and while this reporter seems to have worked hard to be fair, there is no doubt that through the examples above we can all see that if there’s an axe to grind, data can be easily manipulated to do it.
It’s why Fox News and MSNBC can report on the same story and see two totally different things.
You think our schools don’t do this stuff? Our politicians? NCLB policy wonks? Voucher advocates? Union heads? The ACLU? The NEA?
It’s just amazing the ways in which headlines can be written. So how important is the manner by which information is framed to the perception we take away from the information? I’d suggest it might even be more important than the information itself!
Next time you see numbers on education, see how they’ve been set up and presented. Remember, it matters. It matters a lot.
(NOTE: This post was inspired by a good friend of mine, Dr. Jerry Harvey, who turned me on to a winner of a book called, How to Lie with Statistics.)