Two stories about education in today’s edition of the Independent Record–
one a week old story about a student who wasdropped off at the wrong bus stop, the other about whether or notMontana schools met the Annual Yearly Progress measurement dictated by the No Child Left Behind law. Easy decision to prioritize coverage, right? One is a limited interest, aberrant example of a transportation system that is incredibly efficient and safe, the other a major story about school progress, federal funding, and student achievement–even if poorly measured.
If you would assume that the latter story would get more coverage,you would be mistaken. The IR devoted over a thousand words and conducted at three interviews to examine Bus Stop Gate, delving into technologies we don’t have and horror stories about what could have happened. Receiving almost 700 words of coverage was state progress on AYP. The real problem, though, isn’t the size of the stories, but the content. The story is hardly news. It’s essentially a rehashing of a press release written by OPI yesterday. After reading that and the AP summary, wasn’t anyone at the IR curious how Helena schools fared on AYP? After conducting interviews about the busing crisis, wasn’t there enough time to write an education story that matters?
How can it not be news in our local paper that both middle schools and high schools failed AYP this year? Every teacher in the Helena School District has known that we did not meet the targets for at least two weeks; shouldn’t an education reporter and local newspaper know that as well?
This shouldn’t be misconstrued as support for President Bush’s incredibly misguided No Child Left Behind program, nor should it be taken as endorsement of the idea that our schools are failing; it’s a call for real reporting about news. There’s probably a fascinating story out there about why 8 of the 13 AA schools in Montana failed AYP this year, but we’re never going to get that from the people who are charged with bringing us the news if they continue to focus on trivialities and press releases.