The recent Education Week report that ranked Florida public schools No. 4 in the nation in academic achievement was well-deserved recognition for this state’s underappreciated schools. It arrived in the thick of an election season where public education has been front-burner. And, given the less-than-glowing reputation of Florida’s education system, it bore all the markings of a flying pig. Florida No. 4 in academics?! Stop the presses!
Yet in a state with 21 million people, only one media outlet covered it.
On the flip side: Last week, another report found Florida to be the fifth-worst state to be a teacher. This report wasn’t compiled by seasoned, knowledgeable education journalists, like those who work at Education Week. Rather, it was crafted by WalletHub.
To date, eight news outlets have covered the WalletHub report, including three papers that editorialized about it.
For the sake of argument, let’s say the ranking methodologies from EdWeek and WalletHub are equally rigorous. Let’s agree we’re all guilty of confirmation bias. Even then, I have to ask my reporter friends: Does this seem right?
I’m a journalist by training. I had my first byline when I was 18. I worked at newspapers my entire adult life before I joined Step Up For Students (which publishes this blog) six years ago. For eight of those years, I covered education at the biggest paper in Florida, during a period of particularly heady change.
So don’t count me as another media grump. But I struggle with the degree to which news coverage in Florida seems to be missing powerful indicators of progress in public education. And I fear that the absence of such reporting has contributed to a warped public debate.
We can’t have honest dialogue about funding, testing, teacher pay, vouchers, charter schools, accountability – any of it – without an appreciation for the signs that academic outcomes are trending upward.
Consider another example.