Thursday, October 29, 2015

Merrow vs Moskowitz: What Happens to Those Who Speak Out? - Living in Dialogue

Merrow vs Moskowitz: What Happens to Those Who Speak Out? - Living in Dialogue:

Merrow vs Moskowitz: What Happens to Those Who Speak Out? 

By John Thompson.
While I disagree with PBS’s ombudsman, Michael Getler, I believe we should take his statement on John Merrow’s News Hour finale as a learning experience opportunity for education activists. Then we can make it a teachable moment for the non-education press.
Merrow closed his illustrious career with a hugely important report on suspensions at Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy. Getler doesn’t seem to understand how big of a story it is.
PBS News Hour acknowledges that as the story unfolded there was a miscommunication with Merrow, the News Hour, and Moskowitz about student privacy laws. Getler doesn’t seem to understand the complexity of those laws — and how inappropriate Moskowitz was in flouting them. If Merrow had done something wrong, I sense Getler would have said so explicitly. Instead, he focuses on a new issue – the use of confidential sources.
The ombudsman recognizes that “Merrow is a highly-experienced, well-respected specialist in this field of reporting, so what he reports and says may be absolutely true and very important in disclosing questionable activities of a high-profile school system and the impact on young children.” He further admits, “I have no special insight into education procedures, can’t evaluate the battle that still rages over the accuracy of the statistical analysis used in this segment, and can’t really tell who is right and wrong on the substance of school policy and procedure.”
Getler’s complaint was that Merrow had to use too many sources who would not go on the record. I wonder if he has the same complaint with the New York Times Magazine’s coverage of Moskowitz. Daniel Bergner watched Moskowitz for months and says her, “impatience with dissent emerged as one part of a furious and almost crazed passion.” He cites two unnamed sources to support the seemingly noncontroversial statement that Moskowitz is “downright imperious.” When reporting on another charge that is intertwined with the battle over her Success Academy, the Times’s wording is very similar to Merrow’s on suspensions, “In talking to dozens of current and former Success Academy employees and parents, the critique with the most staying power involved the schools’ overly heated preparation for the state exams.” (emphasis mine) The names of those dozens of sources were not revealed.
Getler understands that the use of confidential sources is often necessary but, “This is not a big national security issue or something like that when sources frequently decline to be identified. This is charter schools and policies that we are talking about, a big universe and surely not everyone out there with a supportable case to make is afraid of Eva Moskowitz. Or are they?”
(I should also add that given the pervasive nature of Success Academy’s test prep, the universe of Bergner’s potential sources is big. Given the charter schools’ ability to “cream” the easiest-to-teach students, the Merrow vs Moskowitz: What Happens to Those Who Speak Out? - Living in Dialogue: