Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Failures of Katie Couric as a Reporter: Biased 60 Minutes Report on Zeke Vanderhoek and TEP Charters

Katie Couric after reading Ed Notes on her 60 Minutes TEP segment
REVISED Tuesday, March 15, 12:30 PM
NOTE: I revised this as my column this week for The Wave.

by Norm Scott

Katie Couric exhibited a failure of epic proportions as a so-called reporter in her 60 Minutes interview (http://bit.ly/fPqMMk) on The Equity Project charter school lead by another former Teach for America who spent his 10 minutes in the classroom, Zeke Vanderhoek. (Did you know that 30% of NYC charter schools are lead by TFA alums - talk about cult to school pipeline?) The program was an unadorned ad for an attack on teacher tenure and seniority rights and Katie jumped right in. Her next job will undoubtedly be at FOX.

They had the obligatory kid who talked about how the public school teachers didn't care about him. Gee, I've heard a hell of a lot of former charter school teachers who not only found their teachers uncaring, but actually abusive.

Vanderhoek is making his bones on paying teachers 125K a year in what amounts to a full time and full day job.  Leonie Haimson calls him a shameless self-promoter. "He is clearly a genius at self-promotion, if nothing else. Though the test scores at his school turned out to be terrible, he still managed to score a profile in 60 Minutes."

Couric did bring up the fact that TEP's scores were lower than the public schools in the area (only a 31% pass rate) but didn't drill too deep on that one. You know the line: it takes time to reverse the effects of those awful public schools that actually had higher scores even though they pay teachers half as much.  Or - wink, wink - just go our and cream kids with higher performing potential.

This fall, Vanderhoek proved that just about any hokey ed deform idea will get you lots of publicity. An article by Justin Snider of the Hechinger report that Leonie called "highly deceptive [by] claiming the very existence of this charter school proved that teacher quality is more important than class size."

Listen to this drivel by Snider:

The reality, though, is that of all the things we should worry about in providing a quality education to our children, class size isn't high on the list. Teacher quality matters a lot more. Zeke Vanderhoek, the founder of The Equity Project Charter School in New York City, knows this. His teachers are the most highly compensated public-school educators in the country, earning minimum salaries of $125,000 per year. How does the school afford such salaries? Because Vanderhoek decided he'd much rather have the nation's top educators teaching classes of 30 students rather than mediocre folks teaching classes of 20 students.

Mona Davids of the NY Charter Parents Association said, “He should fire himself now. Equity Project only had a 31% pass rate. Where's his accountability?”

Even the NY Charter Center, the well-funded charter school booster, admitted such in its latest report:

Naturally, Couric dragged out that old warhorse, Joel Klein to discuss the tenure issue. In a case of bad reporting, she failed to raise just a few questions she could have asked. For Katie's future reference, I will list just a few she might try the next time.

Klein is asked by Katie how you get tenure and responds:

Klein:  if you have a pulse you get tenure.... tenure is something you get for showing up.

Fantasy questions from Katie:

·      Mr. Klein, how long were you in charge of the NYC schools? Wasn't it 8 years?

·      Mr. Klein, did you realize that 60% of the current teaching corps in NYC has been teaching for 5 years or less? If you look at the totals over 8 years the number of teachers hired under your tenure might be as high as 70% (or more).

·      Mr. Klein, scuttlebutt has it that 80% of the current corps of principals was placed in their positions since you took over the NYC schools.

·      Mr. Klein, isn't it true that principals are the ones who grant tenure?

·      Mr. Klein, what do you have to say to the fact that a majority of the teachers who you claim are granted tenure for merely breathing have been granted tenure by the 80% of the principals who were appointed under your tenure as head of the NYC schools.

·      Mr. Klein, explain exactly who should be held accountable if teachers receive tenure for merely breathing?

·      Finally: How dare you Mr. Klein try to perpetrate these lies and slanders regarding tenure on the American people?

By this time Klein is sweating bullets and runs off the stage with his coat over his head - and Katie never gets to ask about the scandals and massive incompetence, things that will hopefully one day truly lead to Klein taking the perp walk with his coat over his head.

Ahhhh, real journalism is fantasyland.



So, how much fun was it to receive an email from CBS today touting Katie and her piece?

This week on 60 Minutes Overtime, Katie Couric Katie Couric discusses her report on the ground-breaking New York City school known as TEP (The Equity Project), her own experience with mentoring students, and the accusation that teachers are "greedy."

To view the video, click here:

Tiny URL:  http://bit.ly/eApWza
Let me know if you have any questions.

Jenifer Boscacci
Hmmm. I think I'll send my list of questions to Jenifer.

Leonie Haimson did some work on the segment and posted at NYC Ed News listserve:
See video of last night’s 60 min: segment on TEP Charter school, featuring Joel Klein attack on tenure and celebrating the fact that Zeke Vanderhoek fired two of his teachers – that he had so carefully recruited. One was a sped teacher from Arizona who had moved to NYC to take the job.

Strangely, the segment never mentions the large class sizes that supposedly allows him to pay $125,000 per teacher; instead Couric claims the trade off was that teachers had to take on  additional admin responsibilities.

For my earlier post on this school: Zeke Vanderhoek, relentless self-promoter
It sparked a few comments:
The report says 247 kids and 15 teachers, all of whom actually seem to teach.  Ratio of about 16.5 students to a teacher. There are no quick fixes.
It’s clear from the video that class sizes are much larger than that.  Some are clearly special ed teachers and intervention specialists.
Diane Ravitch
Does the school have a library? a librarian? a school nurse? a social worker? guess not. What is its attrition rate? Anyone know?

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: http://normsnotes2.blogspot.com/. And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

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