Praise for a few education reporters

by David Safier

I'm often critical of the Mainstream Media, but only because often it doesn't do its job. The fact is, there are few things I enjoy more than solid reporting in the good ol' MSM.

In that vein, two reporters covering education deserve to be singled out for praise. The first is Anne Ryman, who writes for the Arizona Republic. I posted about an excellent recent article, Insiders benefiting in charter deals, one of the most thorough discussions I've read on the way some Arizona non-profit charters make money for their friends. I wasn't the only one who noticed. Gene Glass of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), one of the best sources for incisive analysis of school-related issues, wrote that he wanted to award Ryman the Pulitzer for Education Reporting.

Seriously, this is one of the finest pieces of education reporting I have seen in years, maybe decades. In a 3,200 word article on the front page above the fold, Ryman exposed the unbelievable corruption in the Arizona charter school system. Of course, Arizona leads the nation in charter schools—leads it right into the cess pool, that is. With 535 charter schools and 14% of all public school children in charters (including more than 15,000 in cyber-charters), Arizona entrepreneurs are discovering untold opportunities to line their pockets with public monies intended to educate children.

The second reporter deserving praise for her work is Grace Hood at the Northern Colorado NPR station, KUNC. I posted about a recent article discussing the problems with Colorado Virtual Academy, a subject Hood has written about in the past. COVA is one of K12 Inc's national string of virtual charter schools. COVA's problems are hitting publicly traded K12 Inc. right where it lives, in the stock price, which took a sharp drop Monday and hasn't recovered. Hood followed up with an article making the problems sound far worse. The  Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI) listed a host of troubling issues it has with COVA, which you can read below the fold.

“Extremely concerning” student performance: In 2012 COVA received its third straight rating of Priority Improvement, producing scores that in all three years place the program below the 10th percentile of schools statewide in performance.

Student Turnover: According to CSI, in 2012 COVA had nearly 25% student turnover between October Count and the state assessment window for elementary and middle school students. High School turnover was nearly 50%.

Board Governance: CSI states that the board has a rubric for holding K12 Inc. accountable but the rubric hasn’t been used to date. “Staff is concerned that the ESP [K12 Inc.] is actually in charge of the school, rather than the board.”

Curriculum: CSI praises the K12 Inc. materials as “well suited” to some student populations, but says adjustments need to be considered to address the increased number of at-risk student populations.

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