Investigating the Educational System

March 31, 2009 at 12:29 pm Leave a comment

By Patrick McCabe

Written March 31, 2009

Investigating Education

The first thing education reporters should focus on is the quality of learning. This is the most important component in education. One must ask themselves is a child’s education being hindered by tradition, politics, prejudice, bad teachers or poor administration? Reporters have often found that public schools face the issue of politics over children’s needs.Top 10

The first think to look at when measuring the quality of a school system is student test scores. When analyzing test scores a reporter should always ask, who decides which tests to use and which to reject, how much do the tests cost to acquire and score and are comparable school districts using tests that yield more sophisticated results? While some investigations have proven low income predicts low test scores, others have found the responsibility for these low scores falls on the teacher or administration.

Another factor to look at is school violence and discipline. A journalist should look at security measures and question how effective they are at discouraging violence and what sort of stress do these security measures cause students in the classroom? Some teachers single out students as a way of punishment but this often results in low self-confidence, resulting in poor classroom performance.

The curriculum is an important thing to look at. Does the curriculum seem based on race, gender, ethnicity or class? Are students in lower tracks given the opportunity to advance to college preparatory courses? Does tracking benefit gifted students while hindering slower learners? A good journalist should investigate the text books and assignments when analyzing a school’s curriculum to fully understand it.

Class size is another factor to analyze. It has been found that the larger the class size the harder it is for students to learn. A reporter should ask how is the class size affecting students learning?

Advanced technology at schools often yields to higher test scores. How is the school striving to provide its students with the best and most recent technology? This plays a big role in determining if the school is looking out for the child’s needs or for the politics of the school district. 

Special-needs students face a lot of issues in many school districts. These students need extra care and attention and it is up to the school district to provide them with that. A reporter should ask is the school district neglecting special-needs children, forcing them to redistrict or forcing them into the private or home school sector? This is one of the biggest areas for investigative reporters to find good stories that will capture an audience.

Race, gender and class equity is always an issue in schools. School districts should be doing everything in their power to make all students feel equal. A reporter should analyze performance based on schools with a lot of racial, gender and economic diversity and compare it to schools that are less diverse. This could help determine if race, gender or class really play a role in higher test scores or if these schools prepare their students differently.

The final factor to look at is school choice. Should a family be able to choose where their child goes to school? Does increased competition among schools motivate students to have a higher-quality education? What happens to schools not chosen by many families? These are all important questions that come up when looking at school choice.

In Montgomery County, Md. students have a variety of schools to choose from. In each district student have three different schools they can choose to attend. If a student lives close to the school they desire they are guaranteed a spot but if they do not they must compete against other students. Each school has a different specialization and this makes some schools more desirable than others. James Huber Blake High School was designed as a school specializing in the arts and humanities. It was highly desired by many students and highly competitive. Due to it’s competitive nature the school was only able to admit the best of the best from the district. It quickly became referred to as the “free private school” that you could only attend if you were “rich and white.”

This caused a lot of issues in the district and county officials felt they needed to change this perception. They moved the English for Speakers of Other Languages(ESOL) program that had once been at another school in the district to Blake in hopes that it would make the school more diverse.

Was what the county officials did ethical? How will moving these ESOL students to Blake affect the current students learning environment and how will the teachers and administration react? These are all questions a good investigative reporter should ask and they did.

The Gazette, a local newspaper, found that test scores and performance of all students at Blake High School dropped considerably when the ESOL program was brought to the school.


Entry filed under: Journalism. Tags: , , , , .

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