Tuesday, February 24, 2009

O'Malley lays out plan to improve public schools

O'Malley Lays Out Plan to Improve Public Schools

*Place cursor over the title above. The story is hyperlinked.

This story focuses in on Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's efforts to propel the state's public education system forward during the economic crisis. It's a newsworthy topic since President Barack Obama dished out the block grants with the signing of the stimulus package. The writer maintains an interesting angle on this piece by shedding light on the fact that Gov. O'Malley is placing education as one of his top priorities. He urges the State Board of Education to invest in career and technical education programs for students and track their performance from pre-kindergarten throughout college. Moreover, the governor is restlessly pushing to break new grounds in education despite the fact that Maryland is the nation's #1 leader in the public education system [1]. The governor has met with the State Board of Education to draw out plans that will best utilize the federal grant program. O'Malley said such college readiness programs will help students become competitive in this global economy, which is a good point to emphasize in this article because it's certainly a timely topic during the economic downturn.

The public is drawn to stories that give accolades to politicians who care about students' education. This article does a good job of feeding the public news they want to hear; our politician is genuinely concerned about our education. At the same time, this article gives the topic of funding public education a sugar-coated effect and slightly biased angle. Nowhere in the article did I come across sources that believed the funding could be given elsewhere (i.e. granting money to less affluent and struggling public schools that have yet to meet AYP under No Child Left Behind, or solving the problem of low retention rates of faculty and staff and/or program cuts in light of the economic crisis). There's no voice behind the other side to answer these questions. Such schools and job shortages may not exist as vastly in Maryland compared to other states, but there should still be mention that some public schools continue to lag behind to keep the story balanced.

As much as any politican wants what is best for its constituents, there are always underlying reasons for launching reforms in public education. By reading this article it's clear that the governor wants to take advantage of the federal grant that has created new channels for the state officials to explore. However, the story begins talking about the politician's efforts without mentioning the availability of grants until the 7th paragraph. This information should be moved higher up in the story. It's important to know exactly how O'Malley is coming up with the money to implement his plans because every dollar matters to your every day taxpayer. Also, the block grants need to be expended wisely, and this story conveys that message clearly through good usage of quotes. There weren't many sources represented in this article because most quotes came from the governor. For that reason, the coverage seems one-sided.

The writer does balance the story by interviewing sources who are more directly involved in implementing these changes, namely members of the Board of Education. The story would've been more balanced if the writer talked to a gamut of sources ranging from state officials to students who will be affected. Teachers or students could've given their perspective on O'Malley's plans or the public education system in Maryland, adding a local interest. The quote by Board member Rosa M. Garcia touches upon a sensitive topic. The question regarding how Maryland will close the gap between whites and minority students is up in the air. That quote in itself seems to be the only counter-balance in this entire article. For the most part, the article does go in depth about the governor's plans and it seem to be fleshed out. However, there may be facts or perspectives that were left out of this story. Garcia's quote hints at the unsettled possibility that Maryland's public system isn't as impeccable as the nation thinks.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/07/AR2009010702347.html (Note: This website is not the original story but merely a source attributed within the content of the story. Please click on the title on top to find the original news story)