Thursday, March 5, 2009

Stimulus to help retool education, Duncan says

Stimulus to help retool education, Duncan says

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

First of all, it's interesting to take a newsworthy topic such as the distribution of the $100 billion stimulus package and magnify this poignant issue of funding less affluent D.C. school districts in the midst of an economic crisis. The impact would be most heavily felt for families that send their children to schools that are swallowed in financial debt. Most likely, administrators of these schools are unable to fire incompetent teachers and reward quality workers, and there are increasing gaps between the academic standards of the state and actual performance of students. The story has an interesting spin, but it seems congested with too much detail slapped together in tightly compacted paragraphs.

The first pargraph is best described as a summary lead that peels back the covers, unveiling the story's multi-faceted content. Yes, there is much to be done with the "unprecedented influx of cash," but I'd say start off the story with a short, simple lead and save the details for the nut graph. I can't help but notice that the first paragraph looks a bit bulky. Even saying it makes readers sound like a lawn mower. The commas make the writing choppy, and the lead resembles one big grocery list of comma overkill. I understand that the writer wanted to give the readers an unbiased view on different issues that the D.C. school systems are grappling with and place equal emphasis on each problem. However, I believe the story can be set up in a way that the readers eventually collect all the pieces as they read and understand that the money is important to a lot of public schools and needs to address a wide range of issues.

This writer does a good job of unveiling the common misconceptions that any school within the proximity of Washington is brimming with the most diligent teachers and "run-of-the-mill" prodigies. That's just not the reality of some D.C. school systems, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan attested to that fact. Actually, Duncan seems to be the only source that the writer attributes. His statements are assertive and bear authority, but the presence of only one source leads readers to question the objectivity of this story. Of course, Duncan may be one of the most knowledgeable sources the writer could find. But ordinary people understand Duncan's agenda, too. One could focus on a family with many school-aged children and get the parents' thoughts on how they'll be able to prepare their kids for college. Also one could talk to teachers and see what they think about administrators firing teachers who are not helping students improve academically and what they feel about tenures as the only buffer between being jobless in a heart beat and hanging by a thread. This writer missed out on many valuable sources. If this could be written as a "how to" piece on maximizing the usage of federal funds, I think everybody would have an opinion. It wouldn't be just a story focused on the education secretary's two-cents. Ordinary people are just as intelligible as authoritative public figures. Give them a chance to speak in this article.

One advice I would emphatically point out is that there needs to be more than one voice in this story. Yes, the focal point of the story is Duncan's agenda, but this writer is missing the bigger picture. The economic crisis is taking a toll on people across the nation. School districts are begging for the government to sprinkle some money into their piggy banks and educational funds. Educators all across the nation want the best possible education for the students so they get better jobs and stay optimistic about the future.

Other than that, Duncan brings up interesting ways to utilize the financial aid such as opening school doors for 14 hours. Having longer school days is beneficial for students who need help after school and require more time spent learning outside of the classroom setting. Also, Duncan makes the issue of funding public schools a big deal because the U.S. needs to be ready to compete with the world. That gives this story some added glamor, and readers get the impression that America has an obligation to strive for academic excellence. Personally, I think America has been trying to redeem herself ever since Sputnik and the "space race" against Russia. That may be stretching the story a bit because this is about trying to maximize opportunities for school children-- not establishing training grounds for another Cold War.


  1. I'm very surprised the Post ran a one-source story. You're correct, it does lead to questions about "objectivity." This is just lazy reporting!

  2. Lots of great points... I definitely agree that there need to be other voices in the story. BUT-- the "education secretary's two-cents" IS the story here. This article is informing readers about what this man believes about the system and how he wants to change it. Yes, "regular" people might have intelligent and well formed opinions, but they're not the ones implementing change in the system: Duncan is, and that's why we need to know what he thinks.

    That being said, supporting or critical opinions from others about Duncan's plans would be great, I definitely agree.

  3. Even as I tried to read the article critically, I felt myself getting sucked into believing everything, even though there was only one source attributed. I love reading about the education system, I think so much of it needs to be reformed