More CEP Report Fallout

Alexander “Woodward” Russo reports that he has “finally found” the Center on Education Policy press release and claims to have gotten to the bottom off the whodunnit about the over-hyped curriculum narrowing spin.

Couple of problems with his report though: First, the press release was right there on CEP’s site, so I don’t see how this ranks as a great edumystery? Second, while Russo praises CEP for putting out a “balanced press release” the headline is actually: “Majority of School Leaders Report Gains in Achievement, But a Narrower Curriculum Focus Under No Child Left Behind.” Bold emph. added. And the infamous 71 percent figure is highlighted in the very first graf! That’s balance? Russo ought to work for Fox News!

Sure, NYT’s Dillon should have read beyond the press release or lead finding to the underlying data in the report itself, but it’s hard to pin the messaging issue on him because it increasingly looks like CEP was not really playing straight pool by making the narrowing issue such a top-line finding when the data showed something a little different. In fact, they might be in a bit of hot water now…yesterday’s Times editorial has caused quite the round of chattering…Russo says they’ve gone to ground…

Update: Russo responds…and reports! He also gives the heads-up on an Ed Week article that takes the 71 percent figure hook, line, and sinker, too! Hmmm….what a surprise, the press release was so fair and balanced on that issue. But, hey, America’s Education Newspaper of Record is good on gossip! The story telegraphs what looks to be a critical profile of CEP in a forthcoming Education Next.

Update II: The AFTies still haven’t figured out why the 71 percent figure is misleading based on the underlying data in the CEP report. And, they try to say that Russo did, and I still do, say the entire report is biased though I didn’t, and don’t think Russo did, say any such thing. The issue is the 71 percent top line narrowing figure that set off a week of hand wringing. Spin is expected from there, more surprising, they say it’s OK to skew press releases and stories to find a controversial and newsworthy angle. Well, at least they walk the walk on that…

Truth is better than fiction? One other thought per the AFTies apparent willingness to twist things in the service of a good story. As I said, I don’t doubt that some of this narrowing is going on though it doesn’t have to. I’ve seen it firsthand at schools and — despite the shortcomings of CEP’s methodology — the CEP study shows it is happening in some places, just not to the scale that set the hysterics off last week. But CEP found that 33 percent of school districts reporting cutting social studies “substantially” and 29 percent science to make room for math and reading. Maybe I drink too much coffee and am too jumpy as a result, but those figures are pretty startling, too, and seem like they would have made a good eye-catching headline. What’s more, they have the added benefit of being accurate based on the data…a third of schools, while not a pandemic, is nothing to sneeze at.

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