I was asked the other day if many reporters come to me about stories on reading. My primary job at EWA is directly working with journalists; the topics they want help on make for a pretty reliable indicator of what’s being written about. Since the beginning of 2010, I have fielded 210 requests for help in coverage from preschool through college—and none of them were about reading. Over the previous two years, four of 450 requests addressed reading.
Are you shocked yet? Let’s broaden the inquiry to all stories about learning and delivery of instruction—curriculum, textbooks, teaching methods, the merit of various interventions, cognition and so on. There have been just 20 of those over two and a half years. If I am generous and include class size, book banning and other topics that might reasonably touch on teaching and learning (but often do not), that comprises 5 percent of requests.
The share of stories about teaching and learning was greater when I started than it is now. Not surprisingly, people are writing about teacher quality a lot this year—but not actual teaching. Reporters want to know about merit pay, about unions, about teaching colleges, about pensions. They’re writing about charters: politics, test scores, facilities, funding, teacher burnout. But they are not writing about how exactly teachers teach and how students learn.
Why not? Is it boring? Irrelevant? Difficult? Elizabeth Green’s notable New York Times Magazine piece shows that you can write about the act of teaching—rather than the politics of it—and get people talking. The problem is even worse in higher ed coverage, almost none of which addresses instruction. I’m not surprised at the trend, but I do find the actual numbers—or dearth of them—startling.