“Center for Education Reform drives the creation of better educational opportunities for all children by leading parents, policymakers and the media in boldly advocating for school choice, advancing the charter school movement, and challenging the education establishment.”
Allen said she told her funders that the Bullpen will represent the bulk of CER’s efforts going forward, though she told me it will be an “independent subsidiary” of the organization. The plan is to have the staff—starting at three people, but growing to at least a dozen—critique hundreds of pieces of education journalism each day. “The issue is not that education is underreported,” she said. “It’s either misreported or doesn’t really focus on the issues at hand.” If there’s a bias, she said, “it’s that education is critical, achievement is down and needs to be better.”
And yet. A piece about vouchers “strikes out” (the site relies on baseball metaphors) because there is “no mention that kids pay highest price for lousy education.” A piece on charters gets only a double: “Need more than love, like info on what’s working at charter & why certain kids should go there.” Keep in mind this is a 400-word piece.
I do agree with Allen that giving readers context is really important, and sometimes lacking. Some of the Bullpen’s commentary regarding that is useful; I too am always trying to help reporters place their story within the national debate, like this critique suggests. But when Allen told me that a piece about school board pay doesn’t do its job if it fails to explain the role of the school board, and a piece about bullying is criticized for not mentioning the impact on academic achievement, I thought back to when an editor told me that I should not mention pompoms without telling readers what they are. I picture a reporter trying to squeeze a many-sided debate into ten inches on deadline, hearing this sort of thing from an editor, and curling up under her desk and crying.