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“Teachers Welcomed in ‘Education Nation’”

September 22, 2010
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In case you weren’t aware, NBC is hosting a week-long education event called Education Nation. The event is sponsored by some of the biggest names in the corporate ed reform world, including the Gates and Broad Foundations. Once the guest list was released, teachers and parents all but took over the EdNation Facebook page, questioning the lack of diversity in viewpoints and the dearth of rank-and-file teachers and parents invited to speak. The moderators began blocking people and deleting comments from “dissenters” (spawning an alternative Miseducation Nation page).

NBC held a press conference to respond to those of us getting heated about the lack of teacher and parent participation in their summit. From Teacher Magazine’s Teacher Now write up of the press event:

In general, the NBC executives who spoke at the presser—NBC News President Steve Capus and NBC President of Strategic Initiatives Lisa Gersh—suggested that reports of teachers being overlooked by event organizers have been exaggerated, or not fully informed. They stressed that, as part of Education Nation, the network wil  (sic) be hosting a Teacher Town Hall on Sun., Sept. 26. This event will be aired live on MSNBC, educationnation.com, and msnbc.com, and teachers will also have the chance to participate in a live chat on educationnation.com. (You can register here for the live chat.) In an earlier reply to teacher Brian Crosby, an NBC official explained that the organizers decided on holding the Teacher Town Hall on a Sunday so that working teachers could watch it live and participate in the discussion.

At the actual Education Nation summit, which will be held Monday, Sept. 27 and Tuesday, Sept. 28, at NYC’s Rockefeller Center, 35 of the 275 attendees will be teachers, according to Gersh. When one reporter asked how NBC decided upon the teacher attendees, Gersh responded: “The teachers were solicited through both of the unions, through a variety of different groups, but, independent of the Dept. of Ed., Teachers of the Year were part of that solicitation as well.”

I’m happy to see that they are responding to some of our concerns. But there’s still no word on how many parents will be meaningfully included, or if there will be any big student events aside from the media coverage by the Scholastic Kids Press Corps. Likewise, by my calculation, just shy of 13% of the attendees (not speakers…) under the big top are practicing teachers. (If you follow the drama over this, you’ll understand why the circus analogy seems so apt!)

Does this mean that Gates, Broad, Rhee et al. are reversing their earlier views? They’ve always said that teachers are the key to improving education, and have supported efforts to increase teacher accountability for student outcomes. So their silence on the issue of teacher participation in the summit is confusing to me. We’re important enough to merit 100% of the accountability for students, but not important enough to merit more than 13% of the national conversation about education?

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2010 5:21 am

    I applied, but got no response. Their panel is a travesty, the exclusion of Diane Ravitch displays either extreme bias or incredible ignorance, and the chances this outfit will showcase anything but yet another lovefest for the failed policies that have infected New York City schools are low indeed. Their afterthought of taping Ravitch rather than granting her a live feed in which she can interact with the “reform” crowd is unconscionable.

    This is indeed a circus. What it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, is responsible journalism.

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