2011-03-18 / Columnists

School Scope

The Failures Of Katie Couric As A Reporter: Biased 60 Minutes Report On Zeke Vanderhoek And Equity Project Charter
Commentary By Norman Scott


Norman Scott Norman Scott Katie Couric exhibited a failure of epic proportions as a so-called reporter in her 60 Minutes interview on The Equity Project charter school led by another former Teach for America who spent his 10 minutes in the classroom, Zeke Vanderhoek. (Did you know that 30 percent of NYC charter schools are led by TFA alums – talk about cult to school pipeline?)

The program was an unadorned ad for an attack on teacher tenure and seniority rights and Katie jumped right in. Her next job will undoubtedly be at FOX.

They had the obligatory kid who talked about how the public school teachers didn’t care about him. Gee, I’ve heard a hell of a lot of former charter school teachers who not only found their teachers uncaring, but actually abusive.

Vanderhoek is making his bones on paying teachers 125K a year in what amounts to a full time and full day job. Leonie Haimson calls him a shameless self-promoter. “He is clearly a genius at self-promotion, if nothing else. Though the test scores at his school turned out to be terrible, he still managed to score a profile in 60 Minutes.”

Couric did bring up the fact that TEP’s scores were lower than the public schools in the area (only a 31 percent pass rate) but didn’t drill too deep on that one.

You know the line: it takes time to reverse the effects of those awful public schools that actually had higher scores even though they pay teachers half as much. Or – wink, wink – just go out and cream kids with higher performing potential.

This fall, Vanderhoek proved that just about any hokeyed deform idea will get you lots of publicity. An article by Justin Snider of the Hechinger report that Leonie called “highly deceptive [by] claiming the very existence of this charter school proved that teacher quality is more important than class size.”

Listen to this drivel by Snider:

The reality, though, is that of all the things we should worry about in providing a quality education to our children, class size isn’t high on the list. Teacher quality matters a lot more.

Zeke Vanderhoek, the founder of The Equity Project Charter School in New York City, knows this. His teachers are the most highly compensated publicschool educators in the country, earning minimum salaries of $125,000 per year. How does the school afford such salaries?

Because Vanderhoek decided he’d much rather have the nation’s top educators teaching classes of 30 students rather than mediocre folks teaching classes of 20 students.

Mona Davids of the NY Charter Parents Association said, “He should fire himself now. Equity Project only had a 31% pass rate. Where’s his accountability?”

Even the NY Charter Center, the well-funded charter school booster, admitted such in its latest report:

Naturally, Couric dragged out that old warhorse, Joel

Klein, to discuss the tenure issue. In a case of bad reporting, she failed to raise just a few questions she could have asked. For Katie’s future reference, I will list just a few she might try the next time.

Klein is asked by Katie how you get tenure and responds:

Klein: If you have a pulse you get tenure ... tenure is something you get for showing up.

Fantasy questions from Katie:

Mr. Klein, how long were you in charge of the NYC schools? Wasn’t it 8 years?

Mr. Klein, did you realize that 60 percent of the current teaching corps in NYC has been teaching for 5 years or less? If you look at the totals over 8 years the number of teachers hired under your tenure might be as high as 70 percent (or more).

Mr. Klein, scuttlebutt has it that 80 percent of the current corps of principals was placed in their positions since you took over the NYC schools.

Mr. Klein, isn’t it true that principals are the ones who grant tenure?

Mr. Klein, what do you have to say to the fact that a majority of the teachers whom you claim are granted tenure for merely breathing have been granted tenure by the 80 percent of the principals who were appointed under your tenure as head of the NYC schools?

Mr. Klein, explain exactly who should be held accountable if teachers receive tenure for merely breathing?

Finally: How dare you, Mr. Klein, try to perpetrate these lies and slanders regarding tenure on the American people?

This time Klein is sweating bullets and runs off the stage with his coat over his head – and Katie never gets to ask about the scandals and massive incompetence, things that will hopefully one day truly lead to Klein taking the perp walk with his coat over his head.

Ahhh, real journalism is fantasyland.

The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman

Psst. Wanna see a movie? The Grassroots Education Movement is showing a preview along with a panel discussion of our response to Waiting for Superman at the Left Forum at Pace University on Saturday, March 19 at 10 a.m.

This is not the final cut and we are using this session to get input before we put a wrap on the project.

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