[Susan notes: Of course this letter wasn't written with any expectation of being published. That's not the point. Someone at the LA Times will read this letter. We can hope quite a few "someones" read it. We can hope that will give a few people pause, even six seconds pause.]
Submitted to Los Angeles Times but not published
I am a public schools parent, journalist, and the co-editor of a blog about education, Seattle Education 2010. I was shocked and appalled by your series on L.A. school district teachers, your nonscientific and inaccurate database and your vile pretense of journalism which consisted of publicly humiliating professional teachers. It is not a stretch to say this false “journalism” more closely resembles McCarthyism.
Have you no decency?
I suspect there are some among you who will tell me you "stand behind" your report, who will deny that "value added measurements" are fraught with error. But I am hoping that there is someone, someone among you who has a pang of remorse and doubt about what you did and will assure me that the Times will not undertake such a vile and damaging "project" again.
And I hope you will please speak up.
I am a writer, a professionally trained journalist myself. I have a master’s degree in journalism from Stanford University. One of the most important classes I took at Stanford was called "Journalism Ethics." We don't have an official code of conduct or a Hippocratic Oath or the equivalent of a Bar exam and the possibility of being disbarred in our profession, but that does not mean that our profession has no responsibilities to truth, fairness, factual accuracy and basic decency.
These are confusing times for our profession as we navigate the transition from print journalism to the boundless world of the Internet. But that doesn’t mean that our profession should become an ethical and factual free-for-all.
So shame on you for what you did to the teachers of your city and the ripple effect of fear and shame that had on teachers across the country. Shame on you for whatever part you played in the suicide of Rigoberto Ruelas -- a teacher you deemed ineffective, but whose school valued greatly. Do you not realize that there are qualities in a teacher that no database will ever capture?
The L.A. Times seems in thrall to the corporate ed reform dogma and agenda. I suspect that having Eli Broad in your backyard has something to do with it. But for god sake, do your job as a newspaper and report the truth objectively and fairly and don’t mindlessly cheerlead and buy into the "Race to the Top" rhetoric of the moment.
There are now multiple studies from Vanderbilt University's National Center on Performance Incentives that show that merit pay does not work; and a major study from Stanford Universit'’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) that shows that privatizing our public education system with charter schools will not improve educational outcomes for our kids.
Have you read them? Why don't you publish the truth about the bankrupt ideas of ed reform instead of playing an unconscionable role in pushing the agenda of a few billionaires with foundations and zero expertise in education, by persecuting one of the most overworked, underpaid and unappreciated professions in the country: teachers?
I sincerely hope to hear from you.
The Pillars of Education Reform Are Toppling
The Art of Teaching (and the Automatons of Education Reform)
Does the L.A. Times Have Blood on Its Hands?