Dumb Headline Conceals Smart Story

September 5, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A fascinating and revealing NYT story on the impact of charter schools in Harlem is well worth reading despite the utterly absurd headline: School Choice Is No Cure-All, Harlem Finds.

So apparently the straw-man argument generator in the headline writer’s head told him or her that a few charter schools would cure all of Harlem’s problems. I doubt that anyone else did.

Reading the actual story leads one to the conclusion that while there have been difficulties and growing pains, Harlem’s experience with charter schools has been quite positive. The most serious problem pointed to in the article, in fact, is the need for more charter schools.

The NYT story deals with perceived difficulties in school grading. So A-F school grades and parental choice: sounds familiar. How has this been working out for NYC’s low-income Black students? Some day reporters will learn to use the NAEP Data Explorer and use actual evidence to sort through contending clouds of anecdotal fog, but in the meantime I can help out:

Did the Klein reforms cure all of the education problems of Harlem? Certainly not. They strangely also failed to cure cancer, restore sight to the blind nor did they erase the painful memories of having shelled out money to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls.

They have however seen hard fought gains for disadvantaged students. Rather than wringing their hands, the New York Times should be calling for the logical next steps in reform.