No one can accuse the Department of Education of failing to accentuate the positive.
Since 2003, the department has routinely sent out Extra Credit e-mails that highlight the speeches of the secretary of education, President Bush, and other federal officials. Those electronic newsletters also often call attention to positive news stories and editorials on the president’s premier education priority, the No Child Left Behind Act, in newspapers across the country.
But the newsletters don’t always tell the whole story.
Take this example from the July 18 edition. The newsletter highlights several paragraphs from an editorial in The Denver Post on recent gains in the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
“America’s youngsters have made noticeable gains in reading and math over the past five years, and the achievement gap between white and minority elementary school students is tightening, according to a well-respected national study. That’s great news and something to celebrate …,” the Education Department’s newsletter quotes from the Denver paper.
But the newsletter doesn’t include a paragraph from a bit farther down in the paper’s editorial, which said: “But it’s important to note that the improvements date back to 1999, before the president took office and before NCLB was passed. ….”
On July 12, Extra Credit reprinted 11 paragraphs of a 14-paragraph news story from the News & Advance of Lynchburg, Va., which called attention to progress by Virginia special education students on the Virginia Alternative Assessments, which use portfolios to determine whether special education students are making adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
But two of the three omitted paragraphs dealt with the increase in work those assessments called for, including this: “Teachers had just three to four months to gather the work samples; it took them more than 300 work-hours to evaluate all of the data before submitting it to the state for auditing.”
Each time Extra Credit cites a story or editorial, it provides an electronic link to the full version, so readers can see what might have been left out.
Susan Aspey, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said that the edits are made because of limited space, and that articles are chosen to highlight “schools and states that are getting the job done and closing the achievement gap.”