Saturday, January 24, 2009

Journalistic Integrity be (expletive deleted)

Sorry, Chris and Gina, but this might be viewed as us taking another "potshot" at you. While you got the BoardDocs issues dead to center, we have a few problems with the article, "SP4K: Finding a 'common ground' with childcare partners".

Clocking in at nearly 2500 words, it was a monster article. But rather than an article based on facts, about 80% of the article consists simply of direct quotes by Marggie Banker, the district's Instructional Program Manager for Resource Development (though the article states her title is, "SPASD 4K Program Manager").

As journalists, you are obligated to be as fair, balanced, and accurate as possible in your reporting. With the exception of editorial commentary, writers must present their stories as accurate accounts of the events without injecting personal beliefs and/or interpretations. We don't think you did that. Sure, there's a quote or two from Wes Korenic (Gingerbread House childcare) as well as one quote each from Ginger Fisher (Director of La Petite Academy), Barb Mulhern (Director of the Sun Prairie Nursery School), and Jill Haglund (early childhood consultant for the Department of Public Instruction)--but overall the article is very clearly a school district sales pitch, with a kumbaya, feel-good style. Additionally, nearly all of Bankers' quotes are preceded by "I think..., I feel..., or I believe...".

Where's the balance of perspectives? Where's the hard data or facts to substantiate statements made? Did you put any time into an independent review of the data available? Three citizens spoke out at the board meeting...but you didn't ask them their thoughts. The article reads like one of the propaganda communiques sent out be the school district.

Let's look at some of the quotes included (all quotes attributed to Marggie Banker):

On the impact of a 4K program on childcare centers:
"I think that's hard to predict right now [the impact on the childcare centers]...,"

"We don't have any research or evidence that brings to bear any grave impact on a business that I'm aware of ..."

On the community desire for a 4K program...
"We knew that our families were hungry for 4-year old learning opportunity here ..."

"I think it was not so much a matter of should we do it; it was a matter of how we do it. "

"We've done some research on how other districts have compensated their childcare partners ..."

On the issue of whether the district will be ready in time for fall 2009...
"We have a phenomenally committed staff, and I think that together, with the childcare providers, we feel like we will be able to work together and find solutions to some of these big questions..."

On whether Model 2 (see below) is still an option...
"We haven't eliminated any possibility. We've just looked at what the best practices and research has said and it has said that the model three community approach works best..."

"We've heard that model two has been the least successful model throughout the state, though it's not off the table really."

"I think all options are on the table. I think that this discourse will be ongoing into the future. And that's the strength of how SPASD operates their program. "

[Pardon the ( SP-EYE) interruption: Hello! The budget process for 2009-10 is quickly gathering steam. In order to implement Model 2, we would have to be getting serious about adding teachers, which would cost a lot more money and was NOT factored into the proposal. The school board voted on the proposal presented. So...why didn't the district be honest and just say that Model 2 is NOT going to be done in Sun Prairie? Because it will NOT be an option.]

On why the HeadStart program was not involved in the proposal...
"Though they were invited to the discussions this fall, I don't think they were ready to go forward as a partner yet..."

"I heard the waiting list was in the forties of families who want access to this program and there are just not enough spaces available..."

You THINK...? You FEEL...? You've HEARD...??
Good Lord! Whatever happened to making decisions driven by data? Remember? The district mission statement?
To maximize each student's learning by...using data to drive instructional decision-making;
Refer to the full district vision and mission statement.-

We interrupt this blog post to bring you some actual data:
Ms. Banker said very clearly that, "...research has shown [model 2]to be a weaker approach".

Gee....that's interesting, because the DPI website has a spreadsheet of all the districts in the state that have implemented 4K, and 75% of them are using the Model 2 approach. So...we're saying that 75% of the state has it wrong, and we have it right? Hmmmmm. Note also that the approach we've chosen: about 90% childcare; 10% school exists in only 25 of 329 (7.5%)Wisconsin school districts.

THIS underscores why community members that are awake and Wes Korenic pleaded with the district to SLOW DOWN!

Breakdown of 4K program settings in Wisconsin

School only__________________249
ChildCare only_________________3
HeadStart only_________________1

---Source: DPI website

Although it may look that way, we do not fault Ms. Banker in this process. Unfortunately she was the messenger for the district's message in this article. We're certain that she was simply trying to be good troop.

• Model 1 programs are classrooms that are taught by a school district employed teacher, assisted by a school district employed educational assistant, and located in a school district building.

Model 2 programs are classrooms located in a community agency facility with the children taught by a school district employed teacher and supported by either a school district employee or community agency employed educational assistant.

Model 3 programs have classrooms located in a community agency facility and taught by a community agency employed educational assistant.