Monday, January 4, 2010

On being watched

I received a most intriguing e-mail a few days ago, as I was returning from holidays and getting prepped for a weekend shift at the newspaper. It comes from the University of Toronto / Ontario Studies in Education's Research Supporting Practice in Education department, which has setup a 'Facts in Education' project.
From the e-mail and web page:
Facts in Education aims to correct significant factual errors about education that appear in various news media sources across Canada, and to create wide awareness of the correct information. We are a non-partisan effort and are not affiliated with any particular position, opinion or organization.  We respect the right of any commentator to hold their own views and opinions.  We will not be taking issue with the expression of opinion.  Rather we are solely concerned with stories that are inconsistent with the available evidence and are therefore misleading to those who read, see or hear them.  For example, we sometimes see stories contending that nobody fails in schools any more.  This is completely inconsistent with the evidence, which clearly shows that a large number of students fail courses and fail to graduate in a timely way. 
These distinguished panellists will be working with our team in order to ensure that our response to factual errors contains the actual facts in education as supported by empirical evidence.  We will be distributing our response to the original media source of the story as well as to various other media outlets, and to educational stakeholders in Ontario.
The purpose of this project is not to critique any journalist or news outlet, but simply to ensure that people are aware of the real Facts in Education, facts which are backed by substantial research.  In this respect, we invite you to contact us if you have any questions or comments or if there is something we can do to support your coverage of educational issues in Canada.
The project's participants are a who's who of education in this country (or at least this province), with the RSPE headed by two-time Ontario deputy minister of education Ben Levin, who also held numerous high-level positions in Manitoba prior to coming to Ontario. Others involved include Avis Glaze, Charles Pascal, a few current and former ministry people and other OISE folks.
The project also has a blog, which I'll be putting up on the blogroll as soon as this is posted. So far, it has one post on an erroneous charter-school reference in a Winnipeg Free Press article from last month.
Kudos to those involved in this project, and I'll say in complete and utter self-interest I hope my reporting never makes the list.

Moira MacDonald wrote about this Wednesday-- we were on the same wave length for the most part.


Anonymous said...

I'm not as excited by this as you are ER.

Perhaps you could explain more why you see taxpayers dollars being spent on these very high-profile individuals sleuthing websites and blogs looking for errors.

Where are we? Cuba?

The complete take over by Big Brother seems all but complete.

I can see better uses for our money than it being applied in this way.

Perhaps the lurkers from this group who are clearing tuning in would tell us just how much I'm paying for this service, while schools are continuing to close and boards stretched to the max.?

What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

Hey ER! Happy New Year

All I have to offer is that when RetDir suggested more participation I'm betting this isn't what she/he had in mind.

Seems to me that the fish bowls of Ontario just got much bigger.

I understand what anon. 11:53am means, but to me, it feels as if the gov't wants to whip blogs and websites to see the facts from only "their prospective" so yes, a little bit of a Big Brother feel to it but to me more like the tail wagging one big sucker of a dog.

I'm not sure how to take this.

To be honest my first inclination was to laugh. Chalk that up to leftover New Years Eve I guess.


RetDir said...

I will let this evolve over time to see what it looks like, before giving it a thumbs up or down. The first post is a good critique of the charter school movement, with research attached that looks at the success of students in these schools, not the satisfaction of parents with having choice, which is a better measure of their efficacy. However, there will be competing studies. The panelists seem to be lending their names to work done by `the team`. It would be interesting to know who is on that team.
Those of us who have been involved in education for some time have long wished for an education equivalent of the Fraser Institute or the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - if this evolves into a think-tank on education that would be a great thing.

Education Reporter said...

Interesting comments to-date.

The fact this finds a home in academia is a comfort. Academics research and challenge, and if Truth in Education encourages media to do a better job on education coverage we all win. This isn't the Ministry of Education telling me and my peers how to do our job. It's highlighting how we might do a disservice to the issues by having factual errors in coverage.

Like RetDir says (OK, my bastardization thereof), the proof is in the pudding. Let's see what they post about and how they handle factual errors in education reporting.

Though I may fret over staying out off the blog in my own reporting, this may encourage others to improve the effort and quality of the work they're publishing and broadcasting.


Anonymous said...

Interesting that this Ontario based panel chose as their first "correction" a Winnipeg Free Press article.

I actually bet that there are those who could produce studies showing whatever side of the choice/charter school issue you're on.

At this point I don't believe anyone including this Ontario panel that looks to be a collection of former bureaucrats, advisors and top-heavy in NDP.
Maybe they have nothing to do?

Anonymous said...

So, who checks their fact checking?

Education Reporter said...

Anon 5 Jan. 15:59
Unfortunate you're letting your interpretation of the panel's politics keep you from seeing how this site has the potential to do a great service to what and how we learn about education.

I can think of one (SQE) website that attempts to put out information, research and study on education in this country and challenges what's happening out there. If Facts in Education proves, through subsequent posts, to fulfill your prophetic comment, they're still adding to the marketplace of ideas and public commentary on education. How could that be a bad thing?

Anon 5 Jan. 22:03
Who checks? We do. One can comment on the posts over on their blog.


Anonymous said...

Just chiming in to say that I wrote a very good comment about how really, none of this matters to the delivery of quality public education OR the choice movement in Ontario, but it disappeared when I hit "publish".
At least not in my region where how students are doing has nothing at all to do with a factoid panel.
Nor is choice available to most parents in small rural towns(although as I wrote that I remember that a new private school will be opening and expanding in a small town near here where the public board closed a school).
If I actually understood the point the first anon. was making I might be able to understand, but I don't.
As for "studies". Whose studies and will they line up depending on which side is taken? I'm betting yes.

PS - the original post was much better that's the short version.