Blizzard Of Testing Coverage Still Leaves Lots Of Gaps

What’s been most interesting about the coverage of the report from the Council of Great City Schools and the proposal from the White House and USDE is how much coverage — most of it quite dutiful — it’s generated since Saturday when the embargo on the story was lifted, and how much we still don’t know about what impact if any it’s going to have.

After the weekend’s onslaught you might have thought that the media would be done with the story — or at least begun to do some digging into it. But no. The blizzard of testing news coverage continued on Monday with this NBC News segment. See also this PBS NewsHour segment featuring the NYT’s Kate Zernike and this PBS NewsHour interview with Mike Casserly and Arne Duncan (click to the 8:30 mark).

For previous roundups of coverage of this see here, here, and way too much of my Twitter feed.

Slow news has surely been a contributing factor. A prep call and embargoed access to the report helped as well. But neither the report findings nor the Obama proposal are really all that new, and neither the political nor real-world impact of the announcements are clear. 

Clinton endorsed the proposed reduction, as did the NEA and AFT (with various caveats). No one knows — or cares anymore? — what Sanders or any of the Republican candidates have to say. The White House and EdSec Duncan have been talking about reducing testing loads since the summer. Some states like California are already way out ahead. 

The danger here is that the coverage might make it seem like overtesting is more of a (federal) issue than it really is, or that the latest announcement is going to make a big or immediate difference. I haven’t seen state chiefs or big-city urban superintendents lining up behind Casserly and Duncan to say that they’re going to implement immediate reductions. 

Most of all, I would love to know more specifics — the “so what?” of journalism — about the proposal’s impacts (if any): What if any immediate changes are states and districts going to make in response to the latest announcement? How many states and districts have already reduced testing loads because of concerns about overtesting? What changes are being made to the Common Core consortium tests for next spring to respond to these concerns?

In a perfect world, the first-day stories about the testing report and proposal would have included more of this kind of information. But it’s not too late to fill readers in on what is — and isn’t — going to happen. Otherwise, all we really have is some easy publicity for the Obama administration and lots of reaction quotes and pundit speculation.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.