Five years ago some tragic events occurred after student test scores were published in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Now the State of Washington and the Seattle Times have agreed to publish student test scores in the near future. Can’t we learn from others’ mistakes? The following was posted on this website five years ago.
Does the Los Angeles Times Have Blood on Its Hands?
Are you happy now, L.A. Times? The news from Los Angeles Sunday night was that the body of public school teacher Rigoberto Ruelas has been found, his death presumed a suicide. Family members say he was distressed by the report published by the L.A. Times that declared Ruelas a “less effective” teacher. He had been teaching for 14 years. I am telling everyone I know in Southern California to cancel their subscription to the L.A. Times in protest. Who knows what all troubled poor Mr. Ruelas, but the LA Times’ witch hunt against him and his profession surely did not help and could well have been the final straw for this poor fellow. Public education advocates like myself were appalled and outraged when the L.A. Times appointed itself the Inquisition of professional teaching in L.A. public schools, publishing “data” and its own ratings of 6000 teachers based primarily on standardized test scores, with some allowance for “value added measurements” (neither of which are infallible or complete a measure of anything). The Times also sent reporters into classrooms to analyze teaching methods. I am trained as a journalist myself and I would never deem myself qualified to judge a professional teacher based on one or two hours in his/her classroom and no real background in pedagogy. It was clear to many of us that the Times’ “report” was not journalism — it was McCarthyism. Mr. Ruelas may be the first victim. But many more teachers and their students will suffer from the Times’ reckless and unjust actions — beginning with Mr. Ruelas’ fifth grade students who now have no teacher. Will the Times apologize to Mr. Ruelas’ family for publicly humiliating him and contributing to his distress and possibly his death? Or is “accountability” something that is only required of teachers, not newspaper publishers, in the unethical doublespeak world of “ed reform”? — sue peters