The Romance Quest of Education Reform: A Discourse Analysis of the Los Angeles Times’ Reports on Value-Added Measurement Teacher Effectiveness
by Rachael Gabriel & Jessica Nina Lester - 2013
Background/Context: This paper illustrates how the media, particularly The LA Times, entered the debate surrounding teacher evaluation, resulting in a storyline that shaped how the public perceives teacher effectiveness. With their series of articles in 2010, The LA Times entered the conversation about the place and value of value-added measurement (VAM), arguing that it is a tool to root out the presumably ineffective teachers. Research examining education policy is often represented by the media in ways that direct the public to take up specific positions and assign responsibility to particular parties. In this paper, we build upon research around the power of news media to create common knowledge and shape a prevalent worldview.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question: We gave particular attention to the ways in which the media discourse functioned to politicize and (over)simplify issues related to VAM and teacher evaluation. We sought to understand the ways in which discourse choices worked to construct a certain version of policy issues related to teacher quality, positioning some individuals and even national groups on either side of a polarized debate.
Research Design: We conducted a discourse analysis (Potter, 2004; Potter & Wetherell, 1987) of 52 articles published between 2009 and 2011 that were from or related to a series on VAM initially published in 2010 by The LA Times.
Conclusions/Recommendations: We argue that the striking similarities between the story of VAM in education reform, as told by The LA Times, and the culturally familiar storyline of a quest romance or wish-fulfillment narrative (Frye, 1957) give this particular version of VAM a sense of familiarity, veracity and therefore power over the public imagination. We discuss the discursive features used to accomplish this and suggest the need for continued analysis of the role of the media in shaping public opinion on education policy.
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