Education in the Media, 2012: Hits & Misses

Most Covered K–12 stories in the general news media

1. Charter Schools

Charter schools are tax-funded schools operated by nongovernmental groups under a contract or charter from an authorizing agency. State law exempts charter schools from many commonly encountered regulations. Nearly all are nonunion.

2. Teachers' Unions

The national unions are the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. Each has state and local affiliates.

3. Special Education

Special education refers to K–12 programs and policies regarding students with disabilities.

4. Early childhood education

Early childhood education concerns pre-kindergarten or preschool.

5. No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)

The No Child Left Behind Act (2002) is the major statute governing federal aid to K–12 education.

Important but neglected issues and developments (ranked in the order of importance assigned by task force members)

1. Teachers' Pensions

This was the principal missing story on school finance. Public education faces its own fiscal cliff as baby boomers retire from the classroom. Decades of severe underfunding have put teacher pension funds in far worse jeopardy than reported by the media because the figures reported by states are premised on unwarranted, rosy assumptions. To cover their true costs, states and districts will need to find hundreds of billions of dollars that might have gone toward a better teacher salary structure, including extra compensation for high performers.

2. Common Core Academic Content Standards for English and Mathematics

In mid-2012, a national poll asked Americans what they have seen, read, or heard about the Common Core standards. Sixty percent said they had heard nothing; 21 percent said, “Not much.” This is an astonishing level of public ignorance of a policy that already commands hundreds of millions of tax dollars, has Washington and all the major education groups buzzing, and is driving officials in forty-six states to prepare their schools for compliance.

Advocates believe the Common Core will profoundly transform the central features of modern schooling: curriculum, teaching, testing, and accountability. The nationwide standardization that accompanies the Common Core is also a major change for a country that has emphasized state governance and local control of education. When 80 percent of the public knows little about such a policy, the news media are not doing their job.

3. International Comparisons of Student Achievement

International test results are well covered by the media when new scores are released, but then coverage disappears. That vacuum is filled by pundits who distort the scores for their own agendas. It is particularly troublesome when one policy is singled out as the cause of a nation’s success, followed by education tourism trips and glowing onsite accounts of schoolchildren in foreign lands. Serious analytic work on education policy has moved far beyond this. The media could help by giving broader and deeper coverage of international assessments, describing, for example, the characteristics of the various tests (TIMSS, PIRLS, and PISA) and how they differ and, most important, educating the public about what these tests can and cannot do in pinpointing influences on national achievement.

4. Online or Digital Learning

The school of the future will not look like the school of today. (It may not even have a building.) What goes on inside—and outside--will be different too. Education tomorrow will be altered by the digital revolution and online and blended possibilities, much as other parts of our lives have been. Although it’s too new to be sure about all aspects of its feasibility and effectiveness, digital learning looks to be an education revolution in the making.

Yet the media tend to treat technology (at least in education) as an add-on, somewhere on the periphery of business as usual. Instead, they should help the public imagine schools in which the traditional brick-and-mortar building, classroom, and teacher are not at the center.

5. Louisiana's Education Transformation

Public education in post-Katrina New Orleans is taking place almost entirely in charter schools (see hit number 1, above). Disabled children there are served with the help of multischool co-ops and risk pools. Troubled schools in that city (and elsewhere in the state) have been gathered into a new governance arrangement called a recovery school district. Louisiana also has (if the courts assent) a full-blown statewide voucher program. In 2012, Louisiana was the most interesting—and fastest-changing—education reform state in the land. But you wouldn’t know that from the general media.

  1. Press Release
  2. Contact Information
  3. Koret Task Force Members
  4. Media Surveyed
  5. PJTV Video - Alexis Garcia talks to Bill Evers about media coverage of education issues.

Education in the Media cast vote image without captionThe task force used a quantitative approach to rank a slate of seventy education-specific topics according to the number of articles written on each over the last year. Five stood out in the analysis—the hits.After a systematic analysis of news coverage in forty-three leading online and print news outlets, the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K–12 Education identified the five most covered education stories of 2012 (the “hits”) and also advanced its suggestions for the five most important stories that were neglected by the media in 2012 (the “misses”).

From the remaining sixty-five topics, the task force identified five that it felt were important, yet underreported by the media—the misses.

From the panoply of education-related issues covered (or not) by the media, Hoover's Koret Task Force on K-12 Education selected five that it thought should have received more coverage in 2012 than they did. Here are the task force's five, plus five other significant but less-reported issues.

Did the task force get it right? Here's your chance to vote on what you think were the most significant of 2012's underreported education stories.


Contact Information

Williamson M. Evers
Mobile: (650) 380-1546
evers [at] stanford [dot] edu


Chester E. Finn Jr.
Office: (202) 223-5450
Mobile: (202) 285-6600
cefinnjr [at] aol [dot] com

For further information

Office of Public Affairs
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-6010
(650) 723-0603


Members of the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K–12 Education
  • Williamson M. Evers is project coordinator of the Koret Task Force on K–12 Education project on Education in the Media 2012: Hits and Misses. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a former US assistant secretary of education.
  • Chester E. Finn Jr., Koret Task Force on K–12 Education chairman, is a senior fellow at Hoover and president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
  • John E. Chubb is a distinguished visiting fellow at Hoover and interim CEO of Education Sector.
  • Eric Hanushek is the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at Hoover and chairman of the Executive Committee for the Texas Schools Project at the University of Texas at Dallas.
  • Paul T. Hill is a Hoover Institution distinguished visiting fellow and professor and founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington.
  • Caroline M. Hoxby is a senior fellow at Hoover, the Scott and Donya Bommer Professor at Stanford University, and director of the Economics of Education Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Tom Loveless is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
  • Terry M. Moe is a senior fellow at Hoover and the William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University.
  • Paul E. Peterson is a senior fellow at Hoover and the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government and director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University.
  • Herbert J. Walberg is a distinguished visiting fellow at Hoover and chairman of the board of directors of the Heartland Institute.
  • Grover J. Whitehurst is the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution and former director of the Institute of Education Sciences at the US Department of Education.


Media Surveyed


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Bergen County Record
Boston Globe
Buffalo News
Christian Science Monitor
Denver Post
Detroit News
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Minneapolis Star Tribune
New York Daily News
New York Post
New York Times
Orange County Register
Philadelphia Inquirer
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
San Jose Mercury News
Tampa Bay Times
USA Today
Wall Street Journal
Washington Post
Washington Times


Atlantic Monthly
The Economist
Harper's Magazine
National Review
New Republic
New Yorker
Time Magazine
U.S. News & World Report

Daily Beast
Huffington Post
National Review Online
ABC Nightline
CBS Evening News
Fox News Channel’s Special Report
and NBC Nightly News