NPR Confirms -- And Debunks -- The "Buried" Private School Report Theory

There were not one but two NPR segments over the past couple of days on the private schools report, one confirming and the other debunking conspiracy theories about its release.

The first, a news segment by Claudio Sanchez (Private School Report Spurs Controversy), mostly confirms the "did they intentionally try and bury the report?" issue that everyone else considered -- and smarter minds reluctantly dismissed -- early last week. Jack Jennings and Checker Finn say the report was probably meant to be buried; Russ Whitehurst says Spellings had to know about it; and Spellings responds with a statement that she didn't know, no reports should come out on Fridays, and that she hopes parents won't make individual school decisions based on the averages in the report.

Much more informative was the second NPR piece on the report, run a day later on the afternoon call-in show Talk Of The Nation, which -- finally -- fills us in on how the report actually came to be reported in the news. And, lo and behold, it turns out that Times reporter Diana Jean Schemo largely debunks the conspiracy theorists. She points out that the report wasn't actually released by Spellings' office, wasn't buried late on a summer Friday (like this post) but rather first thing in the AM, and was sent to 11,000 individuals, any of whom could have fished it out. It wasn't buried, she says, though she admits after being prompted by host Neil Conant that it wasn't exactly trumpted either. Nor was it new news, she adds, considering that a similar report comparing math achievement came out a few months before.

The rest of the TOTN segment includes some very mild back-and-forth between the normally combative Andy Rotherham and the supposedly conservative Mike Petrilli, who both did fine but aren't really far enough apart from each other on vouchers (and several other issues) to make for good radio. Petrilli generally stuck to the usual talking points but at times seemed to be making a case against private schools, not for them. A very mellow Rotherham could only manage to quibble with a few of Petrilli's points. Another pair -- AEI and AFT, or Clint Bolick and Dianne Piche -- would have done better to flesh out the deep divide that remains on voucher issues.


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