Google vs. Education Next Voters: What of importance happened last year?

According to Google, Peter Meyer tells us in his own clever endeavor to get an objective measure of what happened in 2010, Race to the Top was the story of the year.  Yet according to those readers who voted in the Education Next poll (“Best and Worst Developments for K-12 Education”), the release of data on teacher performance by the L.A. Times was the most controversial event.

Opinions about the worst developments in 2010—as viewed by those who voted in the Ednext poll—were sharply defined, while little consensus formed around the good that happened last year.

The L. A. Times release of teacher performance data garnered better than a quarter of the 446 votes for worst education development of the year, and Race to the Top came in a solid second with 18%  of the vote.

But when it came to picking the best education development of the year, the top winner—D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s defeat and the departure of schools chancellor Michelle Rhee—grabbed only 19 % of the 429 votes. As for second place, four developments came close to sharing the red ribbon—the use of stimulus dollars to avoid layoffs (14%), Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s veto of merit pay and tenure reform (14%), the release of Waiting for Superman and other high-profile movies about school reform (13%),  and the L. A. Times release of teacher performance data (12%).

Education Next correspondent Peter Meyer, after using his “objective” Google search engine to find what he claims are the “people’s” choices, provides data that suggests the L. A. development is of minor importance–it came in only Number 15 on his list of 20.

But the mainstream media the Google search engine prioritizes seems to have a New York bias that is not likely shared by the “people” in middle or western America. The fact that New York won the Race to the Top is treated by Meyer’s Google search as the 5th most important story of the year, and at least 3 other New York insider stories make his top 20 list. The story of Michelle Rhee’s resignation ranks a lowly Number 18.

But Peter’s methodology did bring out three events in 2010 that the Hoover Koret Task Force overlooked (and thus our voters were not given the option to choose among)—parent trigger, common core standards, and PISA scores.  All three made the Meyer-Google top ten, but the Hoover group could not bring itself to place any on either its best or worst list.

-Paul E. Peterson

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