The following essay was written by Mitchell Robinson and was originally published on his most-excellent blog at MitchellRobinson.net. Robinson is associate professor and chair of music education, and coordinator of the music student teaching program at Michigan State University. His essay is reposted here with permission.
The Great Lakes Education Project is a Michigan advocacy organization dedicated to advancing the charter school agenda in the state. GLEP’s official mission statement says the following: “Because a zip code shouldn’t determine the education outcomes for children, GLEP believes we must expand choice, improve quality and increase accountability. We support Governor Snyder’s ‘any time, any place, any way, at any pace’ approach to education.” But it’s worth noting that Michigan leads the nation in “for-profit” charter schools, with nearly 80% of the state’s charters being of the “for-profit” variety, making GLEP not so much an educational organization as a PR firm for charter school authorizers.
Recently, GLEP announced their “Got Literacy?” campaign, the goal of which seems to be to embarrass and humiliate selected Michigan schools for “failures” in their literacy efforts. Here’s how the campaign works: GLEP rolls out an ad with a photo of a Michigan school sign or billboard, each of which contains a supposedly obvious or embarrassing spelling or grammar error–like the one above (“Welcome Back. Hope You Had a Good Brake.” Get it? Ha ha ha. That dumb school made a dumb spelling mistake–therefore schools in Michigan are bad at literacy…)
As it turns out, the sign in this GLEP ad is not from Michigan, and has nothing to do with the supposed “literacy crisis” in Michigan’s schools. The billboard is from Prescott High School in Arizona, the photo was taken in 2007, and was the result of a student prank–not an error made by school personnel, as inferred in the GLEP story. School officials have asked other web sites to remove the photo as it is not a fair representation of the school, and “Its sole purpose is to shame PHS.” Let’s hope that GLEP follows suit, removes the photo from their ad, and apologizes to the folks at Prescott High School. It would be the right thing to do.
And that’s not the only misleading example that GLEP uses in this campaign. The sign to the left is another supposed example of how a school in Michigan made an obvious and embarrassing spelling error, which the masterminds at GLEP believe is an indictment of the quality of literacy education at this school.
And that probably would be embarrassing for the Michigan school in question, except for the fact that: A. This school is in Indiana, not Michigan, and B. The mistake on the digital billboard was made not by the South Bend schools, but by the advertising company that is responsible for the billboard:
The Blue Waters Group, a public relations firm, is taking full responsibility for the error, acknowledging that the mistake was apparently overlooked by four people on staff who did not identify the missing “L” before approving the message. “I feel terrible. It’s a mistake we made and we’re guilty of it,” said Patrick Strickler, president of Blue Waters. The misspelled billboard, to promote the South Bend, Ind., school system, went up Thursday and was not corrected until Monday. It was located near the intersection of Ironwood and State Road 23, visible to the thousands of drivers who use the road daily.”
It’s almost as if the good folks at the Great Lakes Education Project are purposely using misleading images on their ads to infer that Michigan’s schools are not teaching literacy skills very well…except the photos aren’t from Michigan, and the mistakes in question are either not really mistakes or were not made by anyone connected to a public school. Other than that, great job, GLEP!
PS…just because turnabout is fair play, it’s also worth sharing the photo of the GLEP press release on the right, from March 30, 2015. The document contains a pretty obvious and embarrassing spelling/grammar mistake in the title: “GLEP’s” shouldn’t have the possessive in this usage — the title should read, GLEP Announces “Education Innovation Zone” Plan to Reimagine Education in Southeast Michigan.
Sorry, correcting obvious and potentially embarrassing writing errors is an occupational hazard for teachers.
You’re welcome, GLEP.