Lesson Plans

Evaluating Accountability in Journalism and Education

Image by Annie Flanagan for the New York Times.

Former T.M. Landry students, clockwise from top left: Bryson Sassau, Liana Williams, Dawson Lewis, Avery Lewis, Ana Howard, Nyjal Mitchell, Domanick Williams, Laila Viltz, Megan Malveaux and Anthony Edmond.  Image by Annie Flanagan for the New York Times. United States, 2018.

Objectives:

Students will be able to…

  • Understand the reporting process for investigative journalism
  • Debate to whom journalists should be accountable
  • Formulate personal opinions on the responsibilities of a school to its students

Introducing the Resource:

In this episode of The Weekly, you will learn about a Louisiana school that accused of fabricating transcripts, doctoring college admissions essays, and mentally and physically abusing students. You will also learn about how journalists investigate a story, and the impact news stories can have on people’s lives.

Answer the following questions in order while you watch “The Education of T.M. Landry” to track the journalists’ investigative reporting process.

Viewing Guide for "The Education of T.M. Landry"

Viewing Guide for "The Education of T.M. Landry"

Discussion:

1. What is T.M. Landry purportedly trying to accomplish? In what ways is the school failing its students?

2. Erica L. Green says that Bryson Sassau’s decision to speak with the press came “at great personal risk.” The same could be said about the other students and alumni she interviewed. Why did they speak out anyway?

3. To whom are journalists accountable?

  • What are a journalist’s responsibilities to the public?
  • What are a journalist’s responsibilities to the people featured in their stories?
  • Do you think Erica L. Green and Katie Benner reported this story ethically? Why or why not?

4. What impact did the story the journalists published have? How can you tell?

5. How would this story have been different if the journalists had not interviewed Mike Landry and/or visited him at his school?

In-class Activity:

1. What are a school’s responsibilities to its students? On post-it notes, write down as many answers as you can.

2. Place your post-its on a large poster or on a wall alongside your classmates’. When everyone is finished, take a few minutes to read your class’s answers. What patterns can you identify? Do any ideas surprise you?

3. Choose one of the following news stories about education programs around the world to explore.

4. In small groups or as a class, share what you learned by answering the following questions:

  • What was the story you read about, and where is the education program it referenced located?
  • Do you think the education program you read about is providing a negative or positive experience for its students? Why?

Extension Activities:

Option 1. Creating a photo essay on your school community

Reflect on the visual style of “The Education of T.M. Landry.” The majority of the time, the camera focuses on individuals’ faces, especially the faces of former T.M. Landry students and their families. How can portraits relay information? How can they empower their subjects?

Create a photo essay about your school community. Take portraits of at least five different students at your school that relay information about who they are. Ask your subjects the following questions: 1. What are your aspirations? 2. What does education mean to you?

Option 2. Researching and writing about school oversight legislation

Erica L. Green explains, “Louisiana allows schools to operate without any state oversight if they don’t accept government funding. The reason state officials didn’t see the red flags is that, to them, T.M. Landry doesn’t even exist.”

Research school oversight laws in your state. Then, write a persuasive essay in response to the following prompt: Should your state government have more oversight of schools, or should schools have more independence?

Educator Notes: 

Common Core Standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.3
Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.7
Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

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