We may think that "fake news" is a relatively new phenomenon, but in actual fact, schools have been the purveyors of fake news for years! There are obvious examples that hit the press, such as the story from a few years ago where a former Superintendent of the Atlanta School District was arrested and charged with multiple counts of fraud. Her crime? She oversaw the systematic manipulation of student achievement results on high stakes standardized texts. At the time of her "crime" she had been lionized as a great educational leader who was achieving amazing things with respect to improving student performance. The truth was finally uncovered by a relentless local news outlet. Even so, it took years to uncover the breadth of the scandal.
I dealt with a similar situation in Quebec a number of years ago. A local independent school had been performing below expectations on its Ministry examinations. The Board, as a goal, set a target of "significant improvement" on the exam results the next year and entrusted the administration to "get the job done". The next June the school boasted a 100% success rate and the average score jumped by 15%. The end had been reached, and the Head and his team had done their job! Or had they? Upon investigation, it turned out that the approach had been neither prudent or particularly ethical! To begin with, the school had hired a number of tutors to work with those students whom they had deemed to be "at-risk". The costs were significant and un-budgeted. Secondly, on the days of the exams, a number of borderline students were "excused" from writing and marked absent, while others were allowed to take their tutors into the exam room as "scribes" and, as it turned out, in most cases it was the tutors who had done so well on the exam, not the students! In this case, while the school, Board, and parents were happy with the results, the reputation of the school, and career of the Head did not survive the path it took to get there.
When it comes to communications, schools are often the master of half-truths. Most school websites will boast something like: "98.9% of our students were accepted into the university of their choice". What they don't mention is the fact that, in a great many of those cases, a shockingly high percentage of those students either flunked out. or changed their major after the first year. Acceptance was equated with achievement, but was not really an indicator of academic success. It was, in essence, "fake news" about the quality of university preparation at these university prep schools.
Donald Trump is ham-handed. He tweets out "facts" that are easily debunked (inauguration crowd size, millions of illegal votes, Obama tapped my phones, etc.). Schools, and Heads, can sometime be too smart by half. They share news selectively, only publicizing things which put them in the best light. All too often, inexperienced Heads will use hyperbole and half-truths to cover up a questionable decision. Rather than take the short-term hit, they gamble that they won't get found out and that the issue will fade from memory.
It is a gamble not worth taking. It only takes getting caught once in a fake news exaggeration, to destroy your credibility, and sorely undercut the trust placed in you by parents. When sharing information, even that which comes to you from a credible source, it is always good to take a second look before you put your reputation and credibility on the line. A good rule of thumb is "if it seems too good to be true, it probably isn't!"
Next time, how to listen before you speak...