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Education through TIME: Representations of United States Education on TIME Magazine Covers

from 1983-2018

Magazine covers are multimodal ensembles whose message is conveyed through combinations of words, images, and design elements. Drawing upon social semiotics and multimodality theories, a multimodal content analysis of TIME Magazine (TIME) covers published between 1983 and 2018 was conducted to understand how TIME has visually communicated ideas about U.S. education to their audience throughout time. Three primary categories were constructed: 1) schools are in need of fixing; 2) learning and schooling have not changed through time; and 3) uncomplicated stereotypical representations can stand for broad categories of educational stakeholders, practices, and tools. If these conceptualizations of education are left unchallenged, uncritical reader-viewers may take up such conceptualizations as truth and reality.

I wrote this piece with Dr. Dani Kachorsky (Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, Email: danielle.kachorsky@tamucc.edu) and Dr. Stephanie F. Reid (Assistant Professor at University of Montana, Email: stephanie.reid@mso.umt.edu). It was published in AERA Open in 2020 and can be referred to through the following citation: 


Kachorsky, D., Reid, S. F., & Chapman, K. (2020). Education through TIME: Representations of United States education on TIME Magazine covers. AERA Open, 6(3), 1-19. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2332858420961110.

We are currently writing a piece examining how TIME covers portray issues related directly to P-20 education policy. I am first author on that piece. We also intend to expand our research to conduct multimodal content analyses of Newsweek Magazine and LIFE Magazine covers, and write a piece comparing the three magazine covers and their portrayals of education at different points in time.


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Vergara v. California as Political Spectacle

Over the past five years, the laws governing teachers’ employment have been at the center of legal and political conflicts across the United States. Vergara v. California challenged five California state statutes that provide employment protections for teachers. Drawing on the theory of political spectacle, we conducted a media content analysis of 83 print news media articles published between the time the lawsuit was initiated and a high-profile TIME Magazine article about the case.

Dr. Jeanne M. Powers (Associate Professor at Arizona State University, Email: Jeanne.Powers@asu.edu) and I have published two pieces from this research. They can be referred to through the following citations:

Powers, J. M., & Chapman, K. (2017). Protecting teachers or protecting children? Media representations of Vergara v. California. International Journal of Sociology Education—RiSE, 6(2).


Powers, J. M., & Chapman, K. (2021). Poor kids versus bad teachers: Vergara v. California and the 

social construction of teachers. Teachers College Record, 123(4). https://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?contentid=23651.


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Opting Out in the Empire State: A Geographic Analysis of Opting Out in New York,

Spring 2015 & 2016

In 2015, New York had the most visible opt-out social movement, formed in opposition to standardized assessments. Many public school families decided that their children should not spend time taking tests that they viewed as having little association with the classroom curricula. As the opt-out movement has continued to grow throughout the United States, we were interested in determining if a connection existed between geography and the opt-out movement. This study analyzes the opting out behavior of public school parents, guardians, and students in New York and investigates which factors shape opt-out behavior. We include all districts except for New York City, which is excluded because the available public data does not allow for geographic disaggregation within the city’s schools. Through this study, we found a strong correlation between high opt-out levels at the district level and high proportions of White students and students of low poverty levels, and areas of high population density. For the latter two, the relationships appeared to vary geographically, and we determined that it was not appropriate to characterize those relationships as constant across the state.

I wrote this piece with Dr. Lydia Ross (Executive Director of the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) and Clinical Assistant Professor at Arizona State University, Email: Lydia.Ross@asu.edu) and Dr. Sherman Dorn (Professor at Arizona State University, Email: Sherman.Dorn@asu.edu). It was published in Teachers College Record in 2020 and can be referred to through the following citation:


Chapman, K., Ross, L., & Dorn, S. J. (2020). Opting out in the empire state: A geographic analysis of

opting out in New York, spring 2015 & 2016. Teachers College Record, 122(2). https://www.tcrecord.org/content.asp?contentid=23062.

We are now expanding our work to take a closer look at the opting out situation in the state of Colorado.