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July 07, 2011


Paul confuses "Celebrating Progress" with "Mission Accomplished". Nobody has ever said the latter, and Ravitch seems to all but ignore the former.

Don't you have to have progress to celebrate it? What does it matter if one charter does OK but most don't? What progress has been achieved?

But seriously, the backlash exists for a reason. Education reform isn't some novel thing. It's something that's uprooted the status quo for a decade and has basically nothing to show for it. And at worst it seems to merely provide political cover for opponents of public education to engage in destroying the system, and gives people even more excuse to pretend social insurance/welfare programs don't matter. If poverty isn't an impediment to educational success (given that education in and of itself is seen as antipoverty), then why would people support overt anti-poverty measures?

That's why there can be no peace, and that's why reformers find themselves in the firing line.

good post, dana -- i liked paul's commentary, too. there were a couple of key things left out, however -- *why* reformers make such outlandish claims in the first place being one example, the struggles that middle-ground initiatives like the promise neighborhoods have winning expansion support being another.

my thoughts on the matter here

Sorry, Dana, but it isn't a war among friends. We've got on the one side billionaires and hedge-fund managers looking (quite openly: there are ample quotations outs there to support this claim) to make a killing off of public education through any means, fair or unfair, they have at their broad and deep moneyed disposal. On the other side, a whole lot of us little people - teachers, parents, kids, researchers, concerned citizens with progressive, pro-democratic politics - trying to figure out how to protect the basic idea of equitable, free, quality public education for everyone while at the same time making meaningful improvements to a system that has long-since been corrupted and misdirected by the very same capitalist, industrial business interests that are now trying to blatantly control EVERYTHING inside and outside of schools.

Of course, there are variations and spectra to be looked at, subtleties and so forth, but basically that is what this is about and it isn't pretty because the stakes are very high and people who get it (on both sides) know just how high those stakes are.

There have been skirmishes at the curricular level (in literacy and math and to a lesser extent science and social studies) for the last two decades, but now the gloves are off, the masks dropped, and the game is on in earnest. You find folks here and there who wonder, "Why can't we all just get along" and who try to make peace. Such folks are, frankly, terribly naive. They've failed to understand the depth of the battles, the deadly seriousness of what the fights are about, and ultimately what happens if too many smart people of good will stay neutral.

To those who don't get it, I can only say, "Pick a side or get out of the way."

What Goldenberg said. The casualties of this war isn't Arne Duncan's feelings. This is beyond simple policy debate. It's people's livelihoods, people's political voices, parents desires, and last but not certainly not least, the future of a lot of children.

Does a truce get Milwaukee public schools back the money they lost to charters that do no better than them? Does a truce erase the cheating culture in the Atlanta public school system and get those teachers back to real education? Etc. etc.

"...successfully educating large numbers of low-income kids is very, very hard. But it is not impossible, as reformers have repeatedly demonstrated on a small scale."
Whenever I see statements such as the one above, I know that I'm dealing with a complete (and dangerous) ignoramus on the subject of education. Small-scale "successes" rely on double self-selection bias--who chooses to apply, who chooses to stay--as in the KIPP schools. That's why they have never been broadly replicated. I defy anyone to find a single example anywhere in the world where, within any ethnic group, the children of the more successful parents didn't greatly outperform academically their relatively disadvantaged cohorts. Education is an extremely complicated subject, requiring great effort and knowledge to fully comprehend, and most of those yammering about it, including both recent POTUSes, don't know any more about it than they do string theory.

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