When he's good, New York Times education columnist Michael Winerip is very good (see his report on Atlanta cheating).? When he's bad (see here and here or just go to Flypaper's very own Michael Winerip Archive), he's very bad.? The difference between the good and the bad can be easily ? and predictably -- traced to Winerip's inability to match his reportorial skills to his ideological beliefs; the latter seem to completely disarm the former.
In this morning's report, on a New Hampshire school, tellingly headlined ?In a Standardized Era, a Creative School Is Forced to Be More So,? Winerip is at his reportorial worst as he strains to make the point that No Child Left Behind is forcing another great (?creative?) school to ?teach to the test.?? Given that NCLB has become everyone's favorite punching bag of late, Winerip's whines have become something of a yawn.? However, it is instructive to read this piece because it perfectly illustrates the reasons the public is so misinformed about the best education reform efforts: bad reporting.
To start, we need to be aware of what Winerip leaves out, beginning with the facts. How many students go to Oyster River Middle School, the subject of his story? How many are minority, Free and Reduced lunch?? We don't know. Has the school's proficiency rate ? which Winerip says is ?about 85 percent? ? gone up or down?? Which grades does it
The New York Times editorial page has been a remarkably consistent and clear voice on behalf of smart education reform ? and today it stays the course with a sensible critique of the Harkin-Enzi proposal.? (See also Mike's Just Say No take (?a hodgepodge of half-baked ideas that should alarm folks on the right and the left?) on Harkin-Enzi here; and don't miss the all-day event on 21st century governance on December 1, sponsored by Fordham and the Center for American Progress.)
Advises the Times:? ?go? back to the drawing board.?
The editorial does the requisite bowing and scraping before the flaws in No Child Left Behind, but it does not forget the law's remarkably radical attempt to fix a ?broken American education system: ?forcing schools to be accountable for educating all children.? Yes, folks, teeth can be discomfiting.
The Times supports the Obama Administration waiver plan because it ?would allow states to be rated on student growth? and rightly also requires that waiver applicants ?set goals for all schools and plan for closing achievement gaps.?
The Harkin-Enzi bill ?lowers the bar,? says the Times, and ?backs away from requiring states to have clear student achievement targets for all schools.?
It is past time to fix NCLB; but it is not the time for retreat on the need to raise standards and hold educators accountable for student performance.
--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
I was prepared for a rant against all things reform when I started reading the New York Times Q & A interview with Maria Velez-Clarke, the principal of the Children's Workshop School in Manhattan's East Village, about the school's C-grade from the City.? The school is ?one of several small schools,? said the Times intro, ?started in the 1990s by people who had worked at the widely praised Central Park East School.?
Central Park East?? The school started by Deborah Meier, current scourge of standardized tests, charters, accountability, and just about everything associated with Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein, who initiatiated the school report cards program? ?(See the Bridging Differences blog Meier shares with Diane Ravitch and this wonderful 1994 profile of Meier and her hugely successful Central Park East experiment written by veteran NYC educator Sy Fliegal.)? Children's Workshop offers ballet and yoga, for heaven's sake!
Instead of a progressive principal complaining about Gotham's new accountability system squishing her student's creative impulses, however, we hear an 18-year veteran school leader who was shocked by the C grade the school received in 2010 and determined to do something about it:
I shared it with absolutely no one because it was so devastating to me. I took it home. I sat with my husband and I said, ?My God, do you know what this is going to do to morale?? And he looked at me and he said, ?O.K., you have
The wonderful hubris of the new National Education Policy Center study on Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice, is not the assertion that discipline data should be an essential metric in gauging a school's success ? which it should ? but that current disciplinary policies and practices are racist. [pullquote]Losen bluntly states, student suspensions ?are significantly influenced by factors other than student misbehavior.?[/pullquote]
The author of the report, Daniel Losen of The Civil Rights Project at UCLA, is more diplomatic than that, but he does suggest that many current discipline policies may be ?unlawful? because of their ?disparate impact? on African Americans and the disabled.? And I would have to agree.
In our post-Columbine, zero-tolerance, character-first education world, Losen proposes a radical thesis (that the race of the student counts more than his or her behavior) and mounts a remarkably persuasive argument for doubting that current mainstream beliefs ? and the policy and practices that they have spawned ? about disciplining our students are sustainable. ?In fact, Losen bluntly states, student suspensions ?are significantly influenced by factors other than student misbehavior.?
If that sounds radical, even counterintuitive, read the study.? Among the findings reported here are these:
- ?School suspensions nationwide have risen steadily since the early 1970s, and racial disparities have grown considerably as well.?
- ?In 2006, at least one district in each of 46 states imposed
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About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
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