Is everything for which reformers fight actually making things worse?
Photo by ToniVC
"Confusion never stops
Closing walls and ticking clocks
Gonna come back and take you home
I could not stop that you now know, singing
Come out upon my seas
Cursed missed opportunities
Am I a part of the cure?
Or am I part of the disease?"
-Coldplay, "Clocks," A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002
I am haunted by the title of your post: "The Testing Obsession Widens the Gap" Could this possibly be true? Is test-based school reform reducing opportunity for America's neediest children? Is everything for which we school reformers fight actually making things worse? Am I a part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?
"It's OK to ask: 'What if I'm wrong?'" you wrote last week. So let me ask it. It wouldn't be the first time. A year ago, for example, I explored the "test score hypothesis"—a line of reasoning, undergirding much of the reform movement, that says that if we can significantly improve low-income students' math
Relinquishment is based on three principles: (1) educators should operate schools, (2) families should choose amongst these schools, and (3) government should hold schools accountable for performance and equity.
Outside of these three principles, I hold few ironclad beliefs on education. Yet in conversation, I find that others attribute principles to Relinquishment that I don’t hold. This probably stems from a lack of clear communication on my part, so let me provide additional clarity:
Relinquishment is not anti-union
Relinquishment is a reaction against management, not labor. Admittedly, I disagree with certain policies put forth by unions and their members, but individuals should possess the right to collectively bargain with their employers. Relinquishment only posits that the government should not be a party to the bargain; rather, the bargaining parties should be union and school operator. From here, results will dictate the future of unions. If unionized schools thrive, unions themselves will also thrive. I do understand that, from an organizing standpoint, unionizing decentralized charter schools will be more difficult than signing a singular collective bargaining contract with the district—but I do not believe this issue should trump the more salient issue of academic performance.
Relinquishment assumes equity in access is not the natural state of school systems
People concerned about ensuring that all public school students have equitable access to great schools often suggest that the best solution is to (1) force all kids into one system and (2) have that one operator allocate students
Thanks for inviting me to join you on your blog. Even though we disagree on many issues, I have great respect for you and the work you've done in your career.
As I write this, I'm returning from the Education Writers Association annual conference, held this year at Stanford. I spoke on a panel about the "opportunity gap" with professors Sean Reardon and Prudence Carter. Reardon, as you know, recently published a fascinating but sobering study about the growing income achievement gap. (ASCD's Educational Leadership has an accessible version of the study available online.) And Carter co-edited the new volume, Closing the Opportunity Gap.
What Professor Reardon's research shows is that, over the last 60 years, the achievement gap between the nation's poorest and richest students has widened dramatically. That's true of both test scores and college attainment.
It's not that poor children are falling behind the middle class. It's that the richest students are breaking away from everybody else.
Photo by John-Morgan
This finding is not surprising for people who have been paying attention, but what is surprising is where the gap lies. It's not that poor children are falling behind the middle class—they're not. It's that the richest students are breaking away from everybody else.
I’m thrilled to announce that next week, I’m launching a new feature called “By the Company It Keeps,” here on Fordham’s family of blogs.
It’ll be a weekly interview series spotlighting the work of some of our field’s most interesting and valuable contributors. Generally, each week’s Q&A will be based on a recent event, like the publication of a noteworthy study, a significant personnel move, or the announcement of a major initiative.
In short, you’ll get from-the-horse’s-mouth facts on a timely story.
But we’ll quickly veer into other areas. You might see reflections on the subject’s career, a funny revelation, or personal goals. Or something completely different.
One of my objectives—and I suppose this goes for all interviewers—is to straddle the line between informative and entertaining. We should learn some stuff while smiling along the way.
But I have another purpose, and it’s suggested by the title of this series.
Years ago, at what I believe was the first or second Yale SOM Education Leadership Conference, I was asked to moderate a panel. I was struggling mightily to come up with some clever or, at very least, amusing icebreaker.
You see, it was all very intimidating. It was Yale, for goodness sake. The audience was chock-full of sophisticates wearing tweed and scowls. My panel was charged with holding forth on some heady topic, the conference organizers were looking on, and—hand to God, this is true—the sharp, take-no-prisoners politico-journalist Alexander Russo was crouched near
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
May 16, 2013
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