I’ve known Mashea Ashton on and off for almost a decade. We’ve done charter school stuff together and crossed paths in various other pursuits. I always liked and respected her a great deal. In my mind she was good people.
But through a fellowship program, I got to know Mashea even better. And for that I’m eternally grateful. Seldom will you come across someone with so much ability and yet so much humility. She is reflective and kind to the core, and she does this work with a quiet passion.
As you’ll see in the questions, Mashea has just about done it all. She’s worked for some of the most influential ed-reform organizations, and she’s currently leading a major effort in one of America’s most prominent ed-reform cities.
But you’ll also see in her answers how she manages to avoid the limelight: by simply being decent and modest and giving others credit.
And that is why I love doing these interviews: to show why our movement is so strong and to draw attention to those who so richly deserve it.
Ladies and gentlemen: the wonderful Mashea Ashton.
What makes you most proud of the Newark Charter School Fund?
For nearly thirty years—at least since Bill Bennett’s tenure as secretary of education and Lamar Alexander’s as governor of Tennessee—education-minded conservatives at both national and state levels have embraced a two-part school reform strategy, focused equally on rigorous standards and parental choice. Recent events have frayed that coalition, but it’s not too late to stitch it back together.
The 1970s left education in shambles.
Photo by ajari
First, a bit of history: In the 1970s, U.S. education policy was all about “equity,” inclusion, and funding and its reformist zeal came from the left, save for noble but isolated exceptions such as Milton Friedman.
Few deny that the equity agenda did some good, especially for disabled and minority youngsters, but the concomitant neglect of academic achievement proved costly. Though the College Board didn’t acknowledge it until 1975, SAT scores had peaked a decade earlier and were in free fall. Every newspaper seemed to bring word of another teacher strike. Adult authority was in decline, goofy curricular schemes were ascendant—and Jimmy Carter decided that his top education priority would be creation of a new federal agency to reward the NEA for its support in the ‘76 election.
In the blunt words of chronicler Tom Toch (then with U.S. News, now with the
A bunch of very good publications have been released over the last few weeks—so many, in fact, that I’ve had trouble getting to them all (people, you’re killing me; can you coordinate release dates?). But I finally made it, and a number are definitely deserving of attention.
So if your to-read pile has dwindled, here are a few to add to the top of the stack. Actually, there are so many, I’ve broken this post into two. I know it’s a lot to get through, but, c’mon, what else were you going to read at the beach?
- If you follow NCLB reauthorization or ESEA waivers, you should consider this new Education Sector report a must-read. Authors John Chubb and Constance Clark do three invaluable things. First, they show that during the NCLB era, there were enormous differences in the gains states made in student achievement. Second, the authors show that those states that did well over the last decade have very different waiver applications than the states that lagged far behind. Third, they explain what this means for the Department’s waiver policy and for reauthorization. This is top-notch stuff.
- A very good companion piece to Ed Sector’s report is this new paper by Thomas Ahn and Jacob L. Vigdor, which argues that NCLB—despite the ritualistic political thrashings it gets today—deserves some credit. It helped raise test scores, showed that tough love for troubled schools has benefits, and more. The
Category: Additional Topics
Your last post was amazing—one of the most coherent, cogent articulations of a reform alternative that I've ever read.
I was particularly moved by this passage:
We need quiet places and noisy places, places full of books and computers and others full of paint and clay. We need adults with the freedom to make spontaneous decisions—shifting the conversation in response to one of those "wonderful moments" and deviating from any designed curriculum. Teachers need the time to mull over what they have learned from student work (written as well as observed) and collegial time to expand their repertoires. We need feedback from trusted and competent colleagues. We need time for families and teachers to engage in serious conversations. We need settings where it seems reasonable that kids might see the school's adults as powerful and interesting people who are having a good time.
It reminded me why I loved your books when I was studying at the University of Michigan's education school twenty years ago—and why you and your ideas are so beloved today. This is
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.
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