The good stuff of 2013

One of education reform’s best attributes is its sense of urgency about doing better for kids. This field is not one for the complacent.

But our earnestness can come across as antagonistic. To say “we must do better” implies something unflattering about the ways things are. Since there are lots of people responsible for the way things are, this can sometimes translate into bruised egos and nasty recriminations.

I take responsibility for being among our field’s worst offenders on this score. I am pointed to a fault.

I hope folks—even when they’re frustrated with me—know I write what I do because I detest that disadvantaged kids don’t get a fair shake. I can be an insufferable cuss, but I aspire to do it without bias—hence my heartfelt appreciation for TNTP’s referring to me as an “anti-tribalist.” I try to call them as I see them, regardless of party, ideology, organizational affiliation, or anything else.

But my directness is also attributable to my subscribing to Frederick Douglass’s view that power concedes nothing without a demand. We will never bring about the changes we need if we practice nothing but gauzy, velvet-gloved diplomacy and accommodation. To paraphrase Douglass, that has never worked and never will.

I try to leaven my scolding by also drawing attention to great people doing great stuff; this was the purpose of the “By the Company It Keeps” series.

But looking back on 2013, I probably employed the wagging finger more vigorously than the pat on the back. My polemic on the Broad Prize, my needling of the feds for SIG’s results and their handling of it, and my tsk-tsking for the NAEP TUDA’s packaging come to mind.

So I’ve resolved to put a few more marks in the feel-good column in 2014. First, I’ll resurrect “By the Company It Keeps.”

Second, I’m hoping to launch two bridge-building initiatives (more on this to come).

Lastly, I want to recognize some of the most exciting and encouraging events, organizations, and people of the last year. So, in no particular order and with apologies for anyone or anything missed, here’s my appreciation for some of the good stuff from 2013.*

If you think I missed something, let me know! andy.smarick@bellwethereducation.org

* My organization has worked with a number of the above organizations and individuals. Rather than pointing out every relationship, you can see the full list of Bellwether partners here: http://bellwethereducation.org/people/who-we-work-with/

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