|Meade unwittingly allows the folly of this thinking to see the light of day in the context of her criticism of the movie Waiting for Superman, pointing out that a movie that is ostensibly a clarion call for "quality teachers" never shows what quality teachers actually do in the classroom.
In response, Robert Pondisco at Core Knowledge Blog quite rightly points out:
"If Waiting for Superman is incurious about what happens inside the classrooms of low-income children that's because ed reform is incurious about it. The ed reform agenda is all about structures - charters, contracts, data, funding, accountability, etc. - not what teachers teach and kids do in school all day" (emphasis his).
Although Meade counters that there are reformist favorites who have addressed issues of curriculum and instruction, her reference points are remarkably shallow (Education Trust) and lacking in a significant research base (Doug Lemov). That's because the reformist agenda by and large is to ignore the research and thinking borne from decades of progressive philosophy in public education - philosophy that has been rejected not only by corporatists like Meade but also by the ruling education establishment that's been impressed on our nation's school children since The Sputnick Effect established the meme of "America's failed schools."
The current crop of education reformists is no different from the shrill bullying that public school educators endured from the Reagan years. The cues are all the same: America's schools are "broken," teachers need to be made more "accountable," reforms" conceived by an alliance of the business community and conservative technocrats in government need to imposed "for the sake of the children."
For sure, the current proponents of "reform" have updated their language, Teachers, for instance, are now equated with terrorists. Devastating hurricanes are welcomed as opportunities for progress. And the meme spawned by Bush doctrinaire "you are either for, or against" divisiveness is used to ridicule anyone opposing reform measurements as a "status-quo clinger."
In the meantime, the reformists make their devotion to the Underpants Gnome belief in structural change sacrosanct, calling it, as they did earlier this week in the Washington Post, a "Manifesto" on behalf of the "have-nots" in our society. Merely pointing out that none of these structural changes are in fact likely to lead to their intended results - that is, if the intended results really are to advance the learning of our nation's youth - gets you called "knee-jerk" and "one-sided," as I was in this Quick Hit here on Open Left.
In shore, it seems that if you question a policy that insists upon imposing massive new structures on schools without their consent, and especially when there's no substantial proof that these structures will in fact lead to the results promised, then you are being "one-sided."
By the way, if you really need any further proof that there's something wrong with policies imposing charter schools as a cure-all for failed education systems, then this New York Times story, courtesy Open Left commenter FunkyGal, is required reading.
"President Obama created a grant program to copy his block-by-block approach to ending poverty. The British government praised his charter schools as a model. And a new documentary opening across the country revolves around him: Geoffrey Canada, the magnetic Harlem Children's Zone leader with strong ideas about how American education should be fixed.
Last week, Mr. Canada was in Birmingham, England, addressing Prime Minister David Cameron and members of his Conservative Party about improving schools.
But back home and out of the spotlight, Mr. Canada and his charter schools have struggled with the same difficulties faced by other urban schools, even as they outspend them.
While I admire Canada's efforts to "save a community and its kids," and I would not call his attempts "failed" merely on the basis of test scores (as reformists are apt to do in their judgments of traditional public schools), it is inexcusable for him to proclaim, as he did on Education Nation, that fixing broken schools "is not about money" while at the same time his schools get two-thirds of their funding from the likes of Goldman Sachs so he can offer small class sizes and wrap-around services - the very things that traditional public educators have been clamoring for, to no avail, for years.
There is really only one correct conclusion to reach from this story. And teacher-edublogger Tom Hoffman explains it quite succinctly:
"You either have to give up some of your faith in the miracle of the high performing charter school as the solution to our problems, or some of your faith in the reliability of narrow measures based on test scores and, in particular, the efficacy of more complex value-added measures."
Either way spells doom for ed-deform arguments. That is, if those arguments were indeed based on anything more than an Underpants Gnomes approach to improving public schools.
This Week's Duncehat Award: Ken DeRosa
When Valerie Strauss points out how our President and the media ignore the influence that poverty has on student achievement the ed deformers get enraged as D-Ed Reckoning's Ken DeRosa showed recently.
His claim, in a nutshell, is that the fact that Asian students, despite their poverty levels, have higher achievement than any other racial or ethnic group of students proves that there has to be another more important variable than poverty influencing student achievement. "Asian children with parents having only a high school diploma performed better than black children with parents having graduate degrees," he points out.
However, instead of rejecting outright that there is a consistent positive relationship between parental income or parental levels of education and student achievement (a correlation that is undeniable), he instead insists that there is an "invisible variable" at work.
And what is that invisible factor? he only hints at.
But even if he is right - that there is something about what happens in Asian households (parenting habits, for instance, or nutrition) that matters more than poverty - that only proves that the determining factor is still outside the control of schools. Unless of course he wants schools telling parents how to raise children.
The difference between school-based factors that influence achievement and factors outside of schools' control is a distinction that in no way does the ed reform movement want to discuss. And they'll go to any lengths to avoid that discussion.