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Thompson: John Merrow Is More For Us Than Against Us

JohnMerrowJohn Merrow, responding to comments on his blog,"Taking Note," articulates a big tent approach to school reform where "those who are not against us are for us" and the dishonoring of teachers and teaching by "cheap shot politicians," "bargaining for rigid and bizarre work rules," and "curriculum designers who labor to create ‘teacher-proof’ curricula" is ended.  Many commenters -- including yours truly -- have complained about his comparing the teacher-bashers and the unions. A rule against after-school meetings going longer than 30 minutes seems ridiculous to Merrow but makes sense to me.  But that's just a quibble.  I can buy Merrow's strategy of balancing his attacks on the educational malpractice being dumped on teachers and students with a criticism of old work rules that have mostly been forgotten.  I would gladly trade some artifacts from industrial unionism in return for the accountability hawks taking up Merrow's challenge to "see any of them try to do for just one day what teachers do every day of the school year." And anyone who would promote such a bargain is clearly "for us."- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

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John, why do we want to be in Merrow's "big tent", again?

I think Alexander's right, and the corporate reform bubble is bursting. A lot of teachers (myself among them) have worked for years to break through the miasma of lies and manipulation Merrow and other media pundits have promoted to curry favor and further their own careers. You keep suggesting, again and again, that honest people should pre-empt our own movement, and agree to cede only partial domination of public education to these cheats, liars, and toadies. Why?

While Merrow was cranking out program after program praising Michelle Rhee, living teachers risked (and sacrificed) their livelihoods by speaking the truth. Families of real children were struggling in a maze of lies he could have confronted, and didn't. He's got those videos up on his $1 bargain page, now, but he's still no bargain.

Yes, he has access and to media influence, but who appointed him to speak for teaching?

No, seroiusly, WHO APPOINTED HIM?

Mary
I agree with you and Allexander that the "reform" bubble is bursting. I see Merrow differently. Rather than being "appointed" he negotiated all of the currents, including the current that brought in the extreme poison of Michelle Rhee. When I think Merrow's wrong, or has road a current too far, I say so. When it comes to knowing how the play the political game, I'm mostly going to learn from Merrow. And as LBJ said, its better to have everyone urinating out of the big tent, then outsider urinating in. We've had a generation of self-appointed "reformers," without a clue about realities inside the education tent, pumping their poison in.

Your metaphors are off-base. This isn't about riding around in big hats, in and out of big tents, peeing on each other. These reformers are riding live children, and this isn't a political game.

My students have been hurt by for-profit reform, and they're the lucky ones. The perpetrators have no intention of giving up their drive, and you're taking the position that we need more accomodation to them, instead of stronger and clearer opposition.

My district is one of their Potemkin Village Innovation Districts; we've had a decade of "successful" domination. Duncan has visited. They validated their every lie by pushing my girls out onto the street (in tears) with less than a tenth grade education, to "leverage" the test scores. Children disappeared from the rosters, and from DOE accountability tracking, all over my wealthy state. The Globe knew it (we told them) and dropped the story like a hot potato. Linda Darling Hammond finally mentioned it in print. "Push-out" slowly percolated into the corrupted pundit vocabulary, because I and many others put it there, instead of sleeping at night.
It may be breaking now. I don't know how they leveraged the elementary scores, but somebody just came in with a different test, and found 44% of our incoming 9th graders reading 3-5 years below grade level, and another 22% suddenly 1-2 years behind.

This isn't a political game. "Back up to that last slide". I put my job on the line again and again yesterday, in my school library, at one of those meetings. It matters because I put my students' teacher on the line, too; we've voted away our own tenure protection.

What reading program have they been in? Shouldn't we consider the possibility that BSRI isn't a successful reading program, after all? Maybe RTI doesn't work? How does this correlate with the previous test scores reported for those children? How can we have no data about that, when we've been "data driven" for a decade?

If Merrow wants to come out and defend public education, let him do that. He doesn't need my endorsement. Notice, he made nice about teachers, but hasn't burned any bridges. So he's still pushing their agenda from the side. Are you?

My students ALSO have been hurt by for-profit reform. The question is how do you fight it. So, the Globe knew was told of a damaging policy and dropped the story like a hot potato. Merrow gets stories on the air. My assumption is that that requires a lot of give and take.

Even though he's been at it for twice as long as I have, I bet he hasn't burned as many bridges as I have. Whose approach is better? I haven't a clue.

Personally, I do my best to embrace the big tent and not burn bridges. But since I know so many individual kids who have been damaged by "reform," it is harder for me to not take more unpopular stands than I would like.

and as for me, I've worked with people who (unlike Merrow) I believe to be really frightening. What's the alternative?

Support the people who actually stand up to the ones who frighten you, John. There are plenty of journalists now who have made the break - why do you not highlight them?

Are you trying to negotiate a current yourself, I wonder? Every time you write "leverage" it churns my stomach.

This "reform" question is finally polarizing itself across its one true axis: private control of the public education funding stream. Alexander clearly once thought that could be achieved without undue damage, based on the lie that public schools are so bad there's nothing to lose. Now he's not so sure, because he's uncomfortable with the mindless juggernaut of lies he's helped foster. It doesn't self-correct, or regulate itself. It's destroying the thing it claims to save; that turns out to be the nature of the beast.

The only alternative I'm interested in is defeating it. Compromise means they win: and private control absolutely requires the destruction of of our last and greatest democratic institution.

What reading program have they been in? Shouldn't we consider the possibility that BSRI isn't a successful reading program, after all? Maybe RTI doesn't work? How does this correlate with the previous test scores reported for those children? How can we have no data about that, when we've been "data driven" for a decade?

Remedies,
You hit my big worry about Merrow's embrace of "copy catting." I'm afraid he is conceding far too much to wonks who know far too little about actual classrooms, and are thus incapable of prescribing "best practices" to copy, but fearlessly do so anyway.

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