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Thompson: Carmel Martin As "Candide"

MerrygoroundDuring the Fordham Institute’s recent panel discussion, Turnaround Merry-Go-Round: Is the Music Stopping?, the Department of Education’s Carmel Martin reminded me of Voltaire’s Candide.

Like Candide, Martin bravely endured a devastating critique by Fordham’s Andy Smarick of the Duncan administration’s School Improvement Grant outcomes. She countered that it is wrong to compare decades of failed turnarounds with today’s turnarounds.  Her evidence was that Secretary Duncan meets with a lot of state leaders, and those talks make him optimistic.

Martin gamely responded to critiques of NCLB-type accountability schemes, citing the political pressures that produced such flawed metrics. Finally, Martin faced the question of unintended results of data-driven accountability.  In order to boost graduation rates, systems resorted to credit recovery gimmicks and, in order to raise test scores, they adopted assessments with easier questions. So, has that not undermined the transition to more challenging instruction required by Common Core? 

Martin replied, “Again, it’s an area where I’m going to take the optimistic view instead of the pessimistic.”-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.           

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