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Reform: Sure, The Reform Brand Is Tarnished. But So Is The Other Side's

The New York Times' Sara Mosle has posted a fascinating entry about the issues facing the current school reform movement, using the work of Gary Rubinstein as a focal point. Go read it, if you haven't already.  I can wait.

I have no issue with the issues Mosle raises, and Gary deserves the attention for his work expressing concerns and trying to engage with reformers about them.  But, as I wrote on Twitter last night, the complaints about reformers -- their hubris, misuse of data, and distance from the classroom -- are pretty familiar now.  I can recall any number of posts and articles that have raised these points in the past.  

What I wish Mosle had done in her piece was to make one further connection, addressing the issue of school reform critics' blind spots.  In my experience, reform critics' exaggerations, misuses of data, and hubris (some would call it hypocrisy) too often match those of the reformers they love to tear down, and this practice has become as much of a problem as the ones Mosle focuses on in her piece. 

For her part, Mosle seems to agree with the point, writing on Twitter:  The "dialogue has to be both ways, with both sides occasionally conceding a point (the hard part) not just making them."

As it stands, both sides occupy some pretty shaky ground. Who's going to get this discussion restarted?  The rabble rousers on both sides will continue to exaggerate and pontificate -- that's their job, or at least their habit -- but what's really needed is someone who can figure out how to admit past mistakes and move forward. 

The reform "brand" has become tarnished, sure, but so has the reputation and credibility of all too many reform opponents.  And right now, those of us in the vast middle sort of hate you all -- both sides --  in roughly equal measure. 

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You're in your own world, Alexander, and now your links are broken, too. Here's the story you're worrying about, which doesn't even actually raise the points Gary has been making.
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/31/teachers-and-policy-makers-troubling-disconnect/

I'm not sure how you got yourself to the "middle" on this, Alexander, but so far so good. Now, you ought to look at the distinct sides, and choose whether you really hate them both equally. The side you've advocated for professionally doesn't welcome your apostasy on matters of poverty and school closures, but to me those are the things that give me hope you will actually find your own voice on these questions. Come on over, any time.

Here’s Jeff Bryant’s discussion of “The Inconvenient Truth of Education Reform.” He describes both the effects of “reform” on the real kids who went to DC this week to protest the destruction of their schools, and the conflict-of-interest revelations about Jeb Bush’s specific donors.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/02/the-inconvenient-truth-of-education-reform/

Bryant’s conclusion is,
“Over 10 years later we see how education reform mandates have played out – powerful corporate interests are mining new profit centers while poor children of color, who were the intended beneficiaries of reform, are getting stuck with the shaft.”

He asks you to pause to reconsider, whose side are you on?

The thing is that the anti-reformers have given and given - they've let themselves be evaluated with crap statistics, they've let their schools be closed, there've let their kids be hearded into segregated schools, there've let the charters lie about their performance and attrition rates and all that's happened is more of the same, funded by the powerful, the rich and their minions who want to be the same.

The anti-reformers when they have tried to have a voice find they are berated for being "adults who just care about themselves" or "union thugs". The academics who publish in academic journals on how bad VAM models are or the injustice in this new segregation find that their voice is not heard as the media spends time on Rhee's State's education rankings - the rich and powerful just feed the media's love of the simple (even if it's plain wrong) over the complex.

So don't go saying that both sides are somehow eqully at fault and have to concede equally - you're just playing on one side's willingness to do what is right while the other keeps playing its games with all its power, money and political advantages.

As to what motivates the minions, and asking which side anyone is on -- always follow the money.

from twitter

@ed_realist

"right now, those of us in the vast middle sort of hate you all -- both sides " indeed.

@smosle

@alexanderrusso on need to reboot #edreform for those frustrated by myopia on both sides of polarized debate

@mandercorn

Agree:"what's really needed is someone who can figure out how to admit past mistakes and move forward"

Russo's approach reminds me of of Fox News old "Fair and Balanced" approach which was anything but. And the tone which continues to propagandize with negative "reform" "anti-reform" labels instead of showing any kind of thoughtful analysis does anything but open up a dialogue on what our children really need.

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