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Media: Salon Writer Shakes Angry Fist At Reform

image from farm3.staticflickr.comReform critics are swooning over David Sirota's latest Salon.com missive (New data shows school “reformers” are full of it) for understandable reasons.  It's main thesis is as follows: "Poor schools underperform largely because of economic forces, not because teachers have it too easy." (And it includes lots of links, and no small amount of outrage.)

But is there anything useful and good in what Sirota is saying?  I'm not so sure. No doubt, poverty has an enormous effect on kids' lives and often on their academic achievement. No doubt, there's lots that could be done to make the system more fair (get rid of local school districts, eliminate "salary averaging"). And as you've read here several times recently, child poverty has been on the rise (as has the number of high-poverty public schools).

But nobody credible that I know of is suggesting that poverty isn't a major factor, or that most teachers aren't doing everything they can / know how to do to make things work for poor kids.  Citing Joanne Barkan, as Sirota does repeatedly, isn't particularly persuasive to me at least. Blaming education reform for worsening the achievement gap?  I'm not buying it.  

Is there anyone out there writing about poverty, race, and inequality in ways that seem a little less heated and perhaps more credible?  Tanehisi Coates at Atlantic.com comes to mind.

Previous posts: Power Couples: Emily & David Sirota; What MSNBC's O'Donnell Gets Wrong About Denver; The Myth Of The All-Powerful Billionaires. Image via Flickr Hey Rocker

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Blaming education reform for worsening the achievement gap?

You may not buy it, but credible scholars are. Just take a look at "reform's" role in creating a 60% increase in schools serving high concentrations of poverty.

Paul Tough explained it most clearly in laypeoples' language, and many of the top social scientist have documented the damage done by "reform." The jury is in. And I could go on. How would you like to be a student in the 50 sacrificial schools in Chicago or their counterparts in Philly and D.C.? They were bad before, but look at the messes that were created by wasted the untold millions in those cities and tens of billions nationwide.

"Reform" failed, and the big victims were the kidss that "reformers" wanted to fail.

Maybe this should be the test. Alexander, how would you like to be a student and be forced to attend one of the new 75%+ low-income schools that "reformers" created?

reform's failings and childhood poverty aren't clearly connected for me, john.

i think that the increase in schools serving poor kids is more a function of the recession and growing inequality than anything reform has done

and also the continued flight of middle- and upper-income families from urban public school systems.


Reform's theory of overcoming concentrated poverty is the educational version of Intelligent Design. Serious scholars, in the work, don't put it that way, but they tend to say the same thing in academic language.

As you said, the flight of middle and upper class families has continued, despite wasting billions on "reforms" and the return of affluent people to the cities. At a minimun, its an opportunity cost. In places like NYC, it is a calculated policy by "reformers" treating poor children like pawns in their games. The rest of reforms failures fall in between.

Just this morning, Chubb has presented evidence on the growth of the achievement gap since NCLB tried to close it. OK, he's got tons of methodological problems that jump out at first glance. But, still progress on all fronts (with NAEP) slowed since NCLB.

I think you'd feel differently about the rise of 75% low-income schools if you attended one, sent a kid to one, or taught in one. I sure saw the way that test-driven reform turned all of my district's neighborhood schools from 2/3rds low-incomes, which would have been fixable, into schools with concentrations of poverty that are beyond fixing (according to any real world scenario that is available). Nobody would send their kids to the schools that reformers inadvertantly made if they had a choice. But, the poorest kids arne't so all-fired welcome in the choice schools thar reformers brag about.

Why am I so sure in reading 15 years of research that it shows that "reform" never had a chance? Combine it with my experiences and experiences of others, and the case gets stronger. Combine the recent research, with the bodies of research that predicted the failure of test-driven reform, and the case becomes stronger still. Combine all of the above with top journalism and other narratives, and its case closed.

And, Alexander, you don't expect good news coming out of this years SIG do you? You don't think mass closings will make schools better in Chicago, DC, and Philly do you? You expect a Common Core and value-added eval trainwrecks don't you?

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