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THOMPSON: A Non-agression Pact

TRUCE%20LOGO Ezekiel Emanuel (Rahm’s brother) says that there are four prerequisites of transformative reform, and education has three of the them in place. We recognize the problem, we have presidential leadership, and the Stimulus Package provides the changed conditions that are necessary. But we have no agreement on the solutions for high-poverty schools.

Imagine a war on cancer where one set of researchers believe that eclectic treatments are necessary while the other camp is committed to a single therapy (radiation, chemotherapy, surgery or whatever) and it refuses to cooperate with anyone that seeks another approach.

That situation exists today in education and the obvious solution is a truce to let both camps follow their best judgements while doing no harm to the other.

Stimulus money should be invested in data systems and value added models. Let some educators use accountability as the locomotive of reform, while others use it as one component of school improvement. Schools would be free to invest in data-driven accountability if they like. Some "reformers" could attempt to chop up data into measurable pieces and mandate top down instructional reforms.

But accountability advocates should not criticize the other schools who invest in data-driven decision-making. Other reformers could invest in data systems to locate children with absenteeism problems, diagnose the specific learning problems, and supplement a more community-oriented approach to schooling.

A two-pronged assault on educational failure would require two sets of ground rules. Firstly, we should commit to an open, evidence-driven debate. Secondly, we should not use the backroom legislative process to advance other agendas, such as expanding or breaking teachers’ unions.


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