That 70s Show!

Reading this new education manifesto that’s being released today makes me seriously crave a Tab and some Bee Gees. I’m all for many of the proposals it champions, better access to health care and other social services, better access to pre-kindergarten education for low-income kids, using time more effectively….those are all vitally important.

But, the conspicuous soft-pedaling of a focus on results and the explicit rejection that perhaps schools are even a substantial part of the educational problem is unsettling. It’s as though the debates and progress of the last 25 years didn’t happen at all.

Update: In her delightfully slippery way Eduwonkette writes:

eduwonk suggests that the acknowledgment that schools can’t do it alone is just another tired opinion…

Of course, I didn’t suggest that and have written elsewhere that other supports are necessary just that even all else equal we can still do a lot better now. What I did suggest is that the lack of emphasis on school accountability is an important signal here. Why not forthrightly acknowledge that lousy schools in many communities are a big part of the problem? We do know that a lot of the “gap” exists before kids come to school, but we also know that schools then exacerbate it because of a host of policies. Some forthright attention to that would have made this document a better jumping off point for a next generation of policies and advocacy. The conspicuous absence of such an emphasis jumped out at me when I first saw this thing floating around. And I doubt it was an oversight in the drafting…

Update II: More from the great Sara Mead.

Update III: Would it be too cynical to ask now about where the full-page newspaper ads were when we actually had a chance to expand access to health care for children?

Update IV: Barone is on the case, too:

It’s hard to take issue with the new initiative launched today by EPI and others to comprehensively address those factors that improve the quality of education. Health care. Child care. Preschool. It’s like mom and apple pie, especially for a bleeding heart liberal like me.

But since I wholeheartedly support most of what they’re saying (and it’s nice to see Rothstein back home at EPI rather than at the Cato Institute or cozying up to Charles Murray), why does something about it not smell or feel right?

A lot more, worth reading.

8 Replies to “That 70s Show!”

  1. You’re absolutely right. The fact that they call this a “bold” proposal is comedic. This is incrementalism at its worst – none of these proposals get at the root of the problem, which is that poor parents cannot choose where to send their kids to school. As you say, these are the same old tired bromides that have all been tried before with miserable results. The structure of the system is what needs to change, not the features of that structure.

  2. In response to what has been written:

    You did not say what Eduwonkette said you did or what Socrates says you wrote either. Typical for the blogs.

    I miss Tab.

  3. I just followed your links, and then followed Sara Mead’s links, and that leads me to a question. Its a real question, not rhetorical, and I hope for a naswer from someone.

    Richard Colvin described the new report as being in the tradition of Richard Rothstein and then he wrote: “but some education reformers argue that Rothstein is letting schools off the hook.” I’ve read the same thing over and over. But I can’t recall counter arguments against Rothstein’s evidence and analysis.

    Rothstein can’t be perfect. But I can’t recall an educator who has laid a glove on him. In this week’s Ed Week, one article (twice) issued one sentence paragraphs to refute Rothstein, “It’s about the schools.” Read the article carefully, however, and none of his evidence contradicts Rothstein or documents an alternative. I have to conclude that its all about the sound bites.

    So, “the new education manifesto” does not seriously discuss accountability. How’s this for the groundrules of a discussion? Unless someone has earth-shattering new evidence, lets accept the Broad Challenge’s logic on health, preparedness, early interventions, home, etc. as a given. (We still haven’t refuted Newton even though physics has continued to advance.)

    Then, let’s discuss what role we want for accountability. Let’s not just assume that a single, national accountability system is necessary for political and educational reasons.

    I won’t repeat my suggestions, except to again argue that we should rely first on data for diagnostic purposes. Then we need rifle-shot accountability for each educational initiative. If we need to pound the word “accountability” for political reasons, that’s fine. Let’s discuss political realities and how we can demostrate toughness, without forming a circular firing squad.

    Regarding the 70s, Tab, etc., I really do enjoy you youngsters’ nostalgic comments. But they recall the serious wisdom of the late Bill Strauss. The Baby Boomers, he explained were the last generation to have a joyous memory of public schools. (and hopefully Baby Boomers are aware of how much the benefits of our White schools were subsidized by Jim Crow) Demographics and economics did serious harm to schools in the 70s, prompting a severe backlash by Gen X. We Baby Boomers must admit that the demand for Market forces in education will not go away. But we must protect the old democratic and liberal arts values of education. When we get a report issued by 60 great scholars, educators, and thinkers, let’s appreciate it for what it is. Let’s not assume that we need to follow with an “on the other hand” argument that anything that humane sounds too mushy, and must be rejected as pre-NCLB or pre-Nation at Risk, or pre…whatever.

  4. Oh come on, we know how to walk and chew gum. (Or drink tab and listen to the beegees?)

    The SES side has been almost completely removed from the NCLB picture. We’re just coaxing it back in.

    *pops collar, spins and does splits*

  5. This is silly. Schools are for educating children. Public health workers are for improving health. Calling for better pre-school nutrition, health, etc. has nothing to do with schools exactly.

    Getting access to pre-K for poor kids, OK that has to do with education. Getting classroom teachers to teach more effectively and use time well, that has to do with education. Measuring whether these affect student learning, that has to do with education.

    Back in the 1970s, it was fashionable to say that schools couldn’t really do anything to educate kids until there was a social revolution that redistributed wealth, etc. This manifesto could easily have popped up during that era.

  6. We, in America and many other modern nations, are obsessed with measurement. Our motto seems to be, “If you can’t count it, it doesn’t count.” We’re especially obsessed with measuring children’s education, and, with No Child Left Behind, we’ve run amok with that obsession.

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