In The Times, Mike Winerip writes-up the new Steven Brill book “Class Warfare.” Here’s Brill’s response (submitted but not yet posted):
I appreciate that Mr. Winerip thinks I have “seen the light” at the end of the book. What he doesn’t realize, though not for lack of my trying to explain it to him, is that I was simply reporting what I found over two years. I was not trying to render, let alone reconcile, a verdict for or against his (anti-reform) point of view.
However, despite his distinguished prior career as an reporter, I am not surprised by the apparent anger in Mr. Winerip’s opinion column, let alone his decision to distort my book by ignoring all in it that describes teachers (and even teachers’ union leaders) in a positive light and strains to explain, and depict from the classroom, how difficult effective teaching is. When he talked with me, it was almost as if he’d been waiting to unload on me for years. He freely cast epithets, some profane, at many of the men and women portrayed in the book, and refused to consider that his reporting about alleged “skimming” of the best students at the Harlem Success charter network might be based on faulty data. (Though he did, I guess in attempt to humor me, chuckle when I tweaked him for ignoring in a prior article that I was the product of Queens, New York elementary and middle public schools, before winning a full scholarship to go to a prep school – whereupon he repeated this revelation in this article.)
After he slammed a phone down on me on Friday when I tried to get him into the weeds of that Harlem Success data, I sent Mr. Winerip an email urging him to reconsider. I never received a reply. Whether my reading of the data on Harlem Success is right or wrong (and I believe it is correct), I think his approach to dealing with the issue, let alone the near-venom of his piece today, speaks for itself.
Update: Winerip responds.
7 Replies to “Shrill On Brill”
I’ve seen HSA claim several times now that the state’s data on the number of ELLs, reduced/free, and special ed kids at HSA schools is faulty/wrong.
How is it wrong, why is it wrong, and what are they doing to fix it?
Are these the “weeds” Brill is going to discuss:
At P.S. 149,
20 percent of the kids are special education students; and 40% of these are the most severely disabled, in self-contained classes.
13% are English Language Learners.
In 2008 (the latest available data) more than 10% were homeless.
68 percent of P.S. 149 students are eligible for free lunches
2 percent for reduced-price lunch.
The city’s School Report Card on the Success Academy shows that
49 percent are eligible for free lunches and
21 percent for reduced-price lunch.
At the Harlem Success Academy,
2% of the students are English Language Learners (compared to 13% at P.S. 149 –more than six times as many).
16.9% special education students, (compared to 20% at P.S. 149) and of these, few if any are the most severely disabled..
three homeless students in the 2008-09 school year, less than 1 percent of its population (compared to P.S.149’s 10 percent).
I love how Brill puts “seen the light” in quotes. Winerip doesn’t use the phrase – it is not a direct quote. And, certainly slants Winerip’s description of Brill’s last chapter.
Brill may say he is just a reporter – but he is sloppy at best, and frequently makes any discussion of his book into a polarized debate.
Why would he use the term “anti-reform”, if he wants to real discussion?
Why can’t reform or change have nuance and not just a platform or party-line?
What is significant about the Winerip article is the fact that journalists are finally beginning to ask questions about the “reform” movement and coming up with the same answers that many teachers have. Let’s hope this continues before we see a proliferation of storefront academies in poor neighborhoods with underpaid and overworked teachers and rich “managers.”
It’s time to defeat the status quo of unequal education based on income and race. And let’s not forget that education begins at birth.
Another take down of Brill:
Also from Rothstein in Slate:
Brill is a liar??
Of course, Mr. Winerip’s response goes unpublished by Andy.
Never fear that Andy will be even-handed or honest: