Damn The Facts, Full Speed Ahead!

Over at CAP Ulrich Boser and Diana Epstein point out some problems with the recent Fordham high-flyers analysis. I don’t doubt there are trade-offs when policy identifies different things as points of emphasis but the actual findings in the report and the subsequent rhetoric were disconnected – in large part because there is not longitudinal data allowing causal inferences but also because the effects were not that pronounced and hard to capture anyway because of limits in the data available.  Their piece is worth reading.  And lost in this whole debate is the extent to which it’s high-achieving low-income students who really get lost in today’s system.

More generally, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen such a rhetorical disconnect.  Most recently Fordham’s report on the alleged “race to the bottom” on state standards because of No Child Left Behind found, at most, a “walk to the middle.” Meanwhile some states are raising standards on their own tests.  Yet that really hasn’t curbed the race to the bottom talk either…

This matters because as Boser and Epstein rightly point out, Fordham is respected and listened to for a reason.  But as Peter Parker learned, with power comes responsibility.  And surely there are enough problems and even some genuine crises in American education – many of which Fordham has done or is doing great work to address – that we don’t need the rhetorical-Viagra to create more.

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