Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality

This new report from the “Broader/Bolder” coalition seeks to topple support for education reform—but, instead, collapses upon itself with straw-man arguments. Authors Elaine Weiss and Don Long lead their sundry mob of anti-reformers against the recent reforms in three urban centers: D.C., NYC, and Chicago. At nearly a hundred pages long and packed with all of the pitchforks and torches it could find, three main points stood out. First, they attack reforms for being more expensive than maintaining the status quo—which is akin to saying a new roof costs more than a leaky roof. Of course it does. Second, the authors try to use NAEP scores to prove that the reforms have been ineffective, reformers’ promises “unfulfilled.” The problem they can’t quite get around, however, is that in many cases, scores have gone up, including both math and reading scores in New York City and Chicago and math scores in D.C. And when scores didn’t go up, they stayed the same. Finally, the authors claim that reforms are bad because they’re “disruptive.” For example, they attack teacher accountability measures for increasing teacher turnover—which, when districts raise expectations, will clearly happen and is, in fact, the point (particularly if the right teachers decide to go elsewhere). The authors’ relentless aversion to disruption, in fact, seems to belie their organization’s purported taste for “boldness”—just as their call for more “patient” reforms contradicts their eagerness to point out reformers’ “unfulfilled promises.” The Broader/Bolder crowd once made a splash by arguing for school reform plus anti-poverty measures. Now it’s clear that they’re really just another anti-reform group out to defend the education status quo.

SOURCE: Elaine Weiss and Don Long, Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality (Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, April 2013).

Brandon Wright
Brandon Wright is the Editorial Director of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.