Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Ed Reform, 2012 Elections and Tony Bennett

Below are the post-election thoughts of RiShawn Biddle, who is exactly right about the threat from the right to the Common Core standards, and the need for reformers to reduce “factional disagreements” and “become savvier in playing the political game”:

Yet what is so worrisome about Bennett’s loss is that at least one exit poll has shown that much of Bennett’s loss is attributable to movement conservatives, who opposed his successful effort to adapt Common Core reading and math standards (and their misplaced and unjustified fear that the effort, driven tacitly by the Obama administration’s own reform efforts, may lead to national standards that our schools probably need). One can imagine that more Common Core opponents — especially conservatives in the school reform movement — will step up their efforts to roll back Common Core, and may even get the American Legislative Exchange Council (the outfit that serves as the galvanizing body for Republican and conservative politicians) to finally pass a statement opposing the effort. This, along with similar sentiment among the most-rabid of education traditionalists, may lead Bennett’s soon-to-be former colleagues who have backed Common Core (and the reform-minded governors and legislators who support them) to either step away from Common Core or appease foes by watering the standards down.

…The intra-movement sparring over Common Core (and the blame-gaming in which Hess and others are already engaging) leads to another matter that reformers must address. As I mentioned, a diverse coalition is at the heart of the success of the school reform efforts and the reason why it has achieved as much as it has. At the same time, when you have a group of idiosyncratic liberals, slightly doctrinaire political conservatives, centrist Democrats,  business-oriented Republicans, young black and white urban families, and religiously-oriented households in the same big tent, there is also going to be plenty of disagreement over strategy, philosophy, and direction. The conflicts that come from these differences guarantees vibrant conflicts that helps crystallize, clarify, reveal, humble, and strengthen the movement’s efforts (and makes it intellectually honest compared to the traditionalist side). At the same time, as the civil rights movement learned five decades ago to its detriment, factional disagreements can also lead to the kind of splits that limit any future successes. 

The movement needs both honest admission among all sides that their respective positions aren’t the absolute best way. The movement and its leading lights need to keep in mind the ultimate goal: Brighter futures for all children, regardless of who they are or where they live.
The good news for the school reform movement is that there is still plenty of momentum and support for overhauling American public education. But reformers must also keep in mind that as much of their success has come from the failings of traditionalists rivals as the movement’s own success in showing how its solutions are the best and moral approach to addressing the nation’s education crisis. The movement must do more than be blessed by the quality of thinking and politicking of those who would rather keep in place policies and practices that fail the futures of our children. Instead, it must become savvier in playing the political game.

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