Sunday, September 04, 2011

Rothstein hatchet job

The second hatchet job on Class Warfare and reformers was penned by Richard Rothstein for Slate, who – SURPRISE! – used to be an education reporter for the NYT (hmmm, I wonder if he mentored Winerip???).  Here's how it starts – and it goes downhill from there:

If you saw Waiting for "Superman," Steven Brill's tale in Class Warfare will be familiar. The founder of Court TV offers another polemic against teacher unions and a paean to self-styled "education reformers." But even for those who follow education policy, he offers an eye-opening read that should not be missed. Where the movie evoked valiant underdogs waging an uphill battle against an ossified behemoth, Brill's briskly written book exposes what critics of the reformers have long suspected but could never before prove: just how insular, coordinated, well-connected, and well-financed the reformers are. Class Warfare reveals their single-minded efforts to suppress any evidence that might challenge their mission to undermine the esteem in which most Americans held their public schools and teachers. These crusaders now are the establishment, as arrogant as any that preceded them.

I don't have the time to rebut all of the errors and biases in Rothstein's column (as a simple example, he cites the first CREDO study on charter schools at the definitive study, but fails to mention the second one, which showed great results for NY charter schools; and highlights data issues with studies that show favorable results for charters, yet raises nary a question about the flawed CREDO study).  But how does he (or Slate) get away with publishing his hatchet job without disclosing his MASSIVE conflicts? 


Rothstein is a Research Associate at EPI (, and you'll never guess who's on EPI's board of directors ( Randi and – get this – EIGHT other union leaders!  But wait, there's more!  Financial filings with the Department of Labor show that the AFT made the following grants to EPI:


Contribution for Research 2010-01-25 $100,000

Contribution for Research 2010-04-15 $100,000

Contribution for Research 2010-06-14 $50,000

Contribution for Research 2009-12-09 $100,000

Total Itemized Transactions $350,000


Plus Richard Rothstein is listed in their 2009 Form 990 as $100k+ research consultant to EPI.  Last but not least, the National Education Association gave EPI another $250,000.


In light of all of this, is it any surprise that Rothstein wrote a review of Class Warfare that could have been written by the AFT or NEA?  Reminds me of the old saying, "Whose bread I eat, his song I sing…"


Like Ravitch taking money from the unions, I'm not accusing Rothstein of being paid to write a critical review.  I have no doubt that his views are genuine.  Rather, it's the lack of disclosure that's wrong.  Pretty much everyone in this fight has an agenda and it's disingenuous for defenders of the status quo to hide their many conflicts.


Grading the Education Reformers

Steven Brill gives them much too easy a ride.


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