My first thought about Duncan's book was how ironic it was that someone who had never attended a public school or worked in a public school, claimed to know how schools actually work. But that's something I've ranted about many times, and I'll try not to do it again in this post...
As I was reading I thought that Merrow's review was generally thoughtful and fair, but then I read the comments.
Blogger GF Brandenburg commented...
August 15, 2018 at 1:42 pm
You didn’t really expect him to admit that all his efforts to improve education, USING HIS OWN YARDSTICKS, namely the NAEP, actually failed miserably, do you?Merrow replied...
I draw an additional lesson: you should let neither professional athletes nor neophytes (ie neither Michelle Rhee’ nor her two husbands, nor Arne Duncan, nor Andre Agassi, nor Lebron James, nor Betsy DeVos) run education.
August 17, 2018 at 7:27 am
Public education is a public responsibility, an invaluable investment in our future and our present….End of story.Am I wrong in thinking that Merrow's response seemed to imply that it's ok for non-education-professionals such as Rhee, DeVos, Gates, et al, to run schools, create and implement school policy, and make decisions affecting the 50 million public school children in the U. S.? Because, "Public education is a public responsibility, an invaluable investment in our future and our present..."
I agree that they have the "legal" right to do those things...but the "ethical" right, the "professional" right, the "educationally sound" right? Not so much.
Education is still something that most people think "anyone can do" since "we all went to school."
Why is education singled out as something "anyone can do?" Public Health is also a public responsibility, but we generally find health professionals making choices and policy in that area.
When has there ever been a Surgeon General who did not have some connection to a medical profession? (Answer: Never) When has there ever been an Attorney General who hadn't studied law? (Answer: Never) Yet only 3 of the eleven Secretaries of Education had degrees in education or teaching experience in K-12 education (Bell, Page, and King).
Unfortunately, the problems facing education are complicated and generally come from the outside such as the effects of poverty on children and their families and the inequity of funding. If Duncan, as a sociologist (Harvard, BA, 1987), had used his position to try to impact the social order that has led to one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world, that would have been different. But he didn't. He pushed policies that had a direct impact on how schools were run, how teachers were evaluated (junk science), and how tests were used (misused). Duncan, like most education "reformers" who are ignorant of what goes on inside a school, tried to affect the education of America's students by doing things to schools, rather than aiming at the out-of-school-factors.
Public education is a public responsibility, but that is not the end of the story. There can be no "race to the top" when kids, schools, and school systems don't all have the same starting point. We can't have "no child left behind" while children are still being left behind economically and socially. We will never be a nation where "every child succeeds" until we are a nation where every child is given a fair chance to succeed.
The achievement gap will continue to plague us until we can rid ourselves of the economics gap...and the racial gap. No amount of charter schools, vouchers, or the misuse of testing will change that.