Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Mercedes Schneider Reader

When it comes to fired-up scholarship, passionate digging out of detail, and supplying simple facts for the Resistance, it is hard to beat Mercedes Schneider.

Schneider has one of the most varied backgrounds in the field. She started out as a classroom teacher of German and English, then acquired a PhD in applied statistics and research methods from the University of Northern Colorado and moved to Indiana to teach at Ball State. But there were curves yet to negotiate; Katrina hit her family head on. She decided to go home, and took a job teaching high school English in 2007. The university let her know that professors don't get to recover from that sort of step backwards. Writes Schneider, "But I love to teach.  High school, I decided, would be fine with me."

When I started wading into the school reform swamp, I realized that many of the posts that I kept returning to for facts, data, numbers, details, context and sequence-- so many of them were on her blog. Schneider has a book coming out sometime this month, and I have no doubt that it will be valuable and necessary reading for everyone who cares about public education and what is happening to it.  But until it arrives, I've collected some of my favorite Schneider pieces. If you are not a regular Schneider reader, you should be, and these are a fine place to start.

Cheating as We Worship: The Almighty Standardized Test

A personal but still fact-loaded reflection on the many ways in which the worship of The Test leads everybody involved to cheat in a variety of creative and not-always-obvious ways.

Twelve Embarrassing Years of NCLB and RTTT: Time for Arne to Blame USDOE

Schneider examines the long list of people that Arne likes to blame for the alleged problems in education, from moms to teachers to lawmakers to-- well, you name it. And then she lays out exactly how each of those attempts to shift blame is a lie.

Success Academy Tax Documents: Moskowitz Can Afford the Rent

Here's an example of what Schneider does so well. While everyone else was trading allegations and rhetoric about what Eva Moskowitz could or couldn't afford and her charters did or didn't need, Schneider went to the paperwork, dug through the publicly available tax records, and published the real numbers.

NCTQ Letter Grades and the Reformer Agenda–Part VIII

After this piece had run, NCTQ removed Michelle Rhee from its board of directors, but this remains one of the best dissection of Rhee's dismal career, going back to her own stories about her failed attempt to be a TFA classroom body.

The Common Core Memorandum of Understanding: What a Story

 Still one of the most jaw-dropping narrative-destroying pieces of investigative journalism anyone has done about the genesis of the Common Core. Schneider unearth's the memorandum of understanding that lays out who will create them and how they will be implemented. This is your go-to link for every time someone tries to tell you that the Core are the result of a state-led initiative.

Gates Money and Common Core– Part VI

I'll give you part six so you can work your way backward through the links to the other sections. Schneider has done massive amounts of work tracking the Gates money and discovering where it went. Who did Gates pay off? This series lays it out for you, thanks to what had to be long and tedious research.


More on the Common Core: Achieve, Inc., and Then Some

More on the core and the roots from which it emerged, with particular attention to Achieve as well as some of the principle architects.


Beware of Data Sharing Cheerleaders Offering Webinars

An example of the kind of respect and attention that Schneider draws in the education world. Come for this column, but stay for the comments in which the some of the top scholars and business leaders of the data mining world get into a spirited discussion of the issues at hand. You could pay for a fancy webinar and not see a discussion this exciting and illuminating.


There are plenty of other classics-- some great work on the data track miners and a whole cast of reformy characters whose names you may not know. Schneider employs her tireless research and her scathing wit on each. Read these, explore some more, and get ready to grab a copy of her book the moment it becomes available.







  1. Hi Peter. Thanks for the tribute. I'm honored.

    As to the Rhee post: When I orginally posted it in February 2013, Rhee was still on the NCTQ board.

  2. You're welcome. I'm happy to plug one of my blogging heroes.

    I have edited to correct the error.

  3. Mercedes is indeed awesome!! Thank you for compiling this for new readers.

    Peter, I've been sending people to your other blog for basic info, and this would make a great entry there too... Thank you for all you do.