Monday, June 20, 2016

Live Blogging Ed Reform Marriage Counseling Session

A few weeks ago, Robert Pondiscio wrote what seemed to me to be a fairly well-measured piece about the uneasy and possibly-unraveling collaboration between reformy conservatives and reformy liberals. I even wrote a vaguely thoughtful response. But lots of folks absolutely lost their heads, and the post and various responses to it bounced all over the reformy side of the blogoverse.

That seems to have led to a counseling session, brought to the web by an unprecedented team-up between the right-tilted Fordham Institute and the left-tilted Education Post. Mike Petrilli will be ringmaster in just a few minutes, hosting Derrell Bradford (50CAN), Valentina Korkes (Ed Post), Valley Varro (50CAN), and Lindsay Hill (Raikes Foundation). Because it's summer, and I love a challenge, I am going to attempt my first live-blogging of the event.

I'm really hoping for the moment when everyone says, "You know what? We're all just neo-liberals here. There's no reason we can't get along!" But that's probably not what's going to happen. Let's just see what happens when this kicks off at 4:30 EDT (assuming that I can get all my technology balanced on my desk.)


Well, the live link for the webcast doesn't seem to be happening yet.


Still not actually seeing anything, though twitter is abuzz. I always have to remind myself that only in Teacher World do things start exactly to the minute. If this were my class, I would be freaking out about now.


Well, we have this, so far...


Many people having trouble, then we got a youtube link, then my modem boofed. Now I'm back in media res

Somebody just said that if some Republican  thought this was a fundamentally racist country, they wouldn't be a Republican. Other panelist has story of conservative who says he does believe in systemic racism, and everyone has a good laugh about that


"There are people in this work as a lever for true equity."

Petrilli "Others of us believe this is a fundamentally just country " and we must give opportunities for all people. Push too far to left and want a revolution, we'll lodse people on the right.


Bradford: You can't open discussion of racism with "and it's your fault!" It is fundamentally a question of framing and communication

Varro: Policy is blunt object. What brings us together is "what are we doing to make things better for children" and then move on to policy discussoins.


Varro: To move states, it will take people on right and left

Korkes: Designated progressive, who faces trouble of being called a neo-liberal.

Petrilli wants to know if there are things on center and right who make things difficult for her? She says on twitter that movements are composed of many types of people. But her pressure comes internal. Wanting to make sure that children succeed.


Bradford talks about peressure he feels as Democrat. "We can disagree on these things. I'm not the lord of the sith" Which is true. He and I had a perfectly good conversation once. He's invested in choice, not because he's neo-liberal or nazi, but because he went to a private school. He can't fix it if someone wants positions to align with party orthodoxy.

Trying to get guy not to hate you is a big deal.


How does it play out (Petrilli) when we talk about moving too far left because of teacher union politics and all the rest we need everybody.

Varro says can't go too far either way. This should be an apolitical issue, but it's not. Varro says if we've lost people, they're already lost.

Petrili-- we are not the BLM movement; we're the education reform movement.

Varro says broader issue is saving kids lives, whether killing them quickly on street or slowly in classroom but no good outcomes can come from how we're doing school now.


Contrasts advocacy groups and actually getting policy made groups. Bradford. We thought we could just do policy and that would do it, then we thought we could do heavy advocacy. Neither worked. It's not the advocate's job to build consensus all the time. Politicians should figure policy centers out.

Petrilli tries to explain how he doesn't really buy BLM, and nobody is nodding, but should he be drummed out of ed reform stuff because of it?


Hill makes the BLM case, because it's about life. Stripping conversations about race and privilege out of education will not get a good outcome.  Conversations about race, class and privilege get results. Petrilli concern trolls that BLM leads to less effective policing and putting black folks in greater danger, which is such weak sauce and really beneath Petrilli's usual high level of argument construction.


Petrilli: Cities getting bluer, states getting redder. Creating more tension.

Bradford: (Who is wearing awesome socks.) Also, nobody here supports Trump. But his mystification over Trumpism highlights for him that there are things in this country he doesn't understand.

Maybe we're about to figure out that inside beltway and NYC isn't the whole country. "There's a kid in West Virginia right now who's probably getting screwed and we don't know anything about them."

Bradford: the country is changing and there's a lot of stuff we don't know any more. We can't offer old solutions.


Are we on edge because of election? Korkes says yes-- I have a hard time with people who think Trump is a solution.

Bradford: Hate Trump, believe in some market things he supports. We of political class have to understand what's going on. We are going to have to work with some of these people. The alternative is to do nothing.


Petrilli calls Trump a despicable human being, but he knows people who will vote for him. You don't have to support Trump's racism to buy into Trump.

Now we'll look for issues that all support.


High quality charter schools? All say yes, but Hill has caveat-- less doing to and more doing with.

Bradford: the more prescriptive we are, the less people like it. When we say This is a good school, that doesn't work. We should create the conditions for the school people want.

Petrilli says there are people who have attacked Success Academy, KIPP-- but he says these are schools that are doing Great Things, shouldn't we give them the benefit of the doubt. If you're going after SA, you're not in reform movement

Korkes and Hill both say, nope. Korkes-- how are they getting the outcomes? Are the families there because they wanted no academies, but because they are there despite that. Not good.

Hill says some networks are changing over because their grads are telling them they have things to fix.


Petrilli- Maybe we've overdone structure. And Hill again points out that erasing cultural identity might have been an issue, too.


High standards, tough tests? We all good on that. Hill says "yes, but" again. There are many ways that people show they are good at things. Bradford: Vastly better than nothing.


Test based accountability? Everyone says yeah.

Bradford: Teacher evaluation is the thing that is killing test based acountability. Bradford is willing to let it go.

There is a big debate in ed reform about teacher evaluation, causing problems but not getting anything

But lifetime tenure is terrible and being able to fire bad teachers is a thing we need (but don't admit we have).

Hill, let's work on teacher biases without shaming teachers. Teacher empathy can be built


64 people watching now.

Innovation? Blended learning? All in? sure... but Varro isn't sure she's seen proof points for blended. Is innovation code for something else? She'd rather have accountability


Bradford: Innovation is shorthand for tools in the tool box, and some tools can be used for great or terrible things.

Hill: innovations make it much faster to some schools than others

Petrilli makes joke about we are all in on corporate takeover of schools. Har.


Funding? Petrilli admits structural racism in funding. Let's make a deal that charters get more money and so do poor schools. Bradford says we can't just give poor schools more money (New Jersey).


On the messaging sidebar, discussion is that Petrilli is wimping out by not running right at BLM. On screen, still talking about funding stuff. Referencing teacher shortage, and what we don't know about how to keep teachers in classroom.


Any other issues? Bradford says world peace.

Last question. There will be issues in ed reform, like discipline disparity, about which we will disagree. Petrilli says he's tried to bring this up and taken big heat with ed reform world. How do we have these conversations more respectfully?

Bradford says talking is key. It's hard hate up close. Talk about it.

Korkes: Own the differences between your positions.

Hill: Our education system is not neutral. It was designed to track and sort, and it was never designed for kids of color. It's not broken, it's doing what it was designed to do. But education is a right, and an equitable system that empowers students is important. Get out of office Get into field.

Varro: Look at sub-issues and subtlety and nuance.

Petrilli: If this movement fractured, it would be bad for kids. After all, there wouldn't be 6,000 charters if people hadn't stuck together. And we'd still have crappy standards with easy tests.

And we're out. Okay-- I'm going to throw on some thoughts in response, and we'll call this done. Back in just a few minutes.

There are some useful insights in this conversation. Bradfordwho is no dummy, offers that the more prescriptive reformsters are, the less people buy in. As in the model where reformsters say we must have school choice, but only a choice of the choices that the choice fans choose. "We have decided what a good school for your children would be, and that's the choice we're going to give you (while we make your public school even less appealing by stripping its resources)."

Bradford also offered an intriguing capsule history of modern ed reform. First they figured they could just get policies passed and things would fall into line. Then they got all loud an advocatey to convince people. Neither worked. I think that's actually pretty accurate, though there are still folks trying both. But I found the distinction between the reasonable policy/political side and the shouty advocacy side interesting.

His idea that reformsters should be setting up the conditions under which good choice can thrive is intriguing-- but it will require government regulation to do it, and it flies directly in the face of the beloved idea of doing reform at scale. The big CMOs are not interested in boutique charters-- they want high volume chains, and so far, government has agreed. So it's an interesting and even productive shift, but it's a much bigger shift than he acknowledges here.

Petrilli sort of stands up for Success Academy as a school that's doing great things. It isn't. It's a school that is doing maybe-okay-ish things for a very, very small slice of selected students. This is not public education. It is not replicable. And it's not even particularly impressive; any school in country could show the same "success" if it could pick and choose who gets to stay and never had to backfill.

But everyone here thinks high quality charters are great, without addressing any of the central issues-- how to pay for them, and how a charter system ever takes care of all students, not just the ones that get into charters. Somebody propose a charter system that doesn't treat public schools like the educational equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys.

They all profess love for high standards and tough tests, and then immediately take it back by agreeing that lots of people show they are good at things many different ways. Bradford says what we've got is vastly better than nothing, and I believe he's dead wrong on that. I think the current crop of Big Standardized Tests is way worse than nothing-- first, because they waste huge amounts of time and money and second, because they give people the impression that we're getting data that means something when in fact the data that comes from these tests is useless garbage. Petrili makes a reference to Jay Greene's recent post about how research is showing us that raising test scores has nothing to do with improving students' lives. Petrilli dismisses it, but I think it's dead on. BS Tests tell us nothing about student achievement and even less than nothing about student futures.

Test based accountability? Again, they love it, and they're wrong. Test results tell us nothing. Bradford notes that tying the testing to teacher evaluations is killing testing. Well, yes. Because when you use test results for teacher evaluation, you highlight how bad the test result data is.

When they slide into teacher evaluation, Petrilli observes that lifetime tenure is bad and being able to fire bad teachers is good. I have good news for him-- there is no such thing as lifetime for a public school teacher, and you totally can fire bad ones. I'll agree that in some urban settings, the dopes who ran the district at some point let themselves get talked into a contract that made firing really hard, but even then there is a difference between really hard and impossible. Lots of thing in education are hard. Suck it up, buttercup. And outside of those certain urban districts? Firing bad teachers not that hard at all.

Funding? Interesting idea to put more funding into both charters and underfunded public schools. Please web cast the meeting where you convince taxpayers to raise their taxes so that we can pay for some kids to go to a private school and spend more money on those schools for poor (black and brown) kids.

It was an interesting conversation. I had never encountered Hill before, and she had lots of interesting things to say outside of the part where she condemned public education as an unfixable total failure. Also, at the end when she observed they all need to get out of the office and into schools, which, well, yes-- but ed reform since day one has had a critical problem in that they don't talk to any of the millions of adult professionals who are already out in the field. We're called teachers and there are a zillion of us who could tell you lots of things, if the reform movement hadn't dismissed us since day one.

The notion that they're all just neo-libs was addressed and rejected a few times. The big Black Lives Matter elephant in the room was nodded at, but not really addressed (as many on the texting sidebar noted), as was the Other Question--

The Question which Petrilli kept coming back to was some version of "Will you lefties keep harping on things like Black Lives Matter even if it means we conservatives will get pushed out?" I will keep waiting for some left-tilted reformster to answer, "Are you really going to leave because you can't handle a real conversation about racism? Suck it up, buttercup."

Did they save the marriage? I'm not sure-- they talked a lot about talking, but didn't really talk about the things they apparently need to be talking about. I don't think so, but I suppose we'll see in the next hundred blog posts.

As for me-- no more live blogging. My fingers are neither fast nor accurate enough for this. Even if I suck it up, buttercup.

(Update: Also, I somehow decided to type Bradford's name as "Hammond" and then fixed it, but didn't fix it in a way that stuck. So apologies for that. Never again.)


  1. "Cities getting bluer, states getting redder." Huh? Aren't the cities in states? Which states are getting redder? All of them? I'm not even sure what this was supposed to mean. Rural areas getting redder? Rural Vermont is not getting redder. Trump might even be making quite a few red states turn blue. If Republicans lose a Hispanic voters for a generation, then quite a few states might be turning blue.

  2. Dear Mr. Greene,

    Thank you for your experiment at live blogging. I couldn't figure out how to access it. I am having trouble with your blog of it, in that there are 5 people supposedly having this conference: Mike Petrelli, Derrell Bradford, Valentina Korkes, Valley Varro, and Lindsay Hill. Then, in the middle of the report, someone speaks and they are identified as “Hammond. “

    “Hammond” speaks a lot; he has a lot of opinions; he doesn't like Trump, for instance, but is for World Peace; he offered a Capsule History of the Reform Movement. He sports some snazzy socks, so Hey! I have no idea who he is. Did I miss something? Who is Hammond?

    If this is a “late participant” people like me who are trying to follow your “live blog” probably need to have you spend a tiny little bitsy time explaining that.

    And you also nailed it in the third paragraph. e.g.: They agree VAM hasn't worked out so well, but probably think that VAM was “implemented badly.” :)!

    So, it was confusing and probably doesn't amount to a hill of beans. But, Hammond?


    1. Totally my screw up. Working fast, I somehow turned Bradford into Hammond and then thought I fixed it, but it didn't stick somehow-- anyway, totally my screw up.

  3. Dear Mr. Greene:

    Whew! Thanks for clearing that up. I'm pretty sure I would have understood that if I had been able to see it myself. (Probably you thought just because you fixed it it was fixed? Ha! I think the computers do this every once in a while just because they can. Smug little bytestards!)