Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Finn Backs Accountability-- Hard

The Great Divide in the reform world continues to be right along the lines of accountability, with DeVos and her DeVotees being pretty much against it in any meaningful sense. Just let the marketplace sort it out, they say, and Jeanne Allen, of the Center for Education Reform (a hard core charter-backing group), put together a whole book to help argue the point.

It can happen
Several folks have taken a shot at reviewing that tome. I'm not one of them (because I have two week old twins at my house), but here's a good look at parts of the work by Mercedes Schneider. And here's a review by Chester Finn, head honcho emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a reliable backer of education reform, and a guy I generally disagree with (just search his name on this blog).

So let me mark this occasion on which I not only agree with part of what Finn has written, but would gladly written it myself. Finn first sums up the notion that "the market will provide all the quality control that’s necessary. Quality is in the eye of the beholder, i.e., the parent—and the school operator. The heck with school outcomes." And then he unloads this paragraph:

This is idiocy. It’s also entirely unrealistic in the ESSA era. It arises from the view—long since dismissed by every respectable economist—that education is a private good and the public has no interest in an educated citizenry. Once you conclude that education is also a public good—one whose results bear powerfully on our prosperity, our safety, our culture, our governance, and our civic life—you have to recognize that voters and taxpayers have a compelling interest in whether kids are learning what they should, at least in schools that call themselves “public.”

Mind you, Checker is still a charter fan, and he still imagines that modern Big Standardized Tests are not terrible. But at least he's figured out that unregulated charters aren't really working:

Are these folks really prepared to just hand out charters after a cursory screening? And just trust unproven people with our taxpayer dollars and our kids—after all that we've seen in Ohio and elsewhere, despite all that we know about greedy and sometimes criminal behavior in the charter space, despite mounting evidence of for-profit operators opting for shareholders over schoolchildren?

Granted, all of this was just about as surprising as the rising of the sun, but still, he's seeing it.

So Finn and I still disagree on a big pile of stuff, including what accountability should look like. But at least he supports the increasingly-unpopular idea of actually holding schools accountable for how they use taxpayer dollars instead of chiming in with "The money belongs to the students so just shut up.". But if Allen's goal was to wrap the charter movement in a big re-unitey kum-bah-yah-- well, that's not happening today.


  1. Well....Finn is probably changing his tune since Baltimore City public schools just had a HUGE layoff because of a budget shortfall and there is an investigation going on in Prince George's County schools and some school Board members. Both PG Co and Balto City are ripe with charters....and guess who sits on the Md State Board of Ed? None other than Finn. Of course he is going to distance himself from the charter nightmare in MD because that's what a good reformer does. No doubt he will want more vouchers since he sided with Gov Hogan on the 5 (maybe 10) million$ BOOST program.

  2. Wait, did you tell us your twins were actually born? I don't remember that. In any case, major congratulations!!!

    How in the world are you still blogging? And with your usual sharp insight and wit. I bow to you, sir. I wasn't even reading, let alone writing, when my daughters were two weeks old, and I had the luxury of having them one at a time.

  3. Scary when Checker gets something right: he's the George Will of education bloviating.

    1. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, right? Until he pulls the plug on MD being in the PARCC Consortium still, I'm sticking with "stopped clock" as far as Finn goes.