Feathers were ruffled recently with the news that both Fountas & Pinnell and Lucy Calkins both got "failing marks" for reading programs from EdReports. Some flappery broke out on Twitter, and there was wringing of hands around and about, but any time an EdReports rating comes out, I think we have to answer one important question.
EdReports was launched in early 2014. Politico actually covered the event, dubbing EdReports "Consumer Reports for the Common Core." Which is a good hint at where we're headed. EdReports was launched with a hefty $3 million in funding from the Gates Foundation and the Helmsley Trust. Education First, a thinky tank/consulting firm that had teamed up with the Fordham Institute to promote the core, "incubated" them (Education First's website even has a big thank you from EdReports' executive director). The executive director is Eric Hirsch, previously a big wig at the New Teacher Center (they sell teacher induction) and the Center for Teaching Quality (spoiler alert-- quality comes with the Core). Their board chair is still Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College and one of the ten board members of Microsoft.
EduReports uses a gated review system-- you have to get past Gateway 1 before they'll even look at your Gateway 2 stuff, and so on. To their credit, they use a lot of teachers as reviewers of materials, but less to their credit, they lean heavily on a rubric system, which is the kind of system that negates the expertise of whoever you're using to do the reviewing. But there are scores and numbers and specifics and it's all far more rigorous than some of the "research" we see pitched into the education arena..
However, there's a major problem. Everything keeps coming back to the phrase "alignment to the standards." Which standards? Well, EdReports is pretty coy about that these days, but their history makes it plenty clear that the standards they've always held dear are the Common Core.
This was supposed to be one of the benefits of nationally adopted standards--the marketplace of textbooks could be organized around those standards and some nice group could rate texts on how well they were aligned so that shopping would be a breeze and the market would favor the Core-aligned materials. The idea behind EdReports was to help boost alignment to the Core, and not to provide more fodder for the reading wars. And asking "Is it aligned to a set of standards that have been widely disavowed by everyone" is not the same as asking "Is it any good?"
Yet here we are. A dozen outlets have run "Fountas and Pinnell publish bad reading books" while nobody has run a "Why are we still checking to see if textbooks are aligned to the Standards That Dare Not Speak Their Name?"
I'm not going to jump into the reading wars today. I'm in no mood to fling my body between the Science of Reading army and the fans of F&P at the moment. But I am going to suggest that that discussion needs to be held on its own merits and not an EdReports Common Core check.