Broader, Bolder = Bloated Behemoth


Over at D-Ed Reckoning Ken DeRosa reviews the “evidence” that the AFT’s Leo Casey presents on the effectiveness of the Broader, Bolder approach being pushed by the union-backed Economic Policy Institute (with the support of some impressive people who you would think would know better). 

The issue is not whether kids would benefit from better health care or social services, or even whether receiving those benefits might contribute to higher achievement.  The issue is whether public schools are capable of expanding their mission to effectively provide these additional services, and whether those schools can translate the provision of additional services into higher achievement.

The Broader, Bolder folks provide a list of “background papers” to support their cause.  But those papers are very far in the background in that only a handful of the more than 100 studies cited actually assess the effects of providing students with additional services.  And even fewer look at the effects of public schools providing those services.  Before we endorse a bold new plan for education wouldn’t we want at least a few  evaluations of pilot programs in which public schools actually provided the full set of services being advocated?  I can’t find one such evaluation in the list of 100+ studies provided.

But don’t worry, Leo Casey has stepped into the breach with the solid research we need.  Here’s DeRosa’s commentary bracketing Casey’s, uhm, evidence:

“Leo must have had a few of his underlings pouring over the ERIC databases non-stop finding the requested evidence. Here is Leo’s evidence. I am leaving in all the internal citations and footnotes.

Classroom teachers recognize immediately the educational value of providing a comprehensive array of services to students living in poverty. They have seen the effects of undiagnosed and untreated eye problems on a student’s ability to learn how to read, and of untreated ear infections on a student’s ability to hear what is being said in the classroom. They know that the lack of proper medical care heightens the severity of childhood illnesses and makes them last longer, leading to more absences from school for students who need every day of school they can get. They have seen asthma reach epidemic proportions among students living in poverty, and they know that the lack of preventive and prophylactic medical care leads to more frequent attacks of a more severe nature, and more absences from school. They understand that screening for lead poisoning happens least among children in poverty, even though their living conditions make them the most likely victims, with all of the negative effects on cognitive functions. They know that the stresses of life in poverty make mental health and social work services for students and their families all that more important, and yet they are least likely to receive them. They see how the transience that marks poverty disrupts the education of students again and again, as the families of students are constantly on the move. In short, teachers know that the students living in poverty lack the health and social services routinely available to middle class and upper class students, despite the fact that they need them even more. And they know that the absence of these services has a detrimental impact on the education, as well as the general well-being, of students living in poverty.

I emphasized Leo’s evidentiary citations since they do not conform to the generally accepted norm.”

(edited for typos)

7 Responses to Broader, Bolder = Bloated Behemoth

  1. […] ain’t bolder. Or in Boulder: Ken DeRosa and Jay Greene each give thoughtful critiques to Broader, Bolder Coalition supporter (and UFT bigwig) Leo […]

  2. Greg Forster says:

    Jay, you write: “The issue is whether public schools are capable of expanding their mission to effectively provide these additional services, and whether those schools can translate the provision of additional services into higher achievement.”

    Actually, the issue isn’t even that. The issue is whether schools are the best of all possible institutions to provide these services. Even if schools were capable of expanding their mission to effectively provide these additional services and translate the provision of additional services into higher achievement, that wouldn’t justify providing the services through schools if they can be better provided in another way – say, by institutions whose core mission is to provide those services.

  3. Margo/Mom says:


    This is one of the things that makes me mistrustful of Bigger, Bolder. The issue is not about whether or not healthy kids in a safe environment are better poised to learn–or whether lack of affordable housing contributes to mobility that inhibits regular school attendance, or any of those things. But, you are right, expanding the core mission of schools to take a stab at these things is not the most effective management strategy one would come up with–particularly since we in fact have public agencies already in place with those core missions.

    But again, what makes me mistrustful of the whole effort, is that schools have tended in the past to want to operate in isolation from those agencies. While there has always been some friendliness, cooperation, collaboration between the social services, mental health, public health, general welfare sorts of organizations; schools have tended to view themselves as islands unto themselves–except to acknowledge that they are at times unfairly burdened by the problems of “the community.” The typical “collaborations” that I have seen have been on the order of bringing in hired guns (in the form of mental health counselors, social workers, etc) to fix problems so that the schools wouldn’t have to deal with them. Needless to say, it has not been very effective–and generally leads to spin-off satellites somewhere outside the school building (alternative schools and the like).

    If schools (and teachers) genuinely want in, they are going to have to learn how to play nicely in the sandbox. They might have to listen to some of the neighborhood groups who have been working with parents for generations and accept that many of the barriers to parent involvement are school-created. They might have to listen to mental health experts and counselors about ways to change classroom practice so as NOT to aggravate the problems of students with emotional difficulties. They might have to shoulder the responsibility for making a referral for diagnosis or intervention if they believe that a family has a drug or alcohol problem (instead of using that as an excuse). They might have to start believing and understanding that not every family that the deal with is pathological, and that there really are problems in the delivery of education that exacerbate whatever deficiencies students arrive with.

    But, if they are really willing and eager to go there (which I would wholeheartedly applaud), the way to get there is to start building relationships with the folks who have a history and mission to do those things that they profess to care about.

  4. […] face of comments that provide that evidence again and again. The phantom has even taken the form of Jay Greene. Greene not only endorses the claim that there is no evidence for the proposition that only the […]

  5. […] friends Matt Ladner and Jay Greene call this education reform by dorm-room bull session. They imagine the meetings to develop it […]

  6. joy dryfoos says:

    the point is schools cannot do it alone..they cannot and should not be responsible for all the many health, mental health, support and social services needed .by children and their families. Schools must have partners, community agencies that come into the school and provide integrated services. Full service community schools incorporate those concepts.

  7. […] of chatter, on this blog and others, about the Broader, Bolder Approach.  The problem with this manifesto doesn’t lie in the […]

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