Centralized and Decentralized Reform Longevity in NYC

May 14, 2014

This is my apprentice Darth de Blasio. He will deal with your beneficial retention policy….

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Jay’s important post on choice programs developing a stronger constituency than many other types of education reform has an obvious recent example in Mayor de Blasio’s New York City. New York City has a earned promotion policy for improving literacy instruction. The program demonstrated strongly positive results, including not one but two positive evaluations from the RAND Corporation using advanced statistical analysis.  Sadly when this worthy retention policy ran up against Darth de Blasio the result was:

The unfortunate reality is that the earned promotion policy, while demonstrably effective, has a limited constituency to defend it.  A large population could benefit from the continuation of the policy but lacks organization. One of the most basic laws of politics is that organized interests defeat disorganized interests 99 times out of a hundred trials, or thereabouts.

What happened when de Blasio went after charter schools? Oh yeah…

So how did the assault on charter schools turn out for the Darth Randi’s apprentice?

Does this mean we should avoid all top down policies like the plague and focus only on promoting choice? Not in my book, but it is worth noting that policies enjoying little support outside a small group of supporters can be easily reversed. Developing a base of support is essential to policy longevity.  I don’t think that choice is the only K-12 policy reform that has the potential to develop broad support, but it is an equation that few other policies have solved.

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