Fordham Zig-Zags Again

March 3, 2011

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Back on September 9 of last year Jay told you to mark your calendars so you’d remember exactly when Fordham began its inevitable backtracking on the rush to fix education through the iron fist of federal power.

Check this out from the latest Gadfly. Here’s the key part:

But as the two federally funded assessment consortia go about their work and flesh out their plans to develop tests aligned to the Common Core, danger lurks. One big challenge arises from their enthusiasm for “through-course assessments”—interim tests that students would take three or four times a year in lieu of a single end-of-year summative assessment…[O]nce a state adopts a new testing regimen that compels instructional uniformity, only private schools will be able to avoid it. This is particularly problematic for public schools—like charters—that were designed to be different. We still favor the Common Core effort and the trade-off of results-based accountability in return for operational freedom. (We also favor the development of high-quality curricular materials that help teachers handle the Common Core.) But it’s time to ask whether the move to high-stakes interim assessments will make that trade-off untenable.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Fordham position now appears to be:

  • A single national standard is OK.
  • A single national curriculum is OK.
  • A single national assessment test at the end of each year is OK.
  • Attaching “high stakes” to that single national test is OK.
  • Having the federal government fund and “co-ordinate” all the above is OK.
  • But if you give the national high-stakes test more than one time per year, THE WORLD IS ENDING and the whole package of national standards/curricula/assessments may need to be called off entirely!

Those of us who saw all this coming and were called cranks and paranoiacs for predicting it are still waiting for our apology.


Arguing the Merits

August 11, 2010

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Last week I noted that Fordham had offered up the Gadfly as a platform for an argument, made by guest columnist Eugenia Kemble, that the next logical step after establishing national standards is a single national curriculum.

Well, my post has drawn a sharp response from Kemble. Of course, she disagrees with me on the substance (the merits of a national curriculum and the badness of teachers’ unions) but that goes without saying. More interestingly, she accuses me of not addressing her argument on the merits, but only being concerned with the significance of her piece having appeared in the Gadfly. The indictment has two counts. First, she accuses me of not offering an argument for my position that “common” standards adopted by the states are really “federal” standards (i.e. controlled by the federal government.) Second, she accuses me of practicing “guilt by association” by insinuating that if Checker publishes a union piece, he must embrace the entire union agenda.

To the second count I plead not guilty. I didn’t insinuate that Checker agrees with the unions about everything. I insinuated that his position in favor of national standards was having the effect – whether intended or not – of advancing the unions’ agenda in one respect. And that the appearance of Kemble’s piece in the Gadfly clearly demonstrates that those of us who have been saying this all along were right. And I stand by that insinuation.

But to the first count I plead guilty as sin. I did not address the merits of Kemble’s claim that it is possible – not just in some hypothetical cloudcoocooland but in the real world, right now, in the actual political climate as it stands now and under all the other conditions that currently prevail – to have “common” standards nationwide (thus “national” standards) that are not controlled by the federal government. On the merits of this claim I said nothing at all.

Here are some other claims whose merits I have never addressed:

  • The existence of the tooth fairy
  • The medical effectiveness of aromatherapy
  • The flatness of the earth (oh, wait)

Even Checker admits that national standards have been “entangled in a competition for federal money,” that it’s bad that “that same federal money [is] paying for development of new assessment systems to accompany the standards,” and that “it would have been lots better if President Obama had never hinted at harnessing national standards to future Title I funding.”

As Matt aptly put it: other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

But never mind. My real point was to highlight the fact that Checker has spent weeks calling us “paranoid” because we thought national standards would become the first step toward greater national control of schools, especially by unions; then offered up the Gadfly to a union blogger as a platform to argue that national standards should become the first step toward greater national control of schools.


Even on April Fool’s, Gadfly Says Earth Is Round

April 1, 2009

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

The annual April Fool’s edition of the Gadfly is pretty good this year. It includes, among other things: 

  • A letter from a school superintendent on how to spend stimulus money (“We’re slated to get millions of dollars from this windfall, which, and I say this in an entirely non-partisan way, we should definitely remember come November 6, 2012″)
  • The new Norris Is Power Program chain of learning-through-violence charter schools
  • The push for 22nd Century Skills (“it’s never too soon”)
  • An update on the “Narrower, Nambier-Pambier Approach to Education” initiative

That last item contains the initiative’s recommended academic standards for various subjects. In science, the standard is: “Students really just need to know that the earth is round. That debate is old enough it should be a cinch.”

A round earth, you say? Hmmmm.