This from Judith Warner in Time:
It was perhaps inevitable that the political moment that has given birth to the Occupy movement, pitting Main Street against Wall Street and the 99% against the financial elite, would eventually succeed in making some chinks in the armor of the 1%’s favorite feel-good hobby: the school reform movement.
It’s been a good decade now that the direction of school reform has been greatly influenced by a number of highly effective Master (and Mistress) of the Universe types: men and women like Princeton grad Wendy Kopp, the founder of the Teach for America program, her husband, Harvard graduate Richard Barth, who heads up the charter school Knowledge Is Power Program, the hard-charging former D.C. schools chancellor (and Cornell and Harvard grad) Michelle Rhee and the many hedge fund founders who are now investing significant resources in the cause of expanding charter schools. Excoriating the state of America’s union-protected teaching profession and allegedly ossified education schools, they’ve prided themselves upon attracting “the best and the brightest” to the education reform cause, whether by luring recent top college graduates into challenging classrooms or by seducing Harvard Business School or McKinsey-trained numbers-crunchers away from Wall Street to newly lucrative executive positions in educationally themed social entrepreneurship.
The chief promise of their brand of reform — the results of which have been mixed, at best — seems to be that they can remake America’s students in their own high-achieving image. By evaluating all students according to the same sort of testable rubrics that, when aced, propelled the reformers into the Ivy League and beyond, society’s winners seem to believe they can inspire and guide society’s losers, inoculating them against failure with their own habits of success, and forever disproving the depressingly fatalistic ’70s-style liberal idea that things like poverty and poor health care and hunger and a chaotic family life can, indeed, condemn children to school failure.
And yet as schools scramble to keep up with these narrow demands, voices are emerging to suggest that perhaps the rubric-obsessed school reform game, as it’s been played in the Bush and Obama years and funded and dressed-up by the well-heeled Organization Kids, is itself perhaps due for a philosophical shake-up.
Earlier this year, S. Paul Reville, the Massachusetts Secretary of Education, blogged in Education Week that reformers need now to think beyond the numbers and “admit that closing achievement gaps is not as simple as adopting a set of standards, accountability and instructional improvement strategies.” In Massachusetts, he wrote, “We have set the nation’s highest standards, been tough on accountability and invested billions in building school capacity, yet we still see a very strong correlation between socioeconomic background and educational achievement and attainment. It is now clear that unless and until we make a more active effort to mitigate the impediments to learning that are commonly associated with poverty, we will still be faced with large numbers of children who are either unable to come to school or so distracted as not to be able to be attentive and supply effort when they get there.” Reville called for “wraparound services” that would allow schools to provide students with a “healthy platform” from which they could begin to work on learning...