Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reform's faulty assumptions

Ron Wolk is the founder and retired editor of EDWEEK and currently chairs the board of the Big Picture Co. in Providence. He has long been a school reform visionary and critic of standardization and test-driven education. In the current issue, Wolk calls on Obama to discard the five faulty assumptions upon which current education policy rests, including the idea that standards and testing can "fix our ailing public schools."

But Wolk, who should know better, then calls on Arne Duncan to "support an effort patterned after Renaissance 2010, the program he launched in Chicago to replace failing schools with new, diverse models different from conventional schools and from each other."

What a prettification of the Civic Committee's disastrous school-closing assault on Chicago's most resource-starved communities. The reason I say Wolk should know better is, all three of his own innovative Big Picture Schools were among Ren10's main victims, at first offering three struggling communities real alternatives to failed factory-model schools and then being forced to close by Duncan himself. Why? Because even with their relatively high graduation rates and personalized teaching approach, they didn't fit the Ren10/NCLB mold. In other words, they and the communities they were in, were punished for doing exactly what Wolk wants all schools to do.

Wolk holds up as a model, the very system that most embodies the faulty assumptions he is attacking.

P.S.--For fear of beating a dead horse, let me once again point our that Wolk's commentary, in line with EDWEEK's standard practice, is underwritten by the Broad Foundation, one of the main purveyors of the Wolk's "five faulty assumptions."

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