Friday, January 22, 2010

Punching a marshmallow

I just listened to the most incredible discussion on KCRW Public Radio. It was ostensibly a debate about Race-To-The-Top between Arne Duncan's PR guy, Peter Cunningham and former NYT ed writer and current leader of the Broader, Bolder Approach (BBA) Richard Rothstein.

But there was no debate. The articulate Rothstein did a great job in exposing RTTT's use of testing; its narrowing of the curriculum to a focus on math and reading to the exclusion of everything else; its forcing states to allow more charter schools while ignoring the research giving no credence to that approach. RTTT is in many ways worse than NCLB. And on it went.

When it came Cunningham's chance to respond, he could do little but agree with each and every one of Rothstein's points. Not even a minimal defense of RTTT on principle. Yes, he said, Rothstein is right. Our testing mania is doing all the negative things Rothstein claims. But since testing is the name of the game unfortunately, we are going to continue to rely on standardized testing and in fact do more of it, and with national standards to boot. Yes, Rothstein is right about charters. We know there are lots of bad charters, no better than the schools they were supposed to replace. But we are going to mandate more anyway. Yes, Rothstein is right about our narrowing of the curriculum. Maybe we can undo it in the future. And so it went.

Like trying to punch a marshmallow.


  1. I am confused. Just read through and signed onto the BBA. RttT is clearly a "Narrower, Bolder Approach." Arne Duncan is listed as a member of the task force that put the BBA together and as an original cosigner. The more I try to understand, the murkier it gets. What is clear is that RttT is ill conceived.

  2. Duncan didn't help put BBA together. But he did sign on to it. However he also signed on to EEP's more conservative, "no excuses" manifesto of Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and Newt Gingrich. I think that's called hedging your bets.


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