Advocates call for ‘supports-based reform’

Instead of “top-down standards” and “punitive high-stakes testing,” we need “supports-based reform,” according to the Education Declaration to Rebuild America. Public schools are turning into “uncreative, joyless institutions,” the declaration states. “Educators are being stripped of their dignity and autonomy, leading many to leave the profession.”

By focusing solely on the achievement gap, we have neglected the opportunity gap that creates it, and have allowed the resegregation of our schools and communities by class and race.

. .. What’s needed is a supports-based reform agenda that provides every student with the opportunities and resources needed to achieve high standards and succeed . . .

Signers include education historian Diane Ravitch, writer Jonathan Kozol, Stanford Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel.

Ed Week summarizes:   “They reiterated their call for more funding (and more equitably distributed), more early education, better teacher training, high-quality diagnostic tests, more-effective discipline, and parent engagement.”

The declaration was organized by the Education Opportunity Network, which is affiliated with the Institute for America’s Future, and by the Opportunity to Learn Campaign, funded by the Schott Foundation.

(I’ve learned from the opponents of education reform that philanthropy is “corporate,” sinister and self-interested, so I’m surprised to see the campaign taking foundation money. No, I’m not. That was sarcasm.)

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  1. The ‘autonomy’ that my childrens’ teachers exercised resulted in a determination in the classroom of which children should get instruction and which should not, based on nothing more than the teacher’s political viewpoint. I am not for autonomy if it means some children wait and twiddle their thumbs while others receive instruction.

  2. CarolineSF says:

    “Taking foundation money” is not synonymous with being corporate, sinister and self-interested. “Taking foundation money” and using it in a concerted effort to hand public institutions over to private entities, and otherwise divert public money into private pockets, is what is often characterized as sinister, corporate and self-interested.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      From what I can see, very little of “education reform” “divert[s] public money into private pockets.” Would allowing charter schools count as putting public money into private pockets? If so, do you have a problem with, say, governments giving money to Planned Parenthood rather than running their own clinics?

      • CarolineSF says:

        Yes, there is an enormous amount of public money going into private pockets with charter schools — not just those that are technically for-profit. Not just through looting either, though there’s looting aplenty in the charter sector. (Yes, I know public money going to public schools goes awry too, but the ungoverned, politically untouchable charter sector is whole new fertile ground for looters.) And of course there are and will always be private consultants and vendors working with school districts, but is there anything else on the scale of Pearson, which has been hugely enriched by the “reform” emphasis on increased testing?

        • Reading your broadsides opposing anything other then the district system you could almost forget that parents line up to get their kids into charters.

          That being the case all that’s necessary for a charter, or all charters, to fail is that the district schools from which the parents are fleeing being something other then “uncreative, joyless institutions”. Were that the case the “enormous amount of public money going into private pockets” would come to a screeching halt.

          But that’s not happening and, in the face of the rising threat of competition, school districts are still rotten places to send kids for an education. All your artfully contrived excuses for the district system are immaterial against that fact so parents will continue to want to protect their children from the system you defend and politicians will continue to listen to them.

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          Thanks for your responsiveness. If you don’t mind, I’d like to dig into this a little deeper.

          1. Governments “contract” for lots of things rather than do it themselves. I mentioned Planned Parenthood above but there are lots of other things. Governments don’t have paving crews and asphalt plants. Instead, they contract with paving companies. Most school systems don’t have their own supply warehouses. Instead, they order from an office supply company. Is this okay?

          If is it okay, is the difference that these places never had paving departments or supply warehouses, so there is no change from direct government provision to provision by a non-governmental entity? Is the difference that the provider used to be in the “public sector” and is now in the “private sector”?

          If it is okay, is it a matter of economy of scale? Most governments wouldn’t have enough work to keep a paving department busy. Building and running a warehouse would be more expensive than buying from an office supply place.

          2. Pearson, of course, began as a textbook company. Schools have been buying textbooks from private companies for decades, maybe centuries. That involves “public money going into private pockets.” Do you see anything wrong with that?

          3. Imagine a number of ed schools had gotten together to form the “Student Assessment Consortium,” a non-profit providing testing materials. The schools say they have done it because there is a pressing, unmet need for knowing how well students are doing. Student success is, after all, the explicit purpose of the public schools.

          Is that morally any different from what Pearson is doing?

          3a. The three ed schools are Stanford, Columbia, and Harvard. When schools buy from the consortium, is it “public money going into private pockets”?

          3b. The three schools are Berkeley, University of Wisconsin, and University of Michigan. When schools buy from the consortium, is it “public money going into private pockets”?

          • CarolineSF says:

            Things are never so E-Z and simple. As I said, public entities do business with private vendors; that’s the way it is; no, of course there’s nothing wrong with it. That includes Pearson’s selling of textbooks, assuming this is done with an upstanding and ethical process. I said this to begin with, so you really can’t “gotcha!” me on it.

            When policies are created ENTIRELY to divert public funding to private vendors — policies that have negative consequences otherwise — and promoted with the well-funded mass deception that backs education “reform” scams and fads, at that point there’s something wrong with it. Read any of the several exposes on the scoring/assessment machinery that Pearson uses as its test-vending business soars in the “reform” climate (part-time unqualified temps and all), as just one example.

          • The public education system’s lost the faith of the public and no amount of artful dodging is going to regain that trust. Poor parents line up at the doors of charters less because the charters are proven superior to district schools but because the district schools are dreadful.

            Those parents don’t need to be fooled into anything because when they see their blighted lives mirrored in their children’s frustration, resignation, ignorance and anger they become deaf to all your excuses for the institutions to which the law compels them to deliver their children. Those parents know exactly what kind of life is in store for their children absent a decent education because those parents are living those lives.

            Given that circumstance a well-funded campaign of mass deception would be redundant were there any such thing. But there isn’t. It’s just the rising realization that the public education system’s failed the public.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            Caroline, I wasn’t trying to “gotcha.” I am honestly curious. I completely agree that it’s wrong, wrong, wrong, to push for an education “reform” which doesn’t work and makes you money. However, I get just as mad when people push “reforms” that don’t work but fit with their ideology, say look-say reading or differentiated instruction.

            If somebody makes a reasonable amount of money from something that works, I have no problem with that. If someone could come up with a cheap, scalabIe way of getting most poor kids up to an eighth grade level in reading, writing, and math, I’d personally cheer her getting a billion dollars. No mistype; billion with a B. It’s that important.

            I feel like, in the ed business, we care too much about whether an idea sounds good or where it came from, and not enough about whether it works.

  3. Shows you what happens when you assume.

    Here I’d thought public schools have always been “uncreative, joyless institutions”, that they’d been designed that way, and it turns out to be a recent affliction. I guess experience really isn’t all that dependable a guide.

  4. Stacy in NJ says:

    I’m going to summarize the Education Declaration to Rebuild America: Mo money, mo money, mo money.

  5. CarolineSF says:

    Roger, I agree, especially with this: “I completely agree that it’s wrong, wrong, wrong, to push for an education “reform” which doesn’t work and makes you money.” But then what about if it works for some reason that you obfuscate or conceal (such as with the many “miracle” charters that admit and retain only compliant, motivated students from compliant, motivated, supportive families and then proclaim their superiority to public schools that don’t winnow)? There are a lot of complexities here.

    • If public schools were providing a safe, disciplined environment and challenging academics to “compliant, motivated students”, their “compliant, motivated and supportive families” wouldn’t be pulling their kids out of the public schools. As long as public school refuse to remove disruptive and dangerous kids (permanently, if necessary) and separate kids according to their academic and motivation levels, caring parents will look elsewhere. There’s nothing stopping public schools and politicians from doing likewise and refusing to let the unable and/or unwilling to compromise opportunities for the able and willing – except for their reality-ignoring fantasies.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      It’s wrong to obfuscate. Public school supporters should make a lot of noise about what successful charters are doing, and then say, “Can we learn anything from them to do our job better?”

    • Any time you can provide something approximating evidence of the existence of these “charters that admit and retain only compliant, motivated students” I’ll be thrilled to peruse it.

      It’s alright with you, Caroline, if I don’t hold my breath waiting for that momentous event, isn’t it?

      • CarolineSF says:

        Half the charter folks say, in essence, “Hell yes, we only keep the students we want, and those stupid public schools should be doing the same thing! What’s wrong with them, not being smart like the charters?” The other half react like Allen. Sometimes the same person gives both responses — sometimes mere minutes apart. As Roger says, it’s wrong to obfuscate (and of course obfuscate is a polite euphemism).

        • CarolineSF says:

          (As we see from Momof4’s response, which is exactly what I describe. Which is it, charter folks?)

          • To clarify, I didn’t say that charters have only “compliant, motivated students”. You said that. My response was, what are the public schools doing to retain those kids? Apparently, not enough.

      • The question remains unanswered.

        No surprise really the illegitimate critics of charters being full, primarily, of obfuscation to use the polite euphemism.

        That raises the question of what the likes of Caroline’s true objection to charters might be? Unable to substantiate the charges they level the only reasonable conclusion is that their true objection won’t bear the light of day.

        So Caroline, are “the masses”, of whom you certainly don’t consider yourself a member, too stupid to be trusted to make our own choices? Or is it just parents other then yourself? Or is it just black parents?

        I tingle with anticipation at the thought of a thoughtful and forthright reply.

  6. Congratulations, Caroline.

    The post’s rolled off the bottom of the blog so you don’t have to substantiate your charges. I guess when you can’t substantiate your charges fleetness of foot isn’t just a virtue, it’s a necessity.