They're generally reliable when it comes to education policy that's up in the stratosphere, but tend to be just as unreliable as the rest of us when it comes to street level issues. Let's take a recent post on History is Not Math at The Quick and the Ed:
Although there are still some folks--primarily in ed schools--who haven't bought into it yet, there's actually a pretty clear, well-defined research consensus about how children learn to read, and what educators need to do when for kids to become proficient readers.
Cetainly there is some truth to this statement, but it doesn't probe deep enough to the real problem we have in early reading instruction. Everyone pays lip service to the National Reading Panel's findings as to what well designed reading programs must include. To wit: phoneme awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, reading comprehension. Almost every commercially available early reading instructional program claims to have all these critical components. Problem is most of them stink.
The NRP was a naive observer when they looked at the valid research on early reading instruction. It focused on the superficial attributes of the successful reading programs and failed to attend to the critical details of what makes good instructional programs effective. This is because no one on the NRP team ever designed an effective reading program or knew what to look for.
So when The Quick and the Ed concludes:
In both reading and math, we can study what and how kids need to learn in order to become proficient because--calculator debates aside--there's some general agreement about what, ultimately, kids need to know. Everyone agrees that kids need to learn how to read, and there's not a lot of debate about what that means.they seem not to recognize the very real problems that still exist today in early reading instruction. Sure, everybody can agree on what "kids need to learn how to read" because the NRP made its recommendations so vague and meaningless that even ineffective programs can claim to comply.
Effective education requires close attention to detail and adherence to strict quality control measures.
If the professional education policy blogs want to have any impact on education they need to stop worrying about meaningless generalities and stratospheric policies and start attending to the street level details where all the problems are occurring. Maybe, Alexander Russo is on to something when he's written that most education blogs aren't very good.
This is a recurring theme for me.
A year ago I emailed eduwonk asking why he wasn't covering curriculum issues.
I don't remember his response precisely, but the jist was that curriculum wasn't his beat.
I see this in books on policy, too. Ouchi's book, which is great so far, ends with a quick chapter on what a good school looks like - and it turns out a good school is basically a constructivist school.
It seems strange to me that even after Schmidt's tireless efforts to persuade people that curriculum matters, policy and political writers still treat curriculum and curriculum quality as if it were a secondary issue.
The primary issue is always unions or charters or vouchers or accountability, etc.
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