Stop making sense!

In his June 17 post at The Quick and the Ed (“Dueling Manifestos”), former U.S. News reporter turned think-tank crewman Tom Toch was so bold as to suggest that both sides in the Broad and Bold debate over ed policy directions have a piece of the high ground:

Yes, we should find ways to reduce the effects of poverty on students. Doing so will allow them to achieve at higher levels. But no, we shouldn’t assume that schools can’t make a difference on their own.

Yes, we need to hold schools and teachers accountable for their performance. Too many of them simply haven’t embraced high expectations on their own. But no, we shouldn’t pretend that poverty has no impact on students. No accountability system can work unless it is credible, and NCLB, as currently crafted, is not.

Unfortunately, level-headed centrist approaches don’t feed egos, extend self-righteous claims, or provide ammunition for the daily crossfire that passes for entertainment on much of the edu-blonk circuit. The talking heads talk on.

“The extremes in school-reform debates always seem to conspire against the middle,” Toch writes, “making change a lot tougher to achieve.”

Even so, Eduwonkette sees Toch’s comments as evidence of a change on the NCLB weather front. “(M)any factors are coming together to shift the winds on NCLB…, from proficiency to value-added models, and from ignoring the role of out-of-school factors to acknowledging that it is unfair to hold schools solely accountable for them.”

Mississippi Delta educator Renee Moore, a TLN member who sits on the board of the Carnegie Foundation with Education Trust founder Katie Haycock, made the comment in our daily online discussion group that “making ‘broader bolder’ statements is much easier than making and implementing effective policy.” She noted several “broad and bold” Washington policy initiatives (NCLB and Head Start, for example) that turned out to be deeply flawed and caused plenty of trouble for low-income kids and their families.

Watch Renee’s blog TeachMoore for more commentary on these issues. She brings an important perspective to these discussions as an African-American woman who grew up in urban Detroit and became a master teacher (MS state TOY, NBCT, Milken) after moving to the rural South as an adult. She and her minister-teacher husband have worked in both education and social programs for many years. Voices like Renee’s — many miles and many layers of understanding away from the Beltway — need to be heard .