"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, November 30, 2009

John Merrow Takes the Road Most Traveled, By Corporate Charter Advocates

John Merrow is better served when he sticks to putting the best news face possible on corporate education reform atrocities, all in the name of fair and balanced reporting. But he has a predictable habit of interjecting himself into educational debates that he feels he should know something about, even though his latest entry into the charter controversy shows once again that Mr. Merrow should take fewer naps and do some current reading in areas for which he obviously cares more about than he knows.

Merrow's latest commentary in Ed Week, "When Roads Diverge: Tracking the Charter Movement," shows Merrow doing a little backtracking, in fact, to a time in late summer 2009, before Caroline Hoxby's shoddy charter "research" for Mike Bloomberg had been thoroughly discredited as an expensive advocacy piece by an expensive advocate. Merrow, in this commentary, offers us a celebration of the "gold standard" that Hoxby might have brought to bear on the charter question, had she not been compelled to distort, manipulate, exaggerate, and extrapolate her findings to fit her commission. And the small issue of the Hoxby "study" never receiving peer review before becoming the gospel according to Eli Broad and the corporate press? No problem, for Merrow had lunch with Caroline, and she assured him the peer review would happen soon. Which it already has, but which Merrow never mentions for fear of damaging his own variety of George Babbitt boosterism that drives this pro-charter screed to its illogical conclusion.

If Merrow had written all this out of ignorance, I could look the other way. After all, it is common practice for education writers to go for a couple of months without reading anything about the subjects they report on. But it is in the way that Merrow abuses the PDK/Gallup findings that convinces me clearly he has a few things to teach even the most polished propagandist like Caroline Hoxby. From Merrow:
The general public clearly wants more charter schools—64 percent in the 2009 Gallup pollRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader on education. And a 2009 survey conducted by Education NextRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader reports that more than a third of public school teachers support charters, a number that jumps to nearly half when respondents are told of President Obama’s support.
First off, if I wanted to know what teachers think, I would not go to Education Next, which is sponsored by the union busters at the sludge tank, the Hoover Institute. Secondly, there are no teacher questions in the survey that is connected by Merrow's link. Thirdly and most importantly, Kappan/Gallup poll did not ask the public if they "want more charter schools." The question actually asks, "do you favor or oppose the idea of charter schools:"
TABLE 11. As you may know, charter schools operate under a charter or contract that frees them from many of the state regulations imposed on public schools and permits them to operate independently. Do you favor or oppose the idea of charter schools?
Quite a different question, wouldn't you say, Mr. Merrow?

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