Monday, March 22, 2010

Daily Drivel

It's hard to believe that the Wall Street Journal fancies itself a national newspaper while publishing this largely baseless, political clap-trap on its editorial page:
But national standards are no substitute for school choice and accountability, which are proving to be the most effective drivers of academic improvement.
First of all, to frame education reform as pitting national standards against choice/accountability is ridiculous on its face. It is a false choice. Plus, the Obama Administration's reform blueprint is so much more broad than that. About the only thing that the WSJ editorial gets right is in saying that national standards "won't magically boost learning" by themselves.

Secondly, the WSJ appears to be falling into the "silver bullet" mentality all too prevalent among simplistic education reformers. "Just run schools like a business!" Or, "[INSERT pet approach] is the answer." Yes, we've been down that road before .... small schools, merit pay, open classrooms. The WSJ apparently wants to contribute choice and accountability to the junkyard of spent shell casings.

Third, where is the research evidence to suggest that school choice and accountability should be in the driver's seat? The editorial offers no evidence. The presence of publicly funded vouchers is no panacea. Just look at Milwaukee's experience (here and here). At the recent meeting of the American Education Finance Association, the U.S. Department of Education's senior adviser Marshall 'Mike' Smith offered evidence that rates of gain in student test scores were lower after No Child Left Behind became law than before. We chided Margaret Spellings last year for touting the successes of NCLB on similar grounds. So much for bare-bones accountability.

Does the Wall Street Journal have any editorial standards? Or any shame?

UPDATE: Read Claus von Zastrow's take on this editorial on Public School Insights: "It doesn't pass the laugh test."