Federal Obituary

Contrarian Writer Gerald Bracey Dies

By Debra Viadero — October 27, 2009 2 min read
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Gerald W. Bracey, a well-known writer, researcher, and advocate for education, died in his sleep Oct. 20 at his home in Port Townsend, Wash., according to his wife, Iris Bracey. He was 69.

Educated at Stanford University and the College of William and Mary, Mr. Bracey specialized in fighting what he saw as the frequent misuse or misreporting of education data by government officials, advocacy groups, and news organizations.

He wrote at least eight books, the last of which, Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality, was published in June. His often-biting commentary also appeared on the online site The Huffington Post and in Education Week, Phi Delta Kappan, The Washington Post, and other publications.

Gerald W. Bracey

He criticized Republicans and Democrats alike and, for his efforts, won the American Educational Research Association’s “Relating Research to Practice Award” in 2004.

David Marshak, a lecturer at Western Washington University and a professor emeritus of education at Seattle University, called him “one of the great truth-tellers in debates about schooling in the United States.”

But Mr. Bracey’s in-your-face rhetorical style also could be counterproductive, according to Andrew J. Rotherham, a co-founder of the think tank Education Sector. Still, Mr. Rotherham, writing in a post last week on his blog, Eduwonk, said Mr. Bracey “called useful attention to some of the myths that do surround public school performance and the facility with which these myths travel.”

Mr. Bracey argued that scores from international assessments and from tests such as the SAT gave a misleadingly negative view of achievement in the United States because they failed to account for the higher or growing proportions of poor and minority students in America’s test-taking pools. He also decried the emphasis on tests and questioned the link that policymakers often made between a country’s standing on international tests and its economic health.

Mr. Bracey’s combative writings endeared him to anti-testing advocates. In an Oct. 20 posting on Twitter, fellow education writer Alfie Kohn called Mr. Bracey a “spirited crusader for accuracy, integrity” who “denounced false claims, misuse of stats and made the right enemies.”

Primarily an independent writer at the time of his death, Mr. Bracey had worked over the years for private universities, state and local education departments, research groups, and the National Education Association, among other organizations.

His death was unexpected, according to his wife. On the day before he died, she said, her husband was busy writing his annual report on the condition of American education.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 28, 2009 edition of Education Week as Contrarian Writer Gerald Bracey Dies

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