International Letter to the Editor

‘Iceberg Effect’ Authors Rebut Critic’s ‘Misguided’ Blog Post

October 20, 2015 1 min read
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To the Editor:

Marc Tucker’s outburst attacking our recent summary report, “Iceberg Effect” was so misguided and rife with errors and misconstructions that we have issued an open letter responding point by point to the blog post.

Both organizations that issued the report—the Horace Mann League and the National Superintendents Roundtable—also wanted to address the blog post here in the pages of Education Week. The “Iceberg Effect” is a summary of our full report, “School Performance in Context: Indicators of School Inputs and Outputs in Nine Similar Nations.”

Tucker appears most distressed about one recommendation, among dozens in the document, urging a reduction in alarmist rhetoric about schools. But in his blog post, Tucker fails to deal convincingly with the quantitative evidence offered in “Iceberg Effect” and laid out completely in the full report, specifically:

The United States has the highest rates of childhood poverty in the developed world.

Social stress (including deaths from violence) is highest in the nine-nation world with which the United States is compared.

U.S. support for young families is the lowest in the developed world.

Fifty years of research demonstrates that all of these issues are strongly related to student achievement.

Rather than dealing with these issues, which are laid out in “Iceberg Effect,” Tucker’s criticism of our report instead comes perilously close to blaming schools for this nationwide social dysfunction. He seems fixated on how the United States is falling behind other countries, when we should be concentrating instead on how the United States is failing in comparison with its own values.

Tucker’s argument (and the disparaging tone accompanying it) is all the more surprising since his organization, the National Center on Education and the Economy, has produced an excellent set of recommendations in its “Nine Building Blocks for a World-Class State Education System” that we would argue track many of the recommendations in “Iceberg Effect.”

One of the giants of 20th-century British politics, Tony Benn, once said: “Hope is the fuel of progress, and fear is the prison in which you put yourself.” We vote for more hope, less fear, and yes—we vote for minimizing the alarmist rhetoric.

Charles Fowler


Horace Mann League

Exeter, N.H.

James Harvey

Executive Director

National Superintendents Roundtable

Seattle, Wash.

A version of this article appeared in the October 21, 2015 edition of Education Week as ‘Iceberg Effect’ Authors Rebut Critic’s ‘Misguided’ Blog Post


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