To the Editor:
David Bernstein is correct that progressives need to offer a positive school improvement agenda (“It’s Time to Mainstream Progressive Education”, April 3, 2013). Unfortunately, he fails to recognize that many sound initiatives already exist. At the same time, his Commentary offers some questionable ideas.
The harm to educational quality and equity caused by the No Child Left Behind Act and its progeny must be exposed by the progressive movement. That damage is what inspires growing numbers of teachers, parents, and students to resist high-stakes testing and school closings.
To turn the tide, this burgeoning movement must critique destructive policy and propose educationally sound programs. There’s no lack of good proposals. The problem is that powerful forces don’t want to hear them.
A perfect example is Mr. Bernstein’s description of The Washington Post attacking Joshua Starr’s opposition to testing overkill while simultaneously ignoring his excellent ideas.
Mr. Bernstein’s suggestion of working with business groups sounds reasonable. But why, after the evidence shows that NCLB has failed by its own primary measuring stick, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, do the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and similar groups remain wedded to high-stakes testing? If they remain impervious to evidence, what would it take for them to change? Mr. Bernstein is silent on that crucial point.
The Forum on Educational Accountability, or FEA, which I chair, has presented a positive agenda since its 2004 joint organizational statement on No Child Left Behind. Strong ideas have come from many sources, including unions, civil rights groups, religious organizations, researchers, and advocates. The FEA has proposals for overhauling NCLB accountability, testing, improvement, and turnarounds.
We also make the case for adequate funding and equitable opportunity to learn. A “robust movement” is emerging as we speak. Its growth and success will require far stronger strategizing than Mr. Bernstein provides.
The author has chaired the Forum on Educational Accountability since its formation in 2003.
A version of this article appeared in the May 15, 2013 edition of Education Week as Reader Questions ‘Progressive’ Commentary