I’m conflicted about how to say this. Getting stuff done is about building relationships and trying to find ways to get along and in fact pulling the right people together toward a goal. But it is also about saying things straight and pulling no punches when what’s being debated matters a lot.
I often write about education standards because, unlike some other ed policy choices, standards impact the entire landscape of education. If used effectively to drive reform, they set the contours of classroom content, they constitute the basis for student tests, and they define the basis for teacher tests that ultimately play a bigger role on the quality of teaching in the Commonwealth than any professional development program afterward. If done right, I noted. I fully agree with Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution who has been saying that in most instances higher standards don’t correlate with higher student achievement, but those states (like Massachusetts) that have used standards to drive the iron triangle of curricula, accountability and teacher quality, win big on student achievement.
Until 2007, Massachusetts used standards in just this way. And then we watered down our accountability system and our standards. Since 2007 Massachusetts student achievement has been flatlined at best. While you cannot draw a causal link to our students’ 2007 or even 2008 results, the continued flatlining since then does make me wonder what’s been lost in real achievement because of recent “reforms.”