Education Next, the Fordham Institute, and Common Core

In years of observing the behavior of staff at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Institute I haven’t noticed much of the “open-mindedness and humility” claimed on its website.[1] More common has been a proclivity to suppress dissent, shun or ridicule those who disagree, and promote their in-group as the only legitimate spokespersons for “education reform” along a wide range of education policy issues.

Fordham’s founder, Chester A. “Checker” Finn, waxes nostalgic about the early days of Fordham’s predecessor, the Education Excellence Network, and Diane Ravitch’s key, co-founding role in both.[2] But, now that she openly disagrees with them on some issues, Fordham President Michael Petrilli insults her as a “kook,”[3], and her long-standing relationship with the Brookings Institution is revoked on an absurd technicality.[4] An Education Next essay insults her personally and generally ridicules as an inferior intellect.[5]

Robert Pondiscio is “Senior Fellow and Vice President for External Affairs” at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. His Education Next essay, “Lessons on Common Core: Critical books offer more folly than wisdom,” typifies Fordham’s “humble” approach.[6] Pondiscio “reviews” six books written in opposition to the Common Core Initiative. Throughout the essay, he liberally portrays himself as a cool, measured, reasonable fellow, with the public—”parents and taxpayers alike who simply want a decent education for their kids”—on his side. The Common Core-critical book authors, meanwhile, are “carping”, “spleen venting,” “fear mongering”, and “conspiratorially minded” “excitable enemies.”

Pondiscio’s essay is short on substance and long on selective and colorful prejudicial quotations, adjectives and adverbs.[7] He characterizes Mercedes Schneider’s exhaustively researched Common Core Dilemma, for example, as “riddled with scare quotes and sarcasm.” Other descriptors employed for Common Core opponents include “bombast”, “overreach”, “dark mutterings”, “hyperbole”, “obsession”, “paranoia”, “folly”, “frets”, “paranoid conspiracy theories”, and “overreach”

Individuals Pondiscio agrees with, however, are “thoughtful”, “serious”, “sober”, and “principled.”

“Lessons on Common Core” effortlessly contradicts.[8] For example, Pondiscio supports the Common Core Standards for the “desperately needed” direction they provide teachers,

At a time when the nation’s 3.7 million teachers desperately needed help, when ‘What should we teach?’ was at long last being asked in earnest…

At the same time, he argues that standards really don’t matter much and good teachers ignore them completely,

Far more compelling arguments can be made not about how much Common Core matters, but how little.

To be upset by academic standards is to invest them with a power they neither have nor deserve. In my five years of teaching fifth graders, I never—not even once—reached for English language arts standards when deciding what to teach. … First things first: What is it you want to teach?

Pondiscio eases up a bit on his own “overheated” rhetoric for one book—the Pioneer Institute’s Drilling Through the Core. Perhaps not surprisingly, Drilling happens to be the only one among the six books written by authors one might legitimately characterize as elite—people Pondiscio might suppose he may need to work with sometime in the future—including a few individuals sometimes found inside his education reform tent, such as Stanford’s Williamson Evers.

Early on in his Education Next essay, and frequently in other venues, Pondiscio prominently brandishes his classroom teaching experience to establish his bona fides as a front-line educator. Moreover, on its website, the Fordham organizations proclaim.[9]

… we see much wisdom in “subsidiarity”— the doctrine that important matters ought to be handled by the competent authority that’s closest to the action, which in education usually means parents, teachers, and schools.

But teachers wrote the other five books Pondiscio reviewed, and he ridicules them mercilessly as ignorant rubes lacking the understanding that might qualify them to engage in a debate he believes to be beyond their intellectual reach.

Also unfortunately typical of Fordham essays on causes it is richly paid to promote: never once does Pondiscio mention his conflict of interest, nor those of Fordham.

As Joy Pullman, Managing Editor of The Federalist, describes the general problem.[10]

Common Core’s supporters are typically rich elites using their excess money to manipulate public opinion.

First, we have an obvious conflict of interest problem here. People deserve to know when a prominent official or self-proclaimed “expert” who is testifying before state legislatures or writing op-eds is making money from their persuasive efforts. It means their judgment is not entirely independent, even if they feel it so. Basic ethics requires someone with a financial or personal stake in the outcome of a public decision to recuse himself from participating in that decision. That has not been happening.

Second, it indicates rampant cronyism, which is a form of political and social corruption. We see that Common Core is infested with essentially the same set of people rewarding each other with taxpayer dollars and huge private grants, decades before there can be any proof that all this money laundering produced a genuine public good. Common Core is a giant experiment, remember. Bill Gates says he won’t know if his “education stuff” worked for “probably a decade.”[11] Former public officials (or semi-public officials, which is what I label the Common Core coauthors, because while we did not elect them we all must live with their decisions) are amply rewarded for doing what the rich and powerful wanted with sweet compensation packages following their “public service.”

Arguably, the Fordham organizations are the country’s most influential in education reform. Moreover, they have spun (or, purchased, depending on your point of view) a large, elaborate web of institutional and individual partnerships. A “common core” of people moves in, out, and across the groups. People inside the web know each other well, they share friends and enemies, and they owe each other favors. They are less likely to criticize others inside the network and, perhaps, more likely to criticize those outside the network.

Moreover, the network is replicating itself through such training vehicles as Fordham’s Emerging Education Policy Scholars Program.[12] If the graduates of these programs turn out to be just as censorial and clannish as some of those training them, our country can look forward to more narrow-mindedly conceived and hugely expensive white elephants like the Common Core Initiative.



[2] Finn, C.E. (December 1996). Farewell—And Hello Again. Network News & Views.

[3] The Education Gadfly. (March 29, 2011). “Fordham Dancetitute: Mike Petrilli takes the Fordham Institute in new directions,” YouTube.

[4] Ravitch, D. (June 11, 2012). “The day I was terminated.” Diane Ravitch’s Blog.

[5] Greene, Jay P. (Spring 2014). “Historian Ravitch Trades Fact for Fiction: Latest book indifferent to the standards of social science,” Education Next, 14(2).

[6] Pondiscio, R. (January 5, 2017). “Lessons on Common Core: Critical books offer more folly than wisdom,” Education Next.

[7] See also, Phelps, R.P. (July 2019). “Common Core’s Language Arts,” Missouri Education Watchdog.

[8] See also, Gass, J. (June 4, 2014). “To Be a National Curriculum, or Not to Be a National Curriculum: More Fordham-Finn Flip Flopping,” Pioneer Institute Blog.


[10] Pullman, J. (January 5, 2015). “Ten Common Core Promoters Laughing All The Way To The Bank,” The Federalist.



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New “science and society” podcast

ANNOUNCING: Critically Speaking, a new podcast series hosted by Therese Markow, who writes:      

” … we separate facts from fallacies at the intersection of science and society.

“Every day we make decisions that affect our own lives, those of our children and the lives of everyone on the planet. With the enormous amount of unfiltered, anecdotal ‘information’ accessible from numerous public sources, wouldn’t we want to make our decisions based upon solid scientific data, presented to us in terms we can understand?

“The goal of Critically Speaking is to bring you the results of sound investigations across a wide range of health and educational issues, through discussions with experts, to empower you to make the best decisions in your everyday lives.”

Posted in Curriculum & Instruction, Education journalism, Education policy, Higher Education, Richard P. Phelps, STEM, Wayne Bishop | Leave a comment

Keeping Journalists in the Dark: ‘Citation Cartels’ Limit Public Knowledge

Keeping Journalists in the Dark: ‘Citation Cartels’ Limit Public Knowledge

The public relies on journalists to learn about and share academic research. Public knowledge can be undermined, however, when academics try to influence what research journalists cover or limit the “acceptable debate” about an issue.

This influence can be achieved through “citation cartels,” where sympathetic researchers cite and reference one another and ignore or dismiss the high-quality research of others that reach different conclusions. Citation cartels belittle research they disagree with, rather than refute it. …

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Mathematics and Science Courses Required or Recommended for Admission into Engineering and Engineering Technology Programs at Massachusetts Institutions of Higher Education (2003)

This survey of the high school mathematics and science requirements for admission to the 11 colleges of engineering in Massachusetts in 2003 provides interesting facts in Tables 3 and 4. It is no longer clear if the required coursework is taught in high school mathematics and science departments in this country because of the “college-ready” tests now given in grades 10, 11, and/or 12 based on the standards in the Common Core and NGSS. Nor is it known what the mathematics and science requirements now are (if changed) for the traditional four-year undergraduate programs in this country’s engineering colleges.

This survey, compiled by Christine Shaw at the Massachusetts Department of Education in 2003, was undertaken to inform school districts in New England and elsewhere what mathematics and science coursework should be available in their high schools for students seeking to enroll in post-high school colleges of engineering in Massachusetts.

Posted in College prep, Curriculum & Instruction, Mathematics, Sandra Stotsky, STEM | Leave a comment

US Education’s Dominant Research Method: Cherry Picking Evidence

Posted in Censorship, Education policy, Education Reform, Richard P. Phelps | Leave a comment

The elitist strain in US education journalism

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There’s A Deeper Systemic Problem in the College Admissions Scandal No One Is Talking About

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Indoctrinating our youth: How a U.S. Public School Curriculum Skews the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Anti-Israel Indoctrination Continues In Newton Public High School

Posted in Censorship, Education policy, K-12, Sandra Stotsky, Social Studies | Leave a comment

News Flash! AL’s Senate Pro Tem, who has previously stopped all anti-CC bills, filed an anti-CC bill today

The AL Senate has 35 members; 27 sponsored it.

Posted in Betty Peters, Common Core, Curriculum & Instruction, Education policy, K-12 | Leave a comment

Links to articles on standards-based grading

Competency based ed which is the method that will come as an outgrowth of SBG. What is measured will improve.  So this from Peter Greene applies.

Posted in Curriculum & Instruction, Education Reform, K-12, Sandra Stotsky | Leave a comment

Interesting review of Arne Duncan’s book, by fellow Chicagoan Bill Ayers

Arne Doesn’t Learn
customer review, by Dr. William C. Ayers

If you pick up Arne Duncan’s How Schools Work hoping to learn something about, well, unsurprisingly I suppose, about “how schools work,” you’ll be sorely disappointed. There’s no policy prescription here, no substantive analysis whatsoever, and no actual accounts or examples of how schools work. Instead we’re treated to random stories that circulate around several stuttering themes: Duncan’s dismay and then anger when poor kids are told they’re doing OK by school people when in reality they don’t have the skills to go to college; his encounters with enraged parents that happily end when they chill out after he shows them that his heart is true and his intentions pure; and his insistent defense of “big data” and high stakes standardized tests when promoting his preferred school “reform” goals.

The subtitle isn’t especially helpful either: “An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation’s Longest-Serving Secretaries of Education.” That might have proved useful, but the reader searches in vain for fresh perspectives or insights, for some discovery or surprise, contradiction or conflict, for an inquiring mind thinking out loud as it engages a conversation with itself—anything at all that might be generative. What’s on offer instead is untroubled categories and settled conclusions. Arne Duncan learns nothing at all—neither in his many years at the helm of Chicago’s and then the nation’s schools, nor in the process of writing this personal account.

Failure and success? An inside account? A good memoir might fruitfully explore all of that, but it would have to be free from the brutality of dogma and self-righteousness, which Duncan can’t quite manage. He’s a dedicated corporate reformer, avidly endorsing the underlying thesis that education is a product to be sold at the market place rather than a fundamental human right and community responsibility, and embracing the entire triple threat: reducing the definition of school success (for other people’s children) to a single metric on a standardized test; marginalizing or crushing the collective voice of teachers; and auctioning off the public space to private managers and entrepreneurs. None of this is up for discussion or review, and that makes the entire account tedious and entirely predictable.

Duncan’s opening sentence is a calculated attention-getter: “Education runs on lies.” Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post points out that that sentence begs for the services of a good editor—education doesn’t run on lies, she says, so perhaps he means that the school system runs on lies; but since there’s no single school system in this country, perhaps he means specific schools run on lies. Whatever. It turns out “lies” is deployed as an all-purpose metaphor: the big lie (which he returns to again and again) is “social promotion,” moving kids along when they aren’t up to par or college-ready; other lies include the lie that poor kids can’t learn, manifest through low expectations by school people and politicians for children of the poor; the lie that self-serving teachers unions tell when they pretend to care more than a fig for the success of public school students; the lie spread by teacher educators that colleges of education effectively prepare teachers for classroom life. All lies according to Duncan. In support of the larger corporate reform agenda, Duncan dutifully side-steps any link (although well-established by authentic research and loads of data) between poverty or racial segregation and school success. Again and again he makes the dubious claim that test scores “don’t lie” and that the solutions to our various problems can be found in “big data”—selectively harvested to be sure.

The only “failure” Duncan will admit to is the classic “failure to communicate:” “Race to the Top” was “misunderstood,” parents and teachers didn’t understand the incredible value for their kids of regular standardized testing, and sometimes he “jammed my foot in my mouth.” He repeats this disingenuous self-criticism so often that it brings to mind the stuttering exchange between the Captain and the prisoner in the classic film “Cool Hand Luke”—every substantive conflict is dismissed with the Captain’s signature line uttered with utter contempt: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” The phrase is consistently issued by power to dodge the import of any conflict, and as prelude to doubling down on harsher sanctions and brutal punishments.

Arne Duncan’s children have always attended schools that work—public schools in the suburbs of Washington, elite private schools in Chicago— and these are schools with small class sizes, full arts programs, excellent facilities, and unionized teachers. Each of his kids is, of course, more than a score. Nothing wrong with any of that. The hypocrisy comes when he sets policy for other people’s children that never mentions class size or the value of the arts or the importance of teachers’ voices when it comes to school policy and practice. Duncan’s prescription for the rest of us is an anemic curriculum and a single-minded obsession with standardized tests.

We need to resist as we insist that in a democracy equality in education is a first principle, and that means that whatever the privileged and the powerful have for their children must become the baseline for what we as a community demand for all of our children. Nothing less.

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Missouri’s Show-Me Institute: Where Liberty (and Censorship?) Come First

Last year, in response to one of their blog posts, I submitted a comment to the think tank/advocacy group, the Show-Me Institute, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. I describe what I did, why, and what happened in a Nonpartisan Education Review essay ( ). Briefly, I warned the Institute that their blog post recommended a policy that would likely be found illegal in the courts. While a couple of other, purely supportive comments were published, my comment was shelved into “pending” status.

For several months. Finally, the Show-Me Institute simply deleted my submitted comment. Here it is:

“Before returning to the “good old days” of un-aligned, internally-administered, no-stakes (for students), national norm-referenced tests for systemwide evaluation, perhaps we should remind ourselves of what those days were really like. One can start by reading J.J. Cannell’s “Lake Wobegon Effect” reports here: . I’d also suggest my report on the same topic here: . The most important issue to keep in mind, however, is this: if any consequences apply to students, the tests must be aligned to state standards, otherwise the tests will probably be found illegal in the courts, as well they should be. It is simply not fair to evaluate students in any consequential way on material to which they have not been exposed. I do not mean to defend the current testing regime, which I also find unappealing. But, remember, it is this way because the majority party in Congress wanted it this way: .”

No nasty words. No personal attacks. Yet, somehow, someone at the ironically-named Show-Me Institute rationalized censoring this comment.

Richard P. Phelps

Posted in Censorship, Education policy, Education Reform, information suppression, partisanship, Richard P. Phelps, Testing/Assessment | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Letter to NPR’s Ari Shapiro and producers of their “individualized learning” podcast

From: Erich Martel
Sent: Sunday, November 25, 2018
To: ‘’

Dear Ari Shapiro and Individualized Learning (and Project Based Learning) Podcast Producers,

I want to make three points re “Individualized Learning” and all claims pertaining to education:

1) Always look for independent research.

Putting Students on the Path to Learning: The Case for Fully Guided Instruction:

Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching

Google neuroscientist Dan Willingham (UVA) and look at his series of articles, “Ask the cognitive scientist” in the quarterly American Educator:   (scroll down to Willingham)

2) Beware of educational programs described in euphemistic, feel-good language

A good example is “individualized learning”; it’s isolated computer driven learning. You should never employ a euphemism without explaining what it means in unvarnished, objective terms. Look up E.D. Hirsch’s jargon generator.

3) I was shocked to hear Chan and Zuckerberg quoted as education experts.

You have no reason to trust what they say about their facebook empire. There is even less reason to trust them on the subject of education:

See: Dale Russakoff, “The Prize: Who’s In Charge of America’s Schools?” which describes Zuckerberg’s $100M failed initiative in the Newark NJ public schools.

You already know a great deal about facebook’s role in the 2016 elections. The UK Parliament has just discovered even more evidence of Z’s irresponsibility:

I like NPR and many of its programs. I am, however, sick of hearing foundation ads on NPR that make claims (Walton, Edutopia, etc., etc.) that are not supported by independent research.

Erich Martel, Retired Washington, DC high school history teacher (1969-2011)

Posted in Censorship, constructivism, Curriculum & Instruction, Education journalism, Education policy, Erich Martel, information suppression, K-12, research ethics | Leave a comment

Common Core Collaborators: Six Organizational Portraits

New in the Nonpartisan Education Review:

Phelps, R. P. (2018). Common Core Collaborators: Six Organizational Portraits. Nonpartisan Education Review/Articles, 14(3–7).

– The Organization Named Achieve: Cradle of Common Core Cronyism
– The Council of Chief State School Officers and National Governors Association: Whom do they serve?
– Real Clear Propaganda: Bellwether’s Education News Bias
– The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Institute: Influence for Hire
– Does College Board Deserve Public Subsidies?

Posted in Censorship, College prep, Common Core, Curriculum & Instruction, Education journalism, Education policy, Education Reform, Higher Education, information suppression, K-12, partisanship, research ethics, Richard P. Phelps, Testing/Assessment | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

State of ELA under Common Core

The Fordham Institute just came out with its “research” on reading and writing under Common Core.

Fordham 2018 “research”

No mention of three baseline studies that preceded Common Core.

Stotsky, Goering, Jolliffe study of Arkansas high school English teachers’ assignments

Stotsky, Traffas, Woodworth study of national sample of high school English teachers’ assignments

National Endowment for the Arts, Reading At Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America

Pre-Common Core English teachers taught complete literary works—mostly appropriate for high school. Today they don’t teach complete works and we don’t know what they do teach since Fordham didn’t find out.

See also Peter Greene’s insights in Forbes, How Common Core Testing Damaged High School English Classes


Posted in Common Core, Curriculum & Instruction, Education Reform, information suppression, Reading & Writing, Sandra Stotsky | Leave a comment

My letter to Bill Gates on how to prepare students for algebra

May 17, 2018

Dear Mr. Gates,

You recently wrote, “Math is one area where we want to generate stronger evidence about what works. What would it take, for example, to get all kids to mastery of Algebra I?”

I believe I can answer your question. There have been two significant math studies done in the last decade, reaching very similar conclusions. The first was the National Mathematics Advisory Panel Report of 2008 commissioned by President George W. Bush. Here are some of their conclusions: students’ difficulty with fractions (including decimals and percents) is pervasive and a major obstacle to further progress in mathematics including algebra. The panel suggested curriculum should allow sufficient time to learn fractions, and teachers must know effective interventions for teaching fractions. Preparation of elementary and middle school teachers in mathematics needs to be strengthened; using elementary teachers who have specialized in elementary mathematics could be an alternative to increasing all elementary teachers’ math content knowledge by focusing the need for expertise on fewer teachers.

Another problem is that many textbooks are too long (700 to 1000 pages) and include non-mathematical content like photographs and motivational stories. Key topics should be built on a focused, coherent progression, and continual revisiting of topics year after year without closure should be avoided.

Lack of automatic recall in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division is a serious deficiency as is a lack of proficiency with whole numbers, fractions and certain aspects of geometry and measurement, which are the foundations for algebra. Of these, knowledge of fractions is the most important foundational skill not developed among American students.

The panel advised that algebra problems involving patterns be greatly reduced in state tests and on the NAEP assessment. Also districts should ensure that all prepared students have access to an authentic algebra course by 8th grade, and more students should be prepared to enroll in such a course by 8th grade.

The second important study, “Early Predictors of High School Mathematics Achievement” was published in June 14, 2012, and an article about it, entitled “Fractions are the key to math success, new study shows,” was posted at the Univ. of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research on June 18, 2012. Robert Siegler, a cognitive psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, was the lead author of this study which analyzed long-term data on more than 4,000 children from both the United States and the United Kingdom. It found students’ understanding of fractions and division at age 10 predicted algebra and overall math achievement in high school, even after statistically controlling for a wide range of factors including parents’ education and income and children’s age and I.Q.

Univ. of Michigan researcher Pamela Davis-Kean, the co-author of the study, said, “These findings demonstrate an immediate need to improve the teaching and learning of fractions and division.”

Dr. Siegler stated, “We suspected that early knowledge in these areas was absolutely crucial to later learning of more advanced mathematics, but did not have any evidence until now.”

I know how interested you and your wife are in improving education, especially in math, for our students. As a state school board representative, I understand the importance of getting our teachers and students on track immediately. I believe we can succeed, though, if we will follow the advice given in these two studies. I would certainly be glad to discuss this subject with you or your staff.


Betty Peters
107 Riveredge Parkway
Dothan AL 36303

PS. The two reports can be found online:

Posted in Betty Peters, Curriculum & Instruction, Education Reform, K-12, Mathematics | 2 Comments

Nation’s Report Card: Common Core delivering education stagnation

Nation’s Report Card: Common Core Delivering Education Stagnation

…at the Independent Voter Network website,

Posted in Common Core, Education Fraud, Education policy, Education Reform, Richard P. Phelps, Testing/Assessment | Tagged | Leave a comment

There are Only Two Sides to US Education Policy (Thanks to the Parties)

There are Only Two Sides to US Education Policy (Thanks to the Parties)

…at the Independent Voter Network website,

Posted in Censorship, Education policy, information suppression, K-12, partisanship, research ethics, Richard P. Phelps | Tagged , | Leave a comment

New in the Nonpartisan Education Review: Who watches the watchmen? Transparency might guard the integrity of the tests given by the National Assessment of Educational Progress

Who watches the watchmen? Transparency might guard the integrity of the tests given by the National Assessment of Educational Progress

by Sandra Stotsky

Posted in Censorship, Common Core, Education policy, information suppression, Sandra Stotsky, Testing/Assessment | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What I learned at the ResearchED (US) Media Panel

For those still unfamiliar with it, ResearchED is “a grass-roots, teacher led organisation” founded in the UK whose mission is to “raise research literacy, bring people together, promote collaboration, increase awareness, promote research, and explore what works.” It has also been stereotyped as criticizing progressive education pedagogies in favor of traditional pedagogies. To my observation, it accepts the best ideas from both camps that are based on solid evidence.

ResearchED is popular and well established in the UK. Groups have also organized in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and the US. US ResearchED held its second annual conference in New York City in October 2017. I was invited to lead one session and to participate in a panel on media coverage of education research.

In addition to myself—a frequent critic of US education journalism—the panel comprised a journalist, the head of an organization of journalists, and a moderator.

The main points I expressed:

There are two education establishments: the traditional public school coalition of education schools, unions, and administrator associations, and an education reform establishment, which relies on an extraordinarily small group of researchers, mostly academic economists and political scientists, to provide and interpret education research for them.

Both establishments aggressively suppress other education research, information, and points of view through selective referencing, dismissive reviews, citation cartels, tone policing, condescension, and character assassination.

Unfortunately, most nationally focused education journalists source their research stories from these two censorial groups and ignore the vast majority of available research and information. Moreover, journalists aid the information suppression whenever they print claims that a study they are covering is the first ever done on a topic (i.e., a firstness claim) or there exists no other research on the topic (i.e., a dismissive review). During the panel session, I accused education journalists of covering only those sources with money (and PR staff) behind them.

In their defense, the journalists’ association head asserted that they:

take money from a wide variety of sources, and

are open to receiving story tips from anyone.

The sourcing behavior she described seems to me remarkably passive. Note their donors all have money to give, and the amounts given range widely in size. What about those who cannot afford to “pay to play?”

As for their openness to story suggestions, of course some people and organizations know about pitching stories and many more do not. Some organizations with public relations staff are expert at this activity and make suggestions effectively and often. Moreover, aggressive career-focused researchers are more likely to feel such behavior—promoting their research with the media—is appropriate. By contrast, many, perhaps most, scholars feel that research discussions belong more properly in scholarly journals, and journalists should not be arbitrarily picking single studies from the research literature and suggesting policy conclusions based on them.

It worries me most that journalists might seem content to let story tipsters and large donors set their agenda. I would think that a truly independent press would set its own agenda.

My most memorable panel interactions, though, were with the moderator. He interjected a judgmental comment while I was speaking; cut me off twice; and planted a colleague in the audience who was certain to disagree with me (and subsequently did so).

The plant’s career has been made with money from the Gates Foundation and other Common Core funders. I have openly and thoroughly criticized the quality of his research work here and here.

As for the moderator, he heads an organization that, you guessed it, also takes money from prominent Common Core funders, including the Gates Foundation.

The moderator posed one question uniquely to me. He said some researchers he knows feel no need to read most education research because it is “crap.” I countered that much of their research is “crap,” too. But, I could have added a few more pertinent points:

  1. The “citation cartel” researchers I generally criticize for selective referencing and dismissive reviewing read very little past research, if one can judge by their citations. Generally, they read that done by others in their mutual back-scratching group and only a small amount done outside their group (typically that which rises above what I call the “celebrity research threshold,” that which is so well-known that it cannot be ignored). Moreover, they read little research conducted prior to the mid-1990s, when the World Wide Web was introduced.
  2. The researchers I criticize dismiss any research using qualitative methods (except on those occasions when they themselves employ such methods), such as: surveys, interviews, case studies, observations, and ethnographies. Those methods are not “rigorous,” they claim. By this logic, researchers using “not rigorous” methods include Charles Darwin, Jane Goodall, Albert Einstein, Dian Fossey, Franz Boas, Alexander von Humboldt, Edward Jenner, and Thomas Kuhn (and any other historian).
  3. Those I most criticize for selective referencing and dismissive reviewing ignore almost completely a century’s worth of research conducted by psychologists, in favor of that published in economics, political science, and education. So, to say that all the research they ignore is “crap,” is to identify a hundred years of psychologists’ research as crap. (Note that much of the motivation for ResearchED is to showcase the best education-related research conducted in psychology that has been routinely ignored by education school professors.)
  4. Judgments of what is or not “crap” seem to be made based entirely on methodology. In the education reform establishment, we have a set of researchers trained in data analysis, but with very little exposure to actual education activity. Some of them may have taught school for a year or two when they were young, but that’s it—no experience in education administration at any level. Lacking experience in the field, it would seem even more important that they read widely in the research literature. But, they don’t.

The hearty thanks I received from several separate, individual audience members afterwards suggested to me that I was not alone in feeling that press coverage of education research is rigged in favor of those with money and power.

Posted in Censorship, Curriculum & Instruction, Education journalism, Education policy, Education Writers Association, information suppression, K-12, research ethics, Richard P. Phelps | Leave a comment