Paul Teske is dean of the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado at Denver
Alan didn’t ask me to write anything on this, but I want to weigh in on these recent discussions about Ed News, as 2010 comes to a close.
First, an advertisement for this site – I have found it to be a very compelling venue – now with fabulous news coverage of CDE, DPS and other districts, state board and legislature, and just a valuable one-stop for education news. The writers are excellent and tireless. As an experiment in “the new journalism” I think it is working very well.
Second, some related, but still shameless, self-promotion. I like Ed News so much that my school – the School of Public Affairs at UC Denver – has started a new health policy website – called Solutions – that has many similarities. It is edited by Diane Carman, former Denver Post reporter and columnist, who really came up with the idea, and Katie Kerwin McCrimmon is the main writer. (It is funded by the Colorado Health Foundation and the Piton Foundation). While not exactly the same as Ed News, we have learned much from Alan and PEBC’s efforts here, and I hope that many of you will go there, too, for Colorado health policy news.
Third, some thoughts about the blogs. As an academic, I’ve enjoyed blogging, and find it particularly useful to try to synthesize and express ideas and research concisely for a (hopefully) wider audience than I can usually engage in the world of academia.
I find the other blog posts helpful, and the discussion exchanges mostly valuable. The blogs on DPS board politics have been the most problematic for me – I’m not directly involved in those fights, and I do find their tone to be somewhat discouraging. But, most of the other blog posts seem to me legitimate efforts to insert data and ideas about reforms – charter schools, teacher evaluation, teacher pay, choice, funding, turnarounds, etc – into the state discussions.
The discussions have forced me to think about what I really believe about ed reform, an area that I think often times has to go well beyond what the research evidence, limited as it is on some of these topics, can tell us.
As an academic, I see my role as a skeptic (hopefully not a cynic). That is, I don’t think I should be a cheerleader for a particular set of reforms – there are such advocates, as there should be, and they play an important role. I generally favor the set of reforms much discussed at this site, mainly because I think much of the non-reform, status quo in education is unacceptable.
But I am skeptical about whether these reforms will really work, especially at a larger scale. They need to prove themselves, and while academic research is helpful in that domain, there isn’t yet enough of it, most of it isn’t good enough (largely due to data gaps, not researcher skills), and it lags the need for real –time decision-making. Any one study rarely decides an issue definitively.
I don’t have a problem with most of the tone of the blogs and comments. I think it is reasonable for advocates to ask others to defend what other changes they do support, if they oppose the reforms that form the core of this blog. Or to defend the status quo, if that is what we are left with. However I do think we should refrain from comments like – “my side is all about the kids, your side is about the adults” – “your reading of the evidence is wrong, this study proves it conclusively” – “because a district screwed something up in the past, they will screw up this new thing up.”
With blogs and comments, It can be far too easy to demonize those on the opposite side of the debate, just as it is to send quick angry emails, when you don’t see or know someone face-to-face. This is why I appreciated the couple of beer-blogger events Alan held, or the Colorado State of Mind/Ed News event where several of us got to talk face-to-face for the first time.
At the end of the day, I think the blog is very useful. I hope the commentators who have “left” will come back to the conversation, and we will keep discussing critical issues in this format.
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