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[Susan notes: Here is a good, strong letter. It is interesting to see what The Post chose to omit.]

Published in Washington Post
09/17/2009

To the editor

The Wrong Answer on School Reform



The Sept. 13 editorial on education "reform," Old School in Virginia, missed the mark terribly. Again. A reasonable person might think that misfire after misfire would result in The Post correcting its aim and getting it right, but he would be wrong.



The Post opined in favor of charter schools and merit pay for teachers as two of the critical elements of genuine education reform. But the research on the effectiveness of charter schools is, at best, mixed. In Washington, charter students don't perform any better than do regular public school students. In the D.C. test results released this summer, only 18 percent of public charter schools met adequate yearly progress, significantly worse than the performance of regular D.C. public schools. The research on merit pay is even clearer; it doesn't work (a good place to start is with Jeffrey Pfeffer's March 8, 2007, congressional testimony).



One need only look at the allegations of cheating in the D.C. schools under Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's policy of paying for test score improvement as a case study in what not to do to improve public education. It remains to be seen whether this issue will be thoroughly investigated.



The writer was a social studies and middle school specialist at the Virginia Department of Education from 1992 to 1995.



NOTE: The Post published the edited version (above) of this letter, as submitted.



The Washington Post editorial on education "reform" in Virginia ("Old School in Virginia, 9-13-09) missed the mark terribly. Again. A reasonable person might think that misfire after misfire would result in the Post correcting its aim and getting it right....but he'd wrong.



The Post opines in favor of charter schools and merit pay for teachers as two of the critical elements of genuine education reform. But the research on the effectiveness of charter schools is, at best, mixed. In Washington D.C., charter students don't perform any better than do regular public school students. In the D.C. tests results released this summer, only 18 percent public charter schools met adequate yearly progress, significantly worse than the performance of regular D.C. public schools. The research on merit pay is even clearer; it doesn't work (a good place to start is with Jeffrey Pfeffer's March 8, 2007 testimony to Congress on performance pay). One need only look at the cheating fiasco unfolding in the D.C. schools under Michelle Rhee's policy of paying for test score improvement as a case study in what NOT to do to improve public education.



The Washington Post newspaper is part of a larger entity (the Washington Post Company) that derives a majority of its profits from Kaplan, an educational and test-prep company. It really is time for Post editors to immerse themselves in the research and to editorialize responsibly.



After all, a newspaper's civic duty is to help educate the general public.



Mark Crockett


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