April 12, 2021

TC Weber: The Continual Repackaging and Reselling of Education Policy

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TC Weber blogs at Dad Gone Wild, where he keeps an eye on reform shenanigans in Tennessee. In this post, he notices that some of the new solutions being proposed are not actually all that new.

For decades now, those outside the classroom have been trotting out new and improved options of old ideas, touting them as the secret ingredient in the secret sauce. A look under the hood though, quickly reveals that what’s really being offered, is just more of the same. But with prettier colors.

“No, no, no, that was lo-dosage tutoring. This is completely different. Much better. You can write the check out to I Love Kids inc.”

This past week, I took the time to view MNPS’s Community Literacy Engagement Training video, presented by Dr. David Williams and Dr. Mason Bellamy of Metro Nashville Public Schools with Erica Mitchell and Leslie Watt of United Way of Greater Nashville. The new video was produced to educate parents and community members about MNPS’s impending curriculum switch for K-5 literacy.

He also reflects on the way that some reformers just keep coming back.

During my drinking days we used to have an unwritten rule that if you acted a fool in a place the night before, it was essential that you walked into the same establishment the very next day as if nothing had happened. You never acknowledged the boorish behavior from the previous evening and demanded that you be treated as if it never happen. Stay away for a day, and people might talk about your behavior and cast you in a disparaging light. Politicians call that controlling the narrative before somebody else assumes control. 98% of the time it worked and apparently it works with education policy as well.

Looking around at the numerous non-profits that currently exert influence over Tennessee education policy, you’ll see a familiar cast of characters. Be it Education Trust, SCORE, TNTP, TFA, NIET, Scarlet Foundation, or Instructional Partners, you’ll recognize a familiar cast of characters pushing the last self-enriching product. It might have once been Common Core but “High-Quality Instructional Materials”will serve the same purpose equally as well.

The New Teacher Project was among the first to read the writing on the wall and propose the next train leaving the station. They jumped out with the Opportunity Gap, a PR piece masquerading as a research paper, which argued the merits of Common Core while attributing its shortcomings to the lack of “High-Quality” instructional materials. Thus the next marketing term was born.

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