I am just like the optimistic, problem-solving spirits that want and believe we can fix education. I am also like the hard-look, cautious, and critical realists that demand our solutions to be complete, robust, and honest. So when I hear the message from Rothstein‘s “Class and Schools” is that there is no schooling model that we can use to indicate how to teach disadvantaged minority, low-income children well across subjects in consistent years (so stop looking), I come to a standstill. I am not moved to throw stones nor am I moved to shout Amen. One of those, “ok, so what do I do with this?” moments set in. It forces me to come back around to the paper’s shouting opener that there is a design flaw within value-added approaches to measure teachers’ ability to move students. I am left in a place where I am (1) a bit disappointed and (2) asking “who is the intended audience for this piece?”, “What does the author seek to accomplish?”, and “Does this help or hurt the work of these education actors?”
For transparency and integrity reasons, many should read and consider Rothstein’s piece. Information is powerful—it can make people more cognizant of their messaging and consumers more demanding of their sources. Having information about reform outcomes is like sprinkling disinfectant over veils of benign ignorance: It’s better than not knowing. However, I do fear that such “guess what” news will turn people off to ideas of innovation—or worse, give ammunition to those who would rather we stop making education excellence and equity discussions such a big deal. But after data and independent variables have been disaggregated about model schools, charter performance, and student achievement, I believe there can still be resolve (and rationality) to keep at the goal of finding solutions. Even if that resolve comes from no other reason than there is no next best alternative: if we stop trying, what else are we going to do?