Politics as a Barrier to Fairness in Educational Outcomes for Our Children

The following is a response to a course presentation on the Achievement Gap.

Until Dai Ellis spoke up, it seemed that the students and speakers were going to continue to mosey around the big elephant in the room that is responsible for stifling the progress of closing racial achievement gaps for our nation’s most vulnerable children.  Professor Roland Fryer told a narrative of how he’d presented several decisionmakers with his “vaccine” of five “common sense” interventions and how each turned him down, even though they had been initially interested in his achievement gap research because it had potential benefits for their communities.  And Professor Tom Payzant followed Fryer’s presentation by adding that parents and community members ought to be engaged in the process of turning around the lowest performing schools in order for reform efforts to be authentic to the communities with the most to benefit or loose from the interventions.  The former Boston Public Schools Superintendent also cautioned reformers to think about creative ways to replicate charter management organizations without also replicating the bureaucratic ills begotten to many school systems.  But until Mr. Ellis, CEO of Excel Academy “no excuses” charter schools network, advanced his two talking points ((1) “ideology kills” and (2) scaling up charter success is possible), the class conversation seemed mainly about the problem of the achievement gap and proffered solutions coming from research and practice.  The conversation would have never moved to the real takeaway lesson for the evening:  individuals from various backgrounds can become change-agents for the education systems in their communities.  The counterintuitive politics of education reform has made it increasingly difficult to deliver solutions that make our student outcomes more fair.