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eduwonkette hangs up her cape


Today, dear readers, I'm hanging up my cape. I'm joining the Sociology department at NYU this fall, and have a dissertation to wrap up that needs my undivided attention.

Last night, I peeked back at my initial post in September 2007:
Rather than stepping into [education policy's] ideological boxing ring, this blog takes a different approach. eduwonkette will consider some of the most contentious education policy debates from a different perspective....My hope is that this blog provides a forum for a broader discussion about the possibilities for, and barriers to, improving schools for American children. But eduwonkette is not all about being wonky. We'll have some fun, too.
I never imagined that this blog would turn out to be the amazingly dynamic forum that it has become, and have all of you to thank for that. It's been a heckuva lot of fun.

I'm grateful to Education Week for hosting me over the last year, and especially thank Ed Week's Jeanne McCann, who has been incredibly supportive of this blog in all matters big and small.

And I couldn't have wished for a better blogging partner than Aaron Pallas, aka skoolboy. His wit and wisdom will live on over at Gotham Schools, where he will be occasionally blogging.

So I guess this is goodbye, at least for now. I'll leave you with some classic superhero fare:
Harvey Dent: We've received a letter from Batman this morning. "Please inform the citizens of Gotham that Gotham City has earned a rest from crime. But if the forces of evil should rise again to cast a shadow on the heart of the city, call me."

Oh, no. No.

Who will make statistics sing? Who will take on the nattering nabobs of educational negativism, the Big Names who blog to hear their own wonky voices? Who will simplify arguments for those who believe that complicated and quantitative = correct? I am, quite literally, crushed.

NYU students had better appreciate you. Thanks for some pretty amazing thinking and a light touch.

Your devoted fan,
Nancy Flanagan

Thank you for all your fine work here. I will miss your incisive insight, your skepticism, your light but sharp humor, and, above all, your deep concern for the children who suffer when our public schools become, shall we say politely, clusterfucks.

All the best!

Really? And good luck.

Congrats Jennifer on a very well done blog, and continued success at NYU. I've certainly appreciated your perspective and enjoyed reading your posts.

Take care,

Paul DiPerna

You will be sorely missed. Thanks for all your great work, and good luck with your dissertation and new gig!

It's a sad day in the education blogosphere.

Boo hoo! But I bet you will be back. Eduwonkette the sequel?

Congratulations on your new gig! Good luck with finishing the dissertation, and thank you for providing 16 great months of blogging.

I'm stunned, speechless and sad. I'll get around to being happy for you eventually, but what a blow! Say it ain't so!

Congrats and good luck. You'll be missed.

Say it aint so.

Before your leave can you get schoolboy to pick up the torch?

I am very sad to hear about the blog but respect your decision. Undivided attention is indeed a must for certain projects. And congratulations on joining the Sociology Department! My words are clumsy in this start-of-school-day fluster, but best wishes to you and thank you for this wonderful blog.

Diana Senechal

We'll all follow your work closely in whatever venue you publish.

Man! It's hard to wish you congratulations at the cost of losing your blog. But good luck, and congratulations, all the same. I've learned a great deal from your blog, and really appreciate the time you've put into it.

Congratulations Jennifer on your new position. When are you headed back to Texas?

You'll be missed. I hope our Klieg searchlight works if we need your services!

Whoa, I had no idea you were departing. There's a profession more respectable and better paying than blogging? I guess so, and you appear to have found it. Good luck, and we'll miss you.

Richard Whitmire

Oh, Jennifer--you leave a hole in my day. Thanks for showing that blogging anonymously can have relevance in the world.

Congratulations and good luck to you. But very bad luck for education. Yours was the most knowledgeable, intelligent and fair-minded blog around. And you proved that complex research (and thoughts) could indeed be conveyed clearly. Come baaaack! Education crime is still rampant in Gotham and throughout the land!

I have enjoyed this blog and learned much from it. Thank you so much for the experience and good luck at NYU!

Dear Eduwonkette,

You will be missed by your devoted readers! If you leave only when the forces of evil no longer darken the skies of Gotham City, then you can't go. We still need you.

Diane R

Eduwonkette: I'm so bummed you're leaving the blogosphere. I love reading your blogs and all the comments. If you ever feel the urge to post again, please succumb! Good luck at NYU and congrats.

I understand about the dissertation and all that, but we'll miss you!!!

Here's hoping that you rejoin us when you're Dr. Eduwonkette!

Dear Eduwonkette,

Thank you so very, very much for your many insightful posts. I wish you the best of luck at NYU and feel confident that you'll offer the world great perspectives in whatever you do next!

We'll miss you... thank you for doing the blog and good luck on your next 'chapter'.

We'll miss you in the edublogosphere. You'll always be welcome in my comments section.

Congratulations on getting a paying job.

I echo Joanne Jacobs!

I loved the mystery of your identity, and when you were unmasked I figured you would soon be claimed by academe (though you were stretching its boundaries so beautifully!). But here in practitionerland we have a crying need for you and others like you at the universities who have their feet firmly planted and their empahty for students and teachers so alive. Do not disappear, dear Eduwonkette! Finish that dissertation thang and then please come back in some guise. We really came to rely on you. Thank you.

Best of luck to you!


You put a great deal of effort into this project and it showed. It was an education just attempting to keep up with you on a regular basis.

Congratulations and all the best for the future.

Paul Hoss

Like everyone here, I am sorry you will not be blogging, but agree that you are making a wise choice. Finishing your dissertation is the key to your future and NYU is not a bad place to make money while you do it.

Since no one else has dared to offer any advice, I will. As you know, anonymity gives people a chance to say what they really mean without the fear of reprisal. So, let me offer this anonymous advice. Whatever else you do with the rest of your life, do not become any of the people your critics once imagined you to be.

As you recall, before your unmasking, many of the people behind the studies and press releases and policy "think" tanks you reviewed tried to guess who you were. What did they guess? Some thought you were a policy wonk whose only interest in data was to score political points. They speculated as to who might be funding you; some wondered about EdWeek's motivation. Others thought you were a disgruntled DOE employee out to settle a personal vendetta against certain people. Some thought that, given your actual skills with data, you were a tenured academic, an ivory tower radical set to bring down the system without any concern for what might be built to replace it.

These are people who commonly battle it out in educational research "debates." Is it any wonder your critics assumed you were one of them? But the critics were wrong.

Do you recall what bothered them most? They couldn't figure out whose side you were on. After all, everyone on both sides of these issues has a vested interest in keeping this battle alive. If schools are not broken, who would be paid to fix them, who would be paid to report that the fix did or did not fix it, and who could build a coalition to fight the fixers or organize those who really believe in fixing? The game is called "cops and robbers." There is no game called "robbers" because that is not much of a game. But you didn't want to play the policy game. All you cared about was data.

And you had a secret weapon, the ultimate superhero advantage: Your future and your past were not dependent on the outcome. Consider the work of some people twice your age who have spent a professional lifetime dedicated to a hypothesis that does not seem to supported by the data, most of which has been gathered too late in their careers for them to turn back. Consider the people whose reputations are built on their being the "data guru," but who you have exposed as being perhaps one standard error below proficient in that role. Even some people your own age are already invested. Consider the work of some people your own age whose dissertations started with a policy conclusion and ended with a lot of data massaging, the numbers caressed until they could provide their funders with a happy ending.

You weren't invested. You could follow the data. If your hypothesis was supported, you could report that. If your hypothesis was not supported, you could report that. In the blogosphere, you can even publish null results, something not as widely accepted in the academic world.

But soon you will become a bit more like your critics. As you grow in your academic career, you will find that certain results, certain publications, lead to opportunities. A sincere, scientific paper might result in a paid speaking engagement. A line of research on some policy might lead to an offer to head a new research department. In the academy, work that supports the current wisdom will help to secure your tenure. Success supporting a hypothesis may bring offers to edit a journal, write a book, or, who knows, become Dean. Success in the academic world may even lead to offers of much more money from a think tank or policy group, especially for someone who can communicate to a large audience. Oh, the places you could go -- with all that money!

Soon, you will enter the world in which your critics live. You have visited many times, but soon you, too, will be a resident. No more green card. Full voting rights. Fully invested in the game.

So, how do you avoid becoming any of the people your critics thought you were? Here is the secret. Never forget how to let go of a bad hypothesis. The world of educational research is full of people who must, absolutely must, be right. Their reputations, their careers, their salaries, their retirement, and their personal relationships -- their entire lives are dependent on being right about a hypothesis. Never allow yourself to fall into a position in which you become a slave to a hypothesis.

Years from now, remember that your critics tried to attack you here by proving, just once, that you were wrong about something. Any little analytical error would suffice, even if it was because they had provided you with the wrong data. They thought that by showing you were wrong, they could destroy you. In their world, being right is all that matters, regardless of the data.

The policy wonk, dependent on funders; the disgruntled employee, obsessed with petty squabbles; and the ivory tower radical fighting the system all have one thing in common. None of them can afford to admit when they are wrong. If you think about your heroes, even those who have been in this game for 20 or 30 years, you might realize that they all are people who are still willing to admit when they are wrong. Some of them are blogging, just around the corner...

Remember: Being right is a good defense, but being able to admit that you are wrong is the best defense. It is the secret superhuman strength that all real researchers possess. You have it now. It is yours to lose.

Like others here, I, too, look forward to hearing about your work and hope you will continue to contribute to educational research in the years to come. I hope that you are always right about everything. But the only sure proof that you have not become who your critics wanted you to be will be in the times when you report that you were wrong. I doubt you'll need to say it often, but you will find a great strength in saying it when you do.

Good Luck,

Anonymous Still

We'll miss you here in Gotham - you have done parents and teachers such a service by unveiling the manipulations of Klein and company. Glad to know that you have landed safely at NYU - now stop reading and GET THAT DISS DONE! (I'm just finishing mine, so I can way empathize.)

The economic model for print education reporting is failing. You don’t have to look so far for evidence: layoffs at Education Week, the elimination of The Times’ education column, and the down-sizing of regional newspapers. In the past two years (and often from the ashes of print reporting), education blogging has taken off, but it hasn’t yet found a sustainable way. The business model for education blogging still has a ways to go. Whatever our education media looks like in the future, I hope that Eduwonkette will be a part of it.

For now, I'll miss this blog. :(

Your research-based focus will be sorely missed!

I'm so sad to hear that you're hanging up your cape! Your always insightful, research-based posts will be missed. You kept people honest. Best of luck to you!

I'm so sad to hear that you're hanging up your cape! Your always insightful, research-based posts will be missed. You kept people honest. Best of luck to you!

People think that teachers don't read the stats. They think that teachers wouldn't read your blog because it is too "academic" and they simply don't care. Teachers do read the stats, and do care about student performance. However, teachers are tired, after eight years, of being held accountable for stats they can't change.

Teachers are not responsible for making the curriculum decisions that affect students.

They are not responsible for making decisions about lack of parental involvement, they can only notify parents via telephone or mail about their child's progress.

They are not responsible for the severe discipline issues they confront every day when they are trying to teach.

They are not responsible for absenteeism.

They are not responsible for the lack of resources in the classroom (pencils and paper...forget computers).

They are not responsible for the horrific physical conditions in which they and their students spend the day.

Stats don't mean much when no one seems to care about the child.

Oh no! But thank you.

I was hoping that you would shed some light on the new Teacher Reporting system.... see my recent post. I need a your stats mind to look into this.

Oh no! But thank you.

I was hoping that you would shed some light on the new Teacher Reporting system.... see my recent post. I need a your stats mind to look into this.

Oh friend! I am sad to see you go, but happy for you and all that you have to look forward to. Hopefully we will be able to connect again sometime soon! Good luck!

"Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire."
-- W. B. Yeats

Best Wishes

Ah, we will miss you!

So sorry to see the blog go but also so glad you are still local as I feared you'd be sent to Siberia for a gig. Looking forward to reading that great book one day and to the results of your dissitation.


You have truly been an inspiration.

Sorry to see you leave. It was a dynamite blog.

Good luck, Professor!

Say it ain't so! Where will I send my students for stats analysis on the DOE "reforms"?????

Adding my thanks, congratulations, and regrets to all the others. You've been an island of rigor and common sense in a sea of muddle. And you made me laugh.

Good luck.

If you get a little time, try a little substitute teaching in your local public school.

You'll get a whole new perspective.

Congrats Jennifer, stay strong down the homestretch finishing the dissertation, good luck at NYU, and I look forward to reading your published papers in the top journals! This blog may be gone, but you, and the high quality of debate that you fostered, will not be forgotten.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Donnell Butler: Congrats Jennifer, stay strong down the homestretch finishing the dissertation, read more
  • EdWonk: Good luck. If you get a little time, try a read more
  • David Shookhoff: Adding my thanks, congratulations, and regrets to all the others. read more
  • Citizen X: Say it ain't so! Where will I send my students read more
  • GP: Sorry to see you leave. It was a dynamite blog. read more




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