Six Years Under the Masthead: Farewell to Ed Week
This post marks my last appearance at Education Week, after six eventful years. The summer of 2008 was the beginning of Living in Dialogue, launched with the help of John Norton. In that first year, I wrote about the presidential candidates, including Barack Obama, and once President Obama was elected, suggested he select either Linda Darling Hammond or Pedro Noguera to serve as Secretary of Education.
In the summer of 2009, I wrote about the process underway to write Common Core standards, in a post called "The Secret 60 Prepare to Write Standards for Fifty Million." That fall, after seeing the launch of the misguided Race to the Top contest for billions, I wrote an open letter to President Obama, and invited others to do the same. We wrote of the continuation of the worst aspects of No Child Left Behind, the overemphasis on test scores and school closures. I used Living in Dialogue as a place to collect letters, and started a Facebook group as well, to discuss the issues, and galvanize action. Living in Dialogue ran dozens of letters, and a collection of more than a hundred was sent to the president and his Secretary of Education. In the spring of 2010, a representative group had the chance for a phone call with Secretary Duncan. We worked hard to develop the points we wanted to make, but when the call came, we were disappointed. We did not feel heard, and our concerns were never seriously addressed by the administration.
In 2011, frustrated by this direction, Living in Dialogue helped build for the Save Our Schools March in Washington, DC. I was involved in organizing the march, and ran interviews with activists and leaders like John Kuhn, Alfie Kohn, and Pedro Noguera. The protest was attended by more than 5000 activists, and was the largest such demonstration of the decade.
In February of 2012, I pointed out that President Obama had attacked his own policies in remarks at a town hall, where he said we "test too much," and perhaps should only test every other year. An assistant press secretary at the Department of Education shot me an irritated email, suggesting I ought to correct my post, because, according to him, the Department of Education and President Obama were fully aligned. I asked if he would clarify the Department of Education's position on several key points, and actually got some answers.
Around that same time I was also challenging the role of the Gates Foundation in promoting teacher evaluations based on test scores, and I connected with someone inside that organization. We initiated a dialogue that went public in the summer of 2012, in a series of five exchanges on hot issues in education. These issues will be explored in more depth in my forthcoming book, "The Educator and the Oligarch, a Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation."
In the past year Living in Dialogue has brought to light some troubling manifestations of "reform." I shared the story of conditions at a San Diego charter school, and a guest post from Darcy Bedortha brought to light the poor learning environment offered by K12 virtual charter schools.
From the start, Living in Dialogue has covered the Common Core project with a critical perspective informed by a decade of No Child Left Behind. Good intentions are never enough when the heavy hand of standardized tests are involved. Over the past two years, we have discussed and debated, heard from supporters and opponents, and responded to every twist and turn. These posts earned this blog a first place award from the Education Writers Association, and its third John Swett award from the California Teachers Association.
I have also written, as a career member of NEA and the California Teachers Association, about teacher unions and the important rights that unions defend. And I have written critically about actions and positions our union leaders have taken.
This blog has never shied away from controversy, and to its credit, Education Week has always been supportive. When I took on the Obama administration, I earned that vigorous disclaimer up in the corner. But my editor, Anthony Rebora, has worked closely with me to make sure my perspective, and those of scores of guest posters could be heard. All of my existing posts will continue to be available here on Education Week/Teacher, so any links to them will continue to work.
I am happy to report that Education Week will continue to share critical perspectives on education reform, and will be adding several new blogs this fall, including the work of Peter Greene, whose Curmudgucation blog has become a must read.
I have decided to say farewell to Education Week in order to launch the new Living in Dialogue, an independent blog that will build on the tradition established in this space. I will be joined there by videographer Vincent Precht, who will host a video feature, and many of the guests who have shared here in recent years. Please come over, contribute your voice, discuss and engage in Living in Dialogue, the next generation. (and you can find Living in Dialogue on Facebook and Twitter as well!)
What do you think of the last six years of Living in Dialogue? What do you hope to see in the next generation of this blog?