Here are the two concluding paragraphs from the Third Way memo in reply to my rather harsh critique of their report:
There are 52,860 public and charter schools that fall within our definition of middle-class schools, and they educate 25.7 million16 students. The message from Dr. Baker and the NEPC seems to be—let’s ignore them. In fact, let’s not even define them. Our view is that there is immense potential out there. These schools are failing in their basic mission—to become college factories.
From our perspective, college graduation rates of 31% and 23% in the second and third NSLP groupings, respectively—as our report presents—are unacceptable for America’s economic future. Clearly, the NEPC and Dr. Baker disagree and are satisfied with the status quo. We are not.
Yes, there it is. The insult of insults in reformyland! I am, as a result of critiquing their near criminal abuse of data, a… a… Status Quo-er!
Obviously, anyone (like me) who might take offense at such egregious representation of data must be a defender of the status quo. That is the worst offense in today’s reform debate. Especially if the egregious abuse of data was done with good intentions? Right? Done with the good intentions of letting the American public understand just how awful their schools are! They need to know. America needs to know! And now! This can’t wait! Even if we have to classify information illogically or draw conclusions that don’t even match our data?
Look, bad data analyses and bombastic conclusions about our supposed education apocalypse do little or nothing to start a genuine conversation about either the true current conditions of our schools or whether we should be considering systemic changes.
Often, such crisis mode reporting has as its central objective, encouraging the public and policymakers to act in haste and adopt ill-conceived (often self-serving) policy before they know what’s really going on. That is, let’s get in a panic and adopt something really stupid and fast. Any reader should be wary of and evaluate critically crisis-mode reports like the Third Way middle class report. Some such reports may ultimately reveal important issues and some even with a degree of immediacy. Third Way’s report reveals neither.