Friday, May 23, 2008

Watch Amy Wilkins Change the Subject

Post, too, at SM.

Dan Brown asks a great question that does not get answered, even as Amy launches into an attack on the questioner. Wonder how come.

From Huffington Post:


A. G. Rud said...

I have no idea who Amy Wilkins is, but if that is the extent of her reaction to Brown's question, it is execrable. I wouldn't accept that in an undergraduate class, much less a blogging summit.

philip said...

Amy Wilkins is a "neointellectual."

"A willing tool on a veritable crusade" to borrow from Dewey's _The Public And It's Problems_.

Pimping an article on the topic here:

For more on Wilkins see Gerry Bracey:

Rachel said...

Despite the helpful outlines in various blogs, I have trouble keeping all the "players" in the ed-policy game straight...

But, leaving aside the fact that Wilkins completely ignored the (very good) question, there seems to be "heads I win - tails you lose" policy approach to teachers and staffing.

Sometimes TfA teachers are the solution to the achievement gap, and sometimes they are a symptom of a fundamentally broken system. Is it different people/positions arguing the two sides, or the same people at different times depending on the circumstances?

Jim Horn said...

To answer my own question, Amy, who is one of the two women fronting for Education Trust (which is directed by all men, by the way), does not want to talk about her preferred reform method of test-til-you-vomit (literally), which has cost so much pain and suffering for the poor children she purports to help.

She and Kati Haycock drank the high stakes kool-aid a long time back, and they have settled on the delusion that the reason that there is an achievement gap is that teachers and students just aren't trying hard enough.

Sherman Dorn said...

I don't think Wilkins' response is substantive or deep, but you can't tell much about her or Ed Trust from that short snippet, and I suspect there were plenty of sound bites at the event that a person could have grabbed from anyone.

Whether one agrees with Ed Trust or not, it is NOT an isolated organization, and anyone who finds shallowness in Ed Trust is going to have to explain why the National Council of La Raza and the Learning Disabilities Association are also strong supporters of NCLB.

That doesn't say that I agree with Ed Trust, NCLR, or LDA on NCLB (I certainly don't), but I'm concerned that the comments on this entry is devolving into sniping. I'd very much appreciate new information about Ed Trust, NCLR, and LDA's positions on accountability, teachers, etc.

Sherman Dorn said...

That should be "comments...are."

Kathryn M. Benson said...

Yes, but I was distressed at her dismissal of a legitimate question by lambasting a young teacher by vehemently denying his teaching abilities -- we eat our young.

Jim Horn said...

Methinks that your characterizations, Sherm, of my criticism of Amy sounds a bit like what Wilkins is doing in the clip--attacking the messenger.

I have never really seen myself as a sniper but, rather, as out in the open with both barrels blazing. I must admit that my blogging on EPB has been a kind of toned down gonzo scholarship, much less of the in-your-face kind of gas bag deflation that is SM's preferred mode. I have tried here, at least, to remain sensitive here to those who prefer their truths swaddled and approved by a majority.

Anyway, your case of La Raza and LDA supporting NCLB offer examples of how deep the delusion can go and how damaging that fantasy thinking can be. Ed Trust, indeed, has no monopoly on the kind of self-imposed blindness that allows, otherwise, sane and humane individuals, to applaud the "opportunity" for a child to be subjected to paper and pencil tests they can't read, or test forms that the child most likely would rather eat than bubble in. It is a clear example of ideological thinking raised to the level of alternative realities from beyond the dimension that we commonly refer to as reality based.

Of course, there are some who argue that their views are legitimate simply because they believe them. While this is fine in matters of religion, not all of us operate from a faith-based point of reference, particularly when it comes to education policy--or foreign policy, either, for that matter.

Rachel said...

Like the first commenter, I had no idea who Amy Wilkins was when I saw the video clip, or what her views on NCLB and testing were.

Aside from the point I brought up earlier about her specific argument, what struck me was that (a) she completely side-stepped an interesting question, (b) she did it in a particularly unpleasant way. It's one thing to dance around a question, it's another thing to use the questioner as the focus of a tirade. I don't think either of those tell me anything useful about the correctness of her views on educational policy -- but they do leave me feeling her comments in that exchange made an actively negative contribution to any substantive discussion of education reform.

I've been following education policy blog-o-sphere for the better part of a year now, and I'm really quite amazed by the extent to which similar attacks seem to pass for policy discussion.

Nancy Flanagan said...

Since the whole EdBlogger "forum" was an exercise in managed media anyway, it was interesting that the ED08 puppet masters chose the Brown-Wilkins exchange, where Brown comes off as earnest, and Wilkins seems to be catching flak for saying--nastily, granted--what lots of us have said about TFA/Fellows programs: why are we sending all of these first-year, unprepared teachers into the most challenging teaching situations?

It's worth looking up Dan Brown's remarks on Newt Gingrich's vitriolic contribution to the Blogger Forum (on the Huffington Post), if we want to collectively demonize the real bad guys, who are overt about doing damage to public schools.

As for people who argue that their (swaddled) views are true simply because they believe them-- this week, the Teacher Leaders Network has been debating whether this is the time for teachers to collectively speak up and out about the damage that testing is doing to kids, from up-close experience. We (and I mean all of us who would like to see radical transformations in education policy) may just have what John Kingdon called a policy window soon. If the administration turns over, there may alignment of opportunity and will, a chance to force a major shift in thinking about what the purposes and practice in schools should look like. We can't be spending our time and energy proving that NCLB was a right-wing privatization plot (even if it was). We need to be looking to moderate policymakers and moderate practitioners to push for positive and sweeping change.

It was heartening for me to read messages from dozens of teacher leaders contemplating best ways to learn from the failures of NCLB. Teachers aren't prone to activism (in spite of what the anti-social justice folks would have you believe), largely because they like being gainfully employed. Getting rid of NCLB, and having better policy to replace it, feels like a do-able thing, if there's a big tent around it.

dan dempsey said...

Real teaching is hard work. It is much easier to test.

I believe I read that the TfA teachers had a positive 0.2 standard deviation greater impact ( on of course test results) than the more qualified teachers doing the same job in the same environment. More fabulous data analysis of testing at work here.

So what is the point of all this?

Is Ms Wilkins working for a solution to the problem she poses? (or for that matter the question she ducked from Mr Brown)

Does she have a plan to get experienced teachers to leave their somewhat reasonable jobs to head for the inner-city environs where few teachers can last five years?

Can someone please direct me to someone working on a substantive answer to the problem that Ms Wilkins raised and provided no solutions for?

In Washington State, teachers find themselves in a system in which those making decisions often have insufficient knowledge to make satisfactory decisions. A job for State Wide ESD Math and Science coordinator was recently advertised at a salary of $100,000 to $130,000 per annum. This job required no content knowledge of either math or science in the job description. This is becoming quite typical rather than the exception. Many math coaches who know little math content but know the politically correct tune to whistle.

Teaching is hard work, especially in the environment created by the current wave of experts.

Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

The Math Underground

Anonymous said...

Seems kind of sleezy to edit brief clips of people and then proceed with innuendo.

Dan Brown was essentially giving Amy Wilkins a filibuster disguised as a question. Her response was to make the important points that very disadvantaged kids have a particular need for experienced and effective teachers and that our ed policies should work for those ends. Seems right on target.

Tom Bonney said...

You can't be right on target if you don't answer the right question. The question he asked pertains to high stakes testing. Not the appropriateness of a particular teacher in a particular school. Her response was patronizing. It doesn't matter if it was a short clip. Decent people do not begin to answer questions in the way that she did. She immediately assumed that all first year alternatively certified teachers have no teaching ability. Thanks for the support Ed Trust. All students, disadvantaged or not, need good teachers. Duh. But since when does experience count as the end all marker of ability? Bush has been president for 8 years and still sucks at it. The principal at my school grandfathered in, but there is no evidence that she has ever been in a classroom - even to the point of filling out observation materials for a teacher's class from her own office - without ever stepping into the teacher's classroom. (amazing!)
That clip was especially disheartening for the fact that even her ability to enter into discussion is severely lacking. Why would Brown want to further converse with someone like Wilkins? People who have no ability to engage in simple argument without using ad hominems and who clearly think (from what I gather on the trust website) that more data means better education have no place in educational policy.
I'm not going to try to figure out if Wilkins had a larger point. She lost the power to make a point when she starting speaking.

Anonymous said...

One reason why Brown might want to converse further with Amy Wilkins is that he could learn important things from her.

Ed Trust doesn't believe that more data automatically means better education and it is both foolish and bizarre to claim that is what Ed Trust believes.

Brown was simply making a speech under the pretense of asking a question.

Anonymous said...