Last Minute SOTU Rewrite: Forget More Math and Science Grads -- We Need More Psychometricians! (Drink!)

It's an Eduwonk/Education Sector trifecta: a great new Education Sector report on testing and NCLB just in time for the State of the Union, a funny correction in Education Week, and a blistering (well, not really) commentary on Eduwonk's claims of quasi-journalistic cred.


First things first. The Ed Sector's Tom Toch's written a really interesting new report on how the testing industry has reponded to NCLB, and what the practical and political ramifications are.

I have only skimmed it, but there's good new stuff in there that most of us don't know or need to be reminded about: just a few companies dominate the testing industry, low-cost testing is all the rage, there aren't enough testing experts being trained, federal funding isn't enough, errors are still a problem for many states. You get the idea. Fuel for all sides of this debate. It reminds me of the great series on the testing industry Jacques Steinberg did in the NYT circa 2001 that some may remember. Well, sorta. (See EW writeup here: U.S. Should Do More to Aid States in Developing Tests, Report Says).

Next, in the category of light humor, comes the EdWeek correction sent in by an eagle-eyed friend. It reads as follows: "A story on U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in the Jan. 18, 2006, issue ("Yearly Progress,") described Education Sector as a strong supporter of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The Washington-based think tank does not take positions for or against policies."

Ah, corrections. They reveal even as they correct. This one is particularly illuminating -- and ineffective. Like lots of organizations, the Sector wants to be free, free. This is for lots of reasons -- political and financial among them. And, technically at least, the Sector hasn't been around long enough to have taken a position on anything officially. I doubt it ever will. But I don't think anyone will be fooled by this particular fig leaf, and I'm not sure Rotherham and Toch care. They had to ask for the correction, and it was kind of EW to run it.

Last but not least, there's that lengthy post Eduwonk published on Monday in response to a post of mine, describing among other things to what Rotherham thinks should and shouldn't get put into a blog.

I have some sense that the post is in some indirect way a response to the sundry pot shots I've been taking at Eduwonk over the past few months on policy and political issues, including: Taking Bets On Big Education News, Eduwonk Catches Up on Frist Grants, NYT Writers Assailed By Left and Center, Washington's Newest Education Group Reveals Itself With New Report.

That's fine. I like the attention. And the message of Eduwonk's post is pretty clear: Eduwonk knows many, many things, doesn't publish them without prior approval and unless they're really, really interesting, and you can keep talking to him without any fear of being outed. Watch out for others like me who might not follow such strict (impossible?) standards.

That's great -- nothing really objectionable or even controversial there. I wouldn't have written the original post if I was inclined towards burning sources and telling other peoples' secrets.

Still, it seems strange to get this particular speech from this particular source. The post Rotherham is responding to has to do with what are essentially journalistic issues -- sourcing, attribution, and confidentiality. And as you can see below in the comments section below the original post, most of those who chose to weigh in are working reporters.

In the world of journalism, Eduwonk is a source, not a journalist. His views on that experience would be incredibly interesting, but we don't get them.

Most striking, however, is the way Eduwonk details the pressures that some journalists and bloggers feel for scoops and big stories but writes as if he is not under very similiar if not more intense competitive pressures himself -- from other education shops, from funders who want new and interesting ideas for their money, and from those whose ideological and political views he wants to distinguish himself from. The competitors may be different, and the currency as well, but the basic dynamic is not so different whether you're a journalist or a policy wonk.

More about this later. Now I just need to choose which State of the Union drinking game to play.


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