Is Eduwonk "In The Tank"? It Sure Seems So.

Yesterday afternoon, an annoyed-sounding Eduwonk called me a malcontent for saying he was picked to come to a USDE lunch because they knew he'd spin it favorably. (I sure am. He certainly did.)

The underlying issue here is that there's a conflict between how Eduwonk presents himself and what he actually does on his blog. He claims to be an independent, honest broker who'll say anything about anyone, but if he really did that he'd piss off a lot of people he likes and needs: his think tank friends (Gordon or Dannenberg or Petrilli or Hess), his foundation patrons (Gates' Tom Vander Ark, HP's Mike Smith), or the politically powerful (Clinton, Obama, Warner, Kennedy, Miller). Hell, he won't even go after Spellings, who was obviously using him and offers nothing more than being asked to the next fancy lunch briefing. So he just doesn't do that.

Most people who know Washington get this intuitively and are merely annoyed by the protestations of independence and claims of candor, but it's still not really honest to those readers who believe him when he says he's providing the whole story or who are looking for a honest, warts-and-all discussion of what's going on inside Washington's ed policy world.

UPDATE: Eduwonk's response here. It's hard to tell -- he's mad at me and there are some incoherent parts -- but I think he's conceding the point. He says people already know what they are and aren't getting from his site. He doesn't give any examples where he's actually taken on any of his centrist Dem or think tank buddies. Meanwhile, there are some interesting opinions in the comments section below, and an item from School Me that puts us in our place (Fight! Fight!). Not content to let things die down, Michele over at the AFT blog hints at the homoerotic subtext of the while thing. Check it out.


Blogger Scott W. Somerville said...

The good news, though, is that bloggers can adjust for this kind of stuff. I'm an attorney at the Home School Legal Defense Association by day, so my blog is bound to toe the HSLDA party line, but people sort of expect that.

Full disclosure is the answer.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Alexander Russo said...

thanks for your comment, scott. disclosure is part of it, i agree, but so is not claiming to deliver more than you really can. that's my concern here.

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think most people who read Eduwonk regularly know he has a point of view on most issues and know what it is. And if they don't, you can find a pretty good summary on Education Sector's homepage.

And while your point is well taken about not wanting piss off certain people, you come close to suggesting that you have to be critical of everyone and everything in order to be independent - but that's not really independence, either. In any case, we'd expect you to get upset when Eduwonk doesn't wail on growth models, because it's clear you're almost completely against them. Maybe this is more a case of conflicting points of view...

1:41 PM  
Blogger Alexander Russo said...

thanks for your comments, mr. anonymous --

yes, andy and i disagree about whether the growth model is a good thing. but this isn't really about that.

you make a very good point that being against everything isn't being independent, either. but you gotta be against something sometime. name me a time where andy's ever crossed or stood up to a friend, ally, or patron.

again, i don't mind andy's point of view. but it's more than that -- it's a vested interest -- and he's so unclear about that i worry that folks won't understand.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous DSW said...

Ease up on Andy. He spent years referring to "value-added" in skeptical quotes. As intellectuals, are we not allowed to change our minds, if only slightly?

Since 2001, there have been great methodological developments that address Rep. Miller's concerns that "with growth models, kids are always becoming but never arriving." In light of those developments, a pilot makes sense. Teachers love value-added because it allows them to see data on a kid over time and to know what their contribution is (and has been) to a student's achievement. It means they'll take a look at test scores in a way many of them previously have not.

Andy was invited because the blog is influential. Your criticisms make it seem as if you're jealous that the Secretary reads Eduwonk and not This Week In Education.

Maybe if you did some REPORTING and talked to folks in NC and TN, you'd know that they've run the numbers and see that this doesn't reduce the # of schools missing AYP.


5:42 PM  
Blogger Alexander Russo said...

thanks for your comment, DSW -- and for the context about the changes in technology on value added.

like i said before, however, this isn't really about the growth model.

but you're right that i should ease up, and so i will.

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haha, the Secretary doesnt read blogs.....their are plenty of politcos at the Ed Dept. to do that for her

12:09 PM  

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