Michael Winerip bails: Apparently, we can’t have nice things, just like Poundstone said.
For the past several years, Michael Winerip’s On Education column was one of the outposts of sanity in the mainstream press. (Unless you were part of the liberal world, in which case his topic doesn’t exist.)
Apparently, we can’t have nice things! Monday, at the end of his latest column, Winerip hit us with this:
WINERIP (6/11/12): This is my last education column. Again. The first time, in the early 1990s, politicians wanted to make our system more like Japan’s. (This was right before the Japanese economic collapse.)It’s disappointing that the column will go. But the analysts complained even more bitterly about those parting pronouncements.
A decade later, they devised a system to punish teachers if every child in America wasn’t academically proficient. Now they’re developing a standardized test to evaluate high school band teachers. And through it all, teachers have continued to educate children, and children have continued to learn.
Come fall, I will start a new assignment.
We have no idea what the snark about Japan’s collapse was supposed to mean. But how about the shot which followed?
“Through it all, teachers have continued to educate children, and children have continued to learn?” Who would have doubted that?
The question has never been whether children are learning. The question has always been how much they are learning. Regarding that question, we had always dreamed that Winerip might be the person who would tackle a basic conundrum:
What should we think about the substantial rise in reading and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress? What does that steady rise mean?
Most Americans have never even heard that such a rise in test scores exists. The press corps refuses to tell them about it, even as they praise the NAEP as the "gold standard" in educational testing.
Such reporting would spoil a vastly preferred press corps tale, the one about the way nothing works in our pitiful schools. Everyone seems to like this tale. For conservatives, it lets them blame our hideous teachers, with their infernal teacher unions. For liberals, it lets us blame Bush.
But that rise in test scores does exist. What does the rise in test scores mean? We had always dreamed that Winerip might tackle the question, perhaps even speaking to experts at NAEP! Now he leaves us in the lurch, with a partisan-sounding closing shot.
That said, Winerip has done a ton of good work in his columns. Tomorrow, we’ll examine his closing piece, linking the debacle he describes to similar meltdowns in two major states—North Carolina and (gulp) New York.
Is any other topic so badly reported? Everyone says they care about schools. Plainly, no one does.