Saturday, March 21, 2009

So Right, But So Wrong: Kristoff Part Three

I remember back when Nicholas Kristoff was way ahead of the curve. He was out in front on the issue of the genocide in Darfur, and his wrenching description of the atrocities committed by the Janjaweed moved a lot of people, myself included, into donating to help ease the humanitarian crisis devastating that part of the world. George W. didn't even utter the word 'genocide' until people like Kristoff forced his hand. For that, Kristoff is to be greatly commended.

So, how did he get so far off base on education? I don't believe he is anyone's puppet. But he is far smarter than his recent series of columns on education would indicate. This week, he teams up with Michelle Rhee, the DC superintendant with all of two years of classroom experience and urges Barack Obama to throw his support behind her. And I am afraid he just might get what he wants.

Kristoff throws around meaningless statistics, touting improvement to DCs schools because "Test results showed more educational gains last year than in the previous four years put together." But in the same op-ed, he admits that only 8% of DCs kids reached the standard in mathematics. How big a statistical boost did Rhee cause if they are currently at 8%? Perhaps Kristoff needs to brush up on his own math.

And he also touts her because "Her aim is for Washington to become, in just six years, one of the best-performing urban school districts in the country, while drastically reducing the black-white achievement gap." That's it? We should support her because she is aiming high and incidentally right at the backs of teachers?

Kristoff also claims that Rhee recently has reached out to teachers, while also demonstrating that Rhee doesn't give a damn about working with teachers, saying that “If we come to an impasse, we’re going to move forward with our reforms anyway....Then it potentially gets uglier.”

How could Kristoff, who once got it so right, get it so wrong when it comes to eduation?

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