Deborah Meier, a long-time leader of genuine school reform and an opponent of standardized testing, read an article by Jim Horn of “Schools Matter” that referenced a simmering feud among allies. The basis for the article was a series of posts (see here and here) and comments on this blog. Several readers watched the angry comments and wondered what was going on.
As you will see in Horn’s piece, he and others are angry at Fairtest, which has led the fight against high-stakes testing for many years. Horn, Mary Porter, and Emily Talmadge warned that Fairtest was taking Gates money and was no longer trustworthy. Lisa Guisbond of Fairtest replied several times on the blog, insisting that Fairtest had not sold out, that it had taken a one-times Gates grant of $5,000 to study performance assessment. There was a lot of back and forth.
Deb Meier wrote this email to me:
“Wow. Shades of past history.
“Many decisions go into finding and financing different strategies. But if we decide its worth attacking each other rather than trying to persuade each other we are truly killing ourselves. Surely some of you have held views that have over time changed…
“I could weep.
“FairTest and Monty have a long long history of exposing bad tests, long before many others were even worrying about the subject. Neither FairTest, nor Monty nor Bob nor Lisa are getting wealthy doing this for so many years, years, and years. They may even occasionally be wrong. I know I have. I amstill unsettled re the issue of the use of choice, for example. And I took money for our small schools from many sources, as long as they didn’t compromise our work. Maybe we shouldn’t have? I’m not sure.
“CCE was founded in the early 90s to support the work of Coalition of Essential Schools that pioneered a very different form of “high stakes” assessment–what we call Portfolio reviews by Panels. (Read the work of Ted Sizer) They were the upfront fighters on behalf of the Pilot schools, and while Dan French and I disagree now and then, I’ve yet to find an ally that I always agree with. If I did I suspect they’d just be holding back to avoid an argument=-hardly the way to build a strong movement. (I actually love argument–especially among friends..)
“Let’s build our alliances in the spirit in which we build our schools–having honest conversation, hearing out those we disagree with, being thoughtful and temperate about our disagreements, and working together wherever we can: holding off creating more enemies than we need. A little affection, even when we disagree, wouldn’t do any harm.
“Let’s cut this tone out–without succumbing to ideas we disagree with. We can’t afford to fight our allies–the real, true long-time historic reformers like Fairtest —and the rich, wealthy, corporate so-called reformers at the same time.