Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham think tank in D.C., penned a piece suggesting that Ed Reform was over, that it had reached a stalemate with its enemies, but that whatever it had done was here to stay. He called it “The End of Education Policy,” a very cheering thought. Now it’s time to zero in on practice, he wrote. I was happy to see an admission that Ed Reform had run out of gas, but I had no idea how he imagined that he or any of the other reformers would have a role in improving “practice,” unless he meant doubling down on the Common Core.

Peter Greene made sense of all this, as he always does.

He begins:

From time to time Mike Petrilli (Fordham Institute) grabs himself a big declaration and goes to town. Last week, the declaration was “We have reached the end of education policy.”

He frames this up with references to Francis Fukuyama’s book about the end of history, and I don’t know that he really ever sticks the landing on creating parallels between Fukuyama’s idea (which he acknowledges turned out to be wrong) and his thoughts about ed policy, but it establishes an idea about the scale he’s shooting for– something more sweeping and grandiose than if he’d compared ed policy to video game arcades or no-strings-attached sex.

His thesis?

We are now at the End of Education Policy, in the same way that we were at the End of History back in 1989. Our own Cold War pitted reformers against traditional education groups; we have fought each other to a draw, and reached something approaching homeostasis. Resistance to education reform has not collapsed like the Soviet Union did. Far from it. But there have been major changes that are now institutionalized and won’t be easily undone, at least for the next decade.

Okay. Well, first I’d argue that he has it backwards. It was reformsters who championed centralized top-down planning and the erasure of local governance, often accomplished with raw power and blunt force, so if somebody has to be the Soviet Union in this analogy, I think they fit the bill.

He ticks off the gains of the reformist movement. Charters are now fact of the landscape in many cities. Tax credit scholarships, a form of sideways voucher, are also established. He admits that the growth of these programs has slowed; he does not admit that these reform programs reach a tiny percentage of all US students.

One data point surprised me– one fifth of all new teachers are coming from alternative certification programs, which is really bad news for the teaching profession and for students. We’ll have to talk about this.

Testing, he says, in claiming a dubious victory, is less hated than it used to be, maybe? He makes some specious claims here about the underlying standards being stronger and the tests being more sophisticated and rigorous– none of that is true. He says that teacher evaluation systems have been “mostly defanged,” citing ESSA, but from where most teachers sit, there’s still plenty of fang right where it’s been. “School accountability systems,” he claims, are now less about accountability and more about transparency. No– test centered accountability continues to serve no useful purpose while warping and damaging educational programs across America.

The era of broad policy initiatives out of DC is over, says Petrilli. Hallelujah, says I. Only policy wonks would think it’s a great thing if state and federal bureaucrats crank out new policy initiatives every year. Every one of them eats up time and effort to implement that could be better spent actually educating students. The teaching profession is saturated with initiative fatigue, the exhaustion and cynicism that comes when high-powered educational amateurs stop in every year or two to tell you that they know have a great new way for you to do your job that will totally Fix Everything. One does not have to spend many years in the classroom to weary of the unending waves of bullshit. It would be awesome if those waves actually stopped for a while.

Petrilli’s claim is that they have, and that now is a time for tinkering with actual education practices, but his list sucks. “To implement the higher standards with fidelity” No. No no no no NO no no, and hell no. “With fidelity” is reform talk for “by squashing every ounce of individual initiative, thought, and professional judgment out of classroom teachers. “With fidelity” means “subordinating the professional judgment of trained educators to the unproven amateur-hour baloney of the Common Core writers.” “Improve teacher preparation and development” is a great goal, except that I don’t think that means “train teachers to do better test prep and go through their days with fidelity.” Then we have “To strengthen charter school oversight and quality,” which seems like a great idea, though “strengthen” assumes that there is anything there to strengthen in the first place, which in some states is simply not so (looking at you, train wreck Florida). Charters need to be reigned in– way in– and if that means that many operators will simply leave the charter school business, well, I can live with that. Work on the whole Career and Technical Education thing, a goal that I have a hard time getting excited about because in my corner of the world, we’ve been doing it well for fifty years. If you think CTE is a brand new thing, you are too ill-informed to be allowed anywhere near CTE policy.

That’s where he starts.

Now who will take the lead in changing practice, Greene asks. Not Petrilli. Not Bill Gates. Not Zuckerberg.

Greene writes:

It’s all on you.

That’s okay. As Jose Luis Vilson often says, we got this. Even if nobody is going to help us get it, we will still get it, because we have to, and because that’s why, mostly, we signed up for the gig.

Practice is where the action has always been. Education reformsters have tried to create a title of education reformers for themselves, but the real education reform, the real growth and change and experimentation and analysis of how to make things work better– that work has been going on every single day (including summers, thank you) since public schools opened their doors. Whether bureaucrats and legislators and thinky tank wonks or rich guys with too much time on their hands have been cranking out giant plans or just twiddling idly while waiting for their next brainstorm, teachers have been honing and perfecting their practice, growing and rising and advancing every single day of their career, doing everything they can think of to insure that this year’s students get a better shot than last year’s. Just one more reason that the whole “schools haven’t changed in 100 years” is both insulting and ignorant.

So thinky tanks and reformists and wealthy dilettantes and government bureaucrats can continue fiddling and analyzing their fiddlings as they search for the next great Big New Thing in policy. In the meantime, teachers have work to do.