Blaming Federal Policy

Both Rotherham and Russo do a nice job of pointing out the problems with this weekend’s NYTimes piece on how federal turnaround policy led to the dismissal of a popular principal.  It’s nice to have other folks policing the turnaround media space!

I won’t reiterate their accurate critiques,  but I will amplify one.  The SIG program – which is the maligned federal policy in the article – is competitive.  All states have the funds, but not all LEAs have to apply for them.  And even if they do apply, the LEAs don’t have to use the funds at every school.

If the changes proposed are so anathema, the district should not have applied for them at this particular school. Yes, the funds are substantial, and leaving them on the table is difficult.  But the internal logic of the article falls apart in this case, because the argument anchoring the piece is that the school was making substantial improvements without the money (even though no evidence of that improvement is presented).  In other words, the article suggests that the district employed the following thought process: accept no federal money and keep doing something that we think is working; or take federal money and make a school-destroying decision.  Hard to stomach.

In any event, this is not a new genre, and I’m sure we’ll continue to see “federal policy destroys local school” articles.  Read them critically, my friends.

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