When I first came across The Whistle (@JusTheFaks) in the #oklaed Twittersphere, I was intrigued by his or her knowledge of school reform. So I became one of the anonymous tweeter’s 200 or so followers.
Ominous musings from July
Back in July, about the only thing I knew about incoming OKCPS Superintendent Aurora Lora was that she seemed to have played a constructive role in brokering a compromise over KIPP charter school expansion.
Thanks to The Whistle, I learned that Lora attended the Broad Superintendents Academy. That could be disconcerting because the Broad Foundation is perhaps the most cavalier conveyor of fact-free corporate-reform spin, and the last Broad graduate to become an OKCPS superintendent was an unmitigated disaster. But I have no taste for guilt by association.
However, the Whistle was already predicting:
When this ship sinks, I’ll be here to say, “Told you so.” https://t.co/1VegPeg2Fc
— The Whistle (@JusTheFaks) July 1, 2016
At that time, a battle was raging over charter conversions, and it could have become a mortal threat to the system, but I saw no evidence that Lora was engaged in anything but a wise effort to steer the district through the storm.
I understand why The Whistle seeks to connect the dots and link local policies to national reform organizations funded by the Billionaires Boys Club. It is true that Aurora Lora came from Dallas, where a Broad Academy superintendent sowed discord and failed to improve schools. If Lora or anyone else were to mandate the type of doomed tactics that have damaged Dallas (or Houston or Atlanta, which The Whistle correctly cites as urban schools that have been hurt by test-sort-reward-and-punish policies), I would argue against them.
The Whistle implies there is an effort to bring the Broad policies imposed on Dallas and Houston and/or the corrupt Atlanta testing regime to Oklahoma City. If such evidence exists, it should be reported and debated.
Accusations flung without evidence
Ed Allen, president of the American Federation of Teachers’ Oklahoma City union, is a moderate. Sometimes I believe he compromises too much, but Allen knows that the union must be known as a trustworthy, collaborative partner if it is going to survive
Allen’s integrity has always been impeccable. Even when we reached different conclusions, I couldn’t say that I was right and he was wrong, but I know The Whistle was wrong when s/he tweeted:
— The Whistle (@JusTheFaks) December 4, 2016
Follow the above link, and you will see that the article was about the local AFT’s Shared Accountability and Responsibility Blueprint, which “focuses on five substantive areas: quality teaching and development, student achievement and behavior, school improvement and reform, contractual elements and collaboration.”
The Whistle was equally dismissive of Allen’s and Lora’s recent collaborative effort to look into hiring the Kotter International consulting firm to guide the transformation of the OKCPS’s “dysfunctional” culture.
— The Whistle (@JusTheFaks) December 3, 2016
In fact, Allen (and I) has for years been pushing for an opportunity to address the district’s fearful culture. Allen actually delayed his retirement after he was given hope that the cooperative effort is feasible.
Last, while I have long opposed The Oklahoman, I’ve always been impressed by its education reporters, Tim Willert and Ben Felder. In my experience, they both demonstrate a nice balance in reporting the facts, as well as placing stories within an edu-political context.
While The Whistle seems to demand that Willert and Felder document Lora’s alleged imposition of a destructive corporate-reform agenda, s/he fails to offer concrete evidence that the superintendent has done such a thing. Yet a typical tweet by The Whistle usually includes harsh criticism of their efforts:
— The Whistle (@JusTheFaks) December 1, 2016
‘Fight fire with facts’
True believers in charters and the Broad Foundation’s data-driven mandates have a long history of demonizing their opponents, but my goal is to promote respectful, thoughtful and evidence-driven discussions of school policy.
We must fight their fire with facts, not equally inflammatory rhetoric.
I wish The Whistle would agree to do the same.