The language of Ed Reform


Choice: An act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities; an excellent and innovative approach to education in which consumers select education options much like they would pizza toppings. “When Rosa’s charter school suddenly closed its doors after an embezzlement scandal, Rosa had a choice of which school to attend the next day.”

Status quo: The existing condition or state of affairs; the stasis preferred or required by members of teachers unions, whose rigid and very heavy contracts prohibit them from embracing freshness and innovation. “While the city and its schools have endured the same failed reforms for nearly two decades, these remain ‘fresh,’ ‘innovative’ and not at all status quo-ish.”

Portfolio: a type of briefcase; a system in which school districts manage a portfolio of diverse schools that are provided in many ways—including through traditional district operation, charter operators, and nonprofit organizations—and hold all schools accountable for performance. “Despite mounting evidence that the portfolio approach was actually deepening inequality, its advocates continued to promote it aggressively, arriving in school system after school system, portfolios stuffed with flow charts and jargon-laden reports.” **Double points for using multiple meanings in single sentence.

Value added: Having features added to a basic line or model for which the buyer is prepared to pay extra; Complex, often nonsensical systems that attempt to measure the impact of a teacher on individual students through the course of a single school year. “The complexity of the value-added system was such that the education consultants could justify charging the school district a little extra for its development and implementation.”

Merit pay: Extra pay awarded to an employee on the basis of merit; the widely discredited concept of paying teachers according to their effectiveness at raising student achievement as measured by standardized tests and complex value-added models (see above). “The education reformers’ high-profile jobs merit pay far higher than that received by the educators they spend their days bashing.”

Poverty: The state of being poor; lack of the means of providing material needs or comforts; an excuse. “While the hedge fund manager has no experience of poverty, he understands instinctively that it is not an excuse for failing to attain excellence and master the 21st century skills that have served him so well at Honey Badger Management.”

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