Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lonely Laura Waters

It's gotta be hard to be NJ's only reformster blogger. I mean, just look at the tally sheet.

And this is just the bloggers I can think of off the top of my head and doesn't include amazing guest bloggers I've had on my blog like MoNeke Ragsdale, Sue Altman, and Julie Borst. It also doesn't include the Cares groups that have sprung up all around the state, or groups like the Newark Parents Union and the Newark Students union, or even Save Our Schools NJ - the pro public ed parent group that makes poor Waters see red and completely lose her faculties on a regular basis.

And then there's Waters. All on her own. And it's not like NJ Reformsters haven't tried to build a corps of bloggers. See the email below from the NJ Charter Schools Association, asking the folks on their mailing list to "Become a Blogger" as part of their Communications and Advocacy plan. (Place your bets as to how long before I'm taken off this mailing list.)

Waters has been all alone waving her flag for charters, choice, and testing for as long as I can remember, and she's gone after SOSNJ more times that I care to link to. It's all become a bit of a bore to be frank. But when she went after Sarah Tepper Blaine yesterday my interest was piqued. 

Why you may ask? Isn't this just par for the course with Waters? 

Well, yes and no.

Sarah is a new and interesting target for Waters, and Waters has a new and interesting role in the reformster landscape. You see, Waters is now  a pen for ire for Eli Broad's Education Post

The amazing Edushyster recently interviewed Education Post's creator, Peter Cunningham. Read the whole interview to get the real sense of what's what, but here's an important snippet.
EduShyster: That expression you see on my face is incredulity. But please go on sir. I want to hear more about the isolation and alone-ness of people pushing reform. How are they faring today?
swarmCunningham:  Take Kevin Huffman. Now you can disagree with him on policy, but he felt like people were waking up everyday and just attacking him on social media. He tried to respond, and he just felt like it didn’t matter. By 2012-2013, Team Status Quo—your label not mine—was very effectively calling a lot of reform ideas into question. I mean look around the country. Huffman’s gone, John King is gone, John Deasy is gone, Michelle Rhee is gone. I’ve created the ability to swarm, because everyone felt like they were being swarmed. We now have people who will, when asked, lean in on the debate, when people feel like they’re just under siege.
EduShyster: I like that word *swarm* because that’s kind of how I imagine the scene at EdPost HQ. Somewhere somebody on the Internets says something hurtful about, say, PARCC, and an alarm sounds, activating the team members who then proceed to badger the offender into submission. (emphasis mine)
How can Team Reformster get out their message when they are so often severely outnumbered if not completely alone like Waters here in NJ? Why, they can seek out the megaphone provided by billionaires like Eli Broad (who has dumped 12 million dollars into Ed Post) and Peter Cunningham, former Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach with the U.S. Department of Education. 

Not only was Cunningham Arne Duncan's communications flack, he's his buddy as well. Cunningham worked with Duncan in Chicago, and came with him and Obama to DC. This is all very personal for Cunningham.
I understand that Dr. Ravitch is about to publish another book attacking education reform. She will go after my good friend Arne Duncan. She will attack alternative educational approaches such as charter schools -- even if they are successful. She will attack well-meaning and hard-working organizations like Teach for America. She will attack foundations and organizations she disagrees with, regardless of the benefits they provide to educators. She will lump them all together as one big corporate conspiracy aimed at privatizing public education. (emphasis mine)
But what does this all have to do with Sarah? Allow me to explain.

Sarah's blog posts have been picked up numerous times by Valerie Strauss, who writes the Answer Sheet blog for the Washington Post. Hence, Sarah has gotten a lot of national media attention. (GO SARAH!)

New York principal Carol Burris has also gotten a lot of national attention on the Answer Sheet blog where she has regularly decimated the Common Core and advocated for the opt out movement. Unsurprisingly, Burris was the first target of an Education Post swarm of pens for hire (see all of the posts here) and don't miss Curmudgucation's take on the whole mess.

All this makes me wonder, will Waters bring her critique of Sarah national in an attempt to discredit another Answer Sheet guest blogger with a national audience? Smart money says yes.

It has become clear that the strong uprising against PARCC in NJ has attracted the attention of national groups, as evidenced by unsolicited opinion pieces by national reformsters appearing in the papers and on the websites of our states' media outlets. See recent examples from Education Trust president Kati Haycock here and Team Michael (Petrilli and Brickman), the president and national policy director of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, here.
To be sure, these changes are not easy, but we hope New Jersey will not turn back now, and will continue on a path to providing high, measurable goals for all students. The state's educators and students have worked too hard, for too long, to climb the mountain to higher expectations to turn around just as the summit comes into view.
Is it a coincidence that since the launch of Education Post, we've seen this influx of national figureheads in our state media? Consider this from EdWeek about Ed Post's launch:
Cunningham said some of the new group's work will be behind the scenes, drafting op-ed articles for policymakers, educators, and others, as well as providing strategic advice. But a more public effort will involve writing blog posts and responding to public misconceptions. (emphasis mine)
Looks like since Waters is the lone blogger for Team Reformster in the state they have to bring in the hired guns to try to control the narrative. 

I have to laugh at the feeble attempt to downplay the pro-public ed side of the New Jersey debate in Waters' post about Sarah:
The anti-reform Jersey consortium isn’t that big, but it’s really well-organized. We all know the names: Bob Braun, Mark Weber, Marie Cornfield, Julia Sass Rubin, Stephen Danley, Bruce Baker. (Sorry if I’ve missed a couple.) Just about all of them are connected, in one way or another, to NJEA and Save Our Schools-NJ.
Waters missed more than a couple, (see above) and she has it kind of backwards. Our "consortium" IS really big, a whole hell of a lot bigger than hers to be sure, and it is Team Reformster that tends to be really "well-organized."

After all, Waters has We Raise NJ, (and looky there, her posts are on that website too!) and all the money and organizational capacity that comes from an alliance with trusted education leaders like the Chamber of Commerce and the New Jersey Business and Industry Association! But don't worry parents and teachers, We Raise NJ has pledged that "students are more than their test results" and that they "respect teachers' and families' responsibility to make academic decision for students!" 

I guess the good folks at We Raise NJ just wish the NJ education blogosphere would pipe down a bit about the academic decisions we make for our students. 

We have the numbers, but they have money and the connections to our government and our media. Our unfunded, rag-tag bunch of New Jersey bloggers make them nervous because we are on to their game, we're making noise, and we're gaining ground. We're all in this for the long haul, and as time marches on our ranks only grow deeper and stronger. 

So bring it on.


  1. Darcie let's also give a shout to Blue Jersey, home of much great pro-public education commentary.

  2. Thanks for confirming the tactic of 'swarming' now so evident on NJ Spotlight in response to comments hostile to PARCC and so-called 'reform'.

    Laura Waters should stop posting links to her sources---her misrepresentations are mind-boggling (and suggest more than a little desperation!).

    Thanks again for all you do!


  3. 'Take Kevin Huffman" PLEASE! Warning to PA parents & teachers. Huffman is arisen from the ashes and reappeared in PA.
    He deserved more than the mild opposition he received in TN. His malignant reformster policies are a cancer on TN public education. What sugar daddy is paying this incompetent, arrogant grifter to mislead Pennsylvanians?

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  5. I don't plan on posting very much on charter schools or on testing, but there is another education blog out there that challenges assumptions about SFRA and the Abbott funding regime. Please check it out.

    Laura Waters gets it on school finance. She, unlike a lot of people in SOS NJ, knows that SFRA is a joke and is hopelessly unfundable. My blog takes the same tack and for that reason I think you can consider it on the other side of the ledger from your blog.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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