Reformer, Heal Thyself. You’ve Ruined High School.

Read this piece at Manhattan Institute


Reformer, Heal Thyself. You’ve Ruined High School. by Max Eden

School leaders across the country have systematically lowered graduation standards in order to boost graduation numbers (and their own reputations). So the question at the center of this Wonk-a-thon, “What are appropriate policy responses?” is certainly timely. It is not, however, the core question we should be asking ourselves.

Policy is downstream of politics, politics is downstream of culture, and the culture of the education reform movement has been corrupted. If integrity at the core is not restored, policy “fixes” will merely tinker around the edges of the issue.

The technocratic education reform movement provides structural and social incentives for fraud. The central premise is that by empowering highly-trained central office leaders with world-class systems designed by preeminent experts, we ought to expect “transformative” change. The notion that sitting a bureaucrat trained by the Broad Academy in a chair could fundamentally change the life trajectories of thousands of deeply disadvantaged students within just a couple of years is, to put it mildly, willful wishful thinking. On the other hand, the systems, expectations, and professional incentives provide means and motive to commit fraud. In the rare event that reporters ferret out the fraud, technocratic wonks provide alibis rather than accountability.

Technocrats love to discuss the effects of incentives. For ambitious school administrators, the incentives all align to encourage lowering standards to produce higher statistics to gain applause and promotion. This will not stop until the risks outweigh the rewards. Those responsible for fraud ought not be celebrated as heroes, but instead have their records honestly exposed.


Read the entire piece here at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, originally appearing on March 9, 2018. 


Max Eden is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Follow him on Twitter here.