Make of this what you will.
Late last week, a few days before the Save Our Schools March in Washington D.C., organized to protest the Obama administration’s standardized test-centric school reform policies, an invitation to several of the march leaders materialized from the White House.
After many months of planning the march, after letters were sent to President Obama asking him to reconsider policies that blamed teachers for things they were not responsible, after pleas to U.S. officials to listen to critics, a message was sent saying that a handful of march leaders could come to the White House last Friday to meet with Roberto J. Rodríguez, special assistant to Obama for education.
March organizers, who were busy on Friday, said that it was not a good time but that they would be available when the rally and march was over. I imagine it won’t surprise you that nobody in the White House was available to meet after the march. According to a White House spokesman, “we weren’t able to make the schedules work” after the rally.
Of course, White House officials found time to make their schedules work to meet with a host of corporate leaders for an education roundtable that was conspicuously missing people on the front lines of education: teachers and principals. (You can see a list of some of the invitees here.). It would be a safe bet that the people invited to that roundtable were given more than a day or two notice to show up at the White House for the meeting.
The timing of the invitation, and then the lack of a second one, begs the questions of what the White House had hoped to accomplish if there had been a meeting last Friday. Last summer, administration officials tried to blunt an effort by a coalition of civil rights groups that was releasing a framework for education reform that skewered Obama’s education policies.
(Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Wednesday had met with a few march participants who were invited into the department after they protested outside the building.)
By not finding a mutually agreeable time to meet with critics, White House officials betray their arrogance of certainty.
The question is when it will occur to them that their corporate-style education policies — the ones that have no basis in research, that ignore root causes for lack of student achievement and that are privatizing important areas of the public education system — are not working and that are in fact likely to do significant harm.
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