#huffpost lovin the “faith based reformers”

This guest post is a re-post from @The Chalk Face. Author Timothy Slekar is Head of the Division of Education, Human Development and Social Sciences at Penn State Altoona.

“Research shows that when expectations are raised, students rise to meet them. Adapting to higher standards and raising expectations may prove challenging, but they are the steps we must take so that our kids are successful in high schools and prepared for colleges and careers. Readiness is worth a celebration.”

Illinois Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon made this concluding statement in her recent post at Huffington Post.

That’s it. “Research shows…”  What research?  How about an example of just one study in a peer reviewed journal?  Or is just assumed that when a person of political power makes an assertion that it must be true?  I mean why would HuffPost want to check on the validity of an assertion made by an education reformer? It’s obviously a proven fact that “faith based reforms” work.  How do we know this?  Because people like Sheila Simon said so.  And that’s enough for HuffPost.

But wait a minute.  I have a little insight into the HuffPost blogosphere.  I used to do a little blogging for them.  What’s interesting is that whenever I made an assertion HuffPost regularly sent my blog back and asked for documentation or a revision that could be supported.  Look at these three examples below.


Hi Tim,

Apologies for the delay in reviewing your post, and thanks for taking the time to submit it. Before publishing, we need to include a link to a news or official source…

Please let me know if you can provide this



Hi Tim,

We just reviewed your post. Before we can go live, we need you to provide a source for the following paragraph. I’ve returned the post to draft for your to add at your convenience. Once you’ve added, you can resubmit the post to editorial review and we can move forward with the process.


Dear Tim,

We just reviewed your recent post “NCLB amended? WHAT?!”

Before we can publish, we needed to follow up with sources…

I’ve returned the blog post to draft for you to add those sources at your convenience. Once you’re ready, you can resubmit the blog to editorial review and we’ll move forward with the editorial process.

Thanks in advance!

Don’t get me wrong.  I am in no way saying that HuffPost should have just let me spew whatever the hell I wanted.  In fact, the examples above show that journalistic integrity was something HuffPost cared about–at least when it came to a lifelong educator, researcher, teacher, and person who been in classrooms–when making claims about education.  Why in the world would any claim that I make be taken at face value?  I obviously don’t have the credentials most “faith based reformers” possess.  I’m not Lieutenant Governor.

I am not a former Secretary of Education who made the unsubstantiated assertion,

“Before NCLB, the education establishment thought it fine, even appropriate, to expect less from poor and minority students.”

I am not a former Chancellor of a major urban school system, who, again, without any evidence to suggest it might be true claimed that,

“School districts across the country are considering important changes to how teachers are evaluated, a change that is going to lead to better teaching and learning.”

And I am not an extremely wealthy technology mogul who flat out claimed without any sources that,

“Right now, only one-third of all high school graduates are prepared to succeed in college-level work. To raise that number, every student must have a great teacher in every subject, every year.”

No. I have only spent the past 23 years as  a status quo educator.  The statements I make about education need to be supported with evidence.

So what else did Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon spew in HuffPost that most of us status quo education people would have obviously had to provide some sort of documentation that we just weren’t speaking from a position of “faith?”

“In a report my office issued last year, we found that almost half of recent Illinois high school graduates required remedial courses upon enrolling in a community college. … Why is the remediation rate so high? A large part of the reason is that we have not set high enough standards for what our children need to learn in Kindergarten through high school.”

Really? We haven’t set high standards and that’s the reason students aren’t prepared for entry level college courses?  That’s funny because according to the National Academies of Science it would seem that our hyper obsession with standards and measurement are significant  variables contributing to diminished college readiness.

“The same is true for careers. In Illinois, good jobs continue to go unfilled even while we grapple with tough economic times.”

Maybe it’s just in Illinois, but economic research on the jobs available and the skills workers possess is pretty clear that most college graduates are under employed—that means they possess skills far and above what is needed for the job they are doing.

“New tests coming in 2014 will give a picture of student learning at multiple points in time.”

If they are “new tests” I assume that means they haven’t been used in any type of field testing.  Without any field testing we have no idea what the “picture of student learning” will look like at any “points in time.”  They are NEW tests aligned to the NEW Common Core (The untested national curriculum being shoved down the throats of children, teachers, administrators and schools).  There isn’t a single shred of evidence that the common core will do anything positive.  In fact “status quo” experts have issued warnings that the standards may be extremely inappropriate—particularly for early childhood settings.

Now I think I understand why HuffPost started regularly sending me email responses to my blog submissions like the one below,

Hey Timothy,

Thanks for taking the time to submit this latest post. Unfortunately, we’re going to pass on publishing at this time as it’s just not right for us. Thanks again, we’ll be looking forward to your next submission.

“Just not right for us” must mean that HuffPost only publishes propaganda from faith based reformers.  Too bad for me. I just don’t have Faith No More!

Follow Timothy D. Slekar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/slekar

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