Yesterday’s Dropout Nation commentary on Pedro Noguera’s opposition to shutting down dropout factoreis garnered a wide array of responses. One in particular comes from Noguera himself. Below is his response, uncorrected and unedited.
Read my work before you ask silly questions. I have been working to reform urban schools for over 20 years. I don’t make excuses for failure and I don’t think that shutting down failing schools is solution. According to Duncan there are over 5,000 dropout factories across the US. If you shut them down where will these students go to school? You should think before repeatsing simplistic ideas.
Apparently those with whom Noguera disagrees can’t possibly have an original thought of their own. Considering all the reporting and commentary Dropout Nation has done over the past few years arguing for systemically dealing with the complexities of reforming American public education — and that there is no one answer to the nation’s educational crisis — all I can say is that Noguera should also read before making silly responses.
Second: Let’s remember that Noguera mentions that there are 5,000 dropout factories out of 98,916 schools in the entire country (a data point Duncan got from one of the leading thinkers on the dropout crisis, Robert Balfanz). For those who are keeping score, that’s five percent of all schools in the nation. One could easily argue that those 5,000 dropout factories can be replaced rather easily with 5,000 schools with higher-quality instruction, curricula, leadership and learning cultures. It can actually be done and it is being done in New York City through the development of charters and higher-quality traditional district schools. This is what other organizations with whom Noguera disagrees is also demanding. This won’t be easy to do, and again, we still need to systemically reform how we recruit, train and pay teachers, overhaul curricula, create cultures in which everyone is held to high expectations of success, and offer parents the ability to be lead decision-makers in education. But it can be done.
Finally: There are implications to one’s thinking and logical conclusions from them. Noguera may not “make excuses for failures”. But in his work, he has never dealt realistically with teacher quality or curriculum quality issues. If Noguera suggested that there needs to be an end to tenure, more-rigorous evaluation of teacher and principal performance, or any of those things that actually deal with the full range of structural issues that help foster dropout factories, then one could see the point of his argument against shutting down dropout factories. But he hasn’t. He is opposed to using student data in evaluating teachers. He essentially opposes the No Child Left Behind Act, which actually advanced accountability in education. His solutions only nibble at the edges of the nation’s education crisis. Let’s be plain about this: Noguera means well. But his solutions won’t improve the quality of education for poor young black and Latino men without full and systemic reform.
Noguera doesn’t exactly deserve as thoughtful a response as I’ve given. He did not offer much of anything in the first place.