Panel Discusses Report on Schools

Left-wing education expert Deborah Meier took on five noted education specialists in a panel discussion on assessing public education last night at the Graduate School of Education (GSE).

The panel, "Quality Counts," was named after and devoted to discussing a recent Education Week comparative study of public education in the 50 states.

Meier, a GSE lecturer and a MacArthur fellow, broke with the other five panelists, who all supported the study. Meier said that national assessments do not accurately measure literacy and other academic skills.

"We don't know if fourth graders can't read, we just know that they gave the wrong answers on their standardized exam," said the veteran educator, to loud applause.

The report assigned a "grade" to varying measures of education in each state, including teacher training, class size and allocation and adequacy of funding.

While the other panelists endorsed the report, Meier disagreed with the quantitative nature of the project.

"I disagree with the basic premise of the entire report," said Meier, waving an arm wildly. "[Reports like these] are like people taking marriage tests to see if they are happily married."

Defenders of the study said that it provides recent and accurate data comparing state education systems--figures that are not currently tabulated by the government.

"The government releases numbers that tell us how many high school drop-outs there are," said Craig Jerald, an Education Week report coordinator who gave a presentation preceding the panel. "But they don't tell us that the information was only collected from 17 states."

He said that such a lack of knowledge prompted the magazine to research the subject.

Mediated by GSE lecturer Bob Schwartz, the panel included Meier; Ellen Guiney, director of the Boston Plan for Excellence; Sol Hurwitz, president of the New York Committee on Economic Development; Ron Wolk, publisher and editor of Education Week, and Ronn Robinson, corporate director of education policy for Boeing Corp.