Riddle: What do today’s ‘education reformers’ have in common?

St. Albans dinning hall, aka The Refectory
The Refectory at St. Albans School in Washington DC.

According to a story in today’s New York Times, the “…one thing that characterizes a surprisingly large number of the people who are transforming public schools: they attended private schools.”

The list of reformers provided by the story’s author, Michael Winerip, is long and distinguished, including people like Senators Judd Gregg and John A. Boehner, software tycoon Bill Gates, governor Mitt Romney, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and our president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama. Of course, the list neglects Denver’s two best known “reformers,” Michael Bennet and Tom Boasberg, both of whom when to St. Albans School in Washington DC. (The picture above of St. Albans’ dinning hall, aka “The Refectory,” was sure to prep Bennet and Boasberg for life in the public school lunch room.)

The story asks an important question, one raised by a number of education activists — if you never went to public school, how do you know what will fix our public education system?  Given Denver’s continued flat student academic performance over the past 5 years, it would appear that attending a school like St. Albans doesn’t provide an answer.  After all, the Michael Bennet/Tom Boasberg school reform plan, also known as The Denver Plan, for Denver Public Schools is now in its 6th year and student performance continues to be flat.  DPS’ graduation rates hover just over 50% and post-secondary remediation rates have risen by 13% during the past 5 years.  There is little evidence that these numbers will improve this year.

For our money, however, this is the quote of Winerip’s story, taken from the list of private-school-educated reformers:

Michelle A. Rhee (Maumee Valley Country Day School, Toledo, Ohio), the former Washington schools chancellor and a founder of StudentsFirst, an advocacy group, is probably the No. 1 celebrity of the reform movement. She is education’s Sarah Palin.

Amen, brother.