by David Safier
It fills me with pride to see that a man to whom I devoted so many Fools Gold posts over the years has been acknowledged for his work by the National Education Policy Center. Matthew Ladner has received the Center's first ever “Get a Life(time) Achievement Award” for the quality and quantity of his . . . well, the center refers to it as "Bunkum."
The NEPC gives out yearly Bunkum Awards, and Ladner has received some in the past, but . . .
“We’ve never before found someone with an individual record of Bunkum-worthy accomplishments that just cries out for recognition,” stated Welner. “Dr. Ladner’s body of Bunk-work is focused on his shameless hawking of what he and the Governor call the ‘Florida Formula’ for educational success.”
Specifically, Ladner argues that because Florida’s test scores had increased during a time period when Florida policy included things like school choice and grade retention, these policies must be responsible for the scores. Yet decades of evidence link grade retention practices to increased dropout rates, not to improved achievement.
Moreover, Florida’s recent test score results are notably unimpressive, but Ladner continues to promote his favored policies, blaming the scores on a slide in home prices and other factors he says are “impossible” to determine. Learn more at http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/learning-from-florida.
Ladner spent years as the education guy at the Goldwater Institute, then moved over to Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education, one of those conservative "education reform groups." Ladner also has close ties with ALEC. He co-writes the group's education yearbook. Years ago he said in a BfA comment (he was a regular and prolific commenter on the blog) he was unhappy with some of ALEC's education statistics, like its per student spending numbers — they happened to be correct, to Ladner's dismay — so he took over the helm. Now the ALEC yearbook has gone from a document with bad conclusions drawn from mainly accurate statistics to worse conclusions drawn from cooked stats.
I'm sure NEPC doesn't know about Ladner's infamous "Bus drivers are bureaucrats" (as are cafeteria workers and maintenance people) assertion or his statement that Arizona's per student spending is in the middle of state spending rather than dead last. But even without that, the Center has ample reason to grant the award to Ladner.