Monday, November 11, 2013

Profiles in Intellectual Cowardice

Wendy Holmes:

Why does the Commissioner want to shield her work from public scrutiny? Why would anyone? As embargoed dissertations are increasingly common across the country, a primary impetus comes from doctoral candidates hoping to publish their research in book form in order to compete for teaching jobs in colleges and universities. Electronic access to dissertations jeopardizes future publications, they claim, and some disciplines, faculties, and scholarly groups are inclined to agree and advocate for long or renewable embargo periods. Others in academe challenge this position on factual grounds or on behalf of the traditional scholarly values of openness and interchange. This is a controversial issue and every aspect of academic embargo is subject to debate. How long? Renewable or not? What reasons? Who decides? The answers are different for various degree-granting institutions and, sometimes, for different sectors of the same institution.

We know from that interesting title that Gist has completed a case study of her role in devising an evaluation system for Rhode Island teachers. From the dissertation abstract, which is now available from ProQuest (free through university libraries), we know a little more: that she studies “adaptive” change, required by new situational factors and often accompanied by feelings of loss or disorientation on the part of the changees, that she has developed a model of “Elementary Leadership,” and that she intends to use this model in “future leadership of large-scale change.” Her future leadership may be in another state or in the national Department of Education. She may become a more active Change Chief and work with Jeb Bush or the Broad Academy or the Gates Foundation. She may consult or head a charter school group or invent an entirely new educational organization.

So why doesn’t she want her dissertation read now? Wouldn’t its new input be of value in current discussions of testing, accountability, and teacher evaluation? Wouldn’t it add to her stature as a prominent education reformer? Does she plan to revise it and publish a book? What privacy issues could be involved? As a high-ranking state employee writing about her own job and her own staff, doesn’t she owe some account of her leadership model to the people of Rhode Island? Who would be more interested in her Ocean State Voyage than Rhode Islanders? Who would be better equipped to compare the dissertation’s view of her leadership with its practical results than Rhode Island teachers, parents, and students?

It is kind of weird coming from the wife of "transparency's sidekick."

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