1978—Follow Through: Our Response
The Ford-funded critique didn’t really take issue with our conclusions but rather with an array of methodological straw men, as we pointed out in our response. It was as if they thought we weren’t aware that our analysis went well beyond conventional procedural bounds. We did what the unconventional character of the data required, with the guidance and collaboration of the best minds in the field. If our task had been the normal one that they seemed to be looking for, we wouldn’t have needed to recruit and coopt Dick Light and Jack Cohen, and we’d have been cheated of the privilege of rejoicing in their brilliance.
The Harvard Educational Review (Volume Forty-Eight, Number Two, May 1978) published the Ford/House piece and ours, side by side. Eventually, we came down to Washington for a televised debate with Ernie and Company. And I sat for a one-on-one interview for a Washington-area radio station. But the United States Office of Education remained unpleased to be told that their “models” of compensatory early education had demonstrated in practice neither strong nor distinctive results.

A few years later, however, during the Reagan administration but after I had left Abt Associates, I was being considered for a job running a research outfit in the new Department of Education.* Checker Finn, a fellow HGSE Ed.D and then assistant to Secretary Bill Bennett, took me around in a fancy white limousine; when I asked him how come they were interested in me, after the Follow Through brouhaha, he said that our unpalatable findings had since become standard, received wisdom among our former clients’ successors…
*You probably don’t recall that Jimmy Carter had invented the “ED” in his last days in office, and Ronald Reagan had promised to dismantle it. But the Democrat House of Representatives wouldn’t let him.
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