Class Warfare Blog

July 15, 2013

The Corporatization of Public Education Lacks Reality, Logic, Sense, . . .

The latest wave of public education reformers have pushed an agenda that “business models” and “market driven models” are to be pursued to “rescue” the “failed” public education system.

It is debatable whether the public schools have failed. Certainly some individual schools have, but there are public schools that are spectacularly successful, so clearly there is a range of success. Why some fail and others do not is a legitimate point of discussion.

But reality and facts aren’t needed here as conservatives are in charge of this effort. A recent study of the school reform efforts in Washington, D.C. (Michelle Rhee’s old district), Chicago (Arne Duncan’s old stomping grounds), and New York (Mayor Bloomberg’s bailiwick). These were chosen to study as they had accessible data to compare and were touted as “success” stories. Apparently “success” to the conservatives means “we changed everything” not “everything got better.”

Here are some of the findings of  The Broader Bolder Approach to Education’s study:

  • Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more, in “reform” cities than in other urban districts.
  • Reported successes for targeted students evaporated upon closer examination.
  • Test-based accountability prompted the ranks of experienced teachers to diminish, but not necessarily bad teachers.
  • School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.
  • Charter schools further disrupted the districts while providing mixed benefits, particularly for the highest-needs students.

Many of the claims made by politicos proved to be quite outlandish, for example N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg claimed that his reforms had cut the black-white achievement gap by 50%. The reality: the gap declined by 1%.

Reality is not something conservatives do well with, especially when it conflicts with their cherished beliefs. The logic behind a “business model” for public education is appallingly vacant. What is the basis of the competition? Do schools compete over test scores? Only students get test scores (except in Michelle Rhee’s districts where her administrators changed incorrect responses to correct responses to get the results desired) so what is their motivation to score better? I understand why high school athletes want to shine on the athletic fields, but what is the payoff for testers? The answer is there is none, so there is no competition and without competition, there is no basis for introducing models based on competition. Conservatives are playing a word association game. “Business” = good, “union” = bad, etc. On Bill Maher’s show Friday night, a panelist blurted out that teacher’s unions are trying to keep our education system in a eighteenth century mode by insisting on a ten month calendar. Hello? This moron apparently doesn’t know that school calendars are set by state boards of education, which are closer to the centers of political power than they are teacher’s unions. Unions cannot bargain the number of days in the calendar, it is a nonnegotiable matter. But “public schools” are bad, “unions” are bad, therefore. . . .

Apparently the only evidence these conservatives can offer about the failing of our public schools is their complete lack of the ability to make a coherent argument above a third-grade level.




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