Class Warfare Blog

September 7, 2013

We Don’t Have an Educational Crisis, We Have a Poverty Crisis

The current crop educational “reformers” have used “evidence” to make their case that our public schools are failing our children. Not only are they wrong, one has to question their motives for making a false case against our schools.

The evidence consists of two kinds: evidence of what are now called “failing schools” (the term didn’t exist before the reformers propaganda machine cranked up) and “international benchmarking test scores.” The evidence for schools doing really poor jobs is not hard to find. Here is why. In the U.S. as of the 2009-2010 school year, there were 98,817 public schools. Of these 67,140 were elementary schools, 24,651 were secondary schools, and the rest were “others.” In addition, we had 33,366 private schools operating that year (federal statistics). This is a huge endeavor, massive, larger than any other effort we make collectively. With this many schools operating under mostly local control with some guidance from state and federal education officials, if you couldn’t find an entire gamut of performance, you wouldn’t be trying. There are amazingly successful schools and schools so dangerous you wouldn’t want to send your kids there. There are schools with beautiful campuses and schools that look like slums because they are slums. You can find anything with this many examples. So, arguments from example allows cherry picking and is unlikely to give anyone a true indication of the status of public schools as a whole.

“When you correct for socioeconomic status, private schools perform no better than
public schools, charter schools perform no better than public schools, and test scores
on international benchmarking tests show us at or near the top.
So what is the problem, really?”

This is where the international testing schemes come into play. The U.S. is listed far down the list of performances on math and English and science they say. This is actually true. But at one point the U.S. was ranked far down the list of science performance yet the team from the U.S. won the Science Olympiad, a worldwide competition. These students must have all attended tony prep schools, you say. Nope. The contradiction is explained in that the U.S. has greater economic inequity than any other developed country. Poverty has been proven to be a cause of poor academic performance (proven, not suggested or suspected) and when you select out American students who share the same economic characteristics as the top performers in those other countries, the U.S. is right at the top with them. (The U.S. built the world’s largest economy after WW2 with lower international test score performances, by the way.)

“The real problem is poverty. And the solutions offered by the education “reformers”
which are to apply business principles to education, don’t even work in business
situations, have no research showing they will work in our educational system, and
are designed to fix a problem that does not exist.”

So, what is the real problem? When you correct for socioeconomic status, private schools perform no better than public schools, charter schools perform no better than public schools, and test scores on international benchmarking tests show us at or near the top. So what is the problem, really?

The real problem is poverty. And the solutions offered by the education “reformers” which are to apply business principles to education, don’t even work in business situations, have no research showing they will work in our educational system, and are designed to fix a problem that does not exist.

Blaming teachers for poor educational performance when the educational performance in question isn’t poor is irrational. Blaming schools for poor educational performance when the educational performance in question isn’t poor based on anything in control of the school is irrational.

So, why are they doing this? The evidence is rolling in now about large charter school operations making very large amounts of money delivering education to our children. The education they are delivering shows no improvements over the public schools they replaced, so why are we rewarding them with profits for doing the same job they claimed was mediocre? The answer comes down to lobbyists, corruption, and political money . . . again.

Stop the “reformers” before they ruin the foundation of our democracy, our public education system, a system doing far better than their propaganda would have you believe.

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4 Comments »

  1. Please excuse my ignorance here, Steve, but what are charter schools exactly?

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    Comment by john zande — September 7, 2013 @ 9:56 am | Reply

    • Ah, charter schools are public schools run by private agencies that are given a charter to function without all of the normal rules. They were designed to allow for “experiementation” to make “magnet schools” (schools of the arts, schools of science, etc.) but in actuality are designed by rich people so they can opt out of the public school system. First they tried to get tax deducations for the costs of private schooling for their children. When that didn’t work, they went for “vouchers” to allow for “school choice” with the vouchers being a grant of public funds that could be used for private schools. All of this was done to break down the wall between public and private schools so rich people could get deducations for their kid’s schooling. It has since morphed into an effort to make profits running schools paid for bu public dollars, which is why I am asking the question “how can you extract profits from the same amount of money and yet get better schools?”

      This is also part of the Republican effort to minimize the size of government. Since the unions have been gelded, the only opposition to the corporations doing any damned thing they want is government. They’ve bought the courts and the politicians, but they would like to just have smaller government–do away with the U.S> Department of Education, and the Environmental Protection Agency, for example. And the federal Energy Department, bah, who needs them? We can handle all of our nuclear waste privately. (You might want to ask the Japanese how that is working.)

      That agenda. Recognize it?

      Like

      Comment by stephenpruis — September 7, 2013 @ 10:20 am | Reply

      • Privatising public schools… what an odd idea. I like the concept of science or art specific (focused might be a better word) schools, though. The problem remains that we’r asking kids to make career decisions before they know what the hell the world is about, and in most cases, what actually means something to them.

        Like

        Comment by john zande — September 7, 2013 @ 11:07 am | Reply

        • Can’t agree more. I used to counsel college freshmen to go ahead and declare a major if they wanted, but to not be afraid to change it as they had no idea what the serious study of the topics they had encountered in school would entail in college. Similarly, exposing our children to art, science, dance, music, athletics and all kinds of non-academic subjects (I took quite a few “shop” classes for someone who became a chemistry major.) should help those who prefer to get at the world through their hands a chance.

          Like

          Comment by stephenpruis — September 7, 2013 @ 11:31 am | Reply


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