Orwellian Education Reform: Postmark 1985

George Orwell, author of “Nineteen-Eighty-Four,” was only off by a month when it comes to the rise of Orwellian education reform. As to the method that brought on this madness, he was right on.

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words,” says a character in 1984.

Gayle Greene chose that quote for “In the public schools, it’s been 1984 for quite awhile. It describes the intentional, well-financed war of words used to discredit, undermine, and destroy the U.S. institution of public education.

“In Orwell’s dystopia,…

The Ministry of Truth spawns lies and propaganda, the Ministry of Love supervises torture and brainwashing, and the Ministry of Peace promulgates war and atrocity.

Turn the words on their heads, and you get a glimmer of the truth.

And the Ministry of Education? There is no Ministry of Education. So now we have a Secretary of Education who’s a dedicated enemy of public education…. Betsy DeVos…”

No Ministry of Education? … Truth be told.

On February 6, 1985, President Reagan swore in Bill (William) J. Bennett as the United States’ third Secretary of Education. Then, the saga of Orwellian education reform began in earnest.

Bill Bennett is the first Secretary to understand the ideological and political possibilities of the office that were there from the beginning. In Bill Bennett we’re getting our first Minister of Education.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Bennett used his appointment to accelerate the political agenda of standards, assessments, accountability, flexibility, and choice. All those words, all those concepts, were turned on their heads. Orwellian education reform hatched and grew.

The Minister brought in his Three C’s —content, character, and “choice.” But we weren’t asking for “choice.” Almost 80% of parents were satisfied with their schools. And notably, we were saying smaller classes would make a difference to each and every one of our children.No! The Minister says we need “accountability.”

AND, we need “higher standards.”

Only 17% of us thought “higher standards” would improve public education. Then WHY? Why push the theory of outcome-based (standards/testing) reforms on the nation? WHY transform our whole system?

BOTTOM LINE: Do “higher standards” increase student performance? …  In time that question is answered.

Because the public didn’t know the truth, the public didn’t fight the changes. Plus, Bennett said he cared about our students.

But at the time not everyone believed the Minister was sincere about his concerns for ALL our children.

“‘I think he [Bennett] still might be the subject of hearings if we had known during the [confirmation] hearing of his insensitivity toward the needs of students, particularly low- and low-middle income students who can only go to college because of federal aid,’ [Senator Robert] Stafford [R] said in a telephone interview from Burlington, Vt.

While time marched on so did the Orwellian education reform movement. As Ms. Greene explained,

“A handful of billionaires and their foundations bankrolled and orchestrated a multibillion-dollar PR campaign to convince people that public education is broken and private interests can do it better….

A billionaire snatch and grab passed off as a push for racial equality, the destruction of public education… passed off as a civil rights issue.

The confounding of language at its most basic level reduces us to a state of civic catatonia: we can’t think about these issues, let alone discuss them or act against them, when they’ve been so obfuscated, when words have been so twisted.”

Thus, the “information age” hatched the “knowledge economy” which multiplied technology profits at every turn. And the first Minister of Education took full advantage of being in on fronting technology and choice as “reforms.”

Co-founder Bennett & The Truth About K-12, Inc.

“K-12’s spread across the U.S. is due in large part to its lobbying prowess and its political connections. Enabling legislation, written by the American Legislation Exchange Council (ALEC), has been introduced in nearly every state. “ALEC, … coordinates a fifty-state strategy for right-wing policy. How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools, The Nation, December 5, 2011″

Ohhhhh…., too bad the D.C. revolving door of Orwellian education reform didn’t hit Mr. Bennett in the rear and knock him out of the circle of influence. The country was making real progress prior to being told we weren’t. ALL our children would have benefited from true education reform. But that isn’t how the story goes…Oh, so much truth to be told!

It is no secret that William Bennett and Lamar Alexander (Chairman of the Federal School Board) are buddies. They brought the Orwellian education agenda to exactly where it is today.

“Jack F. Kemp, William J. Bennett, and Lamar Alexander — All have been waiting in the wings as co-directors of Empower America [now called Freedom Works], the Washington think tank that promotes ‘progressive conservative policies….

After the [Bob Dole] campaign, Empower America plans to continue promoting school choice, and Mr. Alexander is expected to take a lead role.

‘We’re planning on [Mr. Alexander] coming back and being a part of a big school-choice initiative,’ said spokeswoman Nicole Fluet.”

And Alexander landed where he sits today —chairing the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee…..Yes, HELP. … Talk about Orwellian. But alas, the plot thickens as the characters multiply.

“We should remember that it was George Bush, Lamar Alexander, Chester Finn, Diane Ravitch, Bill Bennett, the Hudson Institute, and the Committee for Economic Development that got the America 2000 ‘reforms’ rolling. And it was George Shultz in the Reagan Administration who signed the Carnegie-drafted U.S.-Soviet education agreements with Gorbachev. That was in 1985, the same year Carnegie brought Marc Tucker on board.”

“If we are to succeed in radically transforming schools, we must alter attitudes outside the schoolhouse door. …

The system we are about to describe is one interwoven fabric.  Each part is necessary for all the others to function properly.  But if there is a centerpiece, it is, without question, standards and assessment.” Marc Tucker

WHY? Why did we need higher standards, fewer-better tests, outcome-based accountability, (the undefined) flexibility, and “choice”?

Doublespeak? Absolutely. Marc Tucker doesn’t believe in fewer tests (as he now writes). He believes in “national” mastery tests in every subject and certification tests for everything. He believes in a tracking system that creates the perfect workforce-development system all under the guise of education and economic needs.

We were told our businesses asked for these reforms.

Sandia Report, 1993

NO! Employers asked that we improve the work ethic and social skills of our students —back then. Now, we also need to repair the damage done through standardization of curriculum and instruction….Oh, and the damage technology has done.

We asked for one thing; we got another.

Parents didn’t ask for this transformation towards a computerized, standardized, non-personal (but “choice”) education system. There was never any proof that any of it “worked.”

“Trust a billionaire to have the public’s interest at heart [?] …

Put kids in front of computers, increase screen time, increase class size – and call it personalized.” Gayla Green

Now “personalized” has a whole new meaning. And politicizing everyday language continues confusing the public.

But the BOTTOM LINE: This was to increase student achievement, right?

Truth. “Higher” standards don’t matter when it comes to increasing student achievement. As much as the truth is hard to believe, it’s harder to swallow. But after over 18 years of standards, testing, and data collection, the only good that has come out of this is the statistical proof of the truth.

Reading Achievement – States are listed on the bottom. Red represents how “high”/ rigorous the standards. Blue is the outcome for each state.


Reading – Grade 4 or 8, it doesn’t matter. The standards don’t predict the outcome. No direct correlation.

This is the outcome after well over a generation of students in a standards-based education system.

 

Look.

 

 

 

See the Relationship between the Rigor of a State’s Performance Standard and Student Achievement in your state and our nation…..There isn’t one.

 

The statistician/author is a retired NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) expert.

 

Math – same findings. There is no evidence that the standards make the difference.

 

The title of the researchers’ site indicates this is Idaho research (his location) but this is national data, nationally relevant.

Reading or math, 4th or 8th grade, it doesn’t matter. Standards don’t correlate to student achievement. They never deserved the attention NOR THE MONEY we focused on them.

Theory has been proven wrong.

Math 8th grade? The patterns are all over the place because the truth is in the numbers that the education oligarchy wanted collected.

 

So — now given the truth — to continue mandating an irrational political concept is government sponsored educational malpractice.

With the truth proven by the very measures we were forced to use, test scores, our duty to stop the Orwellian education reform movement should be clear.

.

Flipping the words of the new Minister of Education, they spell education tax credits and vouchers. They spell the destruction of our public education system.

And clearer yet is the fact that this has been “their” education revolution and they don’t care about ALL our children. Look at the push for excessive technology in schools. The pushers have no regard for what technology is doing to children, or even their test scores!!!!!….

…The public and lawmakers in my state of Idaho put technology ahead of teachers at a huge cost to taxpayers with an unknown cost to children and families.“[Albertson’s supermarket heir Joseph B.] Scott’s investment company, Alscott Inc., has brought in more than $15 million by selling part of its stake in Virginia-based K12 Inc., which was founded in 1999 by former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett.

But it isn’t just luck on Scott’s side. His family’s tax-exempt foundation has helped develop customers for K12. And Idaho’s taxpayers have been paying for it.”

….It is a familiar story across our great nation…. Those fooling the nation are calling themselves “philanthropic venture capitalists.” Do you know who they are in your state?Please join the struggle.

How the Democratic Party Became an Enemy of Public Education

Perhaps the title “WHO influenced the Democratic Party into becoming an enemy of public education?” would more accurately represent the subject here.

But the reason for the title came from an article in my “To Read” file. “How to Destroy a Public-School System,” a 2014 article, describes a scenario we should all be familiar with by now. Perhaps that is why I had set it aside, thinking I knew it all. I don’t; we don’t.

We know all about —

“the designation of neighborhood schools as ‘failing’ under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)…” followed by the “turnaround” or take-over by charter schools.

But do we know the depth of the intentional under-funding of public schools in order to create a market for private-sector education reforms?

Private sector — for-profit (like Edison) charter schools or non-profit (like Mastery) charters — it doesn’t matter. They are private entities. And privatization is crushing the chance for more effective public-sector education reform to be utilized.

The private-sector reforms are politically and financially driven. The public has little input or recourse when those reforms are harmful to our schools.

So here’s how it went in Philadelphia as described in 2014.

December 21, 2001, Philadelphia, State takeover of Philly’s schools went into effect … “at the time, the largest experiment in privatization—in the history of US public education. The message was clear: public management, not underfunding and segregation, was the problem.

Never mind that school financing was

“rigged to benefit privately managed companies” including a loophole that provided charters with an extra “double-dip” pension payment.

Or that

Mastery [charter school] is “not doing more with less,” says Michael Masch, the school district’s former chief financial officer and a progressive fan of Mastery’s work, “They’re doing more with more.

How did that largest privatization experiment of its time turn out?

By 2007,… “despite additional per-pupil resources,” privately managed schools like Edison’s “did not produce average increases in student achievement that were any larger than those seen in the rest of the district,” while “district-managed restructured schools outpaced the gains of the rest of the district in math.”

What say the supporters of private-sector education reforms? Same thing we still hear said today…

“We just don’t have enough of them yet,” said Edison CEO Chris Whittle, according to PBS’s Frontline.

The problem is not enough charters? You think.

The problem was that Philadelphia was under Republican rule? It was, but remember there has been plenty of bipartisan agreement. The Democratic Party approved of all of this.

The problem is THEY (and it’s a big “they”) don’t work for US. Enough Republicans and Democrats alike have fallen for the idea that private-sector advocates for education reform have all of our children’s best interests at heart.

Look, many in the country see and understand the connection between conservative organizations like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and Republican privatization policies. Many object. But there is another side. Look again.

It’s time for the country to see and understand the New Democrats and their “progressive” “neoliberal” agenda that we know to be a “bipartisan” agreement on education reform. It is now the Democratic Party reform philosophy based on and driven by advocates for private-sector reforms.

In the words of Helen Gym, a leader of Parents United for Public Education, the reform movement

“has been singular in its focus in dismantling previously stable, strong institutions like public education….”

In other parts of the world, some clearly see what has happened. Those fighting against private-sector education reform are Battling for the Soul of Education.

“George W. Bush bought in the “No Child Left Behind” strategy with its emphasis on high-stakes testing, data-driven decision making, choice, Charter Schools, privatisation, regulation, merit pay and competition amongst schools. Incredible as it might seem, by 2008 this had been taken up by the Democrats.”

Incredible? I guess.

But is this author right in that by 2008 the private sector reform movement had been taken up by the Democrats?

Fully engulfed” the Democratic Party by 2008 might be a better way to state it. But much earlier than that key “Democrats” not only took up this private-sector reform strategy, they helped create and perpetuate it.

1989 -President George H.W. Bush, U.S. Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos, center, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, right, and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, behind right, arrive for ceremonies concluding Mr. Bush’s 1989 education summit with state governors in Charlottesville, Va.
—Doug Mills/AP-File

As president, Bill Clinton essentially used an “education and the economy” theme to drive education policy. His reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA/IASA/ Improving America’s Schools Act) brought Standards-Based education and school choice (charters) into federal law. Education costs have risen dramatically ever since.

But to quickly march this story forward, I’ve taken some facts from Ken Derstine of Defend Public Education! I encourage readers to explore the wealth of information he has provided on his website. Look into the power and control created by the corporate and political elites. Here’s a glimpse.

Billionaire Democrat and philanthropic venture capitalist, Eli Broad is invited by President Bill Clinton to spend the night at the White House. [What do these men have in common?] They work under the “guise of a progressive agenda” while advancing “a neoliberal agenda.” The agenda continuing to be advanced today.

“Playing a central role in promoting Clinton’s neoliberal agenda was the Democratic Leadership Council.” … It became the think tank for many of the rightwing neoliberal policies promoted by Clinton. …A key player shepherding the neoliberal agenda during the Clinton Presidency and after was Bruce Reed who became head of the Democratic Leadership Council in 2001.

The Clintons & Broads

All their plans are on display. They have to be. They are using our government to put their agenda in place. 

With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.” Eli Broad Foundation, 2009/2010 Annual Report of the Broad Foundation (page 6)

Bruce Reed (second to left) spent eight years at the White House under Bill Clinton. | REUTERS Politico story Bruce Reed to Head Biden Staff

Bruce Reed is the common education reform denominator between the Clinton and Obama administrations.

“Reed boasts of helping shape education policy on the national stage for three decades.”

Teaming up with Eli Broad may just be the creation of the perfect storm that finally destroys the institution of “public” education.

Lauren Cioffi/KPCC | Eli Broad, left, has appointed Bruce Reed, former CEO of the influential Democratic Leadership Council, to lead his foundation.

 

“Broad is somewhat happy with the progress of education reform. He takes credit for influencing the signature changes nationwide in the past 20 years.”

‘Between No Child Left Behind, which wasn’t perfect, between Race to the Top, we’ve changed a lot of laws in a lot of states, allowing teachers to do a better job in the classroom,’ he said.”

Have the laws helped teachers do a better job? This man’s organization wrote the book on school closures — really! Literally! And his group directed the spending of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars. We invested in their agenda while our schools struggled!!!! Nice, huh? They titled it Smart Options. They are smart.

“Broad has known all along he needs allies in public office to carry out his vision. He’s generously donated to elections — from school boards to the U.S. presidency. He leans Democrat in Washington but anti-union on school boards.”

That’s what they wrote in ELI BROAD APPOINTS BRUCE REED AS HEAD OF BROAD FOUNDATION EDUCATION EFFORT.

And the story doesn’t end there. There’s more to come.

The “how” is a familiar story of money and political corruption. The “who” is a web of deception still being fully untangled….if we must.

The Purpose of Education

In their annual poll of the public’s attitude toward public education, what prompted the well-respected PDK (Phi Delta Kappa) association’s new question about the purpose of education?

And how is it the question asks about the main goal of a public school education while the website and discussion shifts the conversation to the purpose of education?

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-3-46-47-pmJust semantics? Maybe. But, did you know that one definition of semantics is “a deliberate distortion or twisting of meaning, as in advertising, propaganda, etc.”?

Purpose is the reason for which something is done.

Goal is an aim or desired result.

And because struggles in the education reform war continually demonstrate that words are determining outcomes of our battles, we should pay close attention. Words have become the weapon of choice against an unsuspecting public.

The words of reform sold us a perceived need to reform a whole system. The reality is that we needed to only reform the schools in our country that needed re-forming — high-poverty, low-performing schools. We had already identified them before the 1980’s.

The truth? Test-based accountability methods changed nothing. And school choice only reshuffled the deck.

But let’s look at the question of the hour…screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-3-30-15-pm….and look at what one long-time. …long, long time… education-and-the-economy expert, Mr. Marc Tucker, had to say.

This would be a good guess since the marketing of the purpose of education seems to be increasing.

This would be a good guess since the marketing plan appears to be focusing on promoting the purpose of public education as a workforce pipeline. America’s choice?

Our expert is guessing? Let me guess; he knows something we don’t. After all, he is a long-time occupant of the D.C. inner circle, father of the Education/Labor Market System, and an international systems expert. He knows what is going down.

Tucker believes that parents should be choosing BOTH prepare students academically and for work…always beating his education-and-the-economy drum. But why not choose “to be good citizens”?

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This is one more topic where my opinion differs from Marc Tucker’s.

I confess, there is just something about Mr. Tucker’s narrow-mindedness (and his continuing position of power) that makes me want to write. So, here’s my view of this question….

Only 26 percent of respondents in this PDK poll think that preparing students to be good citizens is the most important goal of a public school education. Only!?! Yes, that should be alarming.

Let me ask you; what does it take to be a good citizen?

I thought we needed to learn to read so that we could inform ourselves. I thought we needed to be able to do the math, including understanding statistics, so that we would be less likely to be fooled.

I thought we needed to learn to gather our own facts and think critically because that’s what we need to do in order to be the ultimate authority (the check and balance) in maintaining a representative form of government.

I thought that the pursuit of happiness was a fundamental America value and it meant that our personal interests were important.

I thought that being a good citizen included not being a drag to society, which means being prepared to work and doing the best you can to support yourself.

Academics and work?

Yes, they are part of being a good citizen. But, there is much more to producing an educated electorate than what is being offered in the narrow curriculum of way too many disadvantaged districts —a situation worsened by our outcome-based reforms. Mr. Tucker created and pushed this test-based theory from the get-go.

Tucker has been and continues to be a go-to for The Education Oligarchy.

Yet, Tucker goes on to blame the United States for the damage done to vocational education. — But it’s the STANDARDS STUPID! — Look in the mirror, oh creator of the outcome-based system.

How many times has Mr. Tucker’s publications directed those in power to “start first with academic standards”? Have they ever faced the facts?

The focus on standards narrowed the curriculum.

The focus on standards was deadening to instruction.

The focus on standards almost killed the idea that students need to apply what they learn to real world experiences.

Wake up, America! It’s time to fight for a broad, balanced curriculum, not a narrow set of standards.

We are a nation at risk and the enemy is masked as an expert.

And since when has the purpose of our public education system been to produce already trained workers for private industry? Granted, one purpose is to ensure a solid educational foundation upon which to build. BUT,….

Since when is the goal of public schools to run kids through the workforce development pipeline and pour them directly into jobs? Of course we all need a job but test-and-sort is a recipe for unhappiness.

And, is it a coincidence that editorials are appearing in my local newspaper parroting the same “purpose of education” as the new PDK poll and Mr. Tucker?

“Accelerating talent pipelines is a deliberate effort to prepare our kids, and adults, faster than traditional education pathways, for high paying jobs we know exist today.

How do we build talent pipelines? We embrace three fundamental realities changing our world.

First, we acknowledge the purpose of education is to get a good job and improve our income.

Second, we recognize companies are rapidly shifting their focus to skills and not diplomas for hiring.

Third, we recognize industry is the primary customer of our education system.

Finally, the solution demands we empower industry to influence education outcomes.

NO! This is NOT the purpose of OUR free system of public schools as envisioned by our founding fathers. This is a takeover of our public education system by THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE WORLD (that includes information systems).

 Please don’t let the public schools become just another one of their information delivery systems and their publicly funded training services. Is this the expectation parents have for their children’s schools?

When those who run the show begin giving us the illusion that public opinion is driving education policy, we should be very, very concerned that the PDK annual poll has a new driver.  We — and our representatives — will hear what they say is public opinion. ….. Think about it.

For the first time since the inception of the PDK/Gallup poll on education in 1969, Langer Research Associates did the polling instead of Gallup. That in itself might not mean much. But, how much do we know about this relatively new firm other than they did work for ABC News and Bloomberg? And this particular question, about the purpose of education, is straight out of the standard-bearers playbook….?…

The Reality of the Education Reform War

They” control the language, develop the conversation, and convince the public that their way is the right way.

When you have high-powered marketing firms pushing your agenda, your message pops up everywhere. It’s no coincidence.

Thankfully, Gallup (on their own without PDK) continued their tradition of asking parents about their satisfaction with their own schools.screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-41-07-pmWith 76 percent of parents satisfied with their child’s education, isn’t it time we asked; what are we reforming? And how is it we are changing the whole system and not focusing on what needs fixing (23%)?

Ask Mr. Tucker. He was the go-to education expert back when the standards,testing, accountability movement took off and apparently he continues to be a power player. He’s one national driver who hasn’t changed.

Do you know who is driving education reform in your state?

If charters and “choice” are high on your state’s list of laws to pass (or have already been passed), good chance ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is involved. The wild west is certainly in their pocket and the conversation about the purpose of education has been going on for some time here.

In Idaho (2013), our Governor’s Task Force on Improving Education stated that …

“the higher purpose inherent in education is obvious.”

But it is not obvious in their plan. Their words mean nothing. Their focus continues to be on a narrowed, test-based curriculum with the same old outcome-based accountability that never held anyone accountable. This is state-led?

If this is called “state-led” under the dictates of the new federal education law (Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA), it is no different from the fed-led dictates of No Child Left Behind. The outcome is the same. The law is driving us towards the development of a corporate-controlled, labor development system dubbed public education.

Are we sure this is the direction we want public education to go?

Are we sold on the purpose of education as workforce development (and military recruitment)? Mission accomplished?index

Policy Ping-Pong

Wrongly, many people believe that excessive testing, narrowed curriculum, and wayward accountability schemes are the fault of federal policy. Most agree that the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law is the main culprit. I most certainly am not defending NCLB, oh no, far from it. But the truth is that state-after-state was sold “outcome based education reform” which morphed into test-based accountability. What No Child left Behind did was to federalize the education trend that most states had already begun implementing on their own. So, why is this important to know?

If you play “The Change Game,” the first thing you need to know are the key players and the best places to play. When you know who and where to target with persuasion and propaganda, change comes at a relatively cheap price. And even though we should have a better view at the local and state level, the game hasn’t drawn much of a crowd.

So the wayward reforms began in the states, went to the federal level with NCLB, and now the ball is back on the states side of the table with NCLB waivers. Next stop? NCLB re-authorization? (Update as of 12/10/15: Yes, the law was changed to being called the Every Student Succeeds Act ESSA)

Both state and federal lawmakers are for sale. With NCLB reauthorization done, the ball is in the state capitals.

Both state and federal policy writers are for sale. With NCLB reauthorization done, the ball is in state capitals.

And will the law once again follow the state’s trends – charter schools, fewer teachers, more technology, larger class sizes, and less real support for the public system (which means more privatization)? (Update as of 12/10/15: Answer, yes.)

The public is being played like a ping-pong ball. Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines and watch the ball (or the hammer) drop.