Reformer, or Transformer?

To transform means to change the appearance, character of, or function of.  To reform means to make better. Now, what ARE we doing to our education system?

I saw problems in my local schools and I offered solutions. Is there a high poverty rate in my area? Yes, now 83% free & reduced lunch children. Could the solutions not be accomplished because of poverty? No. And let me give you an example.

When we were in the process of expanding into a brand new school building, our district was going to have empty classrooms. Having helped in first grade classes with 28 students and seen the behavioral distractions that then led to decreased instructional time, decreased personalized attention, and the creation of at-risk students — I didn’t give a damn what research said or didn’t say — it makes good sense to start kids off on the right foot! Race of life and all that, ya know?

So, I did my math and brought a proposal to the school board to decrease only first grade class size; not as an experiment, but because it was the right thing to do at the right time. Before this, limited facilities had always been the excuse for the crowded classrooms. Could we not afford to do it? No, we could at the time. “We” just chose not to. Proposal rejected; no explanation.

Enter what Diane Ravitch in Reign of Error called the “’reform’ agenda including high-stakes testing, test-based accountability, competition, and school choice.” Did these efforts make the public education system better? NO – they are not reforms. Did they change the appearance of the system? YES – it appears more dysfunctional than ever. Did they change the character of schools? YES – much more test-based. Did they change the function of the system? Let me answer using Ravitch’s words here: “What began as a movement for testing and accountability has turned into a privatization movement.” The function of policies and practices did change.

The people pushing the privatization movement are transformers, transforming public institutions into private profits.

I am a reformer. They have not earned the right nor deserve the privilege to wear that label. Reformers work to make things better, not destroy them.

Call them what they are - TRANSFORMERS.

Call them what they are – TRANSFORMERS.

 

Transformational change is not the change we need. STOP the Dismantling of the PUBLIC SYSTEM so we may begin to make things better.

Understand what reform is and is not.

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.