Zombie Ideas Are Killing Public Education

“Zombie ideas … are policy ideas that keep being killed by evidence, but nonetheless shamble relentlessly forward, essentially because they suit a political agenda.” Paul Krugman

Zombie Ideas!?!

Exactly! … Policymakers have been using zombie ideas to dismantle, transform, and restructure the public education system. But there is a mountain of evidence that the zombie ideas in No Child Left Behind didn’t show any appreciable improvement in student achievement. So why not end the zombie invasion killing our public schools, now?

Zombie ideas are hard to kill because they have already been killed by evidence! Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec

What Zombie Ideas?

The test-based, metric-driven accountability of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law is based on a political agenda, not proven education reforms. Now, NCLB is called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) but the same policy ideas and political agenda remain in place. The same detrimental consequences persist because the aim and purpose of the law did not change.

Zombie Ideas in Education: High-Stakes Testing and Graduation Policies*

Solórzano (2008) found that the results of high-stakes tests used as a high school diploma requirement “show quite clearly that Blacks and Latinos (and English Language Learners) are disproportionately failing them, whether enrolled in Texas, New York, California, or Minnesota” (p. 312).

He goes on to say that students who do poorly on these exams “are viewed as the problem; they are retained, tracked, or denied graduation” (p. 316) and cites several sources for this statement.

Then, comes the most logical and obvious, yet often negated fact of this matter: “They are held solely responsible for their grades, when in fact, they may not have had equal chance of learning because of the unequal resources and opportunities at their disposal at their school site” (p. 316).

The policy of high-stakes testing that has led to multiple incorrect, unethical, and detrimental uses of test results is just one example of a zombie idea that needs to die —permanently.

Other Zombie Ideas That Just Won’t Die!

Choice and competition are market-based ideas whose theories have been applied to public education to transform and restructure our public system into a privatized system. So based on the idea of school choice as a reform, researchers** examined student achievement under this Market Theory  — with the demand side being “school choosers” and the supply side being schools. They did so while also cautioning that psychologists are well aware of the effect of “choice.”

Theory On the Demand Side:

“The simple act of choosing a school then might contribute to a family’s satisfaction with that school.”

Theory On the Supply Side:

“Decentralized decision-making itself might be beneficial to students. … This local control could lead to more efficient, locally appropriate use of resources, better alignment and camaraderie among the school personnel, and improved responsiveness to opportunities and challenges.”

But Overall:

“While there are isolated (and sometimes very impressive) success stories, school choice reforms have not proven to be unambiguously effective on the whole.”

Charter or Voucher: It Doesn’t Matter

“Much like the charter school literature, the literature on private school vouchers does not conclusively link the use of vouchers to improved academic performance.”

Existing Public Schools are Forced to Compete: True

“While most principals report competing for students, few report that they compete by making curricular or instructional changes that might appeal to parents. Instead, they are considerably more likely to report competing through outreach and advertisement.”

Choice and competition are zombie ideas that increase return on investment to the education industry — and the cottage industries of marketing, data analysis, and advertising. School choice is not a systemic reform. It is a market theory that doesn’t tackle the solutions we should focus on — those that strengthen and improve educational quality and opportunity FOR ALL CHILDREN.

Rising from the Depths of the Swamp: More Zombies or Real Reform?

While the political agenda behind the zombie ideas focuses the nation’s attention on “outputs,” the idea of focusing reforms on “inputs” keeps getting buried alive. Even though it is logical and obvious that learning requires specific inputs, that poorer communities have fewer resources, and that the schools that struggle to provide better education are located in areas of concentrated poverty — our laws remain fixed on Outcome-Based (output) Theory.

While federal and state lawmakers continually mandate higher learning standards, “service delivery standards” remain buried in history.

Yes, it is true. Once upon a time America saw educating its youth as a public service. We were going to set a quality standard for delivering that service. While we still hear the phrase “Opportunity-to-Learn Standards,” those pushing their political agenda to privatize the system kill that conversation. Their actions say they don’t care about all the nation’s children. If those in power really cared, they would have pushed for “service delivery standards” to support local school improvements.

Instead of bad policy ideas being killed by evidence, those with a political agenda are killing the public education system.

Zombies are hard to kill because they are already dead. But it seems to be common knowledge that to kill a zombie you must destroy its brain.

These zombie reform ideas —high-stakes testing, metric-driven centralized accountability, competition through charters and vouchers — don’t die because they serve a political agenda. It is the “brains of the operation” that we must expose and politically destroy.

Sources:
*Kern, Diane. Zombie Ideas in Education: High-Stakes Testing and Graduation Policies. New England Reading Association Journal 49.1(2013): 96.

**Loeb, S., Valant, J., Kasman, M., Increasing Choice in the Market for Schools: Recent Reforms and their Effects on Student Achievement. Forum on the Education Reform in an Era of Fiscal Imbalance. National Tax Journal, March 2011, 64 (1), 141–164.

The Fierce Urgency of Now

Spoken by Martin Luther King and repeated often, do the words “the fierce urgency of now” no longer stir our souls? Did they ever?

Why the Urgency NOW?

The urgency is the need for all of us to filter out the divisive political language coming at us from all sides. In this moment, we need to look back at what was once only a theory. Now our reality is that economic theory fostered a political strategy to supplant our constitutional republic with “a private governing elite of corporate power.” *Those pushing corporate control understand how essential it is for them to …

“…kill public education because it tend[s] to foster community values…” *

And market-based education reforms became the weapon of choice. But the role of political economist James M. Buchanan is only now being closely scrutinized. Buchanan’s theories explain much about the divisiveness destroying our schools and our nation.

“…[Buchanan] observed that in the 1950s Americans commonly ASSUMED that elected officials wanted to act in the public interest. …[T]hat was a belief he wanted, as he put it, to ‘tear down.’ His ideas developed into a theory that came to be known as ‘public choice.’” *

Public Interest vs. Public Choice

Public interest is defined as “the welfare or well-being of the general public.” It is a national goal clearly stated in the Constitution’s preamble — “in Order to … promote the general Welfare…”.

To “tear down” our assumption that officials are acting in the public’s interest is one thing. To destroy our union is another. That goal does NOT appear to be one of the aims of Buchanan’s original 1986 Nobel Prize winning work on “Public Choice Theory.”

In its announcement of the prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted, “Buchanan’s foremost achievement is that he has consistently and tenaciously emphasized the significance of fundamental rules and applied the concept of the political system as an exchange process for the achievement of mutual advantages.Tennessee Encyclopedia (James McGill Buchanan)

His “research program” ** centered on the belief that people make purchases (market choices) based on value. He saw the public making political choices they believed would benefit them. He viewed us as making choices based on our own “venal self-interest.” *

So he and his ilk developed what they called “non-market decision-making.” Finding that name “awkward” and not as appetizing to “free-market” thinkers, the groups’ organization and publications took on the name “Public Choice.” **

Choice or Coercion?

Some researchers believe that Buchanan’s Public Choice Theory began as an “optimistic conception” based on “unanimous consent of the people.” But he later adopted a more “pessimistic view” about “social organization” and people’s “intolerance” to entering into the discussions necessary to reach consensus on issues. Thus Buchanan’s emphasis morphed from “individual freedom” to the need to “enforce order.” ***

As Buchanan explained “Public Choice” to an audience (2003) …

Public choice, in its basic insights into the workings of politics, incorporates an understanding of human nature that differs little, if at all, from that of James Madison and his colleagues at the time of the American Founding.” **

Buchanan wrote that for public consumption. It’s a distortion of history, which is likely being perpetuated through institutions such as George Mason University in Virginia.* And in misrepresenting the American Founding Principles, Buchanan opened himself up to being viewed as a major manipulator in our historic fight against corporate control.

James Madison vs. James Buchanan 

As a key author of the Constitution, Madison left a record of discussions about our nations founding principles. Therefore, a better understanding of the American Founding political views can be gleaned from Madison’s correspondence with a colleague who Buchanan also admired. ***

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 17 October 1788 (The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Julian P. Boyd, ed., vol. xiv, pp. 18-21) …

“With regard to Monopolies, they are justly classed among the greatest nuisances in Government. … Monopolies are sacrifices of the many to the few. Where the power is in the few it is natural for them to sacrifice the many to their own partialities and corruptions.”

Madison went on to express his doubts about a government takeover by monopolies being skeptical …

“…that a succession of artful and ambitious rulers may be gradual & well timed advances, finally erect an independent Government on the subversion of liberty. … Is there not also infinitely less danger of this abuse in our Government than in most others? … with the power as with us is in the manyIt is much more to be dreaded that the few will be unnecessarily sacrificed to the many …”

It appears the expressed sentiment of that last sentence was taken to imply that corporations are the ones in need of constitutional protection from the masses. But Buchanan obviously took Madison’s words out of their historic time and context. Regardless, Buchanan did communicate to the public an association of his “public choice theory” with our nation’s founding principles.

****This quote is from the blog of libertarian economist, Daniel J. “Dan” Mitchell who believes Buchanan’s ideas are being misrepresented.

Same Old Fight: Big vs. Smaller Government?

Not Quite! Think about the following in relationship to the privatization of public education through “school choice” models. The allure of choice is deadly.

With our political choices being analyzed under market-based economic theory, it is assumed people make choices based on their own self-interests — first and foremost. We shouldn’t deny that as a truism. But when market forces through privatization of public services or goods come into play, competition for a limited supply will result in winners and losers. Always does.

We risk having children lose, or never develop, the safe and secure sense of belonging that defines “community values.” When all of us are seen as “self-interested players in the marketplace,” **** we are vulnerable to division. Competition for public services runs the high risk of destroying community values, but, that part of the equation didn’t seem to garner much consideration.

Instead, Buchanan saw the need to bring his vision to life by NOT focusing on who rules because who the public chooses doesn’t matter since elected officials don’t act in the public interest anyway. Therefore, this brilliant political economist focused on the rules themselves.

“… the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge.” *

Buchanan found many willing partners.

“Subversion of Liberty”? Translation: Sabotage of Authority

What Madison saw as improbable under our constitutional republic — “a succession of artful and ambitious rulers” changing the balance of power — is exactly what is happening. Our federal government IS under the control of special interests. Many state governments are no different because too many of our representatives ARE no longer serving in the public interest.

The toxic divisiveness of party politics is permeating our communities. The principles of localism and populism, which formed the fabric of our founding documents, are being replaced by corporatism. Thus, when we can no longer reach consensus on the issues that matter, the authorities will step in and set the rules “to enforce order.” ***

This scenario should sound familiar to Baby Boomers. It was a shared American experience on many college campuses during the protests of the 60’s and 70’s. Martial law was declared in many places, which Buchanan supported (at Berkley***). And not to be forgotten were the killing of students by the National Guard. That’s about the time Buchanan’s vision of “unanimous consent of the people” *** seemed to change.

Now? Consider this.

“[historian Nancy] MacLean details how partnered with [Charles] Koch, Buchanan’s outpost at George Mason University was able to …  promote new curricula for economics education, and court politicians in nearby Washington, D.C.”

“… MacLean points to the fact that Henry Manne, whom Buchanan was instrumental in hiring, created legal programs for law professors and federal judges which could boast that by 1990 two of every five sitting federal judges had participated. ‘40 percent of the U.S. federal judiciary,’ writes MacLean, ‘had been treated to a Koch-backed curriculum.’” *

Supreme Urgency?

Think about the urgency demonstrated during the confirmations of both Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Ask yourself, why the fierce urgency?

Think about it. When changing the Constitution is still out of reach, CONTROL of the U.S. Department of Education and having corporate-minded allies on the Supreme Court are a handy pair of tools. Then it requires pushing appeals through the court system to the level of the Supreme Court. Once there, having enough justices interpreting our Constitution and rules in ways that favor corporations and the wealthy is almost as good as a “constitutional revolution.” *

This is no longer just theory and we knew this day was coming. Now …

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” MLK

Vote, of course.

Is that enough? Absolutely not.

References

* FROM THE LEFT ⇒ Lynne Parramore, “Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America”

**ORIGINAL SOURCE ⇒ James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate in Economic Science, George Mason University, “What is Public Choice Theory?”

***STUDY OF BUCHANAN’s EDUCATION SPECIFIC WRITINGS ⇒ Jean-Baptiste Fleury THEMA, Université de Cergy-Pontoise, Alain Marciano MRE, Université de Montpellier, Montpellier, Franc. “The Making of a Constitutionalist: James Buchanan on Education”

**** FROM A LIBERTARIAN VIEW ⇒ Daniel J. “Dan” Mitchell, former senior fellow at the Cato Institute. “A Taxpayer-Funded Smear Job of Professor James Buchanan”

 

In Pursuit of Truth: The Language of Political Conformity

Political conformity makes good people do things against their own better judgment. Consequently, political conformity is killing the very character of America.

“True conformity, according to many scholars, involves an actual ‘change of heart’…

[The] person believes the [group] norm in question is correct…. [It has been argued that] such internalization will only take place if informational influence has occurred” (p11). Source: Political Conformity: Evidence and Mechanisms

It is political conformity that has the country tearing down the foundation of our republic.

We once had a system where strengthening and improving schools was seen as reform. We now conform to a pretense of reform typified by an “accountability system” based on “competition.”

What’s Wrong With Competition?

There’s nothing wrong with competition when it comes to things like sports, card games, spelling bees, or debate teams. In the job market and in life in general, competition is an acceptable norm. That’s life!

But, is it reasonable to make competition the norm in ALL our schools?

Think about it. The competition for test scores is a competition to achieve. The ever-present thought of failure is creating stress in too many students, families, and teachers.

Think about the kids. Growing up is challenging. Additional — unnecessary — competition is putting our youth at risk.

2012: India has some of the world’s highest suicide rates. The Lancet Medical Journal says suicide rates are highest in the 15-29 age group, peaking in regions considered richer and more developed with better education, social welfare and health care.

[It’s] a new phenomenon experts said has happened recently as more middle-class youths strive to meet achievement expectations, and new technologies like cell phones and social networking sites help break down traditional family units once relied on for support.

2013: In the United States, “every year since 1999, more Americans have killed themselves than the year before…”

We are told, “Teenage depression and suicide are way up — and so is smartphone use.” We are told, “the time teens spent on homework barely budged between 2010 and 2015, effectively ruling out academic pressure as a cause.”

We are told? NO! We need to challenge that assumption.

Too many questions have gone unanswered! In 2001 in an open forum, it was recommended that we monitor the suicide rate as we implemented test-based accountability. But the suggestion was seen as far-fetched.

So the pros and cons of competition in schools were not debated. And, we proceeded with the plan to transform the culture of our K-12 schools.

Competition became the norm because we complied with “No Child Left Behind.” It sounded good.

Political Doublespeak and Orwell’s Advice

In “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell ripped apart the political language of his time. Our time is no different from his.

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aim,…

Perhaps our time is worse. Words are for sale. And political leader’s insincerity is running rampant.

Wake up, People. Resist the language of political conformity.

“…one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end.”

And with “Truth Decay” being a defined and researched entity, it’s time we stop and examine our own political bias and the conformity that blinds us from seeing the truth!

Orwell cautioned us about using “ready-made” phrases that “anesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.”

How many times have you heard the phrase a “more level playing field”? Have leaders sincerely worked hard towards “…the goal of improving education for all…”?

No! Instead, public “school choice” is packaged as “freedom,” while COMMON curriculum and testing is endemic. “Accountability” through standards and testing is a bad joke. And this is how we “change the status quo”?

No! The status quo is political conformity to a political “reform” agenda.

Orwell’s advice:

“…to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration…”

Thinking Clearly

In Orwell’s novel 1984, “’doublethink’ describes the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct.” This allowed leaders to use both beliefs to their advantage. It doesn’t seem like that could work, but it does.

Public opinion polls did, and continue to show, that the majority of parents with children in the public schools like both their teachers and their schools. Yet the public says the public schools are bad. GOOD IS BAD?

Education Reimagined? Not by the teachers and parents in your community.

And we decided that the whole K-12 system needed to be “restructured” and “transformed”? NO! “We” did not decide.

The education reform oligarchy decided. They decided  “reform” was “imperative.” The system is “antiquated,” a “factory model”; we need to “modernize.” They told us we aren’t “globally competitive.” And the “government schools” are a “monopoly.”

The hook was baited with the right political language, not with the truth. And without the truth, we can’t think clearly.

An Overview Of the Truth

You don’t need to have read 1984 to understand Orwell’s messages to us. His writings exist to help people see the truth and help us think clearly about the danger in letting the CONTROL of knowledge be concentrated in the hands of a few powerful people.

Historically, the norm used to be that parents and teachers worked toward education goals that were mutually acceptable. Then came corporate-elites CONTROL of education. We conformed to the new norm. Those leaders CONTROL the conversation and can flip it when they want.

We are told there is “a new play: empowering parents.” OLD IS NEW does seem Orwellian.

1984 [sounds the alarm] against the abusive nature of authoritarian governments, …[analyzes] the psychology of power and the ways that manipulations of language and history can be used as mechanisms of CONTROL.”

The Party slogans in the novel 1984.

Set in a world governed by totalitarianism, overseen by Big Brother and controlled by The Party, three official slogans are used in 1984 to manipulate people’s thinking so their minds accept propaganda as truth.

The truth is, there are problems in need of reforming, but “reform” isn’t what happened. Reform was never the aim. CONTROL is the aim.

WAR IS PEACE

In Orwell’s fictitious country, Oceania, perpetual war was the norm. War kept the masses united against an enemy. … The parallel to today should not be ignored.

Repeatedly, we went to war in this country over education. The Reading Wars over phonics versus sight words probably began in the mid-1800’s! And it drags on and on.

Between the Reading and Math Wars we have been in a perpetual state of war dividing educators and parents while uniting the public against the “government schools” and the big bad teacher’s union.

We liked our schools and teachers; but we accepted vilifying both.

And now, 30 years after the corporate-political elites’ assault on K-12 public schools began, we have legitimate reasons to dislike the schools. They have been transformed, at the bidding of our leaders, by standardization and privatization.

The war against the K-12 system has weakened it and higher education is next in line.

If you support “the system” — the centuries-old highly successful U.S. institution of public education — the new Minister of Education, Betsy DeVos, says you are against what is good for children. You are the enemy. Your priority is wrong. You are against “educational freedom.”

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

Freedom is the American religion.” It’s written into the Constitution. It’s stamped into our DNA. It is the word of choice in the language of political conformity. It is THE BIGGEST political hook in the arsenal.

…”It’s about educational freedom! Freedom from Washington mandates. Freedom from centralized control. Freedom from a one-size-fits-all mentality. Freedom from ‘the system.’” Spoke the Minister of Education, Betsy DeVos

“The System”? The system of free public schools has been transformed into the Common Core System. All teaching, testing, and learning using technology is based on common curricular CONTENT. Where we once had common national goals — we now have common instructional CONTENT controlled by… ?… an algorithm …?… designed by …?… Who does CONTROL online CONTENT?

Where 30 years ago we did not have a one-size-fits all “industrial-model” school, we do now!But WE ARE TOLD that government-sponsored freedom of choice is good. And DeVos says she has “never heard it claimed that giving parents more options is bad…for the child.”

Freedom—the word—is the hook. Freedom isn’t really being offered.

A system based on competition for the new “educational freedom” makes families’ slaves to competing in a race for common education.

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

As one person described this Party slogan, “Believe and never question!”

Ignorance of the truth gives strength to political deception.

When the Curtain of Deception Parted

While discussing higher education, Betsy DeVos let slip what the rulers see as the purpose of their education system — a “delivery system to meet modern work place needs.”We have obviously accepted that political language. But the idea that public education is nothing more than a corporate and military human capital development system?  … No! Not everyone agrees…Consider what folks have to say…

“A school system to provide workers for the wealthy? Not to educate!”

“The country’s higher education system is indeed in dire need of a facelift, but not the one she [Betsy DeVos] wants to give it. It needs a nip and tuck, not the removal of the entire nose.”

If we accept a managed economy, it requires a managed and tightly controlled education/labor system.

While the “small government” mantra is used, the education/labor development system is being completed.

To CONTROL the economic system in the United States requires controlling people. And that political thought sure doesn’t fit the ideal of the American Dream.

Regeneration Requires Reviving the Norm

Initiative, resourcefulness, and generosity are traditional American characteristics.

Possessing those traits, great educational leaders of the past set the foundation for a public education system to serve all. Now, in our public schools system —in our self-proclaimed Land of Opportunity — competition and a market-based mentality has replaced generosity as the norm.

But because the character of Americans as people is founded on independence and revolt, resistance to conformity is probable. And the historic writings of George Orwell do shine light on that fight. We have to be willing to look, and think. He told us where to start. Look for the truth.

“Truisms are true, hold on to that!”

#Resist #Revolt #Regenerate

Double Standard

670085Some say it is a matter of black and white. Some say it is a matter of rich and poor. Some say the double standard in educational opportunity goes both ways — racial and socioeconomic.

“The nation is clearly no longer content with mediocrity, with just ‘getting by.’ It is demanding excellent education for all. Quality education has come to imply integration, for a white child taught in isolation is a deprived child. It implies an end to the double standard in education, a double standard that gives high-quality schooling to students in exclusive suburbs and inferior schooling to children in slums, that gives preference to some states over others.” —Francis (Frank) Keppel, architect of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

In the battle for access to quality learning opportunities, discrimination runs the gamut.

As this young man explains in Academic Imperialism

“Less conspicuous is the soft bigotry of educational ‘norming,’ that operates on the false binary of achievement and its diametric opposite of under-achievement….

When fourth-grade reading scores are paramount to forecasting prison matriculates, the social fabric is not only torn but also seismic shifted from protecting vulnerable members of our society, ….

If the idyllic version of community-centric schools is an expression of social inclusion of knowledge, then youth incarceration represents the symbiotic underside of social exclusion.”

How is it we have not found the will to address the issues so poetically articulated here?

“To follow historical trends, colonization is a magician that erases student identities and self-interest without the reciprocal chains of transcontinental slavery. It’s legacy still lives in today’s standards of high achievement…

The subtext of colonization is always ownership and representation. Whose veritable voice continues to echo throughout history but fails to reach the curriculum that serves its offspring? This is the soft bigotry of hidden curriculum.”

Very plainly stated, in The Crucial Voice,…Now would be a good time to consider the view of M. R. Olneck that, in addition to inputs and outputs, ‘two other concepts may serve as the basis for judgments about equal opportunity: representation and participation.’ We must have ‘participation in the process to have our ideas about what successful schooling is and how it should be judged represented . . .. In the absence of equal representation and participation, unequal outcomes are likely to persist since the terms of success are dictated by dominant groups’ (Gamoran, A., and D. A. Long. Equality of Educational Opportunity: A 40-Year Retrospective. Wisconsin Center for Education Research, December, 2006, p17).

IS it unreasonable to expect representation and participation in deciding how to judge equality of opportunity in our schools? This isn’t just about tests. This is about people deciding what success looks like for children. It isn’t all measurable.

And when it is clearly recognized that standardized tests don’t measure the quality of education and that tests are biased, why don’t we demand representation and participation when it comes to deciding what constituents student success and equal opportunity?

Is it ignorance, stupidity, apathy, self-imposed blindness, self-absorption? … I don’t know bobby-scott-bobby-scott-the-promise-of-equal-educational-opportunity… but obviously, offering quality learning opportunities to all K-12 children has not been a national priority. People always think it should be easy, just do what Finland did. Well, their first step was to make improving the quality of education a national priority.

In 1991, researchers acknowledged that this very issue of consensus would be a problem for America. But we never discussed or acknowledged it to be a problem. The only thing on this list that we have

Perspectives on Education in America, Summary from the Sandia Report, 1993.

Perspectives on Education in America, Summary from the Sandia Report, 1993.

addressed is data and really went overboard with it!

 

 

 

 

 

But let’s look at the BIGGEST double standard in our education reform process — federal education law.

We people have been taught that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Both Congress and President Obama need to be called-out on this one! Do they not know what the aim, purposes, and reasons for the titles of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) were? Their ignorance of this law is no excuse for perpetuating the pretense of reform set by No Child Left Behind and its “accountability, flexibility, and choice.”

There is a fix for ignorance; it’s called education.

But maybe I’m wrong; maybe it isn’t ignorance that has kept them beating the test-based “reform” drum. If it isn’t ignorance that has set the nation on the wrong path, what is it? Political ideology? Putting politics ahead of children’s needs?

Is it the pretense of reform set by free-market competition?

When competition for dollars splits us into groups each groping for a share of the pie, we lose sight of the real meaning of fairness. Each time we set up a public school education “program” that is not strictly aimed at meeting individual children’s needs, we are setting up a practice that will potentially discriminate. In these ways, we become divided in the quest for quality learning opportunities for all children in America.

“Equality, in the American sense of the word, is not an end but a beginning. It means that, so far as the state can do it, all children shall start in the race of life on an even line. The chief agency for this purpose is the public school system.”—Edwin E. Slosson

In the past, some have seen the need for the public school system to offer equal opportunity. Some do now. So how is it we have not ended the double standard in education? Should we call it a double standard? Should we call it inequality? Should we call it discrimination?

How about soft bigotry?

How about calling your Senator before the July 7th vote on the Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177) and simply telling them to vote NO. Their version only continues the mindset that we obtain quality education for all through “accountability, flexibility, and choice.” After following that belief for 13 years, we know it isn’t true.

It’s time we demand they go back to the original law for guidance. It’s time to demand they #GetESEAright !

If this nation cares about poverty-stricken children getting a fair shot, this law is one avenue through which to do it. But neither the House Student Success Act nor the Senate Every Child Achieves Act has the original aim in mind.

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.

Are You Listening Secretary Duncan?

“The problem here is not what the precise policy shall be but rather how shall decision on that policy be reached.” — Francis Keppel 1966

When the process of “reform” targets improving schools that need improving, it shouldn’t begin with a statement by Secretary Duncan that he stands firm on the idea of “competition” and that he is “holding the line” on what he has already set down for the nation. How does that work when he has also said he will listen? Listen, get people’s advice and input, but, proceed with what has already been decided? Is this how decisions shall be reached? This is a common on-going problem – nationally and in my state of Idaho.

In Idaho, voters turned down the “reform” ideas set by our legislature. So now, the governor is setting up a task force — but citizens need not apply. Only the “stakeholder groups” will be represented in the decision-making process. It appears all levels of government have forgotten their roles in education.

The U.S. Department of Education exists because there has always been unequal access to quality education and it was felt to be a national necessity that our citizens be properly educated. A highly-functional public education system is a proper and necessary function of our government. How does competition produce equal access when those most in need of assistance are dysfunctional when left to their own devices? The very existence of chronically low-performing schools is the proof.

And in a state like Idaho, where we underfund education and continue to document chronically low-performing schools, how can we think that putting the same warring factions together and excluding the public in the conversation will produce better policy? The process matters.

Are you listening Secretary Duncan?