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.

The Education Reform Oligarchy & Stiff Accountability

Who convinced a nation that we should put “stiff accountability” in place without first ensuring that all schools and children had the necessary resources to achieve the excellence in education we demand of them? It was “them,” the rulers; not we, the People.

The education reform oligarchy marketed “accountability,” tied their sales pitch to freedom of choice, used statistics to the point of outright trickery, and suppressed the truth.

They set a game plan and methodically stuck to it.

They shifted our focus from what was set by the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — better educating teachers and counselors, providing sufficient instructional materials, ensuring students are supported, and engaging parents and the community —to— stiff accountability for student outcomes as judged by standardized test scores. And they took aim at teachers…from the start.

Hired to do public opinion polling by the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy under the direction of Marc Tucker, Mr. Lou Harris explained his findings at the 1986 National Governor’s Association (NGA) meeting.

“…people are convinced the heart of the matter lies in what is done about teachers.…

Of course, this means, in turn, new ground rules for teachers…such as, paying teachers by a new bottom line, …and finally, finally, at last, paying teachers competitive salaries on a level, for example, with accountants.

But then with these upside inducements must also go stiff, stiff accountability, such as annual reporting of school-wide student performance,… and this is the key one — allowing parents the chance to choose which public school to send their kids to as a device to reward schools that are successful.

…this means a new compact in education, a trade-off, if you will, between higher
 salaries and more autonomy for teachers on the one hand, in exchange for higher standards and accountability for teachers measured, in what: in terms of student performance. This is basic.”

There’s your basis for No Child Left Behind — in 1986. Mind you, it’s a theory… the outcome-based theory! Did it work? Did we get the results we sought?

Their focus was not on the unequal inputs that are inherent in a public school system the size and magnitude of our U.S. system. Their focus was not on our high level of poverty and the pockets of community decay that has been allowed to grow and fester. Instead, this group of politicians and think-tankers focused on “stiff, stiff accountability” in exchange for more pay.

They did it! We got a federal accountability system based on student performance but without elevating the teaching profession as a whole. Duped? You bet we were. Where is the accountability for that? Who is answerable for ignoring the needs of teachers and the desire of parents?hal-johnson-quote-we-feel-a-little-bit-like-weve-been-duped

You teachers…listen up…. jump those hoops, not because you are a professional doing your job but for the monetary reward. Worship the almighty dollar just like the oligarchy. It’s how they see things in their world…. these people who own and rule the world. This all made sense to them, well, not all of them.

Not everyone attending the 1986 NGA meeting agreed with the theory of outcome-based accountability.

Mrs. Mary Futrell, then head of the National Education Association, spoke out in favor of a different approach…

“We believe the primary responsibility of an accountability system or an evaluation system, it should be for professional growth. To help the teachers do a better job. We have a real concern that as we look at school-based or school performance or student performance, that we will try to tie teachers’ pay to that, even though there is no research to support it.”

Research? The agenda of the oligarchy was never backed by good research and still isn’t…29 more years later! Research and the dissenting voices have been ignored repeatedly. In this game, both are left on the sidelines.

The outcome-based political agenda moved steadily forward while the focus on inputs and real improvements took a back seat.

By the 1989 NGA annual meeting, President George H. W. Bush (41st president, 1989-93) had entered the picture and had been invited to speak.

“To have reform, excellence in achievement must be recognized and rewarded.

To have reform, federal dollars should be targeted to those most in need.

To have reform, we need flexibility and choice, choice for parents, choice for schools in their selection of teachers and principals.

And finally, the essence of reform is accountability in education and reward for those schools that show progress.”

The essence of reform is accountability — not improving schools to the point where all our schools are of high quality?

At that same gathering, then Governor Bill Clinton expressed,

“I support, as I think you know, your education position. I’m for accountability, choice, alternative certification.”

And by 1991, we had Lamar Alexander, a very strong player on the reform team, positioned at the D.C. front-line as the secretary of education.

“Alexander has also put together a new education agenda that includes a controversial proposal for instituting national achievement tests and more emphasis on adult learning and training for the work force. ”

New agenda? More adult training, just like better pay for teachers?

“His Better Schools program for the state [TN] included a new merit pay system for teachers, tougher standards for students and more emphasis on science, computers and mathematics.”

Then in 1996, the first Education Summit gathered together the governors with business and education leaders.

“Their mission: To start a national effort to establish high academic standards, assessment and accountability and improve the use of school technology as a tool to reach high standards.”

The gift that keeps on giving or taking?

The gift that keeps on giving or taking?

Education and the economy were wed in an unholy matrimony that put the quality of education for public school children at risk while putting a bundle of public dollars in a relatively small group of private pockets. This marriage also produced Achieve as “an external, independent, non-governmental” organization for moving the main agenda forward.

“All students should graduate from high school ready for college, careers, and citizenship.”

As we now know, the focus on citizenship didn’t happen. (For the research, scroll down to “In life” section of this blog.) Just like with teacher pay and more focus on adult training, we were duped again. They dangled carrots and we bit.

Throughout all these years, it was reported that the public supported “accountability.” There’s nothing wrong with that. But, did the public realize that it was always an accountability package that put the American education system up for sale?

The oligarchy’s plan always feed the education-industrial complex. William (Bill) Bennett, who went from being President Reagan’s second secretary of education to being a co-founder of K-12, Inc. in 1999, typifies how being politically powerful leads to profits and doesn’t require producing the promised results.

“As K12 Inc. notes in its annual report, ‘most of (its) revenues depend on per pupil funding amounts and payment formulas” from government contracts for virtual public charter schools and “blended schools'(combining online with traditional instruction) among other products. In 2014, K12 Inc. took in $919.6 million from its business.”

And all of the political maneuvering and manipulation of the public over these past decades opened the door further for the oligarchy to use ESEA (No Child Left Behind) as a way to forever (or maybe not) change the focus of the law from supports for children of low-income families and improvement of educational quality for all children —to—“accountability, flexibility, and choice.”

Enter Mr. Obama: He never promised anything that strayed too far from the NCLB goals. And the politics of neoliberalism (scroll to definition in this blog) has doomed him to repeat and amplify the mistakes of the past. The toxicity of D.C. politics is killing public education.

From Democrats for Education Reform - They say they are an "organization that cultivates and supports leaders ...who champion America’s public schoolchildren." Others beg to differ.

From Democrats for Education Reform – They say they are an “organization that cultivates and supports leaders …who champion America’s public schoolchildren.” Others beg to differ.

Education reform is their game and their message has been successfully framed. Data and disaggregation of it isn’t the problem. Who controls the data is.

Parents, you aren’t really players; you are targets of their messaging. And you are pawns. You need to get off the sidelines and into the action — and play responsibly. To do so, you need the truth.

What is missing is the truth.

In roughly 30 years, we have not been able to break away from Mr. Marc Tucker’s vision and plan for America’s education/workforce development system. This is the same man who now proposes that we can “fix” the accountability system by eliminating the power of local boards and putting us all under the thumb of State control (yes, with a capital “S”).

The country bought into the outcome-based theory of education reform. We experimented. Now, can’t we see the results?

Civil rights groups that support test-based federal accountability must face the facts.

Civil rights groups that support test-based federal accountability must face the facts.

“…a return to levels of integration last seen during the Johnson administration.”

Separate schools are inherently unequal which is why federal education law must focus on providing quality inputs while only monitoring outcomes for continuous improvement purposes.

The gains we made in narrowing the achievement gap, after the implementation of the 1965 ESEA, have slowed considerably since 2004. Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 11.15.33 AM

 

If we wanted equal educational opportunity, we are faltering.

 

 

If we wanted an accountability system that closes down neighborhood schools, fires teachers, and lowers the standards for entry to the teaching profession through alternative certification and emergency measures to fill needed teaching positions, we are there.

If we finally want to do the right thing for every child in our public schools right now, we have to kill No Child Left Behind, ditch the theory it was based on, and go back to a system that did produce results.

NCLB will be replaced, but, will the new law really be based on what we learned from this 30 year still-living experiment in outcome-based reform? Since Senator Lamar Alexander had a hand in developing the game plan from the beginning, he should be able to provide answers. Isn’t that what stiff accountability demands? Answers.

The Education Reform Oligarchy & Their School Choice Conversation

Wish I could just turn back the clockThe education reform oligarchy of the 80’s had a school choice conversation —at least one that is a matter of record.

It’s doubtful that the public can recall what was discussed. It’s doubtful that very many were really invited to listen. What is more likely is that most people are left asking, what school choice conversation?

So here’s how the story went

“At its meeting in August 1985, the members of the National Governors’ Association [NGA] formed seven task forces for the purpose of examining in-depth critical problem areas in American education.”

Time for Results?

Time for Results?

It’s unlikely that very many people would argue against the idea that parent involvement in education is critical. Then — now, forever, and always — parent, community, and national involvement and support for public schools is a problem in critical need of being addressed with real solutions. How exactly school choice came to be seen as a “critical” problem depends …

“Whether the push for school choice is driven by economic and political forces, or by parents and educators, depends on whom you ask.”

What we know for sure is now our history.

To be clear, since the development of free desegregated public school education, people in the United States of America have had the freedom to choose between their local public schools, private schools, and home-schooling. There is no forced attendance at government-run schools only. There are compulsory attendance laws to protect a child’s right to an education but people have always had a choice in how to comply with that law. We have always had school choice. … to date.

But when was it discussed that school choice is the best answer for a lack of parental involvement? Who knows?

What was decided was to attach the issue of school choice to that of parental involvement. However, at the 1986 NGA meeting, a year after the topics had been decided, then Governor Lamar Alexander introduced the topic like this

“We will then hear presentations from three of the Governors who led the task forces on teaching, on leadership, and on choice.”

Their presentation of a critical problem area went from “parental involvement and choice” to “choice”?

Governor Dick Lamm of Colorado chaired that task force. As he explained it,…

“What we were looking at is how can we give additional flexibility to parents and students in choosing their schools within the public school context.”…

“Some of these could be magnet schools, some of them could be alternative schools, some of them could just be different options among the public schools.”

Lamm recommended PUBLIC choices. These choices were all under local district governance. And even though the topic was introduced as “choice,” Governor Lamm did share some views on parental involvement.

And he did acknowledge…

“The two things we looked at: choice, parental involvement. They are related but they are also separate.”

But in publication after publication, parental involvement and choice would be lumped together without any emphasis on “the choice” being “within the public school context.” It was never a significant part of the school choice public conversation.

The chair of the Choice Task Force wasn’t the only one voicing concerns.

Mr. Al Shanker (then head of the American Federation of Teachers) was one among many who tried to explain the potential pitfalls of “choice.”

“We live in a society where that [choice] is one of our top values.”

“Kids have more of a commitment when they decide on a program or a school than parents do.”

“I am very concerned, and I think all of us have to be concerned, that there are situations where choice could result, let’s say, in the top 25 percent of the students in a major city being offered nice spots in suburban schools, and leaving the schools in that city that might very well be on their way to coming back, leaving them without any role models at all for those other students.”

“Therefore, as we move towards systems of choice, I think you ought to be very sensitive that we may be leaving a lot of kids behind, and we have got to look at that. That’s not to argue against choice, it’s just to argue that we do it in a thoughtful way.”

“There is one other downside which hasn’t been mentioned on this…. The parents’ associations in England complain bitterly that if you have the right to switch, nobody wants to fight. That is, nobody is left to argue that you need improvement in the school because the dissatisfied people move out, leaving only those who either don’t know what is going on or who don’t care, or don’t have the time or the energy to move.”

“You rescue your own kid and say the heck with the rest of it. These things have to be watched.”

“I don’t know all the problems that are going to arise….I want to experiment. I want to make sure we don’t 
decimate the cities.”

Was it just the teacher’s union and a governor or two that questioned school choice as a reform strategy?

Ms. Georgeanne Sherrill, a career ladder 3 elementary teacher in Tennessee, was attending the 1986 NGA meeting to present information on instructional leadership and “career ladders” — an initiative of Lamar Alexander’s. She joined the conversation.

“I would just like to say one thing. I think it’s in connection with what Ms. Futrell [then president of National Education Association] said. I think we can give parents a choice in education without having to pull the students out of one school and put them in another school. We can work with parents to structure the program in that school to meet the needs of the parents that have children in that school.”

That suggestion seemed to be discarded at the time but is finding favor in some areas of the country now.

So it wasn’t just one union leader, or two, or one teacher that voiced objections and concerns. As the chair of the Parent Involvement and Choice Task Force, Governor Lamm went on to explain…..

“I, like I think most of the other governors, are desperately concerned about opening up choice to public or private school and the choice of a voucher or any similar thing, with cannibalizing the existing public school system, about taking resources that are already really too limited.”

There was definite dissention in the ranks of leadership. But the dissenting voices were effectively struck down at every turn by then Secretary of Education Bennett and the Chair of NGA, Governor Alexander.

The conversation going forward? It was framed.

Summary by Lamar Alexander

Summary by Lamar Alexander

What did we hear from the chair of NGA? We heard the question,

“Why not let parents choose the schools their children attend?”

And the talk was of a “better schools movement.”

“It will mean giving parents more choice of the public schools their children attend as one way of assuring higher quality without heavy-handed state control.”

And the project moved forward with the help of the U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Bennett’s leadership. The nation had a new project, officially —Project Education Reform.Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 3.09.50 PM

The newsletter gave no explanation of "choice."

The newsletter gave no explanation of “choice.”

The critical problems of parental involvement and choice became joined at the hip —one dragging the other forward—but at this point in the story, not much was really said about the details of choice.

 

Did the report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education (A Nation at Risk) have school choice as one of its recommendations? No. The school choice agenda moved forward because influential and “gifted” people pushed it.

William Bennett was one such leader, for sure…

“He is a man of great brilliance and strong convictions, but he is a preacher, not a teacher. He is trying to manipulate public opinion to accept his ideas of what is right and wrong. This would be forgivable if he were not as gifted as he is and if he were not the Secretary of Education.”

”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.”

“…he waded in with a controversial new voucher plan that would give parents of disadvantaged children funds that could be spent in private and parochial as well as public schools.”

School choice was part of the Bennett agenda from the beginning. How much he really cared about the disadvantaged, who knows?

But by 1989, we had a new president, a different secretary of education, and had some changes in governorships. What did not change was the Project Education Reform agenda —with one exception. The facade of parent involvement had been dropped. Instead of a task force on Parent Involvement and Choice, we now had a working group for Choice and Restructuring (pg.44).

Insert1And by 1991, it was Lamar Alexander who became secretary of education putting himself in a prime position to carry their reform agenda forward.

Today as head of the senate education committee, he has done his part to federalize the plan for school choice while being the artful dodger in avoiding any conversation concerning “choice.” The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is in conference committee…..tick, tock….

The bill to replace No Child Left Behind is a critical problem.

The bill to replace No Child Left Behind is a critical problem.

 

Time for the school choice conversation again? In light of the fact that the Dyett Hunger Strike is occurring in Chicago because an open enrollment neighborhood public high school is no longer a choice, we need to have the school choice conversation all over again…now. What is America’s choice?

“The hunger strike is now at Day 28 as of this writing (9/13/15) and the Chicago Board of Education has finally opened talks with the strikers.”

This level of sacrifice by a small group of people should make us all feel a bit humbled by their resolve, but a little sick inside that it has come to this — the oligarchy rules and, in general, they don’t feel the need to listen to any of us.

You-Haver-A-ChoiceThe public’s choice?

The Education Reform Oligarchy: Who Decided?

Who decided it was best to have an education reform oligarchy set the strategy for school improvements? This oligarchy is made up of politicians, business-heads, and philanthropic venture capitalists that are transforming our public education system. Did we decide we wanted these people to change our schools for us?

609106-668-1When did Americans decide that governing by the few was acceptable?

Who’s in this elite group?

The complete list of those who set the agenda for education reform remains a bit of a mystery but enough of the oligarchy have surfaced over the years to make for an accurate, yet incomplete, picture.

One thing is certain, the “iron law of oligarchy” rings true in the case of the National Governors Association (NGA). The law…

“…states that when organizations attain a certain level of complexity they inevitably give way to an oligarchy of elite control — elite domination. This phenomenon is due to the rise of politically sophisticated social elites within the organization as well as the organization’s need to maintain consistent command and control administrative governance in order to attain its goals.”

The approximate time when our modern-day education reform oligarchy was formally established is somewhere between 1982 and 1986. But it doesn’t really matter. The fact is, it is real and “They” (whoever they are) are still in control. NGA was, and remains, one reform tool central to their work. As then Secretary of Education William (Bill) Bennett told the governors at the NGA meeting in 1986 at Hilton Head, South Carolina,

“…you are in charge of schools in your states, and when you decide to act you can act.”

And the association, with counsel, took actions to transform the public education system based on a vision provided by those that see nothing wrong with a small ruling class dictating the change they have decided will work for us.

Here is some insight into their reasoning:

From Mr. Lewis Branscomb (in 1986) as the chief scientist for IBM who headed the task force on teaching for the Carnegie Foundation;

“We hear a lot about a knowledge-based economy. I think it’s important to appreciate that moving into a knowledge-based economy, if that’s what it takes to be competitive, that we can’t expect the smokestack industries to create the new employment.

Then we have to ask, “What 
is industry in a knowledge-based economy?” The answer is the education industry. The next question you ask is, “Well, how competitive is the education industry?” A question Governor Lamm asked in a very interesting paper I read. You have to say our education industry — to be sure a public sector industry, nonetheless an industry –is not competitive today. So, if our economy is going to be competitive, the education industry has got to be competitive.

I think the key to engaging a long-term interest and commitment of companies is the adoption of a reform strategy, like that proposed by the Carnegie task force and the Governors’ task force…

…parents are a declining percentage of the voting population in this country. It will not be sufficient to have just the parents in favor of better schools. We have got to have the retired population understanding that their future Social Security payments depend upon the earnings of kids who are now going into school.”

PDK/Gallup

PDK/Gallup

 

Targeting public opinion? We find a consistent difference of opinion between how parents see their own school —based on their experiences and knowledge of their school— and how they view the public schools in the nation. Is this a difference between what they see and hear for themselves and what the marketing for the reform strategy has produced?

 

 

 

From Marc Tucker (in 1986) as executive director of the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy;

“When the Carnegie Forum Task Force began its work, we knew that the Governors were the key to the necessary revolution in school policy.

The results are clear. The Governors and the members of the Carnegie Task Force are of one mind on the issues and on strategy. The Carnegie Forum stands ready to join with each of you and with the National Governors’ Association in implementation of our common agenda.

We now know that the Governors of this country are solidly committed to a new political compact in education and to a set of powerful strategies for completing that compact.”

oligarchy

 

Like-minded leaders targeting the public? The focus of the 1986 meeting was on what was being dubbed “the 1991 Education Report” which outlined their five-year plan.

 

From Lou Harris (in 1986), of Lou Harris and Associates polling organization hired by the Carnegie Foundation to assess the popularity of the Carnegie Forum report A Nation Prepared, these observations of his polling results;

“In this study we just concluded for the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy…the clear mandate is for nothing less than complete and comprehensive overhaul of the entire public education system….

What you do today will be national policy tomorrow, and a generation from now, it’s my view, that a grateful nation will give you its thanks for what you have done here this week.”

And the predictions from the chair of the NGA (in 1986), then Governor Lamar Alexander (who now leads the charge as chair of the Senate HELP – Health, Education, Labor, Pension- committee)…

“If you look over the horizon and see a big cloud of dust, it’s not likely to be the Russians or the buffaloes coming; it’s likely to be the Governors coming to save the schools, and coming in virtually every state.”

In a 1986 New York Times article, the author observed

“…what this political process has not been able to address thus far is how to move from the ‘input’ to the ‘output,’ or how the increased resources will be translated into students who can meet the higher standards.”

A couple of things are noteworthy about that statement; this was a political process, it was meant to move us from a focus on inputs to one of outputs (outcome-based education reform), and there was talk of increased resources. Talk.

Today we know that education budgets were cut dramatically during our Great Recession, funding remains inequitable and downright inadequate in many places, costs for testing with ever-changing new “higher” standards and all the new curriculum materials that go with them has driven up education costs dramatically while teachers still struggle with supplying the classroom materials they need. Outputs in the face of the wrong inputs? Silliness, or, the strategy?

By 1990, the teachers’ unions also had set a new agenda

“… to not only protect the job-related interests of their members but also ensure the success of the education industry.”

Doing the bidding of the oligarchy? Following the guiding principle to support the education reform market?100510giroux2

If success of the education industry is how education is tied to the economy then the strategy our rulers put forth makes sense. Private profits went up. Public dissatisfaction with school reforms went up and new education industry products appeared — giving us a choice, providing competition. Who decided this was the choice we needed?

The Reading Wars. The Math Wars. Someone always profits from wars.

Milwaukee-Public-Schools-Not-For-Sale1The education reform wars still continue to be a political process wrought with blunders because the American education reform oligarchy —the few that rule—don’t listen to the many that have a good solid base of experience and knowledge. We are many.

But back to the governors and their association, today, do they or we know what the actually recommendations were? Do we know if, in the 80’s, the governors were listening to the testimony of those outside their relatively small circle of influence? Time for results?

Do the ruling elite understand what was in the original plans? Many were present then and still ruling now. They should know. But is their focus on serving the common good by providing quality education to all children, or, supporting the economy by supporting the education industry? These things have not proven to be one-in-the-same.

I don’t think the public knows what was in the original plans. If we did, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be doing what we are doing to the institution of public education. We aren’t reforming; we are allowing systemic destruction to advance while the industry profits.

The education reform agenda, that has dominated the U.S. for three decades, was set for us by the education oligarchy.

We should decide if we wish to continue with their plan and strategies.

Decide: Should education reform continue as a political process or a school improvement process? Must we take control of both to set things right?power-to-the-people

Wrong is Wrong

Senator Alexander believes in making “the Bush-era law work.” He stated that, “How well our children are learning is much more important than any political game” but his actions have not matched his rhetoric.images copy 3

The truth is that education reform has been nothing more than one BIG political game. A major part of Lamar Alexander’s life was spent in the political arena and his vision of reform has affected the education of the nation’s children.

Here’s how the game “worked”; the influential set our course for education reform 30 years ago. The nation’s schools, teachers, parents, and children have taken the brunt of their mistakes while those in power marched on never wavering from their goal despite evidence of their mistakes.

The influential were wrong in theory and in action. And given his history, Lamar Alexander has to be counted as one of the most influential players in this game.

puppetAs Secretary of Education, Alexander not only led us in the wrong direction, he also helped put blinders on us. In this politically influential position, he found multiple ways to pull the strings to get the country dancing to his tune.

“America 2000” was unveiled in April 1991 shortly after Alexander replaced Lauro Cavazos as Bush’s education secretary. Alexander was prime architect of the program, which included the proposed creation of national standards and voluntary national tests in English, math, science, history, and geography to be administered in grades 4, 8 and 12.”

And,….

“…voucher legislation first prepared in 1992 by Mr. Alexander, as secretary of education in the Bush administration, has been the basis for Mr. Dole’s “opportunity scholarship” proposal in an election in which voters say education is at the top of their agenda.”

And there were things he chose not to do.

Secretary Alexander chose to ignore the Sandia researchers report stating that the idea of school choice is in direct conflict with support for troubled schools.

“In early 1991, the Sandia team prepared a report, asserting that “evidence of decline used to justify system-wide reform is based on misinterpretations or misrepresentations of the data.”

The Sandia researchers have been muzzled. The Department of Education complained that the report was biased because “data shown are consistently supportive of a picture of U.S. education in a positive light.” The report, Secretary of Energy James Watkins charged, “is a call for complacency at a time when just the opposite is required. The Department of Energy will not permit publication of the study as presently drafted.” It has still not been released.” From the Myth of Public School Failures, Richard Rothstein, 2001

Secretary Alexander chose to ignore the warning of the Special Study Panel on Education Indicators…Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 11.53.15 AMA nation misled will eventually be lost…unless we self-correct. We have that freedom.

Lamar Alexander has exercised his freedom of choice and executed his political agenda with fidelity while keeping much of the country veiled in ignorance.

“Mr. Alexander, a former governor of Tennessee, became a co-director of Empower America in 1994.”

“…the Washington-based outfit has provided funding, staffing, and organization to help Messrs. Kemp, [former Reagan Secretary of Education] Bennett, and Alexander refine their policy ideas–including school choice and the devolution of federal education programs–and expand their political bases after departing from public office.”

“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.”

Empower America is now called Freedom Works. Freedom Works’ motto for education reform is “Bring competition to public education and give kids and parents real opportunity.” Real opportunity?

Words, words, and more words. But….

Senator Alexander has managed to dodge explaining the failures of his theories and to put forth any evidence-based reasons for the federal government (the government of us) to financially support an ideologically driven, market-based, outcome-based, standards-based (test-based), reform law that sponsors privatization of public schools to replace what once was an anti-poverty law (ESEA). It’s wrong.

The Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177 NOTE: the name was changed to Every Student Succeeds Act ESSA & made into law) has it wrong for the very same reasons that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was wrong.

Instead of factual reasons why NCLB was so devastating to public schools, Senator Alexander reaches for his political game card.

“The problem has been that, starting with No Child Left Behind, we’ve created in effect a national school board and Washington has started requiring the standards and that’s created a huge backlash — first with the teachers’ union because they don’t like teacher evaluation from Washington or anywhere else, and second from conservatives who don’t like federal overreach.”

Dodge ball?

Alexander uses the nonexistent “national school board” as a catchphrase… “What states need is not centralized support for the new policies and procedures dictated by the national school board, but freedom from Washington …,”

If the nation wants national standards, who do they want to put in charge of them? The non-profit who currently holds the copyright to the Common Core? The powers that be? Answers Senator Alexander?

If the nation wants national standards, who do they want to put in charge of them? The non-profit who currently holds the copyright to the Common Core? The powers that be? Answers Senator Alexander?

He rallies his troops with empty rhetoric. Freedom, freedom, freedom works!

Three decades after the plot was set, the plans laid by Alexander and company are coming to fruition. They have convinced a nation (with the help of some of the best marketing firms in the world plus some deception) that standards and testing are an essential first step in education reform. They’re wrong.

Wrong is wrong no matter how you dress it up, talk it up, or mark it up in law. It’s wrong and as a nation we’ve been wronged.

The influential pulled our strings.

Our guiding principle in the design of a choice system is this: Public authority must be put to use in creating a system that is almost entirely beyond the reach of public authority.”

Is that the guiding principle the influential followed?

So much for ACCOUNTABILITY! Isn’t this FLEXIBILITY with our tax dollars to the extreme? CHOICE served up in law all because the country didn’t know the facts and marketers did a number on us?

No Child Left Behind was a bad law because its guiding principles are “accountability, flexibility, and choice.” We should not try to make it work. Its guiding principles are dead wrong.

Wrong is wrong. There is no making this education law right, unless…..we go back to the guiding principles of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)— supporting quality education and equality in opportunity by focusing on the children from low-income families. It’s the only way to make this right.Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 3.52.56 PM

“Education is the business of the American people.” Francis (Frank) Keppel

We jump in now or let the big players finish the game. You can see how it’s done. Just look at Senator Alexander and the position he is in today —- the vote on his law is coming in the next couple of days.

Playing politics has been Lamar Alexander’s game of choice (pun intended). There is only one way to right this wrong. Stop the process.

Doing the same thing, following the same leaders, and expecting different results is not only insane, it’s wrong.

54f226a5704f4351094d8dc6f02db40bStop playing follow the leader and take independent actions to hold lawmakers accountable. Make them do the right thing for the right reasons.