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Fri Apr 26, 2013, 01:13 PM

The Coming Revolution in Public Education

Critics say the standardized test-driven reforms pushed by those like Michelle Rhee may actually be harming students.

It's always hard to tell for sure exactly when a revolution starts. Is it when a few discontented people gather in a room to discuss how the ruling regime might be opposed? Is it when first shots are fired? When a critical mass forms and the opposition acquires sufficient weight to have a chance of prevailing? I'm not an expert on revolutions, but even I can see that a new one is taking shape in American K-12 public education.

The dominant regime for the past decade or more has been what is sometimes called accountability-based reform or, by many of its critics, "corporate education reform." The reforms consist of various initiatives aimed at (among other things): improving schools and educational outcomes by using standardized tests to measure what students are learning; holding schools and teachers accountable (through school closures and teacher pay cuts) when their students are "lagging" on those standardized assessments; controlling classroom instruction and increasing the rigor of school curricula by pushing all states to adopt the same challenging standards via a "Common Core;" and using market-like competitive pressures (through the spread of charter schools and educational voucher programs) to provide public schools with incentives to improve.

Fueled in part by growing evidence of the reforms' ill effects and of the reformers' self-interested motives, the counter-movement is rapidly expanding. Here are some reasons why I predict it will continue to gain strength and gradually lead to the undoing of these market-based education reforms.

•It's what history teaches us to expect. In this country, we lurch back and forth between efforts to professionalize and efforts to infantilize public-school teachers, and have been doing so since the beginning of public schools in America. Neither kind of effort accords teachers much respect. Because teachers are chiefly employed by local governments (unlike doctors or lawyers who are typically employed in private enterprise), there has always been a tendency on the part of some groups of people to try to exert greater central control over teachers, not believing them to be professionals who can be left to do their jobs according to their own judgment. When those skeptics hold sway, the "solutions" they impose favor quantitative/metrics-based "accountability," top-down management, limitations on teachers' autonomy, and the substitution of external authority (outside measurers and evaluators) for the expertise of educators themselves. (See William J. Reese's op-ed piece Sunday on the early history of the "testing wars" in America.)

•Education policies based on standardization and uniformity tend to fail. The policy alchemists' notion that a "Common Core" or standardized curriculum, along with standardized tests, are appropriate measures for "fixing" American education is uninformed by an understanding of history and practice. Twenty-five years ago, two of our wisest scholarly analysts of educational reform, Richard Elmore and Milbrey Wallin McLaughlin, observed, based on their study of education reforms over the decades: "Reforms succeed to the degree that they adapt to and capitalize upon variability [from school to school and classroom to classroom]. . . . Policies that aim to reduce variability by reducing teacher discretion not only preclude learning from situational adaptation to policy goals, they also can impede effective teaching." Today's corporate reformers are flying in the face of experience.


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Arrow 4 replies Author Time Post
Reply The Coming Revolution in Public Education (Original post)
liberal N proud Apr 2013 OP
Smarmie Doofus Apr 2013 #1
xchrom Apr 2013 #2
lindysalsagal Apr 2013 #3
CK_John Apr 2013 #4

Response to liberal N proud (Original post)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 01:40 PM

1. "Are people born stupid or do they take an extra-strength dumbass pill everyday?"


---DUer Brain Drain, Earlier today in an ---- I think ---- unrelated thread.

Seriously: what is wrong with people that they think that a "movement", inspired, originated and currently led by the Republican Party, billionaire scoundrels like Gates, Bloomberg, Walmart et al., et al., et al., and a bunch of rw DEMs is going to be anything other than the scam that the article describes in depth?

>>>More people are realizing that many of the organizations involved in "corporate reform" seem to need reforming themselves. A great irony of the corporate reform agenda is that the mission to bring business-like accountability and efficiency to public education has been hampered in part by the colossal incompetence of some of the companies involved. A good example is Pearson, which calls itself "the world's leading education company," a slogan which, if true, should give all of us great pause. This big testing company, like its testing-industry competitors, has been screwing up over and over again for more than a decade now, with news of its most recent colossal mistake coming just this past week. Moreover, despite their screw-ups, these companies are enriching themselves and their executives from taxpayers' dollars - Pearson's pre-tax profits soaring by 72 percent in 2011. And in the you-can't-make-this-stuff-up vein, we got the news in the last few days that Pearson is allowing embedded plugs for commercial products (LEGO and Mug Root Beer, anyone?) in the exams for which taxpayers are footing the bill. No wonder growing numbers of people are rebelling against the intrusion into public education of the sort of gross commercial greed and incompetence the testing-industry represents. (If you want to read a detailed and damning appraisal of the secretive and error-ridden testing business, read this 2003 report by Kathleen Rhoades and George Madaus of Boston College's Lynch School of Education.)>>>>

I'm frankly surprised that the article appeared in such an establishment pillar as The Atlantic. What gives?

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Response to liberal N proud (Original post)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 02:04 PM

2. Du rec. Nt

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Response to liberal N proud (Original post)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 05:41 PM

3. NY teacher, here. I see the damage with my own eyes. Saw it today.

We just finished a week of ELA tests followed by a week of math. Next week, science. The kids are fried, or panicked, or despondent. They're also getting so tired of it, they're not really taking the tests seriously.

So, even if they don't formally boycott the test, they boycott it passively by just marking up the paper randomly, and handing it in.

Kids will eventually figure out when they're getting screwed by adults. It's only a matter of time.

This shit's gotta stop. It comes directly from our NY state legislature. Like they know ANYTHING about kids, learning, or testing.

This is politics: We've sold our kids to the multi-national corporations that already own the rest of the world.

Plus, the tests are incorrect, misleading, confusing, too long, and not on grade level. The kids, themselves, told me today that there were questions that weren't even taught this year. Stuff they'd never heard of, and I teach in a 90th percentile lilly-white rich public school with a pretty good gene pool.

This shit's gotta stop. If I had a child in school now, I'd refuse to allow her to take the tests and keep her home. That's the only way they'll give up squeezing our kids for pennies.

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Response to liberal N proud (Original post)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 06:14 PM

4. You assume public schools are about education, they are about preparing a labor force. But....

there are no jobs and no labor force needed.

Rhee and the other so called charter spokespeople are tasked to fleece and shutdown the public schools.

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