"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Next Phase in the Destruction of America's Public Schools: The Government Report

The Council on Foreign Relations just released a report which calls the failure to adequately educate our children "puts the United States' future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk." In other words, America's public schools are failing and the future of our country is at risk.

The report, titled U.S. Education Reform and National Security claims that we must
Make structural changes to provide students with good choices. "Enhanced choice and competition, in an environment of equitable resource allocation, will fuel the innovation necessary to transform results."
"Choice and competition" -- that means that we need to increase the number of charter schools and vouchers for private schools.

The report task force, chaired by former NYC Chancellor Joel Klein and Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, also says we must
Implement educational expectations and assessments in subjects vital to protecting national security.
...which means that we need to increase testing.

Simply put, the report follows the corporate line spouted by Klein, Bloomberg, Gates, Broad and Duncan -- more money for charters, more money for privatization, and more testing.

It's not surprising that the report "found" just what the corporate interests wanted it to find (this reminds me of the National Reading Panel report. See HERE).

Unfortunately, the news media won't dig deeper into the report and will inform everyone that the public schools have failed which puts the nation in jeopardy. Coupled with the current, regular dose of teacher bashing, the average American will have little trouble concluding that American teachers and their unions are leading the United States on a path of self-destruction.

Fortunately, there are voices (some from the task force itself) who are stating that American schools are not failing, American students are not the worst in the world, test scores do not equal education, teachers are not to blame for everything, and the public schools are not going to doom this nation.

Condi Rice-Joel Klein report: Not the new ‘A Nation at Risk’

Valerie Strauss takes a quick look at the report.
A new report being officially released today — by a Council of Foreign Relations task force chaired by Joel Klein and Condoleezza Rice — seems to want very much to be seen as the new “A Nation at Risk,” the seminal 1983 report that warned that America’s future was threatened by a “rising tide of mediocrity” in the country’s public schools.

It’s a pale imitation.

The U.S. Education Reform and National Security report, to be sure, has some similar language and themes of a Nation at Risk. It says (over and over) that America’s national security is threatened because America’s public schools aren’t adequately preparing young people to “fill the ranks of the Foreign Service, the intelligence community, and the armed forces” (or diplomats, spies and soldiers).

But it takes a very different view of the public education system than the authors of “A Nation at Risk,” who sought to find ways to improve public schools and treat the system as a civic institution. The new report seems to look at public schools as if they are the bad guys that need to be put out of business, with a new business taking over, funded with public dollars.
Best part of ‘schools-threaten-national-security’ report: The dissents

Again Valerie Strauss...in a later post she tells about the dissents to the report from members of the task force.
...there is no consensus among professional educators, academic scholars, or engaged citizens about the net impact of charter schools, vouchers, or other forms of privatization, because empirical evidence is mixed. The report leans heavily toward one side in this contested set of issues, however, thereby encouraging a policy course that could do more harm than good.
The report leans heavily towards the corporate line, ignoring the fact that most charter schools are no better than regular public schools, voucher plans have not helped to improve student learning, testing has not improved learning, teachers are not the cause of the economic mess we're in, teachers unions do not produce poorer schools, and on and on and on.

Dissents from the status quo Council on Foreign Relations report

Parents Across America reports on the dissents to the report as well...
While touting the privatization of schools in New Orleans, the report fails to note that many high-need students have been rejected from charters there, that school exclusion rates are extraordinarily high, and that the Southern Poverty Law Center had to sue on behalf of special education students who were unable to gain admission to public schools. Meanwhile, New Orleans remains the lowest-ranked district in the low-performing state of Louisiana. Similarly, the report neglects to mention the many studies that have failed to find positive outcomes of voucher systems when similar students are compared. Finally, the report ignores the fact that our highest-achieving states have all built high-quality systems without charters, vouchers, educational management companies, or other forms of privatization...
Ignoring the facts about American education

Finally, Stephen Krashen states the facts which the report ignored. The problem is poverty. Krashen reminds readers that evidence is necessary to prove a point and that the evidence does not show that America's public schools are failing.
Sent to the Seattle Times, March 20

The Rice-Klein task force (“Education woes linked to national security,” March 19) ignores the facts about American schools. There is no evidence that American schools are failing. Middle-class American students in well-funded schools score at the top of the world on international tests; our overall scores are unspectacular because we have the highest percentage of children living in poverty among all industrialized countries.

This means that the major problem in American education is not a lack of standards. The major problem is poverty, which means food deprivation, lack of health care, and little access to books. The most ambitious standards, the highest quality teaching and the fanciest technology will have little impact when students are hungry, ill, and have little to read.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

sources:
Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential;
Coles, G. 2008/2009. Hunger, academic success, and the hard bigotry of indifference. Rethinking Schools 23 (2);
Rothstein, R. (2010). How to fix our schools. Economic Policy Institute, Issue Brief #286. http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/ib286;
Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership 55(4): 18-22;

Original article: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2017790002_apuseducationnationalsecurity.html
The attack on public schools continues -- this time the attackers claim that the public schools are a danger to the safety of the nation. Policy makers are looking for someone to blame for their inability to deal with the pervasive poverty and economic uncertainty under which so many people live (22% of all American children live in poverty, the highest among the world's developed nations). Public education, public school teachers, and the public sector in general are the targets.
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