"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

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Privatization, Lies, and Accepting Blame

ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) may be losing sponsors, but that doesn't mean that they've ended their quest to privatize public education in America.

Next Stop, Georgia

Media Matters details How ALEC Is Quietly Influencing Education Reform In Georgia. In a well referenced article, Media Matters explains the roots of legislation in Georgia which will facilitate the expansion of charter schools.
Georgia media have been silent as members of ALEC in Georgia's legislature have successfully pushed through a version of ALEC's Charter Schools Act, which would create a state-controlled board with the power to establish and fund charter schools over local opposition. A Media Matters analysis found that while Georgia media have frequently written about the bills, they have completely overlooked ALEC's influence in the debate.
The state controlled board would be able to establish charters even if local school boards don't want them.

Despite a Georgia Supereme Court ruling that the state couldn't force local schools to pay for charters that they didn't authorize, Republicans in the General Assembly are pushing for a constitutional amendment to override that decision. Furthermore, the Republicans who sponsored the bills pushing charter schools were ALEC members. One, Rep. Jan Jones, is a member of ALEC's Education Task Force. It's no surprise then, that the bills are based on Alec's model charter school legislation.

As is the case with most of ALEC's legislation the bills would likely have a deleterious effect on the public schools.
The "conservative" state legislators who loathe the idea of an appointed board making medical decisions under Obamacare embraced this model for the state's charter schools commission. Once again, state government trumps local control.
So much for the "conservative value" of local control.

Telling Lies about US Education

On another front, Diane Ravitch reported on a group joining the battle for the privatization of public schools. The State Government Leadership Foundation, which is associated with the Republican State Leadership Committee, has an Education Reform section on their web site perpetuating falsehoods about public education in the United States.

The site claims we have dropped from #1 on international tests and we are now behind China in every category. The fact is, however, that we were never #1. In addition, China doesn't participate in international tests. Read what Ravitch wrote...
None of this is true. The first international assessments were administered in the 1960s; twelve nations participated. We scored twelfth out of twelve. In the intervening half-century, our students typically ranked in the middle or even the bottom quartile on those tests. We were never #1. Maybe those tests rate test-taking skills but they surely are not a predictor of future economic success. Our nation continued to boom economically and to encourage entreprepreneurship, creative media endeavors, and new businesses despite the unimpressive scores on international tests.

And we are certainly NOT behind China, because China has never participated in any of the international tests. The city of Shanghai did take part in the PISA exam of 2009 and came out #1, but Shanghai is one city, not the nation of China. That would be like characterizing U.S. performance by putting only Massachusetts–our highest scoring state–in the testing pool to represent the nation.

In short, this description of U.S. Education is a pack of lies that smears our nation. I wonder if the people who created this website went to fancy prep schools and looked down their noses at those of us who went to public school. They seem so eager to put down American schools, which educated 90% of us, and by implication, put down the United States. it makes one wonder who they are. Too bad they didn’t take responsibility and put their names on their work so we would know who they are.
The bad guy, according to the State Government Leadership Foundation, is the teachers union. Are teachers unions to blame for low achievement? Is it impossible to fire bad teachers because of teachers union contracts? Are our public schools really overrun with bad teachers?

I think I might have mentioned this before...but if teachers unions are to blame then why do all the high scoring states and countries with strong teachers unions score so high? Why do the low scoring states and countries without strong teachers unions score so low?

I'm willing to admit that teachers unions are not perfect and have to answer for our contribution to the difficulties students face in school. But state legislatures, governors, the US Congress, the state and federal DOEs, Secretaries of Education, and the President need to accept their share of the responsibility for students' achievement difficulties as well.

In my post yesterday I quoted Corinne Driscoll who wrote about our political leaders.
On every occasion possible, they talk about incompetent and ineffective teachers as if they are the norm instead of the rare exception. They create policies that tie teachers' hands, making it more and more difficult for them to be effective. They cut budgets, eliminate classroom positions, overload classrooms, remove supports, choose ineffective and downright useless instructional tools, set up barriers to providing academic assistance, and then very quickly stand up and point fingers at teachers, blaming them for every failure of American society, and washing their own hands of any blame.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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