Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ferocious Opposition?

A new Wall Street Journal book review today, sparked an absolutely fabulous response by one of ROPE's new friends, Gretchen Logue. The review, entitled, "Learning the Hard Way; The reformers who want to save the public schools are starting to make a difference, against ferocious opposition", also made me wonder whether ROPE and our allies will now be labeled, "The Ferocious Opposition"!

From the article:

"The reformist agenda includes two key components. First, teachers and principals must be held accountable for their impact on student achievement—rewarded with pay and promotion or punished, at the extreme end, with the loss of a job. Second, the current public monopoly in K-12 education needs to be disrupted, by offering more choices. These include privately operated, publicly funded charter schools—schools that are not bound by the usual public-school rules and regulations—and publicly funded vouchers that can be used to pay for private schools."

This argument for school choice in this reform agenda must be discarded because the two main premises are faulty and/or false.

"Teachers and principals must be held accountable for their impact on student achievement—rewarded with pay and promotion or punished, at the extreme end, with the loss of a job." Great idea in theory! But think about it: you are a 5th grade teacher who faces MAP testing. Your class is made up of 8 IEP students (out of 20) and the majority of your kids are "low average". The majority of them have come to you reading on a 3rd grade level. You bring them up as much as you can and they DO make progress, however, most of them don't make a 2 year learning leap in one year, and don't make the 5th grade MAP benchmark as being "proficient". Is that the teacher's fault? Should he/she be punished because of the make-up of those students? Remember, the benchmark for determining a "highly effective" teacher is for the subgroup to pass, it is not enough for the subgroup to progress. Impossible goals ensure failure. No wonder Arne Duncan declares up to 82% of schools will be failing. They can't possibly meet impossible goals!

The second part of the "reform" agenda includes "schools not bound by the usual public school rules and regulations". Okay. If you truly believe that, then the current multi-million lobbyists for school choice have lied to the public. Charters WILL BE UNDER THE SAME MANDATES as traditional public schools: common core standards and the assessments crafted by the consortia. If you are looking to charters to provide innovation, it's not going to happen. All this "choice" does is to move the children from one building to another and have different teachers. If you think the unions are the only problem in education, you will love this plan. If you believe the problems are multi-layered (think faulty curriculum, indoctrination, lack of parent/student involvement), there will probably not be much difference.

The other statement in that "reform" sentence: "and publicly funded vouchers that can be used to pay for private schools" sounds fabulous, doesn't it? How will the private schools like to be under the same federal mandates if they accept federal money? We all know federal money comes with strings...and this means those schools will probably have to adopt themselves to common core standards and federal mandates, thereby defeating the real "choice".

I wish the lobbyists were forced to tell the truth. This "choice" is false choice and will just transfer the money from the unions to hedge fund companies and venture capitalists. Conservatives believe that's the free market. It's not, though. It's taxpayer money funneled to private companies with little personal financial risk. What kind of capitalism is that? And oh, by the way, the taxpayer is funding a system in which he/she has no voice. I call it "totalitarian democracy".