Should the High Teacher Turnover Rate in Charter Schools Be a Cause for Concern?

SchoolTeacherSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

In a recent New York Times article titled At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice, Mitoko Rich wrote of how charter schools seem to be developing something of a “youth cult” in their teaching ranks. She reported that in the charter network “teaching for two to five years is seen as acceptable and, at times, even desirable.”

Teachers in the thirteen YES Prep Schools, which are located throughout Greater Houston, have a reported average of two and a half years of experience. The teachers who work for Achievement First—which has 25 schools in Connecticut, Brooklyn, and Providence, R.I.— “spend an average of 2.3 years in the classroom.” And the individuals who teach in the KIPP schools and the Success Academy Charter Schools stay in the classroom for an average of four years. This youth culture—or culture in which most classroom practitioners have little teaching experience— differs from that of our country’s traditional public schools where teachers average nearly fourteen years of experience…and where public school leaders have made it “a priority to reduce teacher turnover.”

In the NYT article, Jennifer Hines, senior vice president of people and programs at YES Prep, was quoted as saying, “We have this highly motivated, highly driven work force who are now wondering, ‘O.K., I’ve got this, what’s the next thing?’  There is a certain comfort level that we have with people who are perhaps going to come into YES Prep and not stay forever.” (Note: New teachers at the YES Prep schools receive just two and a half weeks of training over the summer before arriving in the classroom.)

Rich says it was Teach for America (TFA) that was mostly responsible for introducing the idea of a “foreshortened teaching career.” TFA is an organization that recruits “high-achieving” college graduates and places them in some of our neediest schools. In a piece for Policymic, Benjamin Cosman wrote about TFA recruits. He said that after just five weeks of training, “Teach for America participants lead a classroom for two years, slap it on their resume, and leave the school with a bevy of opportunities.”

Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America, contends that “strong schools can withstand the turnover of their teachers. The strongest schools develop their teachers tremendously so they become great in the classroom even in their first and second years.” (Question for Wendy Kopp: Are you sending your teaching recruits into the “strongest” schools?)

Mark Naison, a professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University and a man who once viewed Teach for America as a positive program, has a difference of opinion regarding teacher turnover. He has been disappointed that TFA doesn’t instill a commitment to teaching in its program participants. In fact, Naison no longer allows TFA to recruit his college students.

Naison said the following about Kopp’s organization:

Until Teach For America becomes committed to training lifetime educators and raises the length of service to five years rather than two, I will not allow TFA to recruit in my classes.  The idea of sending talented students into schools in impoverished areas, and then after two years encouraging them to pursue careers in finance, law, and business in the hope that they will then advocate for educational equity really rubs me the wrong way.

He added:

Never, in its recruiting literature, has Teach For America described teaching as the most valuable professional choice that an idealistic, socially conscious person can make.  Nor do they encourage the brightest students to make teaching their permanent career; indeed, the organization goes out of its way to make joining TFA seem a like a great pathway to success in other, higher-paying professions.

Several years ago, a TFA recruiter plastered the Fordham campus with flyers that said “Learn how joining TFA can help you gain admission to Stanford Business School.”  The message of that flyer was: “use teaching in high-poverty areas as a stepping stone to a career in business.”  It was not only disrespectful to every person who chooses to commit their life to the teaching profession, it effectively advocated using students in high-poverty areas as guinea pigs for an experiment in “resume-padding” for ambitious young people.

After reading Rich’s article about the high turnover rate of teachers in charter schools, Catherine M. Ionata responded in a letter to the editor. She wrote:

The charter school representatives in your article defend the rapid turnover of teachers. Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, even says that teachers can become great in one or two years! Would we expand this idea to other professions? Do we think the best lawyers are those fresh out of law school? Should we choose a rookie physician for complex surgery, because this surgeon is more “enthusiastic” than veteran surgeons?

Ronald Thorpe, president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, said, “To become a master plumber you have to work for five years. Shouldn’t we have some kind of analog to that with the people we are entrusting our children to?”

Education expert Diane Ravitch also weighed in on the subject after reading Rich’s article:

Can you imagine that a “teacher” who graduated college in June is already “a great teacher” by September?

Why do we expect entrants to every other profession to spend years honing their craft but a brand-new teacher, with no experience, can be considered “great” in only one or two years, then leave to do something else?

This is a recipe to destroy the teaching profession.

How can anyone say they are education “reformers” if their goal is to destroy the profession?

What other nation is doing this?

This is not innovative. In fact, it returns us to the early nineteenth century, when the general belief was that “anyone can teach, no training needed.” Teaching then was a job for itinerants, widow ladies, young girls without a high school degree, and anyone who couldn’t do anything else. It took over a century to create a teaching profession, with qualifications and credentials needed before one could be certified to stand in front of a classroom of young children. We are rapidly going backwards.

Henry Seton, a humanities teacher at Community Charter School of Cambridge in Massachusetts, was another educator who responded to Rich’s article. He wrote:

The high teacher turnover at charter schools leaves these institutions fragile and ill equipped to support their most vulnerable students. It takes far more than a year or two in the classroom to develop that elusive set of skills needed to serve our nation’s neediest cohorts of students — young men of color, English language learners and so on. And I have seen some of the most well-regarded charters here in Massachusetts left reeling and in danger of closing after extensive teacher departures.

Benjamin Cosman (Policymic) wrote that young teachers in charter schools “are supposed to save education in the United States.” He thinks, however, that there is a “very real danger in valuing inexperience in the teaching field…” He believes this “supposed remedy” may possibly be hastening the “demise of public education.”

In his article titled It’s Harder for Charter Schools to Keep Teachers, Francisco Vara-Orta wrote about information provided in data collected by the Texas Education Agency. The data, taken from 47 local school districts from 2006 to 2011, showed that the “average teacher turnover rate for charter school districts was 46 percent, compared with 13 percent for traditional school districts.” Vara-Orta wrote that analysis of the data showed that teachers leave charter schools in Bexar County nearly three times more often than teachers in traditional public schools, “which generally pay more and perform better academically.” He continued, “Of the 10 districts rated academically unacceptable by the state in Bexar County last year, all were charters, with turnover ranging from 38 percent to 65 percent…”

Researchers from Vanderbilt University found that the teacher turnover rate in charter schools was nearly twice as high as that of traditional public schools. In addition, the researchers found that teachers in charter schools were also more likely to leave the profession.

Excerpt from the Vanderbilt report titled Teacher Turnover in Charter Schools:

Our analysis confirms that much of the explanation of this “turnover gap” lies in the differences in the types of teachers that charter schools and traditional public schools hire. The data lend minimal support to the claim that turnover is higher in charter schools because they are leveraging their flexibility in personnel policies to get rid of underperforming teachers. Rather, we found most of the turnover in charter schools is voluntary and dysfunctional as compared to that of traditional public schools.

A second reason is that attrition is highest among teachers that are new to the profession. Past research found teachers make important gains in effectiveness in their first three years and smaller gains over the next few years (McCaffrey, Koretz, Lockwood, and Hamilton, 2003; Hanushek, Kain, & Rivkin, 2005). Given that almost 50% of teachers leave the profession within their first five years (Ingersoll & Smith, 2003), many teachers are leaving the classroom before they have developed into optimally effective practitioners. Moreover, exiting new teachers are often replaced by similarly inexperienced teachers and consequently students in schools with high turnover may rarely be exposed to experienced teachers.

Third, turnover affects many of the organizational conditions important to effective schooling, such as instructional cohesion and staff trust. Effective schools hold shared beliefs in similar instructional goals and practices (Fuller & Izu, 1986; Bryk & Driscoll, 1988). Schools with high turnover are challenged to develop a shared commitment towards the same goals, pedagogy, and curriculum. The constant churning of teaching staff makes it difficult to collaborate, develop standard norms of practice, and maintain progress towards common goals. This can lead to fragmented instructional programs and professional development plans that must be adapted each year to meet the needs of a teaching staff in constant flux (Guin, 2004). High turnover also makes it difficult for teachers to build relational trust, which is critical towards productive collaboration in schools (Bryk & Schneider, 2002; Guin, 2004).

Critics of charter schools argue that students and schools need stability. “When you stay in a school or community, you build relationships,” said Andrea Giunta, a senior policy analyst for teacher recruitment, retention and diversity at the National Education Association.

As might be expected, studies have shown that teacher turnover often “diminishes student achievement” and has a negative impact on “the overall school environment because it creates instability and a loss of institutional knowledge.”

Matthew Ronfeldt, an assistant professor of educational studies at the University of Michigan—along with colleagues Susanna Loeb and James Wyckoff—conducted a study on teacher turnover. Their report was titled How Teacher Turnover Harms Student Achievement.  Loeb, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, said that the problem of teacher turnover had been well-documented. She noted, “One in three teachers leaves the profession within five years.” In their study, the three researchers sought to find out if students “do worse in the year after there is high turnover.” They discovered that high teacher turnover hurt student achievement in English and math—and that the negative impact was as “significant as the effect of free lunch eligibility (a standard measure of poverty) on test scores.”  They also found the negative impact to be strongest “among schools with more low-performing and black students. “

In a Texas Tribune article dated January 27, 2010, Brian Temple wrote that at some charter schools in the state “it’s the teachers who can’t wait to clear out at the end of the school year.”

Temple reported that according to data that had been released at the time, 79 percent of the faculty of Accelerated Intermediate Academy in Houston turned over before the 2008-09 school year. At Peak Preparatory in Dallas, 71 percent of teachers did not return…and at Harmony Science Academy in College Station, “69 percent of teachers split.”

Temple continued:

In all, more than 40 of nearly 200 charter operators the state tracked — some which oversee multiple schools — had to replace more than half their teaching staffs before the last school year. Even more established and successful operators, including KIPP and YES Prep in Houston, lose nearly a third of their teachers annually. In contrast, just six of more than 1,000 non-charter school districts statewide had more than half their teachers leave, and none of the 20 largest school districts had a turnover rate higher than 16 percent.

The financial cost of teacher turnover is high. According to a study conducted by the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future, teacher attrition costs approximately $7.3 billion per year. Since teacher attrition is so costly and has been shown to have a negative effect on student performance, Benjamin Cosman wonders why TFA and charter organizations like the Yes Prep schools encourage teachers to have a “get out while you can” mentality.

Cosman argued:

We should be cultivating teachers who are in it for the long haul, who build steady careers based on longevity, who become the wizened old stalwarts who’ve been around the block a few times. Yes, there are problems with tenure and bad teachers sticking around too long, and those issues need to be addressed. But the exact opposite — getting teachers in and out as fast as we can — is certainly not the solution.

Excerpt from Teacher Attrition: A Costly Loss to the Nation and to the States, an issue brief released by the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future (NCTAF) in August 2005:

There is a growing consensus among researchers and educators that the single most important factor in determining student performance is the quality of his or her teachers. Therefore, if the national goal of providing an equitable education to children across the nation is to be met, it is critical that efforts be concentrated on developing and retaining high-quality teachers in every community and at every grade level…

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ 1999–2000 “Public School Teacher Survey,” 47 percent of public school teachers worked with a mentor teacher in the same subject area.12 Sixty-six percent of teachers who were formally mentored by another teacher reported that it “improved their classroom teaching a lot.”13

Mentors are an important factor in providing support for new teachers as they enter the real world of the classroom, but mentoring alone is not enough. Comprehensive induction proves most effective at keeping good teachers in the classroom. Studies demonstrate that new teacher turnover rates can be cut in half through comprehensive induction—a combination of high-quality mentoring, professional development and support, scheduled interaction with other teachers in the school and in the larger community, and formal assessments for new teachers during at least their first two years of teaching.14

I can speak from experience. Mentor teachers can prove invaluable in helping young and inexperienced teachers by providing them with advice, insight, educational ideas and materials that have proved successful in the classroom, and by being a sounding board for them when they feel a need to express their frustrations, insecurities, and fears. Experienced teachers helped me when I was a teaching “ingénue.” Later, when I was a seasoned professional, I helped guide and advise young teachers. I shared books and teaching materials with them. I also listened to their new ideas. Other experienced educators at my school and I found that mentoring new teachers helped us to bond with them and to become a close-knit educational community.

Older teachers provide wisdom. Young teachers bring in a “breath of fresh air.” I think the healthiest school communities have teachers with different perspectives and levels of classroom experience—new teachers, teachers in mid career, and the old sages who have been around the block more than a few times.

One has to wonder how difficult it must be for young and inexperienced teachers to find mentors in their schools if most of the classroom practitioners have little more experience than they. One has to wonder how schools where teachers stay for just two or three years can develop their own culture and institutional memory—as well as a sense of stability and community. One has to wonder how children feel when their teachers come and go so frequently and rarely show evidence of a commitment to their schools and the student population.

It saddens me to think that there are “school reformers” in our country who encourage “foreshortened careers” in education…who think that youth trumps experience…who don’t instill a commitment to education in the young people they recruit for their teaching programs.

SOURCES

At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice (New York Times)

The High Turnover at Charter Schools (New York Times)

Charter schools are developing teachers with short tenure (Examiner)

Teacher Attrition in Charter vs. District Schools (CRPE–Center on Reinventing Public Education)

High teacher turnover in charters: Does student achievement suffer? (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

A Revolving Door (Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff)

Teacher Turnover in Charter Schools (Vanderbilt University)

It’s harder for charter schools to keep teachers (My San Antonio)

Teacher Attrition in Charter Schools 2007 (NEPC–National Education Policy Center)

Professor: Why Teach For America can’t recruit in my classroom (Washington Post)

Teacher Turnover Negatively Impacts Student Achievement in Math and English (The Journal)

Teacher turnover harms student learning (University of Michigan)

Teacher turnover affects all students’ achievement, study indicates (Stanford University)

Churn, Churn, Churn, Is Not Good for Kids or the Teaching Profession (Diane Ravitch)

High turnover reported among charter school teachers: With so many charter school teachers moving on each year, concerns arise about retaining quality educators and how stability affects student performance. (Los Angeles Times)

LA students more true to their charter schools than teachers, studies say (UC Berkeley)

Charter Schools Battle High Teacher Turnover (Texas Tribune)

Teach For America: Let’s Stop Encouraging Teachers to Leave After Two Years, Maybe? (Policymic)

Guest Post: Teacher turnover – who stays and who leaves (Stanford University)

High Teacher Turnover Rates are a Big Problem for America’s Public Schools (Forbes)

Teacher Attrition: A Costly Loss to the Nation and to the States (NCTAF-National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future)

NCTAF Study: Teacher Attrition Costs U.S. Over $7 Billion Annually (American Association of Colleges for Teacher education)

360 thoughts on “Should the High Teacher Turnover Rate in Charter Schools Be a Cause for Concern?

  1. In the same way that private corporations have been replacing their full time workers with part time workers so as to avoid health, overtime, and other related costs, so to will private schools replace full time teachers with part timers. Its all about the profit regardless of the hype.

  2. Elaine,

    Given that age and experience influence both wisdom and breadth and depth of knowledge which in turn influences teaching quality, I think it is absolutely a valid concern whenever turnover produces those kinds of numbers.

  3. This is an interesting article, but it is kind of teacher-centric. My understanding of charter schools is that they are more student-centric and operate as an alternative choice for parents. I was curious how charter schools on the whole were performing, so I read a few articles. Some say they are great, and others “eh’, but there wasn’t any broad based indication that they are bad for the students. On the whole, they seem popular. So the turnover rate does not seem to be translating into bad results. I don’t know why.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  4. The system designed by Ford to produce identical cars on an assembly line just doesn’t work in education. Teaching requires the same dedication that it takes to be a lawyer or a doctor.

  5. Should the High Teacher Turnover Rate in Charter Schools Be a Cause for Concern?
    This is an empirical question, not a matter of opinion. And all the data show that inexperienced teachers are bad for kids.

  6. “Ok, I’ve taught for two years. I’ve got this.” What they got is sick of a job that is hard, badly paid and to them just a stop along the way to “doing education administration”. Charter schools are neither student nor education centered. In almost all cases they are ego-centric and in a substantial number of cases they are money centered for the investors and founders.

    The young teachers upon whom charter schools fawn don’t want to to be “teachers”. They want to be leaders, you know, superintendents making the big bucks moving from school district to schools district and then signing up with an education services provider for even more $. Students and teachers are yucky. You can’t expect these young leaders to want to stay in the trenches for very long. After all they are STARS!

    This is what our tax dollars now pay for cult like centers of “education” many of which focus on religious based curriculum or separate boys from girls–you know to “improve” the education experience–and for good measure keep the riff raff out if they can while all along taking tax dollars and paying big bucks to investors. Combine with that the growth of on line “charters” , that offer free (paid for by the taxpayers) online courses for children from K-12 and its clear that “public school” is really a money maker for someone and the kids are just an after thought.

  7. New data shows school “reformers” are full of it
    Poor schools underperform largely because of economic forces, not because teachers have it too easy
    By David Sirota
    6/13/13
    http://www.salon.com/2013/06/03/instead_of_a_war_on_teachers_how_about_one_on_poverty/

    Excerpt:
    For education, technology and charter school companies and the Wall Streeters who back them, it lets them cite troubled public schools to argue that the current public education system is flawed, and to then argue that education can be improved if taxpayer money is funneled away from the public school system’s priorities (hiring teachers, training teachers, reducing class size, etc.) and into the private sector (replacing teachers with computers, replacing public schools with privately run charter schools, etc.). Likewise, for conservative politicians and activist-profiteers disproportionately bankrolled by these and other monied interests, the “reform” argument gives them a way to both talk about fixing education and to bash organized labor, all without having to mention an economic status quo that monied interests benefit from and thus do not want changed.

    Meanwhile, despite the fact that many “reformers’” policies have spectacularly failed, prompted massive scandals and/or offered no actual proof of success, an elite media that typically amplifies — rather than challenges — power and money loyally casts “reformers’” systematic pillaging of public education as laudable courage (the most recent example of this is Time magazine’s cover cheering on wildly unpopular Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel after he cited budget austerity to justify the largest mass school closing in American history — all while he is also proposing to spend $100 million of taxpayer dollars on a new private sports stadium).

    In other words, elite media organizations (which, in many cases, have their own vested financial interest in education “reform”) go out of their way to portray the anti-public-education movement as heroic rather than what it really is: just another get-rich-quick scheme shrouded in the veneer of altruism.

    That gets to the news that exposes “reformers’” schemes — and all the illusions that surround them. According to a new U.S. Department of Education study, “about one in five public schools was considered high poverty in 2011 … up from about to one in eight in 2000.” This followed an earlier study from the department finding that “many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding … leav(ing) students in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers.”

    Those data sets powerfully raise the question that “reformers” are so desperate to avoid: Are we really expected to believe that it’s just a coincidence that the public education and poverty crises are happening at the same time? Put another way: Are we really expected to believe that everything other than poverty is what’s causing problems in failing public schools?

    Because of who comprises it and how it is financed, the education “reform” movement has a clear self-interest in continuing to say yes, we should believe such fact-free pabulum. And you can bet that movement will keep saying “yes” — and that the corporate media will continue to cheer them as heroes for saying “yes” — as long as public education money keeps being diverted into corporate coffers.

    But we’ve now reached the point where the economics-omitting “reform” propaganda has jumped the shark, going from deceptively alluring to embarrassingly transparent. That’s because the latest Department of Education study isn’t being released in a vacuum; it caps off an overwhelming wave of evidence showing that our education crisis has far less to do with public schools or bad teachers than it does with the taboo subject of crushing poverty.

    In 2011, for instance, Stanford University’s Sean Reardon released a comprehensive study documenting the new “income achievement gap.” The report proved that family income is now, by far, the biggest determining and predictive factor in a student’s educational achievement.

    A few months later, Joanne Barkan published a groundbreaking magazine report surveying decades worth of social science research. Her conclusions, again, came back to non-school factors like family economics and poverty:

    Out-of-school factors—family characteristics such as income and parents’ education, neighborhood environment, health care, housing stability, and so on—count for twice as much as all in-school factors. In 1966, a groundbreaking government study—the “Coleman Report”—first identified a “one-third in-school factors, two-thirds family characteristics” ratio to explain variations in student achievement. Since then researchers have endlessly tried to refine or refute the findings. Education scholar Richard Rothstein described their results: “No analyst has been able to attribute less than two-thirds of the variation in achievement among schools to the family characteristics of their students.”

    Then, just a few months ago, Reardon chimed in again to contextualize all of this. In a follow-up New York Times article, he noted that it is no coincidence that these out-of-school factors — and in particular economic conditions — have created the “income achievement gap” at the very moment economic inequality and poverty have exploded in America.

    Taken together with the new Department of Education numbers, we see that for all the elite media’s slobbering profiles of public school bashers like Mayors Rahm Emanuel and Michael Bloomberg, for all of the media’s hagiographic worship of scandal-plagued activist-profiteers like Michelle Rhee, and for all the “reform” movement’s claims that the traditional public school system and teachers unions are to blame for America’s education problems, poverty and economic inequality are the root of the problem.

    One way to appreciate this reality in stark relief is to just remember that, as Barkan shows, for all the claims that the traditional public school system is flawed, America’s wealthiest traditional public schools happen to be among the world’s highest-achieving schools. Most of those high-performing wealthy public schools also happen to be unionized. If, as “reformers” suggest, the public school system or the presence of organized labor was really the key factor in harming American education, then those wealthy schools would be in serious crisis — and wouldn’t be at the top of the international charts. Instead, the fact that they aren’t in crisis and are so high-achieving suggests neither the system itself nor unions are the big factor causing high-poverty schools to lag behind. It suggests that the “high poverty” part is the problem.

    That, of course, shouldn’t be a controversial notion; it is so painfully obvious it’s amazing anyone would even try to deny it. But that gets back to motive: The “reform” movement (and its loyal media outlets) cast a discussion of poverty as taboo because poverty and inequality are byproducts of the same economic policies that serve that movement’s funders.

  8. A “Fuller” Look at Education Issues
    Examining K-12 and higher ed issues across the country by Dr. Ed Fuller

    Strong Schools Can Withstand Teacher Turnover?
    http://fullerlook.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/strong-schools-can-withstand-teacher-turnover/

    Excerpt:
    A recent NY Times article about young, inexperienced teachers and teacher turnover focused on the YES Prep charter schools. In that article, Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America, stated, “Strong schools can withstand the turnover of their teachers. The strongest schools develop their teachers tremendously so they become great in the classroom even in their first and second years.”

    So, one has to ask how Ms. Kopp defines strong schools. YES Prep did win the first Broad Prize for charter schools. But how strong are YES Prep schools? Do they have strong student achievement growth? Do they graduate a high percentage of students enrolled? How well do students perform after high school?

    Let’s look at some data from Texas that I have readily available.

    Do YES Prep Schools have high achievement and student growth? I think anyone examining both the percentage of students proficient and the value-added growth scores indicate a pretty strong school. I won’t present the details, but the percentage of students passing the state tests is certainly above average and the valued-added measures provided by the state (which are problematic in some respects, particularly because they are correlated with the achievement of students in the year before entering a school) are also above average. I guess they get “two claps and a sizzle” for these accomplishments.

    But what underlies those achievements?

    For one, as compared to schools in the same zip code , YES Prep enrolls students with greater levels of achievement (as measured by z scores of scale scores across five cohorts of incoming students as shown below. Specifically, students entering YES Prep in the 6th grade had math and reading scores at least 0.225 standard deviations greater than the scores for students entering other schools in the same zip code as YES prep schools.

    Students entering YES Prep are also less likely to be designated as English Language Learners or have special needs (as measured by taking an alternate or modified version of the state tests in the year prior to entering the school)…

    Given that peer effects can have substantial impacts on student achievement, the above data suggests that one ingredient of the YES Prep “secret sauce” is simply enrolling more advantaged students than schools serving the same communities.

    Not only do YES Prep schools enroll more advantaged students than schools in the same community, but they also lose a greater proportion of lower-performing students and retain a greater percentage of higher performing students than other schools in the same zip code.

  9. Elaine:

    my wife just retired and thinks the public schools are going the same way. She says it is a youth culture and she did not like the testing and the coming take-over of public schools by all of the national requirements.

    From what she says, it is going to suck.

    why do people have to go to public schools? Why shouldnt parents of school age children be able to deduct the cost of public shool tuition from their taxes and send their children to private school if they wish?

    Are they [public school teachers] afraid of some competition?

  10. Charter schools are just as prone to ineffective hiring practices as public schools. Charter schools are just as likely to be run by selfish profiteers as public schools. But this essay is less about charter schools than it is about the teaching profession.

    As a former teacher, I would agree that any program which promotes teaching as a short-term stepping stone to another career isn’t going to produce a large number of devoted, effective teachers.

    Now, I don’t doubt that some teachers can be great in their first and second years. I’ve seen them. But they are very rare and they are never using teaching as a stepping stone to something else.

    That said, devoted, effective teachers will mostly avoid these programs and good schools of all kinds will learn, over time, to avoid using teachers from these programs. But the bottom line is, if a family is not satisfied with what the school is offering, then that family should have the choice to move to another school.

    There are a few bits of hyperbole I feel compelled to point out.

    Never, in its recruiting literature, has Teach For America described teaching as the most valuable professional choice that an idealistic, socially conscious person can make.

    That actually makes sense, because teaching is just one valuable choice that such a person can make. Teaching (like college) isn’t for everyone and putting the profession on a pedestal the way conservatives do with soldiers and cops isn’t useful.

    This is a recipe to destroy the teaching profession.

    How can anyone say they are education “reformers” if their goal is to destroy the profession?

    This is just silly. How will that happen? How will the people running schools, people who have dedicated their lives to education, allow this one, faulty program “destroy the teaching profession?” Will parents and students allow it? Will devoted administrators allow it? Of course not. This is scare-mongering, plain and simple.

    Again, it comes back to choice. If this program makes bad teachers, then families should have the freedom to choose schools that don’t have bad teachers (or fewer bad teachers).

    (BTW, Diane Ravitch believes that “choice exacerbates inequality,” because “people self segregate.”

    This is an argument for eliminating choice in housing and employment, as well. It’s an authoritarian philosophy.)

    Benjamin Cosman (Policymic) wrote that young teachers in charter schools “are supposed to save education in the United States.” He thinks, however, that there is a “very real danger in valuing inexperience in the teaching field…” He believes this “supposed remedy” may possibly be hastening the “demise of public education.”

    Who has claimed that “young teachers in charter schools are supposed to save education in the U.S.?” That would be a ridiculous claim. Even more ridiculous is that this kind of program, flawed as it is, “may possibly be hastening the demise of public education.” Public education doesn’t need another flawed program like No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top to hasten its demise, because there will never be a “demise.” There will be change, but there will always be, thankfully, public education.

    The biggest problem with public education is that the people who run it have always believed that they know better what students need than the families they’re supposed to serve.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Achievement scores don’t matter, because they don’t measure real learning. What matters is happiness and satisfaction, because without those things, learning will not occur. And if we are to force kids to go to school, we owe it to them to make sure that the experience is as pleasant and productive as it can be.

    Just as teachers shouldn’t be judged by standardized tests, neither should schools or students.

    Sweden (that libertarian paradise!) has had vouchers for 20 years now. All polls show that students, parents, and teachers are happy with the system and the choice it affords them. And only about 11% of students use their vouchers to go to private schools.

    I believe that poor families deserve the same kinds of educational choices as non-poor families. And I believe that public schools will improve (in making students happy learners) when they realize that their customers have choices.

    And, like all good liberals, I’m pro-choice.:)

  11. Educational issues and problems will be resolved when the average Joe accords capable teachers the celebrity status of accomplished athletes and the respect due honorable warriors; in fact, most societal issues and problems will be resolved by such a shift in American values.

    But in an era when politicians are rewarded by pandering to believers of a 8,000 year old universe in which anthropogenic climate change does not exist, oh well . . .

  12. LJM,

    My main problem with many of the school reformers is that they imply that all public schools are failing/have failed their students. That’s not true There are many, many public schools in this country that provide/have provided their students with an excellent education. If school reformers were truly dedicated to school reform, they would look at the schools that actually ARE troubled/failing and study the reasons for their problems. But many of the people in the school reform movement don’t want to address one of the major issues facing failing schools–POVERTY and its effects on children and learning.

  13. I think that comparing a highly homogeneous society such as Sweden’s with America’s heterogeneous society (perhaps even disparate societies) is probably not a good — what’s the word? — analogy.

  14. Interesting topic Elaine. It is interesting that the charter schools which on a whole do not succeed as well as public schools, would prefer inexperienced teachers. When most of the data points to experienced teachers do a better job, the only reason I can think of is that the charter schools want to pay less for teachers. Even if it is costly to rehire in 2 or 3 years. How many of these charter schools who want teacher turnover are for profit schools?

  15. Firing Line: The Grand Coalition Against Teachers
    By Joanne Barkan
    June 29, 2011
    http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/firing-linethe-grand-coalition-against-teachers

    Excerpt:
    This article will investigate the fix-the-teachers campaign of today’s “education reformers.” It’s not their only project. They also want public schools run with the top-down, data-driven, accountability methods used in private businesses; they aim to replace as many regular public schools as possible with publicly funded, privately managed charter schools; some are trying to expand voucher programs to allow parents to take their per-child public-education funding to private schools. All this will reshape who controls the $540 billion that taxpayers spend on K-12 schools every year. It endangers the democratic nature of public education as well. But nothing affects children more directly in the classroom than what the reform movement is doing to teachers.

    Some Necessary Context

    Everyone who supports public education believes that only effective teachers should be in the classroom; ineffective teachers who can’t improve should lose their jobs. Accomplishing this requires a sound method for evaluating teachers and a fair process for firing. In the current system, school principals have the responsibility to assess teachers’ performance and dismiss ineffective ones. Making sure that principals do this well is the district superintendent’s responsibility (not the teachers’). The system works if administrators at all levels and school boards do their jobs.

    Even with these assumptions stated, a productive discussion can’t begin without first addressing two questions: what accounts for variations in student achievement, and what is the overall state of K-12 education in the United States?

    On the first question, research shows that teachers are the most important in-school factor determining students’ academic performance. But they are not the only in-school factor: class size and the quality of the school principal, for example, matter a great deal. Most crucially, out-of-school factors—family characteristics such as income and parents’ education, neighborhood environment, health care, housing stability, and so on—count for twice as much as all in-school factors. In 1966, a groundbreaking government study—the “Coleman Report”—first identified a “one-third in-school factors, two-thirds family characteristics” ratio to explain variations in student achievement. Since then researchers have endlessly tried to refine or refute the findings. Education scholar Richard Rothstein described their results: “No analyst has been able to attribute less than two-thirds of the variation in achievement among schools to the family characteristics of their students” (Class and Schools, 2004). Factors such as neighborhood environment give still more weight to what goes on outside school.

    Ed reformers have only one response to this reality: anyone who brings up out-of-school factors such as poverty is both defending the status quo of public education and claiming that schools can do nothing to overcome the life circumstances of poor children. The response is silly and, by now, tiresome. Some teachers will certainly be able to help compensate for the family backgrounds and out-of-school environments of some students. But the majority of poor children will not get all the help they need: their numbers are too great, their circumstances too severe, and resources too limited. Imagine teachers from excellent suburban public schools transferring en masse to low-performing, inner-city public schools. Would these teachers have as much success as they did in the suburbs? Would they be able to overcome the backgrounds of 15.6 million poor children? Even with bonus pay, would they stay with the job for more than a few years? Common sense and experience say no, and yet the reformers insist they can fix public schools by fixing the teachers.

    On the second question—what is the state of education in the United States?—both critics and advocates of the reform movement agree that some public schools need significant improvement and that improvement is achievable. But in order to mobilize broad support for their program, ed reformers from Obama on down have pumped up a sense of crisis about the international standing of the entire education system. In reality, however, students in American public schools serving middle-class and affluent children surpass students in other nations in standardized test scores (which ed reformers use obsessively to define success).

  16. rafflaw,

    I don’t know if charter schools/most charter schools actually want a lot of teacher turnover. I’ve read in some articles that teachers in some charter schools have responsibilities that are non-educational–like cleaning toilets and other janitorial duties.

    *****
    Five Reasons Teacher Turnover Is on the Rise
    http://www.takepart.com/article/2011/08/09/five-reasons-teacher-turnover-rise

    Excerpt:

    5. BURNOUT: A recent U.C. Berkeley study of Los Angeles charter schools found unusually high rates of teacher turnover. At the 163 charter schools studied, teacher turnover hovered around 40 percent, compared to 15 percent at traditional public schools.

    Since demands on charter school educators are seemingly boundless, including extended hours, researchers theorized, burnout is a viable explanation for the teacher exodus. “We have seen earlier results showing that working conditions are tough and challenging in charter schools,” explained U.C. Berkeley’s Bruce Fuller. “Charter teachers wear many hats and have many duties and are teaching urban kids, challenging urban kids, but we were surprised by the magnitude of this effect.”

  17. rafflaw,

    Charter School Success Stories Don’t Happen Without Teachers
    http://www.cmn.com/2012/08/charter-school-success-stories-dont-happen-without-teachers/

    Excerpt:
    Teachers are most likely to quit if they work in low-income, urban schools. They’re also most likely to quit if they work for charter schools. Approximately one-third of charter school teachers leave the profession each year. Only around 15% of teachers at traditional public schools leave. Charter school teachers typically have to work longer hours for less pay. Additionally, their job duties often include things outside of the realm of what teachers ordinarily do.

    I recently interviewed Robert Guercio, a former Houston charter school principal, about what working at charter schools is like for teachers. He told me, “Part of what’s difficult about working at charter school is that you’re always understaffed. Charter school teachers have to take on the roles of counselors, administrative assistants, and custodians. At one of the schools I worked at, teachers and administrators had to clean the toilets.”

    The average teacher works 53 hours per week. Because of the long school days at most charter schools, the teachers there often work more than 60 hours a week. As Guercio mentioned, the job of a charter school teacher often involves more than just instructing, planning, and grading papers. Charter school teachers and teachers in general are expected to wear many hats. Their jobs don’t end when the last school bell rings, as many people think they do.

  18. Elaine,
    The burn out could be true, but the reason for the extra non-teaching duties is to save money. Have you seen any numbers on the percentage of charter schools that are for profit?

  19. How about a few statistics on comparable student performance in the vicinity of the charter school. A given charter school may not be operating at its peek potential but relative to other public schools in its community, how do they perform? And don’t we hire teachers to educate their students and not to provide them teaching careers? it seems logical that the “best and brightest” teachers don’t need couching to understand that a teaching career is its own reward and more tangible rewards for the gifted are more easily obtained elsewhere. In the absence of charter schools, if these, gifted but not dedicated, new graduate teachers would be sprinkled throughout the educational system, given an opportunity, wouldn’t they still be the first to leave? Regardless of profession, isn’t looking out for #1, is the norm for talented, mobile, twenty somethings. …Just asking…

  20. JHM,

    Some of these “gifted” individuals are being recruited by TFA to teach in traditional public schools–as well as charter schools. That’s one problem that I see with TFA. Its program participants are only committed to working in schools–both charter and traditional public schools–for two years. Then many go on to graduate school or other careers.

    I think I remember reading somewhere that TFA places about of a third of its recruits in charter schools.

  21. In Charter School Fantasy World, Teacher Experience Irrelevant
    By Randy Shaw
    http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/site/charter-school-fantasy-world-teacher-experience-irrelevant

    Excerpt:
    I’ve never met a teacher who believes they were “great” in their first two years. But the business model for charter schools relies on this fiction. It requires their advocates to praise inexperienced teachers and high turnover even though every other profession—law, medicine, accounting and all of the construction trades—value experience and longevity. The turnover numbers are further evidence that the case for charter schools is unraveling, as veteran teachers and activists are winning the battle against elite-driven “reform.”

    After years of being on the defensive over high teacher turnover rate for charter schools and participants in Teach for America, proponents of these programs have embraced this shortcoming and reconstituted it as an asset. But while the adage, if you have a lot of lemons make lemonade can work in some contexts, the idea that inexperienced teachers and high turnover is a good thing is not a flavor of Kool Aid many parents want to drink.

    Experience Matters

    According to an October 2012 report in the American Educational Research Journal, teacher turnover harms school achievement. The study examined the impacts of teacher turnover on over 850,000 New York City fourth- and fifth-grade student observations over 8 years. The “results indicate that students in grade levels with higher turnover score lower in both English language arts (ELA) and math and that these effects are particularly strong in schools with more low-performing and Black students. Moreover, the results suggest that there is a disruptive effect of turnover beyond changing the distribution
    in teacher quality.”

    This conclusion should not come as a surprise. We all know from our own school experience that teachers take time to adjust to new schools. Many must learn to teach a new subject and/or curriculum, and it takes time to adapt to a new school environment.

    But the business model for charter schools requires a constant inflow of new teachers. This is because each entering group is soon burned out by the long work hours and requirement that they be available to take evening phone calls from students.

    For some recent grads or those only a few years out of college, the long hours teaching in charter schools is worth it, as they get salaries typically higher than traditional public school teachers of similar experience. But just as these young people are really learning their trade (and KIPP teachers last only four years), they leave for greener pastures and/or more rewarding and less stressful work environments.

  22. Elaine, It is not the purview of the school reform movement to fix poverty, any more than is it the public school industries job. Their job is to try and find a way to teach kids immersed in poverty, something the public school system has failed miserably.

  23. nick,

    It is the purview of government to address the issue of poverty in this country and the educational problems caused by poverty. Using taxpayers’ money to fund charter schools and for vouchers to private and religious schools certainly does not address the problem.

    If the school reform movement chooses to avoid addressing the causes of failing schools due to poverty, it isn’t a true/earnest school reform movement. School reformers should work to correct the root of the problem–but that might be too difficult a task.

  24. Education “Reformers” Back Testing—Until Charter Schools Fail
    by Randy Shaw
    Jun. 26‚ 2013
    http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=11525

    Excerpt:
    Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) released its long-awaited study on charter schools this week, and the news was not good for those promoting charters as superior to traditional, unionized public schools. The report found charters gave students “a minimal boost on their reading scores,” and that “charter students in 16 states lost a bit of ground in both reading and math against their peers in neighborhood schools.” AFT President Randi Weingarten noted, “20 years after the start of the charter school movement, even with all the private energy and public policy cheerleading it has engendered, students in charter schools roughly perform the same as students in the rest of public education—not the leaps and bounds that were promised.” Yet Charter school proponents and “reformers” who support using student test scores to close schools and fire and/or transfer teachers suddenly had a problem with testing for educational success. For example, Jeanne Allen of the Coalition for Education Reform denounced CREDO as “extremely weak in its methodology and alarming in its conclusions.” The CREDO study is the latest example of the crumbling of corporate driven school reform.

    A test based on analyzing millions of student test scores from schools in 26 states is precisely the type of “objective” measuring stick that critics of unionized public schools routinely promote. And if the new CREDO study had shown charter schools’ great advantage over traditional public schools, it would have been a front-page story across the United States.

    But once again, empirical studies of charter school performance fail to match the hype. And rather than acknowledge this fact, education reformers are blaming the same type of test-driven analysis that they have long used to denigrate public schools.

    Their hypocrisy is remarkable. Allen and others cite all kinds of variables which they claim led to CREDO’s “erroneous conclusions,” yet when public school students perform poorly on tests all outside factors—poverty, moves to new schools, a lack of English proficiency—are disregarded. Instead, all blame falls on the public school teacher and the traditional public school model.

  25. School reformers give a lesson in corruption
    The recent scandal ousting Florida’s top education official shows where the privatization movement’s priorities lie
    By David Sirota
    8/15/13
    http://www.salon.com/2013/08/15/school_reformers_give_a_lesson_in_corruption/

    Excerpt:
    Paradoxes come in all different forms, but here’s one that perfectly fits this Gilded Age: The most significant lesson from the ongoing debate about American education has little to do with schools and everything to do with money. This lesson comes from a series of recent scandals that expose the financial motives of the leaders of the so-called education “reform” movement — the one that is trying to privatize public schools.

    The first set of scandals engulfed Tony Bennett, the former Indiana school superintendent and much-vaunted poster boy for the privatization push. After voters in that state responded to his radical agenda by throwing him out of office, he was quickly hired to lead Florida’s education system. At the same time, his wife not-so-coincidentally landed a gig with the Florida-based Charter Schools USA, a for-profit company that not only has an obvious interest in Bennett privatizing Florida schools, but that also was previously awarded lucrative contracts by Bennett in Indiana.

    Grotesque as it is to shroud such self-enriching graft in the veneer of helping children, the self-dealing controversy wasn’t Bennett’s most revealing scandal. That distinction goes to recent news that Bennett changed the grades of privately run charter schools on behalf of his financial backers. Indeed, as the Associated Press reported, “When it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett’s education team frantically overhauled his signature ‘A-F’ school grading system to improve the school’s marks.” Yet, the Associated Press also reported that just a year before, Bennett “declined to give two Indianapolis public schools (the) same flexibility.”

    In response, the American Federation of Teachers is asking Indiana to release emails between Bennett and the education foundation run by former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., another prominent face of the “reform” movement. The union is requesting this correspondence because of another scandal, this one publicized by the Washington Post.

    Under the headline “E-mails Link Bush Foundation, Corporations and Education Officials,” the newspaper earlier this year reported on correspondence showing the foundation carefully shaping its education “reform” agenda not around policies that would most help children, but around legislation that would most quickly expand the profit margins of its donors in the for-profit education industry.

    Before all of these controversies, of course, there were plenty of ways to see that something other than concern for kids has been driving “reformers’” push to privatize public schools.

    You could, for example, contrast privatizers’ pro-charter-school propaganda with Stanford University’s study showing that most charter schools perform no better — and often worse — than traditional public schools.

    You could juxtapose the Reuters story screaming “Private Firms Eyeing Profits From U.S. Public Schools” next to the New York Times headline blaring “Hedge Funds’ Leaders Rally for Charter Schools.”

    You could consider that the most prolific fundraiser in the education “reform” movement is not someone with a stellar record of education policy success, but instead Michelle Rhee, the former Washington, D.C., schools chief whose tenure was defined by a massive cheating scandal.

  26. nick,

    Here’s some information about one poor public school system that worked with a big university in Massachusetts. I know one of the professors who was involved in the Chelsea Public Schools Partnership with Boston University. I also know some of the dedicated teachers–both young and old–who worked in Chelsea.

    Chelsea Partnership
    http://www.bu.edu/sed/about-us/history/chelsea-partnership/

    Chelsea Public Schools Home
    http://www.chelseaschools.com/cps/

  27. No Education Reform Without Tackling Poverty, Experts Say
    April 30, 2012
    http://neatoday.org/2012/04/30/no-education-reform-without-tackling-poverty-experts-say/
    By Robert McNeely

    Excerpt:
    If many so-called education reformers really want to close the student achievement gap, they should direct their fire away from public school educators and take aim at the real issue—poverty. This was the consensus of a panel of policy advocates and academics that convened recently on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. to discuss the impact of poverty on student learning over the past 40 years. The panelists presented data that showed the current state of student achievement and discussed what changes needed to be made to address the needs of students and schools in low socio-economic areas.

    “It’s time to stop arguing whether schools prepare students for the future and launch a full scale attack on poverty,” said panelist Peter Edelman of the Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy.

    Joining Edelman on the panel were Sean Reardon, Professor of Education and Sociology at Stanford University School of Education; David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center in Newark, New Jersey; Eric Rafael González an Education Policy Advocate for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.; and Elaine Weiss, national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education.

    The panel used their presentations to demonstrate how more affluent schools have made significant gains in academic improvement over the past 40 years while under-funded schools, despite making some strides, have been unable to close the achievement gap. The panelists urged lawmakers to avoid blaming the public school system and instead put programs in place to address the crippling poverty that obstructs student learning.

  28. The Coming Revolution in Public Education
    Why the current wave of reforms, with its heavy emphasis on standardized tests, may actually be harming students
    John Tierney
    Apr 25 2013
    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/04/the-coming-revolution-in-public-education/275163/

    Excerpt:
    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 teachers’ pay) 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.*

    Critics of the contemporary reform regime argue that these initiatives, though seemingly sensible in their original framing, are motivated by interests other than educational improvement and are causing genuine harm to American students and public schools. Here are some of the criticisms: the reforms have self-interest and profit motives, not educational improvement, as their basis; corporate interests are reaping huge benefits from these reform initiatives and spending millions of dollars lobbying to keep those benefits flowing; three big foundations (Gates, Broad, and Walton Family) are funding much of the backing for the corporate reforms and are spending billions to market and sell reforms that don’t work; ancillary goals of these reforms are to bust teacher unions, disempower educators, and reduce spending on public schools; standardized testing is enormously expensive in terms both of public expenditures and the diversion of instruction time to test prep; over a third of charter schools deliver “significantly worse” results for students than the traditional public schools from which they were diverted; and, finally, that these reforms have produced few benefits and have actually caused harm, especially to kids in disadvantaged areas and communities of color. (On that last overall point, see this scathing new report from the Economic Policy Institute.)…

    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.)

  29. Perhaps I missed it, but is there any information comparing the turnover rate of new teachers in the traditional schools to new teachers in the charter schools?

    I saw the 40 % turnover rate for charter v. 15 % for traditional, but I assume (1) that there are a lot more traditional school teachers than charter, and (2) that the traditional schools have a large number of “old timers” (which is supported by the statement that the average length of service is 14 years). So the question is: for new teachers in traditional schools, what is the turnover rate? In other words, is the high turnover rate a symptom of charter schools or is it a broader problem (e.g., how young people see teaching as a career choice or the nature of today’s college graduates more generally)?

    Although I don’t claim to be an expert on the topic, the key thing about charter schools is that the state (in Arizona at least) can shut them down if they do not perform. I know of no similar provision for traditional schools. I accept Ms. M’s position that not all traditional schools are failing, but in some areas far too many are (e.g., Chicago, if I can believe the news).

  30. Elaine,

    My main problem with many of the school reformers is that they imply that all public schools are failing/have failed their students. That’s not true.

    You and I agree on this and many other things. I hope we can also agree that many of the people opposed to charter schools imply that all charter schools are bad for education in America. As with most issues, the ideologues ruin it for level-headed folks, like you and me!

    There are many, many public schools in this country that provide/have provided their students with an excellent education.

    This is, indeed, an important fact. It’s also true about charter schools.

    What’s less talked about is the fact that in every good school – private, public, or charter – there are substantial numbers of intelligent, curious students who are unhappy being there and who are learning mostly how to hate reading and writing, math and history and science. This has been a feature of school for 150 years.

    If school reformers were truly dedicated to school reform, they would look at the schools that actually ARE troubled/failing and study the reasons for their problems.

    This is a tricky statement. It requires that you question the dedication of individuals who have devoted their lives to education. They may have come to different conclusions than yours or mine, but when we dismiss their dedication we start to enter an unconstructive territory.

    But many of the people in the school reform movement don’t want to address one of the major issues facing failing schools–POVERTY and its effects on children and learning.

    Poverty is a huge problem for education. But it’s just one of many. If an education specialist has different opinions about how to reduce poverty, it’s not reasonable to question their dedication to education.

    There are many people who support charters and vouchers because they believe it is the best way to ensure that people in poverty have the best chance to receive an education that is equal in value to the education received by middle and upper class families. Indeed, there are many, many impoverished families all over the country who are very grateful for their local charter school.

  31. Elaine: I have seen a similar attitude toward hiring in some of the large businesses, best exemplified by Walmart. The strategy, as Rafflaw said; is a profitable one:

    A) Hire entry level workers with few benefits and nearly zero autonomy,

    B) Have draconian “paint by numbers” duties and timing of tasks that result in relatively high productivity for workers and managers, but requires them to perform like robots, with near zero discretion from a checklist. (The only reason they don’t use robots is they need basic human perception to hang up clothes, navigate around customers, and deal with things like damaged bar codes).

    C) Don’t worry about turnover in the least. Workers will submit or quit, if they quit there is another one waiting to get in. No experience is needed, the “experience” is provided by the checklist; and the workforce is “programmed” by a small centralized intelligence that devises protocols, instructions, and issues identical tasks.

    It is profitable; the cost of labor is minimized, and the impact on quality of service, while felt, is apparently not enough to drive many customers elsewhere, where prices are higher.

    In the case of schools, I think most parents are just not that involved. They see the report card, it looks decent (and they do not realize it is a deceptively manufactured product), and they really do not know what their child should be learning in any particular grade and are distracted by their own workplace (and personal) dramas anyway.

    They engage private schools because they really do want their child educated, but they just trust them to not be sociopathic evil jerks, which I consider a big mistake anytime profits are on the line.

  32. nick spinelli 1, September 7, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Elaine, It is not the purview of the school reform movement to fix poverty, any more than is it the public school industries job. Their job is to try and find a way to teach kids immersed in poverty, something the public school system has failed miserably.
    ============================
    Including history teachers.

    They missed the morph from a middle class economy into a plutonomy.

    Which is fundamental American History now.

  33. Elaine, thanks for linking to that Atlantic article. I don’t consider myself part of the “reform” crowd because I don’t believe in standardized tests or even the ability of very large companies to provide the kind individualized education that really would improve the experience for students.

    My biggest problem with charters is that they too frequently sell parents on the false claim that higher test scores indicate more and better learning.

  34. However! The salon article is the mirror of articles you see on conservative sites that claim that massive fraud and other bad behavior by public school officials is proof that the government ought to get out of education.

    It’s a specious, unconstructive argument.

  35. The bottom line on ‘no excuses’ and poverty in school reform
    By Valerie Strauss
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-bottom-line-on-no-excuses-and-poverty-in-school-reform/2012/09/29/813683bc-08c1-11e2-afff-d6c7f20a83bf_blog.html

    Excerpt:
    Here’s a new look at the issue from Kathryn Strom, a doctoral fellow in teacher education and teacher development at Montclair State University. Her research centers on teacher preparation for urban/high-poverty schools and teaching for social justice. Strom taught history before returning to school to get her doctorate. She is a member of the New Jersey chapter of the national movement called Save Our Schools and a co-founder of the New Jersey Teacher Activist Groupschools

    By Kathryn Strom

    Poverty cannot be cited as the sole causal factor in the “failure” (as deemed by standardized tests) of low-income children (a category which overlaps with others, such as children of color, English language learners, and special needs students). That’s because there isn’t one single causal factor that can be blamed for the “achievement gap” that exists between the aforementioned student population and their more affluent, white peers.

    But there are complex set of socio-economic factors that ABSOLUTELY contribute to educational access (at a bare minimum), and these deserve attention. And we cannot continue to merely pin the blame on “ineffective teachers” and “failing schools” while ignoring the ways that poverty is entangled with public school “outcomes” for our children.

    The “no excuses” rhetoric (i.e, “poverty is not an excuse for failure”) is one that is dearly beloved by the corporate education reformers because it allows them to perpetuate (what many recognize to be) the American myth of meritocracy and continue the privatization movement under the guise of “improving schools” while avoiding addressing deeply entrenched inequities that exist in our society and are perpetuated by school structures.

    Many of their “reforms,” supported by a nationwide acceptance of the “no excuses” rhetoric, hurt poor children living in poverty rather than help them (for example, standardized tests have cultural and racial biases; charter schools have been shown to disproportionately underserve children of color, English Language Learners, and special needs students; closing down “failing” schools forces children out of their home communities and disproportionately puts teachers of color out of work).

    There are many, many factors that contribute to the “failing” of our children of color/children who live in poverty/English language learners (again, categories that often overlap).

    One issue is that parental property/income largely dictates educational access; since poverty, race, and language intersect, the students who attend the “low performing” schools are more likely to be students of color, low income students, and/ or ELLs. These schools are not funded equitably. As a result, schools in high-poverty areas are more likely to have outdated and/or dilapidated facilities; fewer resources; and larger class sizes.

  36. COMMENTARY
    Can’t Blame Teacher Tenure For Failing Schools
    February 26, 2012|
    By JASON COURTMANCHE
    The Hartford Courant
    http://articles.courant.com/2012-02-26/news/hc-op-courtmanche-ending-teacher-tenure-wrong-fix–20120226_1_minority-students-federal-education-law-teachers

    Diane Ravitch, an education expert, points out that today’s school reformers know nothing about what works in education, and so they try to make schools look more like businesses.

    They propose to test students, evaluate teachers according to those tests and then reward or punish teachers consequently. Their proposals make little to no mention of curriculum or instruction. These reforms, as with those proposed by Gov.Dannel P. Malloyand state Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, rest upon the premise that teachers know exactly what needs to be done to improve education, but they simply aren’t doing it. They assume that if we remove tenure and threaten teachers with reprisal, then teachers will do their jobs. In truth, the challenges in education are much more complex, and tenure is not to blame.

    The biggest problem in Connecticut is the achievement gap between wealthy and poor students, which largely correlates with the gap between white and minority students. The fact of the matter is that the gap has everything to do with poverty and not a whole lot of anything to do with tenure.

    Students in wealthy, educated towns such as New Canaan, Fairfield, Glastonbury or Mansfield succeed despite their teachers’ tenure, yet we are supposed to believe that the struggles of students in neighboring towns such as Norwalk, Bridgeport, Hartford and Windham are the fault of teachers’ collectively bargained rights to due process.

    In 2005, Windham Center School was awarded a federal Blue Ribbon for excellence, but in 2008 Windham Center School was labeled a failing school, despite nearly identical staffing.

    Windham has two elementary schools that serve impoverished neighborhoods and two that serve relatively affluent neighborhoods. Windham Center School served a neighborhood of teachers, professors, lawyers and doctors. But demographic changes and the state’s response to certain provisions in federal education law caused dramatic shifts throughout the town. Between 1999 and 2009, Windham dropped from the seventh to the third poorest town in the state.

    Many of the newly arrived poor were English language learners. At one time, most of these students would have attended either Natchaug or Sweeney elementary schools. But the new federal law not only required that schools be labeled as failures if their students did not excel on standardized tests, it also required that towns give students the choice to attend a different, non-failing school.

    As you might expect, many students elected to attend the so-called good school. The result was that the teachers at Windham Center were suddenly handed a large number of impoverished English language learners who they were unprepared to teach. Did the town, state or federal government provide the professional development necessary to help the teachers teach these kids? No. The feds just gave the school a failing grade.

    I do not blame the students or their families for this predicament. Most of our ancestors were poor immigrants who faced similar challenges. And I do not fault the choice program in and of itself. If anything, it helped desegregate the schools. But I do fault the federal government and the state government for issuing unfunded mandates and for failing schools whose teachers have been set up for failure.

    And now I worry that the teachers are being scapegoated even further.

    One problem with the school choice program was that it was predicated upon the false conclusion that the teachers at Natchaug and Sweeney were not doing their jobs, and the teachers at Windham Center were. Now that the poor and the non-English speaking students have been distributed throughout the town, Gov. Malloy and Commissioner Pryor are going to implement reforms that will make it look like all the teachers in Windham — and other like towns — are failures. And without tenure, they will all be at risk of losing their jobs.

  37. LJM

    I wrote: If school reformers were truly dedicated to school reform, they would look at the schools that actually ARE troubled/failing and study the reasons for their problems.

    You responded: This is a tricky statement. It requires that you question the dedication of individuals who have devoted their lives to education. They may have come to different conclusions than yours or mine, but when we dismiss their dedication we start to enter an unconstructive territory.

    *****

    Can you name the school reformers who have devoted their lives to education? Do you have a problem when dedicated school reformers dismiss the dedication of public school teachers and place nearly all the blame for failing schools on them and their unions? Was it acceptable when star reformer Michelle Rhee did a mass firing/layoff of educators in D.C….or when she fired a principal on national TV?

  38. Federal Judge Orders Michelle Rhee Suit to Go Forward, will Broaden to Concealment and Fraud Claims
    A US federal judge has denied a Motion to Dismiss by former DC Public School Chancellor Michelle Rhee in a wrongful termination lawsuit over the mass firings of DC Public School teachers back in 2009. Case to be amended to add concealment and fraud claims against Rhee and her CFO Noah Wepman.
    Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) April 01, 2013
    http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/4/prweb10586920.htm

    Excerpt:
    For nearly three years, efforts by hundreds of DC Public School teachers who were victims of the much publicized mass firings by former Chancellor Michelle Rhee- herself hailed as a reformer and darling of major media- have failed to gain any traction in the courts.

    However, in what may be a turning of that tide, US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras has denied Rhee’s motion to dismiss claims by a music teacher that his firing was concocted by using a misapplied or non-existent job title to enable his poor evaluation and subsequent firing.

    The suit involves Willie J. Brewer Jr., a 53-year-old teacher who worked for DCPS for 28 years before being terminated in October of 2009 due to “budgetary constraints” under a RIF (Reduction in Force). Under this circumstance, the pecking order of teachers to be terminated as determined by Rhee, were first those with poor performance evaluations. However, Brewer claims he was an instrumental music teacher and that his RIF competitive standing was erroneously governed by the standards for a vocal music teacher, a position that required a skill set different from his own. As a result, Brewer claims he scored a poor evaluation and was terminated.

    Brewer has set out to prove that his circumstance was not the result of mere error but an illegal systematic effort by Rhee to replace teachers en masse- perhaps supported by Rhee’s own public statements regarding her ideology to aggressively fire, en masse, teachers she deems as failing…

    Along that line, it has been learned that Brewer will now amend his original complaint to broaden the scope of Rhee’s alleged actions into possible civil fraud and concealment claims. This has developed as a result of videotaped testimony by the former DCPS CFO Noah Wepman before the DC City Council on November 30, 2009. In that testimony, Wepman appears to admit that he willfully concealed, with the knowledge of Rhee, the true accounting figures which indicated that the DCPS had no budgetary shortfall at all- the pretext for the RIF to be instituted and the mass firings to take place.

  39. rafflaw,

    More on Michelle Rhee:

    Published on Friday, March 15, 2013 by Common Dreams
    An Open Challenge to Michelle Rhee and the Corporate Education Zombies
    Boycotting standardized testing in Seattle was a stand for students and a better education
    by Jesse Hagopian
    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/03/15

    Expert:
    Maybe I shouldn’t have stood up and said, “Welcome to Seattle,” while wearing my Garfield High School hoodie when Michelle Rhee took the stage at a recent Town Hall event in Seattle.

    Rhee, the prominent corporate education reform advocate, former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor, and CEO of the ironically-named “Students First” organization, now has Seattle in her crosshairs. In her March 5th op-ed for the Seattle Times, Rhee berated teachers at Garfield and other Seattle schools for their boycott of the district required MAP test.

    She began her piece: “Seattle public school students should pay attention. They’re getting a front-row, real-world lesson in how the actions of adults can distract from what’s best for students.” But don’t get your hopes up—this wasn’t a long overdue acknowledgment of the events surrounding the testing scandal when she was commanding the DC public schools.

    With only a little investigation of the news of the MAP test boycott, Rhee would have found that the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) and the Associated Student Body Government (ASB) at Garfield High School—the school where the test boycott of the test began on January 10th—had voted unanimously to support teachers in the boycott of the MAP test.

    When the Seattle School District attempted to go around the teacher boycott of the MAP by forcing the school administration to pull kids out of class and march them off to the library to take the computerized test, hundreds of students showed letters from their parents opting them out, while many of the rest simply refused to participate on their own. Of the 810 tests scheduled at Garfield, only 184 valid tests were recorded.

    In the end, the boycott of the winter round of the MAP primarily reflected the will of students and parents, who agreed with teachers that student time was better spent learning in the classroom, and that library computers were better used for student research and writing rather than testing. Had she acknowledged this, Michelle Rhee would have had some difficult questions to answer.

  40. Elaine,

    Can you name the school reformers who have devoted their lives to education?

    I would ask you what the point of this question is? And I would ask the same of someone who asked me to name a teachers’ union rep who really cares about kids. What’s the point, other than to inject a specter of lesser character or questionable motivation in those who disagree with you?

    Do you think that the teachers and administrators of successful charter schools all over the country haven’t devoted their lives to education?

    Do you have a problem when dedicated school reformers dismiss the dedication of public school teachers and place nearly all the blame for failing schools on them and their unions?

    Absolutely. Any thinking person would. Here’s the problem: there are bad people on both sides of this issue.

    That’s simply a fact. There are selfish, greedy, ignorant people in every group. That’s the problem with simply looking at an instance of bad actors and using that to condemn an entire system or concept.

    It’s why you can’t look at the terrible people who’ve been stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the New Jersey school system, and say, “That’s why public school can’t work!” It’s why you can’t look at a charter school that rejects special ed kids and say, “That’s why charter schools can’t work!”

    Most folks who work in public education are good people. There’s zero evidence to support the implication that the same isn’t true for people who work for charter schools.

    Was it acceptable when star reformer Michelle Rhee did a mass firing/layoff of educators in D.C….or when she fired a principal on national TV?

    I don’t know what I said to give you the impression that I might approve of this kind of grotesque, useless grandstanding. Of course, it’s terrible. The only thing I might agree with Rhee about is that kids deserve a choice. Other than that, I think she’s just another politician in school reformer’s clothing.

    You and I could create a list of terrible things done by school reformers, teachers’ unions, charter school officials, public school officials, charter school teachers and public school teachers. But what’s the point of that? It doesn’t say anything about what kind of system kids need in order to have access to quality education.

  41. LJM,

    I think it’s unconscionable when ANYBODY steals money from public school systems.

    It’s not that I think that charter schools can’t work. What I saw in my state was that charter schools were allowed to live by different rules from traditional public schools (TPS). Charter schools were supposed to be innovative and share their “new” ideas with the traditional public schools. Many of the charters were no different from TPS. In addition, they weren’t about sharing ideas with TPS. In addition, I’ve done a lot of research on charter schools and some of their backers. I have written previous posts on the subject. My research opened my eyes to the motives behind some of the school reformers who are proponents for establishing more and more charter schools…which siphon often sorely needed money from TPS.

  42. “ ‘ Was it acceptable when star reformer Michelle Rhee did a mass firing/layoff of educators in D.C….or when she fired a principal on national TV?’

    ‘I don’t know what I said to give you the impression that I might approve of this kind of grotesque, useless grandstanding.’”

    I’d say what you did was have the temerity not to be an echo chamber for the author’s views.

  43. 80% of Michigan Charter Schools are For-Profits
    The charter school movement began as a grassroots attempt to improve public education. It’s quickly becoming a backdoor for corporate profit. In Michigan, four out of five charter schools are run by for-profit EMO’s.
    9/29/11
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/09/29/80-of-michigan-charter-schools-are-for-profits/

    Excerpt:
    Once upon a time, the charter school movement was a grassroots phenomenon. Its proponents wanted to create a system of experimentation and innovation within the public schools. Everyone knows that the traditional public school system can be a bit burgeoning, with lots of bureaucratic red tap and uniformity which can hinder creativity in teaching.

    Historically, this has meant that a lot of teacher-driven education reform has been centered around finding new, less uniform ways of teaching.

    The charter school movement was born out of a desire to creatively address the many obstacles teachers faced. Traditionally, charter schools were part of the district and often occupied physical space within a larger school. Groups of teachers and administrators who wanted to innovate and try new things would band together and little laboratories of education would emerge.

    The idea was simple: anything valuable culled from these experiments could be copied by the district – research in action would be easily translated into the broader public education system.

    What a long ways we’ve come since those heady, naive days of yore.

    Dr. Gary Miron of Western Michigan University recently testified before the Michigan State House that school reformers have “gone away from those original charter ideas to the point that they should probably be called ‘corporate’ schools or ‘franchise’ schools instead. I like charter schools. I like the notion of charter schools. But what we’re talking about now is something that is very different. We need to go back to the original intent and goals.”

  44. LJM,

    Can you name the school reformers who have devoted their lives to education?

    I would ask you what the point of this question is? And I would ask the same of someone who asked me to name a teachers’ union rep who really cares about kids. What’s the point, other than to inject a specter of lesser character or questionable motivation in those who disagree with you?

    *****

    You’re the one who brought up my questioning the dedication of individuals who have been devoted to education reform all of their lives. I asked if you could name them. I’d like to know who they are.

  45. It’s the money, stupid
    Karen Francisco
    The Journal Gazette
    Last updated: July 10, 2013
    http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20130710/BLOGS13/130719936

    Excerpt:
    More than a decade into Indiana’s charter school experiment, people still ask what, exactly, are charter schools?

    If I’m being charitable, I explain they are public schools authorized to operate without many of the regulations placed on traditional public schools, in exchange for greater accountability. But given Indiana’s popular new practice of charter flipping — turning a poor-performing charter school into a voucher school or hunting for a new, less-rigorous sponsor instead of shutting it down — the accountability requirement is pretty much out the window. I don’t think I’ll even bother with that explanation any longer.

    If I’m feeling less charitable, I explain that charter schools are an effort to weaken and destroy teacher unions. Charter operators hire primarily young, inexperienced teachers; work them to death and then decline to renew their contracts when they should be giving them raises.

    But news of a symposium in New York today offers the best explanation yet. It’s all about the money. “Bonds and Blackboards: Investing in Charter Schools” was the topic of the one-day symposium at NYC’s Harvard Club. Here’s the description: “A one-day symposium to help Wall Street – especially the tax-exempt bond market – understand the value of investing in charter schools and best practices for assessing their bond credit.”

    Yes, because it’s all about helping Wall Street, right? Speakers included a representative from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; charter school investors Alliance Bernstein, Hamlin Capital and Nuveen; commercial bankers; bond underwriter RBC Capital Markets; and rating agency Standard & Poor’s.

  46. LJM, Again, great comments from someone who realizes it’s about the kids and parents, not politics and an education industry. Your common sense, no hidden agenda philosophy is a breath of fresh air. Keep coming back please. And, not just on this topic. What grade level/subject did you teach?

  47. The big business of charter schools
    By Valerie Strauss
    08/17/2012
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-big-business-of-charter-schools/2012/08/16/bdadfeca-e7ff-11e1-8487-64e4b2a79ba8_blog.html

    Excerpt:
    If you are wondering why you should add charter schools to your investment portfolios, here’s David Brain, head of a major investment concern called Entertainment Properties Trust, to tell you.

    This isn’t a joke.

    You may think charter schools are just one option for parents looking for an alternative to traditional public schools for their children, but they are big business in some quarters.

    What is Entertainment Properties Trust? According to its website, it is “a specialty real estate investment trust (REIT) that invests in properties in select categories which require unique industry knowledge, and offer stable and attractive returns.”

    And the website also says this: “Our investment portfolio of nearly $3 billion includes megaplex movie theatres and adjacent retail, public charter schools, and other destination recreational and specialty investments. This portfolio includes over 160 locations spread across 34 states with over 200 tenants.”

    This is why some people see the growth of charter schools run by for-profit management companies as part of a movement to privatize the country’s public education system, which has been the country’s most important civic institution.

    Above is a video — with the headline “Invest in Charter Schools?” — that shows an interview that Brain did with anchors at CNBC. Here is part of the dialogue:

  48. I’ve said it time and again and posted the link the destruction one of American education it tells it all especially the reason for bringing in teachers barely out of college our children have no need of learning says them all they need to know is how to be good ill slaves to low wage jobs

  49. Elaine, another great article. Recently I sent an article to my brother that taught for 40 years, 39 in the same school, about admissions to charter schools. The following was his reply that left me chuckling:

    Charter schools often take the cream and the milk at the top of the barrel. Public schools take the whole milk, including the curds and whey, then accept the yogurt, sour cream, and powdered milk (just add motivation, and a life-giving infusion of love, patience, special accommodations, and everything lacking in the home situation). We also take the soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and every other pseudo milk substitute. And all are tested on the state tests, whereas in charter schools parents are highly educated on how to opt their child out of testing.

    Many times students who transfer to public school from charter schools lack study skills and have a highly distorted opinion of their own abilities, and are often years behind. Parents always say, “Little Johnny got all A’s, and his achievements tests are tops.” Yeah, sure.

    On the other hand, some charter schools do offer an environment that is conducive to the special needs of certain students via smaller classes–the
    little shit who cannot get along with other students–or for that matter people in general, and who has indulgent parents. We are so glad to see them go, but we also know that in most cases the problem in whatever school will not change until the problems at home are fixed.

  50. Elaine,

    I’ve had three glasses of red wine, so forgive me if stop making sense or begin to flatter you needlessly.

    I think it’s unconscionable when ANYBODY steals money from public school systems.

    I would never want to imply otherwise. But I hope you see my larger point that there are bad actors in both state and private ventures.

    It’s not that I think that charter schools can’t work. What I saw in my state was that charter schools were allowed to live by different rules from traditional public schools (TPS).

    Certainly, this can be a problem, depending on the rules.

    Charter schools were supposed to be innovative and share their “new” ideas with the traditional public schools. Many of the charters were no different from TPS. In addition, they weren’t about sharing ideas with TPS.
    That is unfortunate, to be sure. And I doubt that it’s the case everywhere. I think it’s certainly not a reason to give up on the idea that families should have a variety of education choices to choose from.

    In addition, I’ve done a lot of research on charter schools and some of their backers. I have written previous posts on the subject. My research opened my eyes to the motives behind some of the school reformers who are proponents for establishing more and more charter schools…which siphon often sorely needed money from TPS.

    Again, the motives of some people in every group are suspect. There are many instances of people who have been made rich (compared to most) through the poor financial structure of the public school system. This is not a reason to condemn the idea of public school.

    You’re the one who brought up my questioning the dedication of individuals who have been devoted to education reform all of their lives.

    Actually, I merely pointed out that when you said…

    If school reformers were truly dedicated to school reform, they would look at the schools that actually ARE troubled/failing and study the reasons for their problems.”

    …you were questioning the dedication of people who support school reform. I then expressed my opinion that it’s not constructive, or even fair, to do so.

    I asked if you could name them. I’d like to know who they are.

    Go to your local charter school, early in the morning, and talk to the teachers there. Talk to the principal. Find out which parents worked to make a charter school available. Some of them are selfish, but most of those people are truly devoted to school reform, and most of them want, every bit as much as you do, to improve the education chances of kids living in poverty.

    Again, if someone who opposed public schools asked me to name teachers in the teachers’ union who were devoted to educating kids, I’d advise them to go to their local public school, early in the morning, and talk to the teachers there. Some of them are selfish, but most of them are truly devoted to the kids.

    Most teachers and administrators, whether or not they support charters, whether or not they support testing, whether or not they agree with you or me, most of them are devoted to improving education for kids. Suggesting otherwise gets us nowhere.

  51. Nick,

    Thanks. I taught in special ed, at non-profit, non-public schools where kids would be sent if they proved too difficult for regular public schools. We were the last stop before the mental hospital and/or juvenile lock-up.

  52. Pat,

    Lots of charter schools accept all kids, even special ed kids.

    All parents should know how to opt out of testing. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

    Many times students who transfer to public school from charter schools lack study skills and have a highly distorted opinion of their own abilities, and are often years behind.

    Many times, students who graduate from public school suffer from these same problems. Will wonders never cease.

    On the other hand, some charter schools do offer an environment that is conducive to the special needs of certain students via smaller classes–the
    little shit who cannot get along with other students–or for that matter people in general, and who has indulgent parents. We are so glad to see them go…

    “Little shit?”

    Maybe your brother should have retired sooner.

  53. LJM,

    We had a charter school established in the town where I taught some years ago. It didn’t provide the special educational services that some of the children needed. Our traditional public school provided them. The first director was let go. A student caught him drinking alcohol in his office. He was accused of assaulting her.

    *****

    It’s the corporate takeover of the school reform movement and charter schools that I find troublesome. I think a number of people involved in the school reform movement see money to be made in public education.

    A Look at Some of the Driving Forces behind the School Reform Movement and the Effort to Privatize Public Education
    https://jonathanturley.org/2013/03/03/a-look-at-some-of-the-driving-forces-behind-the-school-reform-movement-and-the-effort-to-privatize-public-education/

    Charter Schools and The Profit Motive
    https://jonathanturley.org/2013/03/16/charter-schools-and-the-profit-motive/

    From the ABC’s of Privatizing Public Education: A Is for ALEC, I is for iPad…and P Is for Profits
    https://jonathanturley.org/2013/07/28/from-the-abcs-of-privatizing-public-education-a-is-for-alec-i-is-for-ipad-and-p-is-for-profits/

  54. LJM,

    I worked in a public school that had an exceptional special needs program…and dedicated teachers. It housed the town’s special needs preschool. Nearly all the special needs preschoolers remained at our school even though they lived in other districts. We mainstreamed children with cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, serious behavioral issues, etc.

  55. Elaine,
    unfortunately, I believe that money is the driving force behind privatizing public education. Without the profit motive, there would be very little movement in the direction of charter schools.

  56. Education profiteering
    Wall Street’s next big thing?
    By Jeff Faux
    October 1, 2012
    http://www.epi.org/publication/education-profiteering-wall-street/

    Excerpt:
    The end of the Chicago teachers’ strike was but a temporary regional truce in the civil war that plagues the nation’s public schools. There is no end in sight, in part because—as often happens in wartime—the conflict is increasingly being driven by profiteers.

    The familiar media narrative tells us that this is a fight over how to improve our schools. On the one side are the self-styled reformers, who argue that the central problem with American K-12 education is low-quality teachers protected by their unions. Their solution is privatization, with its most common form being the privately run but publicly financed charter school. Because charter schools are mostly unregulated, nonunion and compete for students, their promoters claim they will, ipso facto, perform better than public schools.

    On the other side are teachers and their unions who are cast as villains. The conventional plot line is that they resist change, blame poverty for their schools’ failings and protect their jobs and turf.

    It is well known, although rarely acknowledged in the press, that the reform movement has been financed and led by the corporate class. For more than 20 years large business oriented foundations, such as Gates (Microsoft), Walton (Walmart) and Broad (Sun Life) have poured billions into charter school start-ups, sympathetic academics and pundits, media campaigns (including Hollywood movies) and sophisticated nurturing of the careers of privatization promoters who now dominate the education policy debate from local school boards to the U.S. Department of Education.

    In recent years, hedge fund operators, leverage-buy-out artists and investment bankers have joined the crusade. They finance schools, sit on the boards of their associations and the management companies that run them, and—most important—have made support of charter schools one of the criteria for campaign giving in the post-Citizens United era. Since most Republicans are already on board for privatization, the political pressure has been mostly directed at Democrats.

    Thus, for example, when Andrew Cuomo wanted to get the support of hedge fund managers for his run for governor of New York, he was told to talk to Joe Williams, director of Democrats for Education Reform, a group set up to lobby liberals on privatization. Cuomo is now a champion of charter schools. As Joanne Barkan noted in a Dissent Magazine report, privatizers are even targeting school board elections, in one case spending over $630,000 to elect two members in a local school board race last year in Colorado.

  57. rafflaw,

    I just found the following article:

    Published on Friday, June 21, 2013 by Dollars & Sense
    School Data Profiteering
    Data-collecting software is riling privacy and education activists.
    by Dan Schneider
    https://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/21

    Excerpt:
    When you were a kid and got in trouble at school, did they ever threaten to “put it in your permanent record?” That’s a scary prospect, knowing that the information could be seen forever by anyone with access to it. But what if that record had more in it than just grades and disciplinary problems? What if it included things like when your parents got divorced, or that you had been homeless for a while?

    Starting at the end of last year, a nonprofit organization called inBloom began to test new cloud-based software to collect information from student records and use it to individualize the education a student receives. Much of this individualized instruction will come from third-party for-profit companies that will be granted access to students’ data, effectively giving corporations that deal with inBloom free rein to mine student data as they see fit.

    A joint venture of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, inBloom has a long list of corporate partners, including Amazon, Dell, and Scholastic (maker of The Magic School Bus and The Magic Treehouse children’s book series). Originally, inBloom was known as the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC), a Gates Foundation- and NewsCorp-backed organization that had been quietly developing a “set of shared technology services” for several years, in order to “connect student data and instructional materials.”

    By 2013’s South-by-Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, SLC had rebranded itself as inBloom. The Gates Foundation is a well-known advocate of charter schools, school-privatization measures, and reforms like increased reliance on standardized testing and merit-based pay. (All these changes are unpopular with teachers and teachers’ unions.)

    The information collected by inBloom goes well beyond what’s found in a typical permanent record. The data elements that the inBloom database is set up to collect include “Pregnant Teen,” “Unschooled Refugee,” “Foster Care,” and “Removed by Child Protective Services.” It also includes whether, in a disciplinary incident, a student was a “Victim,” “Perpetrator,” “Witness,” or “Reporter.”

    Louisiana is currently inBloom’s largest guinea pig. In addition, the program has been deployed for testing in public school districts in Massachusetts, Illinois, Colorado, and North Carolina. New York City’s Department of Education is also participating. Schools in Delaware, Georgia, and Kentucky will begin their own tests of the data-gathering software in fall 2013. In New York City, Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, an advocacy organization for smaller class sizes, has been working diligently to make parents across the country aware of what their school districts may be doing. “There’s not a single school district that’s allowing parents the right of consent, or to opt out of the program,” Haimson told Dollars & Sense.

    Haimson also pointed out the lack of certainty in inBloom’s own privacy policy, which states that the company “cannot guarantee the security of the information” or that the “information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.” That should be, Haimson said, “a huge red flag.” The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), an advocacy group which seeks to decommercialize the lives of American children, is among those spearheading the campaign against inBloom in Massachusetts.

  58. Charter schools are a for-profit enterprise. Lower costs = greater profit. Teachers with little experience cost less than those with more experience. Workers expect raises. Teachers who stay in the same job expect raises. New teachers come in at the new teacher rate. It’s not difficult to understand. The real cost is to the students who don’t get the benefit of the experienced teachers.

  59. Elaine,

    I’m sorry to hear about that charter school and its director. Needless to say, there are lots of charter schools which do (as they should) accept special needs students, and lots of public schools with staff who sexually assault children while neglecting other students. Again, it’s not about the system, it’s about the people running it.

    There are many public schools which do a fine job in dealing with special needs students. There are also many public schools which have abused and neglected special needs students. What does one take from this? Obviously, it’s wrong to ignore the first sentence and use the second as evidence that public schools don’t care about special needs students. But, unfortunately, that’s the approach I see in your articles on charter schools.

    I appreciate all the research you’ve done on the subject. But lots of people, including myself, have been doing the same. There is simply no evidence, whatsoever, that increasing educational choices for low income students makes things worse. There is a mountain of evidence to support the assertion that the U.S., which spends more per-pupil than all but two countries, has seriously (often criminally) mismanaged its education dollars.

    Whenever people complain about charter schools, they inevitably bring up test scores. You know, the test scores that shouldn’t be used to judge quality in teachers? (A sentiment I agree with.) Without test scores, all you have is the opinion of the people who matter most. Not education professors, not education journalists or bloggers, but students and parents. And they tend to like their charter schools at similar or, usually, higher rates than they liked their public schools.

    How many low-income families are doing their level best to get their kids out of charter schools and into public schools? There must be a few, I’m sure. But the number is much lower than families who are trying to do the opposite.

    I don’t think it matters if a company profits from schooling kids. Currently, Superintendents of public schools, along with a variety of textbook companies make ridiculous profits from public school. There are many public employees who make well over six figures and can count on making that much in pension payments for the rest of their lives. To pretend that greed is something unique to for-profit companies is to ignore the evidence.

    The bottom line is, with real choice, if a for-profit school is doing a bad job, it won’t be in business very long. When people are free to choose what school they prefer, none of the concerns about for-profit education companies matter one bit.

    Because, despite what “anti-choice in education” folks may think, the vast majority of people are smart enough to stick with the schools which give them satisfaction and leave the schools which don’t.

  60. bettykath,

    What’s difficult to understand is, if charter schools are so terrible, why do so many families find them so satisfactory?

  61. LJM, Parents are the clients. We don’t have “free” public education. It is paid for w/ tax dollars from parents, people w/o children, and businesses. I went into teaching after having run my own business for 20 years. I knew that if I didn’t treat my clients right, I would lose them. When I started teaching in 1999, I saw the education industry didn’t treat parents like clients. Some individual teachers certainly did, but too many did not. So, your question to bettykath hits the nail on the head. Parents now have a choice. Not just parents w/ the money to send their kids to private schools, but all parents. Some see this as a threat. Most see it as a long time coming.

  62. LJM,

    Yes, I know not all charter schools are bad. In many of my school posts, I’ve been addressing the issue of people in the reform movement who have less than benevolent motives. I have a difference of opinion from you. I think real reformers and others who truly care about children and their education should speak out against such people and groups and inform the public. How are parents and other citizens to find out about people who would use the school reform movement and children as a means for enriching themselves if we don’t talk about the issue in a public forum? Just because there are good charter schools run be dedicated people doesn’t mean there aren’t bad charter schools. Most school reformers have painted all traditional public schools as failing…and teachers as the main culprits to blame for the problem.

    *****

    “Whenever people complain about charter schools, they inevitably bring up test scores.”

    I find that comment amusing. It has been school reformers who have used poor test scores in traditional public schools as an argument for establishing charter schools and for school vouchers. It was the school reformers in Massachusetts who pushed for the high stakes MCAS testing of students. It’s the school reformers and the mania for high stakes testing of children that are destroying the best public schools in my state. I speak from experience.

    I told you about the principal of the charter school in the town where I taught because you suggested I get to know the people who work in a local charter school. He’s one charter school employee that I knew a lot about because of his questionable behavior–including trying to physically intimidate the superintendent of schools after a public meeting, being arrested for drunk driving, violating a conflict of interest law. The last I heard about that charter school was that it wasn’t fully enrolled. In addition, not that many town residents send their children to the school these days. It is mostly populated with children who live out of town.

  63. How to Keep Great Teachers at Your Charter School
    Charter Notebook
    Posted on: December 22, 2011
    by Rachel Scott
    The Finance Project
    http://www.charternotebook.org/how-to-keep-great-teachers-at-your-charter-sc/

    Excerpt:
    Connectedness to the learning community, excitement about what each new school day can bring, positive relationships with role models, consistent performance, a commitment to come back next year… these are some of the outcomes independent charter schools hope to elicit for kids in their schools. With a rate of 25% teacher turnover (compared to 14% at public schools) in one study, charter school leaders must also think about how to bring about those sorts of outcomes for their teachers. While schools’ charters often give administrators the flexibility to ensure that the teachers they employ have the right skills and the right “fit” with a school, the majority of turnover can still be attributed to voluntary choice by the teachers.

    Beyond the obvious costs of frequently searching for, hiring, and orienting new teachers to charter schools, teacher attrition has other costs that are harder to quantify. David Stuit and Thomas M. Smith at Vanderbilt University (2009) recap the findings of several researchers who find that teachers with the strongest academic achievement themselves are the ones most likely to leave charter schools (and the teaching profession altogether) — a move that pulls some of the most qualified teachers out of charter schools. Perhaps just as costly, when teachers don’t return, the critical network of adults at any given charter school who know the children well and are invested in their success as they grow erodes.

    Causes for Teacher Attrition

    Discovering the reasons why good teachers leave is essential to knowing what leaders of independent charter schools can do to keep them. Research on the subject is readily available. It is worth noting, however, that the examination of teacher attrition in charter schools is often connected to other political or ideological ‘baggage.” Charter school leaders must understand that teacher retention is, to a large degree, linked to other sensitive issues like unionization of charter school teachers and comparative assessments of student achievement between independent charter schools, managed multi-site charters, and public schools.

    Several studies point to the relatively young age of charter school teachers (compared to public school teachers) as the strongest predictor of turnover, as it is with teachers in any setting. Other factors correlated with teacher attrition in charter schools include: low number of years at the school, non-certified teachers or teachers teaching outside their certification areas, and “teachers’ relative satisfaction/dissatisfaction with the school’s: 1) mission, 2) perceived ability to attain the mission, and 3) administration and governance” (Miron and Applegate; Western Michigan University, 2007).) One study of teacher attrition in charter schools in Wisconsin that controls for many of these factors concludes that “high turnover rates in Wisconsin charter schools appear to be a disadvantaged school problem rather than a charter school problem per se”– pointing perhaps to increased needs for more wraparound services for students and families, as well as teacher support and training in cultural competence.

    Others posit that teachers are less likely to want to stay in charter schools where they tend to be paid less than in public schools and are more likely to be without union protection. In fact, the Century Foundation suggests that 90% of charter schools are non-unionized environments, and many teachers cite job security and protection of wages and benefits as primary factors as they select jobs.

  64. Unfair Funding: How Charter Schools Win & Traditional Schools Lose
    Innovation Ohio
    http://innovationohio.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Unfair-Funding-IO-charter-schools-report-1.pdf

    Excerpt:
    Introduction

    Proponents have long claimed that community or ‘charter’ schools are the cure for much of what ails Ohio’s education system. If only parents had more “choice” over where their children attend school, they say, competition and the magic of the market would surely improve all schools.

    Equally important, boosters claim that charter schools are cost neutral to the state. Unfortunately, a data set recently produced by the Ohio Department of Educationi explodes that particular myth. According to the data, the way charter schools are funded in this state has a profoundly negative impact on the resources that remain for the overwhelming majority of kids — 1.6 million — who stay in Ohio’s traditional public schools. Actually, it’s even worse than that. In the vast majority of cases — even in many urban school districts — the state is transferring money to charter schools that perform substantially worse than the public schools from which the students supposedly “escaped.”

    Here are the facts:

    Because of the $774 million deducted from traditional public schools in FY 2012 to fund charters, children in traditional public schools received, on average, $235 (or 6.5%) less state aid than the state itself said they needed.

    More than 90% of the money sent to rated charter schools1 in the 2011-2012 school year went to charters that on average score significantly lower on the Performance Index Score than the public schools students had left.ii

    Over 40% of state funding for charters in 2011-2012 ($326 million) was transferred from traditional public districts that performed better on both the State Report Card and Performance Index.

    IO does not claim that all charter schools are bad, or that charters don’t have a place in Ohio’s education landscape. We do say that the way Ohio’s political leaders have chosen to fund charters has had a profoundly negative impact on the children who remain in traditional public schools. That impact can no longer be ignored, and IO believes it is incumbent on the Governor and the General Assembly to develop a funding system that is not detrimental to the majority of Ohio’s school children…

    Collateral Damage

    There are real consequences to the current funding scheme set up by state lawmakers. In FY 12, traditional schools were told they collectively would receive $6.3 billion to educate the 1.7 million students in Ohio, which broke down to $3,634 per pupil.vii However, when deductions totaling $774 million for charter schools are removed (for the just over 108,000 children they enroll),viii traditional schools are left with $5.9 billion to educate the remaining 1.6 million children – or just $3,399 per pupil. By contrast, charter schools receive $774 million from the state to educate 108,000 students — or $7,141 per pupil, more than twice the amount received by traditional schools.

    In other words, students who attend traditional public schools actually receive $235 — or 6.5% — less from the state than what the state says they need because charter schools are costing the state so much more.

    Regardless of how one feels about charters, the way in which Ohio currently funds them has a negative impact on the children who remain in traditional public schools.

  65. Nashville charter schools ‘lose’ problem students to public schools—just in time for testing
    by Laura Clawson
    MAY 21, 2013
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/05/21/1210512/-Nashville-charter-schools-lose-problem-students-to-public-schools-just-in-time-for-testing

    If all you care about are test scores, one of the big advantages charter schools have over traditional public schools is that they don’t have to take every kid who shows up. Charters can push out the weak students, leaving them for someone else to deal with. That certainly looks like what’s happening in Nashville, Tennessee, where the eight schools with the highest net loss of students are all charter schools, WSMV’s Dennis Ferrier reports. The only schools losing more than 10 percent of their students are charters, which are losing up to 33 percent.

    The highly regarded national KIPP chain’s Nashville school lost 18 percent of its students, a situation its principal says is unacceptable. Which it might be easier to believe he really meant if it wasn’t such a common occurrence and if it didn’t work out so well for his school:

    “[Metro Nashville Public Schools[ feels it’s unacceptable as well, because not only are they getting kids from charter schools, but they are also getting troubled kids and then getting them right before testing time.

    “That’s also a frustration for the zoned-school principals. They are getting clearly challenging kids back in their schools just prior to accountability testing,” said MNPS Chief Operating Officer Fred Carr.

    “Nineteen of the last 20 children to leave Kipp Academy had multiple out-of-school suspensions. Eleven of the 19 are classified as special needs, and all of them took their TCAPs at Metro zoned schools, so their scores won’t count against Kipp.”

    Then those kids’ test scores—the scores the charters didn’t want to have on their records—get held against public schools. And we’re told charters are such an amazing answer to all the problems our school systems supposedly have. If charters are so great, they should be great for all kids, not just the ones it’s convenient for them to take.

    *****

    Charter schools losing struggling students to zoned schools
    Posted: May 16, 2013 10:36 PM EDT
    Updated: May 30, 2013 10:37 PM EDT
    Reported by Dennis Ferrier
    http://www.wsmv.com/story/22277105/charter-schools-losing-struggling-students-to-zoned-schools

    Excerpt:
    NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) –
    Leaders with Metro Nashville Public Schools have serious concerns about what is happening at some of the city’s most popular charter schools.

    Students are leaving in large numbers at a particularly important time of the school year, and the consequences may have an impact on test scores.

    Charter schools are literally built on the idea that they will outperform public, zoned schools. They are popular because they promise and deliver results, but some new numbers are raising big questions about charter schools.

    One of the first things a visitor sees when stepping into Kipp Academy is a graph that shows how Kipp is outperforming Metro schools in every subject.

  66. Anybody who knows anything about for-profit schools knows that only the owners make any money. And almost all schools are inaccurate (lying) about their attendance and test scores.
    Follow the money.

  67. AY,

    The mania for high stakes testing and the pressure placed on teachers to spend valuable classroom time prepping students for them is the cause of some veteran teachers retiring early. It’s the reason that I left the classroom.

    *****

    Ron Maggiano, Virginia Teacher, Retires Over ‘Testing Regime’ That’s ‘Suffocating Creativity’
    The Huffington Post
    By Rebecca Klein
    05/29/2013
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/29/virginia-teacher-retires-ron-maggiano-testing_n_3354212.html

    Excerpt:
    Ron Maggiano is among several teachers leaving the profession due to what they feel is an overemphasis on standardized testing.

    Earlier this month, Maggiano, who has been teaching for more than 30 years, announced his retirement on Facebook. A history teacher at West Springfield High School in Virginia, Maggiano won the American Historical Association’s Beveridge Family Teaching Prize for outstanding K-12 teaching in 2006 and the Disney Teacher Award for innovation and creativity in 2005, the Washington Post reports.

    Maggiano told the school’s student newspaper, The Oracle, that he was retiring in part because of the new significance placed on high-stakes testing. Maggiano told the outlet last week that he felt the education system’s obsession with testing stifled real learning and creativity.

    “When I started teaching, the worst thing a teacher could do is teach to the test. Now, all we are doing is teaching to the test. From the first day of school to the final exam, that’s all we are doing,” Maggiano told the paper.

    Maggiano told the outlet that he would rather retire than be part of the education system as it stands.

    *****

    Teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’
    By Valerie Strauss
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/04/06/teachers-resignation-letter-my-profession-no-longer-exists/

    Excerpt:
    Increasingly teachers are speaking out against school reforms that they believe are demeaning their profession, and some are simply quitting because they have had enough.

    Here is one resignation letter from a veteran teacher, Gerald J. Conti, a social studies teacher at Westhill High School in Syracuse, N.Y….

    (Note: Click on the link above to read the teacher’s resignation letter.)

  68. “bettykath,
    What’s difficult to understand is, if charter schools are so terrible, why do so many families find them so satisfactory?”

    I’ve been busy this weekend with family business and the Jewish Holidays so I haven’t been able to keep up with the doings on this blog. Nevertheless, Elaine has written about a subject that is of great import and interest. she has done so persuasively and provided copious evidence to back up her premise.
    Some have responded skeptically and the quote from RJM above is quite typical of their manner of response. While all the responses have been made civilly and are well thought out and written there is something missing from all of them and that is any counter evidence. What is RJM’s reference point for saying “so many families find them satisfactory”. Surely, in a subject such as this which has raised controversy there must be other studies that show a different picture? Do some here really think it is enough to refute Elaine’s multitudinous points by mere assertion sans supporting data?

    As I see it Elaine has developed the following theses and backed it up with evidence:

    1. The idea of the AFA that one can get good teachers by hiring inexperienced young people, who are only committed to working in the profession for two years does a disservice to those they are teaching.

    2. The financial “powers that be” have identified a new opportunity to channel the flow of public dollars into their own coffers.

    3. The driving propaganda of this movement is the notion that public schools are failing, yet many of the best public schools in the world are located in the United States, though in upper income areas.

    4. The overwhelming majority of studies have shown that good education is directly driven by family income, not by schemes meant to enrich corporate entities.

    From those four ideas one can extrapolate into many other effects, but in the end it comes down to the same problem identified in “Brown vs. The Board of Education” and that is that separate (in this case economically) is not equal.
    Elaine has made her case and done it brilliantly. For those who would challenge her, I would challenge you. Show me the basis of you differing contentions in terms of evidence that directly contradicts it. Without that no matter what simplistic arguments you bring to bear you are merely using “smoke and mirrors” in addition to rhetorical flourishes disguising themselves as debate.

  69. Even Charters Must Value Experience
    Mark Isero
    (Mark Isero taught for 12 years at Leadership High School in San Francisco before becoming an instructional coach at Envision Education, a small charter network based in Oakland. He writes about teaching at his blog, iserotope.com, and is the founder of the Kindle Classroom Project. He is on Twitter.)
    8/29/13
    http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/08/28/do-teachers-need-to-have-experience/even-charter-schools-must-value-experience

    Excerpt:
    It’s possible to be a good teacher after just a couple years on the job, but it’s not possible to be a great one. Teaching is more than a set of discrete skills acquired by reading books like Doug Lemov’s popular “Teach Like a Champion.”

    Excellent teaching takes time, practice, and support. Most of all, it takes a deep emotional commitment.

    I was lucky, then, to spend the beginning years of my career at a charter school in San Francisco that valued teaching. Otherwise, I might have left too early. Like many charter schools, mine had a young, energetic staff that worked insane hours and at times resembled a “youth cult.” But the school’s leaders also built a strong adult learning community. Rather than accepting that teachers would leave after a few years, my school offered professional support and adopted policies to promote sustainability. I stayed for 12 years.

    My experience may now be an anomaly. Some large charter school networks are comfortable hiring young teachers who plan to leave after just a few years. This practice shortchanges students and promotes a national culture that undervalues teachers.

    Young teachers ready for something bigger and better already have one foot out the classroom door. Students can tell which teachers have authentic intentions and which do not. In schools with high turnover, students habitually feel a sense of loss and instability. New teachers must rebuild relationships and re-establish trust, which means less time for quality instruction.

  70. Since when are opinion pieces “supporting data”? There are no conclusive longitudinal studies presented. Merely opinion backed up by opinion pieces. Daily Kos, Huff Post, WaPo blogs, etc. all are pro education industry as is other “supporting data.” We WERE having a healthy, “civil” discussion. Hopefully that will continue w/o condescension turning it sour.

  71. nick,

    I used only opinion pieces to get information for this post, you say? Did you really look at my sources? I posted excerpts from and links to a number of studies:

    Teacher Attrition in Charter vs. District Schools (CRPE–Center on Reinventing Public Education)
    http://www.crpe.org/sites/default/files/brief_ics_Attrition_Aug10_0.pdf

    Teacher Turnover in Charter Schools (Vanderbilt University)
    http://www.vanderbilt.edu/schoolchoice/documents/stuit_smith_ncspe.pdf

    Teacher Attrition in Charter Schools 2007 (NEPC–National Education Policy Center/Arizona State University & University of Colorado at Boulder)
    http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/EPSL-0705-234-EPRU.pdf

    Teacher turnover harms student learning (University of Michigan)
    http://www.ns.umich.edu/new/releases/21604-teacher-turnover-harms-student-learning

    Teacher Attrition: A Costly Loss to the Nation and to the States (NCTAF-National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future)
    http://nctaf.org/wp-content/uploads/TeacherAttrition.pdf

    I even included information that I got from a charter school alliance group:

    A Revolving Door (Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff)
    http://www.chicagoacts.org/charter-news/142-a-revolving-door

    *****

    You need to read more carefully. Was your last comment colored by the fact that you don’t agree with the factual information that I provided in my post? Or do you suppose the researchers who conducted the studies are all biased against charter schools?

  72. Mike S.,

    I only used opinion pieces from Daily Kos, Huff Post, WaPo blogs, etc., according to Nick.

    *****
    Nick,

    Would be so kind as to point out the HuffPo and DailyKos opinion pieces that I used when I wrote my post???

  73. Elaine,

    I find that comment amusing.

    I’m an entertainer, at heart.

    It has been school reformers who have used poor test scores in traditional public schools as an argument for establishing charter schools and for school vouchers.

    And that’s wrong. Like I said, that’s the main thing I don’t like about charters. But more than I dislike charters, I respect choice.

    You and I seem to agree on the questionable usefulness of standardized tests. My point was that if we shouldn’t use standardized test to judge the value of teachers (and we shouldn’t), then anti-charter school folks shouldn’t use them to judge the value of charter schools. And yet references to test scores abound in the anti-charter school articles you link to.

    One of the articles you link to above claims that charter schools “can push out the weak students, leaving them for someone else to deal with.”

    They’re not allowed to, but I don’t doubt that this happens. When it does, it should be corrected and the people who implemented it let go. When it doesn’t, it’s not news.

  74. LJM,

    Unfortunately, traditional public schools have been judged as “failing” because of standardized tests. Reformers used the tests as proof that we need charter schools. Now the same educational measuring stick has come back to haunt those who championed charter schools.

    BTW, the studies and articles that I used in my research on this subject focused on teacher attrition–not test scores. Do you have an opinion about the main point of my post–which is the high teacher turnover rate in charter schools and not test scores?

  75. Elaine, I was talking about your comments, not your post. The CREDO study from Stanford shows conclusively, except for the most partisan, that black and Hispanic students show SIGNIFICANTLY better performance from charter schools. I didn’t see that study, the most significant to date, listed anywhere. Although you did quote a Stanford professor. I predict there will soon be multi links from pro education industry sources slamming that study. The results are indeed mixed. But, only those who “can’t handle the truth” will argue the kids most needing choice[those of color] in charter schools are indeed helped.

    Both LJM have been pretty clear we don’t have the key to the “truth.” That’s probably because we know “The truth is never pure and rarely simple.” I respect your very passionate defense of the status quo. Conservatism has a long and respected history in the U.S. I just think in this case the change that has helped students of color is more important.

  76. Mike,

    What is RJM’s reference point for saying “so many families find them satisfactory”

    That’s a good question. Choice has been firmly linked to satisfaction, not just in education, but in all aspects of life. Everybody is happier when they can choose things for themselves, especially things as important as education.

    It’s important for me to repeat my belief in public schools and the fact that there are lots of fantastic public schools out there that make a lot of kids and families very happy. If all public schools were like this, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    Anyway, a quick google search turned up things like this:

    http://www.vanderbilt.edu/schoolchoice/downloads/articles/pje-buckleyschneider2006.pdf

    We see that 49% of charter parents gave their child’s teachers a grade of A, which is fully 10% more than parents whose children were in DCPS. At the opposite end of the spectrum, 3% of DCPS parents gave their child’s school an F, whereas only 1% of charter school parents gave this failing grade. There is also a clear shift in the distribution of grades parents assign to teachers, principals, and facilities—all in favor of charter schools. The differences displayed in Figure 1 are all significant at p <

    And this:

    http://www.educationnews.org/parenting/rand-study-charter-school-parents-are-happier/

    A national think tank’s latest study says parents of students at independently run charter public schools are more satisfied with the quality of education, safety and discipline at those schools than parents of students at more traditional schools, even though both operate similarly in many ways, writes Kevin McGill for the Associated Press.

    The RAND Corp. study said its findings were based on surveys of parents, teachers and principals taken in 2008 and 2009.

    Interestingly, while the surveys show relatively few differences in the way charters and traditional schools operate, parents of charter students were not only more satisfied overall, they reported having a greater sense of choice.

    That last part is most important. There are other studies and polls, all of them with similar findings. People like having a choice in the important decisions in their lives. And poor people especially like to have more choices.

    I have good friends, good liberals and loyal Democrats, who are very grateful for their local charter schools. People who worry about profiteers (apparently ignoring the history of money in public education for the last 50 years), people who worry about teacher retention and test scores and social strata, they’re all forgetting the most important things. They’re forgetting to ask students and parents what they think. What do they want?

    I honestly don’t care about standardized test scores in judging teachers, students, or schools. I don’t care who stands to make money. I care about happiness and engagement in what is one of the most personal experiences a human being can have: learning. I care about the satisfaction of students with their learning experience. The only way to make more students more happy with their learning experience is to give them more choices.

  77. nick spinelli 1, September 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Since when are opinion pieces “supporting data”? There are no conclusive longitudinal studies presented. Merely opinion backed up by opinion pieces. Daily Kos, Huff Post, WaPo blogs, etc. all are pro education industry as is other “supporting data.” We WERE having a healthy, “civil” discussion. Hopefully that will continue w/o condescension turning it sour.

    *****

    It doesn’t sound as if you were talking about my comments.

    I think charter schools are a mixed bag–just like public schools. I believe the high stakes testing mania has gone too far. We should be addressing the educational needs of ALL our children in ALL of our schools–and not pressuring teachers–whether in charter schools or traditional public schools –to spend precious class time prepping kids for standardized tests.

    BTW, I read the NY Times article about teacher turnover in charter schools when I was on vacation. I had had no idea that it was a problem. I had heard about Teach for America years ago and thought it was a good idea. That Times article and my research made me rethink TFA. It also helped me to realize how detrimental teacher attrition can be to educational institutions.

  78. @LJM

    Let’s see now, my brother taught for 40 years, 39 in the same school. That school is what’s known in CA. as a Fundamental School. The seats are highly prized and students can transfer from any school in the District. If he was ineffective the Teachers Union could not stop an in District transfer. At the beginning of his last year teaching ( He didn’t know it was his last year, his fourth stage renal failure had yet to be diagnosed) there was a week of teachers meetings. At one meeting he suggested that even though test scores would go down, that they “quit trying to out Army the Army; quit teaching to the test and teach the kids what they needed to know.” He was surprised by a standing ovation. And they all did it. Of course it helps to be in the very top of the testing range, they had some latitude. Nah, he wasn’t dedicated, not a bit.

    The article I sent my brother will be linked right below this excerpt:

    Set up as alternatives to traditional public schools, charter schools typically operate under private management and often boast small class sizes, innovative teaching styles or a particular academic focus. They’re booming: There are now more than 6,000 in the United States, up from 2,500 a decade ago, educating a record 2.3 million children.

    In cities and suburbs from Pennsylvania to Colorado to Arizona, charters and traditional public schools are locked in fierce competition – for students, for funding and for their very survival, with outcomes often hinging on student test scores.

    Charter advocates say it’s a fair fight because both types of schools are free and open to all. “That’s a bedrock principle of our movement,” said Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association. And indeed, many states require charter schools to award seats by random lottery.

    But as Reuters has found, it’s not that simple. Thousands of charter schools don’t provide subsidized lunches, putting them out of reach for families in poverty. Hundreds mandate that parents spend hours doing “volunteer” work for the school or risk losing their child’s seat. In one extreme example the Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree Grove, Illinois, mandates that each student’s family invest in the company that built the school – a practice the state said it would investigate after inquiries from Reuters.

    ARRAY OF BARRIERS

    And from New Hampshire to California, charter schools large and small, honored and obscure, have developed complex application processes that can make it tough for students who struggle with disability, limited English skills, academic deficits or chaotic family lives to even get into the lottery.

    Among the barriers that Reuters documented:

    * Applications that are made available just a few hours a year.

    * Lengthy application forms, often printed only in English, that require student and parent essays, report cards, test scores, disciplinary records, teacher recommendations and medical records.

    * Demands that students present Social Security cards and birth certificates for their applications to be considered, even though such documents cannot be required under federal law.

    * Mandatory family interviews.

    * Assessment exams.

    * Academic prerequisites.

    * Requirements that applicants document any disabilities or special needs. The U.S. Department of Education considers this practice illegal on the college level but has not addressed the issue for K-12 schools.

    Many charters, backed by state law, specialize in serving low-income and minority children. Some of the best-known charter networks, such as KIPP, Yes Prep, Green Dot and Success Academy, use simple application forms that ask little more than name, grade and contact information, and actively seek out disadvantaged families. Most for-profit charter school chains also keep applications brief.

    But stand-alone charters, which account for more than half the total in the United States, make up their own admissions policies. Regulations are often vague, oversight is often lax – and principals can get quite creative.

    When Philadelphia officials examined 25 charter schools last spring, they found 18 imposed “significant barriers,” including a requirement from one school that students produce a character reference from a religious or community leader.

    At Northland Preparatory Academy in Flagstaff, Arizona, application forms are available just four and a half hours a year. Parents must attend one of three information sessions to pick up a form; late arrivals can’t get in. “It’s kind of like a time share (pitch),” said Bob Lombardi, the superintendent.
    “You have to come and listen.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/15/us-usa-charters-admissions-idUSBRE91E0HF20130215

    I would challenge you to teach in a “regular” classroom in a public school over a period of five years and not come away from the experience with “a little shit” story of your own. Other than your experience I see no documentation to what you claim in any of your post on this topic. Also, you said that you taught Special Education and had mainlined many students. Can you explain to me just what that means? I ask because my mother taught Special Ed. for over twenty years and her class room was for the Severely Retarded. In reality it was a dumping ground for children with disabilities, some that other teachers ignored, ranging from autism to hearing or vision problems. Some of her proudest times was when she could get a child with the latter two problems back into a regular class room after talking the parents and the school into testing for their problems. Once eye glasses or hearing aids or both were obtained for the student she would work with the prospective new teachers, parents and the student so that the student could actually enter the grade they were supposed to be in and not cause a hardship on that class by not knowing the material.

  79. @Elaine M.

    Thank you for all the thought and research you have put into this article and your thoughtful replies that include links to back up your position.

  80. Elaine,

    Unfortunately, traditional public schools have been judged as “failing” because of standardized tests. Reformers used the tests as proof that we need charter schools. Now the same educational measuring stick has come back to haunt those who championed charter schools.

    Reformers, shmeformers, let’s forget about what they say. Let’s talk about what parents and students say, because they know if they’re happy with their school or not. They don’t tend to talk about test scores when they explain why they chose a charter school. They talk about violence and overcrowding and uncleanliness. Whatever the reasons are, whatever the reformers say, all that matters is what the parents and the students want.

    BTW, the studies and articles that I used in my research on this subject focused on teacher attrition–not test scores. Do you have an opinion about the main point of my post–which is the high teacher turnover rate in charter schools and not test scores?

    If charter schools can’t hang on to teachers, and that makes for an unsatisfactory learning environment for the students, then the students won’t choose that charter school. If they have a choice, that is. If it’s a real problem, then charter schools will have to fix it if they want to continue to exist.

  81. Pat,

    I wasn’t implying that he wasn’t “effective.” Mostly because I don’t know what you mean by “effective.”

    I was implying that if he considered challenging students to be “little shits,” then maybe he was burning out.

  82. Pat,

    I remember that Reuters report. I used it in one of my previous education posts.

    *****

    Study: Some D.C. Public Charters Still Discourage Special-Ed Pupils’ Enrollment
    By Michael Birnbaum
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, June 27, 2009
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/26/AR2009062604138.html?hpid=sec-education

    Excerpt:
    Some D.C. public charter schools continue selective admissions practices that discourage special-needs students from enrolling, and students citywide with possible disabilities still face delays in special education evaluations, a federal court monitor said this week.

    “Charter schools . . . generally have not enrolled students with significant disabilities who required extensive hours of special services or education,” the monitor, Amy Totenberg, wrote in a report prepared for a court hearing yesterday.

    The report casts a somewhat harsh light on a fast-growing sector of public education in the city. Charter schools, which receive public funding but are independently operated, have siphoned many students from the city’s troubled public school system and have posted somewhat higher test scores than regular schools in recent years.

    But Totenberg said some charter schools explicitly limit the number of hours of special education they will provide and counsel parents to enroll their children at regular public schools or at private or other public charter schools that focus on students with disabilities. D.C. law prohibits charter schools from asking about learning disabilities or emotional problems during the admission process.

    “There are a number of challenges for us to correct,” said Josephine Baker, executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board. She said the number of schools with special education problems is small and getting smaller.

    D.C. schools are under a federal court order from the late 1990s to improve the timeliness of their response to special-needs children. About 23 percent of the 46,000 students in the D.C. public school system receive special education services. Many receive services from private schools at taxpayer expense.

    By contrast, in the 2007-08 school year, 12 percent of the 21,800 students in D.C. public charter schools — which are also subject to the court order — received special education services.

  83. “We WERE having a healthy, “civil” discussion. Hopefully that will continue w/o condescension turning it sour.”

    Were you referring to me Nick, because it would seem so? My comment was made with civility and my request for something more from you side than completely unsupported assumptions was a fair one. You might have even provided an item from Michelle Rhee if you were so inclined. However, making negative statements, done in an oblique fashion seems to me to be somewhat short of the mark intellectually and honestly.

  84. My reading skills are often tested on this site. Fer instance…did a prolific “anecdotal” commenter just object to a lack of “longitudinal” studies?

  85. LJM,

    My mother, brother niece and myself are quite aware of the difference between a ‘challenging’ student and a “little shit.” If you are not you have definitely not spent enough time in the classroom or all your students were ‘perfect.’ Quite frankly your tendency to comment with dripping snarkyness while managing to pick gnat shit out of pepper, at least on this thread, is blatantly mundane as is your tendency to not answer a direct question.

    “How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they can make right look like wrong, and wrong like right.”

    Black Hawk, Sauk

    And if you do not know what the word “effective” means in the English language then I would have to assume that you were one of those “piss poor” teachers that should have never taught in the first place.

  86. Elaine,

    I think you do excellent work….. Period…. One of the major problems with these charter schools is…. An a lot of folks seem to miss it…. They can pick and choose what students they have…. It’s not really an end enrollment matter…. If a child is disruptive…. They kick them out…. Then it falls on the district hat the child is a resident of the fulfill the education requirements…..thus leading to lower as a general rule testing results for that school district….

  87. Nick,

    I didn’t understand that this slam was directed to Elaine’s posting…. Although she can well take care of herself…. There’s no reason to be mean or rude to her…. I took up for you when I thought you were being wronged…. That knife can gut you as well…lets play nice and treat each other with respect and be somewhat civil…. If you don’t agree… Say so and why…. Not some snotty assed remark that is mean in spirit and tone…. These folks are a wealth of information…..even if you disagree… Be civil…. I’d like to see laserhaas as a guest blogger…. He is very informative and brings a critical view to this site…. OS and Darren as well…. They have life experience that they share…. One thing I know with as much traveling as I’ve done…. No one newspaper feeds you the whole story…. Here we get aspects that we would never see…

    Just like when someone tied Red McCombs to Eric Prince…. I was stunned….

  88. I believe I was always civil. Use your analytical skills to see when the tone of this thread changed. It was not I who interjected myself as judge and jury and accusing folks of “simplistic” reasoning. It’s all on the record if you are objective. The objectivity being key.

  89. nick,

    Were you being objective when you said the following?:

    “Since when are opinion pieces ‘supporting data’? There are no conclusive longitudinal studies presented. Merely opinion backed up by opinion pieces. Daily Kos, Huff Post, WaPo blogs, etc. all are pro education industry as is other ‘supporting data.'”

  90. nick,

    Can you explain how you were being objective when you misrepresented the sources that I used? You stated that I had not used any sources that were longitudinal studies and had only used “opinion pieces” found on sites like HuffPo and DailyKos–which was not true. That’s what you call objective? Some PI! You couldn’t even find the actual sources that I used–even though they were conspicuously noted at the end of my post.

  91. Nick,

    You started it… Admit it… Your credibility is not good right now… You are being intellectually dishonest…

  92. This was a nice discussion. Now it’s “you started it,” and “Some PI”.When did it turn? When did value judgments begin? When were sides drawn? Come on folks, it’s right there in the record. You can do better than this. Let’s just shake hands and not let the folks w/ issues make this toxic. We have different opinions but the three of us are good folk. We are better than that. Life’s too short to let people turn us against each other. You win. I lost. Is that what you need. There…you got it. Now, have a good nights sleep. We have our president needing us to approve his war of vanity. So, if we’re going to support our commander in chief we need to be prepared to eat a lot of feces. That requires a good night sleep.

  93. Yeah. Let it go. It’s fine for nick to throw shit, but don’t you throw it back!

    And that settles it!

    nick,

    If you’re going to advance argument, you simply should expect to be taken to task on it. AY is right. What you said was intellectually dishonest and just a little lazy considering Elaine copiously annotates her sources. Bad argumentation breeds bad results. Reciprocity is a harsh mistress.

  94. Charter School Success or Selective Out-Migration of Low-Achievers?: Effects of Enrollment Management on Student Achievement
    Center for Education Policy and Practice
    http://massteacher.org/teaching/cepp/~/media/Files/PDFs/CEPP/charterschools0909.ashx

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
    Boston’s “high-performing” Commonwealth charter schools appear to be contributing to a two-track educational system that is segregating students based on language proficiency, special education status and poverty. The result is that Commonwealth charter schools appear to be operating largely as publicly funded private schools.

    While students may be selected through a lottery system, actual application and acceptance appears to be predicated on such practices as participating in parent or student school visits and pre-lottery interviews, parental behavior contracts and acceptance of rigid discipline codes.

    In addition, the claims of high performance appear to result from significant student attrition resulting from the use of “pushout” strategies based on student academic and/or behavioral performance. The promoting power of these schools puts them in the category of “dropout factories.”

    This study provides policymakers with answers to two key questions:

    1.W ho is actually being served – and not served –by Boston Charter Schools ?

    Despite claims made in a recent report by The Boston Foundation that charter school lotteries give all potential students an equal chance to attend, the enrollment data do not reflect the diversity of students in the Boston Public Schools. An analysis of the demographic characteristics of Boston charters in general, but more specifically the “high-performing” charter schools identified in three recent reports (referred to here as Boston Charter Report Schools, or BCRS), identify a student population that includes:

    • Virtually no limited English proficient students.

    • Lower percentages of special education students than the Boston Public Schools. Of the special education students enrolled in BCRS, there are

    – Almost exclusively special education students with mild learning disabilities whose needs are addressed through full inclusion in regular education classrooms.

    – Virtually no students with moderate learning disabilities whose needs are addressed through partial inclusion in regular education classrooms and instruction in substantially separate classrooms.

    – Virtually no special education students with severe learning disabilities whose learning needs are met in substantially separate classrooms.

    • Significantly lower percentages of the poorest students, those receiving free lunch, than the Boston Public Schools.

    • Twice the percentage of less poor students, those eligible for reduced-price lunch, than the Boston Public Schools.

    • A higher percentage of students ineligible for either free or reduced-price lunch than the Boston Public Schools.

    2. What are the odds of a student entering a high-performing charter school success fully completing the academic program offered ?

    Boston’s Commonwealth charter schools have significantly weak “promoting power,” that is, the number of seniors is routinely below 60 percent of the freshmen enrolled four years earlier. Looking at it another way, for every five freshmen enrolled in Boston’s charter high schools in the fall of 2008 there were only two seniors: Senior enrollment was 42 percent of freshmen enrollment. In contrast, for every five freshmen enrolled in the Boston Public Schools that fall there were four seniors: Senior enrollment was 81 percent of freshmen enrollment.

    U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently described “dropout factories” as schools where “two out of five of their freshmen are not enrolled at the start of their senior year.”2 By this standard, all of the Boston charter high schools and middle-high schools are “dropout factories.”

  95. Pat,

    My mother, brother niece and myself are quite aware of the difference between a ‘challenging’ student and a “little shit.” If you are not you have definitely not spent enough time in the classroom or all your students were ‘perfect.’

    I taught kids who were too challenging for regular schools. I taught kids who spat in my face, attacked me with scissors and furniture, feces and fists (kids who had 50 pounds and 5 inches on me), kids who threatened to find and rape my family members. (Once, I had to carry a screaming parent with a restraining order against her out of the school building.)

    If I, or any of our staff, had referred to a student as a “little shit,” some respect would have been lost, mental health days recommended, while a replacement candidate was being considered.

    Do you have any other direct questions (or baseless assumptions) I can address?

  96. Anonymous,

    One of the major problems with these charter schools is…. An a lot of folks seem to miss it…. They can pick and choose what students they have…. It’s not really an end enrollment matter….

    This is false. I have no doubt some charter schools do this, but it’s illegal. And the majority of charter schools strive to meet the letter of the law.

    If a child is disruptive…. They kick them out….

    So do public schools. Not all public schools, but some of them have, indeed, kicked out students for reasons much less severe than being disruptive. As with charter schools, most public schools don’t do this and strive to serve all their students.

    It would be interesting to hear some charges against charter schools that public schools aren’t regularly guilty of.

  97. AY & LJM,

    I’ve been doing some reading lately about the rates of student expulsion from schools. According to some articles that I’ve read, the expulsion rate of students in charter schools in Washington, D.C., is much higher than the expulsion rate in traditional public schools.

    Here’s one article on the subject:

    D.C. charter schools expel students at far higher rates than traditional public schools
    By Emma Brown
    January 05, 2013
    http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-01-05/local/36208283_1_charter-advocates-charter-schools-traditional-public-schools

    *****

    While many charter schools use a lottery system to determine which students they will enroll, some charters are much more selective:

    Class Struggle – How charter schools get students they want
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/15/us-usa-charters-admissions-idUSBRE91E0HF20130215

  98. Elaine,

    As well as LJM….

    I still have connections with NEA…. And that is one thing that they’d stated is the real objection to charter schools…. One, they may have an open enrollment…. But once the count day has passed…. They ask them to find another school….

    If a child get kicked out of a public school… The district has to meet the child’s needs…. Not so with charter schools….

    They are not in for a penny, in for a pound approach…. Betsy DeVos and Richatd…. I can’t think of his last name….would be very happy…. As well as the Gates Fiundation…

  99. “Anyway, a quick google search turned up things like this:

    http://www.vanderbilt.edu/schoolchoice/downloads/articles/pje-buckleyschneider2006.pdf

    LJM,

    As I told you I would ponder your links that you feel support your statement that ““so many families find them [charter schools] satisfactory”. By ponder I was of course referring to the fact that I would actually take the time to read the studies you’ve linked to to understand what they found. As for the link above I found this initially:

    “One of the factors that must be controlled for may be less evident than
    the standard SES-type indicators noted previously, but it is embedded in
    the very nature of charter schools as schools of choice. Enrolling in a
    charter school is a two-step process, in which parents first “choose to choose”
    and only then choose a school. Given the nature of this process, the parents
    who choose to choose are self-selecting into the charter school system and
    may not be representative of the entire population of parents. In turn, the
    characteristics that are motivating them to choose may affect their
    subsequent behavior and attitudes toward the schools.

    To the extent this is true, a self-selection bias may enter into the data,
    and simple comparisons of choosers and nonchoosers will be affected by
    these parental characteristics independent of the quality of the charter
    schools themselves. That is, higher evaluations of charter schools may be a
    function of the factors that lead charter school parents to choose in the first
    place.”

    So the authors correctly state that there is difficulty in determining parent satisfaction in charter school choice because there is the well known “self-selection” bias which must be controlled for. When one reaches the concluding segments of this 22 page report we see how this bias has played out vis-a-vis parental satisfaction:

    “Depends on How You Look at Things:
    Satisfaction May Be Higher With Charter Schools—or Not

    Using cross-sectional data, we find that charter parents are more
    satisfied with their children’s schools, and we showed those differences are
    remarkably robust to correction for self-selection. Given the strength of these findings, our results add weight to a growing body of research that shows charter school parents are likely to be more satisfied than parents with children in traditional public schools. This, of course, is congruent with
    theories of choice and with the claims of charter school proponents (Chubb & Moe, 1990; Goldring & Shapira, 1993; Hassel, 1999; Raywid, 1989).
    However, the results of our longitudinal analyses are more complex and
    less indicative of any long-term beneficial effects of charter schools.
    Making reasonable assumptions about how to handle missing data through imputation, we find that any charter school advantage found in
    cross-sectional analysis is wiped out across all measures of satisfaction.

    Of course one could argue (and some no doubt will) that these results
    are themselves remarkable. Given that charter schools are new, given the
    birth pains of launching these schools in the highly fractious and charged
    world of educational policy and school choice, and given the possibility
    that parents with hard-to-educate children often choose charter schools,
    the fact that charter school parents are on par with traditional-school
    parents may be viewed by some as a success.

    This is a plausible and perhaps even justifiable position. However, it is a
    far cry from the claims that were behind the original (and no doubt
    exaggerated) promises of the charter school movement that choice and charter schools would be a panacea or a “silver bullet” to solve the problems of urban education. If charter schools are a magical cure, the parents who constitute one of the prime stakeholders in schooling do not seem to know it”

    Now I don’t know how you see researching a subject, but from my perspective I’ve always found it helpful to read everything that I quote authoritatively. Usually, call me picky if you will, I find that just finding quotes from Google that agree with my pre-judgments often can leave me misstating things. Perhaps you see it differently. Knowing Elaine as a friend and colleague guest blogger for some years I know that whatever links she provides she first peruses.

    Now as for your first link above it seems on closer inspection that the report quoted was establishing a different parameter regarding parental satisfaction than you supposed. It also must be noted that as the quotes from the report stated it was written in the early years of the charter school movement circa 2004 and it further noted with some healthy skepticism that despite initial parental satisfaction, the “satisfaction” claimed by the movement seemed ephemeral. I will ponder the next link you provided when I have time.

    “Thanks, Mike. I owed you some pondering for all that you’ve caused me!”

    By the way LJM what do you mean by “all you caused me!”? I felt my question to you was rather a mild and expected one.

  100. http://www.educationnews.org/parenting/rand-study-charter-school-parents-are-happier/

    LJM,

    Your second source for parental news satisfaction came from an article at EducationNews.org. The editor and chief of this site is one Jimmy Kilpatrick, a Texas advocate for alternative schooling to public schools. A less than unbiased source. He provides no link to the “Rand Report” and the one link he provides to an article describing the report is to a reporter for the Washington Examiner and the link Education News provides doesn’t work. I think ALL of Elaine’s links work and one can find out much information reading them. Now I could do further research on the original “Rand Report” quoted because I guess that would be as unfruitful proving you statement as the first link, but I won’t. If you lack the urge to actually provide viable sources backing up your premises, why should I when Elaine has provided such a rich font of information? But fear not Nick loves you not for your perspicacity, but because he feels you share his own famed pre-judgments pulled from who knows where.

  101. LJM, Are you seeing the drill here? As you know, in the real world politicians have finally gotten it. The educational industry took the best educational system 50 years ago and turned it into a third world disaster that has failed students, parents, and our culture. In one of the best initiatives taken by Obama, he has made positive changes to put kids first. Democrats have seen the light and know the status quo is unacceptable. But, the debate here will continue, ignoring the fact that the real world is making changes w/ kids in mind, not the education industry. Missionary zeal like this is a shame to waste on a settled issue.

  102. LJM,

    Late last night or early this morning I realized that what I accused you of was in fact what I was doing and I am sorry. So, please know that I am sincere in apologizing to you.

    It seems that you have a problem with a comment made between brothers deeming some students as “little shits.” I thought, when I posted that, people would find some humor in it as I did. Obviously you didn’t. Sorry about that, it was not meant to be a grand point of argument on such a fine thread that Elaine M. started and continues. You can, if you want, continue to ride that pony but I am checking out of this thread. Just know this: three of the four are or were teachers and I have heard my fair share of horror stories as well as witnessed them in classes. With the exception of school and church I was and continue to be a professional “little shit.”

  103. Pat,

    Much appreciated and no worries at all. Regular teachers face completely different kinds of stresses (frequently more frustrating) than we did, and I hope I didn’t imply that I was some kind of “super teacher” or that reg-ed teachers weren’t.

    I was neck deep in education philosophy when I saw your first post and probably took it more seriously than I should of.

    Plus, this is the internet. If we were all sitting at a table, maybe enjoying a meal and drinks, we would all probably disagree just as strongly, but we’d be smiling and laughing and learning while we did it!

  104. I’m repeating a post above, where I put too many links and so is waiting moderation. I’ll get rid of one here so it can be read sooner. Anyway, sorry for the double post!

    ———————

    Mike, so sorry, that was poorly phrased. You’ve “caused me” a lot of pondering with your essays and comments over the months. It was meant to be compliment, I promise.

    (Though your last sentence above, hurt a little.😦 )

    Here are a study, which, hopefully will be more satisfactory.

    http://www.usc.edu/dept/education/cegov/focus/charter-schools/publications/journals/Charter%20Schools%20and%20Customer%20Satisfaction%20-%20Lessons%20from%20Fie.pdf

    As to the question of satisfaction, I think it’s quite likely that a kind of bias plays a role. But my (perhaps radical) reaction to that is that it doesn’t matter.

    None of the studies I’m showing you or that Elaine posts matter as much as the opinions of students and parents.

    I think we have to start with the agreement that education on an individual level, the act of learning, is profoundly personal. As conscious beings, learning is as personal as faith, sex, health, parenting, etc.

    Now, as personal as it is, there are larger social consequences to how people are educated. If people are “well educated,” then the consequences will, obviously, be positive.

    We might have to find a way to agree on what “well educated” means. Maybe we should avoid it! (For instance, compared to Henry Kissinger, for instance, I am not “well educated,” but, despite my self-esteem issues, I know I’m a more valuable human being than he is. So, you see how tricky the term is.)

    Anyway, my belief is that learning takes place in an environment, a situation, where coercion is completely absent. This is a school of thought that I first encountered through John Holt and most recently via the studies and essays of Dr. Peter Gray.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn

    If a family says, “We’re satisfied with our school,” and the student in the family agrees, then, for me, that’s the end of the conversation. That’s all the evidence one needs. Even if the student is scoring lower on recent tests, it doesn’t matter. Even if we didn’t know that standardized tests don’t measure real, deep learning, it wouldn’t matter. Whether or not teachers are retained doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the student is in an environment that suits his or her needs.

    Charter schools satisfy some students and parents more than their local schools. So, what to do? Do we tell these people that their satisfaction is less important than teacher and principal retention?

    Either poor families deserve more choices in their education, the kind that non-poor families have, or they don’t.

    Who is going to argue that poor people don’t deserve choices in this essential matter?

  105. nick,

    Care to provide some factual information and/or longitudinal studies to back up your accusation that the “educational industry took the best educational system 50 years ago and turned it into a third world disaster that has failed students, parents, and our culture?”

    First, you should provide information that shows that the United States had the best educational system in the world in 1963. Then you’ll have to show/explain how the “education industry” turned the best educational system into a “third world disaster.” And, please, don’t just post links to opinion pieces that back up your opinion!

  106. Elaine,
    I detect a hint of sarcasm in your writing? :)
    Don’t forget that there was no education “industry” until relatively recently.

  107. Let me add that the worst problems in education cannot be solved with charters or better teachers or more money.

    Only when education is unforced and completely individualized will things change. And that can only come from giving students and parents more choices.

  108. Elaine,

    Is it fair to say that you think charter schools should not exist?

    Or do you think that they should just do more to enforce rules about serving all the students?

  109. Not to speak for Elaine, but an egalitarian access to public education was precisely what Jefferson was advocating as both good for society and necessary – even essential – for democracy to flourish.

  110. Gene,

    That’s something I completely believe in. That’s why I believe that students and parents should be allowed to choose the school they utilize to get that education.

  111. LJM,

    I would have no objection to charter schools if they had to live by EXACTLY the same rules as traditional public schools (TPS). TPS are required to take every student who lives in their districts. Charters should be required to provide all the services that special needs students require. Their teachers should be certified–as are the teachers in TPS.

    I believe that there are some people involved in the charter movement who really do care about children and education. Unfortunately, there also some who have ulterior motives. I think all charter schools should be “not for profit.” No one should be making money and getting rich from running charter schools. People who are earnest about school reform aren’t “in it” for the money.

    I don’t think it’s wise/best for children to close down neighborhood schools in poor districts…and then spend the money saved by closing them to establish charter schools. Check out what’s been going on in Chicago and Philadelphia–to name just two cities where this is happening.

  112. LJM,

    But don’t you see the inherent contradiction in “one school is more equal than others”? The goal shouldn’t the best education for select schools. It should be the best education for all schools rendering choice a moot point. A rising tide lifts all ships.

  113. Elaine,

    I’m trying to figure out what we’re arguing about, we agree on so much.

    I think our core difference here is our opinion on what the problems with schools really are.

    If someone says, what’s wrong with public schooling in the U.S.? Why are there so many people who are not happy with the education being offered to them? When the U.S. spends more per-pupil than, say, Canada or Denmark or Iceland or Sweden or Germany or France or South Korea or Japan or Norway or Netherlands or Australia or Great Britain or lots of other countries, why is the U.S. always talking about what’s wrong with education?

    If someone asks those questions, nowhere near my list of answers is, “charter schools.”

    For me, it’s management and philosophy. It’s not really political, but politics always seems to get tangled up in it.

  114. Gene,

    We agree 100% that the goal is “best education for all.”

    We disagree on how to achieve that. The “rising tide” concept works in many areas, I’m sure. But it hasn’t worked in education. It can’t because you cannot create a single system that works equally well for all kids everywhere. People, kids, are different. They learn in different ways, at different stages. There is no evidence that all children develop learning skills similarly enough to design a single system that will let all children learn at their highest potential.

    As a matter of fact, the things that kids tend to hate about school, the things that I hated about school, the things that lots and lots of successful, happy people hated about school are the most uniform things about school.

    People who like school the way it is should be free to choose that form of education. People who enjoy and thrive in other forms of edification, should be as free to choose that form, no matter how little money they have. Rich people already get to choose. Poor people don’t.

    The idea of “rendering choice a moot point,” is not egalitarian. It certainly isn’t liberal. It may treat everyone equally as a subject of the state who is mostly powerless to make personal decisions about how they will be educated, but it’s simply wrong to tell a poor family who want to go to a school they know is better for them, that they have no choice, because every school has to be equal (as if that’s possible), and that makes their freedom to choose their own destiny “moot” in the eyes of people who know better than they do of what’s in their own interest.

    Government has had a monopoly on education for poor people for a hundred and fifty years. That’s been great for many people. It’s been bad for many people, too. It’s time to try something other than what we’ve been doing for over a century, so that it can be great for more people.

    We want the same thing. It’s just time to try something new, that will keep the satisfied people satisfied, while making the unsatisfied, newly satisfied.

    I don’t know what can do that, other than that thing which is a pillar of liberal freedom: personal choice in personal matters.

  115. LJM,

    Everything is political.

    I don’t think one can compare the US to Denmark or Iceland or Norway or the Netherlands or Finland or South Korea–or many other countries.

    Who are the “so many” people who are not happy with the education being offered to their children? There are parents who are unhappy. There are also many parents who are happy with the education that their children are receiving. One shouldn’t paint all public schools with the broad brushstroke of “failing”–as many school reformers have–when so many schools provide their students with an excellent education. We should look at the troubled schools and try to discover the causes of their problems. Unless we address those problems, we will always have some schools that are troubled/failing. After all, our schools are a reflection of our society.

  116. Again, the good, decent, happy, successful, liberal people of Sweden have used vouchers for 20 years. And they seem pretty happy with it.

  117. Elaine,

    Why can’t you compare the U.S. to those other countries? Do you believe that there is something about the people here that would make them unable to choose what school they want to go to?

    I do keep repeating myself, but we agree that there are great schools with very, very happy students and parents. We agree on this.

    It is an equally true fact that there are many very bad schools with very unhappy students and parents.

    Let’s make it crazier with another fact! Even at those very, very bad schools, there are students and parents who are very happy with them.

    And even at those great schools, there are students and parents who are very unhappy with them.

    All these things are true. There is no broad brush. These things are simply true. There are good and bad schools with happy and unhappy students.

    Now that we agree on that, what do we do about the unhappy students? They’re not all unhappy for the same reasons. That makes it more difficult.

    All of this only goes to prove that one style cannot give everyone the kind of education they deserve, because everyone deserves an education that they have had an active part in designing and implementing. Poor people deserve that as much as rich people, who have always done it, because they could.

  118. LJM,

    Those are much smaller countries with more homogeneous populations. Do you know much about the political structures, societies, and public schools in those countries? Do you know how public schools are funded in those countries? Do you know the percentage of special needs students in those countries…the poverty levels?

    I’d add that one can’t fairly compare the public schools in Detroit or Compton with the public schools in Saddle River (NJ) or Weston (MA).

  119. Nick,

    You don’t seem to take others opinions very well…. You don’t seems to get it that people’s opinions are just as valuable as you……

  120. LJM,

    In Sweden they are not required to maintain disruptive students…. You think being able to keep the good students has any bearing at all?

    If not you and hitler youth program would work well…. Disruptive students were sent to prepare for military…. Period….

  121. LJM,

    If you look at why it hasn’t worked in education, the causation is manifold, but narrows down to two areas: poverty and disparate school funding created by disparate tax bases. Charter schools don’t address those fundamental problems even if in some instances (and certainly that is not in every instance) they mitigate or seem to mitigate the symptoms.

  122. Vouchers in Sweden: Scores Fall, Inequality Grows
    By Diane Ravitch
    March 26, 2013
    http://dianeravitch.net/2013/03/26/the-swedish-voucher-system-an-appraisal/

    Excerpt:
    Professor Henry M. Levin is a distinguished economist and director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

    He recently participated in a conference in Sweden convened by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to review the evidence about the effects of vouchers, which were initiated in 1992. He learned that Swedish performance on international tests has declined since 1995, private school enrollments have grown, social stratification has increased, and the for-profit sector is thriving.

    He wrote this post specifically for the blog. It provides important information about the effects of vouchers. We can learn from the Swedish experience, if we are willing to learn.

    Professor Levin writes:

    In 1992 Sweden adopted a voucher-type plan in which municipalities would provide the same funding per pupil to either public schools or independent (private) schools. There were few restrictions for independent schools, and religious or for-profit schools were eligible to participate. In 1994, choice was also extended to that of public schools where parents could choose either a public or private school. In the early years, only about 2 percent of students chose independent schools. However, since the opening of this century, independent school enrollments have expanded considerably. By 2011-12 almost a quarter of elementary and secondary students were in independent schools. Half of all students in the upper secondary schools in Stockholm were attending private schools at public expense.

    On December 3, 2012, Forbes Magazine recommended for the U.S. that: “…we can learn something about when choice works by looking at Sweden’s move to vouchers.” On March 11 and 12, 2013, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences did just that by convening a two day conference to learn what vouchers had accomplished in the last two decades. Interest in the subject had been piqued by several developments including the dramatic growth in private school enrollments and a fairly precipitous decline in Swedish performance on international tests. Results in reading, science, and mathematics had fallen at all grade levels from 1995 to the present in the international studies.

    In addition there was evidence of increased stratification and segregation of students by socio-economic status and ethnicity over the same period. Finally, there were concerns about the reportedly substantial profits being amassed by the independent schools from public funds.

  123. Elaine,

    I still don’t understand why a more diverse group of people don’t deserve to have a choice as to where they go to school.

    What is it, exactly, about a more diverse population that should make it necessary to deny poor people in that population the same choices that rich people get?

  124. Anonomously Yours,

    Please provide a citation showing that Sweden doesn’t educate disruptive students.

    I mean, you realize that public schools in the U.S. expel disruptive students all the time. They even expel them when they’re not disruptive.

  125. Gene H.,

    Regardless of why public schools don’t satisfy the needs of many people, why, exactly do you believe that poor people shouldn’t be allowed to choose which school they want to attend the way that rich people do?

  126. Elaine,

    I’m surprised you’ve posted an essay claiming that standardized test scores prove that vouchers don’t work.

    I thought we agreed that test scores don’t matter. If they don’t matter in judging teachers, certainly they don’t matter when judging schools. Satisfaction matters. Parents and teachers in Sweden are happy with their system.

    Also, Ravitch comments in your linked article, “Choice exacerbates inequality.” This could very well be true. The fact that we can choose where we live, where we work, what we eat, how we raise our kids, means that some folks won’t be as successful as others at making those decisions.

    That’s when the government can lend a hand to help those people. That’s not when the government decides that if no one gets to choose these things, then the government can make sure that no one does better than anyone else.

    Ravitch would tell a poor family that the fact that they are engaged in their children’s education means that it will be harder for the state to educate the kids of parents who aren’t engaged. And so, no choice for them.

    That’s not compassionate. That’s not liberal.

    I don’t believe in universal vouchers. I think rich people should pay for their own education. I believe middle and low income families deserve access to the same quality and variety of educational choices afforded to the rich.

  127. Gene, help me out. I’m not trying to be obtuse (it comes naturally to me).

    You stated above that choice is moot, it’s not necessary in a system that gives everyone the same level of education.

    I explained my opinion of why that wasn’t possible and pointed out that public schools had failed at it. You said why you thought they’d failed, but you didn’t address choice.

    As it is, there are lots of poor students who have no choice as to which school they attend. You gave me the impression that you didn’t think they needed a choice (when the system works).

    But since the system hasn’t worked in forever for poor people, why shouldn’t they have a chance to make their own choices about how and where they’ll be educated, the same way that rich people do?

  128. “I believe middle and low income families deserve access to the same quality and variety of educational choices afforded to the rich.”

    Then maybe you should focus on eliminating poverty and rectifying disparate quality in schools across disparate tax bases, thus rendering choice in public education moot. You don’t cure a disease by treating the symptoms. You cure a disease by eliminating the cause.

    Oh, wait! The money isn’t in the cure, it’s in the medicine. So let’s privatize schools and make sure a quote-unquote public education fills someone’s bank account and ignore the underlying causation.

  129. I’m not addressing choice because it’s an argument based on a false premise, i.e. that lack of choice is what causes certain schools to fail.

  130. Ljm,

    If you read the entire study, you’ll see that test scores are just one part of it.
    Ravitch didn’t conduct the study. Professor Levin did.

    I’ve read that charter schools in some places are expelling and suspending many more students than traditional public schools.

  131. Colorado’s charter schools enroll fewer with needs
    State and Denver officials want to make sure the publicly funded schools aren’t shutting out students with disabilities.
    By Jeremy P. Meyer and Burt Hubbard
    The Denver Post
    06/13/2009
    http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_12581441

    Excerpt:
    Colorado charter schools on average enroll fewer students with disabilities than noncharters — lending weight to long-held criticism of the publicly funded schools that are supposed to serve everyone.

    But efforts are underway on the state level and in Denver to change the imbalance, including a task force and committee focused on the issue.

    “I’m hearing on the national level how wonderful charter schools are — then let’s make them all accessible,” said Stephanie Lynch, consultant with the Colorado Department of Education’s Exceptional Student Leadership Unit who also leads a charter school special-education committee.

    Data from 2007-08 show that 6.9 percent of charter school students have identified disabilities, compared with 9.7 percent in all schools…

    Most charters with higher percentages of special-ed students were rated either “low” or “average” on 2008 Colorado School Accountability Reports.

    Conversely, most high-performing charter schools tended to have fewer kids with identified special needs.

    For example:

    • “Excellent”-rated Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy in Colorado Springs lists 2.19 percent of its 778 students as having individualized education plans, or IEPs, which address a student’s special needs.

    The school’s enrollment form asked whether a student had ever received special-education services and said “failure to disclose an IEP will result in the nullification of enrollment. Enrollment with an IEP is subject to district review and approval.”

    School officials changed the wording after an inquiry by The Denver Post.

    • “Excellent”-rated Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette, recently noted in Newsweek as one of the nation’s top high schools, lists 3.84 percent of its 1,405 students as having an IEP.

    • “Excellent”-rated Classical Academy middle school in Colorado Springs lists 3.73 percent of its 429 students as having IEPs.

  132. Juan González: Growing Charter School Chain Suspends Special Needs Kids in Bid to Raise Test Scores
    By Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman
    Democracy Now!
    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/8/30/juan_gonzlez_growing_charter_school_chain

    Excerpt:
    Democracy Now! co-host Juan González discusses his reports for the New York Daily News about how one of the New York City’s fastest-growing chains of charter schools, Success Academy, has far higher suspension rates than other public elementary schools. “More than two dozen parents have come to me complaining about their children — who are special needs, special education children, or children with behavior problems,” González reports, “that they feel are being pushed out or forced out by the charter school in an effort to to improve the test scores.” Success Academy uses its high test scores to attract funding, and just secured a $5 million grant it will use to expand from 20 to 100 schools. González obtained a copy of secretly recorded meetings in which school administrators pressed one parent to transfer her special education kindergarten student back into the public school system.

  133. Success Academy school chain comes under fire as parents fight ‘zero tolerance’ disciplinary policy
    The charter school chain Success Academy is being criticized for its high suspension rate, as parents complain that special-needs kids are pushed out and students are being denied due process.
    By Juan Gonzalez
    NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
    Wednesday, August 28, 2013
    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/success-academy-fire-parents-fight-disciplinary-policy-article-1.1438753

    Excerpt:
    Success Academy, the charter school chain that boasts sky-high student scores on annual state tests, has for years used a “zero tolerance” disciplinary policy to suspend, push out, discharge or demote the very pupils who might lower those scores — children with special needs or behavior problems.

    State records and interviews with two dozen parents of Success elementary school pupils indicate the fast-growing network has failed at times to adhere to federal and state laws in disciplining special-education students.

    At Harlem Success 1, the oldest school in the network, 22% of pupils got suspended at least once during the 2010-11 school year, state records show. That’s far above the 3% average for regular elementary schools in its school district.

    Four other Success schools — the only others in the network to report figures for 2010-11 — had an average 14% suspension rate.

    Success Academy chief Eva Moskowitz recently defended her network’s “higher than average” suspension rates compared with public schools as a way to promote “order and civility in the classroom.” And this week, the Eli Broad Foundation announced a $5 million grant to Moskowitz to help expand her network from 20 to more than 100 schools.

    Those schools outperform city schools on state tests: This year, 82% of the network’s students met standards in math and 58% met standards in English, compared with just less than 30% who were proficient in math and 26% in English citywide.

    But The News found a disturbing number of suspension cases where the network’s administrators removed special-education pupils from normal classrooms for weeks and even months, while at the same time pressuring their parents to transfer them to regular public schools.

  134. Are Charter Schools Expelling Students At Higher Rates than Traditional Schools?
    1/9/13
    http://www.policyinsider.org/2013/01/are-charter-schools-expelling-students-at-higher-rates-than-traditional-schools-.html

    According to an article in this weekend’s Washington Post, the answer is yes, charter schools in Washington, DC are expelling students at far higher rates than traditional public schools.

    The article cites the following statistics:

    Over the last three years, charter schools in Washington, DC expelled 676 students, in comparison to 24 students expelled by the city’s traditional public schools;

    During 2011-2012 school year, charter schools in Washington, DC removed 227 students for discipline violations and had an expulsion rate of 72 per 10,000 students, whereas traditional schools removed three students at a rate of less than 1 percent per 10,000 students.

    Charter schools in Washington, DC enroll 41 percent of the city’s students.

    While the data is individualized for each charter school in Washington, DC, it does not provide information on what rates students with disabilities were expelled. However, of the 10 charter schools with the highest percentage of expulsions, six have higher rates of students with disabilities than the national average of 13%, as found here.

    While a more detailed breakdown of the data is necessary to better understand whether students with disabilities are over-represented in the expulsion rate in Washington, DC’s charter schools, this new analysis should give special education advocates pause, as we know from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights that students with disabilities are over twice as likely to receive one or more out of school suspensions.

    Recent reports – such as that by the Government Accountability Office – have illustrated the under-representation of students with disabilities in charter schools, an issue CEC has been eager to address in federal legislation by supporting provisions which would provide technical assistance to charter schools to ensure they understand and can implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

  135. Elaine,

    I read some place tht charter schools are causing and creating the need for education ghettos for special needs children…. Hmmmm….. Profit motive, I’m sure…. State has to take care of them…. No one left…

  136. Review of New York State Special Education Enrollment Analysis
    New York State Special Education Enrollment Analysis
    Robin Lake, Betheny Gross, Patrick Denice
    Center on Reinventing Public Education
    .
    Bruce D. Baker
    December 6, 2012
    http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-ny-special-ed

    This report asserts that differences in charter and district school special education rates are far smaller than claimed in recent reports. While the report does show that under-enrollment patterns vary by grade level and to some extent by location, it downplays the fact that the largest subset of charter schools in its sample—elementary and K-8 schools, most of which are in New York City—do systematically under-enroll such children. Among traditional public schools, the report excludes special education schools while including selective middle and secondary schools; it retains special-education-focused charter schools, thus stacking the deck in its analyses—albeit still not achieving the authors’ desired result. The authors infer—without evidence or foundation—that charter elementary schools may provide better early intervention and avoid entirely whether variations in disabilities by type and severity exist between charter and district schools. Data from New Jersey and Philadelphia show that charter schools often serve sizeable shares of children with mild specific learning disabilities, but very few children with severe disabilities. The report’s objective seems to be to provide the appearance of an empirical basis for an advocacy goal: convincing policymakers it would be unnecessary to adopt “enrollment target” policies to address a special education under-enrollment problem that may not exist. The report’s own findings do not support this contention.

    .

  137. Harlem School For Special Needs Students Fights Success Academy Expansion
    By Jeff Mays on July 9, 2013
    http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130709/central-harlem/harlem-school-for-special-needs-students-fights-success-academy-expansion

    Excerpt:
    HARLEM — Since her 6-year-old autistic son enrolled in classes at P.S. 811 in Harlem, Genell Davis, 35, has noticed nothing but steady improvement.

    “He’s flourished. He reads now and he’s trying to speak Spanish. He does addition and subtraction and he’s on a level higher than his class,” said Davis, who serves as the parent teacher association president at the co-located District 75 school that serves students with special needs.

    But Davis is worried that her son Demetris’ rapid progression will be stunted now that the Department of Education has announced plans for the school to lose three classrooms used for things such as speech therapy and occupational therapy in the 2014 school year to the expanding Success Academy Harlem 1 school at the building on 118th Street and Lenox Avenue.

    The move may force already fragile special needs students who have autism, are mentally retarded or are emotionally disturbed to have to travel further to school.

    “If you take away that space you are hurting one group of students just to accommodate another,” said Davis. “This is not fair. Success Academy needs to find other resources.”

    Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio has stepped into the debate after parents from the school reached out to him. He sent a letter to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott decrying the change, saying that Success Academy, founded and run by former Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, seems to be getting special treatment.

    This would be the third time Success Academy was allowed to expand into the school.

    Success Academy Harlem 1 expanded in the building and Success Academy Harlem 4 was allowed to move into the building, which is also shared by P.S. 149.

    The 2011 DOE utilization plan and 2012 amendments never mentioned this expansion, de Blasio wrote.

    “Indeed, these changes appear to be part of a sustained pattern to privilege Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy schools with space and resources at the expense of the traditional public schools with which they share buildings,” de Blasio wrote.

  138. Charter schools don’t perform as advertised, but try getting their advocates to admit that
    by Laura Clawson
    12/16/12
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/12/16/1167685/-Charter-schools-don-t-perform-as-advertised-but-try-getting-their-advocates-to-admit-that

    Excerpt:
    Powerful forces, from politicians to billionaire donors, are promoting charter schools aggressively, saying charters are the answer to the (alleged) crisis in American education. The problem is the results don’t measure up, and instead of admitting that, charter proponents, many of them in very powerful positions, institute double standards or just close their eyes and stick their fingers in their ears when it comes to solid evidence of what’s going on. Here are just a few recent stories demonstrating the double standard that benefits charter schools, even as they fail to measure up educationally:

    New York City is planning to move a public high school for at-risk kids to a building without science labs, a gym, or daycare facilities for the children of students, in order to make room for an elementary-level charter school run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. Screw at-risk kids, apparently. Eva Moskowitz is politically connected.

    In New York state, many charter schools are refusing to turn in teacher ratings as the state has asked. Even though the charter schools aren’t being asked to turn in the same kind of evaluations as public school teachers are subject to, still, they have a million excuses about why this shouldn’t apply to them at all. (Because they’re special.)

    A Chicago expo supposed to highlight exciting, great new schools put the double standard on display. Charter schools just aren’t expected to meet the standards to which traditional public schools are held:

    But a WBEZ analysis of the more than 100 new schools featured at the expo this year shows 34 percent of them are rated Level 3 by the district, the lowest grade given. Schools receiving the designation include campuses run by some of the largest charter networks in the city, including UNO and the Chicago International Charter School. This is the first year the district has graded charters on the same scale as traditional schools.

    In recent years, the district has closed neighborhood schools rated Level 3, citing poor performance.

    But the person running the expo doesn’t think such standards should apply to charters, because they’re so good in ways not measured by tests. Except that her organization promotes those very standards when it comes to traditional public schools.

    It’s a good thing for charters they aren’t being held to the same standards as traditional public schools, because yet another study, this one from Wisconsin’s Forward Institute, finds they aren’t measuring up:

    It is clear from the results of this study that overall, charter schools are underperforming at the core level of their mission—student excellence and achievement.

    The data clearly show that public schools are doing a better job offsetting the effects of poverty on education than their charter school counterparts. A concerted effort should be made to ascertain how and why this is the case, replicate that effort in charter schools, and reinforce those standards and methods.

  139. Former City Council member Eva Moskowitz makin’ a bundle at nonprofit schools
    By Juan Gonzalez
    Friday, February 27, 2009
    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/city-council-member-eva-moskowitz-makin-bundle-nonprofit-schools-article-1.370619

    Excerpt:
    Eva Moskowitz, the former City Council member who founded a small chain of nonprofit charter schools, is a passionate and abrasive champion of the charter school movement.

    She’s also making a bundle.

    Moskowitz, who makes no secret of her desire to create 40 charter schools across the city and run for mayor some day, raked in $371,000 in salaries in the 2006-2007 school year from organizations connected to her four schools, tax records show.

    Those schools, Harlem Success Academy 1, 2, 3 and 4, have an enrollment of about 1,000 pupils, from kindergarten to third grade.

    The nonprofit organizations connected to the schools have yet to file more recent tax returns, but Moskowitz said in an interview late Thursday she received $310,000 last year – the 2007-2008 year – $250,000 in salary and $60,000 in a bonus.

    That means Moskowitz, who is responsible for four schools, makes more than Chancellor Joel Klein, who gets $250,000 to run 1,400 schools.

    In 2006-2007, she even surpassed John Ryan, the former chancellor of the State University of New York, who earned $340,000 to manage some 70 campuses with nearly 300,000 students.

    Needless to say, she left your run-of-the-mill public school principal, with an average annual salary of $124,000, in the dust.

  140. Then maybe you should focus on eliminating poverty and rectifying disparate quality in schools across disparate tax bases, thus rendering choice in public education moot. You don’t cure a disease by treating the symptoms. You cure a disease by eliminating the cause.

    So, when a poor family says they’d like to attend a school other than their local public school which is unsafe and otherwise unsatisfactory, the answer they should get is, “Well, after we’ve gotten rid of poverty, you can have the same choice as rich people. Sorry.”

    That doesn’t seem like a fair answer.

    Oh, wait! The money isn’t in the cure, it’s in the medicine. So let’s privatize schools and make sure a quote-unquote public education fills someone’s bank account and ignore the underlying causation.

    There’s no reason people can’t work to reduce poverty while giving poor people the choices in education that they deserve.

  141. Anonymously yours,

    You wrote:

    In Sweden they are not required to maintain disruptive students…. You think being able to keep the good students has any bearing at all?

    If not you and hitler youth program would work well…. Disruptive students were sent to prepare for military…. Period….

    But nowhere in the two links you provided does it claim that Sweden isn’t required to educate disruptive students. Also, you haven’t addressed the fact that U.S. public schools aren’t required to keep disruptive students enrolled. So, I’m confused as to what your point is.

    In Sweden, after 20 years of vouchers, only about 10% of the students go to private schools. This doesn’t strike me as a problem.

  142. Gene,

    I’m not addressing choice because it’s an argument based on a false premise, i.e. that lack of choice is what causes certain schools to fail.

    I’m not arguing that at all, I promise. There are lots of things that cause schools to become unsatisfactory. Everything from poverty to mismanagement to philosophy.

    I’m arguing that poor people deserve choice in their education, because they’re human beings and education is a sacred, personal thing to human beings. That’s it. That’s all.

    Do you agree with that or not? If not, why?

  143. Elaine,

    If you read the entire study, you’ll see that test scores are just one part of it. Ravitch didn’t conduct the study. Professor Levin did.

    Oh, I know she didn’t, but she bases her objection to school choice on the fact that test scores dropped and diversity decreased.

    Some people have explained the results because of a dramatic increase of immigrants from north Africa and Afghanistan (thanks to Sweden’s very liberal, humane immigration laws). I don’t know if that’s the case, but I do know that test scores and diversity don’t matter as much as choice.

    A poor family says, “We’d like to try another school, please. Our local school is making us very unhappy, despite all our attempts to work with them.”

    Ravitch et al respond with, “We’re so sorry, but test scores at this school might dip and there could be less diversity. So, sorry, no choices for you.”

    That just doesn’t work for me as a liberal, compassionate response to dissatisfaction with education opportunities.

    I’ve read that charter schools in some places are expelling and suspending many more students than traditional public schools.

    I don’t doubt that. And where that’s happening, the state, the same state that runs public schools, is required by law to stop it. So we have two parts to the problem. Charter schools are breaking the law. States aren’t enforcing the law. If states start to enforce the law, it seems to me that charter schools (public schools, too) will less frequently break the law.

  144. Elaine,

    This essay, by an anti-reformer like yourself, might be of interest.

    http://scholasticadministrator.typepad.com/thisweekineducation/2013/02/thompson-two-soundbites-that-should-be-retired.html

    If we are serious about deescalating this destructive conflict over school “reform,” we must stop hurling two unsubstantiated charges:

    The soundbite that high-performing charter schools are serving “the same students” as high-poverty neighborhood schools should be retired. We who teach in the toughest schools that serve all students who walk into the door also deserve an apology for that slander, but I’m ready to move on without it.

    Similarly, the equally serious charge against charter schools – that they intentionally “push out” difficult students in order to raise test scores – is wrong. Such an attack on the integrity of charter school educators is just as serious as the idea that we in neighborhood schools could have the same success as the top charters if we had their “high expectations.”

    We who have been on the receiving end of “reformers’” spin should not do the same thing to charter schools. Unless our evidence meets a very high bar, we should not claim that charters deliberately hurt some students in order to produce higher test scores.

    So, I was very pleasantly surprised by Ron Zimmer’s and Cassandra Guarino’s “Is There Empirical Evidence Consistent with the Claim that Charters Schools ‘Push Out’ Low-Performing Students?” It found “no evidence that low performing students are exiting charter schools at higher rates than low performing students in traditional public schools.”

    Also, it found that students exiting charter schools had slightly lower achievement levels than their former peers, but this pattern was true for traditional public schools as well. As a whole, the paper provides no evidence that charter schools are intentionally forcing out students to make their test scores look better, at least in the district Zimmer and Guarino studied.

  145. LJM,

    Really read the links…. You’ll find what you state is not there… You sound eerily like DavidM…..or another poster…..

  146. It would appear that “pushout” has been occurring at increasing rates for decades throughout the public education system. The problem isn’t charters. The problem is the paradigm.

    http://www.dignityinschools.org/files/Pushout_Fact_Sheet.pdf

    Fact Sheet on School Discipline and the Pushout Problem

    Many schools over-rely on zero-tolerance practices and punitive measures such as suspensions and expulsions.

    Increases Over Time in Suspensions and Expulsions
     Schools are suspending and expelling students at a rate more than double that of 1974. In 2006, more than 3.3 million students were suspended out-of-school at least once and 102,000 were expelled.
     Between 2002 and 2006, out of school suspensions increased by 250,000 and expulsions by 15 percent.

    Suspensions for Minor Misbehavior
     The majority of suspensions are for minor misbehavior, such as “disruptive behavior,” “insubordination,” or school fights, which can be interpreted in subjective and biased ways, even unintentionally.
     Even the most severe disciplinary sanctions such as suspension for the remainder of the school year and transfer to a disciplinary alternative school are applied to minor incidents. During the 2007-2008 school
    year, the most common reason for serious disciplinary actions in U.S. schools was “insubordination” (43% of all actions).
     Exclusionary practices even target our youngest students. In fact, the expulsion rate for preschool students is more than three times that for K-12 students.

    Too many schools cede disciplinary authority to law enforcement or security personnel and over-rely on law enforcement tactics to control school discipline.
     More and more school districts use police officers or “school resource officers” not trained for educational environments to patrol school campuses and discipline students.
     Between 1999 and 2005, the number of students reporting the presence of law enforcement officers in their school rose by 14 percent.
     School-based arrests have also increased dramatically. The majority of arrests are for minor incidents such as “disturbance of the peace” or “disruptive conduct.” High school students have been arrested for
    food fights, writing on a desk or breaking a pencil. In the most extreme cases, five year olds have been handcuffed and arrested for throwing tantrums.

    Over-emphasis on high stakes testing creates incentives for schools to increase overall test scores by pushing out the lowest performing students.
     Low performing students may be suspended during testing days, transferred to alternative schools, enrolled in General Educational Development (GED) programs, or simply expelled.
     Students of color are suspended and expelled at disproportionately higher rates than their white peers, a “discipline gap” that has been growing since the 1970s.
     African-American students are 3.5 times more likely, Latino students twice as likely and American Indian students 1.5 times more likely to be expelled than white students. In addition, African-American students are nearly 3 times more likely, Latino students 1.5 times more likely and American Indian students 1.1 times more likely to be suspended than white students.
     Students with disabilities are suspended and expelled at a rate twice that of their non-disabled peers.
     Students in foster care are over three times as likely as their peers to be suspended or expelled. Studies show that between one- and two-thirds of foster care youth drop out or fail to graduate on time.

    Exclusionary discipline practices and zero-tolerance policies have yet to demonstrate improvements in student behavior or increases in school safety.

    Instead, pushout results in the denial of access to education for vulnerable youth.
     Suspensions result in missed instructional time and increase the likelihood of poor academic performance. In fact, students who have been suspended in the past score three grades levels behind
    their peers in reading skills after one year, and almost five years behind after two years.
     Suspension, expulsion and school based arrests are linked with an increased likelihood of school dropout or failure to graduate on time. Students suspended three or more times by the end of their sophomore
    year of high school are five times more likely to drop out than studnets who have not been suspended.

    Exclusionary discipline increases a child’s likelihood of involvement with the juvenile or criminal justice system.
     Young people who drop out of high school, many of whom have experienced suspension or expulsion, are more than eight times as likely to be incarcerated as those who graduate.
     One study found that 80 percent of youth incarcerated in a state facility had been suspended and 50 percent had been expelled from school prior to incarceration.

  147. LJM, Great comments and compassion for those who need and want a good education. The poverty curveball is one that is often pulled out here and you answered it w/ common sense and empathy. Maybe we need another war on poverty, because poverty kicked ass in the last war declared by LBJ.

  148. Anonymously yours,

    I searched the studies to find what you asserted, which was…

    In Sweden they are not required to maintain disruptive students….

    I couldn’t find anything to support that. Perhaps you could cite exactly where your assertion is demonstrated to be true.

    Also, you haven’t yet addressed the fact that U.S. public schools expel disruptive students on a regular basis as they have for a century.

  149. LJM,

    Exactly…. Public schools expel and private schools expel…. We agree… So far….

    Now, what happens to the expelled children in private schools…. Oh yeah… They have nothing to do with them….

    What happens to expelled students in public schools…. Oh yeah…. They have to create a thing called alternative education…. Yeah…. A fine example…. But I guess you don’t know things like this…. You don’t read…

  150. Anonymously Yours,

    Are you actually suggesting that Sweden has no alternative education programs for students who are too disruptive to be in class?

    I hope not, because that would be silly of you.

    In a voucher program, every family gets money to spend on a public school or a private school (which usually cost less). If a student gets kicked out of a private school, then the student loses the choice of schools he or she goes to. The student is then sent to a public school. If the student is too disruptive for the public school, then the student receives alternative education.

    Your confident snark and insults would be more effective if you had some facts on your side.

  151. LJM,

    Who said that I was an anti-reformer? I’d definitely like to reform some of the reforms instituted in our public schools because of pressure put on states, state and national politicians, and state boards of education by some in the school reform movement. I’d LOVE to do away with the focus on high stakes testing. (High stakes standardized testing of children in public schools was one the terrible things brought to us by school reformers.) Eliminating those tests would improve education in this country a great deal. Then public school teachers could better focus on innovative programs in the classroom and meeting the needs of their students.

  152. LJM,

    You’re missing the trees for the Forrest…..really…. I’m saying once a child is expelled by a charter or voucher school…. They have no obligation to find alternative education for these children…READ before you respond….Call someone and ask for interpretations in you can’t comprehend…..

  153. New Data Shows School ‘Reformers’ Are Getting it Wrong
    June 7, 2013
    by David Sirota
    http://billmoyers.com/2013/06/07/new-data-shows-school-reformers-are-getting-it-wrong/

    Excerpt:
    In the great American debate over education, the education and technology corporations, bankrolled politicians and activist-profiteers who collectively comprise the so-called “reform” movement base their arguments on one central premise: that America should expect public schools to produce world-class academic achievement regardless of the negative forces bearing down on a school’s particular students. In recent days, though, the faults in that premise are being exposed by unavoidable reality.

    Before getting to the big news, let’s review the dominant fairy tale: As embodied by New York City’s major education announcement this weekend, the “reform” fantasy pretends that a lack of teacher “accountability” is the major education problem and somehow wholly writes family economics out of the story (amazingly, this fantasy persists even in a place like the Big Apple where economic inequality is particularly crushing). That key — and deliberate — omission serves myriad political interests.

    For education, technology and charter school companies and the Wall Streeters who back them, it lets them cite troubled public schools to argue that the current public education system is flawed, and to then argue that education can be improved if taxpayer money is funneled away from the public school system’s priorities (hiring teachers, training teachers, reducing class size, etc.) and into the private sector (replacing teachers with computers, replacing public schools with privately run charter schools, etc.). Likewise, for conservative politicians and activist-profiteers disproportionately bankrolled by these and other monied interests, the “reform” argument gives them a way to both talk about fixing education and to bash organized labor, all without having to mention an economic status quo that monied interests benefit from and thus do not want changed.

    Meanwhile, despite the fact that many “reformers’” policies have spectacularly failed, prompted massive scandals and/or offered no actual proof of success, an elite media that typically amplifies — rather than challenges — power and money loyally casts “reformers’” systematic pillaging of public education as laudable courage (the most recent example of this is Time magazine’s cover cheering on wildly unpopular Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel after he cited budget austerity to justify the largest mass school closing in American history — all while he is also proposing to spend $100 million of taxpayer dollars on a new private sports stadium).

    In other words, elite media organizations (which, in many cases, have their own vested financial interest in education “reform”) go out of their way to portray the anti-public-education movement as heroic rather than what it really is: just another get-rich-quick scheme shrouded in the veneer of altruism.

    That gets to the news that exposes “reformers’” schemes — and all the illusions that surround them. According to a new U.S. Department of Education study, “about one in five public schools was considered high poverty in 2011… up from about one in eight in 2000.” This followed an earlier study from the department finding that “many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding… leav(ing) students in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers.”

    Those data sets powerfully raise the question that “reformers” are so desperate to avoid: Are we really expected to believe that it’s just a coincidence that the public education and poverty crises are happening at the same time? Put another way: Are we really expected to believe that everything other than poverty is what’s causing problems in failing public schools?

    Because of who comprises it and how it is financed, the education “reform” movement has a clear self-interest in continuing to say yes, we should believe such fact-free pabulum. And you can bet that movement will keep saying “yes” — and that the corporate media will continue to cheer them as heroes for saying “yes” — as long as public education money keeps being diverted into corporate coffers.

    But we’ve now reached the point where the economics-omitting “reform” propaganda has jumped the shark, going from deceptively alluring to embarrassingly transparent. That’s because the latest Department of Education study isn’t being released in a vacuum; it caps off an overwhelming wave of evidence showing that our education crisis has far less to do with public schools or bad teachers than it does with the taboo subject of crushing poverty.

    In 2011, for instance, Stanford University’s Sean Reardon released a comprehensive study documenting the new “income achievement gap.” The report proved that family income is now, by far, the biggest determining and predictive factor in a student’s educational achievement.

    A few months later, Joanne Barkan published a groundbreaking magazine report surveying decades worth of social science research. Her conclusions, again, came back to non-school factors like family economics and poverty:

    “Out-of-school factors — family characteristics such as income and parents’ education, neighborhood environment, health care, housing stability, and so on — count for twice as much as all in-school factors. In 1966, a groundbreaking government study — the “Coleman Report” — first identified a “one-third in-school factors, two-thirds family characteristics” ratio to explain variations in student achievement. Since then researchers have endlessly tried to refine or refute the findings. Education scholar Richard Rothstein described their results: “No analyst has been able to attribute less than two-thirds of the variation in achievement among schools to the family characteristics of their students.””

    Then, just a few months ago, Reardon chimed in again to contextualize all of this. In a follow-up New York Times article, he noted that it is no coincidence that these out-of-school factors — and in particular economic conditions — have created the “income achievement gap” at the very moment economic inequality and poverty have exploded in America.

    Taken together with the new Department of Education numbers, we see that for all the elite media’s slobbering profiles of public school bashers like Mayors Rahm Emanuel and Michael Bloomberg, for all of the media’s hagiographic worship of scandal-plagued activist-profiteers like Michelle Rhee, and for all the “reform” movement’s claims that the traditional public school system and teachers unions are to blame for America’s education problems, poverty and economic inequality are the root of the problem.

    One way to appreciate this reality in stark relief is to just remember that, as Barkan shows, for all the claims that the traditional public school system is flawed, America’s wealthiest traditional public schools happen to be among the world’s highest-achieving schools. Most of those high-performing wealthy public schools also happen to be unionized. If, as “reformers” suggest, the public school system or the presence of organized labor was really the key factor in harming American education, then those wealthy schools would be in serious crisis — and wouldn’t be at the top of the international charts. Instead, the fact that they aren’t in crisis and are so high-achieving suggests neither the system itself nor unions are the big factor causing high-poverty schools to lag behind. It suggests that the “high poverty” part is the problem.

    That, of course, shouldn’t be a controversial notion; it is so painfully obvious it’s amazing anyone would even try to deny it. But that gets back to motive: The “reform” movement (and its loyal media outlets) cast a discussion of poverty as taboo because poverty and inequality are byproducts of the same economic policies that serve that movement’s funders.

  154. LJM

    “I’m not arguing that at all, I promise. There are lots of things that cause schools to become unsatisfactory. Everything from poverty to mismanagement to philosophy.

    I’m arguing that poor people deserve choice in their education, because they’re human beings and education is a sacred, personal thing to human beings. That’s it. That’s all.

    Do you agree with that or not? If not, why?”

    Do you still beat your wife? This is called a loaded question.

    Whether you are explicitly arguing that lack of choice is what causes particular schools to fail or not does not change that it is implicit to the argument.

  155. LJM,

    Are you a neoliberal?

    *****
    Jeff Bezos’s Other Endeavor: Charter Schools, Neoliberal Education Reforms
    Lee Fang on August 6, 201
    http://www.thenation.com/blog/175627/jeff-bezoss-other-endeavor-charter-schools-neoliberal-education-reforms#

    Excerpt:
    As news broke yesterday that Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos has dipped into his personal fortune to buy The Washington Post and several Post-related media properties, there has been buzz about Bezos’s potential political agenda.

    His record seems to suggest that Bezos is socially liberal, but economically conservative. He has contributed to both Republicans and Democrats, from John Conyers (D-MI) to Slade Gorton (R-WA); donated to the libertarian Reason Foundation; provided $2.5 million to pass gay marriage in Washington State; as well as $100,000 to defeat a modest effort to create an upper income tax in Washington State.

    Others have scrutinized Bezos’s record at Amazon to predict his management of the Post. At The New Yorker, David Remnick says that under Bezos Amazon has “demonstrated itself to be ‘a First Amendment absolutist’ when it comes to the sale of controversial books (including Mein Kampf’) and an unwillingness to censor reader comments.” Others are less optimistic, particularly when it comes to Amazon’s lobbying and labor record.

    The most troubling part of Amazon’s record, as it might relate to Bezos’ ownership of the Post, is Amazon’s December 2010 decision to shut down WikiLeaks’s server access after the group published a trove of State Department cables. Robert McChesney, citing Amazon’s move to pull the plug on WikiLeaks, released a statement today condemning the sale.

    There’s one area where Bezos has been hyper-active, but it is largely unknown to the general public: education reform. A look at the Bezos Family Foundation, which was founded by Jackie and Mike Bezos but is financed primarily by Jeff Bezos, reveals a fairly aggressive effort in recent years to press forward with a neoliberal education agenda:

    • The Bezos Foundation has donated to Education Reform Now, a nonprofit organization that funds attack advertisements against teachers’ unions and other advocacy efforts to promote test-based evaluations of teachers. Education Reform Now also sponsors Democrats for Education Reform.

    • The Bezos Foundation provided $500,000 to NBC Universal to sponsor the Education Nation, a media series devoted to debating high-stakes testing, charter schools and other education reforms.

    • The Bezos Foundation provided over $100,000 worth of Amazon stock to the League of Education Voters Foundation to help pass the education reform in Washington State. Last year, the group helped pass I-1240, a ballot measure that created a charter school system in Washington State. In many states, charter schools open the door for privatization by inviting for-profit charter management companies to take over public schools that are ostensibly run by nonprofits.

    Other education philanthropy supported by the Bezos Foundation include KIPP, Teach for America and many individual charter schools, including privately funded math and science programs across the country.

  156. Elaine,

    I assumed that the term, “school reform,” was tied into the Michelle Rhee movement to judge teachers based on tests and whatnot. Sorry for the misuse. I agree completely with the rest of your comment. Testing is the common enemy!

  157. Anonymously yours,

    You’re missing the trees for the Forrest…..really…. I’m saying once a child is expelled by a charter or voucher school…. They have no obligation to find alternative education for these children…

    Public schools have no obligation, either. The district has that obligation.

    When a public school kicks out a student, the district takes over. When a charter school kicks out a student, the district takes over.
    When a private school in Sweden kicks out a student, the the Swedish version of the district takes over.

    Public, charter, or voucher, the state, not the school, pays for the student’s education and is responsible for independent action when that student has special needs.

    Are you not aware of this?

    READ before you respond….Call someone and ask for interpretations in you can’t comprehend…..

    When I READ what you wrote…

    In Sweden they are not required to maintain disruptive students….

    …I asked you to demonstrate that Sweden doesn’t maintain disruptive students. You haven’t done that. I think that’s because you can’t.

    And yet you’re still confident enough to be incredibly condescending.

  158. LiM,

    You don’t seem to understand when someone is talking about K-12…. The term school is interchangeable with school district….. Same breath, body and blood…. There is no distinguishable difference….

    When the term charter voucher is used they are not interchangeable….as part of the school district……

    With respect to Sweden… Google it yourself if you’re too busy to read the article….

  159. Anonymously Yours,

    You don’t seem to understand when someone is talking about K-12…. The term school is interchangeable with school district….. Same breath, body and blood…. There is no distinguishable difference….

    This is simply false. Districts and schools work together but have very different responsibilities. Among other things, schools manage the students and districts manage the schools, assigning students to them.

    School districts are responsible for schools and charter schools. Charter schools have to meet requirements set by the school district.

    This information is not in dispute. There are no controversies over whether or not a school is the same as a school district. Or whether or not a school district is ultimately responsible for the placement of a disruptive student.

    I’m very confused about your assertions. Have you worked in a school system before?

    With respect to Sweden… Google it yourself if you’re too busy to read the article….

    It’s not a matter of being too busy, it’s a matter of your assertion that…

    In Sweden they are not required to maintain disruptive students….

    …is not supported by the articles.

    But maybe you could read this and it will help you to understand that Sweden takes care of special needs students, whether or not they’ve been kicked out of a public school or a private school.

    https://www.european-agency.org/country-information/sweden/national-overview/special-needs-education-within-the-education-system

  160. Apparently you didn’t read either article LJM the one I posted or the one you posted…. Good work… They both support the same proposition….

    Now with respect to charter schools they are not part of a district… Or at least the ones I know of……you can support that I presume?

  161. Anonymously Yours,

    Please quote the part(s) of the articles that support your assertion that…

    In Sweden they are not required to maintain disruptive students….

    I ask you to do that, because I couldn’t find any support. So now it’s your turn. Prove that my reading comprehension needs work (it does, actually) by quoting where your assertion is supported.

    Now with respect to charter schools they are not part of a district… Or at least the ones I know of……you can support that I presume?

    I can’t support that, because it’s not true. Please tell me the name of the charter schools that you think are not part of a school district.

    The school district uses taxes to pay for every kid’s education. If a kid goes to a public or a charter school, the district gives that school the money to educate the kid. If the kid is so disruptive (or if he tweets something inappropriate) that the school expels him, charter or public, the district takes responsibility for finding the kid a place to get educated.

    The same is true under a voucher system.

  162. LJM,

    Apparently you did not read the statement that at least the one I am familiar with…. They are run by the state….

  163. Anonymously Yours,

    If you tell me the name of the charter school that you are familiar with, then we can ascertain the structure under which it operates.

    Whether or not the “district” runs it or the “state” (that would have to be one of the less populated states), any kid who is kicked out of a public school or a charter school will be reassigned to another school by an entity other than the school which kicked them out.

    Our entire disagreement has been based on your misunderstanding of the process by which school systems deal with disruptive students and the very structure of those systems.

  164. Gene,

    Whether you are explicitly arguing that lack of choice is what causes particular schools to fail or not does not change that it is implicit to the argument.

    Not my argument. My argument has nothing to do with failed schools.

    Imagine a country with no failing schools (just try, damn it!).

    School choice would still be a fundamental right for every individual. Education is a personal experience and different people need to choose which experience is best for them.

    Even in great schools with lots of money and high test scores, there are students who are miserable, because that school doesn’t meet their individual needs. Everyone deserves an education that meets their individual needs.

    Choice is the cornerstone of personal freedom. And nothing is more personal than the way we experience learning.

  165. LJM,

    Having lots of charter schools doesn’t necessarily mean that individual students will find schools that meet their specific needs. A child may have a charter school or two or three located in his/her school district and still not find one that is a good match for his/her talents/needs.

  166. Elaine,

    Yes, you’re absolutely right. Especially if the popular charter school model is “test, test, test!” like it is now. But they’re not all like that, and hopefully there will be more that are less test-centric. When public schools find a way to be more flexible, few families will choose charter schools. Unfortunately, all these “No Child Left Behind,” “Race to the Top,” “Core Curriculum” one-size-fits-all approaches are still very popular.

    In the meantime, a not-so-great choice is much better than no choice at all.

  167. LJM,

    Speaking from my own experience, public schools were much more flexible before the school reform movement ushered in the era of high stakes testing.

    I worked in a school where teachers were always innovating and trying new ideas. We did lots of creative projects with our students, took them on field trips, introduced them to great children’s literature, etc. Unfortunately, once school reform reared its head in our state and brought in high stakes testing, things started to change. It’s the reason I took early retirement. I taught in an excellent school system that was adversely affected by school reform.

  168. Gene,

    Ahh, that’s a very, very good question. If the problem is defined as “failing schools,” then (I’m afraid) we have to define what makes a school “failing.”

    Presently, our society and our government considers a school that has high test scores to be “successful.” But I absolutely reject this.

    But, for argument’s sake, you ask me if I believe that choice will make for higher test scores, then my answer is, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” I might add, parenthetically, (“I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t”).

    Alfie Kohn is one of my favorite writers on education. His opinions mirror mine on testing when he writes:

    His speechwriters had President George W. Bush proclaim, “Measurement is the cornerstone of learning.” What they should have written was, “Measurement is the cornerstone of the kind of learning that lends itself to being measured.”

    http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/sbm.htm

    Do I think lack of choice is making schools fail? No, I think mismanagement and rigidity in thought and authoritarianism make schools fail.

    If you ask me if choice will increase satisfaction with schools, I have to say that I suspect it will, but it depends on how it’s implemented.

  169. Elaine,

    That’s an all too common and sad story. I believe most teachers long for the kind of flexibility that would make school a much more positive, constructive experience for most kids. High-stakes testing is just another element which takes away that flexibility.

  170. “Do I think lack of choice is making schools fail? No, I think mismanagement and rigidity in thought and authoritarianism make schools fail.”

    Yet, it was the school reform movement that brought us rigidity of thought and high stakes testing of children and claimed that traditional public schools were failing because students in some public schools didn’t test as well as reformers say those students should have. The reformers have become the authoritarians. They have pressured public schools/politicians/the public to judge both students and teachers by the results of high stakes standardized tests.

  171. Elaine,
    The high stakes testing, like charter schools is more about private corporations making money, than it is about.judging how well students and schools are doing. Follow the money.

  172. rafflaw,

    You got that right! There are moneyed people in this country who are doing their best to privatize public education–people of no conscience who don’t give a damn about our children.

  173. “No, I think mismanagement and rigidity in thought and authoritarianism make schools fail.”

    And that will not be remedied by choice. Satisfaction in subjective and individual. If you want to address metrics, that is not a suitable one to measure in defining success.

    Define what makes a school a success.

    Account for the fact that ability is individually differential and therefor even in an equal effort situation, results will vary.

  174. rafflaw,

    “My lack of success was not due a lack of effort. I would have hated it if my thick headedness in math cost a teacher a job!”

    And consider what would have happened if you were in school today and didn’t do well enough on the math test to qualify you to receive a high school diploma!

  175. Elaine,

    I’m afraid that rigidity in thought and authoritarianism have been a large part of most schools since there have been schools.

    There are just too many adults who will tell you that they hated school precisely for those reasons. They feel about school the way Einstein felt about school.

    He said, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

    He also said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one learned in school.”

  176. Gene,

    Satisfaction in subjective and individual. If you want to address metrics, that is not a suitable one to measure in defining success.

    Learning is subjective and individual. What else matters in life than being satisfied with one’s personal pursuits? If a kid is happy with what he learned at school, but got a C- on a test in a subject he didn’t care about, is that kid unsuccessful?

    We measure most things by how satisfying they are. What’s the most successful mid-sized economy car? Probably the one the scored high in customer satisfaction. What’s the most successful movie? The one that movie goers enjoyed the most.

    It’s silly to think you can’t define success with satisfaction.

    Define what makes a school a success.

    A school is successful if all of its students are happy to be there and are learning things they know will help them throughout life. If a student isn’t happy at a school, then either the school needs to adjust or the student needs to find a new school. Especially as school is coerced activity.

    If a school with 100 students has only one kid in it who is unhappy to be there and feels like the school doesn’t care about him, then that school has failed. The fact is that the average “succeeding” (via test scores) school has a much higher percentage of unhappy kids than that.

    Account for the fact that ability is individually differential and therefor even in an equal effort situation, results will vary.

    Yes, ability is individually differential, but schools have always treated them as if they weren’t. As if something is wrong with a seven year old who doesn’t read at the arbitrarily determined rate. As if something is wrong with a kid who has no interest in “The Great Gatsby” or knowing the stages of a star.

    I hope you take the time to read the article I linked to.

    Now, it’s your turn. Define what makes a school a success.

  177. There are lots of great public schools out there making lots of students very happy. But we should never forget all the students that are not happy at school.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201106/how-does-school-wound-kirsten-olson-has-counted-some-ways

    Let me introduce you to Dr. Kirsten Olson. She is an educational researcher, activist, consultant, and writer deeply concerned about children, learning, and the conditions of our schools. She is, among other things, president of the board of directors of IDEA (the Institute for Democratic Education in America). I met her for the first time, for lunch and conversation, a couple of weeks ago, and then I eagerly read her latest book, Wounded by School: Recapturing the Joy in Learning and Standing up to Old School Culture. If you have ever gone to school, or have a child in school, or might someday have a child in school, or care about children in school, I recommend her book to you.

    Wounded by School is the outcome of research that Olson began when she was an education doctoral candidate at Harvard. As one who loves learning and has always had high esteem for education, Olson intended to conduct research into the delights and enlightenment experienced in the course of schooling. But when she began interviewing people to learn about such positive effects, she found that they talked instead about the pain of school. Here is how Olson’s doctoral advisor, Sara Laurence-Lightfoot put it in a forward to the book:

    “In her first foray into the field–in-depth interviews with an award-winning architect, a distinguished professor, a gifted writer, a marketing executive–Olson certainly expected to hear stories of joyful and productive learning, stories that mixed seriousness, adventure, and pleasure, work and play, desire and commitment. Instead, she discovered the shadows of pain, disappointment, even cynicism in their vivid recollections of schooling. Instead of the light that she expected, she found darkness. And their stories did not merely refer to old wounds now healed and long forgotten; they recalled deeply embedded wounds that still bruised and ached, wounds that still compromised and distorted their sense of themselves as persons and professionals.”
    As her project expanded, Olson began interviewing people of all ages, from schoolchildren on up to grandparents, people from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds and occupying a wide variety of careers. She was struck by the earnestness and emotion that came forth as people talked about the wounds that they still felt in relation to their schooling. Olson was pioneering a direct way to understand the effects of school on psychological development. She asked people who had been there how school affected them.

    In her book, Olson categorizes the wounds into seven groups, and she illustrates each with quotations from interviews. Then, in later chapters, she describes how caring parents, teachers, and students themselves can help prevent and heal the wounds. Here I’ll simply list and describe in my own words Olson’s seven categories. (I’ve added my own twist to the description of each type of wound, so if you find fault in the descriptions, the faults may be mine rather than Olson’s.)

    The first four categories of wounds all seem to result primarily from the restrictions that are placed on students’ behavior and learning in school–the preset curriculum, the narrow set of permissible learning procedures, the tests in which there is one right answer for every question, and the often-arbitrary rules that students have no role in creating. These categories are:

    1. Wounds of creativity. School stifles creativity. This is perhaps the most obvious wound of school. Students’ own passions and interests are generally ignored. Students’ unique, creative ways of solving problems and their outside-the-box answers to questions, which fail to match the teachers’ answer sheets, are not understood and are graded as wrong by busy teachers. Rote learning and tests that have one right answer for every question leave no room for creativity. Olson’s informants who went on to live creative lives apparently did so despite, not because of, schooling. They had to recover or rebuild the creative spirit that had been so natural to them before starting school. My own guess is that altogether too many others rarely think about creativity once they have lost it in school; they may not even notice this wound. And then there are those who remain creative in those realms that school doesn’t touch, but become uncreative in the realms covered by the school curriculum. How many people have totally lost mathematical creativity because of the ways it was taught in school?

    2. Wounds of compliance. In school students must continuously follow rules and procedures that they have no role in creating and must complete assignments that make no sense in terms of their own learning needs. Students generally cannot question these rules and assignments; if they do they are smart-alecks, or worse. To avoid getting into trouble, they learn to obey blindly, and in the process they learn to be bad citizens in a democracy. Democracy requires citizens who question the rules and insist on changing those that are unfair or don’t make sense. They also hurt themselves by going through life following narrower paths than they might if school had not taught them that it is dangerous to explore the edges.

    3. Wounds of rebellion. Some students respond to the arbitrary rules and assignments by rebelling rather than complying. They may in some cases feel intense anger toward the system that has taken away their freedom and dignity, toward teachers who seem to be complicit with that system, and toward the goody-goody students who go along. They may manifest their scorn by sitting in the back of the classroom, making snide remarks, blatantly flouting rules, and rarely if ever completing assignments. Rebellion may sometimes be a healthier response than compliance, but if it goes too far it may hurt even more than compliance. Failure in school may cut off valued future paths. Anger toward schooling can lead to a turning away from all forms of learning. And, perhaps most tragically, the rebellion can take forms that physically harm the self and others, especially if the person turns to drugs, promiscuous sex, and crime as forms of self-expression and self-identity.

    4. Wounds of numbness. The constant grind of school, doing one tedious assignment after another according to the school’s schedule, following the school’s procedures, can lead to intellectual numbness. Many of Olson’s respondents described themselves as “zoned out” or “intellectually numb” as long as they were in school. Intellectual excitement is rarely rewarded in school, but doggedly grinding it out, doing what you are supposed to do, never missing a deadline, is rewarded. Brilliant work in one subject at the expense of ignoring another might earn you an A and an F in the two classes; but good-enough, non-inspired work in both subjects might earn you an A in both. This is one of the many ways by which schooling kills intellectual enthusiasm. When students do demonstrate enthusiasm, it is usually about something that has nothing to do with their lessons.

    The remaining three categories of wounds identified by Olson all seem to be inflicted by the ways that people are ranked and sorted in school. You can be wounded differently depending on whether you are ranked low, high, or middling.

    5. Wounds of underestimation. In her interviews Olson found that some described ways in which they were wounded by assumptions made about them because of their race, social class, gender, or performance on one or another test that was supposed to measure intelligence or aptitude. In some cases, it seemed easier to go along with the assumption than to fight it, so the assumption became a self-fulfilling prophecy. More generally, a low grade achieved in a course or set of courses can unduly discourage people from following what had been their dream. A would-be biologist chooses a less-desired track because of a D in tenth grade biology. A would-be author concludes that professional writing is beyond her scope because an English teacher could not see the sparkle of her essays or the brilliance in her non-conventional sentence structure and gave her below-average grades. If only students knew how many great achievers in our society received poor school grades in the realm of their achievement! If only teachers knew.

    6. Wounds of perfectionism. High grades and high scores on intelligence tests, too, can wound. Students who develop identities as high achievers may feel extraordinary pressure to continue high achievement, in everything. For them, even an A- in a course, or getting only the second best part in the class play, or rejection by the top Ivy League school, may feel like terrible failure–failure to live up to the image that others have of them, or the image that they have of themselves. The wound of perfectionism explains why so many “top” students cheat, when they feel that they must to get the grade that everyone expects them to get (see School is a Breeding Ground for Cheaters). When grades are the measure of perfection, everything is done for the grade. In school, “perfection” and intellectual numbness are quite compatible. For an excellent description of how the wound of perfectionism can interfere with real education, I refer you to the courageous valedictorian speech given a year ago by Erica Goldson.

    7. Wounds of the average. The middling student, who is neither sinking nor soaring in the eyes of the school officials, may suffer from invisibility. In Olson’s interviews, these people described themselves as feeling insignificant, as people who don’t really matter much. In the worst cases, they developed self-identities as people who are unimportant, who do not make waves, who go along but never lead.

    http://www.amazon.com/Wounded-School-Recapturing-Learning-Standing/dp/0807749559/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378868561&sr=1-1

  178. “It’s silly to think you can’t define success with satisfaction.”

    Another straw man.

    I didn’t say you can’t use satisfaction as a metric.

    I said it was an inappropriate metric because it is subjective. The valuable metrics in this situation are objective. In fact, in designing HPT metrics, like in any science, objective outweighs subjective.

    “A school is successful if all of its students are happy to be there and are learning things they know will help them throughout life. If a student isn’t happy at a school, then either the school needs to adjust or the student needs to find a new school. Especially as school is coerced activity.”

    Happiness is again subjective. Speaking from personal experience, some of my most valuable and useful skills were acquired in miserable environments. It is a myth that learning must be innately pleasurable. Learning is by definition change. Change is rarely comfortable for humans. It is usually anything but. A well rounded education involves both pain and pleasure.

    “If a school with 100 students has only one kid in it who is unhappy to be there and feels like the school doesn’t care about him, then that school has failed.”

    A combination of the ecological fallacy and the fallacy of composition with a dash of the fallacy of single cause. Also an appeal to emotion.

    And my measure is simple.

    A school is successful when they teach a student how to think properly (in contrast to what to think). If they create a love of learning where none existed before, that is gravy. Just as ability is individually differential so is proclivity.

    Where standardized testing fails is the measure is what, not how. Data retention, not the integration of data and synthesis into knowledge and contextual understanding. Testing could work better as a metric if it went to applied problem solving instead of rote. If the goal of education is to prepare children for life, there is no better metric than applied problem solving. The challenges of life are nothing if not a chain of problems to be solved.

    To properly engineer a system, one must first design the goal of that system.

    The primary function of schools is neither happiness nor entertainment.

    If that’s what you want for children, let them stay home and watch TV and play video games all day.

    The primary function of schools is to teach people how to think.

  179. Gene,

    I said it was an inappropriate metric because it is subjective. The valuable metrics in this situation are objective. In fact, in designing HPT metrics, like in any science, objective outweighs subjective.

    People are polled on satisfaction and happiness all the time. If you talk to 10 people and 6 of them tell you they are satisfied, then, objectively, 60% of those people are satisfied.

    Happiness is again subjective. Speaking from personal experience, some of my most valuable and useful skills were acquired in miserable environments. It is a myth that learning must be innately pleasurable. Learning is by definition change. Change is rarely comfortable for humans. It is usually anything but. A well rounded education involves both pain and pleasure.

    That’s great for you. But it’s a fact that different people learn in different ways. For some people, pain works. For others it doesn’t. Suggesting that a person you don’t know anything about needs to suffer in order for them to learn is really presumptive, and not very compassionate. To say that all people need pain in order to learn is not based in objective fact.

    Education, as it involves the profoundly personal act of learning, is fundamentally subjective.

    A school is successful when they teach a student how to think properly (in contrast to what to think). If they create a love of learning where none existed before, that is gravy. Just as ability is individually differential so is proclivity.

    Ah, you know, my dad used to say that. “Schools should teach kids how to think, not what to think.” Now, I’m all nostalgic for our endless arguments. Thanks a lot!

    Okay, so we’ve established our dramatic difference of opinion on what education is for. I think it’s for whatever the student wants it to be for. You think it’s so that students will learn to think properly (and I agree in cases where the student wants to learn how to think properly!).

    Now, some serious questions. They might sound facetious, but they’re actually serious.

    What is it, to think “properly?” How do you measure that? How many ways can one think properly? What, exactly, are those ways? Does thinking properly apply to aesthetic subjects as well as math and science? To politics? Religion?

    Do you think the school system has ever been successful in getting all or most students to think properly?

    What percentage of high school students are thinking properly when they graduate? Do they have to go to college to finish learning how to think properly?

    Will students who have suffered more think more properly than those who suffered less or will they just learn to think properly more quickly?

    (Okay, those last two were a little facetious. Sorry.)

    See, I think your “think properly” idea is even more subjective than my “satisfied” idea. If a person says they’re satisfied, it’s objectively true that they’re satisfied. If a person gives you an answer you don’t like on any number of subjects (or even if they arrive at correct answers in an unorthodox way), you can always say that they’re not thinking properly.

    From your point of view, I’m not thinking properly right now. Objectively, we have a disagreement on the issue of the purpose of education. Subjectively, you’re thinking properly about the purpose of education, while I’m not.

    I can’t imagine a school in this day and age where the teachers and administrators say, “We don’t care if the students are happy. We want them to think properly.” A hundred years ago, sure. But not any more.

  180. Let me add, that I’m sure there are schools who want their students to think properly, but there are few who believe that unhappy students are likely to do so.

  181. This is a graduation speech, given by the valedictorian of the Class of 2010 at Coxsackie Athens High School. I believe she’s thinking properly, but that’s just my opinion.

    http://americaviaerica.blogspot.com/p/speech.html

    There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, “If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.” 
The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast – How long then?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if Ireally, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?” 
Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”
    This is the dilemma I’ve faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.
    Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn’t you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.
    I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.
    John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, “We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don’t do that.” Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.
    H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not…

    ..to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States. (Gatto)

    To illustrate this idea, doesn’t it perturb you to learn about the notion of “critical thinking.” Is there really such a thing as “uncritically thinking?” To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?
    This was happening to me, and if it wasn’t for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.
    And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.
    We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren’t we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.
    The saddest part is that the majority of students don’t have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can’t run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be – but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.
    For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, “You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.
    For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.
    For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.
    So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn’t have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.
    I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let’s go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we’re smart enough to do so!

  182. “People are polled on satisfaction and happiness all the time. If you talk to 10 people and 6 of them tell you they are satisfied, then, objectively, 60% of those people are satisfied.”

    What you have is objective data about a subjective impression.

    “That’s great for you. But it’s a fact that different people learn in different ways. For some people, pain works. For others it doesn’t. Suggesting that a person you don’t know anything about needs to suffer in order for them to learn is really presumptive, and not very compassionate. To say that all people need pain in order to learn is not based in objective fact.”

    Your use of straw men is really starting to piss me off. “Need” was not the word I used. Apparently honest argument was not a skill that you ever learned. That being said, people do indeed learn in different ways, however, one person’s pleasure is another person’s pain. For every student that loves mathematics but hates history, there is an inverse. That does not negate the value of learning either.

    “Education, as it involves the profoundly personal act of learning, is fundamentally subjective.”

    The same can be said about how we each experience reality. The world does not revolve around making each person happy. Happiness, being a state of mind, is subjective. Some who objectively appear to have a situation most would consider “happy” have miserable lives while others who have objectively appear to have a situation most would consider “miserable remain happy. Happiness is a reaction. Each person owns their own reactions. Indeed, it is one of the few things in the world over which the individual has complete autonomy.

    “Ah, you know, my dad used to say that. “Schools should teach kids how to think, not what to think.” Now, I’m all nostalgic for our endless arguments. Thanks a lot!
    Okay, so we’ve established our dramatic difference of opinion on what education is for. I think it’s for whatever the student wants it to be for.”

    Then your father seems to have learned proper English. Education in the context of an end goal is a body of knowledge acquired while being educated; an enlightening experience. Enlightenment is to acquire (or to give someone) greater knowledge and understanding about a subject or situation. How a person uses their enlightenment is up to them but either they understand any given subject in the shared objective way in which we as a species define our common reality or they do not. Reality is what we agree in common it is by applying reason to the interrogation of the universe. An education is not how you choose to apply it.

    “You think it’s so that students will learn to think properly (and I agree in cases where the student wants to learn how to think properly!).”

    I think that if you haven’t learned to think properly, you can have all the data in the world at your disposal and not understand anything in context or have the deep knowledge that comes from synthesis.
    “Now, some serious questions. They might sound facetious, but they’re actually serious.
    What is it, to think ‘properly?’”

    To be able to interrogate the world and come to reasonably accurate conclusions based on reason and evidence gathered in a systematic manner.

    “How do you measure that?”

    Problem solving.

    “How many ways can one think properly? What, exactly, are those ways?”

    As many ways as there are subjects.

    “Does thinking properly apply to aesthetic subjects as well as math and science? To politics? Religion?”

    Yes. Each area of study is predicated upon certain logics.

    “Do you think the school system has ever been successful in getting all or most students to think properly?”

    I think that the use of the term “the school system” is misleading. I think individual teachers have been successful in getting most of their students to think properly about a given subject or subjects but that the success of systems for deploying education to the masses is in direct correlation to the quality of individual instruction whatever form that system takes.

    “What percentage of high school students are thinking properly when they graduate? Do they have to go to college to finish learning how to think properly?”

    Beyond the scope of this inquiry, however, if one wants to talk what should be the ideal outcome of elementary versus secondary education, the answer is simple. Elementary education should provide the student with a base level of skills and knowledge to get by in the world, secondary and post-secondary education should provide the student with the skills and knowledge required to be a specialist or an expert in a given topic.

    “Will students who have suffered more think more properly than those who suffered less or will they just learn to think properly more quickly? (Okay, those last two were a little facetious. Sorry.)”

    No need to apologize. I answer smart ass questions at my discretion.

    “See, I think your ‘think properly’ idea is even more subjective than my ‘satisfied’ idea.”

    See, I think you don’t know what the word “objective” means. In this context, it means not dependent on the mind for existence. Solipsism, the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist, is both ignorant of empiricism and selfish and often the sign of a malformed ego. The universe exists beyond your subjective experience of it. There is an objective reality.

    “If a person says they’re satisfied, it’s objectively true that they’re satisfied.”

    Not necessarily. You’ve got a present sense datum of their subjective perception. Nothing more.

    “If a person gives you an answer you don’t like on any number of subjects (or even if they arrive at correct answers in an unorthodox way), you can always say that they’re not thinking properly.”

    But can you empirically and/or logically prove they are wrong? Again, “like” is a subjective judgment. I may not like an answer, but that does not make it counter-factual. Logic and reasoning has rules. So long as a conclusion is based on valid verifiable observation and sound logic and reasoning, “like” hasn’t got squat to do with it being real or not.

    “From your point of view, I’m not thinking properly right now.”

    From my point of view, you’re thinking solipsistically and not empirically.

    “Objectively, we have a disagreement on the issue of the purpose of education.”

    True enough.

    “Subjectively, you’re thinking properly about the purpose of education, while I’m not.”

    Objectively, I know that you aren’t applying the word “objective” properly either in meaning or in context as demonstrated by your solipsistic view of the purpose of education. Hint: It isn’t to give everyone a “warm fuzzy”.

    “I can’t imagine a school in this day and age where the teachers and administrators say, ‘We don’t care if the students are happy. We want them to think properly.’”

    Both an appeal to emotion and a straw man. I didn’t say that student happiness wasn’t important. I said it wasn’t the appropriate measure of success in education. Their ability to solve problems, which can be measured objectively, is the proper metric.

  183. AY,

    It’s Nick’s modus operandi. Stop by and make a snarky comment–or one that contributes nothing to the discussion–and then leave. Of course, anyone who disagrees with his point of view has a drill or a mindset. He’s different from LJM who is willing to discuss the subject of charter schools, school choice, and education reform at length.

  184. Elaine,

    You might be right… But you guys put a great deal of volunteer effort in your postings…. Disagree and move on….

  185. I don’t care what he does so long as he follows the rules. Which he now does for the most part. Snark and non-substantive commentary are not against the rules.

  186. I’m sorry I’ve not been able to comment for the last few days since family business had my attention. However, I’ve followed every comment on this thread and I’m quite impressed by the level of discussion. One of the points raised by LJM consistently is the matter of parental choice. While I admire the point of view and certainly endorse it, unfortunately I think it has been used by those in the for profit school movement as a smokescreen which hides the real intent of those propounding this premise for their own motives.
    This excerpt below from and article titled: “Don’t Buy Conservative Ideas Sold with a Civil Rights Rhetoric”, from the Education Opportunity Network Website shows the real situation:

    “Really, you have to admire conservative messaging. From the Supreme Court down, they’ve cleverly figured out how to strike down programs that achieve real school desegregation while they advocate for market-based education gimmicks like vouchers and other forms of “school choice,” using the language of equal opportunity for all – as if a competitive market has ever been an arena where everyone wins despite their circumstances.

    Further, conservatives make their case for vouchers and choice despite evidence of what their schemes produce.

    Louisiana’s voucher-choice program was patterned after one created in New Orleans, which has resulted in, according to a detailed account from NOLA blogger Mercedes Schneider, “a tedious, open-enrollment process designed to destroy all sense of the community school.”

    Parents are saddled every year with completing multiple applications for multiple schools with no guarantees of getting into preferred programs – even if the school is next door. Many of the best-performing schools require admission tests that block all but the best students.

    The type of “parental choice” exemplified by the New Orleans choice-voucher program, according to Schneider, is “a forced competition for too few … seats at preferred and thriving schools. As such, the requirement of parental choice in New Orleans contributes to the endless churn upon which privatization depends, always keeping the community off-balance as privatizers move in, make their money, and move out.”

    In fact, Reuters reporter Stephanie Simon called the Louisiana voucher program “a bold bid to privatize education.” Some school children do get into good schools for sure, but that only accounts for “a few slots,” according to Simon.

    Schools “willing to accept the most voucher students,” however, resemble nothing that would be considered a high-quality education. In many of the schools targeted to receive voucher money, Simon found students in “cubicles” or “bare-bones classrooms,” working through curriculum materials influenced by Christianity, in school buildings bereft of libraries or playgrounds.

    More recently, at the Care2.com site, Crystal Shepeard reported, “Of the approximately 130 voucher schools, 20 purposely use textbooks and guides in their ‘science’ programs that promote Biblical theories.”

    If the education of Louisiana voucher schools is shaky, the finances are even shakier.

    A recent audit of Louisiana voucher schools found “systemic, widespread problems,” in particular, with most of the schools refusing to comply with the requirement to keep voucher money in a separate account. The one school that did comply – the school, in fact, receiving the most voucher slots from the program – was found to be charging the voucher students more than other students, running up over $400,000 in overcharges to the state.”
    http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/democrats-shouldnt-buy-conservative-ideas-sold-with-civil-rights-rhetoric/

    Another excerpt discusses the methods of this propaganda:

    “First, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal penned an op-ed in The Washington Post that took after president Obama and his administration’s lawsuit against his state’s school voucher program.

    Wrote Jindal, “The Justice Department has challenged my state in court for having the temerity to start a scholarship program that frees low-income minority children from failing schools … And, in the ultimate irony, they are using desegregation orders set up to prevent discrimination against minority children to try to do it.”

    The George Wallace comparison came from the editors of that bastion of conservatism The National Review, who wrote, “Playing the Wallace role this time is Eric Holder, whose Justice Department is petitioning a U.S. district court to abolish a Louisiana school-choice program.”

    There are plenty of reasons to doubt the sincerity of these conservatives. First, it would seem sensible on its face that when there is evidence of a “failing school,” it is incumbent on political leaders to fix it. Creating a voucher program – what Jindal has cleverly re-branded as “scholarships” – to provide an escape route for a few children does nothing for the ones left behind.

    To evoke the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in an appeal for a voucher program, as Jindal does, is farcical. King didn’t “have a dream” for a fortunate few black children to escape poverty and prejudice because their parents were savvy enough to work the system. His dream was for “all” children.

    For the editors of the National Review to make an argument for vouchers and “parental choice” based on their belief in desegregation is beyond cynical. As Pope “Mac” McCorkle, a professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, recently recalled, “The National Review denounced the Supreme Court’s school desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education as an ‘act of judicial usurpation.’”

    The magazine’s founder and editor at the time, William F. Buckley, “insisted that Southern whites … represented ‘for the time being, the advanced race.’ And in 1960 Buckley declared: ‘We frown on any effort of the Negroes to attain social equality by bending the instrument of the state to their purposes.’”

    What we’re seeing with this “school choice” movement is actually a retrogressive attempt to return to the days before Brown vs. Board of Ed. and reintroduce both racial and economic segregation back into our school system under the propaganda rubric of “helping” those who are getting a poor education. I’ll expand on this idea further in my next comment.

  187. The entire “school reform” movement presents a broad topic that has been infused with much dire rhetoric. Elaine, who has done many blogs on this topic chose an incisive way to approach the issue by looking at the thinking espoused by those who would “reform” our public schools when it come to the staffing of those schools. I think we can all agree that teachers approaching their careers as “stepping stones” to other endeavors are almost by definition not the highest quality of teacher available. This of course begs the question as to what is really going on with this “reform” movement? I will lay out schematically what I think is behind all of this that gives lie to the pretense that it is really about educational reform.

    1. “Brown v. Board of Ed.” was not simply a declaration that in education “separate is not equal”, but in fact spoke to the entire range of public educational opportunities available in the U.S. Although of necessity the case was argued from the perspective that segregation produced unequal educational opportunity and disparate funding of public schools, the essence of this case was that public school funding in the U.S. disproportionately underfunded lower income neighborhoods, despite their racial and ethnic demographics.

    2. We must remember that it then fell to a Republican Justice Department to enforce the SCOTUS ruling and we saw “busing” become the “solution” to the problem. Not so curiously most of the burden of “busing” fell on lower middle class neighborhoods whose own school systems were underfunded when compared to more affluent neighborhoods and this produced racial friction and tension. Conveniently then, the real public education issue which was the disproportionate funds available for public schools in neighborhoods of diverse economic wherewithal got lost in an argument of whether Black children “hurt” the public schools affected.

    3. The simultaneous reaction in the South was the setting up of private schools that were Whites only. Some of them were even called “Freedom Academies”. We then saw years of struggles by these alternative schools to receive government funding and much legal battling ensued. Since these private schools were more costly than public schools, by definition, we saw that left in the southern public schools systems were mostly students who were economically disadvantaged, whether Black or White. This then caused much intra-school strife and a disintegration of quality. However, the real basis of this disharmony was not racial, but economic, but it was reported in racial terms.

    4. After the Goldwater loss in 1964 many wealthy conservatives came together in funding a concerted effort to battle “liberalism”. The establishment of “think tanks” like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute brought together conservative intellectuals who began to develop strategies to promote their cause. I would argue that this wasn’t really true Conservative philosophy, but a mixture of radicalism, elitism and corporatism, that appropriated the Conservative Movement, overwhelming it with the funding from wealthy hyper-conservative families.

    5. The rise of Christian Fundamentalist Conservatism, or should I say the co-optation of Jesus Christ as a corporate tool added momentum to this movement. Local school boards were put into play by this movement and the beginning of the dumbing down of the American public education system began in earnest.

    6. As all this went on many entrepreneurs were lured by the vast sums spent in this country spent on public schools. This was the discovery of yet another profit center and so these entrepreneurs hitched a ride on what had already developed into a movement to denigrate public schools and fund private education through public dollars

    7. To finally return to what Elaine so thoroughly began let me state that the idea of using inexperienced teachers for only a few years fits in very well with the alarming corporatist trend in the U.S.. Firstly, it is an attempt to destroy the power of Teacher’s Unions, which are an anathema to
    corporatist conservatives, as is the entire union movement. Secondly, it reflects the “Walmart” method of employment. These new teachers are cheaper, will get less benefits and not be around long enough to build up seniority.

    8. What there seems also to be general agreement with on this thread is the proposition that standardized testing as a measurement of classroom effectiveness is a hollow sham. Education should be a process that not only imparts knowledge to the student but also teaches them how to think for themselves logically. I believe that up until the 60’s the educational system in the U.S. was generally superb, though profoundly unfair to Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans. Nevertheless, it has always been true that the educational systems in more affluent areas were superior because of better funding.

    9. Like LJM and Elaine I think that there needs to be a re-thinking of education methodology. Unfortunately, our educational system mirrors the mass production system and that cannot produce the highest quality of education. The system, however, can’t be effectively revised unless there is a general commitment to developing an educational system that really educates. This means funding public education in a country wide, rather than local manner and ensuring that all citizens have access to quality education. given the current climate I am skeptical that this will ever come about. However, I am quite certain that school vouchers, standardized testing and charter schools are little more than a a scheme to enrich some and to ensure the continued poverty of many.

  188. No Child Left Behind: A Brainchild of Neoliberalism and American Politics
    Carlos Alberto Torres
    New Politics
    Winter 2005 Vol:X-2 Whole #: 38
    http://newpol.org/content/no-child-left-behind-brainchild-neoliberalism-and-american-politics

    Excerpt:
    Neo-liberalism and neoconservatism are in the driver’s seat right now and this is not only happening in education. (Michael Apple)

    Cultural critic and educator, Michael Apple offers a critique of the current situation in education, where liberalism has been displaced by neoliberalism, deeply affecting education and social policies: “. . . liberalism itself is under concerted attack from the right, from the coalition of neoconservatives, ‘economic modernizers.’ And new right groups who have sought to build a new consensus around their own principles, following a strategy best called ‘authoritarian populism.’ This coalition has combined a ‘free market ethic’ with a populist politics. The results have been a partial dismantling of social democratic policies that largely benefited working people, people of color, and women (these groups are obviously not mutually exclusive), the building of a closer relationship between government and the capitalist economy, and attempts to curtail liberties that had been gained in the past.” (Apple, xxiv)

    Throughout the world, a neoliberal agenda promoted by international organizations, professional organizations, and in the case of the United States by the American establishment, includes a drive towards privatization and decentralization of public forms of education, a movement toward educational standards, a strong emphasis on testing, and a focus on accountability. That is to say, educational neoliberal reforms are based on an economic model of educational policy…

    Thus, the first important learning is that NCLB passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and enthusiasm because it reflects the perspective of the American establishment, and was originally supported by a number of professional organizations.

    Make no mistake. The NCLB increased the role of the federal government in accountability like never before. Although the federal government only funds 7 percent of the total expenditure of education in the country, it has tried to leverage those funds for specific purposes. DeBray explains the process: “The 1994 ESEA reauthorization altered the federal role in accountability for states and schools in two significant ways. First, the Clinton administration proposed that states adopt clear standards and assessments for all students in Title I, a strategy that was intended to use the money in Title I to drive the “seed money” for standards-based reform provided in Goals 2000, a much smaller federal program enacted earlier in 1994 (DeBray, 57)

    NCLB creates a condition in which the federal government diminished the educational autonomy of the states strengthening the federal role by increasing requirements for states. (DeBray, 58). NCLB is a reform model claiming raising standards while at the same time defining what those standards are, and what quality of education is or ought to be. It is a model that bases the understanding of education in strictly and overwhelming economic terms (e.g., Senator Kerry ‘s idea that NCLB is a jobs act). It is a model based on cognitive measurements of students, schools and teachers, making testing and accountability the buzzwords of the moment in educational environments. And finally, like in the Wizard of Oz, “education” has become the magic word that is supposed to transform the world around us.

  189. Special Report
    Cashing in on Kids: 139 ALEC Bills in 2013 Promote a Private, For-Profit Education Model
    by Brendan Fischer — July 16, 2013
    http://www.prwatch.org/news/2013/07/12175/cashing-kids139-alec-bills-2013-promote-private-profit-education-model

    Excerpt:
    Despite widespread public opposition to the education privatization agenda, at least 139 bills or state budget provisions reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) education bills have been introduced in 43 states and the District of Columbia in just the first six months of 2013, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of ALECexposed.org. Thirty-one have become law.

    ***

    ALEC Vouchers Transfer Taxpayer Money to Private and Religious Schools

    News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch has called public education a “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”

    But this “transformation” of public education — from an institution that serves the public into one that serves private for-profit interests — has been in progress for decades, thanks in large part to ALEC.

    ALEC boasts on the “history” section of its website that it first started promoting “such ‘radical’ ideas as a [educational] voucher system” in 1983 — the same year as the Reagan administration’s “Nation At Risk” report — taking up ideas first articulated decades earlier by ALEC supporter Milton Friedman.

    In 1990, Milwaukee was the first city in the nation to implement a school voucher program, under then-governor (and ALEC alum) Tommy Thompson. ALEC quickly embraced the legislation, and that same year offered model bills based on the Wisconsin plan. For-profit schools in Wisconsin now receive up to $6,442 per voucher student, and by the end of the next school year taxpayers in the state will have transferred an estimated $1.8 billion to for-profit, religious, and online schools. The “pricetag” for students in other states is even higher.

    In the years since, programs to divert taxpayer money from public to private schools have spread across the country. In the 2012-2013 school year, it is estimated that nearly 246,000 students will participate in various iterations of so-called “choice” programs in 16 states and the District of Columbia — draining the public school system of critically-needed funds, and in some cases covering private school tuition for students whose parents are able and willing to pay.

    But promised improvements in educational outcomes have not followed. “If vouchers are designed to create better educational outcomes, research has not borne out that result,” says Julie Mead, chair of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin. “If vouchers are such a great idea,” after twenty years in effect, “they would have borne fruit by now.”

    The ALEC education agenda also fits into the organization’s broader attack on unions: by lowering teacher certification standards and funneling public money to non-unionized private schools, ALEC undermines teachers unions, which guarantee fair wages and working conditions and are a major political force that have traditionally backed the Democratic Party.

    ***

    ALEC Education Bills Undermine Free, Universal Public Education

    ALEC-influenced bills introduced in 2013 include legislation to:

    Create or expand taxpayer-funded voucher programs, using bills such as the “Parental Choice Scholarship Act” (introduced in three states). Under many state constitutions, the use of public dollars to fund religious institutions has been rejected on separation-of-powers grounds, but the ALEC Great Schools Tax Credit Act, introduced in ten states in 2013, bypasses state constitutional provisions and offers a form of private school tuition tax credits that funnel taxpayer dollars to private schools with even less public accountability than with regular vouchers.

    Carve-out vouchers for students with special needs, regardless of family income, through the “Special Needs Scholarship Program Act” (introduced in twelve states), which sends vulnerable children to for-profit schools not bound by federal and state legal requirements to meet a student’s special needs, as public schools must. A proposal in Wisconsin would have allocated up to $14,658 to a for-profit school for each special needs student.

    Send taxpayer dollars to unaccountable online school providers through the “Virtual Schools Act,” introduced in three states, where a single teacher remotely teaches a “class” of hundreds of isolated students working from home. The low overhead for virtual schools certainly raises company profits, but it is a model few educators think is a appropriate for young children.

    Offer teaching credentials to individuals with subject-matter experience but no education background with the Alternative Certification Act, introduced in seven states. The bill is part of ALEC’s ongoing effort to undermine unionized workers and promote a race to the bottom in wages and benefits for American workers.

    Require that educators “teach the controversy” when it comes to topics like climate change — where the only disagreement is political, not scientific — through the Environmental Literacy Improvement Act, introduced in five states.

    Create opportunities to privatize public schools or fire teachers and principals via referendum with the controversial Parent Trigger Act (glorified in the flop film “Won’t Back Down”), introduced in twelve states. First passed in California, a modified Parent Trigger bill was brought to ALEC in 2010 by the Illinois-based Heartland Institute, which is perhaps best known for controversial billboards comparing people who believe in climate change to mass murderers like the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

    Create an appointed, state-level charter school authorizing board through the Next Generation Charter Schools Act, introduced in seven states, which effectively shields charters from democratic accountability. The legislation “would wrest control from school boards, and likewise from the community that elects those school boards,” Mead says, since it takes away their power to authorize charters in the community.

  190. Peas in a pod: Koret Foundation, The Hoover Institution, and Democrats for Education Reform
    1/26/12
    http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2012/01/peas-in-pod-koret-foundation-hoover.html

    Excerpt:
    It’s no secret that the malicious types running Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) hold the same ideological positions as the furthest-right think-tanks around. Starting with their founder Whitney Tilson, [2] who channels American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Andy Smarick at every opportunity, DFER is a bastion of right-wing thought that amounts to an enormous serving of Milton Freidman’s free market fantasies finished with a healthy dollop of Ayn Rand’s infantile insistence that “Big Business” is “America’s Persecuted Minority.”

    Much like Eli Broad’s economic hit-men (and hit-women) trained at his various residencies and academies, DFER operatives have done astonishing damage to the public commons and undermine democracy at every opportunity. In Democrats for Neoliberal Education Reform I outlined the duplicitous underhanded craftiness DFER Colorado operatives Mike Johnston and his colleagues employed to “railroad the anti-community, anti-teacher, pro-corporate SB-191 through the Colorado Legislature.” More importantly, we looked at the language of their own document which gleefully “discuss[es] students as mere commodities to be consumed by the owners of the means of production.”

    In the past right-wing Democrats like those comprising the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) pretended that they were somehow different than the John Birch Society inspired organizations that informed the DLC’s policies. DFER, on the other hand, makes no attempts to mask their muses and ideological allies. Much like Arne Duncan’s ballyhooed “education reform” tour with serial bigot (and philanderer) Newt Gingrich, DFER makes no bones about the fact that their natural allies are fringe-right creeps that would put children back to work. [3]

    Case in point Gloria J. Romero, DFER California Director, just completed a panel entitled “School Choice, Special Interests and the Education of Our Children” along with arch-reactionaries Terry Moe of The Hoover Institution and Lance Izumi of Koret Foundation. The event, held in “honor” of deceptively named “school choice week,” was moderated by teabagger and staunch anti-unionist Lary Sand, who some might recall as having moderated a school privatization event held by Ben Austin, Ben Boychuck, and Bruno Behrend. DFER’s Romero, whose hatred of organized labor echoes that of the Brothers Koch, must have been very confortable on a panel with reactionaries whose views up ten years ago were considered extremist even by the mainstream GOP.

    Any guesses as to who the panel considered “Special Interests?” It’s safe to say that it wasn’t The Broad Foundation, The Gates Foundation, or The Walton Family Foundation. Let’s look briefly at our ideological peas in a pod.

    Terry Moe, who writes with all of the authority of Philip Morris treatise on the health benefits of smoking, is a favorite in the Murdoch, Walton, DeVos, Bradley, Koch, and Scaife circles. The extreme right-wing Hoover Institution (named after the vile president who stood by and did nothing the last time the banksters and Wall Street swindlers crashed the economy) is wont to lionize right-wing monsters (and Milton Freidman acolytes) like the butchering murderer Generalissimo Augusto Pinochet.

    Lance Izumi, who spends much of his time writing fallacious fact-frees texts trying to scamboozle middle class parents into accepting “school choice” and distance learning in order to bolster the burgeoning charter and online school sectors, is a senior fellow at the Koret Foundation. Koret, which unabashedly promotes Freidman’s discredited ideas while simultaneously celebrating the Nakba, have their — in their own words — “free-market think tank, Pacific Research Institute” based at The Hoover Institution.

    Gloria Romero is best known for her obsequious service to the lucrative charter school industry. While a California State Senator, she worked tirelessly to ensure Caprice Young, Jed Wallace, and other charter school tycoons would continue to dine voraciously at the public trough. Among her dubious accomplishments was SB-592 which handed public school property over to private corporations. Romero’s most famous betrayal of the working class people of California was her collaboration with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ben Austin to create the vile corporate charter trigger, which allows well funded Charter Management Organizations to increase market share. Since her ignominious defeat in her bid to garner the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction seat on behalf of the California Charter Schools Association, Romero has worked harder to union bust and privatize public schools than all of the teabagger elected governors combined…

  191. Elaine,
    ALEC and Education spoken together is sickening. Another example that the charter school and voucher system is all about destroying the public school system and privatizing education and turn it into a for profit institution.

  192. Democrats for Neoliberal Education Reform
    by Robert D. Skeels
    March 31st, 2011
    http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/03/democrats-for-so-called-education-reform/

    Excerpt:
    “Like special interests, our constituents deserve some consideration also.
    – Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte (Los Angeles Unified School District Board — LAUSD).

    At least someone was thinking of parents and community before corporations and privatizers at LAUSD.

    If we ever needed more insight into just how manipulative and insidious Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is as an agent of the corporate and neoliberal agenda, they’ve published a white paper discussing how they managed to railroad the anti-community, anti-teacher, pro-corporate SB-191 through the Colorado Legislature. The bill, which further disenfranchised communities in favor of corporate “ed-reformers,” and stripped Colorado teachers of nearly any protections whatsoever is a prime example of how it isn’t only teabagging darlings like Florida’s Rick Scott and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker that want to destroy public education and bust all unions.

    Using a systematic methodology of guile, deception, and select co-opting of various other entities, DFER politicians were able to pass a pernicious bill that all but turns the teaching profession into a career path akin to working as a fast food fry cook. Of course, that’s how the well heeled hedge fund managers that founded DFER view anyone outside of their insular world of finance capital to begin with.

    Although the document is an extremely boring read — chock full of corporate “ed-reformer” jargon and buzzwords — it’s important for social justice activists and public education advocates to read it in order to understand what we are up against. These are the type of tactics the plutocrats and corporate reformers have perfected.

    Probably the most disgusting and revolting passage in the paper:

    “Not only as a respected interest group, but also as the primary consumer of the students Colorado schools produce, the sponsors rightly believed that the business community’s support would add important diversity and depth to the coalition.”

    Although we shouldn’t be surprised that ultimately DFER espouses some of the vilest concepts of Freidman and Rand’s ideology, the fact that they openly discuss students as mere commodities to be consumed by the owners of the means of production is a grim reminder of what drives the so-called education reform crowd. For them the working class and our offspring are just a means for their financial backers to generate ever more profit, and DFER doesn’t even try to obscure the exploitation that the system depends on, indeed, they willingly embrace it.

  193. As the establishment education industry scoff and look down @ their noses @ charter, voucher, home schooling, etc. the real world is passing you by steadily. However, I encourage you all supporting the status quo. You will need much encouragement, support and counseling in coming years. And, your derision and sanctimony will simply remind everyone of the failed industry. Reform is your villain, and you are our inspiration.

  194. nick,

    I guess you don’t get it. I DON”T support the status quo. I hope to reform the reforms brought into public schools by the corporate school reformers. The first thing that should be done is to eliminate the high stakes testing of children–which was implemented in public schools in the name of school reform. Teachers will then, once again, be able to spend more class time introducing innovative educational programs and meeting the individual needs of their students when they don’t have to spend so much time prepping children for high stakes tests.

  195. Learn ABC’s – & IBM’s
    By Yoav Gonan
    April 18, 2013
    http://nypost.com/2013/04/18/learn-abcs-ibms/

    Excerpt:
    At least a half-dozen companies got an unexpected boost in marketing their brands to New York’s children this week — with free product placement on the state’s English exams.

    Teachers and students said yesterday’s multiple-choice section of the eighth-grade tests name-dropped at least a handful of companies or products — including Mug Root Beer, LEGO and that company’s smart robots, Mindstorms.

    IBM, the comic book and TV show “Teen Titans” and FIFA — the international soccer federation — were also mentioned in the test booklets, some of them with what educators referred to as out-of-place trademark symbols.

    “I’ve been giving this test for eight years and have never seen the test drop trademarked names in passages — let alone note the trademark at the bottom of the page,” said one teacher who administered the exam.

    Students at JHS 190 in Queens said the inclusion of some of the brands both within and after the reading passages left them scratching their heads — particularly when the questions had nothing to do with them.

    “For the root beer, they show you a waitress cleaning a table and the root beer fell on the floor and she forgets to clean it up. Underneath, they gave you the definition that it is a soda and then the trademark,” said Marco Salas, an eighth-grader at the Forest Hills middle school.

    “I didn’t think they should put it there,” he said. “There is no reason for it. It is out of place.”

  196. Gene,

    Your use of straw men is really starting to piss me off. “Need” was not the word I used. Apparently honest argument was not a skill that you ever learned.

    Not trying to piss you off. And sorry that you’re mistaking a misunderstanding for dishonesty. Here’s what you said…

    A well rounded education involves both pain and pleasure.

    That clearly implies that an education without pain is not well rounded.

    Happiness, being a state of mind, is subjective. Some who objectively appear to have a situation most would consider “happy” have miserable lives while others who have objectively appear to have a situation most would consider “miserable remain happy. Happiness is a reaction. Each person owns their own reactions. Indeed, it is one of the few things in the world over which the individual has complete autonomy.

    That’s why self-reported happiness is the best metric for education.

    Education in the context of an end goal is a body of knowledge acquired while being educated; an enlightening experience. Enlightenment is to acquire (or to give someone) greater knowledge and understanding about a subject or situation. How a person uses their enlightenment is up to them but either they understand any given subject in the shared objective way in which we as a species define our common reality or they do not. Reality is what we agree in common it is by applying reason to the interrogation of the universe.

    I agree with this. I just think the process has to be personalized and completely voluntary.

    I think that if you haven’t learned to think properly, you can have all the data in the world at your disposal and not understand anything in context or have the deep knowledge that comes from synthesis.

    I agree with this, too. The question is, how do we use our resources to give everyone who wants to to this, the opportunity to do so? The fact is that not everyone is interested in having this ability. It cannot be forced on people.

    To be able to interrogate the world and come to reasonably accurate conclusions based on reason and evidence gathered in a systematic manner.

    That’s good. It’s a valuable goal. Maybe my resistance is to the word “properly.” The word “proper” is more subjective than the word “effective,” so maybe the goal is to get people to think effectively?

    As many ways as there are subjects.

    And there must be a variety of ways within those subjects, as well.

    I think that the use of the term “the school system” is misleading. I think individual teachers have been successful in getting most of their students to think properly about a given subject or subjects but that the success of systems for deploying education to the masses is in direct correlation to the quality of individual instruction whatever form that system takes.

    I think the very best teachers in the world are only as successful as their students and the rules governing their teaching allow them to be. There are wonderful history teachers, for instance, who are required to teach meaningless facts that act to diminish interest in history in many students. It’s not just the quality of teachers, it’s the curriculum they’re required to teach which determines their effectiveness.

    Beyond the scope of this inquiry, however, if one wants to talk what should be the ideal outcome of elementary versus secondary education, the answer is simple. Elementary education should provide the student with a base level of skills and knowledge to get by in the world, secondary and post-secondary education should provide the student with the skills and knowledge required to be a specialist or an expert in a given topic.

    That sounds very reasonable, but post-secondary education is strictly voluntary. Secondary education is involuntary. Do you think the coercive nature of secondary education negatively affects the potential for post-secondary education?

    Solipsism, the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist, is both ignorant of empiricism and selfish and often the sign of a malformed ego. The universe exists beyond your subjective experience of it. There is an objective reality.

    Absolutely, there is. And I think the word “properly” in your “think properly” struck me as subjective. To “think effectively” is perhaps a phrase which lends itself to more objective measurement.

    “If a person says they’re satisfied, it’s objectively true that they’re satisfied.”

    Not necessarily. You’ve got a present sense datum of their subjective perception. Nothing more.

    Sure, but when it comes to a person’s subjective perception of their happiness, when that person is showing no aberrant behavior, then that’s it, that’s the last word. You have to respect the normally behaving individual’s opinion on their happiness. To disrespect it, is to embrace authoritarianism.

    From my point of view, you’re thinking solipsistically and not empirically.

    You believe I’m not thinking, let’s say, effectively.

    “Objectively, I know that you aren’t applying the word “objective” properly either in meaning or in context as demonstrated by your solipsistic view of the purpose of education. Hint: It isn’t to give everyone a “warm fuzzy”.

    I believe your view of the purpose of education is based on your opinion, and it dismisses the opinions of others which differ from yours. I agree with you that it should be a goal of mass education to get students to think effectively. But what’s the goal of individual education. If you put a bunch of students in a room and ask them what they want out of education, you’ll get a lot of different answers. You can tell them that education is about learning how to think effectively, but a few might say, “I don’t care about that. I just want to learn how to read and write and do math.” Another might say, “I already know how to read and write and do math, I just want to learn how to brew beer.”

    We’re free to sell the valuable “thinking effectively” product, but it’s up to the customer, the student, as to whether or not they’re going to buy it. If they don’t want to buy it, forcing them to sit at a desk for several years isn’t going to make them think effectively. Only the students who want to learn how to think effectively will learn how to think effectively.

    That’s my entire point. Education can only achieve what the student allows it to achieve. The student will only allow that which he or she chooses. Therefore, education is for whatever the student wants it to be for.

  197. Gene,

    I meant to thank you for answering my questions. You make very valuable points. I think our fundamental disagreement is less about what makes a good education, but rather about the coercive nature of it as it exists, and the value of self-guided, strictly voluntary education.

  198. Another example that the charter school and voucher system is all about destroying the public school system

    This is silly. There are many people who are helping to create charter schools who have no interest whatsoever in “destroying the public school system.” In Sweden, where vouchers have been used for 20 years, private school enrollment went up from 1% to a whopping 11%. The public schools in Sweden are doing fine.

    A voucher system is like a universal healthcare system. Bad implementation doesn’t mean bad idea.

    Let’s say Obama-care turns out to be a confused muddle of lower rates for some and higher rates for others and insurance companies happy as clams because they helped to write the damn thing. That doesn’t mean, as many conservatives will claim, that universal health care can’t work. It just means it has to be implemented honestly and competently (and maybe in different forms on smaller scales).

  199. Elaine, Gene,

    I’d really like to hear your opinions on this essay.

    http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/duh.htm

    Excerpt:

    The field of education bubbles over with controversies. It’s not unusual for intelligent people of good will to disagree passionately about what should happen in schools. But there are certain precepts that aren’t debatable, that just about anyone would have to acknowledge are true.

    While many such statements are banal, some are worth noticing because in our school practices and policies we tend to ignore the implications that follow from them. It’s both intellectually interesting and practically important to explore such contradictions: If we all agree that a given principle is true, then why in the world do our schools still function as if it weren’t?

    Here are 10 examples…

  200. Gene,

    A belated follow-up on the “pain” concept.

    I don’t want you to think that I think that all learning has to be pain free and pleasant. I’ve practiced and taught martial arts, so I know that learning exists in worlds of pain (years later, I’m still sore). My point is that it has to be voluntary. The student has to know that a learning process will involve pain and then agree to that process in order for that pain to be an effective teacher.

    I should have clarified that earlier, but my mind is in solipsistic chaos!😉

  201. LJM,

    I’ll have to respond later today or tomorrow. My granddaughter is awaking from her nap and calling for me. She’s my boss these days. I’m not exactly retired.

  202. “Not trying to piss you off. And sorry that you’re mistaking a misunderstanding for dishonesty.”

    Don’t be sorry about using straw men. Just don’t do it.

    “‘A well rounded education involves both pain and pleasure.’

    That clearly implies that an education without pain is not well rounded.”

    No. That implies that no one is going to enjoy every subject or even enjoy them equally.

    “That’s why self-reported happiness is the best metric for education.”

    That’s circular reasoning. Technically a strange loop. It does not address you are attempting to measure an objective quality with subjective evidence. Which is a non-starter on logical and evidentiary ground from an HPT perspective. Happiness is not an objective measure of applied problem solving. It’s an individual subjective reaction.

    “I just think the process has to be personalized”

    Opinion.

    “and completely voluntary.”

    So you don’t think elementary education should be compulsory? That hardly seems to comport to the Jeffersonian ideals vis a vis education and its importance to democracy.

    “I think that if you haven’t learned to think properly, you can have all the data in the world at your disposal and not understand anything in context or have the deep knowledge that comes from synthesis.

    I agree with this, too. The question is, how do we use our resources to give everyone who wants to to this, the opportunity to do so?”

    By raising the quality of instruction and availability of resources.

    “The fact is that not everyone is interested in having this ability. It cannot be forced on people.”

    See the above statement about compulsory elementary education. Add to that model trade schools as an acceptable substitute for secondary education.

    “That’s good. It’s a valuable goal. Maybe my resistance is to the word “properly.” The word “proper” is more subjective than the word “effective,” so maybe the goal is to get people to think effectively?”

    “Proper” in this context means “of the required or correct type or form; suitable or appropriate”. “Effective” in this context means “successful in producing a desired or intended result”. Though not precise synonyms, they are acceptably interchangeable terms.

    “‘As many ways as there are subjects.’

    And there must be a variety of ways within those subjects, as well.”

    True of most subjects, but in some there is simply the right way and the wrong way. Like classical physics.

    “‘I think that the use of the term “the school system” is misleading. I think individual teachers have been successful in getting most of their students to think properly about a given subject or subjects but that the success of systems for deploying education to the masses is in direct correlation to the quality of individual instruction whatever form that system takes.’

    I think the very best teachers in the world are only as successful as their students and the rules governing their teaching allow them to be. There are wonderful history teachers, for instance, who are required to teach meaningless facts that act to diminish interest in history in many students. It’s not just the quality of teachers, it’s the curriculum they’re required to teach which determines their effectiveness.”

    Which goes to the core issue Elaine has with standardized testing as currently implemented. On which I happen to agree with her.

    “‘Beyond the scope of this inquiry, however, if one wants to talk what should be the ideal outcome of elementary versus secondary education, the answer is simple. Elementary education should provide the student with a base level of skills and knowledge to get by in the world, secondary and post-secondary education should provide the student with the skills and knowledge required to be a specialist or an expert in a given topic.”

    That sounds very reasonable, but post-secondary education is strictly voluntary. Secondary education is involuntary. Do you think the coercive nature of secondary education negatively affects the potential for post-secondary education?”

    See the above statement in re trade schooling. One or the other should be compulsory.

    “Absolutely, there is. And I think the word ‘properly’ in your “think properly” struck me as subjective. To ‘think effectively’ is perhaps a phrase which lends itself to more objective measurement.”

    See the above statement about interchangeable terminology.

    “’If a person says they’re satisfied, it’s objectively true that they’re satisfied.’

    ‘Not necessarily. You’ve got a present sense datum of their subjective perception. Nothing more.’

    Sure, but when it comes to a person’s subjective perception of their happiness, when that person is showing no aberrant behavior, then that’s it, that’s the last word. You have to respect the normally behaving individual’s opinion on their happiness. To disrespect it, is to embrace authoritarianism.”

    Nonsense. See above statements concerning measuring the objective with the subjective. Also an appeal to emotion and an attempt at guilt by association.

    “‘From my point of view, you’re thinking solipsistically and not empirically.’

    You believe I’m not thinking, let’s say, effectively.”

    In addition to solipsistically and non-empirically, yes.

    “’Objectively, I know that you aren’t applying the word “objective” properly either in meaning or in context as demonstrated by your solipsistic view of the purpose of education. Hint: It isn’t to give everyone a ‘warm fuzzy’.”

    I believe your view of the purpose of education is based on your opinion, and it dismisses the opinions of others which differ from yours.”

    I believe you don’t know squat about evaluation of HPT factors or evidence in general if you think you measure the objective with the subjective. That’s not just an opinion, but a fact as it relates to the proper deployment of the scientific method. Empiricism is the realm of the objective.

    “I agree with you that it should be a goal of mass education to get students to think effectively. But what’s the goal of individual education. If you put a bunch of students in a room and ask them what they want out of education, you’ll get a lot of different answers. You can tell them that education is about learning how to think effectively, but a few might say, ‘I don’t care about that. I just want to learn how to read and write and do math.’ Another might say, ‘I already know how to read and write and do math, I just want to learn how to brew beer’.”

    Id., trade schools.

    We’re free to sell the valuable “thinking effectively” product, but it’s up to the customer, the student, as to whether or not they’re going to buy it. If they don’t want to buy it, forcing them to sit at a desk for several years isn’t going to make them think effectively. Only the students who want to learn how to think effectively will learn how to think effectively.

    “That’s my entire point. Education can only achieve what the student allows it to achieve. The student will only allow that which he or she chooses. Therefore, education is for whatever the student wants it to be for.”

    That points to your position of choice vis a vis charter schooling is a boondoggle and not representative of a substantive choice except for the choice to either properly fund and administer public education on a not for profit basis or to opt for an education that (as Elaine’s evidence points to) is in some ways more flawed than public education and the primary difference is its for profit nature.

    If you were truly interest in student choice, the only substantive choice would be provide either a compulsory traditional secondary education or trade schooling/apprenticeship programs . . . on a not for profit basis.

    Every dollar taken in profit is a dollar not spent on hiring good teachers and/or purchasing student resources. And you know what?

    We’ve already got private for profit schools in this country.

    They’re optional and at the discretion of whomever is willing and able to pay for that education with that profit margin instead of attending a public school.

    Those are your valid choices.

    Charter schools or public schools is not a real choice at all. It is – however – a way to implement discriminatory practices back into public education while sucking away resources as profit.

    There’s an analog for that in nature.

    They’re called “parasites”.

  203. “As the establishment education industry scoff and look down @ their noses @ charter, voucher, home schooling, etc. the real world is passing you by steadily. However, I encourage you all supporting the status quo. You will need much encouragement, support and counseling in coming years. And, your derision and sanctimony will simply remind everyone of the failed industry. Reform is your villain, and you are our inspiration.”

    What an astonishing contribution of aimless invective backed up with nothing but an opinion from an unreliable source………..Priceless.

  204. No. That implies that no one is going to enjoy every subject or even enjoy them equally.

    As long as they’re involuntary, that’s true. Not enjoying something isn’t equal to pain. Hating something is, and no normally functioning human should be forced to “learn” something they hate. A “well-rounded” education can and does occur without having to study something one hates.

    It does not address you are attempting to measure an objective quality with subjective evidence.

    We disagree then on the factual qualities of self-reporting on happiness. I think if you ask a normally functioning person if they’re happy, then their answer is objectively true.

    So you don’t think elementary education should be compulsory? That hardly seems to comport to the Jeffersonian ideals vis a vis education and its importance to democracy.

    Absolutely, I don’t think elementary education should be compulsory. In my opinion, the coercive aspect of education is grotesque paternalism. As if, when given access to free elementary education, large groups of people will say, “No, we prefer our kids to be illiterate.” That just doesn’t happen. Pretending it might is to have a rather low opinion of lower-income people.

    Any kid who isn’t being educated should have the opportunity to be educated if he or she wants to be, in the way he or she wants to be. The fact is that kids generally want to learn. They don’t always want to learn in the way that adults arrogantly think are the best ways for them, but they want to learn.

    As far as Jefferson is concerned, I agree with him on some things and not on others. Of course, educated people make for better government (though one might not be able to tell), but unlike in Jefferson’s day, people are unlikely to keep kids from school so they can work on the farm.

    I believe you don’t know squat about evaluation of HPT factors or evidence in general if you think you measure the objective with the subjective. That’s not just an opinion, but a fact as it relates to the proper deployment of the scientific method. Empiricism is the realm of the objective.

    Doctors and psychologists measure self-reported happiness on a regular basis. They record that information and treat it as empirical evidence. They base their treatment of people on this empirical evidence. Maybe you should tell them that they don’t know squat about HPT factors or evidence in general.

    If you were truly interest in student choice, the only substantive choice would be provide either a compulsory traditional secondary education or trade schooling/apprenticeship programs . . . on a not for profit basis.

    So if I don’t believe in coercing kids to go to a school, whether they want to or not, then I’m not truly interested in school choice? Could you please explain this a little further because it makes no sense.

    Every dollar taken in profit is a dollar not spent on hiring good teachers and/or purchasing student resources.

    The U.S. spends more on teachers and education than all but two other countries in the world. Availability of funds isn’t the issue. We throw away plenty of money in the public school system.

    And you know what? We’ve already got private for profit schools in this country.

    And even the ones that cost less than public school are closed to poor people. That’s a shame.

    They’re optional and at the discretion of whomever is willing and able to pay for that education with that profit margin instead of attending a public school.

    So, the people who are unable to pay for that education, with or without a profit margin, should be forced to attend a school that is either too violent or crowded or dirty or otherwise unsatisfactory. That doesn’t sound fair to me.

    Charter schools or public schools is not a real choice at all. It is – however – a way to implement discriminatory practices back into public education while sucking away resources as profit.

    Resources aren’t really at issue. They’ve been criminally mismanaged for so long, finding ways to make parents and students more satisfied is perfectly reasonable.

    There are lots of poor and middle-class families who are very grateful for their local charter schools. If, that is, one accepts their gratefulness at face value, without dismissing it as subjective feeling.

    They deserve whatever educational choices can be made available to them. Denying them those choices based on ideology (private = bad/public = good) is neither compassionate nor liberal.

  205. When I spew invectives it is much stronger. I become a Buckeye. But, we all have different sensibilities. I worked in the education industry and therefore have more real world knowledge and more of a “reliable source” than those who have not. However, I would never offer myself as an “expert” as some are quick to do. Much of my experience was in a “sleazy profession.” And, as we all have been told, I provide “possibly false” anecdotes.

  206. Elaine, We have discussed testing several times. I do not want testing to be the primary source of evaluation. Having taught, I understand the vagaries of testing,and I also understand that teaching is a craft that needs to be evaluated on several levels. However, the strident stance against testing is simply not flying anymore. There needs to be some standardized measure. The debate is pretty much over on that everywhere but in circles like this. Our more significant differences are w/ charter and vouchers. We’ll just have to disagree..that’s all. Would you want a world where everyone agreed? I sure as hell don’t.

  207. School is great for some students. But it’s always been not great at all for others. (emphasis added below, by me)
    ————————-

    Mark Twain:

    I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

    Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.
    —–

    Albert Einstein:

    It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of education have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.

    One had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.
    —–

    Plato:

    Knowledge that is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
    —–

    Winston Churchill:

    How I hated schools, and what a life of anxiety I lived there. I counted the hours to the end of every term, when I should return home.
    —–

    George Bernard Shaw:

    There is nothing on earth intended for innocent people so horrible as a school.

    What we call education and culture is for the most part nothing but the substitution of reading for experience, of literature for life, of the obsolete fictitious for the contemporary real.
    —–

    Henry David Thoreau:

    What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.

    How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?
    —–

    Bertrand Russell:

    Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education.

    Education is one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.
    —–

    Paul Karl Feyerabend:

    The best education consists in immunizing people against systematic attempts at education.
    —–

    Gilbert K. Chesterton:

    Education is the period during which you are being instructed by somebody you do not know, about something you do not want to know.
    —–

    Helen Beatrix Potter:

    Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.
    —–

    Margaret Mead:

    My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school.
    —–

    William Hazlitt:

    Anyone who has passed through the regular gradations of a classical education, and is not made a fool by it, may consider himself as having had a very narrow escape.
    —–

    Laurence J. Peter:

    Education is a method whereby one acquires a higher grade of prejudices.
    —–

    Anne Sullivan:

    I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think.
    —–

    Alice Duer Miller:

    It is among the commonplaces of education that we often first cut off the living root and then try to replace its natural functions by artificial means. Thus we suppress the child’s curiosity and then when he lacks a natural interest in learning he is offered special coaching for his scholastic difficulties.
    —–

    David P. Gardner:

    Much that passes for education is not education at all but ritual. The fact is that we are being educated when we know it least.
    —–

    Ivan Illich:

    Together we have come to realize that the right to learn is curtailed by the obligation to attend school.
    —–

    John Dewey:

    It is our American habit, if we find the foundations of our educational structure unsatisfactory, to add another story or a wing.

  208. gbk,

    I think the point is that they aren’t rare. Schools that are considered to be “successful” have lots and lots of kids who hate to be there.

    http://www.amazon.com/Wounded-School-Recapturing-Learning-Standing/dp/0807749559/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378949401&sr=1-1&keywords=wounded+by+school

    From the forward by the author’s doctoral adviser at Harvard…

    “In her first foray into the field–in-depth interviews with an award-winning architect, a distinguished professor, a gifted writer, a marketing executive–Olson certainly expected to hear stories of joyful and productive learning, stories that mixed seriousness, adventure, and pleasure, work and play, desire and commitment. Instead, she discovered the shadows of pain, disappointment, even cynicism in their vivid recollections of schooling. Instead of the light that she expected, she found darkness. And their stories did not merely refer to old wounds now healed and long forgotten; they recalled deeply embedded wounds that still bruised and ached, wounds that still compromised and distorted their sense of themselves as persons and professionals.”

    Every high school has a group of kids who do well and enjoy it and a group of kids who don’t and hate it. There are even groups of kids who do well and hate it. The kids who hate it are being failed by our system, which pretends that they’re “rare exceptions.”

  209. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
    – Nelson Mandela

    “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”
    – George Washington Carver

    “A little learning, indeed, may be a dangerous thing, but the want of learning is a calamity to any people.”
    – Frederick Douglass

  210. gbk,

    If you want to talk to intelligent, curious black kids who hate school go to your local secondary school, find the black students, and talk to them about school. Regardless of race, there will always be a significant number of students who hate a good portion of what their school forces them to do.

  211. Otteray Scribe,

    Education is a wonderful thing. It stops being wonderful when we pretend that everybody learns in the same way.

    None of the people I quoted were against learning. They were against the way schools treated students as if they were all the same.

  212. LJM,

    “I think the point is that they aren’t rare. Schools that are considered to be “successful” have lots and lots of kids who hate to be there.”

    Who is “they”? Exceptional people, or “lots and lots of kids” who hate to be there [school, I assume].

    I’m so sick of ambiguous writing.

  213. gbk,

    Also, Frederick Douglass never went to school. He was briefly taught reading and writing, but when that stopped, he decided to teach himself and his fellow slaves.

    I didn’t learn that in school, either.

  214. gbk,

    “They” are kids who hate school. Exceptional or unexceptional, whatever classification they fall under, there are always kids who hate school.

  215. LJM,

    “If you want to talk to intelligent, curious black kids who hate school go to your local secondary school, find the black students, and talk to them about school. Regardless of race, there will always be a significant number of students who hate a good portion of what their school forces them to do.”

    If your argument is “regardless of race” (second sentence) then why should I find, and talk to black students?

    I’ve never met a student, even in college, that doesn’t, “hate a good portion of what their school forces them to do.”

  216. LJM,

    “Also, Frederick Douglass never went to school.”

    That was my point. To take it further, are you suggesting this should again be the norm?

  217. gbk,

    How about these quotes?

    “Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.”
    ― Aristotle

    *****

    “Teaching is the highest form of understanding.”
    ― 
-Aristotle

    *****

    “Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.”
    ― Jacques Barzun

    *****

    “Learning without thinking is labor lost; thinking without learning is dangerous.”
    ~ Chinese proverb.

    *****

    “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
    – Martin Luther King, Jr.

    *****

    “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”
    – Albert Einstein

    *****

    “To me the sole hope of human salvation lies in teaching.” – George – –
    – Bernard Shaw

    *****

    “A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops.” ~ –
    – Henry Adams

    *****

    “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.
    ~ Mark van Doren

    *****

    “The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.'”
    ~Dan Rather

    *****

    “Modern cynics and skeptics… see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.”
    ~John F. Kennedy

    *****

    “Most teachers have little control over school policy or curriculum or choice of texts or special placement of students, but most have a great deal of autonomy inside the classroom. To a degree shared by only a few other occupations, such as police work, public education rests precariously on the skill and virtue of the people at the bottom of the institutional pyramid”.
    ~Tracy Kidder

  218. gbk,

    If your argument is “regardless of race” (second sentence) then why should I find, and talk to black students?

    Because you, for some reason, said, “Oh, sorry, this is the white exceptional list. And I didn’t know what race had to do with it.

    I’ve never met a student, even in college, that doesn’t, “hate a good portion of what their school forces them to do.”

    Well, kids don’t learn very well when they hate what they’re doing. They can memorize things temporarily, but they don’t really learn. We can pretend that hating school is a normal thing, and no big deal, or we can recognize it for the waste of time and resources that it is, and strive to improve the experience for future generations.

    That’s not a terribly radical position.

  219. Elaine,

    None of my quotes where against learning or education as a concept. They were against the model of education that treats all students the same.

  220. LJM,

    “‘They’ are kids who hate school. Exceptional or unexceptional, whatever classification they fall under, there are always kids who hate school.”

    So what’s your point? That society should accept the whims of adolescence and not worry about education?

  221. ‘”No. That implies that no one is going to enjoy every subject or even enjoy them equally.’
    As long as they’re involuntary, that’s true. Not enjoying something isn’t equal to pain. Hating something is, and no normally functioning human should be forced to “learn” something they hate. A “well-rounded” education can and does occur without having to study something one hates.”

    That’s not only a childish argument but an appeal to emotion which I remind you is a logical fallacy. Are you capable of advancing an argument without using logical fallacies? They are a common tool of propaganda trolls and the trap of the ignorant. You don’t strike me as ignorant, so I am going to assume that honest argument is right out from you based upon your performance to this point.

    “’It does not address you are attempting to measure an objective quality with subjective evidence.’
    We disagree then on the factual qualities of self-reporting on happiness. I think if you ask a normally functioning person if they’re happy, then their answer is objectively true.”

    Truthfulness isn’t the problem. Using the subjective to measure objective success is the problem. It violates the scientific method and best evidence practice. Your agreement is not required for this to be fact. We are not discussing metaphysics.

    “’So you don’t think elementary education should be compulsory? That hardly seems to comport to the Jeffersonian ideals vis a vis education and its importance to democracy.’
    Absolutely, I don’t think elementary education should be compulsory. In my opinion, the coercive aspect of education is grotesque paternalism. As if, when given access to free elementary education, large groups of people will say, “No, we prefer our kids to be illiterate.” That just doesn’t happen. Pretending it might is to have a rather low opinion of lower-income people.”

    One word: ridiculous.

    “Any kid who isn’t being educated should have the opportunity to be educated if he or she wants to be, in the way he or she wants to be. The fact is that kids generally want to learn. They don’t always want to learn in the way that adults arrogantly think are the best ways for them, but they want to learn.”

    Children lack capacity legally speaking. They don’t legally have the right to decide if they want an education or not.

    “As far as Jefferson is concerned, I agree with him on some things and not on others. Of course, educated people make for better government (though one might not be able to tell), but unlike in Jefferson’s day, people are unlikely to keep kids from school so they can work on the farm.”

    The historian’s fallacy that predicates subsequent events would have changed Jefferson’s mind about the value and necessity of a public education for all citizens within a democracy. The shift from agrarian to industrial society does not in any way change the predicate of Jefferson as stated and indeed bolsters his contention as an industrial society requires a greater level of education to survive in than an agrarian society.

    “’I believe you don’t know squat about evaluation of HPT factors or evidence in general if you think you measure the objective with the subjective. That’s not just an opinion, but a fact as it relates to the proper deployment of the scientific method. Empiricism is the realm of the objective.’
    Doctors and psychologists measure self-reported happiness on a regular basis. They record that information and treat it as empirical evidence. They base their treatment of people on this empirical evidence. Maybe you should tell them that they don’t know squat about HPT factors or evidence in general.”

    Again, the problem isn’t measuring happiness. The problem is you are attempting to measure the wrong metric of success in education. Also, that doctor’s rely upon the subjective reporting of patients does not negate their use of other tools to objectively confirm diagnosis. Patients can lie. See hypochondria and Munchhausen By Proxy Syndrome.

    “’If you were truly interest in student choice, the only substantive choice would be provide either a compulsory traditional secondary education or trade schooling/apprenticeship programs . . . on a not for profit basis.’
    So if I don’t believe in coercing kids to go to a school, whether they want to or not, then I’m not truly interested in school choice? Could you please explain this a little further because it makes no sense.”

    Logic isn’t your strong point, is it? That was a rhetorical question. There is a difference between student choice in educational paths and choice in school. Choice in educational path is a valid choice. Choice in school is the illusion of choice predicated that private for profit organizations can run better schools than the state when the evidence (as Elaine has so amply provided) shows nothing of the sort. They do make money though. And that’s what’s really important, isn’t it?

    “’Every dollar taken in profit is a dollar not spent on hiring good teachers and/or purchasing student resources.’
    The U.S. spends more on teachers and education than all but two other countries in the world. Availability of funds isn’t the issue. We throw away plenty of money in the public school system.”
    But not equally distributed. Details are important. That whole differential tax base problem makes a . . . wait for it . . . difference.

    “’And you know what? We’ve already got private for profit schools in this country.’
    And even the ones that cost less than public school are closed to poor people. That’s a shame.”

    No. What’s a shame is that private for profit corporations think that their profits should come off the back of taxpayers.

    “’They’re optional and at the discretion of whomever is willing and able to pay for that education with that profit margin instead of attending a public school.’
    So, the people who are unable to pay for that education, with or without a profit margin, should be forced to attend a school that is either too violent or crowded or dirty or otherwise unsatisfactory. That doesn’t sound fair to me.”

    The answer isn’t to pay for them to go to another school. The answer is to fix the one they have access to for no more investment than their taxes.

    “’Charter schools or public schools is not a real choice at all. It is – however – a way to implement discriminatory practices back into public education while sucking away resources as profit.’
    Resources aren’t really at issue.”

    Tell that to the public school teachers who have to buy basic classroom supplies out of their own pocket because they teach in an impoverished district (there’s that pesky poverty problem again) while the wealthy district next door buys stuff they don’t need.

    “They’ve been criminally mismanaged for so long, finding ways to make parents and students more satisfied is perfectly reasonable.”
    Again, wrong metric.

    “There are lots of poor and middle-class families who are very grateful for their local charter schools. If, that is, one accepts their gratefulness at face value, without dismissing it as subjective feeling.”

    Again you appeal to emotion. You are starting to smell like you live under a bridge and eat children.

    “They deserve whatever educational choices can be made available to them.”

    No. They deserve top notch public schools with the option (if they can afford it and desire it) of private schooling.

    “Denying them those choices based on ideology (private = bad/public = good) is neither compassionate nor liberal.”

    I am the product of both public and private schools. They are all alike in this regard: some are good, some are bad. That’s not ideology. That’s reality. Some of the worst schools I attended were public schools. Some of the best schools I attended were public schools. Some of the worst schools I attended were private schools. Some of the best schools I attended were private schools.
    To desire a high quality education for all without having to pay for a private education is the pinnacle of compassion.
    If you just want to say I’m a “bad liberal” though, quite simply that might be insulting if I took what someone spewing Libertarian talking points thinks about liberalism seriously.

    It is manifest that you don’t bring intellectual honesty and good argumentation to the table and you do so on purpose. This leads me to one conclusion concerning your “presentation”. It doesn’t take a for-profit education to figure out what that is.

  222. LJM,

    “Well, kids don’t learn very well when they hate what they’re doing. They can memorize things temporarily, but they don’t really learn. We can pretend that hating school is a normal thing, and no big deal, or we can recognize it for the waste of time and resources that it is, and strive to improve the experience for future generations.”

    Damn, I just spent three days pointing out the concept of recursive thought. I have to start again? I don’t think so.

    But just for fun, what about the current generation?

    And why do you recognize “it” — the damn proverbial “it” that we should all just agree upon (I’m assuming “it” is education) — as a waste of time and resources that “we” should recognize?

    “We” don’t agree on “it.”

    Got that?

  223. gbk,

    So what’s your point? That society should accept the whims of adolescence and not worry about education?

    Yeah…of course. (big sigh)

    I’m just saying that kids should be respected enough to guide their own learning experience. Like I said, it’s not really a radical idea. But then again, so many folks act like it is. I guess that’s why school always has and will continue to be a negative experience for so many.

  224. gbk,

    When you disagree with people in person, face to fact, do you still act like a condescending jerk? I wonder… I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and imagine that you’re not like this in real life.

  225. “I’m just saying that kids should be respected enough to guide their own learning experience. Like I said, it’s not really a radical idea.”

    You aren’t talking about children guiding their education. You are talking about letting them choose between a public school and a public school run by a private for profit corporation. A choice in guiding their education would be the secondary/trades option . . . like they’ve used to great success in Australia.

  226. Gene,

    I wouldn’t say you’re a “bad liberal,” because I don’t know you. I’m simply describing the act of telling a poor family that they must wait several more generations to have the public education they deserve. That act is not liberal. It’s not compassionate. It’s as simple as that.

    Anyway, I think we’re done. If, in every exchange, you’re going to say I’m not being intellectually honest, then there’s no point in responding, really.

    It’s a shame because you make some very good points, among those I think are very, very bad.

    Also, I’m weary of people here suspecting my motives for merely advocating for change in a system that has been in need of fundamental change for over a century. I’m not going to accuse anyone of spewing NEA talking points, because that wouldn’t be constructive (or nice, really). I know for a fact that everyone I’m disagreeing with here cares as much about kids and education as I do.

    ——————————————————————————

    So, I’m off, as of now. Don’t think I’ll be back, really. I’m actually feeling exhausted. It’s strange.

    Disagreeing on the internet isn’t really doing it for me (especially with a few of the folks here). I’ll continue to disagree with good people like yourselves in person. That way, there will still be smiles and understanding. Probably some learning on all sides, as well.

    So, Elaine and Mike and, (sigh) Gene, Pat, Nick, take care. Thanks for indulging me.

  227. LJM,

    “None of my quotes where against learning or education as a concept. They were against the model of education that treats all students the same.”

    *****

    I would say the quotes you selected imply a negative view of education. You didn’t specify that “they were against a certain model of education.” I thought I’d post some quotes with a more positive view of teacing/education.

    Not all educators and not all schools treat all children as if they are the same. Many teachers do their best to meet the individual needs of their students.

  228. LJM,

    What is “face to fact”?

    Yeah, I’m a jerk, even my dogs hate me in real life.

    Sorry to pop your bubble of soothing prose; of superfluous words expended in compensation of content; of ambiguity of writing only the author could love.

    Don’t beat around the bush, LJM; tell us what you really think given your posts in the last hour.

  229. Your faulty assumption is that a for-profit model would bring better results faster when (as Elaine – again – so copiously points out) there is no evidence to support the notion that model yields better results. Indeed, the evidence is contrary at worst and mixed at best, LJM.

    As for talking points? Don’t rely on them for your arguments and I won’t point them out. Talking points don’t make for substantive argument. They’re a wonderful propaganda tool, but useless as a stick in a gunfight when brought to an argument.

    You really wouldn’t like arguing with me in person either.

    I’ve made grown lawyers cry.

    But I am usually smiling when I do it.

  230. LJM,

    “Because you, for some reason, said, ‘Oh, sorry, this is the white exceptional list.’ And I didn’t know what race had to do with it.”

    Look at your list. This is why I mentioned Frederick Douglass. Which you took as an opportunity to inform me that Douglass didn’t go to school, which brings us around, again, as to my querying why he’s not on your list.

  231. Poor LJM,

    When one spouts propaganda they don’t expect to have it so thoroughly exposed and debunked. Gene is correct it was not an honest argument being put forth by LJM, If you look at my comment from 10:18am, it provides a link to an article that shows how the pushers of “educational reform” couch their rhetoric in civil rights language, which you will note was the methodology used by LJM. Methinks he is a troll with a strong financial interest and found the pickings here slim. So it goes.

  232. Republican supporters of the voucher hide the fact from the public that the crisis in the schools is largely the product of decades of federal, state and local spending cuts, tax breaks to big business and attacks on teachers’ and other school employees’ wages and working conditions.

    Privately-run schools will continue to screen applicants and reject any student they deem unacceptable. While the language of most voucher programs prohibits discrimination based on race or national origin, these schools can reject students based on gender, sexual orientation, religion, language, ability to pay, behavioral issues or academic or physical ability. They would be under no financial pressure to provide help for students with special needs, since it is more costly to provide care for special education children, and most private schools are not staffed to handle them.

    The newly-sanctioned voucher system will intensify class and social distinctions. The top schools will be reserved for the wealthiest layers of society who can pay to send their children to elite private schools and academies. Next below on the totem pole will be the private and for-profit schools for middle-class and working class children, whose parents will have to work longer hours and go further into debt to scrape together thousands of dollars to pay tuition costs. At the very bottom will be the public schools, left for the poorest and most disadvantaged working class students. Unable to do little to help working class youth develop learning skills, the role of these schools will be little more than training lower-class students for low-paying jobs.

    Beginning at the time of the American revolution, part of the genius of the nation has been the right to public education, based on the idea that all children, regardless of economic or social status, race, religion or ethnic background, be guaranteed government-paid, quality education. Founding fathers such as Jefferson favored the establishment of government-funded “free schools” in opposition to the aristocratic system in Europe, where education was limited to the wealthiest layers of society and largely overseen by the Church.

    Horace Mann In the nineteenth century these democratic principles were advanced by such reformers as Horace Mann, who wrote in 1848:

    “If one class possesses all the wealth and the education, while the residue of society is ignorant and poor, it matters not by what name the relation between them may be called; the latter, in fact and in truth, will be the servile dependents and subjects of the former.”

  233. “[The Republican-dominated] Texas State Board of Education . . . filtered conservative ideology into many lessons, downplaying the importance of the civil rights movement while touting Newt Gingrich’s ‘Contract With America’; citing the “conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s”; recognizing the roles played by Phyllis Schlafly, The Heritage Foundation, Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association; requiring students to read the speeches of Confederate President Jefferson Davis along with those of Abraham Lincoln; and recognizing country music as a significant cultural movement . . .”

    Miguel Perez, “Texas politicizing education,” Creators Syndicate, 7/20/2010

    The federal No Child Left Behind law (NCLB), which went into effect in 2002, was the cabal’s strategy to reduce learning to mere memorization of inert content in books published by cabal fellow travelers such as Neil Bush. NCLB allows ignoramuses pretending to be teachers and scholars to create spurious content and evaluation instruments that indoctrinate students in reactionary principles. The pretence is that this policy makes schools “accountable.” What this actually means is focusing most of the teachers’ and students’ attention on state standardized testing and results: memorization.

    The law requires all schools to test students in grades 2-12 in reading, math and science. Each state chooses its own test and standards of proficiency. Schools that don’t show that students are making “adequate yearly progress” toward achieving proficiency are subject to federal sanctions, including loss of federal funds, providing free tutoring, allowing students to transfer to another school, and if all else fails, a complete restructuring of the school.

    Evaluation of teachers and students must be based on a clear understanding of what genuine education is:

    Radical change in a teacher’s and a student’s thought and behavior

    Ability in critical thinking: thinking for oneself based on understanding of evidence as opposed to mere authoritarian assertion 2

    Self-awareness: cognizance of one’s beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses

    Critical consciousness: awareness of the world

    “Teachers, their unions under attack, are becoming as replaceable as minimum-wage employees at Burger King. We spurn real teachers–those with the capacity to inspire children to think, those who help the young discover their gifts and potential–and replace them with instructors who teach to narrow, standardized tests. These instructors obey. They teach children to obey. And that is the point.”

    Chris Hedges, Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System, truthdig.org, 4/10/2011

    The College Scam and the Student Loan Scam

  234. I will have to say it was mildly entertaining to have a professional for a change as opposed to the amateur hour talent of some of the trolls as of late. While it is my proclivity to distrust (and expose) those who would willfully deceive, I do admire when someone takes pride in their work.

  235. The bait and switch of school “reform”
    Behind the new corporate agenda for education lurks the old politics of profit and self-interest
    BY DAVID SIROTA
    SEP 12, 2011
    http://www.salon.com/2011/09/12/reformmoney/

    Excerpt:
    In recent weeks the debate over the future of public education in America has flared up again, this time with the publication of the new book “Class Warfare,” by Steven Brill, the founder of American Lawyer magazine. Brill’s advocacy of “reform” has sparked different strands of criticism from the New York Times, New York University’s Diane Ravitch and the Nation’s Dana Goldstein.

    But behind the high-profile back and forth over specific policies and prescriptions lies a story that has less to do with ideas than with money, less to do with facts than with an ideological subtext that has been quietly baked into the very terms of the national education discussion.

    Like most education reporters today, Brill frames the issue in simplistic, binary terms. On one side are self-interested teachers unions who supposedly oppose fundamental changes to schools, not because they care about students, but because they fear for their own job security and wages, irrespective of kids. In this mythology, they are pitted against an alliance of extraordinarily wealthy corporate elites who, unlike the allegedly greedy unions, are said to act solely out of the goodness of their hearts. We are told that this “reform” alliance of everyone from Rupert Murdoch to the Walton family to leading hedge funders spends huge amounts of money pushing for radical changes to public schools because they suddenly decided that they care about destitute children, and now want to see all kids get a great education.

    The dominant narrative, in other words, explains the fight for the future of education as a battle between the evil forces of myopic selfishness (teachers) and the altruistic benevolence of noblesse oblige (Wall Street). Such subjective framing has resulted in reporters, pundits and politicians typically casting the “reformers’” arguments as free of self-interest, and therefore more objective and credible than teachers’ counterarguments.

  236. LJM,

    “Also, Frederick Douglass never went to school.

    He was briefly taught reading and writing [because teaching a slave to read or write could lead to the death of both the teacher and student],

    but when that stopped [I wonder why],

    he decided to teach himself and his fellow slaves [at extreme personal risk for all involved].

    I didn’t learn that in school, either.”

    How proud you must be.

  237. LJM,

    “None of my quotes where [sic] against learning or education as a concept.”

    My brain hurts now.

    Your few words have exposed the very reasons why education is so important.

    Good luck.

  238. LJM,

    “. . . learning or education as a concept.”

    What a concept!

    My mind reels at the very concept of such a bold proposal.

    I’ll beg out now, carry on.

  239. RobinH,
    Only two links can be placed in a single comment or you will either be shunted into the spam box or moderation. If you have more than two links, you need to break the comment up.

  240. LJM,

    I checked with my source and the charter schools and/or voucher schools are not part of the public school system in Michigan…. The charter schools are exactly that part of a university or community college….. Voucher schools are private corporations that are not accountable to the tax payers…. They do not have to disclose what, why and how these funds are disbursed….

    I realize other states are different…..

    Disruptive kids or kids that commit civil or criminal infractions are alternatives ed in a school district…. In a charter or voucher they are given the choice to move along or face expulsion….. So most move along….being mainstreamed in public schools…..

    Neither Charter or voucher schools are required to have programs for the educationally disadvantaged….. Hmmmm….. After count day… They get booted ….. Hmmmm…. Wonder why…..

  241. Getting rich off of schoolchildren
    Stop pretending wealthy CEOs pushing for charter schools are altruistic “reformers.” They’re raking in billions
    By David Sirota
    3/11/13
    http://www.salon.com/2013/03/11/getting_rich_off_of_schoolchildren/

    Excerpt:
    Last week, Los Angeles provided yet another example of a cadre of anti-public-school millionaires swooping in to try (and in this case, fail) to buy a big-city school-board election. And once again, that sparked a round of Orwellian newspeak that distorts what’s really happening in education politics.

    You know how it goes: The pervasive media mythology tells us that the fight over the schoolhouse is supposedly a battle between greedy self-interested teachers who don’t care about children and benevolent billionaire “reformers” whose political activism is solely focused on the welfare of kids. Epitomizing the media narrative, the Wall Street Journal casts the latter in sanitized terms, reimagining the billionaires as philanthropic altruists “pushing for big changes they say will improve public schools.”

    The first reason to scoff at this mythology should be obvious: It simply strains credulity to insist that pedagogues who get paid middling wages but nonetheless devote their lives to educating kids care less about those kids than do the Wall Street hedge funders and billionaire CEOs who finance the so-called reform movement. Indeed, to state that pervasive assumption out loud is to reveal how utterly idiotic it really is, and yet it is baked into almost all of today’s coverage of education politics.

    That, of course, is not all that shocking; after all, plenty of inane narratives are regularly depicted as assumed fact in the political press. What’s shocking is that the other reason to scoff at the Greedy Teachers versus Altruistic Billionaire tale is also ignored. It is ignored even though it involves the most hard-to-ignore facts of all — the ones involving vested financial interests.

    Yes, though it is rarely mentioned, the truth is that the largest funders of the “reform” movement are the opposite of disinterested altruists. They are cutthroat businesspeople making shrewd financial investments in a movement that is less about educating children than about helping “reform” funders hit paydirt. In that sense, they are the equivalent of any industry leaders funding a front group in hopes of achieving profitable political ends (think: defense contractors funding a front group that advocates for a bigger defense budget). The only difference is that when it comes to education “reform,” most of the political press doesn’t mention the potential financial motives of the funders in question.

    While I’ve written about this reality before, recent news perfectly exemplifies how the “reform” movement is really just a sophisticated business strategy.

    First, there was the Washington state ballot initiative expanding publicly subsidized, privately run charter schools. As the Seattle P-I reported at the time, the initiative was effectively underwritten by Amazon and Microsoft. This was part of the latter’s larger education “reform” push through the massive foundation of company founder Bill Gates.

    Yet, in most of the coverage of that ballot measure, just like in most of the coverage of Gates’ foundation work, there is no mention of the fact that both Amazon and Microsoft just so happen to be technology companies — that is, for-profit entities with their eyes on lucrative education technology contracts.

    Those contracts are much easier to land in privately run charter schools because such schools are often uninhibited by public schools’ procurement rules and standards requiring a demonstrable educational need for technology. That reality, no doubt, is part of why charter schools often spend so much more on “administration” and “business services” than do their public school counterparts. Though it is rarely mentioned in the political coverage of education, that spending promises to benefit tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft. (Ready for proposals to give every kid an Amazon Kindle or Windows laptop, paid for by public money?)

    Then, as mentioned before, there was last week’s high-profile Los Angeles school board race. The anti-public-school “reform” slate was bolstered by a $1 million contribution from billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who has been making similar contributions to other education “reform” campaigns across the country. As he pours money into buying these local elections, he is loyally portrayed in the press as a high-minded humanitarian using his perch as New York mayor to earnestly raise issues. Somehow, few bother to mention that he is the founder of a massive information technology company that seems well positioned to break into the burgeoning education business and profit off “reformers”‘ technology triumphalism (seriously, does anyone think we won’t soon see a Bloomberg School Terminal sometime soon?).

    In that same Los Angeles race, the Los Angeles Times reported that News America Inc. donated $250,000 to the “reform” slate. That’s the same News America that is the for-profit education technology arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. It is the same News America that was recently trumpeted in the New York Times for rolling out an expensive “tablet (that) will be targeted at middle-school children” — that is, if the company can convince the school board candidates it underwrites to divert money away from hiring teachers and into News America’s coffers.

    National Public Radio was one of the few media outlets to even mention this profit motive as driving education politics. Setting an example for how education journalism should be conducted (but largely isn’t), it reported that Murdoch’s education technology push is about delivering “future revenues from his educational branch to help shore up the finances of his newspaper and publishing division.”

    Of course, if the tech industry’s attempts to make money by technologizing the classroom was also a proven way to improve education, then the education “reform” movement’s for-profit scheme might seem a bit less odious. It might seem like an example of a laudable public-private partnership whereby an industry does well for itself by doing right for the greater good.

    But that’s not the case in education so far. As the New York Times exhaustively documented, “reformers” have convinced schools to spend “billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.” As just one glaring example of that lack of proof, the Times points out that “a division of the Education Department that rates classroom curriculums has found that much educational software is not an improvement over textbooks” (this why Idahoans recently voted overwhelmingly to reject a plan in the Legislature that would have diverted money for teachers into classroom computers).

  242. LJM 1, September 11, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Elaine, Gene,

    I’d really like to hear your opinions on this essay.

    http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/duh.htm

    Excerpt:

    The field of education bubbles over with controversies. It’s not unusual for intelligent people of good will to disagree passionately about what should happen in schools. But there are certain precepts that aren’t debatable, that just about anyone would have to acknowledge are true.

    While many such statements are banal, some are worth noticing because in our school practices and policies we tend to ignore the implications that follow from them. It’s both intellectually interesting and practically important to explore such contradictions: If we all agree that a given principle is true, then why in the world do our schools still function as if it weren’t?

    Here are 10 examples…

    *****

    I was working on my response to LJM when I read that he/she said he/she probably wouldn’t be returning. Still, I’d like to point out the final paragraph of Alfie Kohn’s essay:

    “In fact, the corporate-style version of “school reform” that’s uncritically endorsed these days by politicians, journalists, and billionaires consists of a series of debatable tactics — many of them amounting to bribes and threats to force educators to jack up test scores. Just as worrisome, though, is that these reformers often overlook, or simply violate, a number of propositions that aren’t debatable, including many of those listed here.”

    I guess Alfie looks at “school reform” the same way I do.

    *****

    What I had already prepared for LJM:

    KOHN:

    Much of the material students are required to memorize is soon forgotten.
    “Knowledge is less likely to be retained if it has been acquired so that one will perform well on a test, as opposed to learning in the context of pursuing projects and solving problems that are personally meaningful.”

    My Response: I agree—and that is one of the reasons that I have a problem with the school reform movement. It ushered in the current era of high stakes testing. Teachers are now being pressured to spend an inordinate amount of class time prepping kids for these mostly multiple choice tests. At the present time, public school educators have less time to work on creative projects that extend learning, inspire students, and get them excited about going to school—all thanks to school reform. I know that firsthand from my own experience.

    ***

    Kohn: Just knowing a lot of facts doesn’t mean you’re smart.

    My Response: I agree. That said, we all need to have a knowledge base in order to understand how things work, in order to be able to make comparisons between the past and the present so as not to repeat the same mistakes, in order to make informed decisions, etc.

    ***

    Kohn: Students are more likely to learn what they find interesting.

    My Response: Once more, I agree. Still, there are things that we need to learn how to do that may not seem too interesting or exciting to us—such as learning how to add, subtract, etc., and learning how to write cogently.

    Note: I once had a very bright and knowledgeable student whom I taught in both second and third grades. One day, he argued with me that he didn’t NEED to learn how to write because he was going to be a scientist when he grew up. He was quite insistent—even to the point of stomping his feet on the floor. That’s when I explained to him that it was of great import that he learn how to express himself in writing so he could pass on his scientific knowledge/research findings to others. He was not the easiest child to deal with—but we had a meeting of the minds and managed to get along well for two years.

    At the end of third grade, he and his mother presented me with a beautiful picture book edition of Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” In the book, his mother wrote the following note to me:

    “Thank you for your patience and humor, for making poetry a delight, for teaching Matthew that promises must be kept and that when responsibilities seem dark and deep, fulfilling them is lovely.”

    Matthew wrote: “These years would have been gloomy without you.”

    I think that children don’t always know when they are seven or ten or fourteen what things they may need to have in their “learning toolbox” in order to get along/succeed in the future.

    ***

    Kohn: Students are less interested in whatever they’re forced to do and more enthusiastic when they have some say.

    My Response: I agree. Good teachers can be adept at getting children to do things in school more willingly by giving them choices—such as letting them select the subject of a biography they are assigned or allowing them to pick out the topic of a report or research paper that is a class requirement. I’d add that having students do creative projects related to required assignments can often help to make them more enthusiastic.

  243. Elaine,

    The late, unlamented LJM had a habit of giving links that actually didn’t support his premises. He was indeed a propaganda troll, but as Gene expressed a very skilled one.

  244. Mike,

    Maybe not quite as skilled as LJM thought he/she was. I was really surprised when I read the last paragraph of Kohn’s essay, which agrees with points that I’ve been making about “school reform” in this country.

  245. What Passes for School Reform: “Value-Added” Teacher Evaluation and Other Absurdities
    By Alfie Kohn
    Posted: 09/ 9/10
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alfie-kohn/what-passes-for-school-re_b_710696.html

    Excerpt:
    The less people know about teaching and learning, the more sympathetic they’re likely to be to the kind of “school reform” that’s all the rage these days. Look, they say, some teachers (and schools) are lousy, aren’t they? And we want kids to receive a better education — including poor kids, who typically get the short end of the stick, right? So let’s rock the boat a little! Clean out the dead wood, close down the places that don’t work, slap public ratings on these suckers just like restaurants that have to display the results of their health inspections.

    On my sunnier days, I manage to look past the ugliness of the L.A. Times’s unconscionable public shaming of teachers who haven’t “added value” to their students, the sheer stupidity and arrogance of Newsweek’s cover story on the topic last spring, the fact that the editorials and columns about education in every major newspaper in the U.S. seem to have been written by the same person, all reflecting an uncritical acceptance of the Bush-Obama-Gates version of school reform.

    I try to put it all down to mere ignorance and tamp down darker suspicions about what’s going on. If I squeeze my eyes tightly, I can almost see how a reasonable person, someone who doesn’t want to widen the real gap between the haves and have-nots (which is what tends to happen when attention is focused on the gap in test scores), might look at what’s going on and think that it sounds like common sense.

    Unfortunately, the people who know the most about the subject tend to work in the field of education, which means their protests can be dismissed. Educational theorists and researchers are just “educationists” with axes to grind, hopelessly out of touch with real classrooms. And the people who spend their days in real classrooms, teaching our children — well, they’re just afraid of being held accountable, aren’t they? (Actually, proponents of corporate-style school reform find it tricky to attack teachers, per se, so they train their fire instead on the unions that represent them.) Once the people who do the educating have been excluded from a conversation about how to fix education, we end up hearing mostly from politicians, corporate executives, and journalists.

    This type of reform consists of several interlocking parts, powered by a determination to “test kids until they beg for mercy,” as the late Ted Sizer once put it. Test scores are accepted on faith as a proxy for quality, which means we can evaluate teachers on the basis of how much value they’ve added — “value” meaning nothing more than higher scores. That, in turn, paves the way for manipulation by rewards and punishments: Dangle more money in front of the good teachers (with some kind of pay-for-performance scheme) and shame or fire the bad ones. Kids, too, can be paid for jumping through hoops. (It’s not a coincidence that this incentive-driven model is favored by economists, who have a growing influence on educational matters and who still tend to accept a behaviorist paradigm that most of psychology left behind ages ago.)

    “Reform” also means diverting scarce public funds to charter schools, many of them run by for-profit corporations. It means standardizing what’s taught (and ultimately tested) from coast to coast, as if uniformity was synonymous with quality. It means reducing job security for teachers, even though tenure just provides due-process protections so people can’t be sacked arbitrarily. It means attacking unions at every opportunity, thereby winning plaudits from the folks who, no matter what the question, mutter menacingly about how the damned unions are to blame.

    And of course it means describing as “a courageous challenge to the failed status quo” what is really just an intensification of the same tactics that have been squeezing the life out of our classrooms for a good quarter-century now. That intensification has been a project of the Obama administration, even though, as Rep. John Kline (R-MN) remarked the other day, in its particulars it comes “straight from the traditional Republican playbook.”

    We can show that merit pay is counterproductive, that closing down struggling schools (or firing principals) makes no sense, that charters have a spotty record overall (and one much-cited study to the contrary is deeply flawed), that high-stakes testing has never been shown to produce any benefit other than higher scores on other standardized tests (and even that only sporadically). To make these points is not to deny that there are some lousy teachers out there. Of course there are. But there are far more good teachers who are being turned into bad teachers as a direct result of these policies.

  246. Well Elaine I know I can be very disruptive myself at time… But, I generally like you and mike…. No questions about it… I appreciate the effort that you folks put into your posts…. Thank you all again….

    My children go to public schools even though they could be sent to private…. That’s where the rub is…. The mother of the children went to private school as well…. But she is steadfast in her commitment to public…

    Now I do have a daughter that’s inquiring about a catholic university….has been accepted….so the decision rests with her…..

  247. Test Today, Privatize Tomorrow
    Using Accountability to “Reform” Public Schools to Death
    By Alfie Kohn
    PHI DELTA KAPPAN
    April 2004
    http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/testtoday.htm

    Excerpt:
    I just about fell off my desk chair the other day when I came across my own name in an essay by a conservative economist who specializes in educational issues. The reason for my astonishment is that I was described as being “dead set against any fundamental changes in the nation’s schools.” Now having been accused with some regularity of arguing for too damn many fundamental changes in the nation’s schools, I found this new criticism more than a bit puzzling. But then I remembered that, during a TV interview a couple of years ago, another author from a different right-wing think tank had labeled me a “defender of the educational status quo.”

    In an earlier age, I might have suggested pistols at dawn as the only fitting response to these calumnies. But of course there’s a lot more going on here than the fact that one writer has had his radical credentials unjustly called into question. The point is that the mantle of school reform has been appropriated by those who oppose the whole idea of public schooling. Their aim is to paint themselves as bold challengers to the current system and to claim that defenders of public education lack the vision or courage to endorse meaningful change. This rhetorical assault seemed to come out of nowhere, as though a memo had been circulated one day among those on the right: “Attention. Effective immediately, all of our efforts to privatize the schools will be known as ‘reform,’ and any opposition to those efforts will be known as ‘anti-reform.’ That is all.”

    Silver-lining hunters may note that this strategy pays a backhanded compliment to the very idea of change. It implicitly acknowledges the inadequacy of conservatism, at least in the original sense of that word. These days everyone insists there’s a problem with the way things are. (On one level, this posture is familiar: Polemicists across the political spectrum frequently try to describe whatever position they’re about to criticize as “fashionable.” The implication is that only the bravest soul – that is, the writer – dares to support an unfashionable view.) But the word reform is particularly slippery and tendentious. The Associated Press Guide to Newswriting urges journalists to exercise caution about using it, pointing out that “one group’s reform can be another group’s calamity.”(1) At the same time, conservative politicians are being exhorted (for example, by a like-minded New York Times columnist) to embrace the word. “For my money,” David Brooks wrote earlier this year, “the best organizing principle for Republicans centers on the word ‘reform’” – which can give the impression that they want to “promote change, while Democrats remain the churlish defenders of the status quo.”(2)

    Of course, this begs the question of what kind of change is actually being promoted, but begging the question is really the whole point, isn’t it? The “reform” of environmental laws has often meant diluting them or simply washing them away. And just ask someone who depends on public assistance what “welfare reform” really implies. The privatizers and deregulators have gone after health care, prisons, banks, airlines, and electric utilities. Now they’re setting their sights on Social Security. I was recently reading about the added misery experienced by desperately poor families in various parts of the world as a result of the privatization of local water supplies. The clarity of language be damned: They come to bury a given institution rather than to improve it, but they describe their mission as “reform.” As Lily Tomlin once remarked, “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.”(3)

    THE NATURE OF “SCHOOL REFORM”

    But back to education. People with an animus against public schooling typically set the stage for their demolition plans by proclaiming that there isn’t much there worth saving. Meanwhile, those who object are portrayed as apologists for every policy in every school. It’s a very clever gambit, you have to admit. Either you’re in favor of privatization or else you are inexplicably satisfied with mediocrity.

    Let’s state what should be obvious, then. First, a defense of public education is wholly consistent with a desire for excellence. Second, by most conventional criteria, public schools have done surprisingly well in managing with limited resources to educate an increasingly diverse student population.(4) Third, notwithstanding that assessment, there’s plenty of room for dissatisfaction with the current state of our schools. An awful lot is wrong with them: the way conformity is valued over curiosity and enforced with rewards and punishments, the way children are compelled to compete against one another, the way curriculum so often privileges skills over meaning, the way students are prevented from designing their own learning, the way instruction and assessment are increasingly standardized, the way different avenues of study are rarely integrated, the way educators are systematically deskilled . . . And I’m just getting warmed up.

    Notice, however, that these criticisms are quite different from – in fact, often the exact opposite of – the particulars cited by most proponents of vouchers and similar “reforms.” To that extent, even if privatization worked exactly the way it was supposed to, we shouldn’t expect any of the defects I’ve just listed to be corrected. If anything, the micro-level impact (on teaching and learning) of such a macro-level shift is likely to exacerbate such problems. Making schools resemble businesses often results in a kind of pedagogy that’s not merely conservative but reactionary, turning back the clock on the few changes that have managed to infiltrate and improve classrooms. Consider the stultifyingly scripted lessons and dictatorial discipline that pervade for-profit charter schools. Or have a look at some research from England showing that “when schools have to compete for students, they tend to adopt ‘safe,’ conventional and teacher-centered methods, to stay close to the prescribed curriculum, and to tailor teaching closely to test-taking.”(5) (One more example of the destructive effects of competition.)…

    “FREEDOM” FROM PUBLIC EDUCATION

    I try to imagine myself as a privatizer. How would I proceed? If my objective were to dismantle public schools, I would begin by trying to discredit them. I would probably refer to them as “government” schools, hoping to tap into a vein of libertarian resentment. I would never miss an opportunity to sneer at researchers and teacher educators as out-of-touch “educationists.” Recognizing that it’s politically unwise to attack teachers, I would do so obliquely, bashing the unions to which most of them belong. Most important, if I had the power, I would ratchet up the number and difficulty of standardized tests that students had to take, in order that I could then point to the predictably pitiful results. I would then defy my opponents to defend the schools that had produced students who did so poorly.

    How closely does my thought experiment match reality? One way to ascertain the actual motivation behind the widespread use of testing is to watch what happens in the real world when a lot of students manage to do well on a given test. Are schools credited and teachers congratulated? Hardly. The response, from New Jersey to New Mexico, is instead to make the test harder, with the result that many more students subsequently fail. [Addendum 2009: “Math scores are up on Long Island and statewide – enough so that state educational leaders could soon start raising the bar….Meryl Tisch of Manhattan, the new Chancellor of the state’s Board of Regents, said…’What today’s scores tell me is not that we should be celebrating but that New York State needs to raise its standards” (Newsday, June 1, 2009.]

    Consider this item from the Boston Globe:

    As the first senior class required to pass the MCAS exam prepares for graduation, state education officials are considering raising the passing grade for the exam. State Education Commissioner David Driscoll and Board of Education chairman James Peyser said the passing grade needs to be raised to keep the test challenging, given that a high proportion of students are passing it on the first try. . . . Peyser said as students continue to meet the standard, the state is challenged to make the exam meaningful.(9)

    You have to admire the sheer Orwellian chutzpah represented by that last word. By definition, a test is “meaningful” only if large numbers of students (and, by implication, schools) fare poorly on it. What at first seems purely perverse – a mindless acceptance of the premise that harder is always better – reveals itself instead as a strategic move in the service of a very specific objective. Peyser, you see, served for eight years as executive director of the conservative Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based think tank devoted to “the application of free market principles to state and local policy” (in the words of its website). The man charged with overseeing public education in Massachusetts is critical of the very idea of public education. And how does he choose to pursue his privatizing agenda? By raising the bar until alarming failure(10) is assured.

    Of course, tougher standards are usually justified in the name of excellence – or, even more audaciously (given the demographics of most of the victims), equity. One doesn’t expect to hear people like Peyser casually concede that the real point of this whole standards-and-testing business is to make the schools look bad, the better to justify a free-market alternative. Now and then, however, a revealing comment does slip out. For example, when the School Choice Advocate, the newsletter of the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation, approvingly described Colorado’s policy of publishing schools’ test scores, a senior education advisor to Republican Governor Bill Owens remarked that the motive behind reporting these results was to “greatly enhance and build pressure for school choice.”(11)

    An op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal just before Christmas by William Bennett and Chester Finn underscored the integral relationship between the push for high-stakes testing (which they call “standards”), and the effort to undermine public schooling (which they call “freedom”). The latter bit of spin is interesting in its own right: Vouchers, having been decisively rejected by voters on several occasions, were promptly reintroduced as “school choice” to make them sound more palatable.(12) But apparently an even more blatant appeal to emotionally charged values is now called for. In any case, the article notes (correctly, I fear) that “our two political parties . . . can find common ground on testing and accountability,” but then goes on to announce that “what Republicans have going for them in education is freedom.” They understand this value “because of their business ties”; unlike Democrats, they are “not afraid of freedom.”

    Even in an era distinguished by unpleasantly adversarial discourse, Bennett and Finn redefine its lower depths with the charge that freedom is a “domain that few Democrats dare to visit.” (Their evidence for this charge is that most Democrats exclude private schools from choice plans.) But this nasty little essay, headlined “No Standards Without Freedom,” serves primarily to remind us that the most vocal proponents of accountability – defined, as it usually is these days, in terms of top-down standards and coercive pressure to raise scores on an endless series of standardized tests – have absolutely no interest in improving the schools that struggle to fulfill these requirements. Public education in their view is not something to be made better; it is something from which we need to be freed.

  248. AY,

    My daughter attended public schools from K through 12th grade. Then she went off to Saint Anselm–a small Catholic liberal arts college that her paternal grandfather had graduated from. She LOVED it there. The school has a lovely campus and wonderful atmosphere.

  249. Alfie Kohn: We Have to Take Back Our Schools
    By Anthony Cody
    July 27, 2011
    http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2011/07/alfie_kohn_we_have_to_take_bac.html

    Excerpt:
    Alfie Kohn has been at the forefront of the resistance to test-based reforms for more than a decade. As we approach the Save Our Schools March this Saturday, I asked him to share some thoughts about the challenges we face.

    When many of us point out the narrowing of the curriculum that has been the result of high stakes testing, we are told that the next generation of tests, which the Department of Education has invested $350 million to develop, will be far better at measuring complex thinking. What do you think of this?

    First, history alone should make us skeptical about the claim that DOE is going to reverse course; as far as I know, there’s zero precedent for meaningful assessments sponsored — or even encouraged — by federal officials.

    Second, the cast of characters currently in Washington makes that claim even less credible. Arne Duncan knows nothing about the nuances of assessment and he’s surrounded by Gates Foundation people and others who are at the heart of the corporate “reform” movement that has actively supported the ultra-high-stakes use of lousy tests.

    Third, any test that’s standardized — one-size-fits-all, created and imposed by distant authorities — is inauthentic and is likely to measure what matters least. If these people were serious about assessing children’s thinking, they would be supporting teachers in gathering information over time about the depth of understanding that’s reflected in their projects and activities. Do the folks at DOE even realize that you don’t need to test in order to assess?

    Fourth, there’s every indication that whatever assessments are created will continue to be the basis for rating and ranking, for bribes and threats. A high-stakes approach, in which you use your power to compel people below you to move in whatever direction you want is at the heart of the Bush-Obama-Gates sensibility (see NCLB, Race to the Top, etc.). And that will undermine any assessment they come up with. We saw that in Kentucky and Maryland a dozen years ago: “Accountability” systems destroyed performance-based assessments. It’s sort of like the economic principle about currency known as Gresham’s Law: Bad assessments will drive out good assessments in a high-stakes environment.

    *****

    Much of your work has focused on student motivation. How do you see high stakes testing affecting students’ motivation to learn?

    There are two things going on here. First, literally scores of studies have shown that extrinsic inducements tend to undermine intrinsic motivation. The more you reward people for doing something (or threaten them for not doing it), the less interest they tend to have in whatever they were made to do. Dangle money or higher ratings in front of students — or teachers — for producing better results, and you may get better results temporarily, particularly if the measure is superficial. But their interest in doing it will likely decline, which means this controlling approach isn’t just ineffective — it’s counterproductive.

    Second, the problem isn’t just with the (manipulative) method; it’s with the goal. The high stakes here aren’t designed to improve learning, at least in any meaningful sense of the word. They’re designed to improve test scores. Those are two completely different things, and they typically pull in opposite directions. Pressure people to raise scores, and the classroom will be turned into a test-prep center. Such an environment will likely make anyone’s passion for learning (or teaching) evaporate.

  250. “I was really surprised when I read the last paragraph of Kohn’s essay, which agrees with points that I’ve been making about “school reform” in this country.”

    Elaine,

    Since he didn’t bother to do anything more than a superficial reading of what you presented, we can assume that he feels everyone operates in that manner. I thought him “skilled” because he tried to present himself as just an honest soul searching for truth, when in fact he came in with a particular agenda to disrupt the thread.

  251. “The point is that the mantle of school reform has been appropriated by those who oppose the whole idea of public schooling. Their aim is to paint themselves as bold challengers to the current system and to claim that defenders of public education lack the vision or courage to endorse meaningful change.”

    Elaine,

    Kohn exposes not only the “educational reform movement” but also shows LJM’s “tell” giveaway of an agenda. It’s all done in a manner to make one believe it is about children, when in fact it is both anti-child and anti-teacher.
    Then again we have some ex-teachers who comment here, who are themselves anti-teacher, but such was their tutorial commitment that they no longer teach. Telling.

  252. AY,

    My grandchildren attend Hebrew Day schools, though my children didn’t. These are schools though that don’t get any public dollars and their attendance is about religious commitment rather than dislike of public schooling.

  253. Elaine,

    She’s a smart child…. And good looking on top of that….she will be able to do whatever she sets her mind too…..

  254. Mike S,

    That’s wonderful…. I fully support choice…. If that’s what they want for the children…. That’s what they should do…. Education is education…. It teaches you how to think outside the box….

  255. Mike S.,

    “It’s all done in a manner to make one believe it is about children, when in fact it is both anti-child and anti-teacher. Then again we have some ex-teachers who comment here, who are themselves anti-teacher, but such was their tutorial commitment that they no longer teach. Telling.”

    Yes, it is very telling.

  256. “Ask what is it in itself?”

    Possibly the best advice ever given by that wise old Roman or anyone else.

    This has been an excellent thread.

  257. AY, That’s correct. You “fully support choice” as long as you have the means to pay for it. I’ll call your educational philosophy, “Let them eat cake.” What continues to astound the majority of clear thinking people is you fail to see the most fundamental hypocrisy in that. What the education industry are hoping for is prez Hillary, thinking she’ll go back to the dark ages. Well here’s what will happen. She will take the education industry money. She’ll give them a wink and nod during the campaign. The back channel line will be, “Don’t worry, I’ll talk reform and choice during the campaign but I’ll take care of you when I get elected.” Then, if she gets elected, she’ll f@ck them and not even give them a kiss. The old school is history. But, like Japanese soldiers stranded on Pacific islands back in the 50’s, the old schoolers are still fighting a lost war. It would be sad if not so self centered.

  258. Nick,

    We’re living in educational dark ages at the current time–thanks to the school reformers. I don’t suppose you read any of the Alfie Kohn articles that I posted.

  259. Standardized Testing
    Separating Wheat Children from Chaff Children
    – Excerpted from the foreword to Susan Ohanian’s book What Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten? (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002)
    By Alfie Kohn
    http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/ohanian.htm

    Excerpt:
    It’s one thing to justify this heartless enterprise in the name of capital-letter abstractions, like Excellence or Higher Expectations. That leaves one with a bad taste. But when the process of flunking vast numbers of children, or forcing them to drop out, or turning whole schools into giant test-prep factories is rationalized as being in the best interest of poor and minority students – the ones who actually suffer most from high-stakes testing — then one staggers backward at the sickening paradox, the sheer Orwellian audacity of the Standardistos.

    Often, of course, they can succeed in raising average test scores. You deprive kids of recess, eliminate music and the arts, cut back the class meetings and discussions of current events, offer less time to read books for pleasure, squeeze out the field trips and interdisciplinary projects and high-quality electives, spend enough time teaching test-taking tricks, and, you bet, it’s possible to raise the scores. But that result is meaningless at best. When a school or district reports better test results this year than last, knowledgeable parents and other observers respond by saying, “So what?” (because higher test scores do not necessarily reflect higher quality teaching and learning) – or even, “Uh oh” (because higher test scores may indicate lower quality teaching and learning).

  260. Nick,
    thank you…. Glad you could drop by…. I think education should be made available to all folks…. Don’t you? Regardless of income levels…. My main beef with charter and voucher schools is one, they do not have to make education availble to the educationally challenged, which taking the cream of the crop of student… and two, the amount of profit they make without having to disclose it…come on… It’s tax payer dollars… Shouldn’t they have to account for it?

    Don’t digress about Hillary… That is one of your staunchest supporters person…

  261. AY,

    It’s okay if people/businesses who run charter schools reap big profits for themselves. What we need is a business model for our schools, doncha know?

    *****

    Reports on charter schools expose new problems
    By Valerie Strauss
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/reports-on-charter-schools-expose-new-problems/2011/10/31/gIQAcMye3M_blog.html

    Excerpt:
    Two new reports about public charter schools expose serious issues about the way they are run and their effectiveness.

    The first was a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Imagine Schools Inc., the nation’s largest for-profit charter school network, which is based in Arlington, Virginia and which operates more than 71 schools in more than a dozen states — including Maryland — and the District of Columbia.

    The story detailed complicated real estate deals through which the six Imagine schools operating in St. Louis with public dollars “are generating millions of dollars” for Imagine and a Kansas City-based real estate investment company.

    Essentially, Imagine sells its buildings to a company that leases them back to Imagine, which pays extremely high rent with public dollars. The paper reported that Imagine’s 2010 annual report shows that revenue grew to $265 million that year from $95 million in 2006…

    The disclosures highlight the inherent problems in allowing for-profit companies operate public schools with public funds. Businesses have one bottom line: making money, and that should never be the bottom line for the way a civic enterprise should be operated.

  262. Well Elaine….

    If not for profit…what would we do… The defense industry has to revamp efforts elsewhere…

  263. Why charter schools need better oversight
    By Valerie Strauss
    Published: September 5, 2013
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/09/05/why-charter-schools-need-better-oversight/

    Excerpt:
    Charter schools were designed to allow founders the freedom to design and run schools as they wish outside the traditional school system bureaucracy. Here’s a case for why some of that freedom needs to be reined in. This was written by Jeff Bryant, an associate fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future and the owner of a marketing and communications consultancy that serves numerous organizations including Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders, PBS, and International Planned Parenthood Foundation. He writes extensively about public education policy at The Education Opportunity Network, where this appeared.

    By Jeff Bryant

    There are undoubtedly wonderful charter schools in existence, and Americans generally have a favorable opinion of charters, but hardly a week goes by without news of a scandal or a study tarnishing their image.

    With schools reopening everywhere across the country, the past week or so was no exception in exposing new problems with an idea that was once thought of as a collaborative endeavor between teacher unions and school administrators aimed at serving struggling students, but has now become a heavily funded, well-marketed movement designed to siphon money away from traditional public schools.

    Leading off the charter scandal parade was Pennsylvania where an auditor general found that the state’s largest charter school pocketed $1.2 million “in improper lease-reimbursement payments.” The scheme the school was running has become all too familiar to anyone following the nefariousness of some charter school operators.

    First, you take a building, “previously owned by one of the charter school’s founders,” according to this Philadelphia Inquirer story, and use municipal bonds to sell it – in this case, for $50.7 million – at very favorable terms to a “related nonprofit organization ‘established for the sole purpose of supporting’ the charter school.” Then “the same individual who was once the charter’s landlord” creates a for-profit management company to run the school. And voila, what was once a public endeavor focused on educating children for the sole purpose of raising the well being of the community becomes a financial bonanza for a few well-placed individuals – one of whom, in this case, just happens to be “a Republican fund-raiser” who served on the governor’s “transition team.”

    This Pennsylvania charter was no lone outlaw, as the state auditor noted. “His office had found similar problems at six other charter schools,” the Inquirer story said.

    The Aspira Trifecta Scandal

    The litany of charter school scandals doesn’t stop there. Philadelphia, a city that is closing neighborhood schools and leaving school children bereft of art and music teachers due to a miserly state budget, is throwing millions – a projected $729 million – at charter schools. A recent report from Philadelphia City Paper revealed that not all of that money spent on charters goes to educating kids.

    Once again, a “non-profit,” Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania, set up to serve the interests of charter schools is playing a shell game with taxpayer money so a few folks get rich. Similar to other charter schemes, “millions of dollars have moved between the network of charter schools, their parent nonprofit, and two property-management entities.”

    Four charter schools in the Aspira chain loaned $3.3 million to Aspira “in addition to $1.5 million in lease payments to Aspira and Aspira-controlled property-management entities ACE and ACE/Dougherty, and $6.3 million in administrative fees paid to Aspira in 2012.” What seems pretty clear is that Aspira has used funds from it charters to acquire real estate: The network’s combined real-estate holdings increased from $13.34 million in 2011 to $23.15 million in 2012. But “in the event of a default on that loan,” according to the article, those real estate assets are not “at risk.” Convenient, no?

    Where is the school district in this affair? “We cannot conduct even limited financial audits of the parent organization,” according to a district spokesperson quoted in the report. And where is the state? Noted reporter Daniel Denvir in the Philadelphia CityPaper: “The state Auditor General, which has seen its staff reduced by 24 percent in recent years, doesn’t have the capacity to audit all the new charter schools that have opened in the past five years. Only three Philadelphia charter schools have been audited since 2008. Aspira’s five charters are not among them.”

  264. The “business model” of metrics works for business……sometimes. The inherent stupidity of this “educational reform” movement is the belief that the “business model” works on everything. Thank you Rand and Von Mises for introducing insanity into the political equation.

  265. Elaine, I did read the one about testing, which as I’ve said, we have some agreement. I tried the 2 HuffPo links but they didn’t work.

  266. Elaine, I just read the new link. Again, I get the fact that he HATES testing. The derision he talks about for “educationists” is something that we disagree on. I too have derision for the industry. And, to date, the only folks who have really been affected by reform are the front line people. So, I understand the resentment teachers feel. I believe the problems start w/ the schools of education and then boards of educations. Teaching is not rocket science. There were a few education classes I took that were helpful back in the late 90’s. But hell, I had coached for 30 years. Coaching is teaching. The schools of education and then the boards of educations are burdensome and bureaucratic. Here’s a couple examples of the idiocy. When I returned to school I didn’t need any history credits to be certified as a secondary school[6-12 in Wi.] history teacher. I initially majored in history back in the 70’s. However, I wanted to take more history courses and took 12 extra credits in courses that interested me. I already had enough sociology credits to be certified as a sociology teacher. However, although certified, the last time I checked no high schools taught sociology. My advisor said, “You should take 9 psychology credits and 6 economic credits. then you could be certified in those subjects.” Well, I may have been certified if I just took those few credits but I do not believe I was knowledgeable enough to teach those subjects. And, after seeing some psych and econ teachers in action, I saw they weren’t either..although they had the papers to say they were.

    If you are to teach a subject you should have a major in that subject. Screw those numerous education courses. Take 6-9 education credits and more core subjects. Hell, Elaine, Mr. Turley could not be certified to teach an 8th grade civics class. WAIT.. they don’t teach civics anymore! Another educationists great idea.

  267. nick,

    I attended college from 1964-1968. I majored in elementary education and minored in science. I had lots of content courses–including American Literature, British Literature, History of Western Civilization, American History, Sociology, Psychology, Economics, College Algebra (two semesters), Biology (two semesters), Test and Measurement, Physics, Chemistry, Earth Science, Weather and Climate, Geography of the United States, World Geography, Nature Studies, Genetics, Conservation of Natural Resources, Geology, and Children’s Literature. I was also required to take courses in art and music appreciation. I appreciate the background that I got from my fours years in college. I don’t know if elementary teachers get the same kind of college education that I got back in the 1960s. I hope they do.

  268. nick,

    BTW, one reason why Civics is no longer taught in some public schools is because of mandated high stakes testing. The tests do not include questions about civics. That’s why some school systems no longer include Civics as a requirement. You can thank school reform for that.

  269. Copy that on the Civic curriculum, Elaine. It was a required course when I was in school and that was about ten years or so before the standardized testing started being pushed.

  270. I hear in Texas presently Gene and Elaine they are taking the 2 to 3 years a student must take Texas away…. Plus 11th grade civics is history as well….. Stupid school deform….

  271. When Schools Become Dead Zones of the Imagination: A Critical Pedagogy Manifesto
    By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | Op-Ed
    Tuesday, 13 August 2013
    http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/18133-when-schools-become-dead-zones-of-the-imagination-a-critical-pedagogy-manifesto

    Excerpt:
    Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.

    ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

    If the right-wing billionaires and apostles of corporate power have their way, public schools will become “dead zones of the imagination,” reduced to anti-public spaces that wage an assault on critical thinking, civic literacy and historical memory.1 Since the 1980s, schools have increasingly become testing hubs that de-skill teachers and disempower students. They have also been refigured as punishment centers where low-income and poor minority youth are harshly disciplined under zero tolerance policies in ways that often result in their being arrested and charged with crimes that, on the surface, are as trivial as the punishment is harsh. 2 Under casino capitalism’s push to privatize education, public schools have been closed in cities such as, Philadelphia, Chicago and New York to make way for charter schools. Teacher unions have been attacked, public employees denigrated and teachers reduced to technicians working under deplorable and mind-numbing conditions. 3

    Corporate school reform is not simply obsessed with measurements that degrade any viable understanding of the connection between schooling and educating critically engaged citizens. The reform movement is also determined to underfund and disinvest resources for public schooling so that public education can be completely divorced from any democratic notion of governance, teaching and learning. In the eyes of billionaire un-reformers and titans of finance such as Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, the Walton family and Michael Bloomberg, public schools should be transformed, when not privatized, into adjuncts of shopping centers and prisons. 4

    Like the dead space of the American mall, the school systems promoted by the un-reformers offer the empty ideological seduction of consumerism as the ultimate form of citizenship and learning. And, adopting the harsh warehousing mentality of prison wardens, the un-reformers endorse and create schools for poor students that punish rather than educate in order to channel disposable populations into the criminal justice system where they can fuel the profits of private prison corporations. The militarization of public schools that Secretary Arnie Duncan so admired and supported while he was the CEO of the Chicago School System was not only a ploy to instill authoritarian discipline practices against students disparagingly labeled as unruly, if not disposable. It was also an attempt to design schools that would break the capacity of students to think critically and render them willing and potential recruits to serve in senseless and deadly wars waged by the American empire. And, if such recruitment efforts failed, then students were quickly put on the conveyor belt of the school-to-prison pipeline. For many poor minority youth in the public schools, prison becomes part of their destiny, just as public schools reinforce their status as second-class citizens. As Michelle Alexander points out, “Instead of schools being a pipeline to opportunity, [they] are feeding our prisons.” 5

    Market-driven educational reforms, with their obsession with standardization, high-stakes testing, and punitive policies, also mimic a culture of cruelty that neoliberal policies produce in the wider society. They exhibit contempt for teachers and distrust of parents, repress creative teaching, destroy challenging and imaginative programs of study and treat students as mere inputs on an assembly line. Trust, imagination, creativity, and a respect for critical teaching and learning are thrown to the wind in the pursuit of profits and the proliferation of rigid, death-dealing accountability schemes. As John Tierney points out in his critique of corporate education reforms in The Atlantic, such approaches are not only oppressive – they are destined to fail. He writes:

    “Policies and practices that are based on distrust of teachers and disrespect for them will fail. Why? ‘The fate of the reforms ultimately depends on those who are the object of distrust.’ In other words, educational reforms need teachers’ buy-in, trust, and cooperation to succeed; ‘reforms’ that kick teachers in the teeth are never going to succeed. Moreover, education policies crafted without teacher involvement are bound to be wrongheaded. 6″…

    When billionaire club members, such as Bill Gates and right-wing donors such as Art Pope, are not directly implementing policies that defund schools, they are funding research projects that turn students into test subjects for a world that even George Orwell would have found hard to imagine. 8 For instance, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has provided a $500,000 grant to Clemson University to do a pilot study in which students would wear galvanic skin bracelets with wireless sensors that would track their physiological responses to various stimuli in the schools. A spokesperson for the foundation argues in defense of this creepy obsession with measuring students’ emotional responses by claiming that the biometric devices are a help to teachers who can measure “‘real-time’ (reflective feedback), kind of like a pedometer.” 9…

    In contrast to the socially and ethically numb forms of educational research endorsed by so-called reformers, a recent study has linked high-stakes testing to lower graduation rates and higher incarceration rates, indicating that such testing plays a significant role in expanding “the machinery of the school-to-prison pipeline,” especially for low-income students and students of color.12 Most critics of the billionaires’ club ignore these issues. But a number of critics, such as New York University education professor Diane Ravitch, have raised significant questions about this type of research. Ravitch argues that Gates should “devote more time to improving the substance of what is being taught . . . and give up on all this measurement mania.” 13 Such critiques are important, but they could go further. Such reform efforts are about more than collapsing teaching and learning into an instrumental reductionism that approximates training rather than education. As Ken Saltman points out, the new un-reformers are political counter-revolutionaries and not simply misguided educators. 14

    Noam Chomsky gets it right in arguing that we are now in a general period of regression that extends far beyond impacting education alone. 15 This period of regression is marked by massive inequalities in wealth, income and power that are fueling a poverty and ecological crisis and undermining every basic public sphere central to both democracy and the culture and structures necessary for people to lead a life of dignity and political participation. 16 The burden of cruelty, repression and corruption has broken the back of democracy, however weak, in the United States. America is no longer a democracy, nor is it simply a plutocracy. It has become an authoritarian state steeped in violence and run by the commanding financial, cultural and political agents of corporate power. 17

    Corporate sovereignty has replaced political sovereignty, and the state has become largely an adjunct of banking institutions and financial service industries. Addicted to “the political demobilization of the citizenry,” the corporate elite is waging a political backlash against all institutions that serve democracy and foster a culture of questioning, dialogue and dissent. 18 The apostles of neoliberalism are concerned primarily with turning public schools over to casino capitalism in order to transform them into places where all but the privileged children of the 1% can be disciplined and cleansed of any critical impulses. Instead of learning to become independent thinkers, they acquire the debilitating habits of what might be called a moral and political deficit disorder that renders them passive and obedient in the face of a society based on massive inequalities in power, wealth and income. The current powerful corporate-based un-reform movement is wedded to developing modes of governance, ideologies and pedagogies dedicated to constraining and stunting any possibility for developing among students those critical, creative, and collaborative forms of thought and action necessary for participating in a substantive democracy.

    At the core of the new reforms is a commitment to a pedagogy of stupidity and repression that is geared toward memorization, conformity, passivity, and high stakes testing. Rather than create autonomous, critical, and civically engaged students, the un-reformers kill the imagination while depoliticizing all vestiges of teaching and learning. The only language they know is the discourse of profit and the disciplinary language of command. John Taylor Gatto points to some elements of this pedagogy of repression in his claim that schools teach confusion by ignoring historical and relational contexts. 19 Every topic is taught in isolation and communicated by way of sterile pieces of information that have no shared meanings or context.

  272. The Coming Revolution in Public Education
    Why the current wave of reforms, with its heavy emphasis on standardized tests, may actually be harming students
    John Tierney
    Apr 25 2013
    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/04/the-coming-revolution-in-public-education/275163/

    Excerpt:
    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 teachers’ pay) 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.*

    Critics of the contemporary reform regime argue that these initiatives, though seemingly sensible in their original framing, are motivated by interests other than educational improvement and are causing genuine harm to American students and public schools. Here are some of the criticisms: the reforms have self-interest and profit motives, not educational improvement, as their basis; corporate interests are reaping huge benefits from these reform initiatives and spending millions of dollars lobbying to keep those benefits flowing; three big foundations (Gates, Broad, and Walton Family) are funding much of the backing for the corporate reforms and are spending billions to market and sell reforms that don’t work; ancillary goals of these reforms are to bust teacher unions, disempower educators, and reduce spending on public schools; standardized testing is enormously expensive in terms both of public expenditures and the diversion of instruction time to test prep; over a third of charter schools deliver “significantly worse” results for students than the traditional public schools from which they were diverted; and, finally, that these reforms have produced few benefits and have actually caused harm, especially to kids in disadvantaged areas and communities of color. (On that last overall point, see this scathing new report from the Economic Policy Institute.)

    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.

  273. Civics left the curriculum well before No Child Left Behind. My cynical take is the educationists, and the pols they are in cahoots w/, didn’t want kids to understand our govt.

    I guess I had to state that I was speaking of secondary school when discussing teachers unqualified to teach specific subjects like history, economics, psychology, science, etc. Elementary education is a different ballgame.

  274. Yeah, because everyone knows teachers are out to not teach subjects and subvert the government which employs the majority of them.🙄

  275. It is the govt. that does not want its people to understand how it is SUPPOSED TO WORK. The education industry, a monopoly controlled by the govt., is compliant to its wishes by eliminating civics from the curriculum long ago. Ignorance is bliss. Just go to work, pay your taxes, and STFU, “We are in control here” [Al Haig].

  276. That makes no sense, nick. That would require that teachers work against their own self-interests, i.e. full employment. Why would teachers deliberately try to eliminate jobs by dumbing down the curriculum? It makes more sense that they would be trying to require more and/or more difficult courses to be taught that require more and/or better trained (and ergo better paid) teachers.

  277. Teachers have little or no say in curriculum. That is left up to school boards who are elected officials, and Boards of Educations that are their bureaucratic arm. I’m speaking specifically of civics, which people under the age of 35-40 were never taught, Just watch the Jimmy Kimmel, Leno, etc. interviews in the street of that demographic when they ask BASIC questions about our government. They get laughs out of it. I don’t laugh.

  278. Then your gripe isn’t with teachers, but with local school boards. You do realize that the local school boards are being pushed at the state and federal level to implement the standardized testing that is driving the dumbing down of curricula, right? The local SB’s are under enormous pressure to “teach to the test” and the tests proper are designed and pushed from higher up the food chain by people who want to privatize education. When you use neologisms like “educationists”, it sounds like you are blaming teachers, nick.

  279. Gene, I have said here, and in other similar threads, I fault the industry. I expressed empathy up thread because to date, only teachers have been affected by reforms..the front lines as it were. I used “educationists” as it was in a reading assignment used by the author. My preferred term is “education industry.” I got that term from a history professor of mine, one of the best ever, who taught a class I took in 1973. titled The History of Education. Also, I have said many times I do not think testing should be the primary source of evaluation but some objective measure must be part of an overall evaluation, which includes aspects of teaching such as motivational skills and other key components of teaching.

  280. Thanks for clarifying that, nick. I have to agree that some kind of objective metrics are needed to evaluate schools, but having done HPT (human performance testing) design in the past, it’s pretty obvious the “deformers” are not interested in any kind of valid metrics. As I said in dealing with the troll earlier, problem solving and metrics related to that are key. Problem solving is probably the best way to test integrated knowledge, but it doesn’t lend itself to form testing or a multiple choice format.

  281. nick spinelli 1, September 14, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Civics left the curriculum well before No Child Left Behind.

    *****

    I didn’t say anything about No Child Left behind–I said school reform. School reform brought high stakes testing into my state well before NCLB. After the state instituted the MCAS tests, some communities began making changes to their curricula. MCAS did not include questions about Civics.

    *****

    “The education industry, a monopoly controlled by the govt…”

    You mean it isn’t the big bag teacher unions that control education?

  282. Nick & Gene,

    One big problem has been the State Boards of Education in some states. Members of those boards aren’t elected. They are appointed.

    *****

    State boards of education are integral to the governance of public education in the United States. State Boards, operating as a lay body over state education, are intended to serve as an unbiased broker for education decisionmaking, focusing on the big picture, articulating the long-term vision and needs of public education, and making policy based on the best interests of the public and the young people of America.

    http://www.nasbe.org/about-us/state-boards-of-education/

  283. Nick,

    Most educators don’t have a problem with testing students. Many educators, however, have a big problem with the mania for high stakes testing that has taken over this country–a mania brought to us courtesy of so-called school reformers…many of whom had ulterior motives. Prepping children for multiple choice tests shouldn’t be a major focus of education. Unfortunately, it is these days.

  284. The Failure of Corporate School Reform: Toward a New Common School Movement
    Kenneth Saltman
    National Education Policy Center
    December 8, 2011
    http://nepc.colorado.edu/blog/failure-corporate-school-reform-toward-new-common-school-movement

    Excerpt:
    In the United States, a corporate model of schooling has overtaken educational policy, practice, curriculum and nearly all aspects of educational reform.

    While this movement began on the political right, the corporate school model has been heralded across the political spectrum and is aggressively embraced by both major parties. Corporate school reformers champion private-sector approaches to reform including, especially, privatization, deregulation and the importation of terms and assumptions from business, while they imagine public schools as private businesses, districts as markets, students as consumers and knowledge as product. Corporate school reform aims to transform public schooling into a private industry nationally by replacing public schools with privately managed charter schools, voucher schemes and tax credit scholarships for private schooling. The massive expansion of deunionized, nonprofit, privately managed charter schools with short-term contracts is an intermediary step toward the declaration of their failure and replacement by the for-profit industry in Educational Management Organizations (EMOs). EMOs extract profit by cutting teacher pay and educational resources while relying on high teacher turnover and labor precarity.(i) Corporate school reform seeks solutions to public problems in private-sector ways, from contracting out schools and services, to union-busting, a wholesale embrace of numerical benchmarking and database tracking and the modeling of schooling and administration on multiple aspects of corporate culture. Policy hawks make demands, for example, for teacher entrepreneurialism, or insist that students dress like retail chain workers and call school heads “CEO”; or install corporate models of numerical “accountability,” paying students for grades and teachers for test scores; or leaders play intricate Wall Street-style shell games with test performance to show rising “return on investment”; or teachers assign students the task of crafting a resume for Benjamin Franklin; BP was involved in creating California’s new science curriculum: the examples are endless.

    Despite the fact that corporate school reforms have expanded at an exponential speed, the dominant corporate school reforms have failed on their own terms. Such reformers have insisted on “accountability” through test scores and lowering costs, but it is precisely in reference to these accountability measures that corporate school reforms have failed. The failing policies that are being aggressively implemented nonetheless include: contracting out management to privately managed charters or for-profit educational management organizations;(ii) putting in place voucher schemes or neo-voucher scholarship tax credits;(iii)expanding commercialism;(iv) imposing corporate “turnaround” models on schools and faculty(v) that often involve firing entire faculties and administrations, reducing curriculum and pedagogy to narrow numerically quantifiable and anti-intellectual, anti-critical test-based forms; the creation of “portfolio districts” that imagine districts as a stock portfolio and schools as stock investments;(vi) reorganizing teacher education and educational leadership on the model of the MBA degree;(vii) and the elimination of advanced degrees and certification in favor of pay-for-test-performance schemes such as value added assessment.(viii)

    These corporate school reforms are deeply interwoven with commercial interests in the multibillion dollar test and textbook publishing industries, the information technology and database tracking industries and the contracting industries.(ix) The corporate sector has in the last decade positioned education in the United States as a roughly $600 billion per year “industry,” ripe for takeover.(x) As directions for future economic growth are uncertain, public tax money in public services appears to corporations and the super-rich, who are flush from decades of upward redistributions, as tantalizing to pillage.(xi) These upward redistributions of public wealth and governance are particularly obvious in Wisconsin and New Jersey as tax cuts on the super-rich and corporations and slush funds for business development are funded by defunding public and higher education; attacking teacher pay, benefits and unions; expanding privatization schemes including vouchers, charters, tuition fee hikes; and shifting educational costs onto individual working-class and professional-class individuals. The same agenda is being enacted in Michigan, Indiana, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania – to name a few. Chicago could be considered the blueprint with its Renaissance 2010 plan designed by the Commercial Club and implemented by Arne Duncan. That plan – which resulted in failure to raise test scores or lower costs – succeeded in privatizing and deunionizing about 100 of the 600 schools in the district.

  285. Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality
    The impacts of test-based teacher evaluations, school closures, and increased charter school access on student outcomes in Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
    BY E LAINE W E I S S AND DON LONG
    4/22/2013
    http://www.epi.org/files/2013/bba-rhetoric-trumps-reality.pdf

    Excerpt:
    Executive summary
    Top-down pressure from federal education policies such as Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind, combined with organized advocacy efforts, is making a popular set of market-oriented education “reforms” look more like the new status quo than real reform. Reformers assert that test-based teacher evaluation, increased school “choice” through expanded access to charter schools, and the closure of “failing” and underenrolled schools will boost falling student achievement and narrow longstanding race- and income-based achievement gaps. The 2010 documentary Waiting for Superman presented these policies as sure fixes for education woes closely correlated with child poverty.

    This report from the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education examines these assertions by assessing the impacts of these reforms in three large urban school districts: Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago. These districts were chosen for study because all enjoyed the benefit of mayoral control, produce reliable district-level test score data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and were led by vocal proponents who implemented versions of this reform agenda. Indeed, former reform leaders in all three cities have become high-profile national proponents who disseminate the agenda across multiple districts and states.

    The report finds that the reforms delivered few benefits and in some cases harmed the students they purport to help. It also identifies a set of largely neglected policies with real promise to weaken the poverty-education link, if they receive some of the attention and resources now targeted to the touted reforms. Specifically the report finds:

    – Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more, in “reform” cities than in other urban districts.
    – Reported successes for targeted students evaporated upon closer examination.
    – Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers.
    – School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.
    – Charter schools further disrupted the districts while providing mixed benefits, particularly for the highest-needs students.
    – Emphasis on the widely touted market-oriented reforms drew attention and resources from initiatives with greater promise.
    – The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance.
    – Real, sustained change requires strategies that are more realistic, patient, and multipronged.

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