"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Accountability, or someone to blame?

One of my students emailed me yesterday to say that something is happening in discussions among mothers with school-age children. Suddenly, they are terrified that their children will not pass the annual tests mandated by NCLB. These middle class mothers blame the teachers for not preparing their children for the test. Many teachers, in turn, blame bad parenting or the mandated curriculum that does not seem aligned with the tests that students are required to take.

But there is a growing chorus who are blaming the testing orgy, itself--a policy carefully put together with an unachievable goal of 100 % proficiency in reading and math by 2014. While poverty schools, both rural and urban, are now going on the federal "watch-list" (they are the canaries in this coal mine) for the second or third year, and thus facing more and more sanctions, those middle class preserves are now beginning to realize how likely it will be that their kids' schools will also become subject to the list of sanctions that were crafted to weaken support of public schools and to open the door to school privatization. After 3 or 4 years on the federal watch-list (great term, "watch-list"), parents and school boards will be ready to try some of the "free-market" solutions that inspired this reform from the beginning. This is the plan to shatter the resistance to bringing in corporations to manage the public schools.

The rise of the corporate welfare school (companies taking public dollars to manage the schools and hire the teachers) depends upon the failure of the public schools, and that "failure" is happening now in the name of accountability, high standards, and ending the achievement gap. No more cynical or inhumane game could be conceived in the name of education.

So the blaming that is going around among teachers and parents needs to be solidified against the culprit, rather than blaming one another for events that neither created nor can control. Peter McWalters, Commissioner of Education for Rhode Island, believes the political solution, indeed, rests with teachers and parents, as they begin to talk about the harsh realities of their students and children and schools. When parents, then, begin to talk to their state and federal lesgislators, that is when the political rhetoric and realities will begin to change. Teachers can't make that political move because they have already been politically marginalized as selfish union members who only care about their paychecks. The MacSchools of the future that neo-cons envision will assuredly will not have union members.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:09 PM

    First these parents need to be educated -- without hitting them over the head. That's the hard part. I have found Anna Quindlen's article from Newsweek very useful in terms of legitimizing the issue and portraying the damage being done to children.

    I guess I'll have to keep copies in my beach bag.