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

Friday, December 23, 2005

Privatization of Public Schools in Detroit and Harrisburg

In 2001, there were 173 for-profit charter schools operating in the U.S. Today the number is over 3,000 and growing. Just in the last couple of days, Harrisburg and Detroit newspapers (here and here) report a sharp increase in enrollment in these corporate welfare schools that are draining resources from public schools already stretched to the breaking point by testing mandates and resource shortages. With little more to justify their appeal than names that mirror parental aspirations for their children, outfits like Harrisburg Prep and Joy Preparatory Academy operate as privately-managed company schools that most often are no better, and sometimes worse, than the public schools that parents have left behind:
Some charters in Detroit have gained more students despite poor academic performance. Joy Preparatory Academy performed worse than Detroit schools on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests. Yet the charter school doubled its enrollment this fall to 293 students.
With no data or research to justify such shifts, these desperation experiments are being driven by No Child Left Behind and the assured failure that is embedded in the impossible requirements that have already brought sanctions to the poorest and most vulnerable public schools. Sadly, parents, angered and frightened by federally-mandated letters labeling their neighborhood schools as failures, are being suckered into schools with teaching and curriculum based on the chain gang and straight-jacketed model of Direct Instruction, a scripted approach to learning that makes children entirely unfit for the type of the thinking, understanding, and decision making that higher education requires for success. These children are being prepared, then, for the mindless order-taking that their economic and social dead ends will assure them if this type of schooling is allowed to continue.

The other sad fact is that middle class parents outside of Harrisburg or Detroit remain insulated from the public school dismantling that is going on in urban centers, much the same way that they were oblivious to the lives of impoverished New Orleanians until Katrina. There is, however, no hurricane in Detroit or Harrisburg to get the media interested or to get help mobilized, but, rather, there is a steady, rising tide that is quietly taking under the public schools from the urban soup bowls outward toward the suburbs. By the time the areas around Detroit notice the waters lapping around their own communities, which is inevitable given the current NCLB requirements, poor children in the cities will have already learned to march with unquestioning acceptance to the beat of a drummer intent upon prepping them for a renewed enslavement as second-class citizens for, yet, another generation or more.

Here is just one report (pdf) of what public school parents (all parents) may expect as we move toward 2014:
Massachusetts NCLB Study: Failure ahead for 74% of Bay State Schools, exposing No Child Left Behind Flaws.

Wonder what Horace Mann would think about this underhanded school privatization scheme?

Jim Horn

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