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

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

School Privatization a Subject in New Rethinking Schools

Stan Karp's piece on NCLB is among several good pieces available online in the Spring 2006 issue of Rethinking Schools. Below is a clip that speaks specifically to the privatization issue. With over 60% of Americans still strongly supporting their public schools, the neocon privatization effort could be a very big issue in the Fall elections. All we need are some candidates who care, which will require enough constituents who will make enough noise to make them care.

A clip from the NCLB piece:

As NCLB reauthorization nears, a central question will be what can be done to limit the damage, especially since the law's harmful impact is poised to grow dramatically over the next five years as its more drastic sanctions kick in.

For several years, Democrats in Congress have resisted reopening the provisions of NCLB, warning that the current political climate was likely to encourage the introduction of even more aggressive privatization measures. This will undoubtedly be attempted next year. Renewed evidence that NCLB's sanctions are a stalking horse for privatization can be found in the President's 2007-08 budget. While overall education funding is significantly reduced, the administration found $100 million to support another voucher proposal that would make private schools eligible to receive NCLB transfer students. Some members of Congress have been pushing for such vouchers since NCLB was first proposed, and their repeated re-emergence in everything from Katrina relief packages to local Washington, D.C., "pilot programs" to annual presidential budgets heralds their inevitable reappearance in next year's NCLB reauthorization plans.

Democratic supporters of the law generally have confined themselves to complaints about funding levels, while they continue to endorse NCLB as an essentially positive program for schools. But growing local and state sentiment against NCLB assures that other issues will surface in the reauthorization process. Significant elements of the education and civil rights lobbies are committed to trying to modify NCLB and proposals for reform have already come from the National Association of State Legislators, many professional associations, and the national teachers' unions. FairTest has also put together a broad coalition of education advocacy and civil rights groups to support replacing NCLB's most harmful provisions with measures that could support better assessment practices and reform efforts. [See www.fairtest.org.]

Among the proposals likely to be considered by Congress next year are:

  • Efforts to allow states to use "growth models" that give schools and districts credit for relative progress in place of more rigid AYP formulas.

  • Limits on the applicability of sanctions, like transfers and supplemental tutoring, to "failing" subgroups (or even "failing" students within "failing" subgroups). Currently, everyone in a NCLB-sanctioned school becomes eligible once a school is deemed "in need of improvement." (This is true even if a school is sanctioned for "inadequate performance" in consecutive years by two totally different groups.)

  • Proposals to reverse the order of the transfer and tutorial sanctions, so that the more disruptive, and less available, transfer option would kick in later. This would also give a boost to private tutorial providers, who stand to profit from largely unregulated and unmonitored access to potentially $2 billion in public funds each year.

  • Proposals to raise funding to levels that would support both the law's testing mandates and some fraction of the estimated costs of actually reaching them (or conversely to suspend sanctions in any year the law was not fully funded.)

  • Proposals to give states more leeway to issue waivers, vary assessment practices and testing schedules, and pursue their own formulas for reform.

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