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

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

AP's Ben Feller: Media Stooge for Privatization

Last month Feller reported on what he called a loophole that was not a loophole at all, but rather a clear stipulation of NCLB law regarding the number of students it would take to make up a subgroup for purposes of reporting Adequate Yearly Progress. At the end of April's week-long series of smears against public schools and state departments of education, Feller followed the script and interviewed Spellings, providing her the opportunity to come to the rescue, sounding tough as she planned to make sure that every child's score count--count, that is, toward making sure the child's school is labeled failing earlier than it would otherwise.

It was all a piece of media-inspired political theater that has few equals in the annals of education policy manipulation fronting as news: take the attention off of NCLB's oppressive mandates by blaming the schools for following the law and avoiding the oppression when possible, and then make the oppressor the hero by reinforcing the oppression and making the victim suffer more. Magical.

Now Feller and his buddies at the conservative sludge tank, the Fordham Foundation, are at it again, castigating public schools this time before most of the accusees even get a chance to engage in the yet-to-be-commtted offense to which they are being accused: choosing an option offered by the Law that does not lead directly to the privatization that is being sought by Fordham's lead privatizer, Mike Petrelli, described by Feller as "a school change advocate." You see, after a school is five years on the federal watch list, we see NCLB shift into high gear. From Feller:

When a school reaches the end of the line, its district has five choices:

1. Hire an outside organization to run the school.

2. Reopen the school as a charter school, with new leadership and less regulation.

3. Replace most or all of the school staff with any ties to the school's failure.

4. Turn operation of the school over to the state, if the state agrees.

5. Choose any other major restructuring that will fundamentally reform the school.


Choices 3 and 4 are the least likely to be chosen because the states cannot take over or handle the load of all the failing schools coming down the line (unless NCLB is dumped next year), and there simply are not enough teacher and administrator replacements to go around when the number of failures begin to cascade. Petrelli, afraid to tell the newspaper reading public what he knows, gives his stooge the number of 10,000 failing schools that he sees on the horizon. That would represent roughly 20% of the 53,000 receiving federal funds.

Massachusetts, however, estimates 74% of its schools failing by 2014, and try these numbers from the press release for The Impact of the Adequate Yearly Progress Requirement of the Schools in the Great Lake Region:

  • Indiana: Under the best case scenario, it is projected that 54 percent of schoolswill fail by 2014. Under a more realistic scenario, 80 to 85 percent of schools will fail.
  • Wisconsin: Under the best case scenario in, it is projected that over half of the schools will fail by 2014. Under a more realistic scenario, 84 percent of schools will fail.
  • Ohio: Under the best case scenario, it is projected that almost half of the schools will fail by 2014. Under a more realistic scenario, close to 80 percent of schools will fail.
  • Minnesota: It is projected that 85 percent of schools will fail by 2014.
  • Michigan: Under the best case scenario, it is projected that half of the schools will fail by 2014. Under a more realistic scenario, almost every school will fail.
  • Illinois: Under the most optimistic scenario, it is projected that over 65 percent of schools will fail by 2014. Under a more realistic scenario, that number is closer to 85 percent.

What Petrelli and Finn and the other privatizers at Fordham are worried about is, first, that the general public will realize how mass failure is built into NCLB. Secondly, they are afraid that schools labeled failures for five years will not choose option 1 or 2, which, if they did, would be a dream come true for Whittle and the corporate welfare school scammers. They are most concerned that schools will go for option 5--"any other major restructuring that will fundamentally reform the school."

How do the privatizers, then, make Option 5 the most unattractive from a PR standpoint? They call it a loophole, and then accuse anyone who uses this option trying to skirt the Law:

Yet some see an enormous loophole. Free to choose "any other major restructuring," districts have opted for milder remedies that won't turn schools around, Petrilli said.
Don't be surprised to hear Feller interviewing the Queen of Pain as she comes busting out of her office looking for another loophole to close, all in the name of helping poor children. And look for Feller to be sitting the outer office at ED waiting for Her Loopiness to appear.

NCLB has to be dumped into the Potomac next year, and it will no doubt take civil disobedience to make it happen.

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