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

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

In God We Trust, Everyone Else (except Spellings) Bring Data

With the future of the school voucher crusade in doubt more than ever, thus threatening the traditional conservative route to school privatization, the Secretary tacked quickly on Monday and headed upwind on what she can only hope will be a more favorable point of sail. The other big weapon in her arsenal to crush public education is the charter school, and the corporate welfare con artists like Chris Whittle and David Brennan have the inside track at ED to make for-profit charters in K-12 schooling what MacDonalds and Burger King were quality dining.

Spellings got right to the point in her address Monday to kick off National Charter Schools Week. Charter schools offer the opportunity to turn schools into efficient work camps for inner city children, and Spellings is excited about what she has seen in Newark recently:
I recently visited Robert Treat Academy charter school in Newark, New Jersey. Like lots of charter school students, students at Robert Treat often go to school six days a week. And on their day off, the principal says they do community service. No wonder 100 percent of the school´s fourth graders are reading at grade level.
For whatever reason, Spellings did not mention that 4th graders at Treat also scored 100% in science and 98% in math, some twenty points above the state average for New Jersey. Hmm.

Spellings believes that charters offer a solution to those old-fashioned public schools that are so tiresome and out of date, with teacher benefits and publicly-elected officials calling the shots. As noted in this anti-union piece from the Columbus Dispatch on Monday, the Forham Foundation inside advisors for Ohio charters, where, by the way, there are no union representation in the 300 or so schools, are as un-thrilled as Spellings about the prospect of union members spoiling the Walmartization of the teaching profession:

Education researchers and charter-school leaders are skeptical of the unions’ motives.

"If charter-school teachers, of their own accord, say, ‘We want to unionize,’ that’s their prerogative," said Terry Ryan, vice president for Ohio programs and policy at Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a charter advocacy group in Washington and Dayton. "If the unions are out there agitating and getting charter-school teachers fired up as a political strategy to use against charter schools, that’s another thing."

With some more of that homespun Texas humor with enough of a twist to put it beyond the reach of her boss, Spelling drawled:

As we say back in Texas, "If all you ever do is all you´ve ever done, then all you´ll ever get is all you ever got." In my experience, if you just put more money in the same old system for the same old things, it usually means you´ll just get the same old results. And that´s not good enough anymore.
Brilliant. For Spellings, we must assume that charters represent a kind of free market religious faith, since there is no evidence that these outfits that she so lovingly embraces have any of the scientifically-based research that her Grover would, otherwise, be screaming for. The evidence we do have have shows charters doing no better, or consisently worse, in terms of test scores than the public schools they are intended to supplant.

We must assume that Spellings' religious zeal has made it forgivable for her to forego the requirements of scientifically-based evidence that others must provide when requesting federal education funds. Obviously, she and her boss are, once again, beyond the requirements of the Law.

Accountability? It's like the billions going to tutoring companies--the invisible hand of god, er, the market will provide the only accountability that matters:

Charter schools offered a fast and effective way to bring public education back online in New Orleans. That´s because charters can cut through bureaucracy and red tape to hire their own teachers, set their own schedules, innovate new teaching strategies, and do what´s best for kids. And they´re even more accountable for results than traditional public schools because when charters fall short of standards, they close. And if charters don´t please their customers - meaning parents and students - they´ll lose their business because parents have a choice.
And never mind the disruption in children's lives when these schools fail and shut down, forcing parents and students to go elsewhere. New Orleans people are used to disruptions, don't you know?

But here is my favorite line from Maggie's revivalist rhetoric on Monday:
Charter schools improve education for everyone in the system, especially students.
Let's not forget those students!

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