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

Monday, October 09, 2006

Democracy On the March--Out of America's Cities

A clip from WaPo yesterday on the D.C. school board race:
. . .Over the past decade, the power base of the school board has decreased significantly, largely symptomatic of a multitude of problems.

Only 28 of 146 schools made academic targets on the last student assessment -- a number that dropped from 75 the previous year under a different test.

The system has lost nearly 15,000 students to charter schools and to private schools participating in the federal government's experimental voucher program. If trends continue, according to a recent study, taxpayer-funded and independently operated charter schools will represent the majority of public schools in the city by 2014.

That prompts some to wonder whether the school board is fading into irrelevancy. . .
D.C. schools serve as a good case study for the privatization of American urban education and the de-democratization of America's cities. As the process plays out and power over educational decisions is put in the hands of big city mayors and the companies they hire, schoolchildren remain the pawns that are dragged around the chess board.

Does anyone really believe that we needed high-stakes testing to know that DC schools and schoolchildren were seriously behind less impoverished schools and more affluent schoolchildren? No. Has testing improved the lot of DC schoolchildren? No. Has high-stakes testing made it possible to move schoolchildren from inadequate public schools to private and charter schools that are no better, and sometimes worse? Yes. Will this strategy eliminate the need for publicly-elected school boards? Absolutely--who need public school boards if you no longer have public schools! Do the privatizers care that the same children will be left behind again, except this time any potential recourse for educational improvements will have been put in the hands of church or corporate officials, rather than elected school boards? I think not.

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