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

Thursday, December 14, 2006

America's Choice: Schools of Educational Reform or Educational Reform Schools

First came A Nation at Risk to scare the be-jesus out of us about the schools. Then a generation later came Rising Above the Gathering Corruption, er, Storm, an apocalytic tale of educational doom that called for an oversupply of scientists and engineers and, more importantly, for public universities to take over the costs and responsibilities of R&D for corporations. Now comes, alas, a new blue-ribbon panel report, America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages!, this time calling explicitly for the destruction of public schools as we know them. If you thought that A Nation at Risk was based on some scary lies, try this one from Panel Seer, Marc Tucker:
“This report basically says, if we don’t find a whole new formula, what we can confidently look forward to is a declining standard of living, probably not for everybody, but for most people. And that could create a kind of social instability that could be the undoing of the United States.
Is this from the Pat Buchanan school of educational reform?? Or is that educational reform schools.

Here are some of the highlights of the new report recommendations, none of which is based on any research findings, or even crude experimentation. This over-reaching piece of undocumented dreck is destined to be the deadest on arrival of any blue-ribbon report in the history of American education. And if this is not the last and final encore of Privatizers Gone Wild Club, I cannot imagine what they might have in store that could hope to top this exhibition of full-frontal, embarrassing stupidity:
  • Out are elected school boards and local public control. In are state-paid private contractors like Edison and White Hat. In short, the charter model on a national scale: "Schools would have complete control over staff hiring, school organization and management, their program, and how their funds were spent, as long as they provided the curriculum and met state testing and accountability requirements."
  • Out are university teacher education programs that Reid Lyon has so long wanted to "blow up." In are "Teacher Development Agencies, established by the states, [to] write performance contracts with a range of providers interested in preparing teachers . . . . providers that met the state’s performance requirements would get a larger number of slots than providers whose graduates performed less well." Test scores by each teacher candidates' future students will then determine which teacher prep programs get funded.
  • Out are low salaries and local salary schedules for beginning teachers. In are 401Ks to replace state guaranteed benefit retirement plans. In, too, are cuts to retired teacher health plans and retirement funds. Hey, someone has to pay for those high starting salaries and those other high salaries that are earned by producing good test takers.
  • Biggest money-saver idea: let 10th graders take a state exit exam and go on to community college or tech school, thus saving all that cash spent on lower-performing students in their junior and senior years. Those who stick around would have to qualify of AP or IB courses that are intended for the less economically-deprived high flyers. Savings: $67 billion a year nationwide.
  • Out is the traditional husk of Head Start. In mandatory schooling for all 3-year old low-income children (the psychological programming cannot start early enough).
  • Finally, there are to be accounts established at birth for future job training: "Through Personal Competitiveness Accounts, created for each child at birth by the federal government, and supplemented with $100 each year up to age 16, people would accumulate money for continued education and training."
Wonder if that money could be used when a child grows up to buy a boat ticket to India or China, where working and living conditions are likely be better.

Ed Week closes its summary piece with this final quote from the sage, Marc Tucker:
If something like this doesn’t happen, we’re cooked.
I would suggest that if something like this does happen, we may avoid the cooking and simply be eaten raw.

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