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

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Empires of the Teacher Attackers

One of the policy wheels from within the vast machine of the education industry released a report this past week on the weaknesses of our current teacher preparation programs. Weaknesses there are, and they reach back at least to the beginning of the public school movement in the 19th Century, when women were first allowed to teach by virtue of their willingness to do so for roughly half the pay of male teachers. Elite citizens of that era were no less eager than conservatives and neoliberals are today to educate the masses as cheaply as possible for the purposes of social order and industrial well-being.

Those eventually charged with the selection and training of teachers tried to meet the impossible demands of offering academically-respectable programs to those lured by the prospects of earning a degree to work in a field with marginal pay and little respect among the disciplinary knowledges. The fact that teaching, with those economic and institutional barriers in place from the beginning, ever even became a semi-profession and survived and even thrived is testament to the ingenuity and dedication of those who earned and demanded the recognition for teaching, the noblest profession ever to survive such an absence of respect.

Those modest gains, however, are seen as stumbling blocks for those who seek a much less expensive final solution to educating the underclass in perpetuity. So we should not be surprised by the findings of a new report by the privatization front group, NCTQ, whose president, Kate Walsh has a documented history of injecting anti-union, anti-teacher education, and anti-state ed agency propaganda into the media mainstream. The continuing consolidation of power by a white privileged corporate elite requires nothing less than a rollback of the social and economic upward mobility gains made as a result of teacher professionalization. The irony, of course, is that Walsh, Rotherham, and Co. would improve a weak teacher preparation and certification infrastructure by entirely dismantling it, and it's no coincidence that Walsh also sits on the Board of the certification-by-online-testing outfit, ABCTE, which is another creation of the Hickok-Paige regime--$40,000,000 in grants.

This new outpouring of sludge by NCTQ, then, has the same smell of manipulation, deception, and corruption that Walsh and Co. were producing back in 2005 during the covert propaganda investigations by ED's own Inspector General's Office, which showed how millions in grants were handed over by Hickok at ED to the likes of Walsh and Rotherham to pump out ED propaganda without anyone knowing the source of funding:

The failure of these grantees to include the required disclaimer appears to have resulted in an improper expenditure of grant funds that should now be recovered.
Grant U215U030007-04 [$677,318], Oquirrh Institute and National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) (Appendix A, Item 1)

The Oquirrh Institute and NCTQ submitted a joint proposal with three clearly stated goals: 1) increase the American public’s exposure and understanding of the research and full spectrum of ideas on teacher quality; 2) advance the research on teacher preparation and licensure processes, broadening the nation’s experience of and perspective on these issues; and 3) help state policymakers make the necessary reforms to their licensure systems. According to the proposal, the grantee’s strategy for accomplishing the first goal included “widely publish[ing] op-eds on teacher quality issues” with an ultimate objective of having “at least 100 published works, reaching every state” (p. 21). Further, the proposal narrative, on page 14, specifically states:

[W]e will tailor our writing to the issues that a particular state or community is currently debating … Our preference will be to persuade newspapers to publish our writing as op-eds but, if not, we will also submit letters to the editor.

In the monthly progress reports provided to the Department, we found that the only grantee activities associated with the first goal involved the production of, and attempts to publish, op-eds.

According to the grantees’ monthly progress reports, they were able to publish op-eds in at least 11 newspapers. We have been able to obtain copies of only three. Kate Walsh, the president of NCTQ, authored the three op-eds published in the Mobile Register (Alabama) on 11/21/04, in the Grand Island Independent (Nebraska) on 12/02/04, and in the Sacramento Bee (California) on 02/06/05. Each focused on proposed changes in teacher reform and NCLB.

The op-eds can be construed as advocating a particular point of view. In the op-ed published in the Mobile Register, Walsh states that the NCLB requirement that all teachers be rated “highly qualified” in the subjects they teach “is not overly demanding or unfair.” She later states “[t]he inability to reach consensus over these minimal requirements signals a resistance, however unintended, to putting the needs of children first.”

Similarly, in the other two op-eds, Walsh advocated policy positions. In the op-ed published in the Grand Island Independent, she advocated changes in teacher qualification requirements in Nebraska. In the op-ed published in the Sacramento Bee, Walsh states: “[p]utting merit pay decisions in the hands of states or even school districts [sic] officials still will lead to excessively complicated formulas that suppress the potential benefits that merit pay could achieve.”

None of the op-eds we reviewed disclosed the role of the Department. Prior to the initial publication of the op-eds, a Department grants specialist reviewed a draft op-ed and reminded the grantee that the Department’s regulations at 34 C.F.R. § 75.620 require a disclaimer on all grant publications. The grant specialist did not know why the published op-eds did not contain the disclaimer.

As these op-eds were published without the EDGAR disclaimer, the funds used to produce them may have resulted in an improper expenditure of grant funds. If all of the produced op-eds are similarly silent on the role of the Department, then all of the expenditures associated with goal one of the grant may have been improper.

The big difference in today's NCTQ operation from the days of ED sponsorship? Today's NCTQ has much more funding from the limitless pockets of Milken, Gates, etc., whose privatization goals happen to be the the ones shared by those they placed on the public payroll in Washington's U. S. Department of Education to do the same.

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