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

Saturday, July 14, 2007

New Bush Version of NCLB: Privatization 2.0

From an earlier post:
. . . .when it became apparent in 2001 that a school voucher provision would not be included in NCLB, the White House’s inside man in the Senate, Sen. Judd Gregg, rallied support among disappointed Republicans. In doing so, he offered this glimpse into the Rovian education strategy to bring down public schools and, in the process, dump billions into the laps of tutoring concerns run by corporate and fundamentalist supporters:
“Well, the supplemental services [tutoring] are a foot under the door for vouchers. They’re going to show that these schools aren’t working properly, and we’ll finally be able to show that the schools aren’t doing well. The assessments are going to prove the same thing” (Debray, 2006, p. 96).
And, of course, this strategy is working. More and more schools, teachers, and children are being labeled as failures each year as we move inexorably toward impossible test targets that were cynically crafted to produce failure, rather than success. . . .
Well, the dependable water carrier, Senator Gregg, is back with the Administration's version of NCLB 2.0. It comes with all the previous privatization features intact, but the strategies have been fine-tuned and intensified. Despite the allowance for "growth models" in all fifty states, which the media will no doubt portray as a good, flexible compromise, the demand for steady test score increases toward the impossible 100% proficiency test target by 2014 remains unchanged. The unyielding and unreachable proficiency target by 2014 makes growth models irrelevant to the continuing and expanded list of sanctions that are included in 2.0 in order to hasten the privatization goals. From Education Week:

The Senate bill was introduced July 12 by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., a former Senate education committee chairman and another architect of the NCLB law.

The measure, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., would echo some of Rep. Miller’s ideas by introducing more flexibility into the accountability system at the center of the law.

It would permit all 50 states to participate in the Department of Education’s growth-model pilot.

. . . .

The bill would retain the deadline of the 2013-14 school year for bringing all students to proficiency.

In the new and improved privatization plan, the menu of sanctions for failure to meet AYP (replacing staff, private management, charter conversion, state takeover) remains in place, but two more options have have been added that will make privatization through outsourcing much simpler, administratively: school closure and mayoral takeover. Gone from NCLB 2.0 is the "Other" restructuring menu item, which most systems with below-the-cut-score-schools have thus far opted for as they try to survive.

Call and write Congress to insist they say NO! to reauthorization and YES to helping us save public education and make it better. Ask your Senator or Representative if schools in Chicago can honestly be held accountable for the same world-class standards as schools in Grosse Point, MI, given the kind of Third World realities of our cities, brought to light here by Bob Herbert's latest column:

The colorful playground outside Frederick Funston Elementary School has swings and sliding boards and a heartbreaking makeshift memorial for the 13-year-old girl who was shot to death in the playground a few weeks ago.

“It’s difficult out here,” said a woman who sat on a bench, watching her two small boys scampering around the playground.

What she meant was that there was nothing particularly unusual about schoolchildren getting blown away in Chicago’s black and Latino neighborhoods. Since September, when the last school year started, dozens of this city’s public school students have been murdered, most of them shot to death. As of last week, the toll of public schoolchildren slain in Chicago since the opening of the school year had reached 34, including two killed since the schools closed for summer vacation.

“That’s more than a kid every two weeks,” said Arne Duncan, the chief executive of the city’s school system. “Think about that.”

The girl killed in the playground was Schanna Gayden, who, according to the police, was shot in the head by a gang member who was aiming at someone else. Blair Holt, a high school junior, was shot to death on a city bus. Another teenager was killed as he walked home from a library.

Lazarus Jones, a 13-year-old computer-lover who was looking forward to beginning high school in the fall, was jumped by several members of a gang and beaten to death. Twelve-year-old Laura Joslin was stabbed to death, police said, by an 18-year-old girl on Thanksgiving Day. Victor Casillas, 15, was killed in a drive-by shooting.

And so on.

This should be a major national story, of course, and it would be if the slain children had come from more privileged backgrounds. But these are the kids that most of America cares nothing about — black, Latin and poor.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper covered the story. He said of the kids, poignantly: “Their names should be known. Their lives should be honored. Their deaths should be remembered.”

But that was an exception. Outside of Chicago, very little reporting has been done on this horrifying wave of murders. The truth, of course, is that Chicago is not alone. It may be jolting, even in our blood-drenched society, to have so many students from one school system killed over the course of a single school year. But most people know (and take for granted) that boys and girls growing up in America’s inner cities often have to deal with conditions that can fairly be compared to combat. . . .

Ask your Congressman if these realites are enough to justify turning these urban children's struggling schools into privately-managed prison camps. Ask them.

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