It is widely agreed that the U.S. should: raise academic standards, in-line with global economic demands for a college-educated, high-tech workforce; move toward a system of common standards across states; and improve academic assessments so that they rely less on multiple choice or "fill-in-the-bubble" questions and tap a broader range of student knowledge and skills.DFER has defined a quality education as one that prepares workers for the "global economic demands for a college-educated, high-tech workforce"(p.3). This is a pretty bold statement that is not supported by any data. The myth that we'll one day all be working as symbolic analysts is exactly that: a myth. I'm not arguing against high standards or teaching students how to use technology; but to suggest we need high standards because of the global economy is not only a lie, but it is a lie that is used to justify more testing and a narrower curriculum. Defining a solid education as one that prepares workers for a global economy is a hallmark feature of the neoliberal reform movement. Once again, democracy is subjugated to the global economy and corporate interests.
While the rest of us ponder the reform efforts proposed by Duncan and Obama, the Gates Foundation, Achieve, and the National Governors association are establishing "a single set of national standards and [developing] aligned assessments"(p.3). Two sentences later, DFER refers to the process as the "Gates-led effort"(p.3). DFER might as well rename themselves GFER - Gates For Education Reform. The DFER document cites this Gates document released earlier this year called "Smart Options: Investing the Recovery Funds for Student Success." Make sure to check out the list of participants (p.2) who offered their "insights": Broad Foundation representatives, Steve Barr, NewSchools Venture Fund CEO Ted Mitchell, Education Sector's Andy Rotherham and Chad Alderman, Chester Finn, a DQC representative, two McKinsey & Co. representatives, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, a TFA representative, and multiple Gates senior officials. DFER also cites this 2006 paper by Education Sector's Tom Toch that pushes for a national testing system - and keep in mind that Gates has financially supported Education Sector in the past.
DFER also pushes the dream of a "seamless, integrated state system of P-16 education." Gates is currently looking to offer grants to communities that are willing to implement the P-16 system, but the ultimate goal is the full-on implementation of a national curriculum where every grade learns the same materials in each state in preparation for national tests. "Inter-state agreements [on a P-16 system] would be an absolute homerun, and at the very least should be a long-term goal" (p.4). Once the testing is uniform and everyone is expected to learn the same materials in every grade across the country, competition will produce a world class education system that will allow America to reign supreme over the global economy. This is the logic of the neoliberal reformers led by Gates, DFER, and their band of edu-idiots.