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

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Obama Education Agenda Is the Corporate Education Agenda: The War Against the Weak, Cont'd

If politics makes strange bedfellows, then enough money makes all strange bedfellows whores. Such is the reality in Washington today, where the US Department of Education cannot speak without sloshing cash from their philanthrocapitalist sugar daddies.

In a summary of a radio interview with Richard Rothstein and Duncan's Communications guy, Peter Cunninghem, Caroline Grannan notes that ED spokesperson Cunningham conceded every major point made by Rothstein, whose research to back up his arguments is impeccable: 1) high-stakes testing has caused great harm to children, with a disproportionate amount of the harm done to disadvantaged children in the form of stress, reduced quality of teaching, and shrunken curriculums; 2) charter schools (National Charter School Study Full Report) are more often than not worse than the public schools they replace; and 3) standardized tests are not good measures of teacher quality.

And yet the same agenda moves forward with the same failed policies as top priorities, all undeterred by facts, research, or sound opinion. See the Obama speech last evening.

What separates the Republocrats from the Democants on education are the tactics (muscle or money) used to achieve the same end: whereas Bush preferred the big stick based on tests and sanctions (NCLB), Obama prefers the carrot-bribe and test strategy (RTTT). Both lead to the same dead end that fits the Oligarchs' ideological agenda (with disadvantaged children deader than most), which will leave American children and our future further behind the curve in terms of being creative problem solvers and engaged citizens, both skills that are not measured on standardized tests. Those children who will not be damaged are the children of privilege outside the testing factories, the ones who will grow up to make the decisions for the permanent underclass that grows more helpless and more stupid the more they are schooled.

Caroline Grannan's piece:

A spokesman for the Obama administration's Department of Education, appearing on a Jan. 12 radio broadcast, readily agreed with the views of another program guest who sharply criticized jhis department's Race to the Top school reform program.

Peter Cunningham, assistant secretary of communications for the U.S. Department of Education, appeared on the program "To the Point" on radio station KCRW with education researcher Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute. Cunningham willingly concurred with Rothstein that overreliance on standardized testing is detrimental to students, and that "many" charter schools, a model being promoted as a solution for troubled schools, are not successful. Rothstein spoke forcefully about the "major harm" done by administration policies, getting no argument from Cunningham.

The Obama administration's education department is promoting policies that are "actually harming the education of students in this country," Rothstein charged, and "education has been corrupted" by those policies. "A major consequence of No Child Left Behind that's done major harm to American education is the narrowing of the curriculum," he said. Sciences, history, social studies, music, the arts and physical education are neglected or abandoned as educators struggle to adhere to NCLB's emphasis on math and reading, Rothstein explained, and "Race to the Top doesn't change that." Abandoning important subjects "does the most harm to disadvantaged students," Rothstein added. Race to the Top, he said, is "accentuating the harm that NCLB did."

"Absolutely that's a very real issue," Cunningham admitted.

When Rothstein pointed out that "charter schools on average don't have better student performance than regular public schools," Cunningham responded, "We 100% agree that many of them are not good."

Moderator Warren Olney asked Rothstein: "Are standardized tests a good measure of teacher performance and ultimately of school performance?"

"No, they're not," Rothstein responded. "Education has been corrupted. In addition to narrowing the curriculum by abandoning other topics, what this kind of system does is create incentives to game the system. We're actually harming the education of students in this country."

Rothstein is a research associate with the Economic Policy Institute, a former education columnist for the New York Times, and the author of many books and studies about education policy.

Cunningham was previously a communications consultant for the Chicago Public Schools during the time when his current boss, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, was head of that school system.

"To the Point" was part of the Jan. 12 KCRW broadcast of the program "Which Way, L.A.?" which also covered the issue of outside groups' efforts to take over a number of Los Angeles schools. Thanks to Mike Klonsky for spreading the word about this program.

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