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

Sunday, May 02, 2010

New Charter Philosophy for the Corporate Celebrity: Let A Few Chain Gangs Flourish

When charters first came on the scene, the idea was to let a thousand flowers bloom and let innovation reign. The best instructional and curricular ideas could then be spread to other schools, and children and parents and teachers would be the beneficiaries.

Those days are as long gone, and the only innovations that remain in the segregated urban chain gangs that the Secretary of Education advocates are the innovative extinguishing of due process for teachers and students, the innovative application of total compliance techniques, and the innovative bookkeeping that makes the corporate leeches who run these outfits wealthy.

It has taken the New York Times 10 months to report on the CREDO charter study that shows the bankruptcy of the national policy obsession with these undemocratic containment camps, but the facts are not enough to dampen the Times's enthusiasm. Rather, reporter Trip Gabriel focuses on the test score production camps of KIPP and the KIPP knock-offs that have adopted the same brainwashing techniques designed for military precision, the elimination of resistance, and parrot learning.

What Mr. Gabriel does not mention is the attrition rate among students who cannot or will accept the degradation of spirit that is required by the contracts that must be signed by students and parents. In some of these chain gangs, the attrition rate is 60 percent, which, of course, makes the survivors' test scores seem all the more remarkable.

The other gaping hole in the Times charter story is the segregation and cognitive sterilization chapter, a modern day tale that has its origins in the eugenics movement that went wild in this country a hundred years ago. Corporate urban charters are about segregated containment and psychological sterilization of the brown and the poor. That's the scoop that the Times missed once again, preferring (as its Editorial Board demands) instead to spout the Hoxby hoax study that has been discredited, even as it was never made available for peer review.

A clip from today's story (do read the whole thing):

. . . .That movement includes a crowded clique of alpha girls and boys, including New York hedge fund managers, a Hollywood agent or two and the singers John Legend and Sting, who performed at a fund-raiser for Harlem charter schools last Wednesday at Lincoln Center. Charters have also become a pet cause of what one education historian calls a billionaires’ club of philanthropists, including Mr. Gates, Eli Broad of Los Angeles and the Walton family of Wal-Mart.

But for all their support and cultural cachet, the majority of the 5,000 or so charter schools nationwide appear to be no better, and in many cases worse, than local public schools when measured by achievement on standardized tests, according to experts citing years of research. Last year one of the most comprehensive studies, by researchers from Stanford University, found that fewer than one-fifth of charter schools nationally offered a better education than comparable local schools, almost half offered an equivalent education and more than a third, 37 percent, were “significantly worse.”

Although “charter schools have become a rallying cry for education reformers,” the report, by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, warned, “this study reveals in unmistakable terms that, in the aggregate, charter students are not faring as well” as students in traditional schools.. . .

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