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

Monday, May 16, 2011

Public Efforts to Slow the Charter Steamroller

Over the past 9 years of the NCLB orgy of tabulation, public schools with large numbers of poor children have been subjected to unceasing public scorn, expensive and worthless corporate tutoring interventions, and conversion to corporate charter school status without public oversight.  These alterations to public schooling in America have been enabled by school testing policies that effectively identify those poor schools by using tests and testing targets that reliably rank schools according to family income and wealth.  (There is no state where test scores do not reliably reflect the wealth of the community that schools serve.)

With almost no exceptions, the poorest children reside, of course, in communities with the lowest tax revenues, which correlates, then, to neglected school facilities, lower salaries for teachers who struggle there, and weaker learning resources that mirror the economic disadvantages of the surrounding community.  Poor parents, then, become ripe pickings for Business Roundtable reformers with their only alternative to malignantly neglected schools with overcrowded classrooms:  corporate charter schools that reflect a commitment to free-market ideologies and a dependence, nonetheless, on public funding that benefit corporations at the expense of children.  Most of the 5,000 charter schools among the nation's 90,000+ public schools have worse worse test scores, in fact, than the public schools they replace (17% better and 37% worse, with 46% showing no difference in scores).

The ones who do have better test scores (KIPP, Uncommon Schools, Yes Prep, etc.) do so by using exclusionary policies that weed out special ed, ELLs, and weak test takers, while further segregating the poor and the brown in total compliance, iron-fisted lockdown environments with abusive and inhumane practices and test-based curriculums. If parents don't like their children being subjected to these abusive environments with no public oversight, then they are reminded that these are chain gangs schools of choice.  Meanwhile, the media and the PR firms make segregated corporate confinement and brainwashing of poor children sound like the only alternative to urban chaos and the only way to educate poor children whose communities are left to rot.

How our first African-American President could continue to embrace these segregative neo-eugenics ed policies based on the punitive mind mashing of poor children remains the open shame of Obama's presidency, even though it is entirely understandable from a misguided campaign funding perspective.

Even so, those who still believe in old-fashioned democracy, public oversight of public money, etc. are fighting back against the fascist corporatism of the BRT.  Evidence here from Jersey, but evidence, too, of the long reach of the fascists into the chambers of the NJ Supreme Court:
Local Say for Charters Continues to Dog Proposed Measures
NJ Spotlight
With legislators next week slated to take up the issue of how New Jersey’s charter schools are approved and monitored, schools districts continue to press for a local vote on any new charter.

N.J. Supreme Court lacking available justices to rule on school financing
Bob Braun, Star Ledger
The New Jersey Supreme Court is soon expected to render a critically important decision on school finance, a decision that may be clouded by the reduced number of justices hearing the case and questions of why some members of the panel disqualified themselves from sitting in judgment and why one — Associate Justice Helen Hoens, whose husband works for the governor — did not.

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