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

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Open note to LA's Promise former CEO Mike McGalliard regarding what he terms my pithiness

"The results are eye-opening, that conventional schools display stronger results," said Bruce Fuller, a UC Berkeley education professor. — Los Angeles Times

Mr. McGalliard:

I am the author of the "pithy" comments in question that you discuss in your Howard Blume & My Thoughts about the Corporate Takeover Hysteria essay. While I agree with you in part that the premise of the Times article was based on marginal differences in AYP/API gleaned from CST, we need to bear in mind that those in the corporate "reform movement" are the ones that have fetishised standardized test scores and used them as a bludgeon to privatize schools in the case of Green Dot Charter Corporation seizing Locke. Alternatively scores have been used as way to justify Los Angeles Unified School District "partnering" with outside groups featuring unelected boards stacked with slick business and finance types in the case of your organization LA's Promise.

When Marco Petruzzi was vying to takeover Locke, he frequently cited Locke's poor scores as the primary reason why it would be better run by outsiders. He went as far as to say, "give us three years and we'll give you a great school." The issues with Locke extend far beyond those brought up by Howard Blume and Sandra Poindexter in their Los Angeles Times piece. Fact is Green Dot Corporation is "graduating" students where only two percent are proficient in English. Those type of remediation rates are clearly not what you term "looking at the tiniest variance between schools with regard to students who measure proficient or advanced."

What's sadly ironic for public school advocates and social justice activists is that the factors "reformers" like your MBA backers have consistently dismissed as unimportant or mere excuses (ie. better attendance, slowly rising scores, improved school culture, etc.), are now being cited by people like you and Petruzzi in lieu of your test scores. Why weren't those things valid when we discussed them in the context of struggling public schools? How is it that the vile Yolie Flores could say "I'm tired of waiting" to public schools in program improvement trying to keep their schools public under PSC, but when those factors are discussed by the corporate "reform" cabal, suddenly they take on importance? The truth is those factors are important, but you well heeled business types always fail to acknowledge that for public schools, or worse, call it the defense of the status quo. How does it feel to be defending your status quo now?

Where you cite "hysteria," we social justice advocates call the selfsame thing "outrage" regarding the very real corporatization of public education. The fact that your organization has charlatan board members like Tom Vander Ark, or that you refer to yourself as an Educational Entrepreneur, speaks volumes to the fact that you might be somewhat obtuse to neoliberalism and corporatization. I'm not going to accuse you and John Holcomb of white savior syndrome per se, but I will go on record as saying that your ideas and actions, no matter how well intentioned, are the epitome of what Freire called "the false generosity of paternalism."

While I'm sure we could discuss this at length at get a better understanding of each other's positions, let me say this: I would be a huge advocate of some of the programs of yours that "Increase Access to Health Care Through Schools," if you folks were trying to do this for public schools in general. Not just for children that your corporate benefactors like Amgen have decided are worthy of their so-called charity.

I could only laugh when I saw your own comments on the same Times piece that ended with:

"Once and for all, can we stop pretending that these 'outsiders' are in it for any other reason than help a struggling system?"

Let's be clear, none of the plutocrats behind corporate "reform" are in it to help a struggling system, since they strive to maintain an inequitable economic system that created the problems in our public schools in the first place. Eli Broad, The DeVos Family, Bill Gates, The Koch Brothers, Reed Hastings, The Walton fortune heirs, and all the other oligarchic outsiders are in it for one or more of three primary reasons: profitability, lower taxes, or devotion to discredited market ideologies. Those things may or may not be ignoble to you, but they are anathema to social justice.

Of course, you're doing what all wealthy business types do when times get tough — you're moving on to greener pastures. None of those people you were "saving" have that option. I for one want to thank you for the short two year missionary stint you did as an English teacher, since that was the first and last genuine thing you ever did for education. However, I'm sure Eli et al will thank you for all your contributions supporting their neoliberal school privatization project which includes LA's Promise.

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