"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

Steve Brill = Corporate Shill

 Randy Shaw has a number of things to say in this piece about Michelle "Erasure" Rhee and the defensive posturing of oligarch education reform, but my favorite part has to do with the new book by corporate stooge, Steve Brill:
When I saw notorious anti-teachers union Steve Brill had a book on education on the front-page of the August 21 New York Times Sunday Book Review, and that the review was written by a private school teacher who has problems with unions, I assumed the worst. But this book by a legal entrepreneur with no educational background failed to even convince a sympathetic critic that teachers unions are the problem with American education.

As reviewer Sara Mosle writes:

“Yet Brill wants us to believe that unions are the primary – even sole – cause of failing public schools. But hard evidence for this is scarce. Many of the nation’s worst-performing schools (according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress) are concentrated in Southern and Western right-to-work states, where public sector unions are weakest and collective bargaining enjoys little or no protection. Also, if unions are the primary cause of bad schools, why isn’t labor’s pernicious effect similarly felt in many middle-class suburbs, like Pelham, N.Y., or Montclair, N.J., which have good schools – and strong unions?

More problematic for Brill’s thesis, charter schools, which are typically freed from union rules, haven’t succeeded in the ways their champions once hoped. A small percentage are undeniably superb. But most are not. One particularly rigorous 2009 study, which surveyed approximately half of all charters nationwide and was financed by the pro-charter Walton Family and Michael and Susan Dell Foundations, found that more than 80 percent either do no better, or actually perform substantially worse, than traditional public schools, a dismal record.”

Like Rhee, Brill’s animus toward teachers unions leads him to disregard unpleasant facts. The review notes that “Brill obliquely refers to such research in half a sentence. He then counters that other studies have shown better results for charters, without clearly indicating what these studies are or explaining why they should trump a comprehensive, national study.”

Unfortunately for attorney Brill, he does not have a Justice Scalia or Clarence Thomas to save him from his evidentiary shortcomings. Brill has inadvertently brought down a “case closed” on the once rising campaign against teachers unions, as it has fallen victim to the test score measuring stick of its own devise.

Randy Shaw’s most recent book is Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century.

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