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

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Obama-Gates-BRT 10-Year Priority Plan for Urban School Privatization

A piece in this morning's NYTimes reports on legions of small donors who have given up on Obama in his bid to raise $1,000,000,000 for the 2012 campaign.  Why, indeed, should I or anyone who pays taxes send money to Team Obama when the hedge-funders and oligarchs who pay none are sending him all he needs?  Why should any of us educators, in fact, send Obama a nickel when his education policies are designed to benefit only corporations, corporate foundations, privatization ideologues, and the education industrial complex?

Monty Neill has done a terrific initial analysis of Duncan's behind-the-back bounce pass to his corporate teammates who are driving in to score big, and I won't repeat what Monty has said here.  Monty's opening:
The Obama-Duncan plan for ―flexibility in the administration of the ―No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal education law offers little more than a leap from the frying pan to the fire – and even adds gasoline to the fire.
The Administration offers no relief from NCLB’s massive over-use of testing —more testing than in any other advanced nation. In fact, it will require more ―assessments in more subjects and grades in exchange for ―flexibility. It uses test scores to holds individual educators rather than schools ―accountable. . . .
What I want to focus on are a few of the details that remain unspoken aspects of TeamObama's "flexibility" plan.  As Monty points out, this plan elevates the role high-stakes standardized tests, even as the dreaded testing targets of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) have been dropped. We see a call for adoption of the Common Core national curriculum and testing, which Duncan attempts to disguise as "college- and career-ready standards and assessments."

Rather than calling for expanded use of "growth models" or "value-added" testing, which the scientific community has pointed out are not nearly ready for prime time high stakes purposes, Duncan uses "Systems of Differentiated Recognition, Accountability, and Support." Right.  With urban schools now blown up by the AYP testing targets over the past 10 years, and with the charter school caps now removed in many states, it is time to offer an  "accountability" plan that will allow for the continued expansion of charters, without the threat of facing closure for low test performance.  Alas, we have arrived at the edu-era that requires a focus on "growth," a system within which poverty will become even more invisible than it has been.

And instead of admitting support for teacher evaluations based on those not-ready-for-prime time "growth models," the Gates wordsmiths use the innocuous-sounding "Evaluating and Supporting Teacher and Principal Effectiveness."  Translation: requiring teacher evaluation to be tied to test scores, as in Tennessee, where Obama's golden boy, Gov. Bill Haslam (R), has ushered in a Gates-approved "value-added" system where test scores count half of the teacher's evaluation, and where teachers may be dismissed after one year of bad scores.  This is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

But what of Obama's previous support for segregated corporate charter schools?  Has this corporate commitment to resegregation and containment of minorities disappeared overnight?  Unfortunately, not at all, even though "charter school," as a politically toxic term, is not mentioned in the Obama speech or in any of the supporting documents.  And yet we find that this plan represents a renewed opportunity to use the charter or private management options contained in ED's School Improvement Grant (SIG) guidance issued in February of this year.  In fact, the new "flexibility" plan requires states (SEAs) and districts (LEAs) to use the current turnaround plans for the five percent per year of lowest scoring schools.  From ESEA Flexibility (MSWord):

A priority school that implements one of the four SIG models is implementing an intervention that satisfies the turnaround principles.  An SEA may also implement interventions aligned with the turnaround principles as part of a statewide school turnaround strategy that allows for State takeover of schools or for transferring operational control of the school to another entity such as a recovery school district or other management organization (p. 9).
The second sentence just above represents an effort to not derail the efforts by proto-fascists in Michigan and Louisiana to allow corporate takeover of public functions, as in the charterization of New Orleans Schools or the corporatization of Michigan's lowest scoring schools under Broadie, John Covington.

We know that more than half of American public school children go to schools in urban areas.  Now it doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that, with 5 percent of schools identified for turnaround each year (with another 10 percent required to be in the queue), it will take no more than 10 years for half of American public schools to be converted into the Business Roundtable image of school.  So goodbye AYP and hello SIG: Welcome the new corporate welfare feeding frenzy.

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