This space explores issues in public education policy, and it advocates for a commitment to and a re-examination of the democratic purposes of schools. If there is some urgency in the message, it is due to the current reform efforts that are based on a radical re-invention of education, now spearheaded by a psychometric blitzkrieg of "metastasizing testing" aimed at dismantling a public education system that took almost 200 years to build. JH August, 2005
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Stand on Children's Exec. Dir. Responds to Critique of Memphis Debacle
Really, Ms. Bradshaw? 10,000 pages of documents every member read? Hmm.
So I am wondering why my review of the strengths and weaknesses should be submitted for your review, even if I were to write one. The plan is done, as it has been done for some time, even as the TPC was going around the county doing one-time meetings in all those communities that are now trying desperately to create their own school systems so that they can keep them in public hands. So my writing a detailed review, and your reading it, would just be more wasted time.
I did, indeed, check out Dr. Polhmann, whose book based his study of consolidations in TN is called Opportunity Lost: The Convergence of Race and Poverty in the Memphis City Schools.Most troubling about what I read by Dr. Pohlmann was this paragraph from his abstract of the book (my bolds):
In his 1944 inaugural address, Franklin Roosevelt stated that his goal was “to make a country in which no one is left out.” That same general principle would appear to lie beneath the notion of “No Child Left Behind.” It is society’s duty to educate every child, not just provide education. It is hard to argue that this is not an amiable egalitarian goal. A sad truth, however, is that some children come to school in such a state of academic disrepair that there may be little the public schools can do for them by that point.
Hmm. Could this explain why the TPC plan is more attuned to improving the standing of corporate ed reformers and their business interests than improving learning opportunities for kids who they believe to be destined for failure, regardless?
From what I can tell, Pohlmann, a political scientist, bases many of his social and educational assumptions a limited reading of Christopher Jenck's interpretation of James Coleman's research of 1966, without ever reading Coleman. What both Pohlmann and Jencks missed was the core finding by Coleman related to the power of social capital that is created and shared when poor kids go to school and have classes with middle class kids. Poor kids' achievement goes way up, and middle class kids are not negatively affected. Coleman spent the rest of his life trying to get people to understand that what matters most to student achievement is SES and who you go to school with.
Pohlmann, following Jencks, focuses almost exclusively on the part of Coleman's finding that focused on the powerful effects of home life and poverty. If Pohlmann had looked at another consolidated school system on the other side of the mountain from Knoxville, he would have found Wake County, which consciously integrated their county and city schools starting in 2000 based on socioeconomic status and achievement levels. That story is documented in Gerald Grant's book, Hope and despair in the American city: Why there are no bad schools in Raleigh. Shelby Co./Memphis could do the same thing if they had not been hijacked by the charter industry and the Billionaire Boys Club.
Pohlmann does have the following recommendations in his abstract, most of which the Standistas and the Gates Boys have ignored:
We can, however, begin to address those conditions which contribute to severe educational disadvantage, many of which appear to be poverty-related. For Horatio Alger’s Ragged Janes and Tattered Toms to have equal opportunity in 21st century Memphis, there will need to be a multi-faceted approach that focuses on the earliest possible intervention in poor children’s lives, while at the same time both directly and indirectly reducing inter-generational poverty. Such conclusions are not new. The Memphis branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) recommended many of these reforms in a 1988 report to Judge Robert McCrae. Their recommendations included early childhood programs, smaller classes, year-round schooling, enhanced teacher preparation, school consolidation, and using school buildings for child care, social services, and adult education. Such an approach will come with a considerable national, state, and local price tag. Nonetheless, each element we adopt, however small, will move us in the direction supported by the best available research.
The progress of public education in New Orleans is important beyond the boundaries of Orleans Parish. Post-Katrina New Orleans serves as the pivotal proving ground for the use of increased choice and charter schools to provide more equitable access to quality education. With 61% of New Orleans public school students enrolled in 51 charter schools (both numbers by far the highest in the nation), post-Katrina New Orleans represents an opportunity for the choice movement to demonstrate success on a large scale. Success in New Orleans will lead to broader choice in struggling urban districts across the country. Conversely, failure to deliver improved access to quality education will reverse the current upward trajectory of the choice movement. .... If reformers in New Orleans are able to focus on the goal of increasing access to quality educational opportunities, then the chance created out of the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina will not be wasted. It would be beautifully ironic if, thanks in part to a hurricane, the schools in the city whose segregated railcars gave us Plessy v. Ferguson could finally deliver on that elusive promise of Brown to provide more equitable access to quality educational opportunities.
Got it. So did you all down there use any educational research, scholarship, or educational experience to provide data for this plan? So far as I can see, the two academic sources you cite are not educators or ed researchers and likely have never been in a public school of Memphis or Shelby County?
In terms of your invitation, I would love to have interview you the next time I come to Memphis, which will be in the Fall. Thank you for the invitation.