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

Friday, September 14, 2012

Education "Reformers" Have Evidence Problem

When Anthony Cody ventured into a back-and-forth with the Gates Foundation (GF) at his Living in Dialogue blog (Education Week), I was more than skeptical and trapped between my respect and friendship with Anthony and my public stances against seeking a place at the table with corporate reformers such as the GF.

Something significant, however, now exists regarding the corporate reform agenda and the narratives those reformers create around that agenda because the dialogue presents us with a clear testament to the evidence problem confronting the corporate reform movement, including the GF, Arne Duncan and Obama, Michelle Rhee, and political leaders across the country.

Consider the exchanges below and note that Cody disproportionately offers detailed and evidence-based positions while the GF relies disproportionately on ideology, mythology, and not-so-subtle (and unwarranted) digs at Cody's integrity:

Cody

(1) Dialogue With the Gates Foundation: How Do We Build the Teaching Profession?
(2) Responding to the Gates Foundation: How do we Consider Evidence of Learning in Teacher Evaluations?
(3) Dialogue with the Gates Foundation: Can Schools Defeat Poverty by Ignoring It?
(4) Dialogue With the Gates Foundation: What Is the Purpose of K-12 Education?
(5) The Dialogue With the Gates Foundation: What Happens When Profits Drive Reform?

GF

(1) The Gates Foundation Responds: How do we Build the Teaching Profession
(2) The Gates Foundation Writes: How Do We Consider Evidence of Student Learning in Teacher Evaluation?
(3) The Gates Foundation Responds: Poverty Does Matter--But It Is Not Destiny
(4) The Gates Foundation Writes: K-12 Education: An Opportunity Catalyst
(5) The Gates Foundation Responds: The Role of the Marketplace in Education

As I commented on the last post from the GF, when you do not have evidence on your side, you must resort to other less credible strategies, and for the corporate reformers, that strategy is to accuse educators and scholars of using poverty as an excuse, of spending our lives as educators despite embracing fatalistic views of children trapped in poverty.

But this isn't the only evidence problem corporate reformers have; the greatest evidence problem for the corporate reformers is the mounting evidence that their education agenda is seeking to create an education system for "other people's children" unlike the education they enjoyed and they provide for their own children.

And this evidence problem is most profound among the corporate reformers who are Democrats:

See this about Rahm Emanuel, the personification of all that is wrong with Democratic politicians in the U.S.


Corporate reform built on teacher evaluations linked to test scores, test-prep education for "other people's children," charter schools and school choice that segregate schools, and union-busting mayors and governors can produce not a single shred of evidence that any of that agenda is justified or credible, especially in the context of universal public education as a mechanism for realizing democracy and equity.

That evidence problem is profound, but it is ironic evidence that corporate reformers must continue to seek ways around the facts in order to achieve their agenda. Expect those ways to be manipulative, dishonest, and personal.

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