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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

An ESEA only corporations should love... AFT joins in reforming 'Reform'?... And a Quiz for those who want to know more....

by Jim Horn
Published April 23 at Substance News.

The original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 provided a huge financial carrot for Southern education apartheid states to finally desegregate their schools, which was to finally come over a decade after the Brown Decision that declared segregated schools "inherently unequal."  It has taken a long time--50 years, in fact--for segregationists to turn the logic of ESEA on its head, but they will have surely succeeded if the ESEA reauthorization now being debated in the U. S. Senate becomes law. 

The first priority for the new bill's corporate education designers is to protect annual testing at the federal level.  And even though the impossible proficiency targets are gone from the federally mandated tests, the test results will continue to be used to rate schools, set real estate values, and label as failures both teachers and students who are handicapped by the effects of poverty.  The Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) will also allow free rein for states to devise any high stakes testing and teacher evaluation schemes that states deem appropriate and to increase charter takeovers and to further de-professionalize teaching.  To justify corporate education agendas, ECAA allows the use of think tank "research studies" for any number of schemes with or without educational merit, as long as the research is labeled "experimental" or "quasi-experimental." 

The second priority for ECAA is to throw open the door to the unimpeded proliferation of charter schools. ECAA encourages, incentivizes, and funds state efforts for the unrestricted expansion of charter school brands that can produce the highest test scores.  The new ECAA dedicates 41 pages to detailing charter assistance, growth, and expansion, with no mention of the intense segregation that has become synonymous with corporate charters.  In contrast, ECAA allows 4 pages for outlining a disappearing magnet school assistance plan. 

As may be expected, waiting patiently on their perches are Wall Street hedge funders, bond traders, and education industry profiteers who are hungry to further expand corporate welfare charter school markets and the real estate empires that charterization entails

Along with incentivizing more charters comes an ECAA treasure chest of discretionary grant opportunities that will now be open to states, municipalities, and other "state entities."  Under the new ECAA, federal money will go directly from Congress to the states or to another "state entity," which now may include a "state charter school board" or even a "charter school support organization."

ECAA, if approved, will further erase the boundaries between corporations and government, and the main job of the USDOE will be to service the applications for assistance for charter school expansion, charter school facilities, training of charter school teachers and administrators, incentivizing test-heavy merit pay plans, and other corporate "innovations" aimed to privatize public schools and to further diminish the profession of teaching. 

To reiterate, there is nothing in the ECAA plan to limit high stakes tests or segregative programs that may be dreamed up by states or a "state entity," and there is a clear ban on any effort by the feds to enact rules for equalizing state funding, per Sec. 6302: "Nothing in this title shall be construed to mandate equalized spending per pupil for a State, local educational agency, or school."

With the corporate education reformers' moral compass permanently pointed toward the bottom line, expansion of apartheid charter schools presents not of whit of concern for either industry or government.  In fact, Washington neolibs and neocons appear eager to put the responsibility for resegregated schools and educational racial/class castes anywhere other than on their own plush DC desks. Sadly, the legislative result is a new states rights version of ESEA, which promises untold billions to states and corporate charter organizations to expand exponentially the 6,700 intensely segregated charters that now dot the American urbanscape.  

While the public relations spinners present ECAA as ushering in a new era for testing reduction, this new federal thought disorder allows unrestrained state high stakes testing, punishing, and public school shutdown/charter conversion.

Who will pay for this corporationist states rights version of ESEA that will increase segregation, weaken public schools, and turn the Education Department into a charter fertilizer plant?  The financial end will be taken care of by taxpayers, of course, but the real price will be paid by children, parents, and teachers. The teachers with their careers, as charters continue to make professional teachers unneeded and unwanted.  Parents will pay with their tax dollars and with the pain they see in their children's faces, as they enter the overheated testing crucibles that corporationists require.  The children will pay by sacrificing their educations for nitwit tech solutions, blended bullshit, and the endless behavioral brainwashing that accompanies constant test prep.  American children will become like the children in the poorest nations who must work every day.  Except the educational sweatshops of urban America will not pay their little workers.  The labor that charterized children provide will be a form of slave labor without remuneration, and it will be used to build charter brand names that will result in generous government contracts to CMOs and EMOs and CEOs. 

When No Child Left Behind became law in the wake of the September 11, politicians of both Parties embraced it in a sign of unity, even though dire warnings had been issued about the educational conflagration to come.  Ted Kennedy stuck his head in the sand and pretended that was the best he could get, even though he knew public schools were about to undergo years of carpet bombing that they might not survive.  He bought the civil rights platitudes, and the Business Roundtable was glad to sell them. They're still selling them. 

Today there is no such national emergency that requires us to get another ESEA done before the serious business of war can move front and center.   What is the rush?  Why no resistance to something that is most awful for everyone except corporations and the politicians they own? 

Yet there is a unanimity once again across both aisles of the corporate jet on which the educational policy elite hitch rides.  Here are a few clips below from some of the early reviews of ECAA.  Two are from the right aisle of the corporate jet, and two are from the left aisle.  You tell me what the difference is.  See if you can match them up.  Remember, no cheating.  You can't click on the links until you mark your answers below.

A. _________________________    called the bill an "important first step."

"It moves away from the increasingly counterproductive focus on sanctions, high-stakes tests, federalized teacher evaluations and school closings," he/she said. "And it will help return the joy of teaching and learning that's been missing as a result of testing and test-prep fixation in too many classrooms."
B. . . . the bill sets an absolutely reasonable quid pro quo for $15 billion in annual federal Title I funds: Get kids ready for postsecondary education or work.

So how does the legislation intend to have states achieve this goal? By setting them free of NCLB’s other major accountability rules. States can create accountability systems with performance indicators of the states’ choosing. Those systems will determine how to identify schools for increased attention, how many schools need interventions, how to help struggling schools improve, and more.

This bill is tight on ends and loose on means.
C. But it’s . . . a reasonable, forward-looking compromise among strongly divergent views of the federal role in K–12 education—and between the overreach (and attendant backlash) of NCLB and some people’s conviction that NCLB didn’t reach far enough.
D. One may quibble with details, but the bottom line is that this bill defangs the U.S. Department of Education; it no longer will exert control over every school with mandates. This bill strips the status quo of federal power to ruin schools and the lives of children and educators. . . .This is a far better bill than I had hoped or feared.
Match the quote above with the correct policy elite below.

______ 1. Checker Finn (doyen of conservative Fordham Institute)

______2. Andy Smarick (neoliberal Bellwether partner)

______3. Randi Weingarten (AFT President)

______4. Diane Ravitch (conservative historian and doyen of anti-reformy politics)

I am sure that some of you reading this will be attending the NPE 2nd Annual Talk About Action Meeting, which meets this weekend in Chicago.  If you do attend, I hope you will ask both Randi Weingarten and Diane Ravitch, who will share the same stage, why their reviews of ECAA are indistinguishable from the corporate education reform hacks who are paid openly to promote the continued destruction of public education, the teaching profession, and humane learning environments.  Inquiring minds want to know.

1. C
2. B
3. A
4. D

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