Charters, Cost of Education
“Those who can, teach. Those who can’t, find some other, less significant line of work.”
Is it lies, misinformation, or just plain stupidity? If there was ever a reason to include teachers’ voices in the nation’s education conversation Bill Gates personifies it with his monumental ignorance. Wealth doesn’t automatically give you expertise and/or experience in education. “You don’t know education just because you went to school.”
I have copies of every one of my teaching evaluations…from six different principals. Every one of them is more than “just one word.” Every one of them has comments about my teaching, my development as a professional and my successes or failures. Could it be that my experience is unique among all the millions of teachers in the nation? Not likely. Bill Gates is wrong…as Jersey Jazzman says, “…astonishingly wrong.”
(1:06) Until recently, over 98% of teachers just got one word of feedback: “Satisfactory.”
That is astonishingly wrong. No teacher I’ve ever heard of ever got a one-word evaluation. Every principal I’ve ever worked for has written multiple pages about my teaching when doing my summative evaluation. Principals are, in fact, required to give meaningful feedback to their teachers; if they don’t, they are derelict in their duties. All good school leadership programs require training in teacher evaluation.
Those who view education from the outside, like those who view any profession from the outside, don’t understand the concepts and complexities unique to being an educator. Having been a student does not qualify one to teach any more than being sick qualifies one to practice medicine. Teaching, like any profession, takes training and experience. Every profession has its own language and its own concepts.
Nancy Flanagan, blogging at Teacher in a Strange Land, reminds legislators that they don’t know everything about education. Bill Gates and Arne Duncan need copies of this, too…
#1) You don’t know education just because you went to school. Even if you were paying attention in high school, your perspective as a student was extremely narrow and is now completely obsolete. Study the issues, which are more complex and resistant to change than you think. Here’s a brief list of things that, in my experience, legislators don’t know diddly about:
- A cooperative classroom and how to achieve it.
- Formative assessment.
- Impact of class size on daily practice (not test scores).
- Difference between standards and curriculum.
- Special education.
- Research-based value of recess and exercise.
- Differentiation vs. tracking.
- What quality teaching looks like in practice.
- The fact that all learning is socially constructed.
And on and on.
PRIVATIZATION: I. VOUCHERS
The voucher program was originally promoted as a way to improve public education. Not any more.
Supporters of Indiana’s voucher program—the largest of its kind in the nation—justified draining badly needed tax dollars away from public schools by asserting that students could use vouchers to attend better private schools.
However, a new report is showing that is not the case. According to records from the Indiana Department of Education, students receiving vouchers are choosing private and/or religious schools that are no better than the public schools they left.
In fact, records show the following:
- About one in five students who received a voucher this year is using it at a school rated C, D, or F by the state’s accountability system;
- About 300 of the state’s 9,324 students getting vouchers chose private schools with an “F” rating; and
- About 21 percent of voucher students left schools with an “A” or “B” rated school district to attend private schools.
It’s not about improving education. It’s about subsidizing religion, promoting “separate” education, and the foolish obsession with removing government from everything. The idea that “government makes everything worse” is as stupid a sentiment as “government makes everything better.” There are appropriate areas in which the government ought to be involved. Licensing professionals like doctors, lawyers and teachers, for example…supporting public institutions like libraries and public schools. We all benefit from a well-informed citizenry.
INDIANAPOLIS – As he signed a measure to expand Indiana’s two-year-old private school voucher program, Gov. Mike Pence signaled that he could push to once again grow the program in the coming years.
The new Republican governor signed the voucher expansion into law while surrounded by 147 students from seven schools who had packed into an auditorium at Calvary Christian School, on the south side of Indianapolis.
PRIVATIZATION: II. BREAKING PUBLIC EDUCATION
The criminal destruction of America’s public schools continues…
Detroit Public Schools (DPS) “Emergency Manager” Roy Roberts stepped down from his position on May 2. During his announcement, Roberts said that his instructions when he took the job were to “blow up the district and dismantle it.”
“Emergency managers” were tasked with fixing local governments in Michigan after the state declared a financial emergency.
The decimation of public school districts is nothing new in the world of slash-and-burn education reform, but his candidness is extremely rare. The justification for closing neighborhood public schools while opening publicly subsidized, privately profitable charter schools is constantly changing. Currently, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is switching between “utilization” and “achievement” as reasons to close 61 public schools, about 10 percent of the district. These reforms will effectively “blow up” and “dismantle” the district without ever using those words.
Things like evaluating teachers using student test scores, having no accountability for home schoolers, and closing high poverty schools improves a states “education” score on ALEC’s “quality” rating. Actual education best-practices, proven through research and experience, don’t matter.
ALEC, the corporate-controlled legislative group promoting a systemic destruction of public education, has released its annual report card. Indiana, ALEC’s poster child for destructive reform, earns a B+ on the dubious roll and ranks it first in the nation with a 3.49 GPA.
The state loses points for its “Teacher Quality and Policies,” including an F for “exiting ineffective teachers.” The state’s best marks are for its charter school policies, its voucher program and its lack of home-school regulation. That’s no surprise given the organization’s interest in promoting free-market policies at the expense of evidence-based methods.
ALEC gives Massachusetts, generally regarded by credible sources as the top-performing state in the nation in K-12 education, a “C” and a GPA of 1.88, the same score as Arkansas and just ahead of Mississippi.
The National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education offers its own grade on the ALEC report card: “A” for ideological fealty; “F” on research quality.”
PRIVATIZATION: III. CORPORATE CHARTERS*
Indiana Congressman Marlin Stutzman is willing to give charters a pass on “effectiveness” and instead of close them down, “rally around them, find out what the problems are and fix them.” Say what? I wonder if he believes we need to do the same with our traditional public schools. Has he ever advocated for closing “failing schools” or is his “rallying ’round” only to help the corporate bottom line?
Stutzman said that some charter schools – “as in anything” – will struggle. Ball State University announced this year it will not renew the charters of three schools it authorized in Fort Wayne: Imagine Schools on Broadway, Imagine MASTer Academy and Timothy L. Johnson Academy. Ball State cited poor academic performance and inadequate improvement at the schools, which together enroll nearly 1,500 students.
“There’s going to be some that come up short,” Stutzman told reporters. “I think the best thing we can do is rally around them, find out what the problems are and fix them. Because at the end of the day, it’s about making sure our parents and students are getting the best opportunity and education that they need.”
I read President Obama’s proclamation for charter schools in “celebration” of Charter School Week. I don’t think he realizes that this week has also been National Teacher Appreciation Week and Tuesday (May 7) was National Teacher Day. I haven’t found his proclamation for that yet…someone ought to let him know.
This isn’t to say there aren’t some great charter schools out there. But there are a lot more great teachers out there—in traditional public schools, in charter schools, in private schools—and the fact that the president is trying to replace the week to appreciate them with a week honoring an educational form that has, according to the most in-depth research available, performed less well than traditional public schools far more often than it has performed better, with the differences in performance being, on the whole, pretty small, except that one of these systems has meant big profits and big paydays for some charter management companies and their executives, is an unfortunate reminder of how disappointing, how flat-out bad this president’s education policies have been.
THE COST OF EDUCATION
From my Facebook friend, John Stoffel…
To every person who comments on an Indiana online newspaper article with, “We continue to throw more money at education and we aren’t getting any better results…”
I say, “I couldn’t disagree with you more.”
Millions of dollars to McGraw-Hill for an online ISTEP test is not money spent on education.
Millions more dollars for a longitudinal database to collect our children’s information and give that private information to corporate edu-businesses is not money spent on education.
Millions of dollars for contracts with Pearson and other corporations for superfluous data-collecting programs is not money spent on education.
Millions of dollars simply to build infrastructure to support Federal standards that are copyrighted and out of control of the local educators is not money spent of education.
Millions of dollars given to failing, for-profit charter schools as a bailout is not money spent on education.
Money our state representatives have recently spent for a punitive A-F system or a flawed and impossible RISE evaluation model is not money spent on education.
Perhaps your legislators are throwing more of your taxpayer money at huge corporations raking in record profits from education (which in turn are bankrolling your elected officials next campaign), but, as a classroom teacher, I assure you, your money has not been spent on education.
“When Congress passes No Child Left Unfed, No Child Without Health Care and No Child Left Homeless, then we can talk seriously about No Child Left Behind” — Susan Ohanian
Frankly, it looks to me like our nation is more at risk from critics like these than it is from the hard-working teachers and administrators trying to help poor kids and their families get ahead in a nation that is increasingly stacking the deck against the poor. It really is not an achievement gap between the United States and other nations that is our problem. We actually do quite well for a large and a diverse nation. It’s really the opportunity gap, not the achievement gap that could destroy us. If only the wealthy have the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed for a post-industrial economy we are, indeed, a nation at risk.
*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It’s Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.