explanation - I posted a comment on a thread on Diane Ravitch's blog, and today she turned it into a post, which I reproduce below, using her formatting.
Kenneth Bernstein is an award-winning NBCT who recently retired as a teacher of government. He is now caring for his wife, who is recovering from a major illness. He usually blogs at the Daily Kos but has taken the time to share his insights here as a comment. Thank you, Ken.
We have had a decade of the “reforms” of No Child Left Behind. The approach embodied therein actually is traceable back 30 years, to the release of A Nation at Risk, continued through Goals 2000 which claimed that it would result in America being first in the world in math and science by that date, has seen policy doubling down through Race to the Top and the proposals in the Obama administration’s “Blueprint,” and now we continue the insanity through Common Core and the common assessments. In each of these cases what was excluded in the making of education policy were the voices of those expected to implement the policy choices, professional educators – teachers and principals.
Instead we have had think tanks, we have had politicians, we have had organizations that stand to profit from the decisions – and that includes ostensibly non-profit organizations such as the College Board and ETS among others.
The results to date have not been as promised.
my words continue below the fold
We have failed to address many of the real issues affecting our students, starting with the high percentage (compared to other industrialized democracies) of children in poverty, children who do not get proper nutrition or health care, whose teeth may be rotting, who need glasses but do not have them.
We have had imposed policies that have already been tried and found wanting – turning schools over to “educational management” organizations, converting them to charters, turning to mayoral control – or not yet piloted and evaluated – here the Common Core is one of the best examples. The “data” that has been produced is often either incomplete or in fact downright manipulated – such as graduation rates in Texas, from which we got No Child Left Behind. We ignore contradictions in policies – we have too many students dropping out so to fix that we are going to raise the bar and impose “standards” that are not based on what we know about brain development and differential development rates.
Unfortunately too often the media organizations which should serve to explain things jumps on board the bandwagon. Perhaps it should be expected when the corporation which owns one of the major national newspapers, The Washington Post, gets most of its profits from a for-profit educational venture, Kaplan, which benefits from policies such as increased emphasis on tests.
Fortunately modern means of communicating and organizing are allowing pushback – by parents, students, teachers, administrators, even school boards.
Slowly Americans are beginning to realize that the emperor of educational “reform” is naked – that is, what is being forced upon America’s public schools is less concerned about real learning by students and more concerned about political and economic power.
Perhaps it is time for major media organizations to be far more transparent in their presentations on education, to give equal voice to the voices that have not been heard.
I once had a conversation with a sitting governor, close to a decade ago. The governors had just had a conference on education. Each governor had brought a business leader, which he acknowledged. I asked why each governor had not brought a teacher, or some other educator. He was shocked and acknowledged he at least had never considered the possibility. That is symptomatic of what is wrong in how we make educational policy.
It is also why so many educators – principals as well as teachers – are so demoralized. They are excluded from the making of policy, they are demonized when they object and try to raise the issues that should be discussed. Meanwhile they continue to see the conditions necessary for serving their students disappear, what protections they had to enable them to do their jobs correctly are being taken away from them.
I once told Jay Mathews that I might not object to having my students assessed by quality tests at the end of a course, but I refused to be held accountable if you told me how I had to teach them, because then I had no ability to shape my instruction according to what I knew of my students, and how they were learning.
Increasingly we are trying to tell our teachers not only what to teach but also how to teach it. Sometimes we are even imposing scripted lessons.
Should not the real evaluation be of the results of what has been imposed by those who are not educators, who are not attempting to address the individual needs of the students in their classes, in their schools? And were we to evaluate that way, would w not find almost all of the “reforms” to be failures?
Except the ‘reforms’ have not failed in their other purposes
- increasing profits for testing and curriculum companies (often the same)
– breaking the power of teachers unions
– diminishing the professionalism of teachers, principals and superintendents
– effectively privatizing one of the most important public functions
– removing democratic control of public education and politicizing it in places where it becomes easier to impose the corporatizing agenda.
You know all this.
You have written and spoken out about this.
We need more voices speaking out, loudly.
Thanks for being an important voice.