Soft credibility vs real reform

It has to be a challenge for our elected officials and/or those benefiting from infusions of donor/investor money. The real conversation is finally beginning to happen, but only after several years of intentional destruction fueled by the pride, greed, and clueless-ness of those groups, and protected to some degree by the perceived helplessness of the victims. The realities that

  1. education reform is not as simple as a narrow focus on punishing teachers and schools with test scores and bad policies; and 
  2. students lose (and we all lose with them) when so-called reformers are tossing about slogans like “all students deserve” and “school choice”

are realities finally coming under scrutiny. That those driving what is being called reform lack the credibility to define what the job is and what it should be are the reason why much of what they push stands in direct opposition of the things real reform should include.

The growing opposition to such bad practices started quietly and reasonably by parents who knew better and professionals that expressed misgivings gently-they are bound by a need to stay employed, after all. But there are common sense and moral obligations that caused misgivings to grow-as evidenced in part by the “opt out” movement. So called leaders in education were empowered to and supported in their disrespect of concerned parents and professionals, and attempted to dismiss them as tools of teacher unions.

I personally find that interesting, because from my perspective: union leaders have done a lot of leading from the rear-waiting until the ranks of concerned parents and abused professionals reached critical mass.

Parents refused to let their children participate in the kids-are-no-better-than-data charade, or “opted out” in such numbers that the ranks of the reformers became alarmed. Alarmed to the point where their influence over policy has recently been seen in subtle protective shifts. Shifts in policy (loosening the testing noose slightly) and shifts in the attack through social media and traditional press. Backing off on specious but well-crafted attacks on traditional schools is called “backsliding” by reform proponents, and leaders are heaped with praise as they either step down from or are promoted to positions of prominence. Charter school leaders and practices are protected in ways traditional schools never would be.

Peggy Robertson, in speaking at the recent United Opt Out National Conference, describes the goals of the opt out movement as:

“Demanding, and getting all, for all children,” and

“To tear down the test and punish system.”

She notes that “We must halt the harm, before we can rebuild” and that what we look to rebuild should be an

Equitably funded, democratically based, anti-racist, de-segregated public school system, for all Americans, that prepares students to exercise compassionate and critical decision making with civic virtue.

During her opening statements, she notes that there won’t be change until the pain for private interests (“corporate regime”) and politicians, through risk of loss in profits and political status, is so great that change is forced upon them.

Would the defensive and offensive movement we have been seeing amount to that? Are the protectors of the true “status-quo” feeling some pain?

It’s clear that the campaign for dismantling public schools includes a main ingredient of using standardized testing to prove to communities and  parents that their schools are failing them-or that their charters are spectacularly successful.

The second ingredient is “school choice”. If we allow  resources and obligations to be turned into market choices, we all lose.

 

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