Winners and Losers

Winners and Losers

In his Op-Ed in the Nation, Henry A. Giroux links Donald Trump to the plague of atomization in a neoliberal age.  What was important to me, among other things in his Op-Ed was his reference to a 1946 essay by Leo Lowenthal, entitled “Terrors Atomization of Man, which was also reprinted in Lowenthal’s book, False Prophets: Studies in Authoritarianism.

The Twentieth Century had its share of authoritarians and totalitarians in Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union, and other countries.

We find ourselves in the midst of a competitive world, where there are clear winners and a lot of losers.  Just ask Donald Trump.

For instance, Giroux in his Op-Ed says this about competition, and its unfortunate but predictable result:

Within neoliberal ideology, an emphasis on competition in every sphere of life promotes a winner-take-all ethos that finds its ultimate expression in the assertion that fairness has no place in a society dominated by winners and losers. As William Davies points out, competition in a market-driven social order allows a small group of winners to emerge while at the same time sorting out and condemning the vast majority of institutions, organizations and individuals “to the status of losers.”

Trump uses the terms “winners and losers” as a way of insulting anyone that is within his sphere–just ask the 17 men and women who were humiliated in the Republican battle to choose a presidential candidate.

But, our educational system is set up in a way in which winners and losers are cast as pawns in education’s élite and wealthy corporate people to corral and control public education by claiming the public schools are losers, and what is needed are charter schools and their management partners to not just win, but hoodwink parents into believing that they are giving them a choice in their children’s education.

This is a big fat lie.

We need to vote against policy that reinforces the idea that competition in the school environment will improve student’s lives in our schools.  This policy leads to but heads like Nathan Deal to push down the throats of Georgia parents, especially those parents who send their students to public schools that have erroneously identified as “failing schools.”

And because the elites claim they are failing, what they need is a charter management company to come in and fire most of the teachers and replace them with neophytes or unlicensed teachers.

This fall, we need to fight against the “winner/loser” mentality, and vote no in November on the ballot measure State Intervention in Failing Public Schools Amendment.

If approved, then Senate Bill 133 will be enacted enabling Nathan Deal to create in central government school district, The Opportunity School District.

We need to fight the good fight on this.

Beware of Senate Resolution 287: The Opportunity to Take Over Public Schools

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Today, the Georgia Senate voted and passed (38 – 15) Governor Deal’s “chronically failing” school bill which would turn these schools into charters under the appointment of a “state” superintendent.  Senate Resolution 287 proposes an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia that will allow the General Assembly to authorize the establishment of an Opportunity School District which will intervene into failing schools.  Here is a quote from Resolution 287:

The General Assembly may provide by general law for the creation of an Opportunity School District and authorize the state to assume the supervision, management, and operation of public elementary and secondary schools which have been determined to be failing through any governance model allowed by law. Such authorization shall include the power to receive, control, and expend state, federal, and local funds appropriated, all in the manner provided by and in accordance with general law (Miller, et.al. (2015, January 1). Senate Resolution 287. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/20152016/148454.pdf). Emphasis mine.

This is an unfortunate state of affairs.

It will lead to an operation in which private charters will essentially be given the right to spend state and federal money that was earmarked  for public schools, and create a system that will be “thin on data and thick on claims,” as Kristen L. Buras stated in her critical report of the Louisiana Recovery District (Buras, K. (2012, March 1). REVIEW OF THE LOUISIANA RECOVERY SCHOOL DISTRICT: LESSONS FOR THE BUCKEYE STATE. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/TTR-NOLAOhio-Fordham_0.pdf).  We all know that the Georgia plan being pushed by the Governor will be a replica of the Louisiana plan.  According to Dr. Buras’ review of the Recovery School District’s program (RSD) by the Fordham Institute, the success of the reforms in the RSD:

is simply asserted rather than established. This is a troubling omission since adequate data and studies are available that address these points in general and for the RSD in particular. (Buras, 2012)

There are a number of troubling parts of Dr. Buras’ report that will have direct implication for Georgia’s struggling schools.  For example, in 2006, she reports that when veteran teachers in the RSD were fired en mass they were replaced largely by uncertified and inexperienced recruits from Teach for America and The New Teacher Project.  Here are some figures from Buras’ report that are shocking.  Prior to 2006, only 10% of the teachers in the RSD were in their first or second year of teaching.  In 2007 – 2008, 60% of the teachers in the RSD had one year or less of experience.  Only 1% had 25 or more years of experience.

But the most atrocious aspect of the Buras’ report is her discussion of how cut off scores on the state standardized tests seemed to drift up or down depending upon the kind of results that would benefit the RSD.  She puts it this way:

In sum, state standards of “success” and “failure” were manipulated to justify converting public schools into charter schools, and then to justify keeping them as charter schools, Buras, 2012).

Her report also shows that the financial “performance” of the RSD charter schools closes in on being corrupt, clearly not as effective as public schools.  I quote her at length here to show what she found:

In terms of financial performance, there is little evidence that the charter-intensive RSD is more efficient in its use of resources. In fact, the performance assessment issued by the Louisiana legislative auditor, which is cited in the Fordham report, found the following: “Overall, the Office of Parental Options (OPO) and RSD did not effectively monitor [its charter schools] in fiscal year 2010 and need to improve the process to annually collect, review, and/or evaluate [their] performance,” including “student, financial, and legal/contractual performance.”30 The Fordham report does not mention these problems, even as it criticizes New Orleans public schools for mismanagement, corruption, and a lack of transparency (Buras, 2012).

Beware of this Resolution.  It is not intended to improve education in communities that have struggling schools.  It is designed to reform schools based on people who know very little to nothing about education, but know a lot about taking advantage, and seeking the opportunity to privatize public education.

Watch out.

Stop the Louisiana Style Take Over of Georgia’s Struggling School Communities

Ted Terry, State Campaign Director, Georgia AFL-CIO and I have been communicating about the plan being proposed by Governor Deal to take over Georgia’s “failing” schools by implementing a Louisiana style state-wide recovery school district.  Ted Terry is organizing a campaign that we all should support to fight against this take over by the state of schools that need direct assistance community wide, and not becoming a charter school run by corporate charter companies that will be interested in only one thing: making a profit on the backs of the students by indoctrinating them with a diet of worksheets and drill and practice to get ready for tests that will be used to decide the school’s profitability.

Oh, and if they really use the Louisiana Recovery School plan, there is a very good chance that many teachers will be fired (surely the principal will be ousted), and replaced with teachers from America’s top temp agencies: Teach for America and The New Teacher Project.

Research by Professor Kristin Buras of Georgia State University shows that experienced teachers in New Orleans were replaced with non-certified and inexperienced teachers.  The average number of years of experience for many of the New Orleans school in Recovery Project is very close to 1 (one).   Do you want that for Georgia schools?

So, here is some material prepared by Ted Terry.  I urge you to use this information, and the link below to take action on Governor Deal’s plan to take over Georgia’s struggling schools.

Subject: Send a letter: STOP Louisiana Style School Takeover Scheme

I wrote a letter for the Action Network letter campaign “STOP Louisiana Style School Takeover Scheme”.

Politicians in Atlanta have cut billions from local school districts for over a decade. This has resulted in larger class sizes, teacher furloughs, and an increased property tax burden. Nathan Deal was just elected to a second term, as Governor — now he is proposing that he also become the education Czar of Georgia by holding the power to put schools on a list that could be taken over by central command, in downtown Atlanta at the Twin Towers.

This Louisiana style school takeover scheme would give a special set of bureaucrats in Atlanta, appointed by the Executive Branch, the power to declare your local school or school district “failing” and then take it over. This simply is a bad deal for schools that are put on a failing list based on uncertain and fluctuating “data” points, that sets up some schools for failure, according to the state’s definition of failure.

There is no disagreement about the importance of turning around so-called failing schools. However the scheme that the Governor is proposing simply has been shown to be the wrong approach. After nine years in New Orleans, Louisiana, only 4 of the 107 schools taken over by the Recovery School District score above the state average. Please email (right side —>) your State Senator and State Representative today. Tell them to vote NO on Senate Bill 133.

Can you join me and write a letter? Click here.

The work being done by Ted Terry is important and crucial to defeat this unjust plan.

Charter Schools: In Whose Interest?

An Art of Science Teaching Inquiry

Charter schools are seen as a cure-all to raise test scores of American students. It kind of like a philosopher’s stone, or a 19th century elixir, to serve as an antidote for the ills of traditional public schools. Many policymakers are motivated by the delusion that choice and competition is the answer to solving problems facing our schools.

Public schools are the only agent that can create a sense of community among diverse communities from which students come. Charter schools have not done this. In fact, charter schools have further segregated children from each other, and we know that this is not a good idea.

Some of the charter bills that have been passed will result in an increase in politics and influence peddling in the context of multimillion dollar opportunities by establishing charter schools in various counties in each state. Real estate investment firms will find a pot of gold in these states. Firms will come in a buy land and/or empty buildings (schools, factories) and then in turn lease them to for-profit charter school management companies, such as KIPP, Academica, or Charter Schools USA. Boston worked out a deal in the interests of corporate investors.

And in this election year, politicians use their place on charter schools to influence voters, and to partner with corporations who hope tp peddle their wares in the politician’s state or county.  Just go an ask Nathan Deal, Governor of Georgia.

Myths

In this inquiry, we’ll explore the underlying rationale for charter schools (the rationale has moved from one of true curriculum development by teachers, to a cash cow for charter management companies).  When you look carefully at charter schools, they do not offer the kind of choice they claim in press releases and other public statements.  For example, EmpowerED Georgia, an education advocate group, has identified  8 myths about charter schools. If you follow this link, you will find more details about the myths identified by Empowered Georgia. Here we’ve only identified the myth, and one fact that repudiates or questions charters.

Myths about Georgia’s Charter Amendment

Research on Charter Schools

One of the images that has always impressed is the graph showing the relationship between poverty concentration and SAT/ACT scores for charter schools in Texas (the red dots) and “regular” Texas public schools.  It is clear that nearly all the charter schools (except for just a few) fall at the bottom of the graph, irrespective of poverty concentration.

Charter schools, in general, have consistently underperformed when compared to similar public schools.  And when you see data as shown in Figure 1, you begin to realize that supporters of charter schools simply ignore such research, or have other purposes in mind for the establishment of charter schools.

Figure 1. This graph might be disappointing to advocates of charter schools. The graph shows the percentage of high school graduates meeting SAT/ACT College Readiness Criterion plotted against the concentration of poverty. Each disc is a high school; the red dots are charter schools, the grey are public schools. In general, charter schools simply to do not compare favorably to public schools, regardless of poverty concentration.  Graph by Dr. Michael Marder, University of Texas, used with permission.  For more data like this.

 

The Inquiry

What Should Parents Know About Charter Schools?

Following are some questions that might be considered in this inquiry.  Is there evidence that charter schools don’t do as well as most public schools, and if so, why are so many politicians working so hard to turn so-called “failing public schools” over to charter school management companies?

Here are some questions to consider in this inquiry:

  1. What should every Georgia parent know about charter schools?
  2. Charter Schools are unleashed with false claims and lots of money.  True? or False?
  3. Did some in the Georgia legislature shout, “Give us charter schools, or we’ll amend the Georgia Constitution?”
  4. Is there any credibility to the claim that charter schools are education’s 21st century philosopher’s stone?
  5. Are Charter Schools in Georgia the Corporate Reformer’s Magic Bullet?
  6. If Charter Schools are not the answer, then what’s the question? (by P.L Thomas)
  7. Do some charter and Title I schools use a pedagogy of indoctrination?
  8. What is the charter school formula for financial success by educational failure?
  9. Is the term charter school an euphemism for school choice?
  10. Why do states ignore the research on charter school performance?

 

What’s Common Here: Teacher Education, Authoritarian Reform, Poverty, & Charter Schools?

In this first blog post in nearly two months, I want to introduce you to four areas of inquiry that have been explored on this blog over the past 10 years.

Over the next month, I’ll be uploading links to landing pages, each of which is a kind of inquiry or an investigation of themes that appeared on the Art of Teaching Science Blog.

Inquiries

The first four areas of inquiry are up on the blog website, and they are:

  • Assault on Teacher Education:  The assault on teacher education is being led by neoliberal and conservative ideologues who want to de-professionalize teaching, and one of the places to do this is by attacking the nation’s colleges and universities that prepare teachers.
  • Authoritarian Reform: In this inquiry, I am going to explore another movement that has historically played a role to oppose corporate, authoritarian, un-democratic, and right-wing policies and beliefs, and that is the work and wish of progressives, who have played a role in American history, starting with the American revolution.
  • Effect of Poverty on Learning:  There are bloggers and researchers who understand the nature of poverty and its effects, and why journalists, bureaucrats, politicians, corporate executives, and the billionaire boys club reformers either whitewash or simply avoid the problem. In fact, we have entered a period of “no excuses education,” which is held up as the option of “choice,” especially for families living in poor communities.
  • Charter Schools: In Whose Interest?:  Charter schools are seen as a cure-all to raise test scores of American students. It kind of like a philosopher’s stone, or a 19th century elixir, to serve as an antidote for the ills of traditional public schools. Many policymakers are motivated by the delusion that choice and competition are the answers to solving problems facing our schools.  In this inquiry, we’ll explore the underlying rationale for charter schools (the rationale has moved from one of true curriculum development by teachers, to a cash cow for charter management companies). When you look carefully at charter schools, they do not offer the kind of choice they claim in press releases and other public statements.

Future inquiries include:

  • High Stakes Testing and Teacher Evaluation
  • The National Council on Teacher Quality & the Art fox Ineptness
  • Politics and Influence Peddling
  • Progressive Pedagogy
  • Questioning Standards-Based Education
  • Stealth Appearances of Intelligent Design

Welcome back to the Art of Teaching Science blog.