Response to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and the Cato Institute

Response to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and the Cato Institute

After the publication of an op-ed by Alfredo Gaete and Stephanie Jones  on the AJC Get Schooled blog, the president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and the Cato Institute wrote letters refuting the essay.

Here is their response, specifically to the Cato Institute’s claim that the essay included untruths.

We acknowledge that in Chile, like in the United States, the debate over what counts as data, how data is interpreted, and the measures that are used to indicate educational achievement and improvement is ongoing and often influenced by broader political and economic ideologies and goals. That being said, we respond below to questions about specific claims made in our essay.

First of all, our statement is that there’s no “clear” evidence that students’ scores have improved. This is quite relevant, since a main idea inspiring the “Chilean experiment” was to show that a private, market based education would be “clearly” superior. It is this that the last 3 decades failed to show. Controlling for socioeconomic variables, there are no big differences between the private and public system in the SIMCE. Moreover, there are some public schools, e.g., the “Instituto Nacional”, that select students as much as private schools do and that, interestingly, do better than most of the latter in standardized testing.

According to former consultant to the Ministry of Education (and one of the leading Chilean researchers in the area) C. Bellei, not only do we not have empirical grounds to assert that private schools have been more effective than public schools; furthermore, he says, the outcomes of studies have tended to be biased in favor of private schools, in such a way that the latter may happen to be less effective. At any rate, the average difference between private and public schools is so small that they are close to be irrelevant.

Now it is true that Chile has shown a certain improvement in his relative position in PISA scores. But (1) this may say less about Chilean improvements and more about other countries’ relapse; and (2) these results are controversial among researchers anyway. Additionally, standardized testing is neither the only nor the best way or criterion to determine the quality of an educational system, it is simply the way favoured by market-oriented systems. Another criterion that could be used is equity and inclusion. In particular, there is increasing agreement among educators and researchers that diverse, heterogeneous schools are better that homogeneous, segregated ones. The following is an excerpt from the conclusions of a recent empirical analysis of the socioeconomic status school segregation in Chile:

“Summarizing, we found that the magnitude of the socioeconomic school segregation in Chile was very high and tended to slightly increase during the last decade; we also found that private schools – including voucher schools – were more segregated than public schools; and we estimated that some educational market dynamics (i.e. privatization, school choice, and fee paying) accounted for a relevant proportion of the Chilean SES school segregation. We interpret these findings as broadly consistent with our hypothesis that links SES school segregation and market oriented mechanisms in education, which is additionally supported by recent international reports based on PISA 2009 (OECD 2010a) and handbook chapters specialized on these issues (Gill and Booker 2008), which demonstrated that larger private school participation on educational market is not coupled with improvement on the average national standardized test scores but it is strongly related to more segregated and unequal educational systems” (“Socioeconomic school segregation in a market-oriented educational system. The case of Chile”. Published in the Journal of Education Policy, 2014, Vol. 29, No. 2, p. 233).

All in all, and beyond the different possible interpretations of a same set of data (which is always possible in social science), what we have to acknowledge is that the privatization of education is far from being the panacea once sold by the advocates and designers of the Chilean neoliberal educational model. The fact is that after 30 years Chilean people are not convinced by such a model and, moreover, they are massively demanding, not any change, but a radical change. The US should learn something from this.

All our best,
Stephanie and Alfredo

Advocates of the Privatization of Education and making public education a “free market”:

Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (Georgia folks – does this list look familiar?): http://www.edchoice.org/School-Choice/What-is-School-Choice
Cato Institute: http://www.cato.org/

How Geology Aided in the Survival and Rescue of the Chilean Miners

All of the 33 Chilean miners, trapped for more than two months 2,200 feet below the surface, have been brought up to the surface using the ingenious capsule, designed by NASA and built by the Chilean navy. The capsule traveled up & down a shaft that was 26″ wide.  When we saw the first miner step out of the capsule and onto the surface of Earth, nearly a 1/2 mile above the cavern where the miners were trapped, we all witnessed a wondrous moment.

I wondered about the geology of this mine, and the geology of this particular area, and wondered if the geology of the mine contributed to the their survival and ultimate rescue.

In an interesting article, written early into the rescue attempt, the igneous rock of this copper and gold mine, and its structural characteristics might have played an important role in the survival of the miners.  Here, from the article, is what I mean by that:

The gallery where the miners took refuge more than 2,200 feet below ground is at least 1.2 miles long, with easily enough air to last 17 days or more, said Gustavo Lagos, a professor at the Catholic University of Chile’s Center for Mining.

“The caves, the tunnels, that is what saved them,” agreed Wolfgang Griem, director of the geology department at the University of Atacama.

The Atacama Desert that surrounds Copiapo is considered the driest place on Earth. Some parts have not seen a single drop of rain since recordkeeping began.

Yet inside the mine, the igneous rock walls are seamed with clay that contains lots of water, which Lagos said he could see beading up and dripping down the walls behind the miners in video images from their emergency chamber.

The moist environment enabled the miners to carve water from the mine floor with a bulldozer to supplement stored industrial water. The internal runoff also means there is an essentially unlimited drinking supply, though Lagos said it could be acidic and cause minor health problems.

For fuller details on the mining disaster, and the subsequent rescue mission, you might visit this page.

March 11 Chile Earthquakes

Several earthquakes occurred in Chile today (March 11), and according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quakes were “aftershocks” associated with the 8.8 Chile earthquake of February 27.  According to the USGS analysis, the earthquakes occurred in the region of aftershocks of the major earthquake.  Here is the USGS early analysis of today’s earthquakes:

The Chile earthquakes of March 11, 2010, 14:39 UTC and 14:55 UTC, occurred in the region of the plate boundary between the Nazca and South America plates, in the aftershock region of the great Chile earthquake of February 27, 2010. The March 11 earthquakes almost certainly occurred as the result of the change of regional stress caused by the February 27 earthquake. Preliminary analyses of their locations and seismic-wave radiation patterns, however, imply that the March 11 shocks occurred as the result of normal faulting within the subducting Nazca plate or the overriding South America plate, unlike the February 27 earthquake, which occurred as thrust faulting on the interface between the two plates. At present, the focal depths of the shocks are not known with sufficient precision to confidently determine within which of the Nazca or South America plate the earthquakes occurred.

Here is a map from the USGS showing the location of today’s main aftershock, which was located SW of Santiago, the capital of Chile.

Map showing aftershocks associated with Feb. 27 8.8 earthquake, as well as historical earthquakes, and the depth of earthquakes

Magnitude 8.8 Chile Earthquake

In the book The Art of Teaching Science, Chile is one the countries featured in an exploration of science education around the world.  The article was written by Claudia Rose, Director of the International Baccalaureate Program at the International School Nido de Aguilas in Santiago.  As of this writing, I was unable to access any of the links to the school, and I am sure that the magnitude 8.8 earthquake off the coast near Santiago is reason for the lack of connectivity to the school’s server.   Naturally, we are concerned, and will attempt further contact with the school.

The magnitude 8.8 Chile earthquake which occurred on February 27, 2010 was the result of movement between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates.  The Nazca plate, shown here, is an oceanic tectonic plate off the west coast of South America.  The Nazca plate is undergoing subduction moving under the South American Plate along the Peru-Chile Trench.

Location of Nazca tectonic plate sandwiched between the Pacific, Antarctic, and South American tectonic plates

In 1960, the largest quake (magnitude 9.5) ever recorded off the coast of Chile.  The result of this quake was the rebuilding of Chile using very strict earthquake building standards.  Even with these standards, the devastation of the February 27-8.8 quake is immense, especially in the city of Concepción, Chile’s second largest city, and located only 70 miles from the epicenter of the quake (Santiago is 200 miles from the epicenter).

As seen on news reports on TV and Internet reports, the devastation in Chile is huge, and the latest reports place the death toll at over 700 people.  Roads, buildings, and the general infrastructure have been damaged, and in many cases destroyed.  International aid is beginning, but the toll on the people of Chile is severe, and our hearts go out to them.

Science Curriculum—A Global Perspective

In this post I want to announce a new website entitled: Science Curriculum—A Global Perspective.

In the last two posts I alluded to science teaching from a global perspective.  In the first of these two posts, entitled Infusing Global Thinking into science teaching, I discussed some examples of how educators have developed programs that infuse global thinking into science, in particular the Global Lab program, which is being revitalized in Russia and the Global Thinking Project, which engaged thousands of students during the period 1991 – 2002.  In the second post, which announced a science education conference in Istanbul, I introduced to readers of this weblog, DR. M. Fatih Tasar, professor of science education at Gazi University, Ankara, Turkey.  In my introduction of Dr. Tasar, I explained that he authored an essay on Science Education in Turkey which was published in The Art of Teaching Science: Inquiry and Innovation in Middle School and High School.  I also mentioned that there were six additional essays written by various authors on science education from Australia, Chile, China, Ghana, Japan, and Russia.

Science education is a worldwide community of teachers and researchers, and is an active force in the socio-political, educational and economic dynamics of most countries.  Researchers have documented that science education reform is a worldwide trend, and have identified several forces that have impacted these improvement efforts. Reform has been influenced by: constructivist views on learning, cross-national studies of student learning, globalization, and advances in science, technology and information technology.  Social constructivism, perhaps more than any other construct, has influenced the development and design of curriculum experiences in most countries over the past several decades.

I have developed a website that includes the original compelling essays written by seven science educators about science teaching in their own nation.  The website includes science education in:

  • Australia by Roger Cross
  • Chile by Claudia Rose
  • China by Ronald Price
  • Ghana by Charles Hutchison
  • Japan by Shigehiko Tsukahara
  • Russia by Sergei Tolstikov
  • Turkey by M. Fatih Tasar

I hope you you will visit the new site and explore science education as seen through the lenses of these outstanding educators.  I’ve added photos, videos, maps, and links to help you delve further into science education in these countries.