If you don’t follow charter school goings on worldwide (and for your sanity, I kind of want to suggest you don’t), you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s just the odd blip here and there. But, to be honest, it’s more like a volley of blips coming thick and fast. In fact, if blips were locusts, we’d have a plague on our hands.
Take just this week’s revelations, for example…
Nga Parirau Matauranga Trust (NZ)
Waipareira Trust (NZ)
The E Tipu E Rea Trust (NZ)
Academy Transformation Trust (England)
NET Academies Trust (England)
Paradigm Trust (England)
Gulen/Harmony Charter Schools (USA)
Michigan study (USA)
Ohio Department of Education invoiced (USA)
Cabot Learning Federation (England)
Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (England)
Oh I could go on… this is but a drop in the ocean… but you get the idea.
The charter schools movement is not about education – it’s about privatisation and diversion of funds. As always, I ask you to follow the evidence and follow the money.
Featured Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Taxpayers fund large wages and lavish perks of academy school chiefs , The Guardian, Published online Sunday 24 July 2016 00.05 BST, retrieved 6.59pm NZ 25/7/16
Trust given $500,000 charter school contract without going to tender, NZ Herald, published online 10:43 AM Monday Jul 25, 2016, retrieved 9.18pm 25/7/16
Are charter schools making the grade? – The Nation, TV3, Saturday 23 Jul 2016 10:34 am, retrieved 9.38pm 25/7/16
Charter school a waste of public money – PPTA, Radio NZ, published 7:19 pm on 28 January 2016, retrieved 9.31pm 25/7/16
Parents at Bath Community Academy say school has failed their children and failed them, Bath Chronicle, July 23, 2016, retrieved 9.59pm 25/7/16
This is chaos. It has nothing to do with improving education.
STANDARDIZED Lies, Money, & Civil Rights: How Testing Is Ruining Public Education.
This documentary focuses on the proliferation, business,and inadequacies of state-mandated testing in our public schools.
It focuses on America but is every bit as pertinent to what is happening in New Zealand; we may not be as far down the track as the USA , but we are on the same path.
Whenever a new education policy is announced, I would ask you to come back to this: follow the money.
Who stands to benefit? Because with testing now a multi TRILLION $$$ industry worldwide, you can bet your bottom dollar it isn’t students or parents that are the main concern.
The doco will be out later in the year, but here is a sneak peek.
Teachers don’t often switch off. A good friend refers to holidays as “non-contact” time. And given our government’s habit of pushing through major education legislation during the holidays, you start to feel like those kids in Jurassic Park, sheltering and hyper-aware of every movement as the velociraptors keep testing for gaps in the perimeter.
Saturday’s the one morning I do try to disengage the teacher brain and enjoy a meander round our local farmers’ market with my mum. But this weekend, the Act party were on the “community group” stall – including the Epsom candidate, David Seymour, who assisted John Banks with the drafting of Act’s charter schools policy.
I’ve read and archived more than 500 articles and op-eds on the decimation of American public schooling in favour of charter schools; that virtual pinboard records the same cynical treatment of state schools in the UK – and now here. It fills me with a cold anger that this is being done to students, teachers and schools. Community as a concept is avidly being unpicked. And schools are some of the nicest communities I’ve ever experienced, held together by a lot of personal sacrifice. Targeting them seems like the educational equivalent of harp-seal clubbing.
So this was a chance to talk to the people who are doing things to education – and fair play, Seymour was fronting up in public. Some other politicians who are neck-deep in this aren’t very good at that.
The charter schools pilot makes me want to grab a paper bag and breathe into it vigorously. Part of my job is to promote scientific thinking in children. It’s the simplest of bottom lines: you keep all variables but the one you’re examining the same for it to be a fair test. Charter school students were receiving more funding per head than public school students, and class sizes were 12-15 compared to 28+ in public schools. So that was one of the questions I put to Mr Seymour – how can this test be called “fair”?
The information on funding is “untrue” and class sizes “will grow,” he said. But, I said, that’s not what some charter schools are advertising on radio.
I was then informed that it was a “natural experiment”, and results would be “corrected”, controlling for covariates after the trial. I did a bit more reading later on – yes, they are an option when testing in science. The following gave me slight pause:
“Natural experiments are employed as study designs when controlled experimentation is extremely difficult to implement or unethical, such as in several research areas addressed by epidemiology (e.g., evaluating the health impact of varying degrees of exposure to ionizing radiation in people living near Hiroshima at the time of the atomic blast) and economics (e.g., estimating the economic return on amount of schooling in US adults.”
Apparently I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist’ for believing that charter schools are the beginning of privatisation by stealth, no matter how much evidence there is for it in America and the United Kingdom. But you heard it here first, and I asked if I could quote him on it: schools will not be forcibly privatised against the wishes of their communities, as is happening in Britain. I look forward to following that up.
I asked him about the effect of competition on the thing that makes good education: sharing of knowledge and resources. He hadn’t heard of the charter school in New York visited by a New Zealand teacher, where all doors, windows and cupboards are locked – not because it’s a dangerous neighbourhood, but because teachers are worried about others “stealing” their ideas.
Seymour challenged me on what I would do with a middle school like the one he attended, where children were apparently allowed to run around and do whatever they liked. (Aren’t there mechanisms in place already? Commissioners?) He also asked if I had visited any of the charter schools myself – the people behind them were all good people, doing good things. I asked him if he’d visited any of the schools in the area where I work to see the good things they were doing, too.
Seymour was lukewarm on the idea of National Standards – shock! common ground? – but it’s because they run counter to Act’s ideas of “freedom” from government control. It was my first real-life encounter with someone who believes so fervently in decentralisation, and it was a strange feeling. Like standing on opposite sides of a Wile E Coyote canyon and trying to make ourselves understood.
It was also fairly heartbreaking to hear an older supporter on the stand, someone kind enough to volunteer to read with children at a school in an area of very high need, ask “Why can’t we just give it a go? Why can’t we have a choice?”
If it really was just about choice, and getting the best deal for our kids, and the public system wasn’t steadily being undermined at the same time, maybe I wouldn’t be so angry.
So I left, feeling like I’d engaged in some harp-seal clubbing of my own in directing that beam of fury at the two ACT supporter ladies. (And embarrassed that I’d lost track of time and stood Dianne up for breakfast.)
Funny how a day can pan out, however. Later at the Quality Public Education Coalition forum, chairman Bill Courtney caused heads to swivel when he greeted Alwyn Poole in the audience before giving an update on charter schools. Poole is the principal of Mt Hobson Middle School. He’s also a member of the Villa Education Trust, whose South Auckland Middle School is one of the first in the charter schools pilot.
What a magnificent thing it was to be able to ask questions openly of someone involved in this, and to receive frank answers. (At last!) And to know that this person has extensive experience in education (and multiple teaching qualifications).
Courtney’s talk used South Auckland Middle School’s figures to explain how funding has been allocated. He also made the point that the charter school model has been hijacked by the privatisation movement. One of the first proponents of the idea, Albert Shanker, saw it as a way to allow teachers greater autonomy, to engage the students who weren’t being served by normal schools.
This sounds like what Poole’s schools have been able to do: Poole said he works with children with needs like dyslexia or Asperger’s, or kids who need a “boost” at middle school level. He was asked why couldn’t he achieve it within the system as a special character school. In 2002, that option was “blocked”. They were looking for “ways of expanding what we do”, so applied for the partnership school option.
The school doesn’t carry the same infrastructure as state schools, principals do admin and teach, and they have “a nice lease agreement”. They also have qualified teachers and teach to the New Zealand Curriculum.
Poole was also asked if some of the biggest barriers to learning faced by many schools in Manukau, such as transience, were problems for his school. Transience, less so, but they have had a small degree of truancy (10 hours), and two students had a conflict and left during the school day.
Class size, and the basic mathematics of time for giving one-to-one support, seems to me to be the elephant in the educational tent. It’s splitting it at the seams as most politicians studiously try to avoid treading in its dung.
Unlike many politicians, Poole openly acknowledges that their 1:15 ratio is part of their success in helping students. Why not campaign for the same ratio for state schools? an audience member asked.
Poole: “We love our 1:15 ratio and we would advocate for it very strongly.”
Poole said that they’ve also applied to the Ministry for funding to evaluate their model with the help of the University of Florida.
I went up to him afterwards to say thank you, and realised he must have seen some of my trail of articles on charters on the SOSNZ Facebook page (eek).
We touched on something that came up when he spoke to us: dyslexia. When I was a BT, I had a fantastic student who was also dyslexic. I also had a fairly big class and very basic training in how best to support him, but fortunately, he had a proactive mum who could share her knowledge. I still collect resources now based on what I wish I could have done for him.
Poole started to talk about the things they do, and there was that moment, that neat spark you get when you meet another teacher who might have the solution for the child that you want to help, who will no doubt share it with you, because that’s what we’re both here for, after all.
And that’s what I find hardest to accept: we have educators being pitted against educators in this. Experience, training and knowledge is being dissed.
When stuff like this is happening, the problem is now having faith that the current Ministry of Education is “getting out of bed every morning”, as Courtney put it, with their main aim being to guarantee every child a quality education.
But as Courtney notes, there is no official, publicly available ‘Isaac Report’ to enlighten us on the findings of Catherine Isaac’s working party. There is no attempt to be scientific and explain how the government intends to evaluate the pilot schools, and the concept. Instead there’s a second round of schools funded before any meaningful data has been generated by the first.
There’s not a recognition that public schools overseas are still managing to deliver results, even though they’re being treated like the Black Knight in Monty Python, battling on and squirting blood as another limb gets lopped off.
I got a lot of answers on Saturday. Now I have a new question. Will all educators – partnership school and state – be willing to dare to do what annoyed Tau Henare so much about the Problem Gambling Foundation: stand together to “bag the hand that feeds them” and oppose the secretive development of policy that serves ideology – not kids?
But the other part of it is everything that they’re doing now – “they” being this corporate reform movement — is failing… Evaluating teachers by test scores doesn’t work. Charter schools are not better than public schools… Sure you can get more gains if you take out the low-performing kids, but who’s gonna educate the low-performing kids?
Aren’t they human beings? Aren’t they American citizens? Don’t they deserve an education?…
A warning to those countries (like NZ) that are getting ever more enamoured with the idea of testing.
The Network for Public Education (NPE)’s first National Conference closed with a call for Congressional hearings to investigate the over-emphasis, misapplication, costs, and poor implementation of high-stakes standardized testing.
Two of the eleven areas the NPE has asked to be looked into are:
Testing worldwide has always been part of schooling, and was primarily an in-house, in-class affair that is done, reviewed and acted on by the teacher under the guidance of their team and principal so that the teacher knew what to help the students learn next and students knew where they were at and where they were going. Surely those two things are by far the most important reasons for testing?
As global reforms have taken hold of education, testing has become a stick with which to politically beat schools, teachers. communities, and students. The system has been taken down the wrong path under extreme pressure from the likes of Pearson, Gates, the Wal-Mart clan, Murdoch, Arne Duncan and other reformers. It’s no understantement to say in some countries, such as the USA and Australia, the tests themselves are less about education and more a political and money-making tool.
The Network for Public Education (NPE) states:
“True intelligence in the 21st century depends on creativity and problem-solving, and this cannot be packaged into a test.
We need to invest in classrooms, in making sure teachers have the small class sizes, resources, and support they need to succeed.
We need to stop wasting time and money in the pursuit of test scores.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Take note New Zealand.
Sources and further reading:
We already have teachers, principals, academics, and the RAINS Project all warning us how National Standards are leading to a narrowing of the curriculum, but if you still doubt the effect of benchmarks on WHO teachers are pushed to focus on, then read no further than this warning from a colleague in the USA:
Today we had a grade level meeting about the NWEA scores for the fourth grade students at my school. We teachers were all given printouts of our students’ most recent scores: RIT bands, percentiles, the whole shebang.
Then we were instructed to highlight the students in our classes who had scored between the 37th and 50th percentile. These students, the admin informed us, are the most important students in the class; they are the ones most likely to reach the 51stpercentile when students take the NWEA again in May.
Making the 51st percentile is VERY important to CPS [Chicago Public Schools], and thus to principals, literacy coordinators, test specialists and teachers-who-don’t-want-to-lose-their-jobs.
It might not be important to individual students, their parents or anyone else, but it is life or death in Chicago Public Schools.
We nodded, wide-eyed. These students, our guide continued, should be your primary focus. Make sure they get whatever they need to bring them up to that percentile. Sign them up for any and all academic programs, meet with them daily in small groups, give them extra homework, have them work with available tutors…whatever it takes.
What about the kids at the very bottom, one teacher wondered, the kids under the 20th percentile…shouldn’t they be offered more support too? The admin squirmed a bit. Well, they don’t really have any chance of hitting the goal, so for right now, no. There was silence.
Left unsaid was what might, could, will happen to any school that does NOT have enough students meet that magic number. No one really needs to say it. We all saw the 50 schools that got closed down last year. We see the charters multiplying around us. We’ve also seen the steady stream of displaced teachers come through our school doors as substitutes. We know that we could be next.
This is what happens when politicians take over the education system and it become more about benchmarks, milestones and arbitrary standards rather than being about educating each and every child so that they can achieve their best.
It’s not education, it hoop jumping. And it stinks.
Diane Ravitch notes:
In my recent book, Reign of Error, I quote extensively from a brilliant article by Keith Baker, called “Are International Tests Worth Anything?,” which was published by Phi Delta Kappan in October 2007. Baker, who worked for many years as a researcher at the U.S. Department of Education, had the ingenious idea to investigate what happened to the 12 nations that took the First International Mathematics test in 1964.
He looked at the per capita gross domestic product of those nations and found that “the higher a nation’s test score 40 years ago, the worse its economic performance on this measure of national wealth–the opposite of what the Chicken Littles raising the alarm over the poor test scores of U.S. children claimed would happen.”
He found no relationship between a nation’s economic productivity and its test scores.
Nor did the test scores bear any relationship to quality of life or democratic institutions.
Read the rest here: My View of the PISA Scores.
A letter from Diane Ravitch. The things Diane says here apply to all teachers fighting creeping (and sometimes sprinting) reforms in education:
Dear Members of the Badass Teachers Association,
I am honored to join your group.
The best hope for the future of our society, of public education, and of the education profession is that people stand up and resist.
Say “no.” Say it loud and say it often.
Teachers must resist, because you care about your students, and you care about your profession. You became a teacher to make a difference in the lives of children, not to take orders and obey the dictates of someone who doesn’t know your students.
Parents must resist, to protect their children from the harm inflicted on them by high-stakes testing.
Administrators must resist, because their job is changing from that of coach to enforcer of rules and regulations. Instead of inspiring, supporting, and leading their staff, they are expected to crack the whip of authority.
School board members must resist, because the federal government is usurping their ability to make decisions that are right for their schools and their communities.
Students must resist because their education and their future are being destroyed by those who would force them to be judged solely by standardized tests.
In her now typical teacher-bashing way, she went on to say “In New Zealand we provide 13 years. You’d think it would not be too much to expect that four of those are good quality.”
Ignoring the snarkiness, just think about what she said: Four consecutive years of quality teaching eliminates any trace of socio-economic disadvantage. Override poverty.
That’s a mighty big claim.
Where did it come from and does it stand up to scrutiny?
Where did they find their catchy soundbite?
Neither The Southland Times nor Hekia Parata provide a reference for their claim. You’d think someone making bold statements like that would be more than happy to cite their source, wouldn’t you?
They merely use it to end their article with a flourish. After all, it sounds good, doesn’t it? Very catchy. And they’re not alone – many newspapers and online publications including The Boston Globe used the same quote, also with no reference,
Whatever. I searched on.
A Bit of Digging
A flicker of something I read on Twitter came to mind, and a quick search led me to an article called The economic case for sacking bad teachers. Nice title. I felt sure this would be a clear, research-based, unbiased article…
The article largely ignores the actual report it is supposedly based on and, indeed, misrepresents its conclusions. But wait! They manage to get a nice soundbite out of their expert, Eric Hanushek. I sense he is going to prove interesting.
In the article, Hanushek is quoted as saying:
‘A good teacher can get 1.5 years of learning growth; a bad teacher gets half a year of learning growth.’
The article goes on to say:
Having four consecutive years of high-quality teaching, [Hanushek] says, can eliminate any trace of economic disadvantage. (5)
That issue is not discussed at all in the OECD paper the article is meant to be about. Why throw it in? Did the journalist just find Hanushek’s most famous tidbit and throw it in for good measure? Who knows.
And again, no reference.
Just an acceptance that this bold statement is fact.
And why would the journalist question it? It sounds good doesn’t it? And look at the great headline it gave them.
Still no clearer as to where this assertion had come from, I enlisted the combined research abilities of the experts I know. With their help, I found some very interesting stuff.
Take this quote from Diane Ravitch:
[Eric] Hanushek and Rivkin projected that “having five years of good teachers in a row” (that is, teachers at the 85th percentile) “could overcome the average seventh-grade mathematics achievement gap between lower-income kids (those on the free or reduced-price lunch program) and those from higher-income families. (7)
Ravitch goes on to say that, at the conference where they claims were presented, they were fervently disputed. Richard Rothstein said they were “misleading and dangerous.” (7) Criticism continued after the conference, and the debate of the statement’s validity raged.
New reports came out, suggesting that 3, 4 or 5 years in a row with a good teacher could override the socioeconomic status (SES) of a student.
And despite being incredibly contentious and there being many experts arguing against the claims and plenty of research to say otherwise, it is too good a headline grabber and too utterly irresistible for journalists.
Ravitch tells us that:
Over a short period of time, this assertion became an urban myth among journalists and policy wonks in Washington, something that “everyone knew.”
This is the danger.
The sound bite wins the day.
Do you think the readers of The Southland Times will stop to wonder how rigorous was the research that lead to that soundbite?
Do you think they will ponder whether it has been challenged?
Do you think they will have eight solid hours and a goodly handful of experts to help them look into it, like I did?
No, me neither.
Luckily, I had the time. And even more fortuitously, some anti-GERMers with a larger platform that I did, too.
A Fallacy and a Rebuttal
Renowned education expert, Pasi Sahlberg tackled the “four consecutive years of quality teaching” fallacy:
“This assumption presents a view that education reform alone could overcome the powerful influence of family and social environment mentioned earlier. It insists that schools should get rid of low-performing teachers and then only hire great ones. This fallacy has the most practical difficulties.
The first one is about what it means to be a great teacher. Even if this were clear, it would be difficult to know exactly who is a great teacher at the time of recruitment.
The second one is, that becoming a great teacher normally takes five to ten years of systematic practice. And determining the reliably of ‘effectiveness’ of any teacher would require at least five years of reliable data. This would be practically impossible.
Everybody agrees that the quality of teaching in contributing to learning outcomes is beyond question. It is therefore understandable that teacher quality is often cited as the most important in-school variable influencing student achievement.
But just having better teachers in schools will not automatically improve students’ learning outcomes.” (8)
As Sahlberg says, there are many other factors that lead to students. success, and global reforms tend to ignore those that the most successful countries have implemented, namely
“… freedom to teach without the constraints of standardized curricula and the pressure of standardized testing; strong leadership from principals who know the classroom from years of experience as teachers; a professional culture of collaboration; and support from homes unchallenged by poverty.” (8)
But back to the original statement. Who is Eric Hanushek, that made the claim?
Hanushek is an economist. He is not without controversy, and his research methods have been called into question in the past. (6)
However, disputes with his methods and conclusions have not stopped him from promoting his views widely in professional and public media, nor have they prevented the US administration and now our very own Education Minister, Hekia Parata, using his work and his words to justify further education reforms that education experts argue are not in the best interest of students. (3, page 40-42) and (4)
What does Hanushek say makes a Good Teacher?
His measurement of a good teacher is one whose students get high test scores.
One wonders what this means for a teacher of special needs students of lower cognitive ability, or students with English as a second language, or students who have a low educational ethic. Are those teachers bad because their scores are lower than a teacher with more able students?
It’s a tad disconcerting, isn’t it?
You will have your own ideas on what makes a good teacher. Anecdotal evidence tells me that for many Kiwi parents, it is more than test results. I shall tackle this in detail some other time. Meanwhile, you might want to read this and ponder the issue further.
Back to the sound bite, then.
Quality teaching is, of course, of huge importance. But the best that can be said for the assertion that four consecutive years’ quality teaching eliminates any trace of socio-economic disadvantage is that it is contentious.
Certainly there is evidence out there that supports the view that poverty has an impact on student achievement. And great teachers are likely to do more than just improve test scores.
One thing I know for sure: Whether even the best teachers can completely override the impact of a student’s socioeconomic situation is not something that can or should be tackled by a sound bite.
With sincere thanks to the many experts who were kind enough to help me today.
References and further reading:
(2) The Market for Teacher Quality Eric A. Hanushek, John F. Kain, Daniel M. O’Brien and Steven G. Rivkin* December 2004
(3) School Reform Proposals: The Research Evidence (Research in Educational Productivity) by Alex Molnar (Mar 1, 2002)
(5) The economic case for sacking bad teachers – The Spectator
(6) Does Money Matter? A meta-analysis of studies of the effects of differential school inputs on student outcomes, by Hedges, Laine, and Greenwald (1994)
(8) What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools? by Pasi Sahlberg
Is it really all about choice?
Katie Osgood refers obliquely here to the famous John Dewey quote that what the best and wisest parent wants for his children is what we should want for all children:
“Here is the fundamental question: If low-income parents were offered fully-funded neighborhood schools with all kinds of “choice” offered within the schools like arts, music, sports, technology, supplemental services, libraries, world language, special education services, small classes, experienced/stable staff with low-turnover, etc (like what kids in Winnetka are offered)-would they EVER choose the charter school with inexperienced teachers, harsh discipline, long “rigorous” school days with little access to music/art, prescriptive curriculum, non-unionized/exploited and overworked staff–>high turnover? If the answer is “no” then what we need is equity, equal access to quality learning environments, and not “choice”.
“As an aside, parents in Chicago came out by the thousands to beg, plead, yell, and protest to keep their underfunded neighborhoods schools open…
View original post 25 more words
This is an interesting comment on the perils of using business models in education – from Diane Ravitch’s most excellent blog (which you should go and bookmark right now):
“Having spent years in business, I cringe at blindly applying business models to education. 360 evaluation is a business fad that will join MBOs and matrix management. I tried student evaluations. Students are usually upset over not getting a certain grade on the most recent test, angry over a detention, or at the other extreme, like the teacher and don’t want to say anything negative. I eavesdropped on two of my high school students evaluating their teachers and a “good” teacher had more to do with being lenient, funny, and good looking. It took me years to later appreciate my good teachers – not at the time the most popular. Most parents mean well, but often have only glimpses of the classroom from their child’s perspective. Often the truth is difficult and not always well received. Peers are OK, but not all peers are objective or can separate politics. Administrators may not have spent enough years in a math or language arts classroom – perhaps moving up through phys ed – to understand content and delivery. Third party evaluations are too disconnected and have conflicts of interest.
So a better solution? First, and this principle is also overlooked in business, IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT. Not all schools are failing, and then, not all for the same reason. Blanket, scorched earth solutions never work and just replace one set of problems with another. Improving upon what exists takes skill and savvy. Second, if you want to know what makes a good teacher, ask a good teacher. We all know who they are. Mentoring is by far the best system with centuries of success. Make it work. Third, start listening to teachers, not politicians, billionaires, and opportunists. The latter have other interests. Teachers, in contrast to the constant demonizing, are in the classroom everyday and want their students to learn.
The best approach to education is there is no single approach to education. Students are individuals and human. Not data points in a multi-level statistical model. Teachers know this. Will anybody else listen?”
A comment on the post about “Zombie Education Policies”:
Having spent years in business, I cringe at blindly applying business models to education. 360 evaluation is a business fad that will join MBOs and matrix management. I tried student evaluations. Students are usually upset over not getting a certain grade on the most recent test, angry over a detention, or at the other extreme, like the teacher and don’t want to say anything negative. I eavesdropped on two of my high school students evaluating their teachers and a “good” teacher had more to do with being lenient, funny, and good looking. It took me years to later appreciate my good teachers – not at the time the most popular. Most parents mean well, but often have only glimpses of the classroom from their child’s perspective. Often the truth is difficult and not always well received. Peers are OK, but not…
View original post 203 more words
Diane Ravitch shares her thoughts on inequality – thoughts that apply as much to NZ as they do to the USA:
“In a terrific opinion piece that was prominently featured in the Sunday New York Times, Sean Reardon of Stanford University wrote that the gap between the children of the rich and the children of the poor has grown by 40% in the past 30 years.
Reardon puts to rest virtually every reformer myth: schools don’t cause inequality; schools don’t cure inequality: the achievement gap(s) begin before the first day of school. Stop blaming schools for conditions beyond their control. Poverty matters.
Reardon writes : “We are still talking about this despite decades of clucking about the crisis in American education and wave after wave of school reform.Whatever we’ve been doing in our schools, it hasn’t reduced educational inequality between children from upper- and lower-income families.”
What have we been doing for the past 30 years? Relying on standards and testing to close the gaps. It hasn’t worked.
Are schools to blame for the growing gap? Reardon says no: “It may seem counterintuitive, but schools don’t seem to produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students. We know this because children from rich and poor families score very differently on school readiness tests when they enter kindergarten, and this gap grows by less than 10 percent between kindergarten and high school.”
If the schools are not to blame, what is: Reardon says that growing income inequality is an important cause of the growing education gap.
But that’s not all. Rich families invest heir income in cognitively enriching activities: “It’s not clear what we should do about all this. Partly that’s because much of our public conversation about education is focused on the wrong culprits: we blame failing schools and the behavior of the poor for trends that are really the result of deepening income inequality and the behavior of the rich.”
What can we do? Reardon says, parent education, early intervention, support for children before the GPS grow wide: “The more we do to ensure that all children have similar cognitively stimulating early childhood experiences, the less we will have to worry about failing schools. This in turn will enable us to let our schools focus on teaching the skills — how to solve complex problems, how to think critically and how to collaborate — essential to a growing economy and a lively democracy.”
The original post can be found here.
Stan Karp of New Jersey, who taught for 30 years, here explains the long-term impact of charter schools on public education. He understands that the original idea of charters was progressive: they were supposed to be teacher-run schools that reached out to the neediest students.
But now they have become a means of privatizing the schools.
As Karp writes:
“It has become impossible to separate the rapid expansion of charter networks from efforts to privatize public education….”
Read more on Diane Ravitch’s blog, here.