April 2011 Archives
We are in a perilous time, and they need a place and a space to safely investigate the world and to care for each other. And, teachers need to use every means they can find to do what they know is right.
Curiously, the corporate reform movement likes to talk about data-driven decisions, but they ignore any data that doesn't support what they want to do. For example, when the Vanderbilt study of merit pay was published, the U.S. Department of Education immediately released nearly $500 million for—what else—more merit-pay programs, and promised that another $500 million would be forthcoming.
As students, we are in school at most a third of our waking hours every year. Given "how" we learn, how best can we bridge school and the other two-thirds "efficiently"?
So it made perfect sense, at least to Mayor Bloomberg, that a successful publishing executive could sell his program. After all, she opened and closed many magazines, why not do the same with schools? But it didn't work. She didn't know the language, the issues, the players, or anything about public education.
We instead encourage children from ages 4 to 18 to think it's mostly about doing better in school so you'll do better in school OR, big step forward, you'll get a better-paying job. (Or ANY job.) We actually offer them statistical proof of this, over and over.
That last argument is the one that really moves policymakers in these tough fiscal times. Imagine that: voucher schools may not educate kids better, but they can do the job at half the cost. That's powerful, and it reveals what matters most these days: not improving education, not encouraging creativity and innovation, but cutting costs.
Lobbyist by lobbyist, the unions certainly couldn't match their opponents, even if we added in the many good citizen advocacy groups. But they had one advantage over the others: the relatively high loyalty of their members. Numbers of people vs. numbers of dollars.
But what we now know is that there never was a Texas miracle. At best, it was wishful thinking. At worst, it was a lie.