Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Barack Obama And "Reform"

Even as some observers sympathetic to the education deform agenda, such as Times columnist Joe Nocera, begin to question the efficacy of the deform agenda, the people behind the agenda are moving ever more closely to running every school system in the nation:

ST. PAUL — With the dust settling on legislative sessions around the country, 2011 is shaping up as one of the most consequential years in memory for changes in the way schools are run.

The new policies have many champions, but a little-known common denominator behind sweeping measures in nearly a dozen states is Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, who has re-emerged as an adviser to governors and lawmakers, mostly Republicans, who are interested in imitating what he calls “the Florida formula” for education.

Mr. Bush, for example, has been closely involved in new education bills and laws in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah. One out of five state school superintendents have joined a group that his national foundation created, Chiefs for Change, to rally behind a common agenda.

He has hopped around the country to campaign for candidates, hold meetings and lobby for Florida-style changes. They include private-school vouchers, online courses and requiring third-graders to pass reading tests before they move up to fourth grade, rather than being pushed along with their peers — or “social promotion.”

Increased testing, charter schools, school vouchers, merit pay, teacher accountability as the sole measure of - all debunked education reform initiatives, and yet the EXACT blueprint for the "reforms" enacted this year at the state level with the help of Jeb Bush and Barack Obama.

Oh, and with the help of the money of Bill Gates and Eli Broad.

And of course underpinning all of this "reform" is the idea that only the teacher matters and great teachers can overcome any obstacle in the school system.

But as Nocera wrote in his column yesterday:

Good teaching alone can’t overcome the many obstacles Saquan faces when he is not in school. Nor is he unusual. Mahler recounts how M.S. 223 gives away goodie bags to lure parents to parent association meetings, yet barely a dozen show up. He reports that during the summer, some students fall back a full year in reading comprehension — because they don’t read at home.

Going back to the famous Coleman report in the 1960s, social scientists have contended — and unquestionably proved — that students’ socioeconomic backgrounds vastly outweigh what goes on in the school as factors in determining how much they learn. Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute lists dozens of reasons why this is so, from the more frequent illness and stress poor students suffer, to the fact that they don’t hear the large vocabularies that middle-class children hear at home.

Yet the reformers act as if a student’s home life is irrelevant. “There is no question that family engagement can matter,” said Klein when I spoke to him. “But they seem to be saying that poverty is destiny, so let’s go home. We don’t yet know how much education can overcome poverty,” he insisted — notwithstanding the voluminous studies that have been done on the subject. “To let us off the hook prematurely seems, to me, to play into the hands of the other side.”

That last sentence strikes me as the key to the reformers’ resistance: To admit the importance of a student’s background, they fear, is to give ammo to the enemy — which to them are their social-scientist critics and the teachers’ unions. But that shouldn’t be the case. Making schools better is always a goal worth striving for, whether it means improving pedagogy itself or being able to fire bad teachers more easily. Without question, school reform has already achieved some real, though moderate, progress.

What needs to be acknowledged, however, is that school reform won’t fix everything. Though some poor students will succeed, others will fail. Demonizing teachers for the failures of poor students, and pretending that reforming the schools is all that is needed, as the reformers tend to do, is both misguided and counterproductive.

Over the long term, fixing our schools is going to involve a lot more than, well, just fixing our schools. In the short term, however, the reform movement could use something else: a dose of humility about what it can accomplish — and what it can’t.


Jeb Bush pats himself on the back for being a "successful" proponent of education reform when the data shows that the improvements made under his administration in Florida, real for students in the fourth grade, actually disappear by the time they reach high school.

Meanwhile Barack Obama pats himself on the back for bringing the "most meaningful" reform to education in the last generation by pushing charter schools, merit pay, and teacher evaluations tied to test scores all across the nation.

Gates and Broad fund this stuff, but at the end of the day, the child that Nocera wrote about in his column still slipped through the cracks, not because of "bad teachers" or a "bad school" but because the socio-economic problems that underlie the system are so complex and entrenched that the simplistic "Blame Teachers" formula promoted by Obama, Bush, Gates, Broad, et al. does NOT work.

But it sure does rake in the profits for the ed deformers, doesn't it?

7 comments:

  1. Yeah, these guys are creating The Blackwater of the education industry. You'll have ten firms controlling all education business...or maybe just one or two, with cats like Murdoch involved. There must be big money to be made for these bloodsuckers to go to the trouble...

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  2. Big money, but first they have to bust the unions. Wouldn't want to get into a sector with a unionized workforce. They want an at-will workforce that can be fired, er downsized, at a moment's notice.

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  3. Yeah, Florida scores went up maybe because they didn't have anywhere else to go , because they were at rock bottom. Don't mean to pat myself about my state - Minnesota. But anyone who think the Bushes should run anything needs a brain scan.

    I was reading Melissa Rossi's "What every American should know about who's really running America : and what you can do about it". She refers to a New Republic article which quotes Bushes' sister Dorothy admitting that when they were growing up, they didn't even have an encyclopedia at home. A visitor to their home said there were hardly any books around.

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  4. There were other articles on the subject but here is one from our local online paper :

    http://www.minnpost.com/learningcurve/2011/02/17/25870/floridas_touted_education_data_wither_under_scrutiny

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