“Access to useful information also was determined by literacy and the availability of reading material. It is now widely agreed at least for Britain that increases in literacy were relatively modest during the Industrial Revolution. Yet literacy is not particularly useful unless people actually read, and for the purposes of technological change it also matters how much and what people read.”
If you are always at war, everybody looks like a combatant. That’s the thought that continually runs through my head as of late. It is easily applicable to the current politics of the country, but it also is an apt descriptor of American education policy where charter schools and other efforts to privatize American education have been accused of waging a war bent on destroying public education.
This week brought a convergence of articles that inspired a little deeper thought about “school choice”, vouchers, charter schools, and the rest. I certainly believe that are private entities that have discovered there is a lot of money to be made siphoning off taxpayer dollars. But is greed the motivating factor, or are they determined to destroy public education?
Two or three years ago, I predicted that the pandemic would alter the current model of how children were educated. Homeschooling, charters, vouchers, and private schools were already on the rise, and COVID just juiced the process by making parents focus deeper on their children’s schooling. In some ways, I think what’s happening is good, change is inevitable and once in motion, an object stays in motion.
Unfortunately, there is always a downside to change, as people struggle to hold on to their comfort zones. Too often we fall into the trap of thinking there is only one way to do something, but if we define core tenets and commit to honoring those principles, there is no reason that the delivery model can’t change. Whether we like it or not, change is afoot and the choice movement is only going to grow.
Lifetime educator Peter Greene produced a piece that traces the history of choice and where we are today. It’s, per usual, an excellent read, but a couple points ring hollow.
Greene’s piece concludes with the following,
Like many other movements, the school choice movement has room for both true believers and grifters, but in both cases, the school choice debates are marked by a refusal to talk about what we’re really talking about–changing education from a universally provided public good into a privately owned and operated commodity delivered however and to whomever the market deems worthy.The irony of the newest talking point (Public schools can’t be trusted and we must burn the system down and replace it with vouchers for parents) is that it’s the closest we’ve come to having that honest conversation. Granted, it’s dishonest in its indictment of public ed, and it’s dishonest in that it fails to admit that we’re talking about stripping all guarantees and protections for parents and students and the nation that depends on an educated public, but hey–at least we’re finally openly discussing the destruction of public education as we know it. Stick around to see what comes next.
it’s dishonest in that it fails to admit that we’re talking about stripping all guarantees and protections for parents and students and the nation that depends on an educated public, but hey–at least we’re finally openly discussing the destruction of public education as we know it.”
The notion that the state must not interfere with parents and their right to direct their children’s upbringing and education has cast a long shadow over U.S. education. But now, nearly a century after Pierce, the state seems increasingly inclined to relitigate the matter—if not in court, then in practice and policy in America’s public schools. There is a rising and unmistakable tendency on the part of teachers and school districts to assume that government is better positioned than a child’s parents to judge what’s best for children and to act on that assumption, often aggressively, making critical decisions about children’s upbringing and well-being without their parents’ consent or even their knowledge.
Preparations have been made to make this a slam dunk,” said Republican state Rep. Bob Ramsey, in a podcast interview last week with the progressive outlet Tennessee Holler. “Preparations have been made legislatively that there’s really going to be no options but to approve it.”That’s a dangerous narrative to establish. At the end of the day, the charter school commission is a public authority created by representatives elected to office by the state’s citizens. In order for society to function, there has to trust that these institutions will function in a manner that benefits all. Otherwise, we remain perpetually divided.
“ILO Group does not and has not ever had a contract with the TNDOE or any state agency or office in TN,” an email attributed to the company stated. “If you have further questions, please direct those to the TNDOE.”
The progress is also a testament to the leadership of Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn and her team at the Department of Education. The department has taken a number of important steps that I believe contributed to the recent progress.
One such resource is a tutoring guidebook, modeled after Tennessee’s approach, designed to help systems launch successful tutoring programs in collaboration with community partners. The guide includes a capacity calculator to assist systems in determining how many tutors are needed, sample criteria for identifying potential tutors, and sample tutoring schedules. There is also information about logistics, funding considerations, curricula selection, and how to track and determine whether a program is effective.
TDOE worked with the Center for Assessment to revise and review the testing system for students, which is directly tied to accountability for teachers and the evaluation of schools.
Two documents dated Dec. 9, 2021, state they were “submitted to ILO Group” by the Center for Assessment.
“With the support of the ILO Group,” one of them states, “the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) is working to improve the state’s assessment system and associated supports to districts and schools so that the system is coordinated, coherent, continuous, efficient and useful — all of which are features of a balanced assessment system.”
“The reproducible and transferrable process that results from the assessment system redesign meetings with the TDOE will be curated into a document that can be shared by the ILO Group, consistent with the Center’s Creative Commons license, with other states interested in following a similar process,” one of the documents states.
Hmmm…you know what this all translates to don’t you?
Chiefs for Change, and by de facto its primary funder the Gates Foundation, have built themselves what is essentially a test kitchen using Tennessee students as test subjects. The result can then be boxed up and marketed across the country. That’s quite a service, wonder who’s actually benefiting from access to the Tennessee test kitchen?
Word is that Round has more coming, so you may want to go ahead and subscribe to The Daily Memphian. I did.
Am I the only one picking up on the irony that Tennessee spends millions on teaching kids to read only to turn around and spend an equal amount on limiting what they can read? Asking for a friend.
Over at News 5, investigative reporter Phil Williams has another groundbreaking story. According to a SCORE poll taken back in the Spring, produced some predictable results,
- Public charter schools are viewed positively by Tennesseans.
- By nearly two-to-one, voters believe charter schools help improve public education rather than harm public education.
- Still, there continues to be some confusion and misperceptions about public charter schools and how they operate.
Not surprising, as it’s always been the system that receives the most criticism while individual schools are viewed favorably. That still leaves 32% that are not satisfied, should they be denied options? When presented with results that show 51% are pessimistic about public schools, In typical fashion Representative, John Ray Clemmons dismisses dissenters by offering that, “It’s easy for people not to have confidence in their public school system because they watch the state legislature and their governor underfund it year after year,”
Hmmm…so first of all he suggests that parents are paying more attention to the actions of he and his colleagues and less to their own experiences, and secondly, surely he can offer a definition of fully funded, because, after a decade of doing this, I don’t know that answer. In fact,
Programming note. It may seem that of late I’ve been especially critical of national education writer Peter Greene, but don’t read too much into it. In my opinion, the man is simply the best and you can’t go wrong in reading any of his pieces. Since his retirement as an active classroom teacher, there’s been a little more partisan politics in his writing, but it never diminishes the value. Like most good classroom teachers, he understands that you don’t have to deliver it all instantly, some times the best lessons are the ones that are planted, and then allowed to ripen and bear fruit at a later date.
Much like I enjoyed the development of Billy Joe of Green Day as an aging punk rocker, I look forward to seeing how Greene’s young kids’ progression through formal schooling will color his writings. Do yourself a favor and read everything he writes, and remember you only get better by challenging the best, and nobody improves in an echo chamber.
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