Month: May 2011

Who Controls Education?

In Idaho, opponents of the “Luna laws” gathered enough signatures to put the three laws on the November ballot.

Organizers of a bid to dump the education and teachers union overhaul that passed the 2011 Idaho Legislature say they’ve gathered enough signatures to put all three repeal measures on the November 2012 ballot.

More than 48,000 people signed each of three petitions to put the new Idaho laws to referendum votes next year, Michael Lanza, an organizer of the petitions, announced Wednesday.

Of course, Idaho is just a small piece of the larger educational “reform” movement nationally intent on pushing a reform agenda that excludes educators and parents from the process. Who is behind this reform movement? As they say, follow the money.

In a New York Times article, Sam Dillon exposes how Bill Gates is using his billions to fund advocacy campaigns intended to convince policy makers to implement Gate’s ill-advised and debunked ideas about education.

In fact, the Times article just scratches the surface. Susan Ohannian has a well researched article naming names when it comes to the many ways Gate’s money has bought educational policy makers.

Real research refuting Gate’s agenda appears regularly, but almost never reaches the main stream media and is simply ignored by the “reformers”. For example, the National Sciences Association has just released a new report showing that a decade of America’s test-based accountability systems, from “adequate yearly progress” to high school exit exams, has shown little to no positive effect overall on learning.

The “reformers” continually claim that American education cannot compete with “High Performing” nations because we refuse to fully implement their preferred reform measures.  Ironically, The United States’ education system is not likely to see great improvements based on its current attempts at reform, a report released this week by the National Center on Education and the Economy concludes. The NCEE report attempts to identify what can be gleaned from education systems in top-performing or rapidly improving countries.

Among other measures, the report outlines a less-frequent system of standardized student testing; a statewide funding-equity model that prioritizes the neediest students, rather than local distribution of resources; and greater emphasis on the professionalization of teaching that would overhaul most elements of the current model of training, professional development, and compensation.

The report’s findings are in direct contradiction to the policies advocated by the Gates Foundation.

For instance, the report notes that no other country has grade-by-grade national testing, pointing out that such countries as Singapore and Japan tend to use such exams sparingly, only at the end of primary and secondary schooling. The tests are closely linked to curricula and carry stakes for students in terms of progressing, rather than being used for school or teacher accountability.

Such countries also have much higher entry standards for teachers and require greater content knowledge, which is better integrated with training in pedagogy. In general, the report states, such efforts have helped to elevate the status of the profession, which is reflected in higher pay, more autonomy, and additional career opportunities as teachers advance.

Finally, teachers’ unions are prevalent in top-performing jurisdictions such as Finland and Ontario, Canada [where teachers are] treated as professional partners, who are given autonomy and trusted to diagnose and solve instructional problems on their own.

Who Really Controls America

George Carlin always spoke the truth. What he is talking about is hegemony; the process by which political, economic, ideological or cultural power is exerted by a dominant group over other groups. It requires the consent of the majority to keep the dominant group’s leaders in power. As Carlin pointed out, the dominate group in power is big business and one of those controlling the message is Roger Ailes of Fox news. For a view as to how hegemony works, go here.  For a view demonstrating how little power politicians really have over their “message”, go here.