The lead story in today’s NYTimes is the sorry tale of the ability of for-profit post secondary schools continued receipt of federal funds despite their fraudulent behavior. How much money went to the schools who fleeced students? Well one of the “bad actors”, Corinthian College, received $1,250,000,000 in federal funds last year…. $125,000,000 more than was budgeted for learning centers in public schools and more than four times the amount budgeted for SIG grants designed to help struggling K-12 schools. The article rehashes all of the wrongdoing on the part of these for profit entities, who defend themselves by claiming that no charges have been brought against them. My reaction to this report was summarized in the comment I left:
For profit deregulated schools… what could go wrong?
What we’re seeing at the post-secondary level is a larger scale of looting than we’ve witnessed in K-12 education, but the market-driven reforms in K-12 have encouraged the proliferation of for-profit deregulated charters and resulted in an increase in cheating behaviors at the administrative level as jobs are rated based on test scores.
We have now repeatedly witnessed what goes wrong when profit is introduced into public enterprise. When will we fix the problem? Maybe when money is as far removed from politics as possible.
Think Progress blogger Kira Lerner reported yesterday on Tennessee legislator Sheila Butt’s proposal to “…prohibit schools from teaching “religious doctrine” until high school. This legislation was introduced in response to concerns expressed by parents when a unit in middle school required students to learn about “…the Five Pillars of Islam and other historical lessons about how the religion has influenced regions of the world”. Ms. Butts believes youngsters are incapable of discriminating between the historic impact of religion and religious indoctrination until they are in high school and therefore wants to ban all religious doctrine until the children are old enough to make that distinction. How she will reconcile that with the current Tennessee law that says “…the Bible can be taught in schools, as long as schools aren’t using it to teach “religious doctrine or sectarian interpretation is unclear. Moreover, given the strident anti-Islamic attitude of some parents and the predominant Christian beliefs in that state it is unlikely that anyone will ask Ms. Butt to do so.
The result of this kind of determined withholding of information about other religious groups is to harden whatever attitudes students about religion students bring with them and to deny the underlying reasons for much of history. How does one teach about the Crusades, the settling of our nation, and virtually all of the wars in history without acknowledging the role of religion? And if a future voter does not understand the role of religion in world history and OUR history, does not realize why our constitution separates church and state, how will they make an informed decision when they vote?
As readers of this blog probably realize, I am a great fan of Naked Capitalism blog edited by Yves Smith with help from fellow blogger Lambert Strether. Strether regularly coordinates afternoon posts under the heading “2:00 PM Water Cooler”offering links to articles that decry the corrosive effects of deregulated capitalism or links to articles that do the opposite with Strether offering pointed comments that undercut the premises of the writer. The “2:00 PM Water Cooler” is divided into segments whose headings often change as various news stories emerge… but one section called “Class Warfare” appear almost every day. Yesterday’s “Class Warfare” section is all about public education and Strether’s commentary– which concludes with the headline of this post— is excellent! The section appears in its entirety:
“If a proposal for a massive expansion of charter schools in Los Angeles moves forward, the casualties probably would include thousands of teachers who currently work in the city’s traditional public schools” [Los Angeles Times]. Spurred by squillionaire Eli Broad, it’s the “Great Public [snort] Schools” program. Ka-ching.
“Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration has dropped a stunningly anti-union, anti-faculty, anti-Connecticut State University proposal on the table as it begins its contract negotiations with the CSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the union that represents faculty and a variety of education professionals at the four universities of CSU” [Jonathan Pelto].
This development comes on top of the news that Malloy’s political appointees on the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees have authorized a contract with an extremely controversial, high profile, anti-union, Governor Chris Christie affiliated New Jersey law firm to lead the negotiations against the UConn Chapter of the AAUP. That contract could cost taxpayers and students as much as $500,000 or more.
What’s “stunning” about a Democrat hating unions?
I retired from my final assignment as Superintendent of Schools four years ago after serving two communities in the Upper Connecticut River Valley in New Hampshire and Vermont… and unless things have changed dramatically since I left the four schools I oversaw may be the last ones in North America that do not have a buzzer system to allow the entry or video cameras throughout the school.
I thought about this after reading this news account from from the Hamilton (Ontario) Spectator reporting that Halton’s schools are still safe even though they are unlocked as a result of a work stoppage by school secretaries. I found it distressing that the union representing the secretaries saw the monitoring of doors one of the job requirements that gave their membership some leverage in bargaining. From the time I attended school until I retired, that is roughly 60 years, secretaries DID assist with the monitoring of visitors and the scheduling of parent appointments. But the best secretaries also set a positive tone for the school by their interactions with parents, teachers, administrators… AND students. The notion that the secretaries think of themselves first and foremost as gatekeepers for the school— implicitly the only thing separating the safe haven of school with the cold world of gun-toting shooters— is a sign of how much fear is governing the lives of children today.
Since retiring I have served as a consultant to small rural school districts in Vermont and New Hampshire, and upon reflection cannot think of any I’ve been to where there hasn’t been restricted entry. It seemed odd to me since the college community I served kept its school doors open, though, as mentioned in an earlier post, was upgrading the locking system on the egress doors in it’s elementary school to make sure that anyone seeking entry was funneled into a single door that was near the office where people were asked to sign in.
But when a headline reads “”Halton’s Unlocked Public Schools Still Safe, Director Says”, it seems to me we’ve passed a threshold that will be difficult to return from. Put simply, we are inculcating our children with fear of the other when we confine them in locked compounds.
In one of the most disingenuous ploys ever concocted, High Achievement New York, a self-identifed “coalition of teachers, parents, civic, civil rights and business groups who share a commitment to a brighter educational future for every child in New York” is advocating that the state stay with the Common Core standards and offer a seven step plan for implementing them. Here’s the first step of the groups plan:
- Renaming the Standards: Several states have dropped the “Common Core” moniker to put their own stamp on the standards, something Chancellor Tisch suggested last week. For instance, the standards in Arizona, Florida and Iowa are now known as “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards,” the “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards” and “The Iowa Core,” respectively. Survey after survey shows strong support for higher learning standards in ELA and Math, and annual assessments of college and career readiness, but support drops when those components are called Common Core.
One of the Uniserv reps I worked with in MD had a great aphorism for this kind of thing: “You can’t paint C-O-W on the side of a horse and expect to get any milk”… and re-jiggering these standards or shortening the time for summative assessments will not address the fundamental problem, which is the use of common core test results as the sole metric for determining “success” in school and now, in NYS, “success” as a classroom teacher. Nor will it address the fundamental assumption of the common core, which is that all children are expected to develop at the same rate intellectually in all content areas, an idea that is preposterous on its face yet implicit in the way the common core is presented. We won’t get better performance from a re-branded set of standards any more that we could get milk from a re-labelled horse.