The NYTimes ran an article today by Ginia Bellefante titled “DeBlasio and Cuomo’s Tangled Narratives” that was, in itself, a tangled narrative. The article described the compromises DeBlasio has made with developers and charter schools while repeating the unsubstantiated allegations that he is anti-charter and rigid in his thinking… and they described Cuomo’s desire to support the “high-performing” Success Academy charters while noting that the head of those charters, Eva Moskowitz, was “marketing her tale of victimhood”… In both cases, the “reformers” message was dominant… which led me to make this comment:
The “reformers” have certainly done a good job of persuading the NYTimes that they are superior to public schools… even though there is no evidence to substantiate that fact. (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/09/24/the-bottom-line-on-charter-school-studies/). The article drops the phrase “the high-performing Success Academy network” yet, as this post from Diane Ravitch’s blog (http://dianeravitch.net/2014/02/28/a-note-about-success-academys-data/) indicates, there is reason to suspect some of the data coming from Success Academy. If 36% of the grade level cohort entering kindergarten leaves school before 4th grade is that “success”? I guess it is if your school has enough money in its marketing budget to run a full page ad in the NYTimes. The media appear to the the ones who are tangling this narrative by constantly repeating unsubstantiated memes about “successful charter schools”, deBlasio’s “anti-charter” stance, and most of all by calling the those who want to privatize public schools “reformers”.
It is clearer and clearer that getting the facts about charters to the forefront is increasingly difficult because any evidence that doesn’t support the expansion of charter schools is cast as “anti-reform” and implicitly “pro-teachers-union”… As readers of this blog know, I am in favor of making changes to the way schools are organized and managed and opposed to the current standardized-test-based accountability system because it reinforces the factory model in place… but I have yet to see a for-profit charter school that isn’t driven by test scores and motivated by earning more money for its shareholders as opposed to improving the well-being of the students it serves. THAT narrative needs to be made explicit… and soon!
The change in the SATs is all over the newspapers today, and the reason for the change is probed best in the Washington Post. Both the Times and the Post cited the increase in the number of ACT test takers as one of the reasons for the SATs desire to change, but the Times downplayed the opt out movement, burying it in a single sentence that read: “More colleges have in recent years become “test optional,” allowing students to forgo the exams and submit their grades, transcripts and perhaps a graded paper.” The Post on the other hand made a lengthier and more specific reference to the impact of the opt out movement:
Both exams also are facing challenges from the growing test-optional movement. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing lists about 800 colleges and universities that admit a substantial number of undergraduates without requiring them to submit SAT or ACT scores.
Among them is American University, which started the experiment in 2010. Now 18 percent of its applicants do not submit SAT or ACT scores.
“It’s rising, and it’s gone up every year,” said Sharon Alston, AU’s vice provost for undergraduate enrollment. She said the university has not detected “any significant difference” in the performance of students who don’t submit test scores compared with those who do.
The Post also included a quote from David Coleman, casting him as an enemy of the test prep companies whose business he has turbo-charged by introducing the CCSS:
At the same time, Coleman fired a broadside at a test-prep industry that sells books, flashcards and courses to help students raise their scores in the hopes of gaining an edge in competitive college admissions and scholarships.
Coleman said the New York-based organization will team with the nonprofit Khan Academy, which delivers free tutorials in math and other subjects via a popular Web site of the same name, to provide free SAT prep for the world.
“The College Board cannot stand by while some test-prep providers intimidate parents at all levels of income into the belief that the only way they can secure their child’s success is to pay for costly test preparation and coaching,” Coleman said. “If we believe that assessment must be a force for equity and excellence, it’s time to shake things up.”
Assuming Salman Khan’s web page continues to be underwritten and remains free, this is a step forward in terms of equal access to assistance in preparing for the SAT… but I’m willing to bet that the Kaplan Test Prep executive quoted in the Times has a better grip on the impact of the change on his industry and the leveling of the playing field:
While test-preparation companies said the SAT was moving in the right direction, with more openness and more free online test preparation, the changes were unlikely to diminish the demand for their services. “People will always want an edge,” said Seppy Basili, a vice president of Kaplan Test Prep. “And test changes always spur demand.”
At some juncture, our country’s colleges and the public will see that the testing industry, which is a product of the 1920s factory school model, is as outmoded as the Model Ts, phonograph records and AM radio stations that were invented at the same time. Until then, a student’s potential will continue to be defined by two three digit numbers…
Today’s NYTimes editorial, “Where Have All The Raises Gone”, describes a study that explained the recent flattening of wages for college graduates and offers some steps the federal government can and should take to make getting a college degree worthwhile.
First the description of the phenomenon of flattening wages:
Examining the demand for college-educated workers, (the study) found that businesses increased hiring of college graduates in the 1980s and 1990s in adapting to technological changes. But as the information technology revolution matured, employer demand waned for the “cognitive skills” associated with a college education.
As a result, since 2000, many college graduates have taken jobs that do not require college degrees and, in the process, have displaced less-educated lower-skilled workers. “In this maturity stage,” the report says, “having a B.A. is less about obtaining access to high paying managerial and technology jobs and more about beating out less-educated workers for the barista or clerical job.”
Now if the marketplace is NOT demanding the “cognitive skills” associated with a college education and more and more college students are displacing workers with middling wages, why is there a push for more and more students to go to college? A suspicious mind MIGHT think that colleges and institutions offering loans to college students might be promoting this notion: after all they are the beneficiaries of the narrative that a college degree is the ticket to the top. Neither the study nor the Times editorial probe the “why college is needed” question, but both offer a solution to the suppression of wages:
While economic recovery and more college education are generally believed to lift wages, that didn’t happen in the 2000s and hasn’t since the end of the last recession. What’s needed to raise pay are policies like a higher minimum wage; trade pacts that foster high labor and regulatory standards; and more support for union organizing.
Increasing the number of high-paying jobs also depends on strategies like enhancing public spending to fix roads and bridges and to hire more teachers, as well as developing new energy and technology industries through government-financed research. Otherwise, the norm may very well be an economy where even college-educated workers cannot thrive.
It was astonishing and heartening to see the newspaper of record that offers de facto support for the erosion of teaching compensation suggesting “more support for union organizing” and more public funding to “hire more teachers”, but very encouraging to see them make a case for more public spending. Now, if they would only get behind Mayor diBlasio’s plan to tax the very wealthy to fund prekindergarten— a practical example of government spending that creates jobs for college educated workers to thrive!
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