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Archive for February, 2014

Reform Pay$

February 25, 2014 Comments off

A few days ago I posted on President Obama’s tacit acceptance of the privatization movement and over the past several days blog posts and columns reinforce the notion that privatizers are earning lots of profit providing public services at taxpayers expense… and doing so without any interference from any political party and any spotlight from national media.

Last Thursday Common Dreams posted an article summarizing the findings of a Center for Media in Democracy (CMD) report on “government” salaries indicating that the highest paid “government employees” are “…

…a group of private corporate executives across the country (who) have increasingly pushed for the privatization of public services while maneuvering high-paying contracts with the government “and then pay themselves and other executives eye-popping salaries.”

While the summary post of the CMD report focussed on an $8.3 million salary paid over three years to the head of a waterworks company and the high salaries raked in by private prisons,  it noted that “These high-payed privatized service providers are involved in the fields of education, corrections, waste management, water treatment, transportation and social services” and that these same providers “…muddy accountability, and cut corners when it comes to public health and safety.”

Diane Ravitch’s blog has been full of reports of grossly high salaries paid to CEOs in failing charter schools in Ohio, one of which included a link to an article in Plunderbund which reported on one executive, William Lager, who was paid $28,354,826 over a seven year period without submitting any invoices documenting his services. The article comments “…don’t you think Ohio’s and national newspapers be running front page stories if a public school superintendent in the state of Ohio was drawing an annual salary of over $1,000,000?”

The most blatant description of how to earn megabucks as an education entrepreneur comes from Education Next,in an article titled “For Education Entrepreneurs Innovation Yields High Returns” . The article describes how three technology mavens cashed in on the movement to use data from assessments to make millions of dollars. The article was of particular interest to me because I crossed paths with one of the entrepreneurs when he was just launching his business. The circumstances are too complicated to recount in this post, but at the time– in 2001— data warehousing was just beginning to emerge as a possible means of cataloguing local formative assessments we hoped to develop and data we wanted to collect and organize systematically to facilitate student transfers from school-to school and level-to-level. The difference between then and now: NCLB and RTTT, both of which put a premium on data collection and analysis, though the data being collected is summative instead of formative and being used for bogus purposes like teacher evaluation through VAM.

Here’s what’s alarming: high salaries and high profits are being valued more than high ideals… and when the profits are earned by turing teachers into automatons and student test scores into the ultimate “product” we are losing middle class jobs and the souls of our children.

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Underfunded Prekindergarten and ADHD

February 24, 2014 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes features an op ed article written by UCal Berkeley professors Stephen Hinshaw and Richard Sheffler titled “Expand Pre-K, Not ADHD”. The article describes the explosion of ADHD diagnoses in K-12 schooling and expresses concerns that as younger and younger children enter school more and more of them will be diagnosed with ADHD. As Sir Ken Robinson pointed out in his celebrated TED talk captured in this RSA Animation, Ritalin (and now Adderall) prescriptions began spiking around the time high stakes testing began, and as readers of this blog know, high stakes testing is an essential element of the factory school model.

As I noted in my written comment to the article in the Times, as a nation we want fast, cheap, and effective solutions to every problem… and drugs do the trick! The budget figures Cuomo and even deBlasio are projecting for prekindergarten will not provide the funds needed to operate a developmentally appropriate preschool program… let alone a program that would provide the kinds of wraparound services the most exemplary preschool programs provide. The politicians have sold the public on prekindergarten programs that push the traditional factory school model to three and four year olds. The programs advocated by “reformers” call for school to administer standardized tests beginning at age 3 or 4 and use those test results to sort students earlier and earlier into “compliant” and “non-compliant” bins… not exactly the terms used by the “reformers”… but an exact operational definition of the sorting.

Here’s the bottom line: When we warehouse more kids in traditional classroom settings at an earlier age we’ll be giving those “noncompliant” kids sedatives so they will pay attention to the teacher! Unless we are willing to spend more to offer a robust preschool program and allow time to be the variable and learning to be the constant we will spend more on drugs and continue turning out the compliant conformists who unquestioningly accept the narratives reinforced by the factory school.

Getting to the Starting Line

February 23, 2014 Comments off

Nick Kristoff’s column in today’s NYTimes depicts the harsh reality of rural poverty, using an indigent family in West Virginia as a lens to examine the issue:

Poverty isn’t just a lack of money, but sometimes a complex web of challenges that keep children from ever reaching the starting line. One home I visited was a trailer jammed with eight people, and some nights it has double that. None of the adults has a job, and most are former drug addicts or alcoholics whose addictions began when they were children. Two are convicted felons, which makes job-hunting difficult. Several dropped out of school. Only one can drive.

They have lofty dreams for their children, but those kids face struggles that middle-class children don’t. Breaking the cycle of poverty means helping those kids get a solid start.

Earlier in the column Kristoff describes what it needed:

What would make a difference? We need an integrated set of early interventions, starting with family planning to help women and girls avoid unwanted pregnancy (four out of five births to teenagers are unplanned or unwanted). We need outreach efforts to help pregnant women curb use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, as well as free at-home help for new moms who want to breast-feed.

Let’s push for home visitation programs that encourage parents to speak to children and read to them; many low-income homes don’t have a single kid’s book. We also need initiatives to reduce exposure to lead and other toxins. Finally, how about screenings for problems like hearing and visual impairment — all followed by a good prekindergarten.

…(And) all young children should have a primary care physician who screens them for eight barriers to learning: vision problems, hearing deficits, undertreated asthma, anemia, dental pain, hunger, lead exposure and behavioral problems.

Kristoff is absolutely right about this… but as long as we believe “government is the problem” and any government intervention is disrupting family life we will not make any progress in dealing with this vicious cycle of poverty be it urban or rural. As long as the poor stay to themselves, self-medicate with drugs, don’t seek abortions, and don’t complain about water quality they will remain off the radar of most Americans and ALL politicians. We need more mainstream columnists like Kristoff shining a light on this issue, more members of the public seeking government programs, and more taxpayers willing to pay more for services for children if we ever hope to solve this problem.