Home > Uncategorized > Repeating a Bogus Set of “Facts” Doesn’t Make Them True… But MIGHT Help Expand For-Profit Schools

Repeating a Bogus Set of “Facts” Doesn’t Make Them True… But MIGHT Help Expand For-Profit Schools

Jonathan Chait, a writer for New York magazine, an unapologetic booster of no-excuses for-profit charters as THE solution for lifting children out of poverty, and a relentless union buster just published a post in New York that defends Michelle Rhee’s reign in DC. Given the description of his stance on public education, I suppose the rehabilitation of Ms. Rhee is necessary, but if I were trying to defend the test-and-punish method I would hitch my wagon to a different star! John Merrow, one of the few truly objective reporters on public education, swore off on reporting on Rhee over two years ago because he believed his incendiary findings on her were being perceived as a vendetta and he felt that there were more important stories to write. Over the past few years Ms. Rhee’s HAS seemingly vanished from the public eye, in large measure because her record in DC was muddied by the inability and/or unwillingness of officials to investigate allegations of cheating on examinations in DC that led to the so-called “DC Miracle” and the schools she was promoting had mixed records at best. So why is Chait resurrecting her?

I believe he is doing so to shore up the narrative that public schools are failing and only “no-excuses” programs that focus on teacher evaluation and the only way to “reform” schools is by eliminating union teachers whose contracts strangle any efforts to change public schools. The opt-out movement, the investment in wrap-around programs and early intervention, and emerging understanding that the charter movement is driven by hedge funders who see the “charter movement” as a means of getting  foothold into a “market” that could be VERY profitable all undercut Mr. Chait’s “reform” narrative, a narrative that gained the most momentum when Ms. Rhee glared menacingly from the cover of national magazines as the kind of leader public schools needed. The truth is that while Ms. Chait and other “star” Superintendents got massive publicity, districts like Union City NJ “plodded” forward slowly, thoughtfully, and successfully by implementing the kinds of programs that DO succeed and DON’T require school closures or privatization. As NYTimes columnist David Kirp wrote in 2013:

School officials flock to Union City and other districts that have beaten the odds, eager for a quick fix. But they’re on a fool’s errand. These places — and there are a host of them, largely unsung — didn’t become exemplars by behaving like magpies, taking shiny bits and pieces and gluing them together. Instead, each devised a long-term strategy reaching from preschool to high school. Each keeps learning from experience and tinkering with its model. Nationwide, there’s no reason school districts — big or small; predominantly white, Latino or black — cannot construct a system that, like the schools of Union City, bends the arc of children’s lives.

Articles about Union City’s slow but steady approach began appearing in 2003… around the time the “reform” movement and the media were drawn to “shiny bits and pieces” of short term success— stories that inevitably led to subsequent reports of cheating or collateral damage like higher drop-out rates and, ultimately, higher incarceration rates. But “shiny bits and pieces“, fast, cheap and easy fixes, are intoxicating and sell magazines and are an easy sell politically. Oh… and they just might lead to a profitable new enterprise: the for-profit, deregulated school.

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