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Posts Tagged ‘vicious cycle of poverty’

Steven Singer Undercuts Arguments For Standardized Testing… but Misses One Sad Key Point: High Scoring Parents of High Scoring Children Cling to the Results as Validation of “Merit”

July 26, 2021 Leave a comment

Blogger Steven Singer does a fully comprehensive take-down of the rationale for standardized testing offered by two Walton Foundation funded economists Paul Bruno and Dan Goldhamer. These economists decried the decision to grant ANY waivers for the administration of tests over the past two years despite the disparate experiences of students as a result of the disparate schooling available to them. Mr. Singer undercuts each and every argument advanced by the Walton economists— who of course LOVE standardized tests because they provide seemingly precise data that can be used to “prove” various assertions they make about the effectiveness of choice and charters over “government schools”.

In his take down he notes that standardized testing was designed by eugenicists in this paragraph:

Standardized tests literally were invented to justify bias. They were designed to prove that higher income, higher class, white people were entitled to more than poorer, lower class, brown people. Any defense of the assessments today must explain how the contemporary variety escapes the essential racist assumptions the entire project is based on.

He then shifts gears, effectively blaming the standardized testing industry for lobbying to sustain standardized testing. ETS, Pearson, and other major players in the testing industry ARE lobbying to keep their businesses afloat, but their lobbying is sustained and supported by the “meritocratic” parents who scored well on tests themselves and whose children also scored well. As we are witnessing in places like NYC where test scores determine admittance to “elite” public high schools, parents of children who have attained the status of admission to the Kingdom of the Elite want to ensure that their child’s entry was based wholly on “merit” and that “merit” can only be measured by a standardized test. As policy makers across the country can attest, the retention of tests to sort and select children has grassroots support of the parents, ESPECIALLY those parents whose children are sorted into so-called gifted and talented programs and “honors” sections. As long as students are taught in large groups and those groups are batched into homogeneous cohorts based in part or in whole on test scores, the parents of “winning” children will want to retain the status quo. My belief is that until parents are confident that a new paradigm of schooling will meet the unique individual needs of THEIR child they will support the status quo. And,  alas, the status quo at this point is still grounded in standardized tests based on age cohorts.

Congressman Bowman’s Overly Ambitious Plan for Green Schools Invites Sliming from the Right

July 19, 2021 Leave a comment

Common Dreams writer Jake Johnson describes an ambitious— make that OVERLY ambitious plan for reforming public education set forth by Congressman Jamal Bowman calling for a “revolution in public education”.  The plan is summarized in bullet form as follows: 

  • $446 billion in Climate Capital Facilities Grants and $40 billion for a Climate Change Resiliency Program

    • Climate Capital Facilities Grants will fully fund healthy green retrofits for the highest-need third of schools, as measured by the CDC Social Vulnerability Index, and offer a mix of grant funding and no- or low-interest loans for the middle and top thirds. Grants will cover two-thirds and one-third of retrofit costs for these schools, respectively. 

  • $250 billion in Resource Block Grants

    • Resource Block Grants will fund staffing increases, expanded social service programming, and curriculum development at high-need schools. The program will allow Local Educational Agencies across the country to hire and train hundreds of thousands of additional educators and support staff, including paraprofessionals, school psychologists and counselors, and learning specialists. The funds may also be used to design locally-rooted curricula; adopt trauma-informed, culturally responsive, and restorative justice practices, to move towards a “whole child” approach to public education; and partner with community organizations to offer a range of services to schools and surrounding neighborhoods, such as after-school programs. 

  • $100 million for an Educational Equity Planning Grants Pilot Program

    • Educational Equity Planning Grants will encourage neighboring Local Education Agencies to form regional consortia, which will receive funding to conduct extensive community outreach, identify the historical and current sources of educational disparities within the region, and create and implement a Regional Education Equity Plan to address those disparities. This pilot program is modeled on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants, which are designed to encourage equitable, locally-driven economic development. 

  • $695 billion over 10 years for Title I and IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) increases

    • This bill proposes quadrupling Title I funding to reach $66 billion annually to support schools and districts with students living in poverty, as well as increasing funding for IDEA Part B to reach $33 billion annually to support students with disabilities.

As I noted in a comment I left:

Congressman Bowman’s plan is ambitious and, alas, does not stand a chance of getting a hearing within his party let alone the GOP. Why? Because too many in his party remain in the thrall of market-based solutions and “accountability” based on standardized test scores. Moreover, as the comments below indicate, even those who identify as progressives (who else reads this?) have become disenchanted with public education and would be reluctant to “throw money” at the kinds of solutions the Congressman proposes. His best bet (and that of the Democrats) would be to emphasize the spending needed to make the facilities “green”. To go beyond that at this point would invite a culture war that gives the Fox News anchors a chance to continue sliming “government schools”.

I am grateful, though, that the Congressman has put this on the table… staking out a position for the Democrats that might replace the market-based ideas embraced by the neo-liberals who still seem to control the dialogue on public schools in their party. 

Biden Needs to Pick His Battles… and Universal Pre-K and Free Community Colleges are Not Important or Urgent Needs

July 19, 2021 Leave a comment

Saturday’s NYTimes featured an article by Erica Green and Madelyn Ngo proclaiming that universal pre-K and free community college would provide a ladder to the middle class for all Americans. 

The President and the Democrats have only so much political capital. Before working on the expansion of the public education infrastructure he and his party should work on the infrastructure of democracy. They need to fill every vacancy in the Executive branch, make certain they have the staff they need to collect the revenues needed to operate the government, and make sure every voter can cast a ballot. Fighting for universal Pre-K legislation that exacerbates the economic divide and free post secondary education that fails to help those who struggle economically will require time and energy that would be better spent shoring up the fundamental operations of the government… especially given the cultural and political landmines that will be set off pursuing Universal Pre-K and attendance at State schools.

Universal Pre-K sounds like an idea whose time is overdue. But in the absence of decent child care for working mothers and a publicly funded pre-school a host of local providers emerged. The ad hoc providers range from chains of private for-profit child care/pre-school operations to local “preschools” operated out of private homes to family members who come to rely on under-the-table payments to babysit. Any suggestion that these services will be ended by government funded preschools with mandatory attendance sets off alarm bells. Compounding this is the reality that in order to offer the kind of full-day child care and programming children need would in virtually all cases require more space in schools than is currently available. Solving this problem would require either more spending or redistricting— both of which pose major challenges for the local public school districts who are typically asked to oversee these programs. The problems with Universal Pre-K are detailed in earlier posts, here, here, and here

Similarly offering all students the opportunity to attend community colleges faces an uphill fight. If the demand for seats exceeds the supply, community colleges will be forced to either expand their existing facilities or come up with the substantial funds needed to offer a robust online program. Expanding post-secondary opportunities would also require post secondary schools to share their proprietary entrance examinations with high schools if they wish to make acceptance conditional on passage of those tests OR expand their array of support services, which would add to their costs. Last but clearly not least is the question of providing job training funds for those who want to gain the training required to secure a high paying job but do not want to spend time completing courser work that is unrelated to their aspiration. 

As the issues raised above indicate, while wildly popular in polls, Universal Pre-K and Post Secondary attendance are fraught with political peril when the rubber hits the road… that is…. unless we can change our thinking about what constitutes schooling and the time frame we follow to deliver it.