Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Education Beat--#2

The Education Beat--Week #2 by John Konopak, Ph.D. (LSU, 1989, Education)
Strike Three...But NOT Out.

Against the backdrop of the not entirely successful (to put it kindly) Chicago school strike last month, youthful Chicago education critric/music producer/school activist Luis Gabriel Aguilera composed the following, self-published essay which he posted widely, but which hasn't found a publisher yet. Aguilera, in his own words, "connects the dots as to why current "education reform" is not working in Chicago and elsewhere and suggests possible solutions."
Don’t be fooled, the strike in Chicago wasn’t just about teachers fighting over salary increases. No, this strike was a backlash to the diverse abuses that have been ongoing and increasing over the years from a disastrous Chicago Public Schools central office micromanaging culture that today permeates throughout the district, coupled with close and faraway chieftains simply calling the wrong shots on education reform.
He sees not teachers,a and not parents, but the central Administration as the bad guys in the piece.

Keeping the World Flat:

Last weekend, the well-known Moustache of Mediocrity, Tom Friedman, beshat the pages of the NYTimes with a column on "Obama's secret 'successes,' " among which he enumerated the Shamwow/Arne Duncan "Race To The Top" plan, a thinly disguised bribery/extortion plot by the CorpoRats to assume control (and the HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS of dollars spent) in schools.
The purpose of Race to the Top, Secretary Duncan explained to me, was basically to say that if we now live in a world where every good high-wage job requires more skill, we need to get as many of our schools as possible educating their students “to college- and career-ready standards,” measured against the best in the world, because that is whom our kids will be competing against. “We have to educate our way to a better economy,” Duncan argues. “The path to the middle class today runs straight through the classroom.”
Strangely, the path also leads to MORE regimentation of the school and the curriculum (Duncan used to favor Military-academy style pedagogy for the Underclasses when he ran things in Chicago), increased influence of CorpoRats in the Classrooms, and the destruction of (you guessed it) Teachers' Unions.

Voting On Charters:
Charters on the ballot in Wash. St.--a policy analysis...
Voters in Washington State--one of those which adopted the Progressive-era expedient originally designed to attack the power of the Oligarchs with grass-roots activism, via the "initiative" process, but which was subsequently perverted and usurped by "astro-turf" Corporat interests--will face the prospect of ratifying or defeating a Corporat-sponsored measure that would create a "separate, and unequal" system of Charter schools which would operate in effect independently of the rest of Washington's schjools. U-Dub professor and school policy wonk Dr. Wayne Au analyses the proposals and outlines his objections in a worst-case scenario that is pretty chilling:
An out-of-state charter management organization (CMO) establishes non-profit status/operations in WA State;
This CMO works with a slim majority of teachers (or parents) to convert a high performing school or a low performing school to a charter, and they do so with no notification to the other teachers or parents;
The appointed state commission on charters approves the charter and conversion;
The out-of-state CMO selects its own charter school board to oversee its charter school;
Parents and students at the newly converted charter school have to make a decision about either dispersing to other schools or remaining at the new charter;
The CMO, perhaps backed by real estate investors or with real estate investors selected for the charter school board, purchases the converted school at below market value;
The CMO goes bankrupt or there is fiscal mismanagement or there are other ethical/legal issues (all of which have happened elsewhere) and the converted charter closes OR the charter school does not show academic improvement and is eventually closed as a “failed” school. Either way the now-closed building (purchased at below market value) is sold to developers at a profit to the real estate investors (Under I-1240, the only money that has to be returned to the district is that which they got from the students. All other monies return to outside funders. If outside monies purchased the school “for” the charter, then they get their money – i.e. their purchase – back). Parents, teachers, and students from the closed school have absolutely no recourse because the appointed charter school board has been disbanded due to failure. And I’m not sure if it would be “worse” if this happened to a lower or a HIGHER achieving school.
Understanding this is the WORST-CASE, there is still a LOT of room for screw-ups of only SLIGHTLY less severity. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Towards A More Global Vision
Lest you reach this point and are depressed by the nearly unrelieved gloom attending most discussions of schooling in the USofA, we leave you this week with this optimistic encomium for re-imagined schools, curricula, and teaching profession about Prof. Andy Hargreaves, a visionary 'ed leadership' guru at Boston College.
Hargreaves' book, The Global Fourth Way: The Quest for Educational Excellence (Corwin Press 2012), co-authored with Dennis Shirley, reveals the key qualities behind the high performance of some of the world's top educational systems: Singapore, Finland and Canada. His most recent book, Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School (Teacher's College Press 2012), co-authored with international reform expert Michael Fullan, sets out a clear vision as to how to achieve high return from all teachers and teaching. Andy Hargreaves is the Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education at Boston College. He studies and advises on high performance in schools and educational systems around the world.

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