Thursday, May 07, 2015

Public Relations Hacks

From a purely public relations point of view, the supporters of federally mandated Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and their attendant emphasis on high stakes standardized testing are losing in a landslide. Last week, a Fairleigh Dickenson University poll was released showing that only 17 percent of Americans approve of the standards while a full 40 percent disapprove, which is the category into which I fall.

Last week, fake news host John Oliver of Last Week Tonight spent 18 minutes on a well-researched and hilarious take down of high stakes testing. If you've not seen it, it's worth it:

The grassroots movement to opt out of high stakes standardized testing is significant and growing. The billionaire-funded corporate reform initiative is fighting back. Unfortunately for them, they're fighting, instead of listening. They see this as a public relations battle, rather than an honest disagreement about how we should be educating our children. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been saber rattling, trying, I guess, to show up as a strong leader, encouraging the troops, who are out in force right now to decry Mr. Oliver's viral rant, especially at Education Post, which appears to primarily publish material from corporate reform associated writers. If you must, here are a couple pieces, here and here, in which the writers outrageously suggest that those of us who stand against turning our schools into testing factories where our children labor for the profit of companies like Pearson Education are, in fact, elitist racists.

If you do click through, please make sure to look at the comments. I particularly enjoy that they are overwhelmingly from readers who disagree with the authors. It's interesting how both Education Post writers attempt to engage disagreement in the comments by first pointing out an area of agreement before disagreeing. I spent many years in public relations doing PR hack work: this is classic PR hack work.

Please take a moment to read Jesse Hagopian's response (which has been picked up by the Washington Post) to those accusing us of, if not racism, at least race and class insensitivity.

The ever-insightful Anthony Cody does an excellent job of responding directly to the paid corporate shills in a concise response over on his blog Living in Dialog, asking the simple question:

We have ruled our school system by the accountability system chosen by these reformers now since 2002. And where can they point to school systems that have been greatly improved?

Their answer, of course, has to be PR hack work, because the "accountability" regime, after more than a decade, has failed to budge the needle. Indeed, there is no evidence whatsoever that the billions spent so far on these corporate reform initiatives have done anything other than to throw our public schools in to disarray, making children, parents, and teachers miserable, and this is particularly true of children from poor and minority backgrounds over whom they pretend to wring their hands.

No, as Oliver points out, the only ones benefiting from the corporate reform drive are for-profit corporations and the army of PR hack workers they have hired to support them. Or as Cody writes:

(Billionaire) Eli Broad looked around and saw that there were hundreds of bloggers that are discrediting HIS project, and they seemed to have some strategy, they even met together in conferences. So thank goodness he had the funds available to hire people (like those at Education Post) to be his friends, and defend him and his fellow billionaires. I guess that is why rich people never have to be lonely for long, so long as they can find people willing to be their friends in exchange for some of their money.

With only a 17 percent approval rating and thousands of families opting out of their high stakes standardized tests and now apparently losing such opinion-leaders as John Oliver, the reformers must be feeling a bit desperate. Not long ago corporate reform poster-child Michelle Rhee was on the cover of Time magazine. Now she is responsible for a struggling anti-teachers union PR hack outfit called StudentsFirst. It wasn't so long ago that the movie Waiting for Superman debuted, a slick PR hack job that condemned public education as a failure, while holding up the corporate reformers as visionaries. Now we've learned that the successes touted in the movie were houses of straw, blown away by real world wolves when the movie cameras looked away.

They seem to think it's a PR problem. It's not a PR problem and they won't fix it with PR hack work no matter how many billions they spend. Students, parents, and teachers from all walks of life and from across the political spectrum are opting out because it is the only option they've left us. From the beginning they have designed their federal education policies to be all-or-nothing mandates with no opportunity for input from those most impacted. The only path they've left us is civil disobedience so that's the path we're taking.

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Susan Salyer said...

I couldn't have said this better myself

Susan Salyer said...

I couldn't have stated this better myself.

Anonymous said...

It is still hard for me to justify opting my children out of the tests when I know I could be part of the reason their shool and the staff who work there, whom I by and large like, could be penalized for low attendance averages during the test. I am fully and unequivocally against the tests, but how to justify this?

Teacher Tom said...

To my knowledge, no teachers or schools have been penalized or otherwise punished for student's opting out. There have been threats, but so far that's all they've been. I seriously doubt they would follow through -- the backlash would be crazy. We have schools in Seattle in which 100 percent of the students have opted out and nothing has happened.

If you are against these tests, the ONLY option they have left us is civil disobedience.

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