Wednesday, September 08, 2010

"Kids Are Bored To Tears"

This is an interview with Karen Lewis, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, and Lois Weiner, a professor of education at New Jersey City University. In spite of what the video player says, it's only about 23 minutes long, but is one of the best push-backs against the test-punish-privatize-approach to public education I've yet seen.

It's instructional in particular to hear what Ms. Lewis has to say given that she's been at the forefront of fighting the "reforms" championed by President Obama's education secretary Arne Duncan from when he was the superintendent of Chicago's schools. She has seen the devastating effects of this ill-conceived, unproven, purely ideological approach to education that has been relabeled "Race To The Top," but is really just the same old "No Child Left Behind" in new packaging.

Anyone who values public education or teaching should watch this. Amateurs and dilettantes with lots of money are persuading politicians to turn our schools into job training and money making ventures. They have absolutely no evidence that their approach will work -- none -- yet our politicians from both ends of the political spectrum are lining up to force this so-called education reform down the throats of professional educators, parents and children.

We need real, properly funded public schools, not unproven charter schools with high executive pay and burger-flipper wages for teachers. Just as there is absolutely no evidence that the test-and-punish approach produces anything more than unmotivated students and teachers, there is no evidence that charter schools produce better results, and in fact in the few cases when studies have been done, we find they do, on average, a worse job that traditional public schools.

We really all must fight back against this. It's time for parents and teachers to stand together, as they did in Chicago, as they recently did in Seattle, to demand schools that educate the whole child, that instill a love of learning in students, and that measure results based upon something more than high-stakes reading and math tests.

Here are some highlights:

"Our curriculum has narrowed . . . If you look at the average day for an elementary school kid, it’s reading, reading, reading, reading, reading, reading, math, math, math, reading, reading, reading, reading, math. I mean, kids are bored to tears. They’re hating school at an early age. There’s no joy. There’s no passion. And the results show that."

". . . what’s really going on is a vocationalization of education, a watering down of curriculum for most kids, so that they’re going to take jobs that require only a seventh or an eighth grade education, because those are the jobs that are being created in this economy."

Regarding charter schools: "I want to see the evidence. And what’s really incredible and disastrous is that this enormous social engineering that’s going on to transform—I would say destroy—public education has not been accompanied by government funding for serious, objective evaluation. We have this so-called Institute for Education Science, but if you look at the sorts of research that they’re funding, they are not funding the kind of large-scale evaluative studies that we need to determine whether these reforms are going to be effective. And we shouldn’t permit that. We should identify this as what it is, which is an ideological venture that does not have a scientific basis, and it doesn’t have a basis in evidence."

"No Child Left Behind is part of this global project to deprofessionalize teaching as an occupation . . . the thinking is that the biggest expenditure in education is teacher salaries. And they want to cut costs . . . that means they have to lower teacher costs. And in order to do that, they have to deprofessionalize teaching. They have to make it a revolving door, in which we're not going to pay teachers very much. They're not going to stay very long. We're going to credential them really fast . . . We're going to burn them up. They're going to leave in three, four, five years. And that's the model they want.  So who is the biggest impediment to that occurring?  Teachers' unions. And that is what explains this massive propaganda effort to say that teachers' unions are an impediment to reform. And in fact, they are an impediment to the deprofessionalization of teaching . . . It's a disaster for public education."

"Well, that’s part of . . . the thinking here, that teaching really . . . does not have to be a skilled profession, because we’re not going to . . . educate kids to do anything more than work in Wal-Mart or the equivalent. They only need a seventh or an eighth grade education, at most a ninth grade education, and so we don’t need teachers who are more than, as Grover Whitehurst, a former Undersecretary of Education, said, "good enough." That’s all we need is teachers who are "good enough" to follow scripted curriculum and to teach to these standardized tests."

". . . if people really looked at these core curriculum standards, I think they would be aghast. You know, vocationalization of the curriculum is beginning in first grade. They’re doing career education in first grade, if you look at these standards. What is that about? That we’re preparing kids for the workforce when they’re in first grade? And the foundations . . . including the Gates Foundation, they are absolutely driving this. They’re funding it. They’re funding the media campaign to persuade people that this is necessary."

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Unknown said...

The system in Philadelphia makes me sick to my stomach!

Saya said...

This just is sad.
Where I work, it is just like what it described... "deprofesionalize teaching". When we KNOW that's not the way to go. As much as we know the importance of early childhood education, most of us are treated as "just a baby-sitter", and what's more sad and absolutely crazy is that management (especially upper management) treats us as such, oppose to backing us up and implement good practices.

mamalya said...

made me cry...

I just sent my daughter to a public school after 2 years of Montessori preschool. I was not crying on the first day because my child is not a baby anymore, I was crying because I am sorry about what's ahead of her.

The scariest part is that many countries look up to US, and change their (often better) school systems to match US. For example, Russia recently adopted the universal test system. And now the schools start preparing kids to the test from the very start. It hits the best schools the hardest (like Waldorf schools).

PlanningQueen said...

In Australia we are heading further and further down the track of national testing. It makes me so sad, that school is becoming like this. Excellent post.