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Education as competitive market

March 29, 2012

I enjoyed Diane Ravitch’s The Language Police, which is about the close control of language and thought in schools by various pressure groups. Since then she has also been watching the progress of the school reform movement, and although she would once have been classified as on the Bush side of No Child Left Behind, she’s changed her mind based on the actual data. That is the subject of her NYT article, How to, and how not to improve schools. She discusses the progress of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), Teach For America (TFA) and charter schools as they have played out in the reform game. She also discusses the Finnish model of highly paid, masters-level professional teachers whose autonomy may be a major factor in their success.

The article covers a lot of ground but here’s a striking bit:

Experienced teachers are fleeing American public education in response to the testing demands of No Child Left Behind, which reduce professional autonomy. According to federal data, the “modal years” of teacher experience in our public schools in 1987–1988 was fifteen, meaning that there were more teachers with fifteen years of experience than any other group. By 2007–2008, the largest number of teachers were in their first year of teaching. In response to the ongoing drumbeat of public opprobrium inspired by corporate-style school reform, we are losing the experienced teachers that students and new teachers need.

OK, great – new blood and all that. Let’s do the same thing with aircraft design and civil engineering! But I digress. The striking thing is that the new teachers aren’t staying either: 40 to 50 percent leave in the first five years. This may be partly due to the fact that teachers with the toughest classes will be judged “unsatisfactory”.

Someone once said; “If your boss tells you exactly what to do, sooner or later he will find someone cheaper than you to do it.” (citation needed). This is the recipe for an education “race to the bottom”.  If you want your kids taught by inexperienced teachers who aren’t allowed to apply much thought to their work, this is the way to go. Because The Free Market™ is the only model for getting anything done in any context, right?

NOTES:

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 29, 2012 at 11:46 | #1

    In what context does No Child Left Behind have anything to do with “The Free Market(TM)”?

    By the way, if I’m understanding your point correctly, I agree that No Child Left Behind has been a disaster. I just don’t personally know many people that consider themselves as conservatives that stand up and say that it was a shining example of conservatism or the free market.

  2. decrepadmin
    March 30, 2012 at 07:11 | #2

    NCLB was Free-Market ideology applied to a public, nonprofit enterprise. It was way more carrot than stick, and it’s been an utter failure. It was also the key to education corporatism, used then and now to promote for-profit schools under an anti-public rubric.

    And no, I wouldn’t think Conservatives would be eager to claim it, or the administration that spawned it. Sometimes amnesia is bliss.

    • March 30, 2012 at 08:43 | #3

      It’s not amnesia. Bush was not a conservative. He was a great example of a Republican “war monger,” but he was not a “smaller government” conservative.

  3. decrepadmin
    March 30, 2012 at 09:11 | #4

    Right – he’s not a Twoo Conservative. Real Conservatives want to build the country by not protecting or investing in the commons on which the economy depends.

  4. Lastcall
    March 30, 2012 at 18:25 | #5

    I do not often agree with you. however, this post caught my eye. I I think parents would be very surprised if they ever look at the different curriculums in the schools. Our school district adopted a Language Arts curriculum called Springboard. It is very worksheet intensive and you really do not need a “teacher” to teach it as it comes with a script for every lesson. There are some positives with the curriculum but for the most part, I believe most teachers could teach the material better without the roadblocks that come with Springboard.

    We had a very contentious fight over this adoption in our school district. However it did pass. Other school districts have had this same struggle. I came across a quote from another blog that gave a great explanation of why districts are adopting this curriculum. It said:

    One insider speculated that the real reason that Dr. Lewis supports this program so strongly is that “it increases the classroom effectiveness of the worst teachers, and he has many of them in his middle schools, especially in language arts and math.”

    So now we are not only are we focusing our teaching on the lowest achieving students as that is all that NCLB cares about but now we are choosing curricula for the lowest teachers as well. Look across the country and you will see that our top students are suffering as they are being severely neglected. I believe in public schools but if I had a student that was a high achiever, I would probably find a private school for them as there is no incentive for the public schools to make he or she achieve at an even higher level. All we need is for the high achievers to pass the test – which they can probably do in their sleep.

    Teachers used to spend hours preparing their own material for each lesson. Now they spend their time trying to make sure they teach exactly the same material at the same time (we call this curriculum maps) and now we are going to teach a very limited set of material at every school across the country so that we can make more uniform standardized tests. (We call this common core curriculum).

    Luckily I teach a subject that does not get “tested” so I still have the ability to create my own curriculum and actually teach my kids the best way I see fit and actually engage them and make them think instead of regurgitate information for a test.

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