Who are the three stooges? Two Republicans --New York's Mike Bloomberg and Newt Gingrich --and Al Sharpton. What the three have in common is that all are failed presidential candidates. And this:
Other prominent members of EEP include up and coming young Democrats Corey Booker and Adrian Fenty (of Michelle Rhee infamy) who believe in applying free market principles to education and call themselves "reformers." I call them what they really are --neoliberals, just like Bill Gates and Eli Broad, who, whatever political party they affiliate with, are nonetheless rich and not at all shy about using their wealth to force market-based reforms on the nation's public schools.
That means accountability, merit pay, and charter schools.
That brings us back to the EEP, the Education Equality Project, which is all about the "achievement gap." Just what is the "achievement gap?" It's the difference --or gap-- in scores on standardized achievement tests between the rich and the poor, the white and the non-white.
That, too, is what accountability is all about --test scores. Good schools get good test scores. Lousy schools don't. (That's where charters come in, but more on that later.) Test scores also factor into merit pay. How do you know who the good teachers are? They're the ones with high scoring students.
Never mind ample evidence showing that an overemphasis on testing for accountability narrows school curricula. What's taught is what can be tested. Music? Art? Foreign languages? PE? They take back seat to the obsession with literacy and numeracy.
That's especially true in poor, high minority enrollment schools and school districts.
Real reformers --not the neoliberals-- take a decidedly different view. From The Nation article:
"They [let's call them 'progressive reformers'] believe teachers and schools will not be able to eradicate the achievement gap between middle-class white children and everyone else until a wide array of social services are available to poor families. They envision schools as community centers, offering families healthcare, meals and counseling."
In other words, as I wrote sometime back, the schools alone cannot be held responsible for every social ill. If we want to close the achievement gap in this country, we better close the income gap.
The free market "reformers" have adopted the mantra "no excuses," which in effect discounts poverty as a factor in the lower achievement of poor students. Low expectations and lousy teaching, say the "reformers", are the culprits, not poverty. Of course, they're wrong --dead wrong. Research, and even 'hard science', provides abundant evidence that poverty plays a huge, and mostly negative, role in a child's education.
So what about charter schools? Suffice it for now to say that although, as Scott Lehigh writes on Boston.com in praise of a recommendation to remove the "caps" on charter schools in Massachusetts, "some Boston charter schools" have improved the achievement of low income students, many --probably most-- have not. In fact, most research indicates that charters do no better than traditional public schools in closing the achievement gap.
There are other problems with the charter model as well. More on that in subsequent posts.