“School Reform” sounds good. The devil hides in the details.
“Reformer” Tony Bennett was the commissioner of education for (first) Indiana and (next) Florida. Tony was named “Leader of the Year “by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and an “Education Idol” by the Fordham Institute. A month ago, Tony resigned when it was revealed that he ordered grading standards to be changed so that the “grade” of a charter school (run by a major Republican donor) moved from “C” to an “A.”
Surely, Bennett knew his measure of school performance (forced on Indiana and Florida by their Republican legislatures) was imperfect. Perhaps, he saw embracing the “reform” movement as a way to promote his career. Whatever his motivation to cheat, he either failed to understand how many lives would be forever damaged by his meddling or else he just didn’t care.
But, Republicans aren’t exclusively at fault. Michelle Rhee claims to be a Democrat. She has been supported by both President Obama and Rahm Emmanuel. Rhee started her career in education as a “Teach for America” volunteer. She, herself, said that she couldn’t control her class of elementary students and taped their mouths shut. When she pulled off the tape, their lips bled. The children all started to cry. So, why isn’t she in jail for child abuse?
Despite her short and checkered past, Rhee was chosen to head Washington, D.C schools and is the current poster child for “school reform.” She wants increased standardized testing in teacher evaluation and promotes charter schools. Unfortunately, however, it has now been revealed that she was warned during her first year in DC about extensive cheating, making a mockery of the “school report cards” she used to reward “good teachers and schools” and fire “bad” ones. She ordered no investigation to correct the problem and continued to trumpet the inflated “improvement” of DC’s scores.
Rhee founded (the ironically-named) “StudentsFirst,” a political lobbying organization that promotes charter schools and standardized testing as tool to identify and punish “bad” schools. The organization supported “reform” in Florida (hence, the link to Tony) and similar legislation in Tennessee.
David Coleman was Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst treasurer during its opening year. Coleman is the author of the “Core Curriculum Standards.” A wealthy child of privilege, Coleman said he once tried to teach, but nobody would hire him. (As a former math/science teacher, that’s hard for me to believe, unless, of course, he had a glaring inadequacy). Coleman then went to work at McKinsey (“business consulting”) and founded an outfit to analyze data that was bought by McGraw-Hill. Next he founded Student Achievement Partners that wrote most of the Common Core standards being imposed by the Tennessee Legislature.
So, the three most nationally prominent “school reformers” (privatization advocates) appear to include two with integrity problems (Tony and the lip ripper) and someone with no classroom experience, whatsoever.
We, the People, have allowed corporate lobbyists and ideologues to direct educational policy in Nashville and across the country. We continue to discourage experienced professionals and elevate arrogant hucksters.
But, of course, plutocrats want obedient servants, not competent, creative, educated and difficult-to-control citizens. They applaud the “reformers,” but seldom send their kids to public school.
“School Reform” sounds good. The devil hides in the details.
Lion and the Lamb: The crisis in the Ukraine
Once again our nation is trying to decide how to respond to another political crisis in the Middle East—an area that has produced a continuing series of "threats" to us and our empire, such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Iran, and Syria. This new crisis, however, takes us into a slightly different part of the world—the Ukraine. Its territory has had over a thousand years of tumultuous history, including being ruled by Russia since the 18th century, but a brief look at its most recent years will help provide some additional understanding of the current crisis.
We the People: Old and grumpy
There’s a lot to like about old white men. Many are wonderful dads, uncles, grandpas, brothers, husbands, coaches, neighbors and friends. They advanced our cause in WWII, Korea and, yes, Vietnam. They worked in factories, government offices, and on family farms. They developed and sustained businesses to help our economy grow. Some are great thinkers in our universities, awesome writers, scientists, and artists.
TIDBITS: My Tennessee home
Sometimes, rankings come along and you wonder, “How on earth did they decide that?”
STUMPTALK: They just don’t know
When I write “they just don’t know” I am referring to liberals’ knowledge of the American right. They create caricatures that bear little resemblance to the truth.
LION AND THE LAMB: A time for earth-empathy
This past winter with its snow, freezing rain, and bone-chilling low temperatures has been a brutal one for many parts of our country. Although our county escaped the worst of it, the words “polar vortex” jumped out of the news reports into our consciousness here. It was still hard, however, to understand that all this cold had something to do with climate change and global warming.
WE THE PEOPLE: Reforming education? (Part II)
Last month, I promised to enlarge upon the forces that are attempting to overthrow our locally-controlled public education system. “Following the money” helps, as it does with almost all issues of political importance.
TIDBITS: The trouble with springing forward
This weekend, we will dutifully spring forward at 2 a.m. Sunday morning and begin daylight saving time.
STUMPTALK: History continues to repeat itself
Propaganda was the key to victory for the communists in the Russian Revolution of 1917. Less than ten percent of the population was communist, but that ten percent controlled the media of the day.
Lion and the Lamb: Sticks, stones, and hurting words
Most of us have grown up knowing some version of that children's proverb "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words (names) will never hurt me."
We the People: Black focusing on false facts
I would like to take exception to Rep. Diane Black's recent newsletter about President Obama and the Democrats. I have had concerns for some time that Rep. Black does not represent the majority of the constituents in her district. Like many others in her party, she continues to put forth the same stale talking points that are not borne out by the facts. Instead, she picks and chooses to support false talking points.
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- Lion and the Lamb: The crisis in the Ukraine