The thing I admire most about the education reform movement is their brilliant co-opting of language. They use language to frame their manifesto in a manner that is extremely difficult to counter-argue. Take, for example, their heavy reliance on phrases like “Quality schools for all kids” and “We think all kids can learn.” How are you going to counter that? With “Some kids can’t learn” or “Sub-par schools for all”? I don’t think so. And so the reformers play into America’s irrational fear of teacher’s unions by attacking them while glorifying the people who make up the teaching profession. I know, I never said it made sense; just that it was well crafted.
Their biggest coup, though, may be in getting people to refer to them as reformers when they’ve shown little ability to reform anything. Look at their main vehicles. As the research continues to come in, a picture is beginning to emerge of charter schools being about as successful as traditional public schools, but a whole lot more disruptive. Cyber charters are performing so badly that even the National Alliance for Public Charter schools is attacking them. Teach For America, the organization that was intended to get a “high quality” teacher in front of every child, is morphing into a social organization and relying on cheap PR stunts since recruitment is down 35%. Achievement School Districts that were going to bring the bottom 5% of schools up to the top 25% percent are now being shown to be ineffective, and schools are being returned to local school district control. In fact, the only things you could say they have truly reformed are school board races. Used to be 10k and some knowledge about education could you elected. Those days are long gone and themoney has become astronomical. All in all not exactly a great body of work for reformers, I’d say.
You’d think with this kind of success rate, you might want to look into another arena to lend your expertise. Unfortunately, there is just a little too much money involved in education these days. So it’s impossible for the reform movement to just admit they were wrong and walk away. They’ve got to double down. Of course, when they do, they rely on the same tricks as they used in the past. They create language that makes it virtually impossible to have an honest discussion.
So let me walk you through their typical game plan. Step one: you create an organization with a name that makes the general public trust you. You know, like A+ Schools, Great Public Schools Now, or Project Renaissance. If you need a little help with the brand name, you can always call Proof Branding. They’ve got experience at this kind of thing.
Once you’ve got your organization created, you need to adopt a platform. It helps here to be tired about all that arguing over charter schools vs. traditional schools. After all, you are above this kind of thing because you just care about kids. Your The Importance of Parent Voice | Dad Gone Wild: