The Three Faces of a New Era of School Improvement
NPR Ed reached out to education leaders from across the country and found that “some education leaders are rushing to embrace the newly frank conversation about the racial impact of education reforms. Others are caught awkwardly in the middle. And some — especially conservative — reformers feel alienated.” NPR’sAnya Kamenetz cited one of those conservative reformers, Rick Hess, who observes, “‘We’re watching the old NCLB/Race to the Top coalition come apart, and we’ll see what will come out the other side.’”
But it isn’t just racial divisions that are tearing apart the contemporary school improvement efforts of the last generation. Educators of all races, from various ideologies, and committed to very different school policies are also split over fundamental differences as to how we in a democracy work with each other. The unraveling of the corporate reform coalition is due, in large part, because of the ways they treat people who disagree with them.
A National Press Club panel discussion clarified the positions of today’s three dominant schools of education policy. Shavar Jeffries of the Democrats for Education Reform embodies the neoliberal wing of the corporate reform movement. Andrew Smarick, from Bellwhether Education Partners, displays the new face of their former partners, conservative reformers. The panel also included an open and welcoming face of teacher-led school improvement, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the National Education Association.
The Education Writers Association’s Caroline Hendrie started the discussion with a mention of the breakup of the reform coalition. As Smarick explains, liberal reformers pushed top-down technocratic approaches that are now being rejected, while conservatives pledge fidelity to “the Market.” Of course, liberals wouldn’t trust this sort of unfettered competition in any other public sector and, I would think, even neoliberals would reject the granting of such unchecked power to corporate interests. It certainly isn’t a viable path to racial justice.
Corporate reformers, however, have enthusiastically supported unfair competition where test-driven micromanaging is imposed on traditional public schools as they empowered charters to “cream” the easier-to-teach students and to promote segregation, behaviorist pedagogies and discipline, in order to defeat neighborhood schools. (The pedagogies also help charters to push out students who make it more difficult to raise test scores.) Their goal was defeating teachers unions and others who disagreed with their agenda. To do so, corporate reformers dismissed a generation of the poorest children of color as collateral damage in the fight against their adult opponents.
The NEA’s Eskelsen Garcia best explains how the test-driven, competition-driven reform alliance held together for nearly a generation. In the 1980s, conservatives would demand “Results!” Liberals fought for “Equality.” The contemporary reform movement took the shortcut of demanding “Equal Results!”
In other words, reformers chose to pretend that equal results could be produced on the cheap, without tackling the inequality which defeats so many of the highest-poverty schools. The stress of high stakes testing would somehow overcome the The Three Faces of a New Era of School Improvement | Huffington Post - Linkis.com: