Take his interview with Cory Booker:
The core idea is that the performance of students should guide everything. That means killing tenure to get rid of bad teachers, giving families more choice by expanding charter schools and magnet schools, closing down bad schools of any type, giving principals authority to hire their own staffs, and perhaps expanding the school day and school year.That's the corporate reform agenda in a nutshell:
The discussion, finally, has moved beyond money and is focusing on how that money is spent.
- Gutting tenure, even though there's no evidence that there are large numbers of inefficient teachers with tenure. And there's no plan to replace tenure with another system that guarantees academic freedom, gives teachers the ability to advocate unpopular plans for individual children that teachers may feel are in those children's best interests, or protects teachers from cronyism and corruption.
Further - and perhaps most importantly: how do we know there are large numbers of new teachers ready to take the place of all of these "bad" teachers? Especially after you've gutted tenure, one of the compensations for the job? Do you think, Tom, that lots of the best and the brightest are going to line up to teach after you've destroyed their academic freedom and exposed their jobs to cronyism?
- Charters. How many times do we need to go down this road? Charters don't do a better job when accounting for student characteristics.
- Closing bad schools. And replacing them with what?
- Giving principals the authority to hire their staffs. Great - with what pool of applicants?
- Expanding the school day and year. With what money?
Apparently, it's just enough to blab about this, rather than actually think about the consequences and study the potential outcomes. Because it's clear to me and many others who actually spend our time in the schools that this is nothing more than a plan based on sound bites and happy wishes, foisted on us by people who have ulterior motives and no real stake in the outcome (other than their personal fortunes).
And the people of Newark have apparently caught on:
“I worry this school reform is being hatched in a foreign place,” says Howard. “It is externally funded and externally conceived.”Has it occurred to anyone that maybe there is an outsized interest in charters in urban areas because they are seen by residents as a way to reinstate at least some local control into their school districts? Charters, at least, have leaders who are closer to parents than the governor, who is the de facto leader of the Newark schools by virtue of the fact that the state controls the district.
To Jeffries, this notion is damaging and untrue. But he blames Booker for fanning the suspicions by making decisions in secret, without engaging the community. The leaked memo is one example.
And Booker’s decision to announce the $100 million grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on the “Oprah” show, without telling anyone in Newark, left Jeffries flabbergasted.
“For a place like Newark, that is the absolute worst way to do it,” Jeffries says. “It was an absurd spectacle.”
Back at Science High, even the Facebook gift was regarded with suspicion.
“The foundations are interfering with public education and dividing our community,” says Cassandra Dock, a local resident. “Leave us alone. We don’t want white people coming in here and doing what they do — taking over. Destroy and leave.” [emphasis mine]
What this woman is saying is exactly right: wealthy white people are coming into her community and telling her what's best for her kids. Mark Zuckerberg of San Francisco and Eli Broad of Los Angeles and Bill Gates of Seattle and Chris Christie of Mendham and Michelle Rhee of who-knows-where (OK, not white) are sticking their fingers in Newark's pies. None of these people live in Newark; none have a child in the schools. Why are they allowed to direct the city's educational policy while its residents are kept in the dark?
Further: what happens when the kids of Newark graduate from these schools? What opportunities will they have? Where is the investment in the infrastructure of Newark that would turn it into a viable economic engine that could create good jobs?
I'll tell you where: it's collecting in the pockets of the same people who are spending fractions of their personal fortunes to move Newark's schools in the direction they desire. We shouldn't be allowing these people to use their foundations to set public policy in Newark; we should be taxing them at pre-Reagan levels and using the money to let democratically elected leaders in Newark set and implement policy.
It's called democracy - time to bring it back.
ADDING: Great stuff from a commenter:
Your pool of applicants question. I found this 03.20.2011 article about how teachers are being replaced in PA.This is inevitable - it's supply-and-demand. The next step is to dumb down teacher credentials enough to make this stuff legal. Don't worry - that's coming soon.
From p. 2:
Ruth Hocker, former president of the parents' group at the Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School in State College, began asking questions when popular, certified American teachers were replaced by uncertified Turkish men who often spoke limited English and were paid higher salaries. Most were placed in math and science classes.
"They would tell us they couldn't find qualified American teachers," Hocker said.
That made no sense in Pennsylvania State University's hometown, she said: "They graduate here every year."
Other school parents described how uncertified teachers on H1B visas were moved from one charter school to another when their "emergency" teaching credentials expired and told of a pattern of sudden turnovers of Turkish business managers, administrators, and board members.