I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Market-Based 'Forming

Anne Geiger (via Valerie Strauss) preaches a righeous sermon:
While school districts should be operationally efficient and school-based administrators should use good management principles, public schools don't equate to businesses, as many outside the system and most of these reformers are apt to say. Businesses choose their markets and customers, and big business sends its customer service and production overseas. In our market economy, they function as competitors, seldom or never as collaborators. Generally speaking, they are driven by survival and profit.
Public schools are driven by something quite different.
They accept all children who cross their thresholds and are driven by meeting those children's educational needs. It's a fluid, overlapping process--day to day, month to month, year to year. Principals, teachers and support staffs (and families) work together to build communities of learning to educate all of the children in their care.
Since no child is the same (anyone who's a parent instinctively knows that), teaching him or her cannot fit into simple formulas or be measured in simple ways. There is much shifting, strategizing and innovating to meet all the diverse needs of students. To do it well requires more collaboration than competition. That's not to say there's no competition in and between classrooms or in and between schools. Healthy levels of competition provide the spark for everyone to work harder and better.
But this market-reform agenda takes that natural human motivator to another level entirely. And I don't think it's going to be healthy in the long run for our public education system or our children.
I also think these reformers are fooling themselves, the business community, families and our children to say their agenda is going to take us back to top international rankings. Their agenda is built primarily around standardized testing. They want to shift to thinly credentialed teachers and encourage high-stakes competition between schools, principals, teachers and students.
And it's spawning a growing private industry of charter schools, management companies and testing, teacher training, curriculum, textbook, software and virtual learning companies. It seems more destined to create an "education industry" that will turn our children more into market products prepared to take tests than educated human beings fully prepared for the 21st century workplace and our democratic society.
Say with me...

Schools are NOT businesses!

But we sure are heading toward making an awful lot of businesses an awful lot of money through education "reform." Everyone OK with that?

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