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

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Reform" Is an Excuse For Poverty

Over at Matt DiCarlo's place, Clifford Janey, the former superintendent of Newark's and DC's schools, makes too much sense:
Not until leaders from all sides of the issue consider these conditions and connect changes in social policy to those in education policy will gains in student achievement become a reliable reference point of college/work readiness. What is compelling about the intersection of social and education policy is not the need for it as the third leg of the new reform stool, but the lack of sensibility to embrace it. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (Volume 24, Number 3S) found that the lack of affordable housing in poor urban communities can contribute to family instability, impair individual psychological wellbeing and weaken protection against communicable diseases. How can undernourished children in unstable families, who are routinely moving four or five times in a school year, avoid the cycle of vulnerability that continues to foreshadow academic failure? Let’s be clear, even the best of teachers with support from accomplished school leaders would be challenged to reverse this educational scenario in the 48,000 public schools not making adequate yearly progress. [underlined emphasis mine]
Look, no one is saying schools couldn't do better. No one is saying teachers couldn't improve. No one is saying there aren't some children who can be "saved" by having a great school stocked with great teachers.

But what those of us who are pushing back on reformyism are saying can be basically broken out into a few things:

  1. You will never, ever, EVER close the "achievement gap" unless and until you get serious about addressing poverty.
  2. Poverty is NOT caused primarily - or even substantially - by bad education. Poverty is the result of a complex interplay of many factors: inequity, tax structure, racism, culture, corporatism, and so many other "-isms" I couldn't possibly name them all. Inner-city kids having teachers that don't score well on the latest evaluation model approved by Eric Hanushek is NOT the issue.
  3. You can improve the schools; you can improve ALL schools, even those for the wealthiest among us. But you will never improve them by gutting tenure, installing merit pay, de-unionization, charters, and "choice." The evidence is overwhelmingly against this agenda.
  4. If you really want to "save" these children, be prepared to pony up. And the middle class is maxed out; you need to go where the money is.
Seriously: is anyone prepared to argue with me - with us - about any of this this? Isn't it all self-evident?

So why are rich people giving tons of money to Michelle Rhee and Jonah Edelman and Derrell Bradford to fight the most obvious thing in the world? Why are we even arguing about this?

Why are we even arguing about this???

I know - I'll spend it to hire Michelle and Jonah and Derrell to argue against the most obvious thing in the world!


Deb said...

I know you know this but we have to deal with affordable housing too.

Duke said...

Add that to the list, for sure. Thx Deb!