Where’s Wally? How To Spot A Corporate Education Reformer

A further excerpt, this time from the writings of another strong critic of the corporate education reform movement, Leonie Haimson (@leoniehaimson), who leads Class Size Matters in New York City (“a non-profit, non-partisan clearinghouse for information on class size and the proven benefits of smaller classes”) and who was a co-founder of Parents Across America (“a non-partisan, non-profit grassroots organization that connects parents and activists from across the US to share ideas and work together to improve our nation’s public schools”).

Education Reform Wally

Haimson identifies the following “simplistic, yet strangely contradictory set of positions” in the rhetoric of corporate education reformers, and although her primary focus is the US, it is clear that in this corporate education reform rhetoric, we find much that features in the rhetoric of reformers globally:

• Teacher quality is paramount, and yet schools should be able to get rid of experienced teachers in favor of Teach for America recruits with five weeks of training, most of whom will last only two years.

• There is a need for differentiated instruction so each child can receive individualized feedback, but the smaller classes that might make this possible should not be considered, and instead, class sizes should be increased to save money and to create greater “efficiencies.”

• Personalized learning will instead be achieved through software programs and online learning, though real personal contact will be lessened or entirely taken out of the equation.

• Schools must adopt the Common Core standards to encourage higher order critical thinking and writing, but their success in reaching these goals will be measured through standardized tests taken and scored by computers.

• Districts should lengthen the school day or school year, but they should also lessen the emphasis on “seat time” to allow students to get through school more quickly.

• For traditional public schools, there is a need for standardization, including prescribing 50-70 percent “informational text” in assigned reading; at the same time, deregulation through the proliferation of autonomous and privately managed charter or voucher schools should occur, with little or no rules attached.

• Parental “choice” is encouraged, by expanding the charters and voucher sector, but when hundreds or even thousands of parents vehemently protest the closing of their neighborhood public schools, or demand smaller classes, their choices are ignored or rejected with the claim that they are not educated enough to understand what’s at stake.

• Teachers should be “empowered” through online learning, and the profession should be “elevated” and “respected”; but when teachers overwhelming oppose merit pay, the use of test scores in evaluation systems, or insist that the best way to improve their effectiveness and actually “empower” them would be to reduce class size, their views are cast aside.

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