Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Plot Against Public Education

Politico's Bob Herbert has a spot-on, lengthy analysis over at Politico titled, "The Plot Against Public Education: How Millionaires and Billionaires are Ruining Our Schools." This is a must read for anyone who wants to see how you're being fooled every day by the so-called education reform advocates who are more about profiteering at the expense of our public education system in this country.
Bill Gates had an idea. He was passionate about it, absolutely sure he had a winner. His idea? America’s high schools were too big . . .
That was Bill Gates’s grand idea. From 2000 to 2009, he spent $2 billion and disrupted 8 percent of the nation’s public high schools before acknowledging that his experiment was a flop. The size of a high school proved to have little or no effect on the achievement of its students. At the same time, fewer students made it more difficult to field athletic teams. Extracurricular activities withered. And the number of electives offered dwindled.
Gates said it himself in the fall of 2008, “Simply breaking up existing schools into smaller units often did not generate the gains we were hoping for.”
There was very little media coverage of this experiment gone terribly wrong. A billionaire had had an idea. Many thousands had danced to his tune. It hadn’t worked out. C’est la vie . . .
Corporate leaders, hedge fund managers and foundations with fabulous sums of money at their disposal lined up in support of charter schools, and politicians were quick to follow. They argued that charters would not only boost test scores and close achievement gaps but also make headway on the vexing problem of racial isolation in schools.
None of it was true. Charters never came close to living up to the hype. After several years of experimentation and the expenditure of billions of dollars, charter schools and their teachers proved, on the whole, to be no more effective than traditional schools. In many cases, the charters produced worse outcomes. And the levels of racial segregation and isolation in charter schools were often scandalous. While originally conceived a way for teachers to seek new ways to reach the kids who were having the most difficult time, the charter school system instead ended up leaving behind the most disadvantaged youngsters.
Sound a lot like what you've been hearing from the education profiteers here in Indiana? It gets better.
Few people would accuse  Gates of acting out of greed. For other school reformers, however, a huge financial return has been the primary motivation. While schools and individual districts were being starved of resources, the system itself was viewed as a cash cow by so-called education entrepreneurs determined to make a killing . . .
Think about the upcoming rollout of new national academic standards for public schools, he urged the crowd. If they’re as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad, their students testing way behind in reading and math. They’ll want help, quick. And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software and student assessments will be right there to provide it.” . . .
The former Florida governor Jeb Bush was another prominent figure in the front ranks of the corporate push for public education dollars. He hosted an education conference in San Francisco in the fall of 2011 at which Murdoch was the keynote speaker. In the audience were corporate executives, supporters of market-oriented education and elected officials responsible for the laws and policies that regulate corporate access to public education dollars. Using his allies and contacts from his days in the Florida statehouse and his relationship with two former presidents, Bush was tireless in his promotion of the corporate education agenda. With Bob Wise, the former West Virginia governor, he started an organization called Digital Learning Now!, which took on the task of persuading state legislators to make it easier for companies to get public funding for virtual schools and for the installation of virtual classrooms in brick-and-mortar schools.
In June 2010 Bush gave the commencement speech to graduates of a huge, for-profit virtual school in Columbus, Ohio, called the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. Bush used the occasion to extol the virtues of online learning, but in fact the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow was a particularly poor example. Mother Jones examined the school’s track record: “In 2010, barely half of its third graders scored proficient or better on state reading tests, and only 49 percent scored proficient in math, compared with state averages of 80 percent and 82 percent, respectively. ECOT’s graduation rate has never exceeded 40 percent.”The amount of money in play is breathtaking. And the fiascos it has wrought put a spotlight on America’s class divide and the damage that members of the elite, with their money and their power and their often misguided but unshakable belief in their talents and their virtue, are inflicting on the less financially fortunate.
Those who are genuinely interested in improving the quality of education for all American youngsters are faced with two fundamental questions: First, how long can school systems continue to pursue market-based reforms that have failed year after demoralizing year to improve the education of the nation’s most disadvantaged children? And second, why should a small group of America’s richest individuals, families, and foundations be allowed to exercise such overwhelming—and often such toxic—influence over the ways in which public school students are taught?
In case you haven't noticed what's happening in the IPS school board elections as of late, just follow the large sums of money suddenly flowing into the hands of the candidates backed by these corporate elites who are seeking to profiteer at the expense of public education. The out-of-state education profiteers are pouring money into the campaigns of their puppet school board candidates who now pretty much control the IPS board.


Anonymous said...

"At the same time, fewer students made it more difficult to field athletic teams."

With just that, the program had at least one great success.

Public schools are not supposed to be providing athletic outlets.

All these Republican Liberals expand the purpose of academic education into avenues that are anti-intellectual and are not the obligation of the taxpayer to support.

Anonymous said...

"started an organization called Digital Learning Now!, which took on the task of persuading state legislators to make it easier for companies to get public funding for virtual schools and for the installation of virtual classrooms in brick-and-mortar schools."

I've encountered many Republicans who think that digital classrooms are a good idea. These same Republicans are not the sort of persons who would ever post the highest grade in a class or willingly enroll in a Poetry class.

Many Republicans I encounter seem to be very happy to land somewhere in the middle part of the curve. They hold the disposition that education should be task-oriented and must be sufficient to get one a job. For Republicans, learning practical Math is just fine, while studying Early French is not.

These Republicans have little desire to engage in self-searching class lectures, so they're quite willing to dumb down the curriculum to an entire degree of multiple-choice classes.

Education does need to be reformed. Dropping Sports and Cheerleading are wonderful ideas; getting teachers in the classroom who do not hold degrees churned out by the vapid School of Education is a great idea; reducing education to computer-based, virtual-classroom, multiple-choice classes is a horrible idea.

What is also a great idea is offering judgement-free and no-charge adult education classes on topics ranging from remedial subjects to quite advanced specialized classes.

Given that most learning occurs at home from the parents, it is necessary to do all we can to give the parents the tools to raise more intelligent children.

School, as currently constructed, is frequently a failure, and both parties are leading schools in the wrong direction.

Anonymous said...

Have you read The Death and Life of the Great American School System or Hoosier School Heist?
Both are filled with information and details about the topic.

Anonymous said...


I'm not sure America ever had a decent public school system. In most places, public school was intended to make obedient youth. Obedient youth rarely have a novel idea. They're good at listening to the radio shows, signing up during enlistment drives, watching television and not committing crimes, but they don't make for great thinkers.

The earliest public schools were designed to train the Old Country out of European immigrants. In many cases, however, the ways of some Old World countries were far superior to American ways.

Eric Morris said...

Get the government out of schools and you get the billionaires out, as well as the teacher union terrorists. Anon @335 is correct; they are nothing more than government propaganda indoctrination centers.

Flogger said...

We have here locally the Mind Trust. Per Wiki - "The Mind Trust was founded in 2006 by Bart Peterson, the former Mayor of Indianapolis, and David Harris, Mayor Peterson’s former charter schools director. Bart Peterson is now chair of The Mind Trust’s Board of Directors and David Harris is the President and CEO."

Further from Wiki- "The Mind Trust has used the Venture Fund to bring Teach For America, The New Teacher Project, College Summit Diploma Plus, and Stand for Children to Indianapolis."

Your link Buying Indianapolis Public Schools mentions Stand for Children (SfC) PAC, and Teach For America (TFA). The link also mentions - Finally, the high level of influence of the corporate reform agenda on Commissioners Hannon and Odle is reconfirmed by the fact that Hannon is Network Coordinator for Teach Plus, an organization sharing the same suite (330) as the Mind Trust in public television’s WFYI building at1630 North Meridian Street ( As well, in 2011, Odle helped shape and support the Mind Trust’s plan which proposes mayoral control of IPS.

I have compared Mind Trust's Board of Directors with The Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee. Those "serving" on both boards are: Mark Miles
CEO, Hulman & Company, Mr. David Harris, President and CEO – The Mind Trust, Bill Shrewsberry, President & CEO – Shrewsberry and Associates, Ms. Ann Murtlow, President & CEO – United Way of Central Indiana, Dr. Rob Manuel, President – University of Indianapolis.