A local blog by Steve Hinnefeld called School Matters offers this report on a standards testing success at two elementary schools in Lafayette. Hinnefeld makes this observation:
But at least with Murdock and Thomas Miller, there’s irony here. Their success flies in the face of the dogma espoused by Bennett and other education reformers, which holds that money doesn’t matter, class size doesn’t matter, and you improve schools with more choice for parents and merit pay for teachers. And it runs counter to the school funding cuts imposed by Gov. Mitch Daniels.
The funny thing about this truth, that creating a system of monetary punishments–always threatening loss of funding or state-takeover of “failures”, is bound to “create” the outcomes desired IF the schools can afford to make the appropriate organizational changes to even make “drill and kill” work well. In other words, even teaching to the testing standards and focusing on that as the only “reason” that the school is doing the work of educating requires a commitment to REACHING each child–more teachers, smaller classrooms, repetition (time!).
Is it our goal to turn our public education into Kaplan reviews for grad school entrance exams? That’s what this kind of focus on testing will create. It must be true that IF you must test students a particular way to assess certain content knowledge and problem-solving abilities then too you must teach the skills of test-taking. Many of us do not do this well as it is an irrelevant skill in life–maybe this point should be made more strongly. But this will still need to be done in a pedagogically meaningful way. As Steve Hinnefeld of the previously linked blog hedges a bit–if they increased their scores so much it must have achieved some good or lasting affect. If so, why not wait six months and take the test again, with no test training or review. Would any of this knowledge “stick”? Or perhaps offer a more holistic test to a sampling of these high achievers and see if their I-Step skills are transferable.
But finally the truth is that vouchers will NOT help the kids at schools that are chronically beset by the effects of poverty on their homes and school systems. In fact, it will exacerbate those problems and it will further require, if the testing continues, and if budgetary threats continue, that the schools that “lose” students to voucher-transfer MUST then only “drill and kill”–must push all their limited shrinking resources into the study of “how to take a test” at a particular level in a particular content area. Then when they graduate they can go do what? Be professional test-takers?
Vouchers are a way to once more take money from the whole of us and give it to the those who are already the beneficiaries of the social lottery of success by class hierarchies. Vouchers will simply make poor communities poorer. It is a method of segregation, by class and race. Should we allow our elected representatives to impoverish our fellow citizens? Isn’t this redistribution of wealth?
Isn’t this finally the goal: Degrade (failing systems “graded” by corporate test-makers) and Defund (vouchers and charter schools take away money from struggling systems). Remember it, as it’s really the true game of these “proponents” of education reform (as if that were necessarily a good thing): Degrade and Defund.
Should the court case attempting to block the voucher law here in Indiana fail, I will make a prediction about the future of our society within a privatized public “goods” program. It’s also a “free market dream”:
School vouchers and charter schools lead to further impoverishment of the urban poor, better known as black children. Because all the money leaves these public school systems the state offers them to the highest bidder. Remember, kids are captive consumers of products from chocolate milk to textbooks to computers to pens and paper, not to mention the advertising possibilities within the schools themselves. The highest bidder will turn out to be the corporations which already manage captive urban populations, those that run private prisons. It’s my understanding that the GOP and any other “right-thinking” (interpret how you will as it includes “democrats”) politician and citizen likely considers public education and public prisons as a kind of welfare. So, this privatization process creates a “natural resource”–labor that it not only “captive” but within the school systems these “resources” can be trained to perform relevant and necessary tasks. Why outsource to India and China? Surely WalMart already has a business scheme in mind for this. The new world order for the USA is providing the Chinese with LABOR. The Plantation Masters aren’t growing cotton, they’re growing labor for hire.
All made possible by a voucher!