Wall Street ♥ charter schools

Call them cynical, but the widespread involvement of financial firms in the charter school movement raises suspicion among many public school advocates.

The map below illustrates just a few entanglements of big league investors in national school-choice organizations.

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The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum

Great piece

Welcome to other side of the looking glass, and into the Bizarro world of so-called "education reform" - an upside-down universe in which up is down, left is right and multimillionaire CEOs are civil rights heroes championing social justice, while public school teachers are corrupt fat cats, maintaining a status quo which oppresses students in poverty and racism.

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If you are a corporate education reformer, with the requisite pathological desire to want to fire educators, having educators stand in your way, blocking this deep seated desire is something that must be overcome.

We therefore see a secondary policy preference expressed by those wanting to privatize and corpratize public education. Policies designed to remove the collective voice of educators.

SB5 is a very clear example of this, and while publicly it was couched in "reform rhetoric", the governor has already expressed his desire to "break the back of organized labor in the schools". Scott walker in Wisconsin, Mitch Daniels in Indiana, and the legislature in New Hampshire have all tried similar approaches to removing educators voices.

But even with SB5 massively defeated, corporate education reformers like the Fordham Institute continue to push for such approaches

Teacher unions are among the most powerful political actors in America on a wide range of issues (just ask Terry Moe, Paul Peterson, or Mike Antonucci). It’s not a given that that should be so, however, or that union intervention in partisan elections is always (or even often) good for teachers as a whole. Rhee and other education reformers would do well to add paycheck protection to their toolkit of reforms to increase parent power over education policy – and protect the rights of teachers to spend their paychecks on political issues they believe in, not on the agenda of labor leaders.

We left the following comment on their post "this is a very ill informed post.

Teachers can opt out of funding unions and pay only fair share to cover the costs of professional services. Political advocacy of candidates is NOT paid out of any dues, but instead is paid by VOLUNTARY contributions by educators, typically into the Fund for Children and Education (FCPE).

One would hope that a "policy fellow" would at least avail themselves of some basic facts and understandings before espousing an opinion on a topic they clearly have no understanding of.

But the folks at Fordham aren't the only ones who would like to see educators slip quietly into the background. The Columbus Dispatch often published opinion pieces that echo these desires, and did, publishing a piece by Pat Smith, titled "Expert panel could revamp education in Ohio"

An expert panel in Ohio could identify similar savings and direct them where they’d do the most good. Such a panel ought to include certified public accountants, economists, futurists and technologists and perhaps be chaired by Ohio’s state auditor.

We're not sure what a "futurist" is, but we are sure educators are not on that list, indeed educators get a special mention - "It should welcome input, but not control, from educators..."

We asked Ms. Smith "Curious why you do not include any teachers/educators in your list of people who would serve on your proposed expert panel?". She was kind enough to respond, and her response included this

No one is more supportive of teachers than I am. I come from a family of teachers: mother-in-law, aunts, sister-in-law, my daughter and, of course, my own experience - four different systems under five different principals. But, I think the kind of expertise we need to improve the productivity of the entire state system has to come from those with different sets of skills: technology gurus, numbers crunchers, data experts, demographers, futurists, etc. Yes, as I said, they need to have input from educators (the editor edited out the adjective "strong" before "input.") But, you know as well as I do, much of the decision making in education circles revolves around ideology and not about what really works. Also, the educators tend to wear down others on panels. My worry is that there is only a finite amount of resources that is going to go into education and that we must make the very best use of those resources and that educators don't know or agree how to do that. For example: should we fund early education or lower class size? Yes, a surgeon has the expertise to operate, but not to run the hospital where he performs the surgery.

We're not sure what's more insulting, the mistaken belief that educators have no expertise in these matters, or that they constant pointing out of ill-conceived ideas wears the purveyors of those ideas down. But at least in this exchange we can see why educators simply must be silenced.

According to ODE statistics, Ohio teachers have an average of 15.08 years experience, giving them a combined 1,560,379 total years of experience. Each day they add almost a million hours of experience to this massive total. Who else in the state has this amount, depth, and level of expertise in public education?

Anyone who doesn't recognize that educators have earned a central role in education policy reform isn't serious about reforming education, they are instead more interested in partisan politics.

Merit Pay: The End Of Innocence?

The current teacher salary scale has come under increasing fire, and for a reason. Systems where people are treated more or less the same suffer from two basic problems. First, there will always be a number of "free riders". Second, and relatedly, some people may feel their contributions aren’t sufficiently recognized. So, what are good alternatives? I am not sure; but based on decades worth of economic and psychological research, measures such as merit pay are not it.

Although individual pay for performance (or merit pay) is a widespread practice among U.S. businesses, the research on its effectiveness shows it to be of limited utility (see here, here, here, and here), mostly because it’s easy for its benefits to be swamped by unintended consequences. Indeed, psychological research indicates that a focus on financial rewards may serve to (a) reduce intrinsic motivation, (b) heighten stress to the point that it impairs performance, and (c) promote a narrow focus reducing how well people do in all dimensions except the one being measured.

In 1971, a research psychologist named Edward Deci published a paper concluding that, while verbal reinforcement and positive feedback tends to strengthen intrinsic motivation, monetary rewards tend to weaken it. In 1999, Deci and his colleagues published a meta-analysis of 128 studies (see here), again concluding that, when people do things in exchange for external rewards, their intrinsic motivation tends to diminish. That is, once a certain activity is associated with a tangible reward, such as money, people will be less inclined to participate in the task when the reward is not present. Deci concluded that extrinsic rewards make it harder for people to sustain self-motivation.

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The Ethics Of Testing Children Solely To Evaluate Adults

The recent New York Times article, “Tests for Pupils, but the Grades Go to Teachers,” alerts us of an emerging paradox in education – the development and use of standardized student testing solely as a means to evaluate teachers, not students. “We are not focusing on teaching and learning anymore; we are focusing on collecting data,” says one mother quoted in the article. Now, let’s see: collecting data on minors that is not explicitly for their benefit – does this ring a bell?

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The Exaggerations of TFA

A former TFA'er digs into some wild TFA claims

In response to critics that TFA teachers don’t have enough long-term impact, TFA replies with the statement from their annual survey “Nearly two-thirds of Teach For America alumni work in the field of education, and half of those in education are teachers. Teaching remains the most common profession among our alumni.”

Now a statement like this is pretty strong and probably shuts up those critics, though it also probably leaves them scratching their heads. How could this statement possibly be true?

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