- Enacted on January 8, 2002, the 2001 No Child Left Behind
Act's (NCLB) sponsors claimed it would close the achievement gap between
inner city and rural schools and more affluent suburban ones by setting
high reading and math standards, then testing to assure they're achieved.
However, the law's real aim is to commodify public education, end government
responsibility for it, and make it another business profit center.
- Renewing NCLB stalled in both houses of Congress for
good reason. It's long on testing, school choice, and market-based reforms,
but short on real achievement. It's built around rote learning, standardized
tests, requiring teachers to teach to the test, assessing results by Average
Yearly Progress (AYP) scores, and punishing failure by firing teachers
and principals, closing schools, and transforming them from public to charter
or for-profit ones.
- In other words, it's a thinly veiled scheme to privatize
public education, control costs, run schools by marketplace rules, decide
what's best for students based on bottom-line considerations, and end a
374 year public education tradition in America.
- Obama plans to reinvent a failed policy, give it a new
name, and claim it will fix NCLB's shortcomings. On April 14, The New York
Times reported that his administration will rewrite the law, toughen standards
for teacher quality and student performance, keep testing as a core element,
and increase the federal government's control over educating the nation's
- Then on July 24, The Education Department announced its
$4.35 billion "Race to the Top" scheme with Obama linking federal
funding to compliance with Washington's standards:
- "What we're saying here is, if you can't decide
to change these practices, we're not going to use precious dollars that
we want to see creating better results; we're not going to send those dollars
there. And we're counting on the fact that, ultimately, this is an incentive,
this is a challenge for people who do want to change."
- In fact, it pits one state against others to see which
gets most and sacrifices quality education, local autonomy, and the interests
of parents and youths doing it.
- For months, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been
stumping for the new plan even before it was announced because the 2009
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocated $100 billion for education.
In a July 24 press release, eligibility, it was explained, depends on complying
with federally mandated reforms that include:
- -- "Adopting internationally benchmarked standards
and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace;
- -- Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective
teachers and principals;
- -- Building data systems that measure student success
and inform teachers and principals how they can improve their practices;
- -- Turning around our lowest-performing schools."
- ObamaEd, in fact, mandates:
- -- open-ended switching of public schools to charter
or for-profit ones;
- -- running them by marketplace rules;
- -- requiring state laws to conform to federal ones;
- -- linking teacher pay to student achievement as determined
by standardized tests that measure rote memory skills, not real learning
or preparation for higher education;
- -- destroying the power of unions;
- -- putting Washington bureaucrats in charge of undermining
states, local school boards, and the right of parents to decide what's
best for their children;
- -- requiring federal mandates to be followed to qualify
- -- like NCLB, standardized tests will be required in
spite of critics calling them little more than an endless regimen of test-preparation
drills in place of real classroom learning;
- -- creating a two-tiered, class and income-based system
favoring affluent school districts over inner-city ones, effectively denying
poor kids an education and a chance for a better future; and
- -- destroying public education in America to create another
business profit center.
- Yet, at a July National Education Association meeting,
Duncan told teachers "You must be willing to change," so get
in step, go along, or be left out. Obama, stressed the same theme in saying
do it or you're out of the money and perhaps in violation of federal law
when Congress enacts one, most likely later this year.
- Left out entirely are the interests of millions of parents
and children who'll be victimized by marketplace education if states adopt
ObamaEd. If legislation passes, public education will be privatized so
corporate interests can cash in at the expense of youths from lower and
middle income families, especially ones of color.
- National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel
expressed concerns in a prepared statement saying:
- "If we continue to focus narrowly on test scores,
then students in need of the most support will continue to get more test
prep rather than the rich, challenging, engaging education they deserve."
As for judging teachers based on student performance he said: they "should
be evaluated on their practice using multiple criteria, not just one,"
and that's what parents, principals, and local school boards are for, not
Washington bureaucrats or corporate officials answering to shareholders
and Wall Street analysts.
- Assessing Charter v. Public School Performance
- Conceptually, charter schools are troublesome in that
they're quasi-private, near-autonomous, and may freely choose their students
and exclude unwanted ones. Effectively that disadvantages youths with disabilities,
from poor neighborhoods, and those less favored because of race, ethnic
background, or other disqualifying considerations. Their performance compared
to public schools causes more concern.
- In a first ever national assessment of charter schools,
the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) June 2009 report
titled "Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States"
analyzed their "impacts on more than 70 percent of the students in
(US) charter schools."
- Results showed 17% provided superior education, half
were no different from public schools, and 37% "delivered results
that are significantly worse than their students would have realized had
they remained in traditional public schools." The challenge "is
how to deal constructively" with varying performance levels in deciding
on the merits of one approach v. the other. So far, charters fall way short
of the promise advocates claim for them.
- Around 4700 charter schools operate in 40 states and
the District of Columbia, representing the largest alternative and gravest
threat to public education. CREDO studied 2403 of them and found 46% had
math and reading gains "statistically indistinguishable" from
public ones, 17% scored better, and 37% fell way below public school performance.
- CREDO concluded that "aggregate charter (school
performance isn't) advancing the learning gains of their students as much
as traditional public schools. The results are significant in both reading
and math, though the effects are small in size." Data obtained is
current as of the 2007 - 2008 school year and provide updates on earlier
- Arne Duncan - Obama's Point Man in Charge
- In 2001, he became CEO of Chicago's public schools (the
nation's third largest district after New York and Los Angeles) despite
having no educational background. He headed an autocratic Board of Education
- -- closed dozens of public schools in black and Latino
- -- replaced them with nearly 100 charter or contract
ones, many run by for-profit companies;
- -- undermined the teachers union;
- -- fired teachers and principals;
- -- displaced thousands of disadvantaged youths;
- -- militarized the city's high schools perhaps more than
anywhere else in the county to institutionalize JROTC programs with some
schools entirely for military studies;
- -- fought against desegregating over 300 city schools;
- -- opposed special education programs; and
- -- ignored parents' complaints to defend corporate involvement
in city schools.
- His mandate as Education Secretary is to do for the nation
what he did to Chicago:
- -- control K-12 education in America;
- -- require states and local school boards to comply with
- -- destroy public education;
- -- privatize the nation's schools;
- -- militarize them to create a stream of future recruits;
- -- destroy teachers unions and their ability to bargain
for better schools, higher pay and benefits for teachers, and tenure for
the most qualified;
- -- educate the well-off, not the poor, disadvantaged,
and most youths of color;
- -- turn education in America into a class and income-based
- -- shut out opposition voices to advance his reactionary
- Later in the year, a reinvented, renamed NCLB bill will
be introduced in Congress, likely passed, and signed into law, advancing
the worst of the above measures that will wreck the American dream for
millions of disadvantaged youths who'll be sacrificed on the alter of marketplace
- Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre
for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
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