Curse you Gail Collins and your evidence! Last week, Gail Collins wrote a good op-ed about education ‘reform.’ While it’s probably not anything too new for regular readers, it’s good to see that the Rockefeller Republican/neo-liberal educational propaganda isn’t being swallowed hook, line, and sinker. First, on charter schools (italics mine):
But plot-wise, the movie seems to suggest that what’s needed is more charter schools, which get taxpayer dollars but are run outside the regular system, unencumbered by central bureaucracy or, in most cases, unions. However, about halfway through, the narrator casually mentions that only about a fifth of American charter schools “produce amazing results.”
In fact, a study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that only 17 percent did a better job than the comparable local public school, while more than a third did “significantly worse.” I’m still haunted by a debate I stumbled across in the Texas Legislature a decade ago in which conservatives repelled any attempt to impose accountability standards on the state’s charter schools, even after only 37 percent of the charter students passed state academic achievement tests, compared with 80 percent of the public schoolchildren. There’s something about an unfettered school that lifts the hearts of the Born Free crowd.
And on unions:
That’s unarguable, and the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program has turned out to be a terrific engine for forcing politicians and unions and education experts to create better ways to get rid of inept or lazy teachers. But there’s no evidence that teachers’ unions are holding our schools back. Finland, which is currently cleaning our clock in education scores, has teachers who are almost totally unionized. The states with the best student performance on standardized tests tend to be the ones with the strongest teachers’ unions.
I couldn’t agree more. I’ll simply note that, nationally, African-American students have made tremendous gains over the last three decades, propaganda notwithstanding. During that time, our teachers were heavily unionized. If ‘reformers’ are to blame teachers for students’ failures–and I think they place too much blame and credit on teachers regarding outcomes–then they also have to recognize the spectacular job U.S. teachers have done. Admittedly, the gap hasn’t closed (white students have made gains too, although not as impressive during that time), but I wouldn’t describe it as a failure.
‘Reformers’ can’t have it both ways: either teachers get the blame and the credit, or the faults lie primarily elsewhere.