Last week New Yorkers got the bad news about their students' test scores when they heard that they had dropped dramatically from prior years, largely due to the fact that New York is one of the first states to incorporate the Bill Gates-developed Common Core standards into their standardized testing.
Right on cue, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan started snorting and stomping about what failures public schools are, but he evidently wouldn't have passed the reading section of the same test, since the scores revealed a pesky detail he overlooked:
A bipartisan crew of education reformers, including Duncan, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and many others, have pushed charter schools as one solution to boost student learning. Yet charters, which are publicly funded but privately managed, fared particularly poorly on the new tests.
Just 23 percent of charter students scored proficient in language arts, compared with 31 percent in public schools overall. That’s a greater gap than had shown up in last year’s exams.
In math, charter schools beat the public school average in each of the past two years — but not this year. On the new tests, just 31 percent of charter students scored proficient, the same as in public schools overall.
Duncan's criticism of public schools was shameless, too, saying "school systems lied" to children, parents and administrators. That term "school systems" is code for "public schools."
The three charter systems mentioned in the article include Success Academies, Democracy Prep, and KIPP. The latter two are funded by a number of high-profile right wing and/or corporate interests, including the Walton Family, the DeVos Family, the Bradley Foundation, and more. Let's also not forget the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, and of course, Jeff Bezos.
Yet Duncan only had condemnation for public school districts because in his heart of hearts, he's a corporate guy who wants to push those new venture capital dollars into the brand-spanking new education profit centers built by the likes of Rupert Murdoch and Joel Klein which are pimped by well-paid shills like Michelle Rhee.
It seems these charter schools are not the miracle solutions everyone hoped they'd be. With the possible exception of Success Academies, it would appear that charter students were not as well-prepared as their counterparts attending public schools.
Maybe, just maybe, it's a mistake to blame the schools. After all, the Common Core standards were developed primarily by the Gates Foundation as a set of rigid global standards for purposes of gathering empirical data to analyze, more than to actually measure learning or college readiness. Gates has spent at least $150 million either developing or paying to "prepare" schools for implementation.
Clearly, the first rollout has not been a good result. Equally clearly, officials -- particularly Arne Duncan -- rushed to place blame on teachers and public school districts without considering other entities who were also implementing the Common Core standards for the first time. Like textbook publishers. And test writers. Why are we blaming those who took the test instead of those who wrote the test when performance was uniformly lower across the entire education universe?
Maybe, just maybe, the test had too many questions, or the questions were crazy ones like the 2012 pineapple and hare question. Maybe the focus of our efforts should be to rethink this crazy testing obsession and instead pay attention to directing resources to actual learning.
There's a concept Arne Duncan might embrace. It would save him a lot of embarrassment if he did.