US Chamber Pimps Education Deform And The Greed Agenda

Success on Main St depends on success in the classroom. Take a stand for #edreform. #breakthemonopoly bit.ly/SchMg5 — U.S. Chamber's ICW (@USChamberICW) September 28, 2012 "Won't Back Down" is a huge flop at the box office. No surprise

"Won't Back Down" is a huge flop at the box office. No surprise there, given that it's an insubstantial view of what the issues in education reform are really about. But it seems that the film probably wasn't made for general viewing anyway, given how it's currently being used.

The US Chamber of Commerce has launched a nationwide tour they call "Breaking the Monopoly of Mediocrity" in education. They should have just called it "Break Teachers and Bash the Unions," because that's really what the purpose is. From their recently-launched website:

The 'Breaking the Monopoly of Mediocrity' tour will include:

  • An interactive forum of local business leaders, educators, and community leaders facilitated by education reform policy experts and practitioners. Participants will have an opportunity to strategize with other leaders in the community on the best ways to implement change.
  • A screening of the film with Won’t Back Down—a story of a single mother’s struggle to create meaningful change in her daughter’s chronically failing school.
  • Key resources, including a customized fact sheet detailing relevant education and workforce data of the community.

I'm sure it's not a coincidence that the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post came out yesterday with an editorial saying that Won't Back Down should be nominated for an Academy Award. Rupert has no shame in promoting his own prospects for big profits in privatized education through his own publications and non-profits like Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst outfit, but this editorial is particularly shameless:

‘Won’t Back Down” for Best Picture?

Why not? The school-based drama, which opened last weekend, boasts a sterling cast, including Academy Award nominees Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

More important, it sends a valuable message about US schools — and unions.

Indeed, that it’s drawn the acid-laced enmity of American Federation of Teachers boss Randi Weingarten tells you all you need to know: Give this flick an Oscar now.

Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York Department of Education, loves Won't Back Down, too. Gosh, I wonder if that has anything to do with his gig running Murdoch's corporate education division? Klein's recent interview with Techcrunch echoes all of the US Chamber's talking points:

Our own Gregory Ferenstein asked Klein about why he thought that the education space isn’t being disrupted by the Internet as quickly as other markets. In Klein’s view, it’s the fact that education is still, for the most part, a “state-run monopoly” that resists change as much as possible.

Despite this assessment, Klein still said that he is more enthusiastic about online education than ever before. In his view, now is the time for those who are developing education apps to engage. “Nothing comes easy in K-12,” though, he noted. There is, after all, very little incentive for the incumbents in this space to change.

[...]

Analytics and assessment, is seems, is really what Klein is focusing on. The biggest mistake we’ve made so far, he thinks, is that we have focused so much on technology but not enough on assessment. Different kids, after all, learn in different ways and at different speeds. But with enough analytics, we should be able to better personalize the education experience.

Oh, look! It's more Bill Gates argle-bargle! Yes, there's certainly space in K-12 education for the Internet and technology, but this notion that assessments can be microtargeted down to the differences between the kid with ADHD and the kid with a reading disability is just nonsense. Yes! That's what we need, more testing.

Those "assessments" obviously bring a very large revenue stream into corporate balance sheets, which is why they're relentlessly pimped at every opportunity. What they do not do is give provable data as to how children learn or why they are not meeting arbitrary standards that are not necessarily accurate reflections of what a child knows or does not know.

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Contrast the US Chamber and New York Post's view of education with Daily Kos' TeacherKen. He is currently on an NEA-sponsored bus tour to highlight the corporate Greed Agenda in education.

Charters are the preferred method of implementing the Greed Agenda in public schools. Thus it is worth remembering that the most comprehensive study of charters, let by Margaret Raymond of the Hoover Institute at Stanford, the CREDO study, found that only 17% of charters performed better on the favored metric of standardized test scores of students than the schools from which they drew their students, while 38% performed worse.

[...]

Let me remind readers why people like the Koch Brothers and their allies like charter schools:

  • the ability to lock out unions
  • no tenure or job security for teachers
  • ability to make teachers work ridiculous hours
  • ability to offer low compensation for teachers
  • ability to profit off the real estate of the properties in which charters are located.

TeacherKen has joined the bus tour to highlight what teachers the Greed Agenda is doing to public education. He sums it up this way:

There is a real issue of the nature of democracy. Parent Trigger laws are intended to undermine basic democracy – the right of the people in a community to govern their own schools. Yes, states do have oversight, but that oversight should not exclude the voice of those paying the taxes. The normal approach of those pushing items from the Greed Agenda is first to try to co-opt the process by co-opting the legislative branch. Sometimes this happens at the state level, sometimes it happens in local school board elections, where an infusion of hundreds of thousands of dollars will swell the campaign coffers of those willing to acquiesce in the Agenda.

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