October 19, 2009

Via Paul Rosenberg at Open Left:

According to leading "education researchers" (sub required), the draft guidelines that the Obama administration has published for federal economic-stimulus money and Title I aid for schools "have no credible basis in research."

The researchers point to two regulatory priorities in particular that are lacking in research evidence: evaluating teachers based on students' standardized test scores and promoting the growth of charter schools.

"One theory of action seems to be that holding teachers more accountable for the gain in their students' test scores will induce them to become better teachers," writes Duke University's Helen Ladd. "At this point, I am not aware of any credible evidence in support of that proposition."

And research on the performance of charter schools has shown that their track record is "highly variable."

The article points out that the Bush administration was famous for insisting that schools adhere to policies and programs that were based on "scientific research" while it promoted an agenda that had nothing "scientific" about it.

Now, the Obama administration is insisting that schools make decisions based on "data that shows what works," while it pursues mandates that have no data to support them.

What's the difference?

The difference is, the investors who run these new charter schools will be donating to Democrats! Next question?

Paul comments:

Due to the Great Recession, state and local governments are suffering massive cut-backs, and since education spending is generally their largest single budget item, schools are getting hit especially hard. This need not have been the case if Obama had either (a) asked for a $1.3 trillion stimulus, the size that many economists said was needed back in early 2009, or (b) altered the mix of tax cuts vs. spending through the states. And the blow could certainly have been softened if he had opposed the Snowe/Collins/Nelson/Scrouge "compromise" that cut something like $50 billion in school funding from the stimulus, rather than hailing those piggy-bank robbers for their "leadership." Whether or not it was all planned from the beginning, what's eventually shaped up out of this is that there's a small package of stimulus funds available for states and schools that jump through the federal education reform hoops--the exact nature of which is still being determined, although states that lift restrictions on charter schools will go to the head of the line.

It's really hard to see this as anything other than a Shock Doctrine-style deal, since it's a way to force cash-starved states and schools to change education policy and practice, regardless of what they might normally and democratically choose to do. And not only that--because the funds are limited, they could make the changes, and still not get a dime for doing so.

Yes, but we're much more inspired now and that will change everything.

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