Sunday, May 29, 2011

How Embarrassing

This week's foray into Watching America set me back on my heels. There's been a lot of rumbling about the state of US education, but I hadn't realized that the rumbling has been heard and dissected in other parts of the world. Argentina's Argenpress has a sobering analysis about our education system and the article's conclusion matches its headline: "United States: Goodbye, Public Education."

The United States currently has problems of all sizes, shapes and colors. One of the most serious is the crisis of the public education system. The low scores of academic performance and the failure of standardized tests on the part of tens of thousands of students from poor and marginalized communities combine with constant budget cuts and the trends toward privatization of the public education sector.

Add to all this a fundamental problem: Public education has undergone a qualitative shift in its operation and objectives. Education is no longer seen as a right; it has become a business opportunity. Teachers have become employees who pursue the "success" of their "clients" — the students — and the role of education authorities is in the process of being reduced to mere administrative functions at best.
[Emphasis added]

And the Obama administration is currently leading the charge to a business model which has no connection to the reality of how our children learn.

As part of its Race to the Top program, the government is incentivizing states to raise their limits on the number of charter schools in exchange for federal funds.

Furthermore, the current administration seeks to replace roughly 5,000 poorly performing traditional schools with charter schools. The government has made the juicy sum of $3.5 billion available to the states to subsidize the "change" of these poorly performing schools. The more poorly performing schools that close, the more money the states receive. ...

This type of school, financed with public funds, does not need to operate under the same rules as other public schools. It usually selects its students instead of accepting everyone, which allows it to deliver better results. Its teachers are not necessarily unionized; therefore, they lack labor rights. And it can accept private investment, which allows it to establish other regulations.
[Emphasis added]

The emphasized portion of that quote is key: not every student in the region being served by the school will be accepted, thereby creating separate classes of students, some of whom will be relegated to "lesser" schools. That is bad enough because it runs so contrary to the American ideal of education. But here, ironically, is the stunning part, something our new "education" overlords don't want us to know: their expensive toys don't always work:

But something odd happened on the road to "success." According to a broad investigation carried out by experts at Stanford University, only 17 percent of charter schools were better than traditional public schools, according to standardized test results. 37 percent were worse in comparison, and 46 percent were virtually identical.

This is how our money is being spent. How embarrassing to have another country recognize our stupidity and to trumpet it.



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