Despite the fact that they function by radically different rules than public schools, and despite the ceaseless admonitions about austerity, several New York City charter schools have been granted almost five million dollars to “teach regular public schools how to better educate their students.”
Despite the fact that there is no research anywhere indicating that high test scores
have any lasting educational value, “ better educating students,” in today’s corporate conquered education system means nothing less and nothing more than raising student scores on standardized tests. That and that alone is the criteria for an educated student, an excellent school and, increasingly, for a a “proficient “ or “excellent” teacher.
One can clearly see in this one fact how radically corporate education reform has diminished and degraded the very contours of education across America.
Some charter school students do very well on standardized tests whereas many public schools students do not. Many charter schools have been criticized as being nothing more than test prep factories, which frequently have an extraordinarily high teacher turnover rate.
If your goal is solely to raise student test scores on standardized tests, charter schools have many tremendous advantages, beginning with the right to expel any student or any number of students who threaten to bring down the school’s test scores, a practice that occurs all the time. This is simply unthinkable in a public school, which must serve all students who arrive at their door, regardless of their aptitude, skill level, or disability. This is an ethical position that is both the burden and the glory of the public school system and like Social Security, is one of the few remaining pubic policies that, by its mere existence, states we have the moral obligation to look after each other, at least to a modicum degree.
Charter schools, despite their lofty and inclusive rhetoric, are clearly designed to appeal to impulses other than caring for those who are struggling which is one reason why they have been so successful in placing members of the long standing communities in which they are lodged at each other’s throats. Most charter schools are designed, in fact, to give the the same air of exclusivity as the private schools they superficially mimic even as such schools treat standardized tests with disdain and would not dream of inflicting a test prep curriculum upon their students.
New York City Public schools often include scores of special need students and scores of newly arrived immigrants who fall under the category of English Language learners. Charter schools contain far fewer percentages of both categories of students who are, for obvious reasons guaranteed to bring down your school’s test scores.
In a system providing a real education — one that would nurture creativity, provide basic skills as well as the basic foundations of culture and instill lasting habits of mind — such scores would not matter anywhere near the level they currently do. This is why standardized tests are rejected out right in the private schools to which “reformers” send their own children. In a real education system, such scores might be considered one of several measures of student learning. In our current corporate dominated system, they are all that matter.
Other differences between charter and public schools include the fact that charter schools have the right to force parents to sign contracts concerning both their behavior and their child’s before the child is allowed to attend. Charter school teachers, meanwhile, from what I’ve personally witnessed apparently have the right to impose an almost military school type discipline code on their students. Any attempt to implement any of the above would have a public school teacher or administrator brought up on charges that would likely lead to their termination and possibly criminal charges – and well they should. What right does any principal have to demand a parent sign a contract? And what right does any teacher have to treat a student as if they are in the army?
Meanwhile, even as all of the above have little to do with education in any meaningful sense of the word, you can rest assured all are highly conducive to producing high-test scores on standardized tests.
That said, given such radically different environments and under such radically different codes of behavior, what would be the value of charter schoolteachers, many of them in their early twenties and just out of college, teaching public teachers “ how to better educate students?”
For myself, other than learning the finer points of endless test prep, I can think of none. In fact, I can think of no educational value at all.
On the other hand, if the true intention of the project is an exercise in perception management, a public relations stunt directed at a public that for a decade has been steadily fed a news diet of miracle charter schools amidst terrible public schools, and even more terrible public school teachers, the project is nothing short of brilliant.
In one fell swoop the project helps cements in the public consciousness two pillars of the corporate reform campaign at one time:
1) It reinforces the ridiculous idea, rejected by every private school in the land, that high tests scores on standardized tests and meaningful student learning and excellent teaching are synonymous.
2) It reinforces the myth, propagated by relentless billionaire backed public relations campaigns, (including full length films, phony grass roots groups and reports on PBS and NPR to name just a few ) of the inherent superiority of charter schools.
As a bonus, the reality of charter school teachers arriving in public schools to teach public school teachers, many of them doubtless veterans, is certain to degrade, debase and humiliate the latter which, at this point, must be recognized as an unstated goal of many corporate reformers. Consider Bill Gate’s brutally insane ideas of teachers and students wearing “galvanic bracelets” to measure student stimulation or of video taping every class in the United States to locate “best practices,” methods of surveillance one might easily associate with hardened criminals.
For any reader who might doubt the public relations intent of the project, recall that a couple of months back Mayor Mike Bloomberg hired The Parthenon Group to create a plan solely to preserve Bloomberg’s despised Children’s First Network long after he left office.
We have entered an age when nothing is beneath or beyond the ruthlessness of the mega rich, who are determined to transform public education ( and, indeed, all remnants of public life) into an enormously profitable private revenue stream.
This stunt, in my estimation, is simply the latest volley. I expect more, if fact, many more, particularly in New York as Bloomberg’s dictatorial power over the education system moves toward its end.
Meanwhile, I will remember the $ 4.5 million spent on this nonsense when I arrive at my school and am met, as I surely will be met, both by beautiful immigrant children who will know not a word of English as well as by a shortage of textbooks, paper, and pencils.