Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools by Diane Ravitch

5. The Beginning of the End of Disruption

  • The media has been complicit in promoting the reforms that have now been shown to be outright failures but don’t expect them to say so. The fact is that policy can only make a difference if it has the enthusiastic support of those who are expected to implement it. The reforms pushed under Bush and Obama were, without doubt, the least popular and most damaging education initiatives in American History as test scores have stagnated and achievement gaps have not closed.

6. The Resistance to High-Stakes Standardized Testing

  • In this chapter Diane tells stories of how a variety of parent, teacher, and student groups around the country actively protested and prevailed against standardized testing. It isn’t hard to prove one’s case when tests are scored on a bell curve, which guarantees that at least 40% will fail, and this 40 % are mostly minorities, poor, disabled, and English language learners. The idea that tests are given in April and May with results delivered in August and September after students have changed teachers also makes them look ridiculous.
  • It gets worse when you add the fact that teachers can’t see the questions or which ones each student missed and students only see an arbitrary and meaningless scale score. The folly was worsened in states that use tests to make graduation decisions when the people making the tests admitted that they weren’t designed for that purpose.

7. Rewards and Punishments Are Not Good Motivators

  • There is abundant research that shows how extrinsic motivation such as merit pay and punishments has a negative impact when used in social organizations like schools. Rating teachers builds fear and demolishes teamwork. If NCLB and what followed had been a business plan it would have quickly gone bankrupt. If goals are ridiculously high, people believe they can’t reach them and are therefore demotivated. People work their best when they have autonomy and a sense of authenticity. The disruptive reforms sought uniformity. For cognitive tasks, threats and rewards suppress outcomes because they undermine intrinsic motivation.

8. Bait and Switch: How Liberals Were Duped into Embracing School Choice

  • Here is a summary of charter schools from their creation starting in Minnesota in 1992 until recently. The original idea what that they would be controlled by the public school district they were part of and serve as R&D labs that could try out new ideas. What happened is that the idea was hijacked by wealthy people who wanted no district control. With support from the Clinton administration, the Federal Charter Schools Legislation was passed in 1994. With continued support from all subsequent administrations, the number of charter schools grew to 7,000 by 2018 and served about 6% of the US population.
  • While they promised to generate innovations, create savings, and boost test scores none of these has come to pass. Many studies have shown that student achievement, in general, is the same as it is in public schools. Charters also serve few students with behavior issues, disabilities, and English language learners. 40% of all charter schools opened since 1992 have closed, which echoes the closure rate for business startups. One of the largest chains, Gulen Schools, is run by a Turkish exile.

9. School Choice, Deregulation, and Corruption

  • Charter schools generally lack public oversight, which has lead to a number of specific cases of fraud and corruption documented here. Regardless of the administration, the US Department of Education has done nothing to heighten scrutiny of charter schools. While many charters are known for low scores and graduation rates, online charters seem to be worse. Because of their low costs, they are also immensely profitable. While charters themselves are nonprofit, they are often run by for-profit management. Common scans involve using management-owned buildings for schools and charging excessive rent and business deals with family members. The worst cases sited here are the cities of Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans and the state of Michigan.
  • About half of the states have voucher programs that give money to parents who wish to send their children to low-cost private schools. The vouchers aren’t enough to cover costs for elite private schools that usually don’t accept vouchers anyway. Students on the whole who use these vouchers do worse as the private schools are often staffed by unqualified teachers. In religious schools, textbooks often focus on the bible rather than modern science and history. Vouchers are “lose-lose” as the kids do worse as they take funding from public schools.
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