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

14. Common Core and a Gaggle of Other Failed Reforms

  • Around the year 2000, people from the Council of Chief State School Officers convinced Bill Gates that what the country needed was a set of national standards. Although the federal government was prohibited by law from creating such standards Gates wasn’t. In his mind education standards were like standards used for electrical appliances and computers. Unfortunately, you can’t just plug all students into the same program and expect the same results. In addition to paying for the creation of the standards, Gates also paid heavily for many prominent organizations to promote them. He also convinced Obama to require them for any state that wanted money from his Race To the Top initiative.
  • Arne Duncan also funded two companies to produce tests aligned with the Common Core. The companies imposed very high passing cutoffs, which insured that most students would fail and they did. Since NAEP scores failed to increase, this effort is widely considered to be a failure. The Common Core also expected students to read and write about more nonfiction and less about their own experiences and feelings. This made no sense as kids know little about the world around them and lots about themselves.
  • Perhaps the worst part of Race To the Top was the part that required the use of test scores for teacher evaluation. Since 70% of teachers don’t teach the subjects tested, many were judged by the scores of students they didn’t teach. This effort was supposed to weed out “bad teachers,” but it too failed. It was likely responsible for many teachers leaving the profession and fewer choosing to join it. (For more on this so-called value-added model or VAM see my summary of Rethinking Value-Added Models in Education: Critical Perspective on Tests and Assessment-Based Accountability by Audrey Amrein-Beardsley.
  • Another effort by the disrupters was in the institution of parent trigger laws in some states. This is where parents can force their school to be turned into a charter school if enough sign a petition to do so. Thus far this has yet to happen.

15. The Teachers Revolt

  • In response to the economic session of 2008, most states cut funding for education. There were layoffs, larger classes, fewer electives, lower salaries in terms of real dollars, and fewer social services. Money was also diverted to support testing and the Common Core. In 2018, however, teachers in some of the poorest states fought back. It started in West Virginia where every teacher walked out for nine days until they were given a 5% raise.
  • Next came a strike in Oklahoma that lasted two weeks before wages were increased by $6,000 a year. Teachers in Colorado were next followed by those in Arizona where some schools only operated four days a week and standards for teachers had been lowered. A voucher plan in Arizona was also defeated by 65%. All of this caused the media to change its tune and they stopped portraying teachers as rotten apples and started portraying them as self-sacrificing heroes. The next year strikes followed in Los Angeles and Chicago as teachers realized that together they had power.

16. Goliath Stumbles

  • This chapter is essentially a coda that summarizes the main points. Diane offers data regarding the stagnant or negative growth of charter schools in most states. She warns against the next effort of the Disruptors called personalized learning, which results in students spending hours in zombie-like trances in front of computers. Disruptors think that schools can overcome the stresses of poverty when they can’t. She outs the Disruptors by pointing out that what they really want is to cripple, not improve, the public schools so they can replace them with the free market.
  • Due to a lack of oversite, charters are rife with corruption. If the Disruptors really wanted to help there is a lot they could do. They could fund after school programs, purchase supplies that schools lack, and work to lower class size. They could help establish clinics in schools and mental health clinics in the neighborhood. They could see that schools have librarians, nurses, and the social support staff that students need. The good news is that a social movement has never been created and sustained by elites. As parents, teachers, and students organize, the Disruptors continue to lose school board elections and referendums.
Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

  • Diane was born in Houston, Texas and graduated from Wellesley College and Columbia University. She is a research professor of education at New York University and the author of ten books. Ravitch is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize. She lives in Brooklyn. Check out her website and follow her on Twitter @DianeRavitch.
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