Frustrated by public schools? Look no further than the corporate education reformers and what they have done to public education.
Education Secretary DeVos and her corporate billionaire friends have been chipping away at the fabric of democratic public schools for over thirty years!
The problems we see in public schools today are largely a result of what they did to schools, the high-stakes testing and school closures, intentional defunding, ugly treatment of teachers, lack of support staff, segregated charter schools, vouchers that benefit the wealthy, Common Core State Standards, intrusive online data collection, and diminishing special education services.
Big business waged a battle on teachers and their schools years ago. The drive was to create a business model to profit from tax dollars. Now they want to blame teachers for their corporate-misguided blunders! It’s part of their plan to make schools so unpleasant, parents will have no choice but to leave.
Back up to the early 1970s. Ray Budde, a teacher turned principal turned college professor, created the idea of charter schools for teachers to run. His colleagues weren’t interested. Public schools were appreciated. It wasn’t until after the Reagan administration’s A Nation at Risk in 1983, that charter schools were considered. But it took another eleven years before we had the first charter school. They’re much different than Budde’s original concept. Most are not run by teachers, but by individuals who have little understanding of children.
From the Reagan administration’s A Nation at Risk (1983), to Economist Milton Friedman’s free market ideology; from IBM’s Louis V. Gerstner, Jr’s. Reinventing Education: Entrepreneurship in America’s Public Schools (1995), to NCLB and Race to the Top with its Common Core State Standards; from “no excuses” and grit, to replacing teacher-led classrooms with tech charters and facilitators, the individuals behind these initiatives are corporate.
The DeVos family has their own history with corporate school reform in Michigan, including Detroit. In “How Betsy DeVos and her money has shaped education in Michigan,” by Brian McVicarhis we learn about the DeVos charter school advocacy group called the Great Lakes Education Project.
Valerie Strauss from The Answer Sheet wrote about DeVos’s influence on Michigan schools after DeVos’s appointment as education secretary. Strauss refers to Stephen Henderson, an editorial page editor of the Free Press, who said, In Detroit, parents of school-age children have plenty of choices, thanks to the nation’s largest urban network of charter schools. What remains in short supply is quality.
So, it’s odd to hear Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s reaction to recent scores on NAEP testing, like she doesn’t see her past role, or the role of her corporate friends, in the draconian changes that have taken place in schools.
DeVos said, For more than three decades, I — and many others — have said that America’s antiquated approach to education fails too many kids. But she ignores the control corporations have had of public education. She acts like they’ve been sitting on the sidelines. But we know that’s not true.
If only students like Jamarria Hall, who wants to sue Detroit public schools for not giving him a decent education, could sue the corporate intruders, like DeVos and her friends, or another Michigander Eli Broad, who have impacted those schools for years by pushing substandard charter schools into the State of Michigan, especially Detroit.
I student taught in an elementary school in Detroit, in 1973. Schools were certainly not perfect, but my modest school did a good job.
The third-grade teachers were excellent reading teachers. They organized rotating small groups of students based on their skill needs decoding letters and words. There were no data walls. No child appeared to compare themselves unfavorably to other children.
Students were encouraged to read, did free reading, lots of writing, and had access to plenty of books. The school had a nice library with a librarian who often read beautiful and funny stories to the class. They spent time studying social studies, science, and art and music. Teachers worked closely with the PTA and reached out to parents.
There was no testing obsession. Students didn’t fear failing third grade. They were continually learning, and most liked school. There were twenty-two students in the class.
Teachers did their own assessment, and they discussed the results with each other at their grade level meetings. The school had a counselor and I believe a nurse stationed at the school. We worried about the students and addressed concerns about issues like why some showed up without mittens in the cold weather.
Students did class projects to help remember what they learned in their subjects. For science, we created a rocket out of a huge cardboard box. We painted it and spent time studying the solar system. Children took turns sitting in the rocket pretending they were astronauts.
This school had an excellent Learning Center where teachers could share materials to cut down on costs. They had a nice collection of resources for every subject.
My supervising teacher was kind, well-prepared, and tough. She expected daily written lesson plans which she reviewed with me before I taught. She was an excellent mentor!
Where’s that school today? I wish I could go back and visit, but it closed years ago, razed and turned into a housing development. It was shuttered like 225 other public schools in Detroit!
For the record, there are many who claim the NAEP scores are not as bad as some seem to think. It might be a bit confusing. What I know is this. If public schools are succeeding it is because of the teachers and parents who keep them alive, and if they are failing, it is because of DeVos and her corporate friends who have fought against teachers and public education for years.