The pandemic has been rough on teachers, but there has for years been an organized effort to end a professional teaching workforce by politicians and big businesses.
In 1992, The Nation’s cover story by Margaret Spillane and Bruce Shapiro described the meeting of President H. W. Bush and a roomful of Fortune 500 CEOs who planned to launch a bold new industrial venture to save the nation’s schoolchildren.
The report titled, “A small circle of friends: Bush’s new American schools. (New American Schools Development Corp.),” also called NASDC, didn’t discuss saving public schools or teachers. They viewed schools as failed experiments, an idea promoted by the Reagan administration’s A Nation at Risk, frightening Americans into believing schools were to blame for the country’s problems.
The circle believed their ideas would break the mold and mark the emergence of corporate America as the savior of the nation’s schoolchildren.
The organization fell apart, but the ideas are still in play, and corporations with deep pockets will not quit until they get the kind of profitable education they want, for which they benefit.
They have gone far in destroying public education and the teaching profession throughout the years, not to mention programs for children, like special education.
Here are the ideas from that early meeting, extracted from The Nation’s report, with my comments. Many will look eerily familiar.
. . . “monolithic top-down education philosophy,” which disrespected teachers, parents and communities alike.
NCLB, Race to the Top, Every Student Succeeds Act, and Common Core State Standards disregarded teachers’ expertise and degraded them based on high-stakes test scores.
These policies also left parents and communities feeling disengaged in their schools.
. . . disregard for the credentials of education professionals by proposing that business executives with no classroom experience be installed as C.E.O.s of schools.
School superintendents who rose from teaching and principal careers were frequently replaced by those from the outside who had never worked with children or in public schools. Schools were run by attorneys and politicians, even bank executives.
Teach for America and fast-track (5 weeks of training) teacher programs cheaply displace real teachers who earn university degrees. Many of these individuals with minimal preparation have gone on to lead school districts and state education programs, promoting anti-public education/teacher policies.
New Leaders promotes those without a teaching background to be school leaders.
. . . opposition to lawsuits by the families of urban schoolchildren who challenged the state’s vast school-funding inequities.
School districts have been able to shirk their responsibility to funding inequities found in poor schools.
Consider how the State of Texas was able to deny students their special education rights. See: Texas Illegally Excluded Thousands From Special Education, Federal Officials Say, The New York Times cited below.
. . . support for standardized national knowledge testing.
Testing should be a tool for educators, but with high-stakes standardized testing, and tying teachers to test scores. It has been used to inaccurately show teachers as failing (Will, 2021).
It harmed students too, making third-grade retention, known to be harmful, a reality.
These tests have been devastating for poor and marginalized children.
Only one proposal involved an African-American educator in a top leadership role.
How could this be, when America faced challenges with urban schools when Brown v. the Board of Education still needed to be addressed in America’s schools?
. . . a clear majority of NASDC’s grants went to proposals that conform to at least the broad outlines of the private-sector, market-driven philosophy . . .
. . . NASDC would be a sort of venture capitalist for education, constantly evaluating its investments and continuing to fund only those designs that proved their effectiveness.
Today corporations and venture philanthropy cash in on social impact bonds regarding schools.
. . . several NASDC design proposals are clearly aimed at scuttling democratically accountable, community-based and teacher-centered public schooling.
In 2014 The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss article was titled Netflix’s Reed Hastings has a big idea: Kill elected school boards.
A Minneapolis consulting group will establish “charter schools” no longer answerable to local school boards.
The original charter school concept by educator Ray Budde was for groups of teachers to run under the jurisdiction of the local school board.
The National Alliance for Restructuring Education, based in Rochester, New York, will “apply principles of Total Quality Management,” learned from “America’s best corporations,” to classrooms.
The National Alliance for Restructuring Education now called the National Center on Education and the Economy and was originally the Carnegie Forum on Education and the NCEE’s CEO is Marc Tucker who wrote the 1986 report by A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century.
Think high-stakes standards, over-focus on the school workforce connection, and degrading teacher preparation programs.
Former Education Secretary William Bennett will establish a network of quasi-private schools independent of school district authority. In Bennett’s schools, “principals will assume the role of C.E.O.” Bennett’s curriculums will be based on his own list of Great Books.
Bennett, education secretary under President Reagan, became one of the founders of K-12 Inc. Now Stride, an online company boasting full-year revenue in the range of $1.56 billion to $1.6 billion in public funds with proven poor results.
If ever there was a poor example of the market weeding out bad programs for children, Bennett’s program is it.
I have learned that Bill Bennett has been selected to be on Virginia Governor Glen Youngkin’s education transition team.
Here is an article Bennett co-authored with Richard Collins about student achievement in Virginia. Collins is the President of the Today Foundation and CEO of Istation heavily supportive of online learning.
At-risk youths will be offered not support services but a special effort at “character building.”
Republican character education assumes the negative in students.
The Democratic version of this is Social-Emotional Learning.
Both are controversial and poise the question, how much student behavior shaping is appropriate in public schools.
Perhaps most chilling, many of the plans approved by NASDC use technology, along with low-cost, nonprofessional classroom assistants, as a way of radically reducing the authority and presence of teachers.
Teachers were replaced by an Electronic Teaching Center and an engineering conglomerate and a military contractor.
Two elementary schools in Massachusetts emphasized a “pervasive use of the computer.”
Teachers worried about teacher-pupil ratios, but that wouldn’t be a problem with computers. Small classrooms aren’t necessary when you can plug a child onto a computer screen.
The Community Learning Centers of Minnesota point out that in their academies, ratios of personnel versus technology may “differ radically from those currently found in public schools.”
The authors draw their last conclusion:
All these high-tech plans implicitly disregard the power of teachers as professionals and students as thinkers.
In these schemes, teachers are conduits and cops, carrying information and enforcing rules.
Children are little more than receptacles, whose ability to contain the prescribed information can best be measured in an objective national knowledge test.
They believed these plans ignored the abundance of social science research showing that children learn best through daily interactions between teachers, students, and parents.
All these years later this plan has come far and America could lose its public schools and a great profession.
Spillane, M. and Shapiro, B. A small circle of friends Bush’s new American schools (New American Schools Development Corp.). The Nation. Sept. 21, 1992.
Rosenthal, B.M. (2018, Jan 11). Texas Illegally Excluded Thousands From Special Education, Federal Officials Say. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/11/us/texas-special-education.html.
Will, M. Efforts to Toughen Teacher Evaluations Show No Positive Impact on Students. Education Week. November 29, 2021. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/efforts-to-toughen-teacher-evaluations-show-no-positive-impact-on-students/2021/11.
Strauss, V. (2014, Netflix’s Reed Hastings has a big idea: Kill elected school boards. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/14/netflixs-reed-hastings-has-a-big-idea-kill-elected-school-boards/.
This is also an especially important article. Educational system stretched beyond capacity fails students | The Seattle Times