Arne Duncan (Obama) and Margaret Spellings (G. W. Bush), noneducators and former education secretaries, recently appeared on PBS News Hour, Study shows parents overestimate their student’s academic progress to dash any hope parents might have that their children are doing well in school. Who’s behind such gloomy reporting?
Here’s how PBS begins, and here’s the survey:
A survey conducted in March of 2023 for the group Learning Heroes found 90 percent of parents think their kids are doing fine, but standardized test scores show otherwise. Among eighth graders, for example, just 29 percent were proficient in reading either at or above their grade level. In math, just 26 percent were considered proficient. This sheds light on what’s being called the parent perception gap.
Learning Heroes? They’re a group called a campaign, seemingly to create divisiveness, sowing distrust in teachers and public schools, to tell parents about so-called gaps in student learning. They call parents learning heroes. They appear to be critical of grades and a teacher’s evaluation of the student, and they focus on standardized test scores.
Gaps have been the focus for 22 years since No Child Left Behind, and Duncan and Spellings had their chance to reduce the learning and opportunity gaps they speak about. They never discuss or seem to reflect on their accountability for public school problems, especially their emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing.
Learning gaps are the difference or disparities between what students learn and grade-level expectations. Adults create expectations with standardized tests. Few raise questions about whether such expectations could be developmentally inappropriate, and even when they do, they’re ignored.
Opportunity gaps are life factors children struggle with surrounding ethnicity, race, gender, disability, and income. Many children facing opportunity gaps attend poor schools without resources or quality curricula.
Learning Heroes receives support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Charles and Lynn Shusterman Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
None of the above champion public schools. Most promote school privatization and, for years, have praised charter schools, which continue to do poorly in many places.
Looking closer at the learning heroes team, many come from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The PBS report also references Go Beyond the Grades, connected to the Chamber of Commerce, which has never been optimistic about public education either. Remember their state-by-state report called Leaders and Laggards?
What’s ironic is that these same individuals helped put high-stakes standardized testing and Common Core State Standards in place years ago, along with other bad reforms, and they still complain that public schools are failing. They’re criticizing their own failed ideology in the name of school privatization!
Duncan is currently managing partner with the Emerson Collective in Chicago, a group sponsored by Laurene Powell Jobs, who’s also behind the online program Amplify and appears to have distain for public education and teachers. Amplify is sweeping school districts across the country (see Texas and NYC).
Educator Thomas Ultican recently described the Texas takeover by Amplify in Education Profiteering Accelerates in Texas.
The Emerson Collective claims to be committed to philanthropy and venture investing as some of its goals.
Spellings, who once promised that NCLB was 99% pure like Ivory Soap and all children would read well by 2014, also brought us Reading First which focused on phonics. She’s currently CEO of Texas 2036, a nonpartisan Think Tank that, among other issues, talks about school readiness and the workforce.
Could it be that America’s students are, as parents believe, doing well? I’d place money on students and teachers even with all the difficulties they’ve faced after the pandemic.
One must raise questions about any reporting connected to those who seek to end public education and the teaching profession.
Beneath such gloomy reporting, parents and teachers know their students and recognize their educational growth, and teacher, parent, and student connection is what matters most.