Thursday, April 23, 2009

NCLB, Shark Attacks, and Tapeworms

Undaunted in the face of setbacks and mounting evidence that the No Child Left Behind Act has been an abysmal failure, research titans at the Free Market Think Tank Community are uncovering surprising quality-of-life benefits for children that they have tied directly to the testing and accountability provisions of the sweeping federal law.

Shark attacks on children in the United States declined by 23% from the inception of NCLB in 2002 to 2008, confirmed ichthyologist Gill Bates of the International Stop-the-Shark Attacks File, a program that is part of the Philanthrotank Museum of Natural History.

"The more time children spend studying for standardized tests, the less time they have for trips to the beach," said Bates. "We gladly anticipate further declines in shark attacks on children as public schools are held to higher and higher standards."

In other research news, fellows at the Broad Institute for Child Well-Being have confirmed that a sharp reduction in childhood tapeworm infestations occurred from 2002 to 2008.

"It is clear that longer school days, school on Saturdays, summer school, two hours of homework every evening, and intensive test preparation reduce the amount of time children have to play in the dirt and play with pets," said KIDD Schools founder Mike Nofunberg. "These activities are known to make children very susceptible to tapeworms."

Friday, April 10, 2009

The New Philadelphia Story, Education Occupation Version

In military usage, occupation refers to the invasion, conquest, and control of a nation or territory by foreign armed forces. There is a striking parallel to be found in the oppressive top-down control, hijacking, and destruction of public education being wrought by the billionaire-financed forces of education privatization.

The latest on the 'success' of the Education Occupation in Philadelphia, as reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

City schools under Philadelphia School District control outperformed those run by outside managers paid millions of dollars to run them, according to a study released today.

The research - which echoes three previous studies - comes at a crucial moment for Philadelphia's privatization experiment, the largest of its kind in the country. The contracts of 18 privately managed schools run by six companies are up June 30, and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has publicly stated that she
will not support schools that don't work.

Conducted by Johns Hopkins University researcher Vaughn Byrnes and published in the May issue of the American Journal of Education, the study found that students at Philadelphia's privatized schools made strides on state exams but that pupils at district-run schools made bigger gains.

Byrnes looked at test scores of sixth, seventh and eighth graders at 88 city schools from 1997 through 2006.

"By 2006, the achievement gap between the privatized group and the rest of the district was greater than it was before the intervention," Byrnes said.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tutoring Bonanza: No Child Left Behind Act Highly Profitable, Except for Children

from New York Daily News
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
by Juan Gonzalez

Department of Education Paid Private Tutor Firm 21M in 2 Years, Most of It In Overhead

In its drive to improve school reading and math test scores, the city's Department of Education paid a private company more than $21 million in two years to tutor thousands of public school pupils at home.

But most of that money - more than twice the amount the DOE originally budgeted - went for overhead, management and profit for the company, Champion Learning Center.

Champion got $79 an hour to tutor each pupil for up to four hours per week, according to a copy of the contract obtained by the Daily News.

That adds up to almost $320 a week in tutoring costs per child.

Champion paid its part-time tutors, mostly college students with no teaching experience, an average of $17 an hour.

That's right. The company received an astounding $62 in overhead for every hour its employees spent tutoring a child.

Champion is one of dozens of private companies with state approval to provide tutoring services under the No Child Left Behind Act.

"We received very little training in our orientation," said one college student hired by Champion. "They just told us to follow the instructions in the test prep workbooks they gave us."

Read the rest of the article here.

This is sad and it is obscene. Wild profiteering while subjecting children to such a narrow and impoverished view of education....tutoring to artificially pump up test scores. The obsession with standardized testing and data-driven instruction is resulting in the dumbing down and numbing down of our children. I think it serves the interests of the oligarchs controlling ed reform to keep it that way.

That the plight of poor children is being exploited in this way is the true nature of the No Child Left Behind abomination. The unrelenting failing public schools propaganda that ultimately led to this law, and the increasing imposition of business models in our schools, have succeeded in lining the pockets of business interests while simultaneously undermining support for public education.

More devastating, however, failing public schools propaganda has served brilliantly as a convenient scapegoat to divert national attention away from the condition of childhood in this nation, a way to avoid the difficult but necessary task of confronting this crisis directly. Far easier to blame the schools and teachers and charge them with fixing it. See the State of America's Children 2008 Report.

It is unjust and beyond irresponsible to charge that public schools and teachers are to blame because achievement gaps exist and that they alone can close them. Evidence is mounting on the impact of poverty and societal ills on the developing brain. School reform, decidely not the harsh kind of "reform" disadvantaged children are now being subjected to, must be combined with social and economic reforms.

I think the more we learn, the more the shamefulness of this Dark Age of Oligarchical Ed Reform will be laid bare. Mark it down for the historical record, the war on public education.

Check out what NCLB and high-stakes testing have accomplished for disadvantaged children.

Meanwhile, as vast inequities continue to expand in our society, increasing waves of difficult to educate children pour into our schools from circumstances they have no control over. For more related commentary, see the Perimeter Primate's post, "Where Sociology, Criminology, and Charter Schools Converge".

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Broad Prize Dubbed "Nobel Prize" in Education Reform

Billionaire ed reformer Eli Broad has become the recipient of the first annual Orwellian No-Nonsense Award in the Peacock Plumage Display of Brazen Hubris category. Send word to Eli so he can strut on over here to receive his reward.

In the ed reform oligarchy's edu-newspeak machine, the annual Broad Prize has been dubbed the "Nobel Prize" in urban education reform. Yes, really.

The 5 Most Improved Urban School Districts for 2009

Five school districts
from California to Florida are in the
running for an award that has been described as a Nobel Prize in education
reform. The Broad Prize for Urban Education, as the award is officially known,
is given each year to an urban school district that has made significant
progress in raising achievement, especially among low-income and minority students. The award comes with $2 million in scholarships for
the five finalists.

A little NCLB/ high-stakes testing/accountability history is in order. The first annual Broad Prize went to the Houston Independent School District, presided over by then-to-be Secretary of Education Rod Paige, for accomplishing the Houston Miracle, a "success" story that turned out to be a massive fraud produced by Enron-type accounting. The Texas model of success became the blueprint for NCLB.

In 2008, the Broad Prize went to the Brownsville Independent School District in Texas. On the distinguished panel of the 2008 selection jury was none other than Rod Paige. As Susan Ohanian noted:

So what choice did Broad have when a vast majority
of the nation's largest urban districts, including three of the four runners-up for this year's Broad prize, also failed to meet NCLB's annual targets? They look at "other indicators". Hmmm. Some people have been advocating this all along.

Hey, U.S. News! Great in-depth coverage and a Nobel Prize for you.