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Sunday, December 28, 2008

When Did Our Children Become Commodities?

Balanced Literacy. Ramp Up. SAT’s. ACT’s. CTB’s. Riverside Tests. NCS. Whole Language. NWEA. Acuity. The list goes on…

Different year, different program, different method of assessment. As teachers we enter in September, only to learn that the program we used to teach our kids last year isn’t going to be used anymore.

This year, we have a better program! Forget the fact that you invested countless hours trying to train children in Balanced Literacy. Now, we’re going to use Read 180. It’ much better- all of the research proves it. So, we start all over again retraining ourselves and retraining children who haven’t had any consistency from day one.

And what about testing? Last year we used Riverside. Teachers went for training. Children’s schedules were disrupted because we had to scramble to schedule all of the testing within the ‘recommended’ time period. It’s worth it though, teachers were told. The data would be invaluable. Except for one slight problem… The following year, the test is replaced with ACUITY!

What is going on?

When experienced teachers are informed of a new, mandated program that is being implemented, they often roll their eyes and say, “for how long?” Newer teachers often don’t understand the cynicism, but after a year or two of spinning their wheels trying to constantly change the curriculum, they catch on.

The problem lies with the fact that the programs that are brought in are never given a chance to fail or succeed. Teachers are trained in the program. They, in turn, train the children. Before the program has any chance of having an impact it is replaced. The damage to children’s learning is irreparable.

The profits for the companies who create these programs are enormous. Many schools in the city use the Balanced Literacy program. The DOE provided schools with a budget for support services to help facilitate the training or to provide in class support. Support is a good thing, but one has to question the incredible charges to the school. Teachers College was charging 1,000 dollars a day for their reps to help with Balanced Literacy in schools. That number is staggering.

Rethinking Schools Online reports that states are expected to spend “$1.9 billion to $5.3 billion between 2002 and 2008 to implement NCLB-mandated tests.” This amounts to huge profits for educational testing companies. PBS online reports that from 1955 to 1997, educational testing companies saw an increase of 3,000 percent. I’m in the wrong business.

As a result, testing companies have stepped up their lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill. Stephen Metcalf, reporter for The Nation tackles this subject in his article entitled Reading Between the Lines. When discussing lobbying efforts by testing companies, he writes:

Bruce Hunter, who represents the American Association of School Administrators, says, “I’ve been lobbying on education issues since 1982, but the test publishers have been active at a level I’ve never seen before. At every hearing, every discussion, the big test publishers are always present with at least one lobbyist, sometimes more.

Who can blame them when such huge profits are up for the taking?

Now, many of us who are idealists have resigned ourselves to the fact that the corporate machine is here to stay. We’re tired of fighting the dominant belief system which stresses profit at any cost- but profiting from children? My God, do they have any conscience left?

I don’t know what it’s like in other parts of the country, but in New York City, the turnover for testing systems and educational programs is unbelievable. A professor in one of my graduate courses explained that is well known that New York City is a “testing ground’ for educational programs. Companies compete to ‘try out’ a new program in New York and then use the experience to obtain the credibility earned to obtain contracts in other regions.

Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein hand out contracts to educational businesses like candy. In the past few years, we have seen program after program being implemented; test after test being tried out, and support service after support service being offered.

Will someone please tell these two that, although changing methods and services may be the norm in the private sector, it’s incredibly damaging to children?

Our poor kids have been subjected to so many changes in their curriculum and assessment methods that it is amazing that they can function at all. Testing companies have lobbyists. Whom do our children have?


Tags: education, NCLB, NYCDOE, standardized testing.
Filed under: Education in Chaos, Uncategorized, education, public schools | No Grievances »
“Be More Like Mice, Little People” - an article by Paul Street
Posted: April 11th, 2008, by A Voice in the Wilderness

Paul Street, well known author of several books including Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 and Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post Civil Rights Era addresses the “Who Moved My Cheese” topic far more eloquently than I do.

He describes the plot of the book and offers an analysis:

They (those in the maze) questioned authority and sought fairness, futile endeavors that prevented them from getting to the real and only thing that mattered: “finding new cheese.” They worried about the fact that they had purchased homes and built families and communities in the vicinity of “Cheese Station C.” They became concerned and anxious over the meaning of lost jobs/cheese for littlepeople in general.

They needed to be more like the mice.

They needed to abandon grievance, drop their crippling concern with justice. They needed to get off their fat littlepeople buts and realize that life and the maze aren’t fair. They needed to realize that the marketplace entitles you to nothing in the way of steady earnings, meaningful work, material security, and community. They needed to get back into the maze and find new jobs - any job, anywhere - as soon as possible for themselves.

They needed to stop worrying about any little people other than themselves. They needed to stop wondering who runs and profits most from “the maze.”

They needed to move on.

He continues to offer some new titles for similar books including:

Too Bad For People Who Get Stuck in Floods and Don’t Move On: It’s Their Problem

Who Killed My Democracy?

Who Sent My Son Off to Get Maimed in an Imperial Oil War?

The adaptation of the “Who Moved My Cheese” philosophy by Michael Bloomberg is extremely telling of the way that he and other corporate elitists view the average American-just shut up and take it. You’re lucky we let you find any cheese at all.

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