Many people don’t have a clue about what education entails. To them, simple appeals may be deemed to have some merit.

But in reality, simple solutions even in our own lives, which are often offered at the drop of a hat by our own relatives,  are way too simplistic to work….  Beware of the same in education.

If anyone says any of these following three things, they are not to be trusted. They cause more harm than good.

Merit pay for teachers. Judging teachers’ merit—and pay—based on their students’ test scores is a particularly meritless notion that resurfaces regularly…. Simply put, all it does is it reward mediocre teachers who luck into teaching at affluent neighborhood schools, and terminates excellent teachers who got the short stick by being in a poverty school…  The test scores are based on affluence only.. Lots of nurturing as a child = higher scores; hardships as a child = low scores.

A three-year experiment by the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University spent more than $1.7 million to give bonuses to selected teachers in Nashville, Tenn., schools, and found, overall, that students of teachers who didn’t get the money performed as well as students of teachers who did.

A similar three-year program in New York City—a beloved initiative of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg—spent $56 million in group bonuses, but was halted in 2011, after outside researchers found that it had had no effect on student performance. Texas dropped its merit-pay program in 2013.

Since no one becomes a teacher to get rich, it would be logical to assume that educators would not be strongly motivated by a financial incentive. But people for whom money is the ultimate reward—a description that fits much of the Wall Street/hedge fund “school reform” crowd—just won’t believe the truth, even when it is before their eyes.

Scapegoating teachers for schools’ poor performance. It is an prime axiom of the reform movement that teachers are the prime cause whenever a school is struggling, and that it is vital to get rid of a stubborn cadre of veteran instructors who have tenures and can’t be fired or won’t leave. Anyone associated with Rodel has directly swallowed this harmful axiom.  The first step of our six turnaround schools was to be the firing of all teachers and only rehiring 50%…  Calmer heads prevailed fortunately.

Studies show one doesn’t need to fire teachers in a low scoring school. They flee on their own.  Personnel records show priority schools from 2010 to 2015, just five years, have on the average only 20% of their original staff remaining.  The others fled to other schools in that same area. Meaning that the newest teachers are thrown to the wolves first, and given assignments in inner city schools where teachers of experience are most needed.  Again, the myth that test scores determine teaching ability, leads policy sharply to towards the wrong result.

The irrepressible fictions of the charter movement. No myth in the modern school reform narrative is more pervasive than the idea that charter schools have somehow solved the riddle of public schools and poor children.  Even in Delaware where the Charter bubble only recently resurfaced under the political protection by the Markell camp,  there are still people scratching their heads over how can it be that Charters cannot even come close to performing as well as the same public schools these people have spent their lives disparaging.

Charters nationwide do not have significantly better test scores than public schools with similar populations. Charters in New York City—now 10 percent of the school population, thanks to Mayor Bloomberg’s devotion to their cause—overall score below the citywide average in reading.

The more “successful” a charter school, the more likely it can be found to employ some or all of the following tactics:

Enrolling significantly fewer of the highest-need students than neighborhood public schools, including the homeless, English-language learners, and those with the most serious physical and learning disabilities.

 Forcing struggling students to leave. A recent New York Times investigation found that one Success Academy charter school in Brooklyn had a “got to go” list of students the principal was determined to get rid of; what’s more, as such students leave—by expulsion, counseling out as bad “fits,” or because the family is moving—some charters refuse to admit new children to replace them, a strategy that keeps scores up.

Adjusting the definition of “poor.” While charter students tend to be poor, a close analysis reveals that in many successful charters a significant percentage of students are significantly less poor than the local average. Given the importance of family income in determining test scores, this gives them a marked statistical advantage over their peers in standardized testing.

70 percent of the public school students in New York City are poor under federal guidelines. Tens of thousands of them are reading and doing math at levels equal to or exceeding those in charter schools. The only secret that charter schools seem to have discovered is how to charm the wealthy and well-connected, and how to promote themselves to people who would rather embrace myth that makes them feel good, than carefully weigh the facts.

The next time you hear anyone use these axioms, whether it be the House Educational Committee, a Rodel press engagement, an editorial in the News Journal, or a governor on the Rick Jensen show……. challenge them… Say “that’s not true. That goes against Common Sense.  Show us the proof that what we know is a myth, is really true…  Where after 30 years of corporate reform in education, is the proof of your side?”

We have the proof for our side.

 

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