The important thing about the Every Student Succeeds Act, the replacement for No Child Left Behind, is whether it will ultimately help or hinder the education deformers as they continue to pursue their loathsome ends. The fundamental long-term mission of vile greedheads is to turn schools everywhere into rote-drilling factories to be strip-mined for profit.
So, what about this bill?
One of the better, measured statements about ESSA comes from Monty Neil, the executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, an assessment watchdog that generally opposes using standardized tests to make high-stakes decisions about students, teachers, and schools.
Neil acknowledges the first reason to support the bill is akin to what doctors do when a patient approaches them with a splitting headache: Stop the pain. ESSA certainly does that because not passing it will mean NCLB and its associated waivers would “continue to wreak havoc for at least another several years,” to use Neil’s words.
According to Neil, ESSA balances its flaws – maintaining the federal enforcement on states to use a battery of standardized tests to measure outcomes – with its strengths: recognizing the rights of parents to opt their children out of tests in states that allow it…
And a significant improvement in ESSA Neil fails to mention is the elimination of federal government requirements to use standardized test scores to evaluate teachers, a favored requirement of NCLB waivers pushed by the Obama administration.
In sum, Neil judges the new legislation to be “a modest step forward.”
(Campaign for America’s Future)
(You should read that whole article, as well as anything else you see by Jeff Bryant, who is perhaps the best contemporary researcher/writer on this issue. I’m relying heavily on his work throughout this series.)
Indeed, resistance to the education reform agenda is not as much a rejection of its various policy features as it is a rejection of the philosophy that drives it.
This philosophy puts little stock in democratic governance of schools, believing instead that really smart people, armed with the right data and algorithms, are what it takes to determine education policy from New York to Nevada.
This core philosophy makes infinite sense to folks with backgrounds in law, business management, finance, or economics, but tends to rub educators and parents the wrong way because of its failure to acknowledge that teaching and learning are primarily relationship-driven endeavors and not technical pursuits.
To teachers, it makes about as much sense to base their actions exclusively on a data set or a marketing principle as it would for husbands and wives to conduct their marriages on that basis or for parents to raise their children that way. Sure, knowing some objective “things” about how students are doing is important, but there’s way more important stuff to attend to.
And parents will grow ever more skeptical of the false promise of “school choice” because it doesn’t deliver what they really want: the guarantee of good neighborhood schools that are free and equitable to all children.
But too few reformers get this. Instead, what we can expect in 2016 is for the current education establishment to use the considerable financial resources at its disposal to mount yet more marketing and public relations efforts, while the pushback from grassroots public education advocates will grow even stronger, and political leaders will be increasingly pressured to decide where they stand.
Lest you get to feeling even a little bit sanguine:
With the Walton billionaires doubling down in their efforts to accelerate the charter school industry and with the Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, throwing in $100 million to privatize traditional public schools, one might think that the U.S. Department of Education would be a major line of defense for America’s public schools educating the most underserved students or even a bold investor in sustainable community schools that are truly public.
One would be wrong.
The U.S. Department of Education, as with the education agencies of many states, has been co-opted by the spending frenzy of the billionaire class.
The above is just meant to get started by laying out the basics. I’ll get more thorough, in subsequent installments.