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Monday, August 29, 2005

Corporate School Reform

Thanks George, also on this list, for this helpful analysis of Chicago inner-city schools. It sheds light on the limits and harmful effects of high-stakes, corporate-based reform. If you are not a Substance subscriber, you can join the fun by sending $16 for a one year (ten issues) subscription to

Substance
5132 W. Berteau
Chicago, IL 60641

-Angela

-------------------------------------

August 28, 2005
>
>Colleagues:
>
>One of the reasons we can speak with such clarity here from Chicago
>is that every ploy of "standards and accountability" based on
>high-stakes uses of multiple choice tests has already been tried
>here since Mayor Daley took over the schools in 1995, and every one
>of them has failed.
>
>These ploys have not "failed" in the eyes of my colleagues in the
>Chicago media or the corporate apologists who dominate discourse in
>our town, but they have failed if the interests of the majority of
>the children (especially the poorest children in our more than 300
>racially segregated all-black schools) and improving schools are
>concerned. We've just wasted a prosperous decade and the lives of
>thousands here in a wretched orgy of propaganda, deception, and hypocrisy.
>
>But let me try to be specific, since a lot of people want to just
>parrot the corporate propaganda script. Let's just take one high
>schhool located in a community so poor and gang infested that the
>only justice for those who preach "school reform" would be if they
>(the people here who prattle in defense of "school reform"; the
>leaders of Achieve and the Education Trust, etc) had to live for
>years in that community and raise their own children in that
>community on the income available to residents of that community
>under the conditions of the people of that community. Englewood.
>Chicago. Since 1990. Savage Inequalities, USA-style.
>
>In the summer of 1997, Chicago's Englewood High School, in the heart
>of one of the city's poorest communities, was "reconstituted". The
>principal and many of the teachers were replaced, and the world was
>assured in the pages of the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times
>that the school had "failed" and that this massive overhaul (done
>because Englewood had "failed" the "standard" -- in those days, the
>scores on the TAP tests, the high school version of the Iowa Tests
>of Basic Skills) would solve the problems and improve Englewood.
>There was a slight nod to the fact that the USA had failed to solve
>the problems of housing, crime, health care, and poverty in the area
>surrouding Englewood, but only a brief nod. Teachers, principals and
>kids were going to be sanctioned. An extreme makeover before "reality" TV.
>
>The Gangster Disciples is one of the largest drug gangs in the USA.
>Don't take my word for it, Google them or Google "Larry Hoover". The
>GD gang was selling drugs nearby in the community. The poverty
>continued unabated. The housing continued to rot and crumble. But
>Chicago was doing "School Reform" by ranking and sorting children
>and teachers based on multiple-choice "standardized" tests and
>getting rid of the "bad" teachers from the "failing" schools
>according to "the bottom line".
>
>Since "reconstitution", over the next eight years, Englewood has
>been "reengineered" and otherwise overhauled several additional
>times. Last year, the administration of "CEO" Arne Duncan (likewise
>appointed, like the administration of Paul Vallas, by Richard M.
>Daley, our mayor) announced that Englewood High School would again
>be reorganized, this time under the name "Renaissance." (We in
>Chicago don't know why the ruling class keeps using these "RE" words
>every time it does this, but maybe it's just lack of imagination).
>So here is the way it looked from bottom up:
>
>If a child -- let's call her "RE" -- entered Englewood High School
>in September 1997 as a 9th grader, in 1998 she was in 10th grade; in
>1999 11th grade; and in 2000 12th grade. In June 2000, she
>graduated, having been part of the first wave of "RE"
>(reconstitution and reengineering) under Richard M. Daley's
>dictatorial rule over the Chicago Public Schools and evaluations
>based on ranking and sorting kids and teachers based on standardized
>test scores.
>
>But in 2000, when "RE" graduated, Englewood was still at the
>"bottom" on standardized tests. By then, however, Chicago had
>changed tests. Another trick of the testocracy is changing tests
>every so often, then announcing that the scores kept going "up"
>counting on the fact that your media friends wouldn't notice. If you
>change the tests, it's harder for an inattentiive public to follow
>the track of scores, and if you lie about the results of those tests
>-- as the public relations teams of our mayor do every year -- you
>can get away with a lot of trickery for a long time.
>
>Anyway, in June 2000 "RE" graduated (although her two brothers both
>dropped out, because of the problems in the community around
>Englewood, not because of the teachers, who, by the way, had all
>been replaced --- "RECYCLED"? -- at least once).
>
>And the Gangster Disciples continued to sell drugs nearby in the
>community, and the poverty continued unabated. And the housing
>continued to rot and crumble. But Chicago was doing "School Reform"
>by ranking and sorting children and teachers and getting rid of the
>"bad" teachers from the "failing" schools.
>
>In September 2000, "RE-RE" -- RE's play cousin -- entered the
>Reconstituted Reengineered Englewood High School as a 9th grader. In
>September 2001, RE-RE entered 10th grade. Every year, Englewood High
>School continued to score at the "bottom" on the ranking and sorting
>machine (the high-stakes tests), even though every year the Board of
>Education was doing another "RE" something to another low scoring
>high school somewhere. In September 2002, RE-RE was entering 11th
>grade. And in September 2003, RE-RE entered 12th grade, graduating
>in June 2004 (while, like RE, she watched her two brothers become dropouts).
>
>By the time of RE's graduation, Englewood had been reconstituted and
>reengineered. By the time of RE-RE's graduation, Englewood had also
>been Small Schooled once or twice.
>
>And the Gangster Disciples continued to sell drugs nearby in the
>community, and the poverty continued unabated. And the housing
>continued to rot and crumble. But Chicago was doing "School Reform"
>by ranking and sorting children and teachers and getting rid of the
>"bad" teachers from the "failing" schools.
>
>One of the things they teach you in AA and other "12-step" programs
>is that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting
>the results to be different.
>
>If we want to make schools better for kids, we have to do a lot more
>than rank and sort kids and schools based on standardized test
>scores. We have to have some idea of what schools can (and can't) do
>and promote rather than denigrate our public schools and their
>teachers. Continually "RE-ing" the public schools that serve poor
>children in the nation's poorest and most segregated communities is
>like prescribing Jack Daniels for the treatment of alcoholism. Only
>someone so ignorant as to be undeserving of any attention or so
>vicious as to want to destroy the "patient" would do so.
>
>And that's why I've concluded that those promoting corporate "school
>reform" here in Chicago are actually the heirs of all those who
>segregated and miseducated our poorest (usually minority) children
>for generations. I think they know exactly what they are trying to
>do and credit them with having had an ingenrious plan to do it over
>the past ten years.
>
>A small flicker of hope might have arrived yesterday. On page one of
>both daily newspapers, it was reported that our mayor, one of the
>most corrupt politicians ever to run a major city, has been
>inverviewed by representatives of the U.S. Attorney's Office. I'm
>not going to hope that justice will be done after all the racism and
>injustice Chicago has seen under two mayors named Daley, but who
>knows? I was surprised when so many corporate CEOs got caught and
>brought to justice for their crimes, so maybe within the next few
>years, Richard M. Daley will be tried for his.
>
>Sadly, from the point of view of all those teachers and children his
>version of "school reform" has destroyed, it will have been too
>late. But at least the hypocritical historical record will have been
>(partly) corrected.
>
>Meanwhile, though, the Daley administration continues to prescribe
>Jack Daniel to treat the ciirrosis our poor communities are
>suffering from, and since the passage of "No Child Left Behind" the
>whole country has begun to get a taste of what we've suffered here
>in Chicago since 1995.
>
>George N. Schmidt
>Editor, Substance
>www.substancenews.com

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