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New York Times: Corporate Education Reform's Newspaper of Record

Ohanian Comment: I started to read Brent Staples' editorial in the New York Times and then stopped, telling myself, "You don't have to put yourself in an uproar." A few years back, I wrote Gail Collins, at the time the first woman ever appointed editor of the Times' editorial page (whose book I had admired), complaining about the rot Staples spewed forth. Collins informed me that some of the board members' best friends were teachers and they agreed with Staples' views.

Thank you, Jim.

by Jim Horn

Brent Staples of the NYTimes Editorial Board has put his own unique brand of cynical and disingenuous stupidity on the NCLB waiver plan:

The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act focused the country's attention on school reform as never before, but the law is far from perfect. The Obama administration is wise to address its flaws, since Congress is four years overdue in updating the law.

The Department of Education's plan gives states that agree to several reforms -- including stringent teacher evaluation systems and new programs for overhauling the worst schools --an exemption from many of the law's requirements. It would permit the states to change the way they evaluate most schools for the purpose of compliance, allowing indicators other than just reading and math scores to be considered. And it would lift the law's provision that all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014, which was never going to happen anyway because there were so many loopholes.. . . .

This is a masterful piece of dissembling. Notice that Staples does not mention the "stringent teacher evaluation systems" will be based principally on test scores in math and reading and every other subject in every grade, at least twice a year (we're looking for "growth," remember). And notice that "new programs for overhauling the worst schools" does not mention the fact that Obama and Duncan have given new impetus to the charter "turnaround" option and have now given approval to New Orleans type "Recovery School Districts" that are based on replacing urban public schools with segregated corporate welfare charters at the rate of 5 percent of schools per year. Ten years equals 50% of American schools, which is just about the percentage of schoolchildren attending urban schools.

Notice, too, that Staples does not mention that this waiver plan only lifts the 2014 proficiency demand if states are willing to drink the poisonous kool-aid brewed up by the oligarchs and hedge funders to corporatize schools. Notice, too, that the Staples never acknowledges, even now, the impossibility of the 2014 targets, preferring to pretend that "loopholes" are to blame for not achieving the impossible.

And so Staples opines that Obama is wise to address the law's flaws, even as the Times is short on specifics about what those flaws are or were. Could Staples mean the flaws that were pointed out in his newspaper, the New York Times, even before the "law" ever became law? From the NYTimes on August 13, 200, in an opinion piece by scholars Staiger and Kane:

. . . .The trouble with this law in the making is that both the House and Senate versions would disrupt successful reforms that are already under way in many schools around the country. Unless Congress can agree to rewrite the formula for pinpointing a failing school, as some states and some members of Congress are now urging, this education bill ΓΆ€” the most ambitious federal initiative in education in three decades and a centerpiece of President Bush's plans for his presidency ΓΆ€” is likely to end as a fiasco.

The central flaw is that both versions of this bill place far too much emphasis on year-to-year changes in test scores. Under either, every school in America would have to generate an increase in test scores each and every year or face penalties like having to allow its students to transfer to another public school, being converted into a charter school or being taken over by a private contractor. . . . .

These "flaws" are the ones that Staples and the rest of Editorial Board ignored for almost 10 years as the public schools were blown up every year in every state in order to usher in the era of the segregated corporate welfare charter schools that the Times' Wall Street patrons were and are supporting. Do you, Mr. Staples and the hedge funders who help you churn out your propaganda, remember the New York Times interview with state officials on July 17, 2001, wherein Missouri Assistant Commissioner, Stephen Barr, called the NCLB proficiency targets "an impossible dream"? Do you remember the boatloads of research on the explosive effects of this most damaging "bill" that you ignored for the past 10 years? Do you remember that the New York Times never reported the CREDO study that exposed the fact that only 17 percent of charters nationwide have higher test scores than matched public schools???

With these cheap charter chain gangs free now to expand without restriction in many states, could this be the reason that it is time to stop the school comparisons and begin the "growth model" era, thus making the poverty and opportunity gaps even more invisible than they are today with an NCLB system that even Brent Staples finally admits is flawed.

— Jim Horn
Schools Matter blog





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