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    Change You Can Invest In

    Good for Stick for labeling Duncan's position for what it is--a corporatist approach.

    by Stick with a Nose

    There is a predictable pattern emerging in the political life-span of a Secretary of Education that is playing out for Arne Duncan. It goes like this: The president appoints a new Sec. of Education who has achieved "amazing success" in his/her previous job in a large, urban district and promises that this new Sec. of Education will bring that "proven model" to the national stage. While said Sec. of Education aggressively pursues those policy goals, evidence begins to trickle-in that the “proven model" and "amazing success" justifying those policies is little more than a farce. Think Rod Paige.

    So it is with good ol' Arne Duncan whose “awe shucks” demeanor masks an assuredly corporatist approach to education reform. How's that Chicago Miracle working out for you?

    The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, which represents business, professional, education and cultural leaders, concluded in June that gains on state test scores were inflated when Illinois relaxed passing standards and that too many students still drop out of high school or graduate unprepared for college. The Consortium on Chicago School Research, a nonpartisan group at the University of Chicago, reported in October that Duncan's closure of low-performing schools often shuffled students into comparable schools, yielding little or no academic benefit.

    "Obviously, you always want to get better faster," Duncan said in an interview when asked about the federal math scores. "I was focused on outcomes -- improving graduation rates, making sure that students who graduated had a chance to pursue higher ed. You can have the best test scores in the world, but if kids aren’t going that next step, you're not changing their lives."

    Duncan also said he had adjusted his school closure policy a few years ago to ensure better opportunities for students. He said that he was unhappy that the state had relaxed passing standards and that graduation rates remain unacceptable. About half of Chicago students fail to graduate on time with their peers.

    The only real difference here is the speed with which Arne's political narrative is falling apart.

    It's an all too familiar story.

    Someone gets appointed to a big job because he supposedly got great results at his old job.

    It doesn’t take too long for people to realize that the supposedly great results weren’t so great–but the boss has taken the new organization on the same route anyway.

    This is the story of Rod Paige as education secretary under then president George Bush early in this decade, and now, according to a Washington Post story today by my colleague Nick Anderson, of Arne Duncan as education secretary under President Obama.

    And this is from the Kaplan-owned Washington Post. It's one of the biggest cheerleaders for the charter school - venture philanthropy movement in mass media! That this new narrative is emerging so early in his tenure is a good sign for those of us hoping to limit the damage the Broad's and Gates' of the world can inflict.

    Stick is a former teacher who has recently completed his Ph.D. in Cultural Studies in Education specializing in Sociology, Philosophy and Education Policy. This blog is primarily concerned with schooling and education policy, but Stick’s varied interests also leads him to comment on all things "social."

    — Stick with a Nose


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