Monday, December 1, 2014

School accountability in Wisconsin again: Destroying the hearts of our communities.

Did you ever prepare for an interview, do your research, organize your thoughts, feel confident and then blow it?  If not you’re lucky.  But this is exactly what happened to me when I went in to record a segment for Capital Morning Sunday with host Greg Neumann. 

Watch below.

Here’s what I should have said.

We absolutely do not need another accountability bill in Wisconsin if the accountability bill is supposedly going to be used to close the achievement gap.  You don’t close the achievement gap with standards, curriculum, tests and punishments.  We have 30 years of data that proves this beyond a doubt.  So if legislators are really looking to close the achievement gap they need to stop listening to the accountability hawks and testing companies that are financing them and start looking at the real issues that cause students to perform poorly in school.  In other words they need to do their job and be held accountable for either promoting the conditions in which learning thrives (which are predominantly socio-economic) or they—the legislators need to be held accountable and labeled legislatively failing and then stripped of their legislative license. Oops.  That’s right they don’t need a license toscrew up the lives of children and the communities they serve

Now if the “new” accountability being proposed is simply to streamline and promote the use of more taxpayer subsidized financing for private and religious schools then Wisconsin residents needs to listen very closely.  Using taxpayer money to subsidize private and religious schools will not close the achievement gap.  However, these subsidies will further dismantle our public schools—schools that serve as the hearts of our local communities. Why?  Because this is what taxpayer subsidies are designed to do. These subsidies are simply a way to defund our community schools, schools that should be the heart of all of Wisconsin’s communities.

Some argue that subsidizing private schools with public money will help disadvantaged students.  This is not true.  There just is not any accumulation of evidence to prove this (However,we are starting to understand this ideologically imposed disaster).  Instead, private school subsidies are strictly in the domain of ideology.  Supporters at the policy level simply have a disdain for public and community based schools.  All one needs to do is look at the FriedmanFoundation website and see that this has always been an ideological position and not one based on any evidence.  It is based on the simple idea that by creating losers you will create winners—competition. 

Public schools are not in the business of creating a Hunger Games type of competitive culture.  Our communities are not simply “government districts” that serve to supply a compliant work force.  Our public schools exist because as Americans we made a promise to every child and every community that a powerful education would be a right and that this public education would serve to make sure that children and communities have an educated community capable of participation in critical self-government.

Taxpayer subsidized financing for private and religious schools is not a “choice.” It is simply a poison for the heart of Wisconsin’s communities—our public schools.


  1. Don't beat yourself up because you didn't say what you think you should have said in that discussion.

    There is a big difference between being involved in an on-the-spot broadcast and writing an Op-Ed piece. When you are put on-the-spot with limited time to think and respond, most of us can not expect to be at our best. It's a one-shot deal and there is no second chance at revision. There is no time to reflect and edit.

    For instance, back in 2008, I was a guest on 31-radio talk shows, and in one show, I was put on the spot with no time to respond when I was asked a question I didn't know the answer to.

    We were talking about China, and the host of this conservative east coast talk show mentioned the number of people in prison in China and that this was an example of a police state. He asked me how I could defend China against that fact.

    I was in my home office with a headset on, and my desktop was on and linked to the Internet. As soon as the interview ended, I Googled prison population by country to find out if what he had challenged me with to make China look bad was correct.

    The numbers he used were correct but he had cherry picked facts and left out some very important info---that the U.S. had a much larger prison population than every country on the planet. China has about 125 people in prison for every 100,000, but it also has more than four times the people than the U.S. In contrast, the U.S. has about 700 people in prison for every 100,000. He never mentioned the U.S. prison population.

    I had a chance to talk to this host during a commercial break after my guest shot and by then I knew the facts and mentioned what I had just learned.

    In a very friendly voice he said he was sorry. He said he knew what I had just discovered, but his audience was conservative, and he had to tell them what they wanted to hear or he would lose his audience and possibly his show and his income.

  2. When 'accountability' is the mantra, there is never enough money spent on testing. This is great for testing companies. And for the technology companies, bc tests are administered by computer.

    When 'accountability is the mantra, there will be fewer teachers and larger class sizes. Because poorer students in larger classes often score lower, and their school budgets are often cut first. This is the self-fulfilling prophecy.

    When 'accountability' is the mantra, the most pain is inflicted on those who need the most help. Federal and state governments do not take issues of poverty into consideration when looking at test scores.

    Predictably, the annual revenue of testing companies has shot up 57% to $2.5 billion in just the past 3 years, accPredictably,ording to a recent survey of the SIIA.

    Predictably, hundreds of thousands of teaching jobs also have been cut because of lower property tax revenues as a result of the Great Recession. Thanks Wall Street.

    As 'accountability' measures and punishing cuts are set in law, public schools weaken.

    And the cycle is never broken because states demand more tests, more charters, more vouchers, and more silver bullets.

    All of which dismantles public schools as a public good funded for by citizens for all citizens.

    The purpose is to privatize the public schools for the benefit of the corporation.

    "Edu-preneurs' can profit from a government funding stream that had once been controlled by local school boards, but is no more.

    Only teacher unions stand in the way. That is why there is so much talk of teachers being bad, and of needing to know who is bad based on students' scores.

    But you should know that the cut scores on the PARRC and Smarter Balance Common Core tests are set at a very high level -- in NY the cut scores were set so that 70% of the students taking the test failed.

    They have engineered a result and their prophecy is self-fulfilling; the teachers are bad, because the unfair tests with their unrealistically high cut scores say so.

    That is why 60,000 NY students boycotted the tests last year.

    For more insight, read anything by Carol Burris, a principal in Long Island, NY, and Diane Ravitch.

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