Here are my choices for the best and worst education events of the past year; what are yours? Leave a comment!
Worst education events of 2010:
- Class sizes increasing in New York City and many other areas of the country, due to budget cuts and wrong-headed priorities.
- The rapid spread of credit recovery and substandard "virtual" instruction, with the goal of replacing real-life teachers with computers. Meanwhile, Joel Klein and Rupert Murdoch wait in the wings, eager to make a buck off online learning and the further degradation of public education.
- The huge amount of money poured into the political campaigns of candidates who backed the agenda of the privateers, the funding of pseudo-documentaries like Waiting for Superman and The Lottery, the proliferation of fake grassroots groups like Stand for Children and Michelle Rhee's Students First, the week-long horror show that was NBC's Education Nation, all singing the same demented tune of privatization and high stakes testing. These political action funds, organizations, and media extravaganzas were financed and promoted by the same small group of powerful billionaires and hedge fund operators who are leveraging their private fortune and exerting outsized political influence in education, similar to the way that hostile corporate raiders took over large, undervalued companies in earlier decades.
- Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education, whose agenda has been hijacked by the same group of corporate privateers, who spent billions in taxpayer funds to push policies that were contrary to research and common sense. These included "Race to the Top", where they bribed cash-strapped states to pass laws encouraging the rapid expansion of charter schools and teacher evaluation tied to statistically unreliable student test scores, the slush fund called "Investing in Innovation" (or I 3) which siphoned millions of tax dollars to "innovative" programs like KIPP and Teach for America, the "Teacher Incentive Fund", which wasted millions more on teacher bonus programs that have been proven to be ineffective, and the worst of all, the punitive but euphemistically named "School Improvement Grant" program, which is forcing closures, charter conversions, and mass firings of teachers at hundreds of inner city schools around the country.
- The widespread acceptance by the privateers and the foundations, think tanks, and government officials who they control that ignoring research, demonizing teachers, disregarding the views of public school parents, and "experimenting" on our children constitutes an acceptable vision of education reform -- as well as the use of rhetoric claiming that anyone who dares opposes their destructive policies is a defender of the status quo.
Best education events of 2010:
- Joel Klein leaving office. No matter what kind of Chancellor Cathie Black turns out to be, it is difficult to imagine someone more arrogant, condescending and outright hostile to the interests of parents, teachers and kids -- as well as the rule of law -- than Joel Klein. Among his many sins, Klein took billions of dollars in state aid in exchange for a promise to reduce class size, and allowed class sizes to increase instead. (The danger is that Black, with a more charming manner, will be able to "sell" the same damaging policies more effectively than Klein was able to.)
- Diane Ravitch recognized as the unique star that she is: writing a terrific book, and sharing her brilliant critique of the Billionaire Boys Club and her unwavering courage on the national stage.
- The N.Y. State Education Department finally admitting what has been long obvious to most independent observers -- that the state test scores upon which Bloomberg rode to a third term were hugely inflated, and recalibrating them downwards.
- The emergence of a powerful counterforce to the dominant narrative of education reform through incisive critiques by public school parent bloggers throughout the nation, many of them affiliated with Parents Across America, including Sharon Higgins of Oakland, Caroline Grannan of San Francisco, Julie Woestehoff of Chicago, Dora Taylor and Sue Peters of Seattle, Steve Koss, Gary Babad and Patrick Sullivan on the NYC Public School Parent blog, and so many others....as well as Valerie Straus of the Washington Post Answer Sheet, who has given them even more prominence and a place to shine.
- A resurgent wave of teacher activism, represented by Karen Lewis, the new head of the Chicago Teachers Union, the election of union insurgents in DC, lawsuits supported by the UFT on class size and school closings, the many unaffiliated, independent teacher groups like "Letters to Obama" led by Anthony Cody, as well as the continuing opposition of the NEA to NCLB, high stakes testing and the worst excesses of Arne Duncan and the Obama administration.