Friday, December 9, 2011

The "Anti" Education Model

John Dillinger, when asked why he robs banks, famously answered "Because that's where the money is". It is a philosophy that is remarkably adaptable to circumstance.

It has not escaped the notice of corporate America that hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year in the U.S. on public, tax-payer supported education. Not long ago only 10% of that vast sum went to private companies. This vexed the Masters of the Universe, who never saw a big chunk of change they didn't want a cut of. They are diligently working the hallways of governmental institutions to rejigger American education policy to get a bigger piece of that very big pie. As a result, while the rest of the world re-engineers it's educational system based on best practices, America is re-engineering it's schools through the prism of politics and ideology. This approach splices free market philosophies to the humanities, arts, and sciences to create a sort of Frankenstein monster that is already turning on it's master. It's working out well for giant politically connected companies like Pearson Education, not so well for America's public schools and students.

U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that almost half of all new business fail in their first two years. This is the model we want to base schools on? Perhaps it is really the Dillinger model that is at work in education here in the U.S..

"[American education's]  elements, implemented over the past two decades, are largely ideological: "market-based" reforms (the application of "business insights" to the running of schools); an emphasis on standardization and narrowing of curriculum; extensive use of external standardized assessment; fostering choice and competition among schools, often with school vouchers; making judgements based on test data and closing "failing schools"; encouraging the growth of charter schools (which don't have teacher unions); "merit pay" and other incentives.

School systems around the world do thing very differently:
  1. Funding schools equitably, with additional resources for those serving needy students
  2. Paying teachers competitively and comparably
  3. Investing in high-quality preparation, mentoring and professional development for teachers and leaders, completely at government expense
  4. Providing time in the school schedule for collaborative planning and ongoing professional learning to continually improve instruction
  5. Organizing a curriculum around problem-solving and critical thinking skill
  6. Testing students rarely but carefully -- with measures that require analysis, communication, and defense of ideas"

Read more:     How NOT to Reform American Education     Scott McLeod
Read more:     Education as Cash Cow     William Symonds (this is an older article)
Read more:     Have We Got it Wrong on School Reform?     Jack Jennings
Read more:     U.S. Education Spending and Performance     Masters of Arts and Teachers