Dr. Jim Taylor is a member of the Department of Psychology faculty at the University of San Francisco.
He wrote Education: Arne and Bill’s Misguided Adventure: An Open Letter to Arne Duncan and Bill Gates on his blog on August 1, 2011.
I really don’t understand you two, the U.S. Secretary of Education and the world’s second richest man and noted philanthropist. How can you possibly say that public education can be reformed without eliminating poverty?Using reason and logic, he explains why poverty is a cause of poor education. He tells Bill Gates,
You can’t get out of poverty without a good education, but you aren’t likely to get a good education without first getting out of poverty...What I also find ironic is that you have devoted billions of dollars to eliminating poverty in other parts of the world, but you aren’t applying the same logic here at home.Then he discusses the research, which has been discussed hundreds of times before...
Let’s look at the evidence. A recent ten-year study has shown that school vouchers don’t improve academic achievement. Charter schools, over all, don’t outperform traditional public schools. And, despite the urban legend (pun intended) to the contrary, teachers are NOT the most significant influence on children’s educational outcomes. The single greatest predictor of student performance is their early family life, namely, family income, medical care, family composition, family communication, and early learning experiences (about 60% explanatory power).Why don't the Bill Gates and the Eli Broads of the world listen to that? Why don't politicians like George Bush, Arne Duncan and Barack Obama hear and understand that they are messing with the wrong piece of the puzzle? Schools can be improved...every public school parent and teacher knows that, but the achievment gaps in our public schools won't be eliminated until we, as a nation, agree to eliminate the poverty gap.
Is it because they don't want to hear and listen?
A Superintendent Sees Conspiracy
Jim Arnold, Superintendent of Pelham City Schools in Pelham, Georgia, wrote a piece titled No Child Left Behind: A conspiracy against public education that too few called out which was featured by Maureen Downey on her Get Schooled Blog for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
He reminds us that many of us saw the destruction built into NCLB, but didn't do enough...we didn't speak out loudly enough, didn't fight hard enough...didn't teach well enough.
All of us saw this coming, but very few took a stand and now we – and our students – are paying the price. We could have been prophets but failed the test.He describes what happened, how we let the proponents of NCLB define the terms, how many of us rationalized the testing insanity, and how we thought we could help improve things by getting a "seat at the table" (like NEA insists on doing). We didn't realize, he says, that the proponents of NCLB didn't want to improve public education at all.
They didn’t want to change the policy, because the policy was designed in theory and in fact not to aid education but to create an image of a failed public school system in order to further the implementation of vouchers and the diversion of public education funds to private schools.Are the politicians and corporate "reformers" who are slowly but surely dismantling America's Public Education system interested in improving education for all children?
I am not usually a conspiracy theory guy, but this was no theory. These were cold hard facts slapping me in the face. We failed in our obligations to protect our students from one of the most destructive educational policies since “separate but equal.” We did not educate the public on the myth and misdirection of Adequate Yearly Progress, and we allowed closet segregationists to direct the implementation of policies that we knew would result in our being the guys in the black hats responsible for “the failure of public education.”Do they not care about public education? Do they not care about lessening the achievement gap? If they did why would they continue to ignore the evidence that what they're doing isn't working?
The Real Culprit
Are No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top just two parts of a larger conspiracy to destroy public education in America and replace it with a system of private schools and charter schools run for profit?
Diane Ravitch presents us with these facts:
The last international test results were released in December...low-poverty U.S. schools (where fewer than 10% of the students were poor) had scores that were higher than those of the top nations in the world. In schools where as many as 25% of the students were poor, the scores were equal to those of Finland, Japan and Korea. As the poverty rate of the schools rose, the schools’ performance declined.So, you tell me...is it the public schools, the failure of our nation to deal with the social issue of poverty, or a corporate plan to scuttle our nation's school system?
An objective observer would conclude that the problem in this society has to do with our shamefully high rates of child poverty, the highest in the developed world. At least 20% of U.S. children live in poverty. Among black children, the poverty rate is 35%.
Watch The Disparity Gap from April, 2008. What's been done in the last three and a half years to improve the poverty level in the US?