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Please begin with an informative title:

According to Sarah Garland, an educational writer, the educational textbook industry continues to make record profits from public school system contracts:

Testing will also likely remain a significant revenue source for the big companies under Common Core. CTB/McGraw-Hill has won multiple contracts to help develop questions for Common Core tests. In 2011, Pearson won a $32 million contract to develop New York’s standardized tests, a contract that runs through 2015.
Though textbook publishing has always been among the most profitable areas in publishing, the profits have multiplied in recent years due to the institution by Congress of NCLB and Race to the Top--both of which emphasize what they claim not to emphasize. Many experts in the field have criticized the approaches, expectations, and hidden costs embedded in these government directives, all to little avail.  A rising tide against high-stakes testing has resulted in few if any changes nationally. The Obama administration has not improved upon the record of George W. Bush. Failing public schools have been so-identified as if they are simply warehouses for mediocrity, filled with terrible teachers who don't care about the students they are teaching or who are unqualified to teach them in the first place. Federal education czar, Artie Duncan, was brought into the Obama White House based on his record of closing down failing schools in Chicago and replacing them with first-rate charter schools. Trouble is, many of these same schools are now being closed:
Chicago has been opening and closing public schools every year for the past decade.

It’s a controversial strategy that former Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan believed was an answer to improving public education.

But in the most recent round of proposed school closings, CPS is shutting down the very schools Duncan created.


Yet, despite a complete lack of evidence that closing down poor performing schools, raising the stakes for testing performance, and going all in for privatization are sure-bet solutions to educational problems, the trend continues. School districts are pouring local tax dollars into digital publishing "solutions" to improve literacy and math scores; teachers are getting trained on how to do something that they had already invested their lives, minds, hearts, and checkbooks into (on average, teachers spend close to $500 dollars of their own money to pay for classroom supplements and supplies each year despite a national trend of rollback on the real value of teacher salaries). Multinational publishing corporations already cited have a track record that skirts ethical standards in the way they've wined and dined state and big-city politicos in order to get their hands on lucrative contracts:

Currently, Pearson has partnered with 18 states in the U.S., as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, to produce pricey testing materials. For a five-year contract, Pearson was paid $32 million to produce standardized tests for New York. Its contract in Texas was worth $500 million. Pearson also owns Connections Academy, a company that runs for-profit, virtual charter schools. It also owns the GED program, although competitors have been  creating alternatives in order to combat Pearson’s expensive tests. By and large, the massive corporation has far-reaching control over the education industry.

While the common core standards are, by themselves, not the culprit here, they are part of the problem because they are simply the next step in the long line from NCLB to the present manifestation of the same thing.

Schools are more segregated than they've been since the Brown decision. Underperforming schools are, generally, also the least integrated schools. Teachers and administrators in "bad" schools are losing their jobs, being re-assigned, or trained in the new methods for running their classrooms--which almost never involve methods that experienced teachers have found real success with. The top-down approach to public education is also a scorched earth approach because it leaves good, qualified teachers feeling like they've wasted their time and their passion for their chosen field.  Students are no better off; in many cases, they're worse off because they have to be subjected to the consistent results of the practice/benchmark testing they are constantly having to take.

One of my heroines on this subject is author and former education official Diane Ravitch. She has consistently argued against the codification of these faulty parameters that are now threatening the very future of public education in this country.  

The public school system, Ravitch argues, is under attack from corporate interests and Wall Street crusaders seeking to make a buck off the American taxpayer. The reformers, Ravitch writes, are an insurgency in America’s schools, “a deliberate effort to replace public education with a privately managed, free-market system of schooling.”

So what's the answer? What are we not doing that we should be doing? According to education writer Mark Anderson, commenting on an article by Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation:

the more sustainable answer is to provide all students access to schools where the learning environment is positive and inclusive, rather than ridden with isolation, toxicity, and aggression. And as Kahlenberg suggests, developing this kind of environment is best done when there is deliberate socioeconomic integration within the school or community.

In other words, we need to stop talking about whether or not to close "failing" schools, and instead begin talking about building new ones that will integrate students traditionally stranded in toxic islands of poverty with students cushioned in the foothills of networked resiliency.


And if we are ever to achieve real pluralism in this country in the professional working world, or in the greater communities where we live, why would we ever choose the current segregated, unequal school system that is now all too real in all geographical areas of our country?

Of course, there is almost no hope that integration--at least the type of integration viewed as leftist tyranny by most right-wing activists--will ever become the large-scale solution to so-called failing schools.  But there are other solutions out there. Some of these solutions may be found in single classrooms or in a school's or district's approach. But they can and will come more effectively and intrinsically from the experience of a good teacher than from a publishing company executive, DOE head, state governor, or school district administrator. It's time to find out what's working in our public schools and dispense with this nonsense of throwing out the good with the bad in the hopes of getting back a pan of gold in return. That's the delusion at the heart of the current national approach to, arguably, the most important institution we have: our public school system.


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Originally posted to sgraffwriter on Sat Oct 26, 2013 at 11:25 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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