Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Jeb Bush! Motto: I Don't Know Anything, But You're Going To Give Me A Lot Of Money Anyway

Can someone please tell us why Jeb Bush is an educational expert.  Is it because he has a BA in Latin American studies which he has never used? Or because before he went into politics he worked in a bank? We have three college degrees in fields related to teaching and learning and we've been in the classroom for our entire career. Does that qualify us to be a hedge fund manager?

Bush is trading off his experience as Florida governor to enhance his post politics career as an educational snake oil salesman. While it's true some scores did go up in Florida during his tenure, most notably fourth grade reading scores, this was also a time during the housing boom which produced a 22% increase in funding for schools, and the passage of a Constitutional amendment which limited class size in Florida schools (an amendment which Bush opposed and worked against even after its passage.)

In addition, while some scores rose, others did not. Student ACT scores, for example did not rise, high school graduation rates to this day are still lower than other similarly populated states, and "huge" numbers of high school students need remedial help in reading and math. Low income students are well behind the progress of their more wealthy peers.

We call this Potemkin Village school improvement because it is more form than substance. The specifics of Bush's "Florida Formula" are not much different than the thinly veiled reforms of most of the corporate pirates who look at education and see profit. It's a program that can be summed up in three words: test, test, test. Bush grades schools on student tests and gives more money to schools with high scores. If this seems counter intuitive it's because the rich get richer policy isn't designed to improve education, but to thin the herd, making students at poorly performing schools free floating profit centers more vulnerable to vouchers and charters.

Every marketer knows if you want to sell a product, particularly a product without a corresponding need, first you have to create that need, so in education a crisis was manufactured and since low income and minority schools are the most vulnerable (and their communities least able to fight back), they are the first target. Legislatures are encouraged to rewrite educational policies to open funding streams to for profit companies instead of local communities; parents are sold on the need to abandon their schools rather than fight for them; and educational entrepreneurs like Bush show up to take advantage of the situation with charters and online virtual schools.

The fact that the reforms don't work is immaterial.They were never designed to work in any substantive way. Designing educational reform around for profit companies is like a chef being more concerned with who made his pots and pans than the ingredients he uses.

It's a recipe for disaster and a generation of children are paying the price.

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