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Black Community Opinions

Part One: Education vs. Indoctrination; Separate and Unequal

By Andrew Jackson

The following writing is my personal view on education based on research, readings and interpretation of other writings on the subject. Over the last two plus decades, we’ve seen an avalanche of education reform experimentation in testing, teacher performance pay, and teacher evaluation and credentialing. State legislators in Virginia and across the country and policy elites joined the debate leading expressions of methodology for increasing student test performance and decreasing the disparity in funding for education as various processes for new systems for testing, data collection and monitoring evolved. These new “ideas” significantly reshaped instructional practices and student, school and teacher assessments and became a central element in national education policy talk and implementation.

In my opinion, much of the trial and error processes have made needed adjustments to the assessment system next to impossible, and they have made teaching to standardized tests a classroom reality. Actually, what has happened is that added focus on test score growth has masked a continuing slippage of proficiency in application. Much of what has been done can be seen as stunting the educational opportunities of children, particularly in urban areas, in ways that are likely to have lasting negative effects in adulthood.

With the continuing need for changing workforce skill sets among ever-changing economic environments in this country as well as globally, students entangled in testing protocols have not been provided with the intellectual and applied skills that they needed most to enable them to survive and thrive, or to prepare them as literate creators and innovators, responsible decision-makers, and collaborative problem-solvers.

The capacity to assess high-level cognitive and non-cognitive skills has been severely limited by the use of multiple-choice tests that became increasingly high stakes, for which teachers spent inordinate amounts of time preparing children to take and pass. The focus on the state tests and the results of the value-added manipulations has diminished students’ access to learning environments that allow and encourage the development of high-level thinkers and doers.

By every psychometric comparison near and dear to the hearts of testing reform advocates, whether it is the SAT, ACT or NAEP, we have not improved the education of students, especially when compared globally. Also, it has not successfully addressed the general funding equity gaps. After decades of highly anticipated reform success that remains unrealized, business elites, corporate foundations, philanthro-capitalists and venture philanthropists continue on in their crusade to bring business-inspired social efficiencies, privatization and corporate governance to public education.

Of course, their effort is fortified by tax breaks for funding corporate charter reform schools and school voucher programs, recently re-labeled as “scholarship tax credit programs,” venture philanthropy and corporate advocacy philanthropy have enabled growth into multibillion-dollar enterprises operated by Wall Street hedge funds and tax-exempt foundations. Huge financial investments have yielded unprecedented levels of political and education policy influence, as noted by the founder of the Economic Policy Institute, Jeff Faux.
This is not about our children’s education, it’s about money.

“It is well known, although rarely acknowledged in the press, that the reform movement has been financed and led by the corporate class. For over twenty years, large business oriented foundations, such as Gates (Microsoft), Walton (Wal-Mart) and Broad (Sun Life) have poured billions into charter school start-ups, sympathetic academics and pundits, media campaigns (including Hollywood movies) and sophisticated nurturing of the careers of privatization promoters who now dominate the education policy debate from local school boards to the U.S. Department of Education.”

I addressed this issue when I spoke about the “Achievable Dream” issue in Virginia Beach nearly two years ago. There are those that contribute funds that support the “Dream” effort but with tax loop hole and Wall Street hedge funds that money is tripled and sometimes quadrupled over a 4 to 5 year period. People become known as a great contributor, also politically connected, and well compensated. Contribute a cool million, get all the kudos for the effort and get a triple ROI in three to four years. Not a bad deal at all … so was it really for the sake of education, or more importantly, for the children? Also the other question is are the teachers any better than those in the public school system who have to operate with their hands tied rather than have the opportunity to teach creatively? And, less pay!

Andrew Jackson
Virginia Beach African-American Leadership Forum

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