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Friday, February 15, 2013

Why do education reformers like Jindal and Bush feel the need to misrepresent the truth?

According to the Washington Post Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has been touring the country touting the New Orleans recovery school district which replaced most of the public schools with charter schools as a huge success. He basically says the numbers between failing and passing schools have flipped in the last 7 years, going from 30% passing 70% failing, to 70% passing 30% failing. Unfortunately for the governor and the children of Louisiana the numbers say different.

This is made worse because the demographics of New Orleans have changed pretty dramatically over the same time period. It is now richer and whiter than it was pre-Katrina.  and despite the demographic switch which would lead one to believe there should be improvement, less kids in poverty, means a greater percentage of kids should be doing well, the district is doing just as bad as it was before Katrina. All throughout the nation, especially in places that are rushing to privatize and have seen the proliferation of Charter Schools, despite the fact they get to play by different rules, achievement has lagged.

Jeb Bush perhaps the ringleader of the education reforms lies and misinformation campaign was also recently called to task by the Shanker Blog’s Matt DiCarlo.  Bush has been telling anybody who will listen that his A-F grading formula has greatly improved Florida’s schools. What Bush however doesn’t mention is how several changes in the grading formula led to the vast majority of the improvement and what personally frustrates me is how Bush always ignores the role the class size amendment has played.

Jeb Bush also has a school/milk analogy that he routinely uses to sell his choice agenda.  He says if you head down the milk aisle there are lots of different milks to serve lots of different tastes, where simplistic, even if accurate what we are selling here in Florida is spoiled milk. In 2011 15 of Florida’s 31 failing schools were charter schools. Putting that another way, in Florida if your child attended a charter school they were 7 times more likely to be attending a failing school.

Since all this is true the reasons these two (and others) feel they have to lie, cherry pick,misstate and misinform is because if they were honest no school district or state would come within a ten foot poll of what they are selling. They lie because that is the only thing that gives them a chance of being listened to.

And this begs two questions, first is why would they push reforms that aren’t working risking the futures of millions of children? My best guess is follow the money and if you did a lot of it would trail back to them, their friends and supporters. The second question is why anybody who really cares about education would and the nation’s children ever listen to them? My guess is some people see an opportunity to make money, for them their friends and supporters.

People should be dispassionately passionate about education reforms. We should go where the evidence takes and the evidence says Jindal and Bush are taking us down the path to ruin.

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