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Friday, August 15, 2014

Why is accountability only for public schools?

By Greg Sampson

One of the catch-phrases of this blog is “I threw up in my mouth a little.” Well, this article made me throw up a lot—not a little bile around the teeth, but a mammoth Thanksgiving feast all over my clothes, in my lap, and a pool that my feet are soaking in.

To save you this disgusting experience, the writer of the article, and the Washington think tank behind him, The Heritage Foundation, says that accountability is only for traditional public schools. To force private schools that take state government vouchers to take the same annual assessment as public school students would ruin the ability of private schools to be a laboratory for innovation.

(I reread the article carefully. The author does not add charter schools to his pronouncements,
but we can logically infer that is what he really means. Private schools have never been looked at as labs for experimentation and innovation, but that is the original reason for charter schools to exist.)

Oy Vey! (Chris, you’re having a bad influence on my writing … just kidding.)

Demolishing arguments—pay attention, Heritage:
1. The fourteenth amendment: Equal protection under the law. Why are private/charter school students a privileged class? How about fair play? Schools used to teach that to students. You’re saying, Heritage, that no longer applies?
2.       Taxpayers should not expect accountability over where their taxes are sent? You demand exactly that in all other areas of government expenditures, Heritage.
3.       Private school accountability leads to fewer seats? What they mean is that private schools don’t show up for the game—they send in a forfeit because they cannot win.
4.       You talk about a “decentralized learning process.” Okay, I’ll buy into that. To decentralize the learning process, we need to:

a.       Repeal NCLB.
b.       Junk the Value Added Model that everyone except self-interested politicians and technology-selling billionaires says is ridiculous and invalid. Everyone includes mathematicians and statisticians—people who have built their careers constructing valid statistical measures. Is it really about the data? Then get good data.
c.       Eliminate all conditions of the federal waivers from NCLB that the federal Department of Education, under the leadership of Arne Duncan, forced on the states. States knuckled under during the Great Recession to get the money the DOE dangled. But we know that, under the law, contracts entered into under duress are invalid.
d.       Force state Boards of Education to return autonomy to local school districts and their leadership.
e.       Reduce the testing that goes on. Stop labeling students—give teachers back the respect and autonomy they deserve.

5.    Private means just that—not public. If a private school starts taking money, it ceases to be private.

I used to respect these people (The Heritage Foundation). Now I wonder if they have gotten it so wrong about education, how can I render them credibility about anything?

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