Myth Making in Public Education


Repeat a story often enough and it becomes Gospel. Local educator Robin Lowry lays out for us how public school teachers are taking the heat for a bum system designed to fail in nearby Germantown. 

In K-12 Ed, privatization-for-profit measures are often comically lauded as educational breakthroughs.  These “research-based” strategies are hailed one year, only to be scrapped the next.

Teachers view such Reforms like  The Emperor’s New Clothes:  “Yes, your Highness what a fantastic coat!” Cause, wow, is New Math ever amazing.  And Block Scheduling — oooh, so modern, how did we live without it? Ha.

Of all the stupid Education myths pushed by politicians, though, the worst by far:

“Charters are beating the pants off us Public Schools!”

Uh, don’t think so. Not even close.

At a recent SRC budget meeting, former educator Lisa Haver showed how  Wister elementary clearly outperformed Mastery in the district’s own School Performance Rating charts. Plus Wister outperformed on overall and progress ratings, as well. Yet SRC meetings fill rooms with parents wearing blue “I Support the Mastery Turnaround” t-shirts. Happily duped into not only believing but repeating hooey Mastery’s PR team fed them.

Wow, myth-making works. Especially if you’re a Charter school with deep pockets for brand marketing.  And no political obligation to open your books so you can brag as much as you want about how smart you are with money (while using unreported donations to fund programs and equipment public schools can only dream of).

Speaking of money, Standardized Tests are a great way to waste it.  And a fantastic way to waste teachers’ and students’ time jumping through hoops instead of learning.

Standardized tests cost each state $1.7 billion yearly. A “drop in the bucket” according to the researcher, but that doesn’t count money for textbooks put out by those same test-makers. Teaching test taking strategies for no sound pedagogical reason, putting schools in lockdown for testing to avoid gaming the system is not Education — it’s myth making.

Eastfallslocal united opt out

The National Opt Out Conference was held recently in Philly and it’s the counter narrative to this testing myth.

Suburban parents on Long Island began to opt their children out of standardized tests 5 years ago. Teachers in Washington State picked up the ball. Urban Parents got on board. Test scores are used as an excuse to close neighborhood schools or charterize them.  The Opt Out movement has become so successful that the pressure is on to squash dissent. A Movement that Myth-Makers try to subvert.

Two films I can highly recommend on the subject:  Beyond Measure &  Standardized take it on.  Let’s plan an EF showing!

Standardized Testing feeds into the myth I touched on earlier, that American Schools are Failing, and it’s Public Education’s fault. Seems folks love to believe anything run by the government must be more inept and wasteful than the private sector. No matter that we all take perfectly public perks for granted like roads, utilities, parks, disaster relief… 

Everyone loves to blame Unions and teacher tenure, ha. As if it’s a luxury to be properly represented and compensated, and not discriminated against. I swear, if teaching was a male-dominated occupation, we’d never have to defend ourselves so much

Another post for another time, perhaps but it was sad to hear students trash Public Simon Gratz (where I once taught) at the last SRC meeting. Four former students in their first year at Mastery Pickett complained about Wister’s food, smelly building and boring teachers. Yet afterwards, one of the students recognized me, and gave me a hug.

What could I say? “Good job on your speech?” Yikes. I like this kid — as his teacher, I wanted to support him, but also I wanted to protect him too.

Why was this child in the middle of such a politically-charged event? Kind of wondering where Mastery’s head is, here, exposing a kid to what must be conflicting emotions: being asked to talk trash about their old school, to their teacher’s faces, yet.

Obviously Mastery has no qualms about using kids to promote their own gains. Is this the kind of heartless attitude we want in our educators? Win at all costs, I guess? Makes me wonder what they’ll be up to next.

UPDATE 4-11-16:  The so-called “School Reform Commission” has got to go! Great piece on today details a letter signed by 20 Philadephia professionals in higher education demanding an end to what they maintain is a deeply flawed organization hurting our schools. A quote:  “John Wister is not only one more reason why the SRC has to go; it is the reason why it has to go right now.” 

NEXT MEETING:  Important vote April 28th at 4:00 pm at the Education Center, 440 North Broad Street.

HOW SAFE IS MIFFLIN?  East Falls’ own public school has its challenges that, if the current trend towards privatizing education continues, could make Mifflin an attractive candidate for “reform.” Supporting neighboring schools like Wister keeps us in the loop for important conversations happening now.  Big thanks to Robin for her tireless efforts to champion everyone’s right to a quality education

eastfallslocal free trade my ass

GET INFORMED!  Robin’s links are amazing resources for anyone interested in Education today:

  1.  Fact sheet on “receivership” in New York state
  2.  Wooden Shoe Books  (because public education is somehow a radical idea now!)
  3. Blog:  Mark Naison (standardized testing opponent in NYC)
  4. Blog: Peg with Pen (literacy interventionist)
  5. Blog:  Flush the TPP (covers so-called “Free Trade” deals that we all wind up paying for)

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