Dr. Yohuru Williams is a Professor of History at Fairfield University. He is the author of Teaching US History Beyond the Textbook (2008) and Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights, Black Power and Black Panthers in New Haven (2008) and co-editor of In Search of the Black Panther Party (2006) and Liberated Territory: Toward A Local History of the Black Panther Party (2009).
The Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative think tank, reportedly compensated counter protesters in Philadelphia on Thursday in a failed effort to give the appearance of popular support for the recent move by the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) to abrogate the contracts of Philadelphia teachers. This is yet another sign of the dangers of corporate education reform and the lengths its proponents are willing to go to stifle dissent and subvert democracy, including resorting to the use of AstroTurf or “fake grassroots” demonstrations and groups.
Sometimes when you get enough people beating on the outside of a building, those sitting comfortably on the inside start to feel the vibrations. That’s what it feels like is happening as the voices from the grassroots movement protesting the nation’s oppressive governance of public education are starting to reverberate in the cushy offices and conference rooms of education policy leaders.
The purported benefit of the Common Core State Standards over previous sets of standards is the development of critical thinking skills across all subjects, seen as a key lever for increasing American students’ international competitiveness and ameliorating the country’s lethargic economy and persistently high unemployment rates. This perception is clear in statements made by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and in articles about the standards (Duncan, 2013; Garland, 2013).
Apparently students are deciding in large numbers that teaching is not such a safe, stable career any more, and as a result, in several large states, the numbers of students enrolled in programs to prepare students for a career in education is going down dramatically. In California, the numbers have dropped by over 40 percent in just a few years (from 44,692 in 2008/9 to 26.321 in 2011/12). In New York State, they went from 79,225 im 2009/10 to 61,821 in 2011/12, a 22% drop.
There is so much news from place to place about the financial and management scandals in particular charter schools and charter management organizations that it is hard to keep track. Schools are taking public money—and too frequently finding a way to make a profit—while failing to serve the children they enroll or neglecting to enroll particular groups of children with special needs. All of this increases the burden on public schools and misspends tax dollars, thereby undermining the public good. Here are just three examples that have surfaced during mid-October.
The latest viral video comes out of Baltimore, MD, where the Orioles weren’t the ones swinging.
Three months ago, Tennessee Schools Director Jesse Register announced he was to fire 63 Tennessean teachers, of 195 total who for two consecutive years scored lowest (i.e., a 1 on a scale of 1 to 5) in terms of their overall “value-added” (as based on 35% EVAAS, 15% related “student achievement,” and 50% observational data).