Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More on Education Indoctrination

We held a press conference yesterday at Rockefeller Center, in protest of the one-sided coverage of NBC's Education Nation, which has turned out to be an infomercial brought to you by the Billionaire boys club of Gates, Broad and Bloomberg. Here is some coverage from Gotham Schools, and the Epoch Times.

As made clear by this media extravaganza, a handful of wealthy men and their corporate-style, free-market views were allowed to completely dominate the media, as they already control much of the output of the education research organizations and think-tanks in DC, despite any evidence that their methods will improve our schools, all in the name of "innovation." They are wreaking destruction not only on our public education system, but waging a massive misinformation campaign, with even the National Academy of Sciences powerless before them.

Bloomberg was allowed to make a 15 minutes speech on MSNBC, uninterrupted, without a single reporter allowed to ask questions, in which he claimed great progress in our schools. At the same time, during Council hearings downtown, members of the public and local elected officials were lambasting his record, and pointing out that his claims of improvements were based on fraudulent and inflated state test scores.

And yet this highly damaging model of education reform that has utterly failed to improve our schools here in New York City is being held out as a model, and foisted on the nation as a whole, in the form of charter school expansion, wasteful teacher merit pay, and even more emphasis on high stakes testing, all of which which hurts our neediest students most of all.

In essence, NBC's entire media extravaganza should have been called Education Indoctrination, an opportunity for the corporate influences that are engineering their hostile takeover of our public schools to broadcast their distortions, without little or no fear of being contradicted. Here is our press release from yesterday, here is my Huffington Post column about it, and here is a letter of protest to NBC that you can sign.

There were a few bright spots; check out NYC teacher Brian Jones, who managed to infuse a few words of truth amidst the heated rhetoric of Geoffrey Canada, Randi Weingarten, Steven Brill, and Michelle Rhee. On the same panel, Allen Coulter, the head of the Gates Foundation education division, managed to spread more of the special Gates' brand of misinformation, such as claiming that there is no evidence of benefits from class size reduction after 3rd grade, which is simply false.

There are at least 15 studies showing correlations between smaller classes in the middle and upper grades and higher student achievement and lower dropout rates, no matter how much the Gates Foundation would like to deny this. Like their support of the anti-evolution organization, the Discovery Institute, Gates seems to have no respect for research and evidence. Instead, the foundation would rather waste millions on incentive pay tied to test scores, and other free-market "experiments" that have repeatedly been proven to be worthless.

See our press release from yesterday, my Huffington Post column, and then send a message to NBC, by signing our protest letter, with 400 signatures so far and growing fast.

Here are some excerpts from the press release, from outraged parents, teachers and citizens:

Natalie Beyer, a founding member of Parents Across America and a school board member in Durham, NC: “Strong public schools are our most fundamental public resource and the foundation of our democracy. In recent years, a few wealthy philanthropists have profoundly influenced education policies and programs. Parents Across America believe that our public schools and our children’s educations are not for sale. Across this nation, we elect citizens to serve on local Boards of Education, to insure local accountability, transparency and oversight of our public schools. As a public school parent and elected school board member, I am disappointed that NBC’s Education Nation has excluded the voices of parents and critics. Your relationship with your sponsors seems to have turned what could have been an important news event into an infomercial. As your program concludes and you dismantle your Learning Plaza, rest assured that those of us who work in public education will continue the important work of challenging students every day.”

Karran Harper Royal, New Orleans parent leader and member of the Community Education Coalition: “The entire premise of this show is very offensive. The rest of America does not need another Hurricane Katrina, and certainly doesn’t need the kind of education reform that we’ve had in New Orleans. Parents are largely left out of the decisions being made by the State of Louisiana, and the claims of success of our Public Schools are being greatly exaggerated. In a recent report, the Brookings Institute and the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center admitted that "Statistically, academic growth has not been correlated with reforms." And despite Paul Vallas’ claims to the contrary on MSNBC’s panel discussion today, charter schools in New Orleans often push out students with disabilities or do not serve them well, and there have been many instances where such children have been turned away. We resent NBC using our tragedy to promote an agenda financed by big business, and that does not include the very people who use our public schools.”

Mona Davids, head of the NY Charter Parents Association, said: “Contrary to the claims made by NBC’s Education Nation, charter schools are not a magic bullet to improve our public school system. Too many of them have very high student and teacher attrition, exclude special education students, feature abusive disciplinary practices, and demonstrate disappointing levels of student achievement. What we need in this city and elsewhere is to learn from the practices of our best charter schools, and apply them to all public schools, including small class sizes, a supportive and welcoming environment for parents and teachers, and a well-rounded curriculum, featuring art, music science, all of which are being driven out of our public schools by Bloomberg and Klein, and the other so-called “experts” featured on these panels."

Lisa Donlan, NYC public school parent leader in lower Manhattan: “It is outrageous that NBC is allowing Joel Klein and our Mayor to portray our public schools as a model for reform, given the never-ending scandals, reorganizations and failed experiments that have damaged our kids over the last eight years. Charter schools, merit pay, competition among schools for students and resources, high stakes standardized tests as the basis for teacher bonuses, student promotions and school closings - -none of these things have worked in NYC, or anywhere else in the country for that matter. Bloomberg's experiments on our children have not improved teaching and learning, have not narrowed the achievement gap, have not increased equity of access to quality schools for most families, and any claims to the contrary are simply lies.”

Julie Woestehoff , Executive Director, Parents United for Responsible Education, in Chicago and founding member of Parents Across America: “Over the past few days, NBC, Oprah, "Waiting for Superman" promoters and other corporate-funded propagandists have waged war against public school parents and teachers, hoping to break their traditionally strong ties, to vilify, label, and destroy public schools, and to fool the nation into accepting a vision of education that consists of replacing open, democratically-run school systems designed to serve all children with a system of strip mall franchise schools where families are forced to "shop" for education and children are
served differently depending on how they score on standardized tests.

That's not the vision of education that will lift our nation or give our children a strong future. We reject NBC's corporate vision of education and instead support and dedicate ourselves to the rich, well-rounded, ennobling vision of education offered by true school reformers, beginning with John Dewey and embodied today by the millions of dedicated, hardworking teachers who are doing their best under ever-worsening circumstances. We choose to listen to our teachers first, and support their efforts rather than join corporate media's war against them."


Anonymous said...

I tried to watch but there were two problems....1. Derek Jeter is always better than David Justice 2. The fools never show what the guy is talking about, just him.

Leonie Haimson said...

It did have some of the worst camera work I have seen in the developed world.