Monday, April 11, 2011

Why I do not trust Advance Illinois and other outside groups such as Stand for Children


We have to be careful about hidden agendas and assumptions contained in ideological prejudices.   We must examine faulty cause-and-effect reasoning commonly used to castigate teachers for students’ failure.  We must reflect on how we come to know matters of fact, how we understand causality, and how we distinguish our empirical beliefs from wishful thinking and the untested panaceas presented by those who have not taught to comprehend the differences between public education and private-sector corporations (or charter schools).
We must be careful of wealthy foundations that support the prevailing tsunami of educational reform.  It is not honest "reform." It is about profits and privatization of public schools. These corporate millionaires behind groups like Advance Illinois and Stand for Children will not and "cannot be held accountable" for the damage they will incur; they are not elected by anyone.  This is an irony since these groups believe that teachers should be held accountable for all the failures of their students. 

Under what pretense can we embrace the agenda of outside groups such as Advance Illinois and Stand for Children and reject our own experiential and implicit understanding about what must be done to guarantee that all students obtain the best education possible? 

Implementing so-called performance agreements, diminishing the power of unions, establishing merit pay, hiring and firing personnel according to private sectors’ procedures – do not address problems in education.  Consider, for instance, how a public school district would establish an assurance of administrative impartiality and competency before providing the requisite training for fair and equitable evaluative methods and due process.

Changes for educational reform must come from teachers, administrators and its local school board, and from students and their involved parents as they work together to solve the many challenges that we face.  Modifications of current teachers’ evaluations, benefits, and rights should not come from outside, corporate-funded groups that emphasize an accountability program based on questionable sanctions and unformulated “multiple measures” linked to teachers’ performance. 

Be aware of the “Trojan Horse” that groups such as Advance Illinois and Stand for Children will bring to a school district.  Be mindful of their glib adulations that "your district is a premier school district riding the top of the wave of student achievement… that it is not your district that should be concerned"; be aware of promises made for complete local autonomy regarding this legislation when it becomes law, for it may be a Faustian bargain in the end.

No Child Left Behind and its spawn, Performance Counts, cannot resolve the difficulties that teachers will invariably inherit.  Why?  Teachers do not work with "quantifiable outcomes." (Perhaps we need Performance Counts legislation for our students’ parents instead: streamline dismissal hearings for ineffectual parenting, an independent fact-finding panel for impasses, an evaluative process based largely on how well children are doing in school and everywhere else...).

How does one measure the effects that a teacher has on his or her students’ character, aspirations, responsibility, and moral and ethical values?  How does one measure a teacher’s inspiration, dedication and passion that these influences have on students?  Are there reliable, valid tests and data for such indelible impressions on students?  I have had some teachers who would not have received a “Satisfactory” rating today, but some of them have had a lasting influence on me that is incalculable. 

Carefully examine the goals of public education. They are not the goals of Stand for Children and Advance Illinois. A teacher does not make a sale or earn a profit.  A teacher works with children and young adults.  Though we all want the best instruction for our students and children, we do not have to consider riding along with this prevailing wave of attacks on teachers’ autonomy and their rights by corporate factions and their entrepreneurs, such as Jonah Edelman's Stand for Children and Robin Stean's Advance Illinois.  Why? Because waves will crash to shore no matter how we ride them.

Glen Brown


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