Taking the test (news.lib.uchicago.edu).
by Steve Timmer
Sep 24, 2013, 8:00 AM

Deform’s dowager queen

On Sunday last, Katherine Kersten, who is indeed the dowager queen of educational deform, let fly with another stream of egestion aimed at public education and the DFL. Kersten’s concern this week is all the ignorant minority children who will be sneaking into Harvard:

Now, a Minnesota diploma will now be essentially meaningless: a certificate that students can get just by showing up. Sure, students will take new career and college-readiness exams, but they can bomb them completely and still get a diploma. After more than a decade of reforms aimed at ensuring that graduates can meet fundamental academic standards, we’re back to measuring educational success by “seat time,” not by what students actually know and can do.

If it isn’t as joyless and authoritarian and habited as the places she went to school, how could it be any good? Every pigeon in its hole is Katie’s motto.

There are a lot of educational experts who disagree with Katie, naturally, and it isn’t as though assessment has exactly been abandoned, but I’m not even going to debate it here.

It is pretty clear, though, what has Kersten so, well, stimulated. Last week was a good week for the forces of destruction of public education. At a conclave of education deformers, a group of Minneapolis mayoral candidates nearly fell over each other pitching for votes from the group. Never mind that the mayor has no formal role in education. None. And later in the week, the University of Minnesota, in one of the most shameful episodes in my memory, got hitched to Teach for America; it did, however, insist on eight week wonders rather than the regular five week types. Aged like fine cheese, no doubt.

Minority parents complain that their kids get the most inexperienced teachers. Just wait until McSchools and McTeachers are all that’s out there; you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

John Van Hecke from MN2020 has it figured out, though:

The dark arts of public policy distraction are alive and well in Minneapolis. When Minneapolis residents should be evaluating mayoral candidates’ policy and leadership proposals relative to mayoral authority and responsibility, the conservative education reform movement is distracting citizens and candidates from discussing the city’s real challenges. The distraction is a double whammy. Not only is ed reform poor school policy but Minneapolis city issues are real, pressing and richly deserve debate.

Like a parasite, the conservative education reform movement has burrowed into the mayoral election skin. You’d think that Minneapolis residents might have a host of leadership concerns for the city’s next mayor, but judging from recent discussions, schooling policy is more important than crime, poverty, healthcare access, city services and job-centered economic development. Instead, education reform movement’s local advocates have insisted that prospective city leaders embrace a distraction. Judging by the recent education-themed mayoral debate, the distraction strategy is working.

First, a pop quiz. What’s the Minneapolis Mayor’s authority over the Minneapolis Public Schools? Answer: none. What’s the Minneapolis Mayor’s power to direct Minneapolis Board of Education policy? Answer: none. What’s the Minneapolis Mayor’s financial responsibility for the Minneapolis Public Schools? Answer: none. What’s the Minneapolis Mayor’s role in hiring or firing the Minneapolis Public Schools’ Superintendent? Answer: none.

Lastly, if the answer to all questions is none, why this obsession over the mayor’s role in Minneapolis education? Answer: Hmmmmm.

John also provides the answer, an answer to which I entirely subscribe:

The education reform movement is not, as the name suggests, interested in reforming public education. It is terrifically interested in undermining the public’s confidence in public schools, leading to spending a lot less money on public education. That’s good for high income earners looking to increase their high incomes by reducing public spending but it’s bad for the 99% relying on public education to grow family stability. Less schooling translates directly into lower lifetime earnings.

Subsidiary to this is a notion that I have advanced before:

It is obvious to the most casual observers — which does not, it seems, includes candidates for mayor of Minneapolis, save for Doug Mann — that the game that’s really afoot is to hive off as big a chunk of public education as possible, capture its revenue (or “revenue stream” as the MBA types like to call it), drive costs into the basement by hiring the low cost flippers, a/k/a Teach for America’s five week wonders, turning them over every couple of years, and make a handsome profit in the process.

Whenever the deformers, or their sycophants, tell you that it is “about the children,” you should laugh in their faces and tell them “bullshit.” When their cheerleader is the nauseating Katherine Kersten, you know it is.

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