Houston The very idea of watching 34 school employees along with a former schools superintendent indicted in Atlanta for a student testing scandal should bring chills up the backs of parents, school systems, and particularly politicians all over the country. Not that this is unusual. In fact it is another all too common cheating scandal that the politicians and big billionaires have seen follow their retooling school programs across the country from any pretense at education to testing factories. Earlier cheating scandals have been reported in New York, Texas, Chicago, and even Seattle.
What’s the surprise? When schools try to privatize their values and the good of the children is replaced by 5-figure bonuses for teachers and administrators triggered by test scores, there are suddenly powerful incentives to figure out a way to cheat, rather than better ways to educate. There’s no money in better education, but even in New Orleans we saw test scores reap bonuses for some charter school teachers in the $40,000 range. That’s real money, when the bonus is almost at the same level as base pay, we talking Wall Street comparisons without as many “zeros” at the end.
Meanwhile the early tallies on statewide teacher evaluations have produced amazing scores. One state after another is seeing its teaching corps rack up 98% grades, 99%, and so forth at the most superior levels. The response from the teachers’ unions has been that they always believed that these evaluations systems sucked, but of course they are not surprised that teachers are getting such high grades: they told you so! Once again the Gates Foundation and the billionaire buddy corps said these evaluations would eliminate the bad apples and it would make a difference. Seems there are not many bad apples.
So maybe the problem is that this privatization, business model is not meant for public education? Maybe we have to really look at what we spend on teacher support and development, classroom investments in material, staffing and equipment, physical plan deterioration, bleeding the system with vouchers designed to segregate schools, and a bunch of other quack solutions, and finally stop blaming teachers and students and really get serious about education that works rather than the mess we’ve allowed some to make?