THE CORPORATE EDUCATION INVASION Part 2

ABSTRACT: The most recent embodiment of the corporate efforts to capture (i.e., privatize) funding from public K-12 education is the new Common Core national curriculum standards and the testing that accompanies it. Common Core’s implementation will require public school systems to spend billions of dollars on new curriculum materials and on new testing, including software, hardware, and technology infrastructure as the testing is computer and Internet based. This comes at a time when school budgets are being cut, teachers and other staff are being laid off, and music, art, and extracurricular activities are being eliminated.

All the focus on privatization, on charter schools, on testing, and on the Common Core standards as the solutions to our supposedly failing public schools has diverted attention from the real failure of our public schools and our society. The failure of our public schools is their inability to close the gap in educational outcomes between well-off white children without special needs and everyone else. Low-income and minority students, along with those with special needs and English as a second language, typically arrive at school already well behind their better-off peers. Catching up is difficult and we don’t give our school systems the resources to have a realistic chance of closing the gap.

Expecting our schools to fix the pervasive impacts of poverty and inequality is a prescription for failure. To use that failure as an excuse to privatize schools and force public schools to spend billions on new curricula and testing is misguided (assuming the best of intentions) and only exacerbates the problem. It would be far more effective and efficient to use those billions of dollars to provide high quality early care and education (i.e., child care) and other supports to low income families with children under school age.

FULL POST: The most recent embodiment of the corporate efforts to capture (i.e., privatize) funding from public K-12 education is the new Common Core national curriculum standards and the testing that accompanies it. The corporations and their allies have convinced the public and policy makers that our public schools are failing through an extensive and inaccurate PR campaign. Their solutions are new education standards and accountability through testing.

The new Common Core standards have been widely adopted, in large part due to federal grants that effectively required their adoption. However, the pushback against Common Core is now taking hold with a broad and surprisingly varied set of opponents. The opposition includes working and upper class suburbanites, right wing Tea Partiers, and teachers. [1]

Common Core’s implementation will require public school systems to spend billions of dollars on new curriculum materials and on new testing, including software, hardware, and technology infrastructure as the testing is computer and Internet based. This comes at a time when school budgets are being cut, teachers and other staff are being laid off, and music, art, and extracurricular activities are being eliminated. [2]

It’s worth noting that the Gates Foundation spent over $200 million, given to a wide range of over 30 organizations (e.g., colleges and universities, for-profit and not-for-profit education corporations, states and local school systems, think tanks and advocacy groups, and teachers’ unions) developing and building support for the Common Core. [3] The Common Core standards were NOT developed and adopted through a democratic process that engaged the public and a broad set of stakeholders. The writers of the standards included no experienced classroom teachers, no educators of children with special needs, and no early childhood educators. The single largest group on the drafting committee was from the testing industry. Furthermore, the standards were not pilot tested in the real world and there is no process for challenging or revising them. [4]

While the stated goals of the Common Core are to improve student outcomes and produce a better prepared workforce, it’s hard to overlook the billions of dollars of immediate business for corporations. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Chamber of Commerce spent more than a million dollars promoting the adoption of the Common Core. [5]

All the focus on privatization, on charter schools, on testing, and on the Common Core standards as the solutions to our supposedly failing public schools has diverted attention from the real failure of our public schools and our society. The failure of our public schools is their inability to close the gap in educational outcomes between well-off white children without special needs and everyone else. However, this failure goes well beyond the school system. Low-income and minority students, along with those with special needs and English as a second language, typically arrive at school already well behind their better-off peers. Catching up is difficult and we don’t give our school systems the resources to have a realistic chance of closing the gap.

It would be much more cost effective and the likelihood of success would be higher if we addressed the root causes of the school readiness gap. This means supporting families and children in the years from birth until they enter school, and during pregnancy. However, our political leaders haven’t mustered the political will to seriously address these issues. And corporations haven’t figured out how to profit of off these services.

Expecting our schools to fix the pervasive impacts of poverty and inequality is a prescription for failure. To use that failure as an excuse to privatize schools and force public schools to spend billions on new curricula and testing is misguided (assuming the best of intentions) and only exacerbates the problem. It would be far more effective and efficient to use those billions of dollars to provide high quality early care and education (i.e., child care) and other supports to low income families with children under school age.

[1]       Murphy, T., Sept./Oct. 2014, “Tragedy of the Common Core,” Mother Jones

[2]       Ravitch, D., 6/9/14, “Time for Congress to investigate Bill Gates’ role in Common Core,” Common Dreams (http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/06/09/time-congress-investigate-bill-gates-role-common-core)

[3]       Murphy, T., Sept./Oct. 2014, “Tragedy of the Common Core,” Mother Jones

[4]       Ravitch, D., 6/9/14, “Time for Congress to investigate Bill Gates’ role in Common Core,” Common Dreams (http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/06/09/time-congress-investigate-bill-gates-role-common-core)

[5]       Murphy, T., Sept./Oct. 2014, “Tragedy of the Common Core,” Mother Jones

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