Our Orwellian education policy (by Wendy Lecker)

Tag this one “Slam, Dunk, Checkmate.”

Here is Connecticut public education advocate Wendy Lecker’s latest commentary piece in the Stamford Advocate and Hearst Media outlets.  It is another “must read” article in the ongoing battle to reveal the truth about the education reform industry.

“To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality.” — George Orwell, 1984

Orwell’s definition of “doublethink” explains Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform strategy. His playbook consists of starving our neediest children of educational basics, while claiming he is “helping” them prepare for the 21st century.

Here is an example of how it works.

1. Tell deliberate lies: Ridicule public education advocates as “defenders of the status quo” who want money thrown at stale ideas, even though those ideas are backed by solid evidence.

The evidence is clear that income inequality is a major factor in educational inequality. Children living in poverty experience prolonged stress that affects their brain development in the regions associated with learning. There is a strong correlation between socioeconomic status and standardized test scores. As proven by Stanford’s Sean Reardon, the widening of the achievement gap results from additional opportunities affluent parents provide their children out of the K-12 environment: high-quality pre-K, tutoring, and after-school and summer enrichment. Reardon demonstrated that the test score disparity between low-income and high-income children is not the result of schools.

Ensuring equality of educational opportunity requires efforts in and out of school. The critical goal for our neediest children is to mitigate the impact of poverty on their ability to learn. Thus, measures such as high quality pre-K and small class size are essential, because they are proven to develop the skills that enable children to function better in school and later in life. Children also must be exposed to a rich curriculum, and the type of learning that allows children the freedom to think and work creatively. In order to replicate the benefits affluent parents afford their children, our schools must be able to provide the enriched environments that develop well-rounded students. Yet advocates who request these effective resources are accused of making excuses for bad schools.

2. Forget any fact deemed inconvenient: When public school districts ask for proven measures to help their children, reject them as not “innovative.”

In under-funded Windham, the middle school established a school turnaround committee under the Commissioner’s Network legislation. Teachers, parents and community members devised a strategy to help their large population of English-language learners, based on solid educational research and the committee’s experience with Windham’s children. A key feature was reducing class size, lowering the student-teacher ratio. Though this community plan was responsive to Windham’s specific needs, state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor resisted it because did not include choice; Pryor’s preferred “model.” Choice has never been proven to raise achievement. Pryor did not detail what was objectionable about the community plan, nor did he any provide research supporting his “model.” Instead, violating the Commissioner’s Network law, he sent in Windham’s special master, Steven Adamowski, who had no legal role in the turnaround, to force a revision of the community’s plan.

3. Draw it back from oblivion for just so long as needed: When a privately run charter school adopts the exact same measures public schools wanted but you rejected, now call it “innovation” and throw money at the charter.

Bridgeport is perennially plagued by an insufficient supply of teachers; thus, instructional assistants are essential. Yet it has been reported that Bridgeport’s “reformer” superintendent Paul Vallas drastically reduced instructional assistants. Apparently, they did not fit with Vallas’ “reforms,” which included handing Dunbar Elementary School over to the privately run Jumoke/FUSE charter chain. Dunbar, like all other Bridgeport schools, has been chronically underfunded. In fact, the state owes Bridgeport schools at least $7,500 per student. Prior to the takeover, Dunbar never received its fair share of funding, despite its needy population.

But then the district handed Dunbar over to the “innovative” charter company. Jumoke’s “innovation”? Provide an instructional assistant in each classroom to lower the student-teacher ratio. Pryor resisted this measure when it was proposed by Windham’s community; Vallas virtually eliminated assistants in Bridgeport public schools. But when Jumoke charter calls a low student-teacher ratio a part of its “model,” these reformers celebrate it and fork over more than a million extra dollars.

By rationing necessary educational resources to a chosen few while starving the majority of our neediest, Connecticut’s leaders widen the state’s educational opportunity gap. All the while, in true Orwellian fashion, they proclaim themselves heroes of equality.

You can find the full piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Our-Orwellian-education-policy-4762059.php

  • mookalaboona

    Malloy, Pryor, Vallas and Adamowski, all in it for the money. They have no interest in the education of Connecticut’s students. And Malloy’s treatment of teachers is deplorable.

  • Apartheid First

    Thank you, Wendy Lecker–I am looking forward to part two.
    I don’t know why Pryor isn’t sent packing.

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