Thursday, April 28, 2011

Market-Based Education Reform? (Logico-Rhetorical Analysis: Randi Weingarten)

THANK YOU Conor Williams for doing what I love to do (but just wouldn't have time for tonight): rebutting Randi's op ed, line by line, in a scathing, hilarious fashion:

They disparage and delegitimize any gains that traditional public schools as well as their teachers (and their unions) have delivered for kids.

Huh? Who? When? Where? Is anyone, on any side of the education reform wars, unhappy when kids do well in public schools? Again, this would be a lot easier if your opponent wasn't so amorphous. Whoever these "market-based reformers" are, they're really bad. BAD. And this is a kind of cute trick you're pulling, because not naming anyone makes it impossible to hold you accountable. Has someone somewhere at some point "disparaged" and "delegitimized" traditional public schools? Probably. Does this mean that everyone you disagree with is a—shudder—market-based reformer? You're somehow simultaneously shadowboxing, straw-man destroying, and painting with a broad brush. That's a helluva trifecta. I didn't even know that was possible. It's also dishonest, self-serving, cynical, disingenuous, and worse. So yes, it's a cute trick, but it's not doing much for your argument.

Market-based reformers advocate using student test scores to evaluate and compensate teachers, increasing the number of charter schools, firing teachers in low-performing schools, and relying on corporate executives and business practices to run school districts. This ideological approach has generated a great deal of media attention, and it has been sold aggressively by its advocates. But there is increasing evidence it doesn't work.

Here we go! Something like a categorical definition! Problem is, none of these things have much to do with markets. A few thoughts: Sure, some tests are designed by for-profit companies. Dixon Ticonderoga is also a publicly-traded, for-profit corporation, but that doesn't make pencil-using schools "market-based." As for firing teachers in low-performing schools, I suppose companies do fire members of low-performing departments, but that hardly makes it a market-based thing…unless you think that prioritizing effectiveness or accountability at all is the sole province of markets. (Also, you know as well as anyone that that's a loaded way of phrasing it. A more neutral—and accurate—version might be: "consistently low-performing teachers in consistently low-performing schools," but that would expose a massive crack in the "foundations" of your argument thus far).

In fact, your "4 Characteristics of The Market-Based Reformers" aren't necessarily linked by ANY principle (market efficiency, any particular theory of justice, etc). For example, it's perfectly possible for someone to be in favor of firing teachers in low-performing schools while opposing increases in the number of charter schools. None of these four positions implies any of the others…which means that this isn't so much a definition as a laundry list of things that you don't like about some particular opponents of yours. Again with the broadest of brushes.

…You don't have to look beyond our borders to find schools in which teaching and learning are producing impressive results. School districts like New Haven, Conn., Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Hillsborough County, Fla., and ABC Unified in Los Angeles County are all focused on high-quality teaching, improving student learning and registering solid gains. Like the leading nations, these districts have built a culture of collaboration and teamwork, including systems of teacher evaluation that focus on teacher quality and continuous improvement. They believe that equity in education is essential and that all children, regardless of economic circumstances, should receive an excellent education. And they share a strong belief that students succeed when everyone—teachers, parents, administrators and elected officials—takes responsibility for their education and well-being.

This is a fun game! Can I play? I'll list charter schools that are succeeding in a bunch of places! New Haven! Baltimore/Los Angeles/dozens of other districts! Of course, this isn't an argument, especially since neither of us bothered to provide any specifics about how either of our lists was doing anything effective. Who needs standards? Who needs evidence? Who needs data? Who needs effective models for school and district success? Those are "market-based" shams! And those are Very Bad! Why? Because they're market-based!

Remind me to define "tautology" for you someday, Randi.


Market-Based Education Reform? (Logico-Rhetorical Analysis: Randi Weingarten)

Posted by CPW (Conor Williams) April 25, 2011 Leave a Comment

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