Testing. Never ending testing. Teaching to the test. Tests are racist. Let’s soften the test to help minorities. Teachers, parents, and kids all hate testing.
Standardized testing is required, though, because of the American obsession with school funding to make egalitarian ideology real. As Charlotte Iserbyt painstakingly detailed in her magnificent catalog of the American education system, “The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America”, testing is required to keep education dollars flowing. Education advocates (and teachers’ unions) push for funding, which exceeds property tax tolerances, so a state gets involved. A state wants to make sure it is not just blindly sending money, so it requires a test. More money is demanded by the education advocates (and teachers’ unions), and now the federal government sends money via programs. The federal government wants to test to make sure the money is spent wisely.
Test scores continue to decline. No one is allowed to wonder if the changing composition of student’s ethnic and racial make up is responsible for it, and no one is allowed to attempt to teach using 1950s methods that did not require high-tech gadgetry and methods. Per the American left, education is the ultimate salve to all problems of society, so it is important every child receives a great education and becomes credentialed. The push for funding now has placed all schools in all locations on guidelines and requirements devised by federal agencies, which the left has captured since the FDR administration. Centralization of education methods and curriculum is complete, and all under the guise of helping children.
Private and parochial schooling was once a route around this progressive system. Now that vouchers are allowed, this is not the case, as to be voucher eligible, a school must comply with the appropriate regulations in many states. Homeschooling is another route, and has exploded in size and scope in the last decade. One other option has grown, and it is a method that supposedly can solve the inner city school problem: charter schools.
Due to the shadow of progressivism, academic performance inequality is not simply understood as a biological reality. Programs that fail in school districts, but receive massive funding, are repeated elsewhere. While America spends more than many nations’ GDP on K-12 education, much of that is locked in, allowing private players to have an outsized effect. Currently, the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation make the heavens rain with cash for school districts willing to employ their methods. This allows for centralization from a private sector source.
We can review the smallest of the three foundations for guidance as to their outsized influence on education across America. To put the power of these foundations into perspective, the Gates Foundation has $37 billion in assets, while long standing and sometimes CIA money conduit Ford Foundation has $12.5 billion. The Broad Foundation was formed by an affable billionaire who turned SunLife into a behemoth insurance firm. It has $3 billion in assets. Its major focus is not just on charter schools, but on sucking in successful private sector individuals into the public sector world of education. They have an education leadership training program.
Broad takes individuals with long careers in business or government, runs them through their training program, and then places them into superintendent jobs. Its website claimed that by 2009, Broad program graduates filled over 40 percent of all large urban superintendent openings. Broad also has a residency program that educates individuals to work in federal or state department agencies and other charter school systems. What these programs really do is reinforce one another by Broad graduates finding a job and then employing more Broad graduates, who then run the Broad-approved curriculum to turn bad schools around for the little people.
But the test scores don’t improve. Superintendents move on to a new job in another district, and the entire school district has had their school system upended with nothing to show. The Broad foundation appeals to the high by spending on campaigns, which then explains presidential candidates calling for merit pay for teachers. It then appeals to the low by stating that it can take over a failing public school district, which is desperate for any attention and money, and reorganize it into a charter school network.
The charter schools receive help from the conservatives because the concept is a market approach to closing the dire gap in achievement. The charters also break the teachers unions, and can game the system of who they let in and what students they keep at the slightest sign of students lagging their peers. Inner city school districts are perfect targets because they are desperate for funds, and these private side foundations can help. Broad can always help, if you hire its trainees.
The lauded documentary Waiting for Superman was sponsored by none other that the Broad Foundations (Gates Foundation, too). Each item mentioned in the documentary aligned with the private reformers agenda, and the packaging was wrapped in the cloak of poor inner city youths just wanting to be rocket scientists. It does not stop. Recently, Georgia’s governor Nathan Deal has been trying to push a constitutional amendment allowing the state to take over under-performing public schools and replace them with a charter school network. DeKalb County administrators and even parents are worried that the screw job Philadelphia experienced under the public-to-charter transformation will be their fate. Schools closed, charters sprung to life, and test scores did not change. No one had a choice.
Who sets the curriculum and who sets the environment in these schools? Broad, Gates and Walton Foundation employees, trainees or grant recipients. Local control is nil. Who gets paid? About 40 percent of all taxpayer funds for Florida’s charter school program go to the management company, not educating students. This is centralization from the private side. If the jobs racket with no results feels like an update to The Music Man, you are not alone. This is the solution presented to the public to help the most disadvantaged because we simply cannot accept that the test score gap that is set at age three is really set at conception.