It is becoming a disturbing refrain in my head whenever I visit Twitter: Where’s the media?
Jeb Bush offers a string of claims, no relevant evidence, and the all-too-usual glossing over of real educational problems in “Toward a Better Education System: A set of bold, proven reforms is the key to raising student achievement.”
This commentary on National Review Online fails to make a single compelling case beyond being an unintentional example of how both the media (for publishing this) and political leadership persist in failing schools.
Just as Susan Ohanian called out a NYT’s Op-Ed by Bill Keller—”Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire! War on the New York Times Embrace of the Common Core“—let me identify in the context of research some of Bush’s own serious lack of credibility:
- “The United States has become a global leader in education spending, while also becoming a global laggard in student achievement. Our students have fallen behind their international peers in math and science”: Nothing like opening a commentary with standard misinformation. As many careful educators and researchers have detailed, when U.S. international test scores are adjusted for poverty (the U.S. ranks near the bottom internationally for childhood poverty, by the way), U.S. students rank at the top.
- “Accountability and transparency have shown us which policies work and which ones don’t”: The accountability era has failed. Period. Once again, “the absence or presence of rigorous or national standards says nothing about equity, educational quality, or the provision of adequate educational services, there is no reason to expect CCSS or any other standards initiative to be an effective educational reform by itself” (Mathis, 2012).
- “First, high standards are the most basic element of reform. To compete with the rest of the world, we must produce competitive high-school graduates”: Gerald Bracey detailed repeatedly that identified educational quality has no direct or positive correlation with international competitiveness. None.
- “Apart from higher standards, we must stop the practice of socially promoting functionally illiterate third-graders”: Retaining third-grade children based on high-stakes testing is rejected by four decades of research on the negative consequences of retention. Retention is not only unsupported by the research base but also inhumane and predictably racist and classist (impoverished, African American, Latina/o and children as well as English language learners are disproportionately impacted by such policies).
- “Third, technology can increase the efficiency of education just as it has increased the efficiency of every other aspect of our lives”: The “technology will do it” mantra is decades old, and thus, proof itself it will never work, and it too is inherently a classist commitment.
- “The reason there has been little innovation in public education is there has been little competition. We are confronted with opposition from unions and bureaucracies because they fear the loss of jobs and bloated pensions”: Competition in the many forms of schools choice has not improved academic outcomes, but has created many negative consequences such as re-segregating schools. The union bashing is just ridiculous and can be discounted with basic logic: If unions are a key source of educational problems, why are schools in the South both in non-union states and ranked historically and currently at the bottom of measurable educational outcomes? [Hint: Union blaming is a lie.]
- “Finally, we need to stop treating teachers like interchangeable workers on an assembly line. Instead, we should recognize them and reward them as individual professionals. That will happen if we eliminate tenure and evaluate and pay teachers based on their performance, instead of how long they’ve been on the job”: Hmmm, that first comment would be a great argument against Teach for America (everyone, keep that one on file), but the next points are simply a failure to recognize that merit pay doesn’t work (and it may often have powerful negative consequences). It doesn’t work in education (see Pink also), but the business world has recognized that as well.
As long as the media remains a passive partner in this misinformation coming from political leaders building their careers on the backs of school children, honesty will remain a lonely word.