A reader comments on the conflict between what reformers say and what they do:
Ironically, sometimes, what corporate sponsored “reformers” say they want is the exact opposite of what they really want.
For example, this week on Twitter, Arne Duncan was promoting student involvement in mock elections and said, “Watch the MyVoice National Mock Election 2012 PSA series, and get involved!” However, this is a man who believes in, and personally benefitted from, mayoral controlled education, which has meant recinding the democratic rights of citizens to vote for and elect their local school boards and, instead, turning education over to mayors who appoint puppet boards and Superintendents –which is how he got his job as CEO of schools in Chicago. (As rightwing ALEC promotes.) Of course, Duncan got appointed to his current position due to cronyism and a Congress that had a majority of Democrats at the time, so he really believes in voting only when it might be to his advantage (such as re-electing Obama).
Other times, what corporate sponsored “reformers” really want is deeply entangled in the language they choose to use to describe what they say they are against.
For example, Gates, Rhee and Duncan have claimed repeatedly that teachers are not “interchangable widgets”, in order to combat unions, seniority and lane and step pay schedules. However, when it comes to teaching children, they think it’s fine to use teachers as “interchangable widgets”, such as when they promote Teach for America, which has placed people like Rhee, who had a bachelor’s degree in government, in a classroom teaching 3rd graders, who are not very likely to be studying much, if anything, about government.
This TFA placement practice still exists today, according to Barbara Veltri, author of Learning on Other People’s Kids: Becoming a Teach for America Teacher,
“most corps report that they are teaching out-of-field and in Special Education classrooms, where they arrive with about 5 hours of training”
I think the Common Core mandate on informational texts paves the way for using more teachers as “interchangable widgets” in classrooms. For example, English curriculum is likely to include reading books about people and events in history, which will make it easier to justify the placement of out of field teachers (not just TFAers), such as those with degrees in history teaching English classes –like Tony Danza.