Herbert Michael writes that the recently approved Newark teachers’ contract accepts the corporate reformers’ ideas but that it uses the wrong model. Why not change urban schools to look like the schools where the leaders of the corporate reform movement send their own children?

He says:

“Despite the specious claims made by corporate financed education “reformers” claiming
that teacher “performance is our schools’ central problem, the real problem is the failure of our political classes to learn from schools that are effective. The model for effective schools are the ones they send their children to, private schools.

Those children are in small classes 12-16, usually managed by a teacher and teacher assistant. Social services and counseling are available in depth, right in the building (though their parents can afford it on their own).

Private tutoring, real science labs and respect for the students by Administration and security staff contrasts from the zero tolerance and near criminalization of public school security screenings and metal detectors.

Newark’s new teacher’s contract addresses none of these things. Instead it takes the a assumptions of the “corporate reformers” and accepts them a priori. This is a grave error. The new contract creates a merit system that will divide teachers, a two-tier wage system and an evaluation program based on standardized testing.

Over the last few years I have witnessed a steep decline in the morale of excellent teachers. Our “performance” has been confused with the inevitable outcome of increasing inequality in the U.S. Increasing numbers of teachers feel afraid to speak freely and teach creatively ( because of the assault on Teacher Unions ) as Charter schools actually eliminate Union jobs.

Some people would argue that the 600 billion dollars spent each year on public education is the prize the corporate world and Charter advocates seek by demonizing public education. I am sure that’s true but I would argue that our teachers and their students are really victims of a shell game. The goal of that game appears to be to hold political leaders and School Officials harmless for school failures. At the same time, they withhold the solution, making the schools for working-class children in Newark more like those in the private schools.”