Larry Lee is a writer in Alabama who has studied rural schools.


He writes:


“Teacher bashing” has become as common as bugs on a car windshield. It’s just something we’ve come to expect from the misguided and uninformed. However, I do not understand why universities, like Troy University in Alabama, spew venom at educators.

Troy has been around for nearly 130 years and like many regional colleges in the South, was created expressly to train teachers. In fact, it was known as Troy State Teachers College for years. Today they have one of the larger colleges of education in Alabama and have awarded degrees to 2,000 teachers in the past decade.

Yet a few days ago they released a dreadful attempt at scholarship entitled “Reinventing the Alabama K-12 System to Engage More Children in Productive Learning.” Once again we are subjected to a regurgitation of discredited notions about vouchers, charters and the like. The authors are John Merrifield, an economist from San Antonio and Jesse Ortiz, Jr. with the Public Works Department in Houston.

Just out bad is this report? Here is what Bill Mathis with the National Education Policy Center in Colorado said about it?

A quick read indicates that this gentleman is woefully ignorant of the vast body of research literature on educational reforms. The appearance is that he started with his conclusions and then cherry-picked “studies” to support his notions. Witness the very large proportion of papers from pro “reform” authors (with an over-reliance on right wing economists) and the virtual absence of the prominent scholars in the field.

It is a bunch of unsupported claims that go against the substantial body of legitimate research.

He demonstrates a near-religious fealty to market-models even when the evidence is not with him. As generally known, choice schemes and vouchers do no better or worse than TPSs. He claims NAEP is “stagnant” when truth is NAEP scores have been rising for 30 years and are at an all-time high. He dismisses the underfunding of Alabama’s schools and claims money does not matter – except that private schools should get more.

And he misses the literature entirely on instruction, pay schedules, merit pay, money and class size.

It is basically an evidence free screed whose transparent purpose is to pretend the reforms work. If implemented, expect gaps to grow larger. This would be an embarrassment in the research community because it is a political document.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, a week later the director of the Manuel Johnson Center at Troy University put out an article lamenting how Alabama did on the recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce Leaders & Laggards report card (which itself lacks credibility.)

Alabama received an F on this report and the director of the center implies that this is because of unions. What I find interesting is that Alabama is a right-to-work state and does not have teachers unions, while each of the 10 states getting an A for academic achievement have unions.

However, knowing that the Johnson Center receives funding from the ultra-right Koch Brothers Foundation where propaganda always trumps truth, how could one expect real scholarship?

And when you run this rabbit all the way to its hole, here is what you find. If Alabama school kids really are failing, then they must be being taught by failing teachers, who must have gone to failing colleges of education. One of which, in this case, would be Troy University.

In south Alabama we call this, “biting the hand that feeds you.”