Paul Karrer teaches fifth grade in a high-needs school in Castroville, California. He writes for California newspapers, trying to bring a realistic perspective to education debates.

In this article, he calls out “reformers” for believing in magic and silver bullets.

He writes:

“Education reform (education deform) is doing kids, the profession, and the country short-term and long-term harm. Ed Reform Inc. “believes” in short fixes, silver bullets, the power of personal cult persuasion, mantras, and now the twin goddesses of all – technology and data.

“More than half of all children in United States now live in poverty (Washington Post/UNICEF). As someone who has taught in a financially-socially challenged district for many years I can attest to the overwhelming negative influences of poverty. They are both direct and indirect. What is now normal in many communities was not the norm too long ago. The influences are single parent families, multiple families living under one roof, incarcerated family members, under-employment, no employment, no history of employment, poor language skills, the culture of poverty, early birthing, poor neonatal care, high percentages of children with unbelievable disabilities, addictions, and GANGS, globalization, and the death of low-level jobs due to technology.

“These variables cannot be pooh-poohed. Absurd belief in words like GRIT and EVIDENCE and TESTING – currently trending by Ed Reform — simply cannot overcome the long list of negatives. But Ed Reform claims they do….

“I believe a needs formula is required in schools of poverty. We need to save those desperate kids. If a classroom has X amount of special ed kids, X amount of incarcerated relatives, scores X on reading or math, has more than X amount of people residing in one house (or room), more than X amount of kids on Section 8 housing, more than X amount of kids in Title 1 programs — it should trigger an automatic cut in class size. There should be no more than 15 kids in such a class. Free pre-school needs to be mandatory. Wrap-around social services (nurses, shrinks, dentists, COUNSELORS, librarians, parent training, parental language classes) have to kick in. And kids need the classic, realistic school philosophy of teach THE WHOLE STUDENT….

“Ed Reform’s solution is curriculum. Common Core will change it all, they declare. The curriculum is not the problem. But that is where the financial feed trough is these days. And even the biggest promoter of Common Core, Bill Gates himself, said, “It will take 10 – 15 years to see if this is successful.”

“How nice,” I say.

“And in the meantime Ed Reform gets to close public schools (Chicago, Louisiana) defraud the public with for-profit institutions (Corinthian/Heald), pay their owners huge obscene salaries, and they destroy public education with a thousand strokes.

“Funny thing about the Ed Reform group – they espouse so much in favor of big business, profits, monetizing, reducing costs. Except for their very own rock core belief in supply and demand.

“Supply and demand doesn’t pertain to teachers? Teachers apparently are supposed to work for a pittance. But if they are to be the solution, they need to be paid much better so as to attract more candidates to the field. But Ed Reform chokes there.

“Smaller class size is the beginning of a real solution. Put the money where it will do KIDS the most good.

“Oh yes, and have your kids opt out of testing — especially next year when it counts.”