Archives for category: International

Sweden is one of the few nations that allow for-profit schools to be funded by the government. The United States also funds for-profit schools with public money. The virtual charter chains like K12 Inc. operate for profit (the latter is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and its top executives are each paid millions of dollars annually). in addition, more than 1,000 charter schools are operated by for-profit corporations, as are many allegedly ”nonprofit” charter schools. Read the Network for Public Education’s study of for-profit charters. Currently, the House of Representatives passed a budget that bars federal funding for for-profit schools, despite the fierce opposition of the charter lobby. The Senate must also approve this change, and charter lobbyists are fighting to protect federal funding for for-profits.

In this post, Swedish writer and educator Maria Jarlsdotter analyzes why Swedish politicians refuse to curb the for-profit sector. Her editor summarizes: “Many of the school’s current problems are rooted in the market system that was implemented and developed during the 1990s. Despite this, and despite the fact that there is popular support for limiting the school market, no party has dared to address this issue. It’s time now, says Maria Jarlsdotter.” (Ed.).

She writes:

Ok, I understand that this is not a scientifically proven result. Still, over 3100 people answered, apparently a question that engages. That is, the issue engages people in general, but not politicians. We know that Minister of Education Anna Ekström is hesitant about gains in school, but we also know that she has been gagged through the January agreement. This week, she was abruptly reminded of it on twitter by Annie Lööf.

Why is this a non-issue in politics? What is it that makes it forbidden to discuss? I really want to know. If it were the case that 85 percent are against profits in school, it can not be the popular opposition that makes politicians cling. Sometimes someone claims “But if schools close down, where should students go?” The answer is, of course, that the premises, staff and students remain, it’s just running the school for someone who is not only interested in making money from the business. I have also heard: “But that school is so good, shouldn’t the children be allowed to go there?” Absolutely, it can even get even better if all the money goes back to the school and the students instead of to the shareholders. The stupidest argument is probably still that there would be some kind of extreme socialism if we do not allow for-profit schools. We in Sweden are extreme, we have had this system since the 90s and NO other country has followed suit.

Only one country has had the same system, Chile, but they have now left. It is thus possible to do.

For some reason: Yes, I know that there are independent schools that do an excellent job as well as there are municipal ones where there is more to be desired. My point is that the differences between schools should be minimal. It should not matter where you live or what school you go to, you should get the same good education and learn just as much. It guarantees a stable future for Sweden.

Why then do we have a school market?

The simple answer is that the Bildt government in 1992 took a decision to transform the school into a market, privatization paid for with tax money (despite sharp warnings about the consequences from the OECD).

No trial period, it was full speed from the beginning.

In fact, I do not think that the Bildt government, in its wildest imagination, predicted the development that has taken place with large listed companies and profits that move abroad, I think that there was a certain degree of naivety. One idea was that by schools competing with each other, the quality would be raised. It has not really become so.

If you want to be kind, you can also say that many unfortunate interacting factors at about the same time have created today’s school. First the communalisation with many principals, then the privatization with even more, deregulation of teachers’ teaching time, New Public Management (goal management with constant demands for increased results, increased quality at a lower cost), a school law with very far-reaching demands on the school. It was also a time marked by many pedagogical trends that were not always favorable to the students, which was clearly seen in international measurements.

When things started to go awry with many principals and the state panicked, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate was set up with the task of checking and ensuring the quality. It has also gone that way. One thing is for sure, those who call for even more control are creating even greater administrative misery for the schools.

Questions politicians should ask themselves:

  • We do not get young people to choose the teaching profession to a sufficient extent. Why?
  • We do not get teachers to stay in the profession to a sufficient degree. Why?
  • Teachers are increasingly on long-term sick leave. Why?
  • Not all schools in Sweden are as good. Why?

These issues have been on the agenda for a long time and yet nothing happens politically or at least very little and far too late. What happens is not pervasive but more of a patch-and-law character. Why?

Getting answers to these questions must reasonably be the highest priority of all politicians. It is about Sweden’s future.

I have been a school leader since the 90’s and have seen the change that has happened and is happening and have, among other things, written about this. There are many interacting factors, some of which are about natural societal changes. The biggest single factor that matters most in Swedish schools, however, is the marketing of the school. The failure to make students and parents customers is costly to society. NOTE! I am not talking about “freedom of choice” here, it is possible to run schools as foundations and cooperatives on a “non-profit basis”. But the tax-financed school money, if that system is to remain at all, must go to the school and the students. Everything else is unreasonable.

We can not have for-profit schools, there is a reason why no other countries have followed suit. The tracks are scary.

This becomes especially clear when municipalities make cuts, in order to maintain the profit margin with shrinking resources, independent schools must become more innovative and cynical. What remains is to find ways to sort out the students who are most costly and retain the students who can handle larger groups of students and who do not need as much support. Segregation is increasing.

A confirmed suspicion is also that grade inflation will increase even more, grades are now a means of competition to get students and the exercise of authority is put out of play.

Another effect that we are already seeing is that independent schools are closing down their operations in “less profitable” municipalities. Let us hope that in that municipality there are schools that can take care of the abandoned students.

Back to the question of why far from enough people choose to train as teachers.

Well, this may not be such an enticing perspective:

“Welcome to a market where it is a lottery what working conditions and what working environment you get. You can also count on ever-shrinking resources. But you get a decent salary and your work is important to society ”. How does that sound? If you end up in the right school, the work can be fantastic. Good luck as well.

Why are politicians not allowed to talk about this? With each other, it is worth a Swedish school. It has been a long time since 1992, it is possible to change and do right across party lines. Fix it.

Maria Jarlsdotter

The post was previously published on her blog .

A new international organization has released five case studies of low- and middle-income nations, demonstrating that PUBLIC EDUCATION WORKS.

I received this mailing:

We are delighted to launch a new important piece of research on public education, titled Public education works: lessons from five case-studies in low- and middle- income countries”. The study shows that well-organised public education systems are possible and working everywhere, with political will and use of locally relevant practices.

It showcases positive examples of public education in different contexts and settings. The cases – from Bolivia to Namibia, including Vietnam – challenge the disseminated idea that public education needs privatisation for quality and point to a rights-aligned and socially committed definition of quality – including the aim for social inclusion and equity, the engagement of community and local actors, valuing teachers and respecting local culture.  It concludes that public education must be the way forward for building more equal, just and sustainable societies.

The research was produced collaboratively by 12 organizations and is part of GI-ESCR’s continuous efforts to reverse the adverse impact of the commercialisation of education in the context of the unprecedented expansion of private-sector involvement in education.

The launch of this study is a follow-up to the publication of a policy brief released ahead of the Global Partnership for Education summit in July 2021. Its release during the virtual session of the World Bank’s Civil Society Policy Forum adds to the call on the World Bank and other investors to prioritize their support for public education in their efforts to build back more resilient and equitable education systems for all.

The research is available in three formats: a Working paper, Research brief and Policy brief.

To support the publicity of this new, exciting research, please share widely.

#PublicEducationWorks

READ the Working paper or Research brief here

GI-ESCR is a non-governmental organisation that believes transformative change to end endemic problems of social and economic injustice is possible only through a human rights lens.

The return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan is very bad news for girls and women. For twenty years, they were able to go to school and university and to pursue a career. All that personal freedom comes to an end under Taliban rule. The New York Times wrote about their fate here.

KABUL, Afghanistan — The director of a girls’ school in Kabul desperately wants to learn details of the Taliban’s plan for girls’ education. But she can’t attend the weekly Taliban committee meetings on education. They are for men only.

“They say, ‘You should send a male representative,’” the director, Aqila, said inside the Sayed Ul-Shuhada High School, which was shattered in May by a terrorist bombing that killed scores of girls.

But Aqila and other Afghan educators don’t need to attend meetings to comprehend the harsh new reality of education under Taliban rule. The emerging government has made clear that it intends to severely restrict the educational freedoms enjoyed by many women and girls the past 20 years.

The only question is just how draconian the new system will be, and what type of Islamic-based education will be imposed on both boys and girls. Just as they did when they ruled most of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, the Taliban seem intent on ruling not strictly by decree, but by inference and intimidation.

When schools reopened Saturday for grades seven through 12, only male students were told to report for their studies. The Taliban said nothing about girls in those grades, so they stayed home, their families anxious and uncertain about their future. Both boys and girls in grades one through six have been attending schools, with students segregated by gender in the higher three grades.

When the Taliban were in charge from 1996 to 2001, they barred women and girls from school. After the U.S.-led invasion toppled Taliban rule in late 2001, female students began attending schools and universities as opportunities blossomed. Women were able to study for careers in business and government, and in professions such as medicine and law.

By 2018, the female literacy rate in Afghanistan reached 30 percent, according to a new UNESCO report.

But the Taliban swept back into Kabul and seized power on Aug. 15, and since then they have said they will impose their severe interpretation of Shariah law.

The new government has said that some form of education for girls and women will be permitted, but those parameters have not been clearly defined by Taliban officials.

The Taliban also have indicated that men will no longer be permitted to teach girls or women, exacerbating an already severe teacher shortage. This, combined with constraints in paying teachers’ salaries and the cutoff of international aid, could have “immediate and serious” outcomes for education in Afghanistan, the UNESCO report warned.

Female students will be required to wear an “Islamic hijab,” but with the definition left open to interpretation. At a pro-Taliban women’s gathering last week, many women wore niqabs, a garment that covers a woman’s hair, nose and mouth, leaving only the eyes exposed.

“We are working on a mechanism to provide transportation and other facilities that are required for a safer and better educational environment,” Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman and the acting deputy minister of information and culture, said Monday, adding that classes for girls in grades seven and above would resume soon.

“There are countries in the region that have committed to help us in our education sector,” he said. “This will help us in providing better education to everyone.”

While many girls and women in Kabul have embraced Western standards of women’s rights and opportunities, Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative society. In the countryside, even if all women do not necessarily welcome Taliban rule, many are accustomed to customs that kept them at home to cook, clean and raise children even before the Taliban took power in the 1990s.

The acting minister of higher education last week said that women could continue to study in universities and graduate programs, as long they were in gender-segregated classrooms, but on Friday, the new government sent an ominous signal of its intentions. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs compound was converted into offices for the religious morality police, who brutally enforced the militants’ interpretation of Shariah law two decades ago. The building now houses the Ministry of Invitation, Guidance and Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

Female teachers, administrators and students have been bracing for austere new restrictions. Many say they have begun wearing niqabs and preparing classrooms to accommodate classes strictly segregated by gender. (Many schools also taught boys-only and girls-only classes under the U.S.-backed government.)…

For female students, the sudden end to their academic freedoms has been both traumatizing and paralyzing. Many say the joy and anticipation they once felt when entering classrooms has been lost, replaced by fear and a surpassing sense of futility.

Zayba, 17, survived a devastating bombing at her school in May, for which no group took responsibility, though similar attacks have been attributed to the Islamic State-affiliated group operating in Afghanistan.

Zayba stopped attending school after the Taliban takeover, which she said had robbed her of all motivation. “I like to study at home,” she said. “I am trying to, but I cannot, because I don’t see any future for myself with this regime….”


Jeanne Diestch, a former Democratic state senator in New Hampshire, recently wrote about the attention showered on the state’s new voucher program by Republican conservatives like Mike Pompeo, a likely Presidential candidate, and Betsy DeVos. Republicans took control of the New Hampshire legislature until 2020; its Governor, Chris Sununu, is a Republican, and he appointed the state’s commissioner of education, Frank Edelblut, who homeschooled his children. Republicans wasted no time in passing a sweeping voucher bill.

US Conservatives Eyeing NH Vouchers

Diestch wrote in her newsletter:


Why the GOP hates the world’s top education models

When a former Secretary of Education and a future Presidential candidate come to New Hampshire for the rollout of a new state educational policy, you know something important is afoot. The candidate, Mike Pompeo, stated at the event that US schools are falling behind because we have a “public-school monopoly”; adopting NH’s “Education Freedom Accounts” [EFAs] would allow the “free market” to correct this problem. This change is so important to conservatives that the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity is handing out supportive pamphlets door-to-door in Bedford. So let’s look at three questions:

  1. Why do conservatives want the free market to control education rather than local public-school districts?
  2. Why are so many outside the state so interested in a change inside New Hampshire?
  3. How will all this impact us, the people of the state?

WHY DO CONSERVATIVES WANT FREE-MARKET EDUCATION?
Nations with top education scores all rely on public schools. If the US followed their examples:

  • Teachers would be highly educated, well-paid and respected. In Finland, for example, acceptance for an education degree can be more competitive than medical school.
  • Schools would have shorter vacations, but also shorter school days. In China, elementary students take 90-minute lunch breaks. In Singapore, teachers use the additional time for planning lessons and collaborating on how to improve students’ performance.
  • After the regular school day, learning would continue at home or in tutoring sessions, especially for secondary students. Parents’ role in most successful nations is to ensure children do their three hours or so of assigned homework.

All these top-scoring countries rely on
public-education systems.

(Note that China is not really first; it only submits scores from 4 wealthy provinces.)Why don’t conservatives want to follow these successful models? More school days with highly qualified educators cost more. Companies want to sell high-margin educational software, supported by low-paid trainees, rather than pay education professionals’ salaries. New Hampshire’s EFAs potentially shift millions from public-school teachers and administrators to corporations seeking shareholder profits. In addition, church-based schools are seeking their share of EFAs. Then there is the fact that more-educated people tend to vote Democratic.

WHY SO MANY EYES ARE WATCHING NH EFAS
That is why so many outside New Hampshire are focused on EFAs here. National and international commercial and religious interests will be contributing to Mr. Pompeo and other conservative candidates. Donors hope that if a highly ranked state like New Hampshire can be convinced to hand their taxpayer dollars to unsupervised scholarship funds (see inset below), the rest of the nation will follow.EFAs hide spending detail from taxpayers

EFAs move millions in taxpayer funds from local school board oversight to an independent contractor. The contractor only has to report three things to the Department of Revenue
Administration: amount spent on administration, total number of scholarships, and average scholarship size. The state has no knowledge of who receives how much.
— NH RSA 77 G:5(g)HOW EFAS WILL CHANGE NH
EFAs impact far more than students. When EFAs substitute a $4600 payment for a year of public-school education, someone has to make up the difference. A religious school might charge only $2000 more per year in tuition, but how many low-income households can afford $2000 per child? The upshot is that poor neighborhoods will still need to rely on public schools, but those schools will have fewer per-student dollars to support them. Property taxpayers will have to make up the difference or close schools. The hit will be especially severe in Coos County, where thousands of educators comprise a significant segment of employees. When those schools are forced to close, most educators will move out, worsening Coos towns already dwindling populations and decreasing property values. Our most diverse populations in Manchester and Nashua are also more likely to suffer from the shift in funding caused by EFAs because they have lower incomes. In southern New Hampshire, the census showed that population did increase due to in-state migration. But what families will want to move into a state whose public schools are foundering? The answer is, those families for whom $4600 is enough to send their children to low-tuition religious schools, those families who can already afford expensive private school but would like taxpayers to subsidize them, and those families who want taxpayer funding for parent-guided home education programs. These differ from the workers attracted over the last decade to New Hampshire for its highly rated public schools. How will this affect companies struggling to find employees? No one knows, but the answer will certainly impact our economy.
EFAs will also impact New Hampshire society. Communities forced to close their schools will become less cohesive. Children educated only alongside others with similar backgrounds will have less understanding of the world and their place in it. They will be less able to succeed in the diverse demographics that will make up our nation’s future.
Perhaps conservatives have decided not to follow successful models for improving public education because they do not want the public to be educated. They would prefer people who let corporations and the wealthy take advantage of them, who have been taught to villainize a government that protects public interests.

Chris Lubienski has done comparative studies of public and private schools for years. In this latest study, he notes the paradox that choice schools tend to become standardized over time, betraying the claim that they would meet the differing needs and interests of students.

DOCUMENT RESUME
ED 439 519 EA 030 327
AUTHOR Lubienski, Chris
TITLE Diversification and Duplication in Charter Schools
PUBTYPE EDRS PRICE
Ontario,Canada,April14-18,19). InformationAnalyses(070) Speches/MetingPapers(150)
DESCRIPTORS
MF01/PCO2 Plus Postage. *CharterSchols;Diversity(Institutional);Educational
IDENTIFIERS
ABSTRACT
Change; *Educational Economics; Elementary Secondary Education;ForeignCountries;FreEnterpriseSystem; Privatization;School Choice Grant Maintained Schols (GreatBritain);*MarketSystems Aproach
Grant-MaintainedSchols:AnExplorationinthePolitical
EconomyofScholChoice. PUBDATE 19-04-0


NOTE


47p.;Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society (Toronto.)


This paper examines the political economy of charter schools to understand the tendencies toward standardization and emulation that these schools exhibit. It draws on the developed model of grant-maintained schools in the United Kingdom as an example of the market model’s evolution in mass education. It analyzes the promise of such approaches to explore reformers’ underlying assumptions and thus offers a window into perspectives that have driven these prolific reforms. The paper contrasts the emerging evidence with the public promises of reformers and contrasts these with the disappointing lack of diversification of options for education consumers. It states that widespread and controversial reforms in education across the globe entailed the introduction of market mechanisms of consumer choice and competition among providers in mass education. The text explores the promise of choice plans and charter schools, the effects of competition, and the reaction to uniformity. It concludes that there is a standardizing tendency inherent in markets that both accompanies and counteracts the potential for diversification that competitive markets can generate. The paper claims that market-oriented reformers generally ignore the constraining properties of competitive markets in their discussion of the potential effects of competition in education. (Containsaproximately25references.)(RJM)


Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made from the original document.

Diversification&DuplicationinCharter&GMSchols 20
ofsectionsofthemarket inefect,privatizedsuper-LEAswithprimaryacountabilityto shareholders,notcitizensoreven”consumers.”Thereisaneconomicincentivetolimitthe diversityofaproducttosomextent,becauseofresearch,development,production, distribution,andsuportcosts;asTeryMoenotes,”inovationscostmoney.Sometimes alotofmoney”(citedinMolnar,196,p.72).27Thus,thehated”one-size-fits-al” aproachtoeducationthatcriticsclaimisinherenttopublicontrolisalsolikelythrough thecostsavingfactorsofthe”cokie-cuter”aproachtomasprovisionofeducational services.Thesestandardizingtendenciesarebecomingmorevidentwithgrowthoflarge- scalenterprisessuchastheEdisonProject,TeseracT(formerlyEducationalAlternatives Inc.),AdvantageScholsInc.,orSabisInternationalSchols alofwhicharetryingto increasetheirshareofthecharterscholmarket,andalofwhichaveasetaproachto educatingchildren(Farber,198a;Hofman,198;Pole,198;Rhim,198;Sides& Decker,197;Toch,196;Vine,197).Inded,whenDykgraf&Lewis(198)studied charterscholsrunbymanagementcompaniessuchasthese,theyfoundstrongcentral controlexercisedbycorporateauthorities,andlitleopenesabouttheiractivities,which hinderspublicasesmentoftheirpractices.
Thistendencyfliesinthefaceoftheclaimthatcharterscholswilsharetheirinsightsand inovations.ThepromisewasmotivatedbyaperceptionthatLEAscholsareplaguedby adeadeninguniformity(Peterson,190),andnedinterventionsthatareproduced primarilyintheprivatesector(Coleman,190;West,195).28However,sucha perceptiondoesnotexplainhowalackofcompetitionecesarilyimposesuniformity acros15,0LEAsintheUS.Whatisthestandardizinginfluencefor15,0diferent bureaucraciesandmilionsofclasroms?Infact,theargumentcouldbemadethat, inasmuchasclasromsnowapearsimilaracrosdiferentcontexts,uniformaspectsmay beduetomarketinfluencesonthecuriculum,privatesectorcontrolofemployment posibilitiesforgraduates,theriseofindividualism,thecomodificationofpublic education,andothermarketefectsinstandardizingschols(Hogan,192;Labare, 197).Furthermore,itdeniesthemanyinovationsproducedinthepublicsector,and, moreover,ispremisedonhighlyhypotheticalpresumptionofinherentselfishnesof humanaturethatpositsthatinovationspringsfromtheposibilityofself-enrichment.
ButwhileadvocatesjustifiedcharterslargelyasR&Dcentersforpublicschols,itis becomingincreasinglyaparentthat evenifcharterscholsweretodevelopaplethora ofnewpedagogicalaproaches therearenotadequatemeansavailablethroughwhich otherscholscouldhaveacestothosediscoveries(Wels,etal.,198).Whilemarket-
orientedreformersclaimthatitissimplythefectsofcompetitionthatwilforceLEA scholstoimprove,thelogicofmarketsalsocounteractsanyrolethatcharterorGM
27Yet,thecomonlyapliedbusinesprincipleofeficiencyefectivelylimitstheresourcesrequiredfor inovationandexperimentation(seWelch,198).Inded,ironicaly,themarketizationofapublicsector institutionsuchaspubliceducationrepresentsanoveralstandardizationofoptions,chalengingtheunique aspectsofpublicscholsaspublicinstitutions,andforcingthemtoconformoretothedominant “eficiency”modelofaprivatebusines(seOetle,197). 28However,theasumptionthatinovationsareproducedintheprivatesectorignoresthextenttowhich inovativeideasandinstitutionshaveariseninthepublicsector,andthenexitedthepublicscholsystem (e.g.,Wiliams,19).Furthermore,thereismuchevidencethatmanyGMandcharterscholsused market-orientedreformstosimplyprovideaprivate-typeducationatpublicexpense.IntheUK,thishas benthecasewithGMscholsthatembracethegramarscholcuriculum,forexample.InNorth America,theownerofacharterscholmanagementcompanycaledtheEducationDevelopment Corporation(EDC)claimshedoesnotpursueinovativetechniques,but”usessucesfulChristianschols asaneconomicmodelforEDC’snonreligiouscharterschols”(MackinacCenterforPublicPolicy,197; sealso,Opel,19;Red,194;Sanchez,195;Schnaiberg,19;Simons,19;VanDunk, 198).
2 BESTCOPYAVAILABLE

Diversification&DuplicationinCharter&CMSchols 21
scholsmayplayincontributingtotheoveralimprovementofscholing.Thatis,ina competitivemarket,scholssucedorfailbasedonhoweltheyatractandretain studentsrelativetothercompetingschols.Inacasewherecertainscholsare establishedtoproduceinsightsintoimprovingteachingandlearning,butalsoare dependentfortheirsurvivalonatractingconsumers,thereisaninherentincentivenotto shareimprovementsorinsightswithotherschols except,ofcourse,anyotherschols intheircorporatechain,asthecasemaybe.(Ontheotherhand,iftherewereadequate chanelssetuptodiseminateinovations,thefre-riderphenomenonsugeststhatmany schoblswouldnotasumethecostsofinovationifotherscholswildosoandshare withthemthediscoveries.)29
EmulationandDuplicationinConsumerMarkets Whilemarket-orientedreformersjustifytheiragendalargelyonthegroundsthatmarkets creatediversityofoptions,anexaminationinthepoliticaleconomyofconsumermarkets indicatesthattheyareignoringanequalyevidentstandardizingefectofcompetition. Dependingonthecircumstances,acompetitivemarketcanalsohaveconstrainingefectson experimentation,andfosterduplicationinsteadofdiversity.Inadynamicsystemofpublic choice,thelogicofmarketsdictatesthatproviderswiltrytostakeoutpositionsof advantageinordertocomandthepatronageofthemajorityofconsumers.Ifaprovider movestocornerasegmentofthemarket,thereissomeincentiveforotherprovidersalsoto moveinthatdirection,althoughnotquitetothesamextent,inordertocaptureal remainingbusinesuptoandposiblyincludingsomeofthemarketshareoftheirrivals (Hirschman,1970,p.63).Thiscanhavethefectofstandardizingoptionsavailableto consumers,asinasystemofscholchoice.
Forinstance,thisphenomenonisveryevidentinthearenaofpartypoliticsinrecentyears. InboththeUSandtheUK,”liberal/leftist”partiescametopowerlargelybyemulatingtheir oponentsonmanyisues.Ratherthanoferingvotersrealoptions,Clinton’sDemocrats (throughisDemocraticLeadershipCouncil)notonlyatractedvotes,butsimplycornered blocsofvotersbymimickingtheRepublicansoneconomicandsocialquestions.Thus, theytokforgrantedvotersfurthertotheleft,knowingthattherewasnotherviable alternativetowhichthosevoterscouldturn.Blair’snewLabourPartysucesfuly embracedClinton’sstrategyintheUK(Ford,19;Zakaria,198),andtheLiberalsin CanadandotherEnglish-speakingdemocracieshavelargelyembracedmarketprinciples previouslythoughttobethedomainoftheirconservative(clasicaly”liberal”)competitors. Whilesuchtrendsmayindicatethepresumptiononthepartofthesepartiesoftheloyaltyof theirmembers,italsosugeststhatviablealternativesarenotavailabletotemptthese peoplewiththeposibilityofexitingpartiesthatnolongerreflecttheirbeliefs.Regardles, theoveralefectistofervoterslesofaclearchoiceofdiferentoptions,andmany comentatorsfromboththerightandlefthavenotedthatthepoliticalmarketplacecurently
29Onceagain,Coulson(19) asapuremarketadvocate ofersbeterinsightsintotheworkingsof themarket.Whilehewritesoftheincentivesforcharterschols”balancingresearch-and-developmentcosts
againstthenedtokeptuitiondown”(p.305),healsonotesthatthe”onlywaytoenticeducational entrepreneurstotakeontheserisksistoprovidethemwithanincentivethatmakesthefortworthwhile”
(p.318).Yet,whileIagrewithisinsightsintothecorectdynamicsofthemarketpervertedbycharter scholdesigns,Icontinuetodisagrewithisprescriptionthatwemovetowardpurermarketstocorect thebastardizationofmarkettheory.Ifcharterscholsarepublicschols,astheyclaim,thentheyhavea responsibilitytothegreaterpublic,andnotjusttheirimediateclientele.ButunderCoulson’sfremarket model,ashenotes,charterscholswouldbeabletownandprofitfromtheirinovations,andexcludeal otherstudentsfromthenjoymentoftheirbenefits unlestheywerepersonalyabletoafordtopay. Thisistheantithesisofanyconceptionofapublicsystem.Furthermore,itdemeansthefortsandenies theinovationsofalwhoworkforchildrenbecauseofahumanitarianimpulse,insteadasumingthatonly personalgainmotivatesgodworks.
23

Diversification&DuplicationinCharter&GMSchols 2
ofersconsumersoptionsthatarelargelyindistinguishable.30Thus,whilestealingisues mayworkmostefectivelyinaduopoly,italsoapearstohavesomefectinmulti-party systems.InHirschman’sframework,isuemulationwilleadtodiscontentof peripheralizedconsumers/voters.31Butduopolisticorevenpolyopolisticpowerssystems canconstrainthatdiscontentmentthroughefectivecoperationexercisedby”competing” parties.Theirconfluenceofinterestsmayleadtointentionalyconcertedefortsor colusioncausedbythefectsoftheircomoninterestsinmaintaininganefective oligarchy.Thatis,evencompetingplayersmaycoperateinesenceinordertoprevent othersfromalsojoiningthegame.Thus,majorpartiesandproducershaveaninterestin themaintainingthe”thirdparty”statusofthirdparties.Whileattimestheymightlokfora minor-partyalyinordertotipthebalanceofpowerintheirfavor,theyalsohavean interestinremainingtheprimarypartnerinanycoalition.
Consumermarketsalsodemonstratethisconstrainingefectofcompetition,whetheritbe PCsandWindowsbothemulatingandcrowdingoutMacintoshproductsfromthe computermarket,VHSreducingandthenridingthemarketofthebeterBetasystems, bokstorechainsmimickingtheservicesofandtheneradicatingsmalneighborhod bokstores,JapaneseproducersintroducingtheminivanonlytohaveUSmanufacturers adoptstheideandthendominatethemarket,orlarge-scalevideochainscrowdingoutthe cornerstore.Whilesimplelogictelsusthattightcompetitioncaninhibitinovationin existingprovidersbylimitingresourcesavailableforexperimentation(whichisriskyand mayentailalos),evidencealsosugeststhataconfluenceofcompetitors’interestsand efortscanalsolimitinovationandoptions.Dunleavy(197,p.3)notesthese standardizingtendenciesforconsumerchoices(from”hamburgersorcomputers”)inwhat hetermsglobal”Macworld”capitalism:”Thescaleofmarketsandcompetitionhas decisivelyescalatedinsomeareas,screningoutlocalsolutionsandcorporationsinfavour oftransnationalcompanies,dominantbrandsandstandardizedsolutions.”32Whilehe notesadiversityofoptionsinsomeareas,thegeneral”resultisthatsingle-marketchoices
30Se,forexample,Fraser,198/19;Pres,196;Reves,197;andSobran,195. 31Hirschman discusingtwo-partysystems sesanycentralizingtendencylimitedbyideological
diferences,alertandvocalactivists,andpracticalconsiderationsofmaximizingvotersuport(ononehalf ofthepoliticalspectrum,withasmuchofanimperialisticforayintotheotherhalfascouldbereasonably puledofwithoutalienatingtheparty’snativebase):”adoptionofaplatformwhichisdesignedtogain votesatthecentercanbecounter-productive”(p.72).Yetacentralizingtendencycanbeunlimitedinan emulativecontextofnoveridingideologicaldiferences thatis,tacitagrement(perhapssubconscious) onmajorunderlyingisues,aswiththeneoliberalDLCapingRepublicansonisueslikeNAFTA,the deathpenalty,gaymariage,andefensespending.Thisunrestrictedcentraltendencyleavesthemore ideologicalyradicalwingofaparty(anditsnon-partyasociates/sympathizers)unrepresented.Voterson thextremearecertainly”captives”ofthemainpartiesintermsoftherealityoftheunlikelihodofsuces oflaunchinganalternativeparty,andthustheirpowerofexitislimited(bytheirnumbers)whiletheir powerofvoicewasoftenamplified(bytheiralertnes).Butwhenideologicalyemulativemainstream partiesdisowntheideologuesatthends,loyaltykepspeoplewithdiscernibleideologicalconvictions fromcreatingapotentialysucesfulpartythatwouldoferaclearlyideologicalalternativetothemasof votersinthecenter.Manysuchdisenfranchised”havetriedtoexertinfluencewithinoneofthemajor parties,havefailed,andlaterdecidedtoworkontheoutside”(p.85).Butmuchoftheirpotentialsuport restsinsimilarlyfrustratedpeoplewhorefusetoleavetheparty,despitethefactthattheirrapidly diminishingvoiceandpotentialorganizationalalternativepointstothexitsign.Thesealertvoters,even morethanthepotentialyfertilepolofinertvotersmoretothecenter,areletingtheirloyaltyprecludea “rational”option.Butthisaparentirationalityservesapurpose,asHirschmanstates:”Even though.partiesinatwo-partysystemareleslikelytomovetowardandresembleachotherthanhas sometimesbenpredicted,thetendencydoesasertitselfonocasion.Themorethisissothemore irationalandoutrightsilydoesthestubornpartyloyaltylok;yetthisispreciselywhenitismost useful.”(p.81)
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expand,buttheoveralrangeofchoicesacrosdiferentcountries’marketsmayreduce.” Inhisdiscusion,hepointstotherestaurantindustryasanexampleofaninstanceof globalizationwhichnoneanticipatedfourdecadesago,butwhichasheavily standardizednotjustfodchoices,but”howcustomersareserved.”Ritzer(196)writes ofthe”McDonaldization”ofmarketsocietyasmarketforcespursueandimposea predictabilitythatreducesalhumaneds,desires,andrelationshipstoacomon economicalculus.Otherobserversalsonotethe”Disneyfication”ofculturethatundercuts globaldiversity(Hanigan,198;Seabrok,198).Similarly,inthe”marketplaceof ideas,”severalauthorshaverecognizedtheconstrainingefectsofcorporatecontrolofthe mediainacompetitiveconsumermarket.Mazoco(194,p.5)writesthatthenarowing competitivefieldlimitsthescopeofwhatisconsideredreasonablebythenewsmedia,and thuswhatislegitimizedaspertinentforpopulardiscusionandebate(sealsoBagdikian, 197;Herman&Chomsky,198).
And,ofcourse,sucesbredsemulation.Whetherthroughinovationorthe reintroductionof”triedandtrue”practices(oranyotherinexplicablypopularproductor service),ifsomething”works”intermsofatractingconsumers,competitorswiltryto duplicatethatsucesbyduplicatingwhateverbroughtonthatsuces,uptoandincluding impingingonanyproprietaryrightsofthesucesfuloperation.Thisemulationisreadily aparentfromtheresearchonthechoicesystemintheUK.There,ratherthanengagingin educationalinovations,market-orientedproviderstendtoemulatesucesfulschols institutionscharacterizedbytheirup-marketclientele throughtheintroductionof inovationsoftenperipheraltotheclasromsuchasuniforms,disciplinecodes,symbols oftraditionalism,andotherformsofimagemanagement(Glater,etal.,197).Whenthey makechangesinclasrompractices,theygeneralydonotintroducenewpractices,but reintroduceolderaproachesasociatedwithmorexclusivelitescholing suchasthe academicemphasisofthegramarscholcuriculuminordertoatractthebeststudents withtheleastamountofproblems,whowouldbetheasiesttoeducateandcosttheleast amountofresources.InNorthAmerica,charterscholreformersalsonedtoshow results.JoeNathan(198,p.502),aleadingproponent,warnscharterscholstoconsider “bestpractices”alreadyproveninotherschols:”Charteradvocatesoughttolokat carefulyevaluated,provenaproaches.”Moreover,thejustificationforcharterschols thatcalsforthetodiseminatetheirinovationsasumesthatotherscholswilduplicate theirpractices(althoughitisnotclearwhatincentiveunderthelogicofmarketsmight encouragescholstosharesucesfulsecretswithcompetitors).
Partoftheisueinthesecasesmaybetheilegitimacyoftheasumptionofmarket-oriented reformersthatconsumerdemandshapesmarkets.IntheiradvocacyofcharterandGM schols,proponentsofscholchoicecontendthatscholswilriseinresponseto consumerpreferences.Theyasumethatapre-existinglandscapeofthewantsandneds ofeducationalconsumerswilbereflectedinthegeographyofareactivemarket.Schol choiceadvocatescontendthatconsumerscontrolthemarket.However,thereismuch evidencetoindicatethatthecausalarowalsopointsintheotherdirectionaswel;thatis, marketscanalsoshapeconsumerpreferences.Producerscultivatewantsandnedsin consumers.Inthatrespect,simplywitnesthebilionsthatmarketentitiesinvestin advertisingandimagemanufacturing,particularlyaroundproductsforwhichtherewasno pre-existingdemand.Furthermore,insomemarkets,producersorproviderscanselect theirconsumers.Ineducation,thismeansthatscholschosethestudents.Thishas increasinglybenthecaseintheUK,asscholsnowsetoutcriteriaforprospective studentsinordertobeterpursuetheschol’smisionorphilosophy(Dean,193b;Dean,
193c;Edwards&Whity,197;Fitz,etal.,197;Walford&Pring,196;Whity& Power,197).Whilethishasbenoficialyencouragedinrecentyears,itwasinitialy donethroughcovert-selectiontechniques e.g.,parentinterviews,requiredalegianceto disciplinecodesoraschol’sspecializedmision/philosophy,andsymbolictrapingsof
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traditionalism(Dean,192;Francis,190;Glater,etal.,197;Walford,197a;West, etal.,197).ThereisnoreasontoasumethatthesametrendwouldnotocurinNorth Americancharterschols,asmanyscholsnowrequireparentorstudentcontracts, volunterhours,adherencetomisionstatements,orothermeansthatencourageself- segregationbyparentstomaskselectionofstudentsbyschols(Carl,198;Farber, 198a;Farber,198b;McGhan,198;McKiben,19;McKiney,196;Rothstein, etal.,198).Itsemslikelythatregulationstoblockovertselectionwilbelargely inefectual,asmarketcompetitionencouragesorevenforcesparentsandscholstofind waysofsortingthemselves.
Inovation,Diferentiation,andImageManagement Thistendencytowardemulationincompetitivemarketsraisestheisueofthedegreto whichdiferencesbetwenchoicesarereal,orperceivedresultsofimagemanagement. Eveninamorestableorstaticmarketcontext,diferencesbetwencompetitorsin consumermarketsareoftenemphasizedorexageratedinmarketingandpresentation. ThereisnotmuchdiferencebetwenPepsiandCoke,orbetwenFord,Dodge,andGMC trucks.Asexperienceshows,therearetwowaystomakeaprofit:(1)inovationinorder toatracttheconsumerwithabetervalueonabeterproduct,(2)orbetermarketing.In situationswhereconsumerinformationisobscureorinacesible(orcanbemadethatway throughimagemanagement),thelaterismorelikely.So,producerstrytocultivatetheal- importantbrandloyalty(recently,byintroducingtheirproductstothecapturedclienteleof schols).Therefore,advertisingcampaignsoftenfocusonsmaldiferencesofdegres, andnotoverwhelmingsimilaritiesbetwencompetingproducts.Infact,thecoland hamburgerwarssugestthatthebigestcompetitorsareoftenthemostsimilar,withthe majorairlines,networkandlocalnewscasts,andbigthreautomakersalbut indistinguishablefromeachother.Butinsteadoffocusingonthequalityorcost- efectivenesofproductsasrational-choicetheoristswouldlike,thesecompetitorsoften emphasizequestionsofstyle,atitude,andasociationinapealingtocustomersand workingthemarket.3Whilesmaldiferencesandbels-and-whistle(orsmoke-and- miror)inovationsmaybeusefulandcost-efectiveforproducers(oftensimplyto enhanceprofitmargins),itisthefectivenesandcosteficiencyofmarketingthatdeters theincentivetoferrealimprovementsandcostlyinovationsinaproductline.34Itis oftencheapertocultivatediferencesinimage-asociationintheyesofconsumersthanto researchandevelopabeteralternativetoacompetitors’product.Andmarketingisoften (evenusualy)designedtobscurewhetherachangeinaproductisanimprovement,or simplyachange.
Thisaspectinthelogicofmarketswouldalsobepresentforcharterscholscompetingfor per-studentfunding.AsscholsintheUKandtheUSbecomemoreinvolvedin marketingthemselvestopotentialconsumers,itwilbeimportanttonotethextentto whichemphasizediferencesareamateroftruecuricularorpedagogicalinovations,or simplyrepackagingofolderideasandtargetingthemataparticularsegmentor demographicgroupofthemarket.Niche-marketingsimplylimitsproducerstonon-growth areasofthemarket.So,whilerationalconsumersmaysekoutascholbasedon academicriteria,muchevidencesugeststhatthisisnotthecase.Whilechoiceplansin theUKandmanyjurisdictioninNorthAmericaresuportedbythepublicationofleague tablesorotherindicatorsofrelativestudentachievement,itisverydificult,ifnot
3Inafascinatinganalysis,Wink(192,ch.10)observesthisphenomenoninmanyareasofhuman competitionandconflict includingpoliticsandwar asoposingpartiesoftenemploythesamemeans inacontest,therebyemulatingorimitatingeachotherinpractice,andbecomingmorealikeinesence, whilexageratingdiferencesinordertojustifytheirpublicpositions. 34Inded,aproductioncost-orientedincentivenednotbepasedontotheconsumerintheformof savingsexcepttothextentthatitwouldslightlyundercutacompetitor’spriceifatal.
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imposible,togiveconsumersasnapshotofhowmuchonescholenhancesthe achievementofastudentascomparedtotherschols.Suchefortsarebefudledby problemssuchasfindingtheapropriatecomonmetric,orcontrolingforconfounding variablessuchasper-efectsandsocioeconomicstatus.
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Inlieuofaneasyindicatorofaschol’sabilitytoenrichastudent’spotential,rational consumersareforcedtorelyonotherevidenceofaschol’sworth.Unfortunately, evidencefromtheUKsugeststhatsuchindicatorsareoftensymbolicreflectionsofre- emergingsocialhierarchiesuniforms,theracialandethnicompositionofaschol,etc.
ratherthanimediateacademicfactors.Inded,thereismuchevidencefromboth NorthAmericandtheUKthatconsumersactualygravitatetowardsthesenon-academic
criterianywaywhenchosingaschol(Bal&Gewirtz,197;Carol&Walford, 197a;Carol&Walford,197b;Glazerman,198;Hirsch,194;Petronio,196;
Smith&Meier,195;Walford,192).Manyifnotmostparentsarenotusualyloking forinovationorevenexcelence.Whilerational-choicetheoristsasumethatconsumers sekthemostefectiveducationaloptionfortheirchildren,real-worldexperienceshows parents constrainedbysuchfactorsasconvenience,transportation,location,work,and theabilityandesiretoparticipateinandvalueachild’seducation lokatotherfactors suchassportsteams,proximitytohomeorwork,tradition,astudentbodythatreflects theirchildracialyoreconomicaly,achild’sdesiretobewithfriends(orawayfrom enemies),andsoforth.Evenrational-choicetheoristimplicitlyafirmthisphenomenon, oftenusingracialcodewordsthatmaskretrenchedracism,orsegregationisttendencies basedonsocial-clas noteducational diferentiation.Forexample,Moe(194,p. 27)debatesthecontentionthatBritishparentsfocusoncriteriaperipheraltoacademic enrichment,denyingtheimportanceof”sportsanduniforms”andinsteadclaimingthat informedpeoplewant”disciplineandorder,achievement,andproximity”(Mano,etal., 198a;Mano,etal.,198b;Schneider,Marschal,Teske,&Roch,198;Vanourek,et al.,197).Whatisnoteworthyabouttheseparentalpreferenceshereisthat,asadvertising increasesinimportanceinacompetitivemarket,thesetendenciessugestthelikelihodthat scholswilfocusonon-academicriteriaintheirmarketingcampaigns,promoting imagesthatdonotfocusimediatelyonpotentialacademicenhancement,butonon- academicriteriasociatedwithracial,ethnic,andsocialclasdiferentiation.
ConstrainingEfectsofConsumerPerceptionsinaCompetitiveMarket Ontheotherhand,whilemarketsshapeconsumers,consumers’perceptionsofwhatare apropriateproductsoftenconstraininovationthroughmarketforces.Parental asumptionsofwhatagodproductorserviceis whethertothpasteorscholing providesincentiveforstandardization,notjustdiversificationofoptions.Ifpeoplethink thatcolashouldbecaramelcolored,thenPepsiClearwilfail.Ifpeoplequatediscipline, rotememorization,andhightestscoreswitha”god”education,thentheromfor inovationinamarketcontextisconstrained.ThiswasthecaseintheUK,wherepopular conceptionsofeducation(atleastforactiveconsumers)meantthatmoretraditionalismand elitismwouldbetheprimary”inovation”drivenbythemarket.Subsequently,intheUK, scholshavebenforcedtopayatentiontotheirimagemanagementthroughmarketing, administration,andpresentation,oftenatthexpenseofeducationalconcerns(Bal& Gewirtz,197;Gewirtz,etal.,195).Thismay,infact,beoneofthecentralelementsof themarketdynamicthatistheconstrainingfactorineducationquasi-marketsinNorth America,asparentalperceptionsofwhat”god”scholingisaremanifestedinaconfining demandfor”back-to-basics”scholing.Kohn(198),forexample,claimsthatafluent andambitiousparentsintheUSdonotwantinovationsintheirchildren’seducation,but, instead,whatarecomonlysenassolid,tried-and-trueducationalpractices.Onthe otherhand,peopleoftencanotreachacomonunderstandingoftruly”inovative” education.GlobalLearningAcademyinCalgarywasestablishedtotry”diferentiated”
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learning,an”inovative”aproachtoeducation.Butthescholclosedafterparentsand evendiferentteacherscouldnotagreonwhatthatmeans(Shepard,198).
Discusion Thisesayshouldnotbeunderstodasanargumentagainstthepotentialformarket-
orientedscholstofosterdiverseandinovativeoptions.Instead,Ihaveatemptedto demonstratethattherearestandardizingtendenciesalsoinherentinthemarketmechanisms importedintopubliceducation,andthatacountingforthesetendencieshelpsus understandtheunexceptionalrecordofcharterscholsinpromotingexperimentationin teachingandlearning.However,theprecedingdiscusionraisesbothimplicationsand questionsthatdeservefurtheratention.
Diversity Diverseoptionsareoftenaparentincharterschols,GMscholsandCTCs.Inded,
someofthesescholsapeartoembraceintensiveuseoftechnology,ofervarious pedagogicalaproachessuchasa”back-to-basics”ordiscipline-areaorientedcuriculum,
andsmalerclasandscholsizes.However,whileIhavenotedthatnoneofthese “inovations”arerealynew,anothertrendistowardethnic-basedandhome-scholed instruction.Theseoptionsdefinitelyoferadiferentiatedsetofoptionstoconsumers. Althoughscholsegregation(bylaw,tradition,residency,orevenself-segregation)isnot neworinovative,whatisuniqueaboutsuchtrendsisthattheylegitimizeresegregationof “public”scholsinthepost-Brownv.Boardera.Ofcourse,publicscholshaveben notoriouslysegregatedbyraceandclasinrecentdecades.Butpursuingthediferentiation ofprovisionthroughtheoptionofrace-andethnic-basedscholsrepresentsalegal institutionalizationofthatsegregationthroughtheauspicesofademocraticaly-run institutionthathadoncebenknownasthe”comon”schol.Likewise,”home- instruction”islargelyamovebyhome-scholerstopt-intopublicfinancingofprivately- orientededucationafterhavingexitedpublicschols(se.g.,AmericansUnitedfor SeparationofChurchandState,197;Fin,etal.,197;Rothstein,etal.,198).These newconsumeroptionsraisequestionsaboutthebalanceofpublicly-fundedprivate consumerrightsagainstthepublicinterestincultivatingacomonculture,tolerance,and socialcohesionwithpublicresourcesforthepublicgod.Such”diversity”ofconsumer choicesincharterscholoptionsstandsinstarkcontrasttoliberalefortstoachieve diversityoverthelastseveraldecades.
ContrastingSourcesofInovation Charterscholreformerspubliclyadvancetheiragendasaconsumer-orientedreform measure.However,experiencewithconsumermarketsindicatesthatmarketscanalsobe producer-oriented aphenomenonthatturnsthecausaltablesoncharterreformers’ asumptions.Yetthisfactisignoredbymarket-orientedreformersintheiradvocacyof charterschols.Furthermore,asitbecomesmorevidentthatprivatebureaucraciescanbe justasinflexibleaspublicbureaucracies,onewonderswhythisisnotalsoreflectedinthe rhetoricpromotingcharterschols.Ifgovernmentbureaucraciessquashinovative tendenciesduetoself-interest,donotloyaltiestostockholdersalsodivertinovative potentialitiesthatarisearoundcustomerserviceinprivatebureaucracies?Yetmanycharter scholreformerspersistinadvancingthesimplisticimageofaninovativeprivatesector juxtaposedtoaconstrainingpublicsector.Thisstarksimplificationisreminiscentof Orwel’sAnimalFarmtwofet,bad;fourfet,god(Chomsky&Barsamian,196,p. 121).Butthisasumptionignoresconsiderablevidenceoftheinovativepowersof publicsectors,constrainingfactorsinprivatesectors,andthefolyofautomaticaly opositionalizingthemalofwhichshouldproblematizeandcomplexifysuchclaims (Cohen,1982;Kutner,197;se,e.g.,Coulson,196).
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Inded,thisquestionofinovationleadingtodiversityineducationparalelsevidencein theconsumermarketsthatcharterscholreformersoftenhighlight.Buttheirreferencesto thesemarketsonlyapeartoconsideronesideofthequation.Anotherexamplemightbe seninthedialecticalprocesoutlinedbyDarwin’stheoryofevolution(and,inded,much ofmarkettheoryreflectsthisinitssurvival-of-the-fitestethos).Oneofthethrebasic dynamicsonwhichthistheoryoforganicprocesesisbasedisstandardization(asthe synthesis).Thatis,evolutionpositsthatthethesisofuniformityischalengedbyan aberation(theanti-thesis),which,dependingontheconditions,maychalengeoreven overwhelmthestatusquo,resultinginanewsynthesis.Thus,standardizationisjustas muchanesentialpartofsuchaprocesasisinovation,andisnecesaryfortheproces ofchangetounfold.35Bothpublicandprivateinstitutionsareoftenlikenedtorganisms, andtheycanbeflexibleintheiryouth,andstagnantandefensiveinmaturity.Wink (192)usesareligiousanalogytodescribethispatern:institutionsarecreated,falen, and/orredemed.
Market Fundamentalism Religiousimagerymayalsohelpexplainthetreatment,orde-emphasis,ofevidencein market-orientedreformers’advocacyoftheiragenda.Thesingle-mindednesofmarket- orientedreformersinperceivingonlyfavorablevidencefromconsumermarketssugests azealotryoffaithinmarketmechanisms.Inded,theprolificaplicationofmarketmodels topublicscholswasprecededbyverylitlehardevidenceastotheirefectsinmodern education.Whilethiswaspartlyduetothefactthattherearevirtualynocomprehensive andanalogousmodelsfromwhichtodrawpolicyinferencesonhowmarketswouldwork inschols,36itisalsoindicativeofanideologicalfaithinmarketprocesesabelief systemthatasuresthefaithfulofthepowerofmarketdisciplineasacorectiveto waywardpublicsectorinstitutions(thusdiscountingthenedforevidence).Infact,the discourseisliteredwithreferencesto”beliefs”onthisisue,inlieuofhardorcompeling evidenceonthepowerofmarketstodiversifyandinovateprovisionofeducation.37But, aswithanyfundamentalist,market-orientedreformersapearcapableofselective perceptionlimitedtoconfirmingevidence.Theyareabletoignoreorexplainawayany confoundingevidencethatchalengestheirbeliefsinthepowerofmarketstoprovide.38 Charterscholadvocatesdonotdemonstratethatmarketsfosterinovationincharter scholclasroms,becausetheyhavealreadysenenoughevidencefrom(aone-sided viewof)theautoindustryto”prove”thatdiversificationandinovationfalwithinthe purviewofmarkets.Hence,marketreformersareunableorunwilingtoconsider,much lesembrace,contradictorytendenciesinmarketsthatbothdiversifyandstandardize consumer options.
35Naturalprocesesareparticularlypertinenthere,sincemanymarket-orientedreformerspromotetheir agendasanaturalororganicalternativetoartificialstateregulation premisedontheasumptionofa universalhumanaturepreocupiedwithpursuingone’sownself-interest.Forafascinatingdiscusionof standardizationindynamicorganicproceses,seGould(1989). 36Coulsondisputesthelackofevidence(196;194;19). 37Ironicaly,thisissimilartohowscholexpansioningeneralisoftenforwardedbyreligious-likefaith andrhetoricregardingthepowerofeducation(Bowen,19;Meyer,1986;Mockler,194;Tyack,Kirst, &Hansot,1980;Walkom,190). 38AfterDisneyboughttheAmericanBroadcastingCorporation,MexicanovelistCarlosFuenteswrote: “Inaworldtornbyeverykindoffundamentalismreligious,ethnic,nationalistandtribal wemust grantfirstplacetoeconomicfundamentalism,withitsreligiousconvictionthatthemarket,lefttoitsown devices,iscapableofresolvingalourproblems.Thisfaithasitsownayatolahs.Itschurchisneo- liberalism;itscredisprofit;itsprayersareformonopolies;andnowitshalosareMickeyMousears.” (quotedinTheMenonite,196,p.17;sealsoWalkom,190)
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Moreover,likeanyfaith,marketfundamentalismestablishesaversionofhumanatureasa universaltruth.Theirclaimthatinovationwilflowfromindividualswhentheyare unleashedtonaturalypursuethenhancementoftheirself-interestdependsonavery debatableasumptionofauniversalhumanature.Whilemarket-orientedreformersclaim thatmaximizingself-interestisthedrivingforceofhumanprogres,thereisalsoevidence tosugestthat,inded,”humanature”isshapedbysocial,cultural,andinstitutional conditionsaswel.Furthermore,itapearsthatsomepeoplearewilingtotakerisksand pursueinovationsoutofphilanthropicandhumanitarianimpulses,orsimplecuriosity.
ResearchandPolicyBorowing Whilethelackofcompelingevidencefromeducationsugeststheideological(asoposed
toempirical)natureofthisreformagenda,theglobalscaleofmarketreformsraisesisues regardingtheroleorresearch,evidence,andideologyacrossocio-politicalcontexts. ParticularlyinthecasesoftheUKandNorthAmerica,thesimilaritiesofthesereforms pointtoeitherintentionalpolicysharingoraplicationsofuniversalaspectsofmarket ideology.Forthemostpart,theUKledthewaywiththesereforms,fromThatcher’s governmentthroughthepresentBlairadministration.YetthegeneralycriticalBritish researchliteraturehasfailedtopenetratetheUSdiscoursetoanygreatextent(Moe,194). Thatis,whilepolicyborowingapearstobeprevalent,policymakersdemonstratea concurentandcurioushesitancytoengageinserious”researchborowing.”Whilepartof thismaybeduetoachronicethnocentrismonthepartofAmericanpolicymakers,such parochialismisincreasinglyinexcusableinatimewhenresearchiswidelyacesible,and contextsandpoliciesarebecomingmoresimilar.Whity,forinstance,whohasbenvocal inhisobservationofthelackofinovationintheUKmarketreforms,hasbenquite wilingtosharehisinsightswithNorthAmericanaudiences(e.g.,Miner,197).Itis unclearwhytherehasnotbenmorediscusioninNorthAmericaoftheUKexperience beforembarkingonrapidandwidespreadmarket-orientedreforms,andonecanonly speculateabouttheknowledgeandintentionsofpolicymakersandmarketreformers.This raisesquestionsabouttheabilityofresearchandevidencetoinfluenceanideologicaly- drivenreformagenda.Butitalsoraisesquestionsabout”hegemonic”controlofthe discourse;thatis,whataretheinterestsofthepeoplewhohavethemicrophone,andhow aretheirinterestsandagendaservedandchalengedbyresearchevidence?
Ontheotherhand,someobserversspeculateonthexistenceof”policynetworks”to explaintheaparentpolicycopyingbetwendiferentcontexts(Carl,194;Whity& Edwards,198).Inded,thereisevidenceoftrans-Atlanticolusionandcoperationof like-mindedthinktanksandotherinterests.Yetwecanotdiscounttheposibilitythat similaritiesinmarket-orientedpoliciesareindicativeoftheideologicalparadigmofthe times reflectingnotsomuchpolicy-borowingaswhatLevin(198)sesasadiseaseor “epidemic”ofsuchpolicymakingintheraitdefines.However,whilehisanalogy discountsintentionallearningandaplicationbypolicymakersofthemarketzeitgeist explanation,otherevidenceindicatesthatrecently,deliberatepolicy-copyingisnow ocuringinaneasterlydirection.AlthoughtheUKsettheprecedentforquasi-market reformsofeducation,thelectionofBlair’sLabourPartysetthestagefortheUSto becomeamodel.ItapearsthatBlairhasmodeledmuchofhispoliticalstrategyonhis neoliberalmentorinClintononisuessuchaswelfarereform(Jones,198;McGuire,
198/19).Ineducation,likewise,there-emergenceof”crisis”rhetoricintheUK sugestsnotadisatisfactionwiththeresultsoftheToryeducationpoliciessomuchasa desiretocontinuetocultivatepopularsuportforreforms(e.g.,BritishBroadcasting Corporation,19).IntheNewStatesman aforumforNewLabour”modernizers” Bilefsky(198)recentlyadvancedtheposibilityofemulatingUSfor-profitmodelfor charterscholsintheUK.Nowitapearsthatthismodelwilbeimportedasthe corectivedisciplinarianforporlyperformingschols(MacLeod,19a;MacLeod,
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schols(seThrup,198).Moreover,theEdisonProjecthasplansforinternational expansion,includingtheUK(Walsh,198a).
Questions for Further Investigation Thisexplorationalsoraisesseveralquestionforwhichasearchforanswersisbeyondthe scopeofthispaper.Isuesdeservingoffurtheratentioninclude:
Whatmarketconditionspromoteitherthediversificationorstandardizationof consumeroptions?Whatconditionssuportorconstraininovations?Towhatextentcan thoseconditionsbemanipulatedthroughpolicyinstruments?Howouldtheyaplyto educationquasi-markets?
WhatprecedentsareavailableregardingpublicfinancingofR&Defortsby privateproviders,particularlyexamplesthatspeaktothepotentialbenefitsandangers
inherentinthecharterscholmodel?Whilepublicmoneyhaslongonetonon-profit researchfoundationsanduniversities,whatlesonscanbelearnedfromthexamplessetin publicresourcesandprerogativesgoingtofor-profitendeavors?Somemightclaimthatthe defenseindustry,forexample,hasabuseditspositionwithwastefulandfraudulentuseof publicmoniesforresearchandevelopment(e.g.,MultinationalMonitor,19).Others mightpointtothegeneralbeneficialefectsofpublicfunding,proprietaryalowances,or privateprerogativesgrantedtoprivatendeavorsinpharmaceuticalresearch,forinstance (e.g.,Tulock,196).
Towhatextentdoestheparticipationorpenetrationofinvestmentcapitalpromoteor constraininovationsinmarket-orientedschols?Dosucesfulinvestmentcapital operationstendtobecomecautious,lokingforwaystomaintainposition?Oraresuch endeavorsmorelikelytopursuerisksandsuportentrepreneurialeforts?(Onthistrendin education,seWalsh,198b)
Whatistheroleofthecomongodinconstrainingandcultivatinginovationand diversification?Furthermore,whatistheroleofthestateorthepublicindefiningthe comongodanditsaplicationtothisquestion?Thereapearstobeapresumptionthat diversificationisinherentlygod.Butaremorechoicesalwaysbeter?Towhatextent doesthediversificationofconsumeroptionsencourageamovetowardthelowestcomon denominator,andrivedownthegeneralqualityofchoices?Forexample,some neoconservativesmightclaimthestatehasaninterestinregulatingthentertainment industrytothextentthatthepursuitofprofitspromoteslicentiousnes,hedonism,andbad taste.Similarly,healthadvocatesmightmakeaparalelclaimregardingthedutyofthestate tomonitororregulatethefastfodortobacoindustries,therebyconstrainingconsumer choices.Abeterexample,perhaps,involvesconsumerrightsintheautoindustry. Benetetal.(198)claimthatamonopolisticDetroitautoindustryfailedtohedconsumer preferencebybuildingtomany”expensive,gas-guzlingvehicles”inthe1970sand
1980s(p.28).WhiletheDetroitautoindustrydideventualyrespondtothechalenge posedbymorefuel-eficientJapaneseimports,recenttrendsindicatethat atleast partialybecauseofconsumerdemandandmarketingalautomakersarenowbuilding more”expensive,gas-guzlingvehicles”thaneverbefore,aslighttrucksandsportutility vehiclesnowoutnumbercarsinewvehiclesales.Doesanyoneclaimthatmore dangerous,leseficient,morepolutingvehicles(drivenbyconsumerpreferenceand imagemanufacturing)enhancethecomongod?Theagregatefectsmaybe detrimentaltoal.Butwhatistheroleofthestateandthepublicsetagainsttherightsofthe consumerinthisquestion?Theanswerwouldhaveimplicationsfortheroleofthestate andpublicintheregulationofconsumerchoiceandcompetitiveprovisioninmarket- orientededucation.
Finaly,whatistheapropriateroleofthestateinademocraticsocietyinrequiring rationalchoice?Theimplicationsofthisquestionareimportant.Sinceitisnotalways cleartoconsumerswhenevermarketingrepresentsinformationoninovationsorthe obfuscationofalackofimprovements,doesthestatehavearoleinregulatingthis informationintheinterestoffuldisclosure?Ifafre-marketsocietyispremisedonthe
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Diversification&DuplicationinCharter&GMSchols 30
fre-flowofinformationtoalowfulexerciseofrationalchoice,doesthestatenedto intervene,ironicaly,inordertodefendthelaisez-fairelementsinherentinacompetitive systemofinformation-basedchoice?Furthermore,doesthestatenedtorequirethe provisionoftruechoice,ortheguaranteofarangeofoptions,ifmarketfailureconstrains thoseaspectsofasystemofconsumerchoiceinanarealikeducation?
Inconclusion,thisesaydemonstratesthatthereisastandardizingtendencyinherentin marketsthatbothacompaniesandcounteractsthepotentialfordiversificationthat competitivemarketscangenerate.Thisanalysisisanatempttoprovideamorebalanced viewofthelogicaldynamicsofmarketprocesesineducationthanthatwhichisnow evidentinpolicydiscourseofchoiceineducation.Thus,whilenotdisputingthatthereare someconomicincentivesforinovationandexperimentationembededinthelogicof markets,thexamplesdiscusedhereindicatethattendenciesneglectedinpolicydiscourse canalsohaveoposingefects.Market-orientedreformersgeneralyignorethe constrainingpropertiesofcompetitivemarketsintheirdiscusionofthepotentialefectsof competitionineducation.Theirasumptionsofdiverseandinovativeoptionsareoverly optimisticandsimplistic.Inlieuofevidenceontheworkingsofmarketmechanismsin education,theymakeone-sidedalusionstoconsumermarkets,orideologicalasumptions abouthowmarketsshouldworkineducation.
ThexperiencesofcharterscholreformersinNorthAmericahasledtoareconfiguration oftheclaimsforcharterschols.Premisedontheclaimthatpublicscholclasroms wereinherentlyunproductivebecauseofbureaucraticLEAgovernance,charterschol reformerspromisedthatachangeingovernancewouldleadtoinovationsinthe clasrom.Asreal-worldproblemsandcompetitivemarketsdynamicsconstraintheability todeliverinovations,theyefectivelyretracttheirpromiseofclasromexperimentationin favorofthemoreasilyatainablegoalofoferingoptionsinvariouslocalities.Reformers ignorethexamplesofcompetitivequasi-marketsintheUK,andfailtotakeamore balancedviewofconsumermarkets.Thisanalysiscalsintoquestiontheclaimthatthe lackofeducationalinovationwasunpredictable.Thus,whilepromisesofeducational inovationcanbesenasharmlesorwel-intentionedinthemselves,theactual standardizationtrendsexposetheimprecisionofsuchclaims.Andtheirpredictability highlightstheservicethatthosefalseclaimsprovidedforinvestorsinopeningupublic educationasamarketforprofit-makingventures.
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I recently posted a long article by Michael Fullan that proposed a new paradigm for education reform. I found Fullan’s dismissal of the status quo persuasive, as well as his description of a forward-looking approach.

Laura Chapman, inveterate researcher and loyal reader, reviewed Fullan’s recent work and was disappointed with what she found:

If ever any paper needed close reading this is it, especially Fullan’s discussion of the 6C’s, 21st Century Skills, and vague references to some ancillary research in California and Australia.

I am working on learning more about at least one of Fullan’s California projects. Unfortunately there are no peer-reviewed summary of accomplishments.

Here is a link if you also want to see what assessment looked like in one Fullan project, a three-year $10 million effort to improve the performance of English Learners including long-term English Learners, funded by the California School Boards Association and several non-profits.  https://michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/The-Coherence-Framework-in-Action.pdf

You will see that the main measures of accomplishment are expressed as percentages, and that these percentages changed over the three-year project.

100% of Long-Term English Learners will access new curriculum supported with adequate technology, instructional materials, and assessments.

5% annual increase in English Learner language proficiency.

3% annual increase in English Learner A-G completion. (A-G refers to courses required for admission to either the California State University or University of California systems with a grade of C or better).

50% increase in Long-Term English Learner students reporting they feel positively connected to the school environment and experience success.

Year-to-year changes in these percentages appear to be framed as if evidence for continuous improvement.

This brief suggests that more detail can be found in specific pages of Fullan’s 2016 book: The Taking Action Guide to Building Coherence in Schools, Districts, and Systems. You have to buy or borrow the book to see the details.

Although some of the Fullan’s paper is appealing, it also represents another proposal for managing learning as if there are no redeeming features in our public schools and the principle of democratic governance for these.

It is worth noting that Joanne Quinn, a frequent collaborator with Fullan, has an MBA in Marketing and Human Resource Management. According to LinkedIn for 16 years she has been President of Quinn Consultants in Toronto. She also served for ten years as the Superintendent of Education for four schools in a district with 65,000 students.

Fullan is think-big thinker: “This paper is intended to provide a comprehensive solution to what ails the current public school system and its place in societal development – a system that is failing badly in the face of ever complex fundamental challenges to our survival, let alone our thriving as a species.”

I am uncomfortable with anyone who claims to have a “comprehensive solution” to the current public school system (including the USA) and who fails to address the fiscal and policy constraints that have been imposed on that system for decades along with a pattern of denial that planet earth and human survival is at risk.

If you want a better and brief jargon-free article on doable reforms, find “Twenty Years of Failing Schools” in The Progressive, February/March issue (pages 50-51. This article includes specific suggestions for the Biden administration and the new Secretary of Education. The author is Diane Ravitch.

In this post, Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle respond to a recent article that pitted civil rights groups against advocates for the Finnish model of education. They found the dichotomy puzzling. They wrote this article for this blog.

They write:

Two decades ago, Finland made big news in international education circles. Against all odds it became a top-performer in OECD’s first PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) study that compared 15-year-olds’ knowledge and skills in reading, mathematical and scientific literacies. Since about 2010 education experts and pundits in the United States have debated whether there is anything at all that American school systems could learn from that small Nordic nation’s school system. Ten years on and these debates still go on.


In their March 15, 2021 essay “Finland Meets Civil Rights”, Professor Jal Mehta and co-author Krista Galleberg make good points, including “we can draw on Finnish lessons while making them more relevant to our complex, multi-racial, and systemically inequitable context”, and “build shared responsibility instead of finger pointing, policies based in trust instead of distrust, and schools where Black and Brown students thrive instead of merely survive.”


But in framing their argument, Mehta and Gallebergmake the curious claim that “Since the beginning of the No Child Left Behind era, there has been a schism between what you might think of as the ‘Finland folks’ and much of the civil rights community, particularly its policy and legal advocates.”


We are aware of no such schism. We are curious to know which civil rights advocates would oppose the key foundations of the Finnish education system that are adaptable to the American context – such as comprehensive healthservices for every child and mother from birth, teachers trained and respected as professionals, free healthy school lunches for all, regular play and physical activity as part of every schools’ workplan, smaller class sizes, early indidualized special education support throughout schooling, equitable funding of schools, universal early childhood education and care as a basic right of every child, and highly collaborative schools that strive to integrate students of different capabilities and backgrounds.


According to Mehta and Galleberg, “accountability in the U.S. has historically been promoted by civil rights advocates and bemoaned by the Finland folks.” In fact, the opposite is true in Finland, which places the highest national emphasis on accountability– based on trust and constant productive dialogue between highly professional teachers, children, parents and policymakers. Moreover, Mehta and Galleberg also fail to explain to their readers that in Finland all schools and teachers operate under professional responsibility that expands far beyond the typical punitive,vertical accountability mechanisms that are typical in U.S. education administration.


What Finland does not is waste time or money on so-called “test-based accountability,” or basing its school system on the low-quality, expensive and ineffective governing metric of the universal standardized testing of children, as the United States has done under Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump, and seems to be continuing under President Biden, despite his clear campaign promise to stop it. Instead, the performance of Finland’s education system is monitored by multiple measures that include state-led sample-based standardized student assessments and locally managed school self-evaluations and peer reviews.


 The verdict is in on test-based accountability – it doesn’t work. Twenty years of it has achieved little to no sustained improvement in reading and math outcomes or in reducing achievement gaps in the United States, which were its main objectives. Today, the main driving forces behind “doubling down” on this failure are not civil rights organizations but under-informed philanthropists, politicians and business leaders.

We also find claims by Mehta and Galleberg that “Even today, educational reforms in Finland are framed as part of the country’s national defense plan” and “Excellent education for all is part of the nation’s response to Russian aggression” strange and without factual basis. It is a mistake to believe that Finland’s education policies are designed primarily to serve economic or national security interests. Furthermore, arguing that “Educational equity is therefore not treated as a national security imperative in the United States as it is in Finland” is simply not true. Promoting equity and social justice through education in all Nordic countries is based on human rights imperatives before anything else, certainly something that any civil rights advocate in the United States would wholeheartedly support.


The main lesson of Finland for any nation is that it is possible – and indeed necessary – to strive for both excellence and equity for all students. According to recent data from the OECD, Finland achieves both the highest efficiency of all the developed world’s education systems as measured by hours of study and learning outcomes, and the least performance variation between schools. “The neighborhood school is the best school” is a mantra often heard in Finland, and it is a reality that is widely achieved.


 Finland has deliberately designed its education system, from primary school to higher education, on the values and principles of equal rights to education. Finland upgraded the teaching profession in the 1980s to serve that purpose, so that each and every child would have a great public school in their neighborhood.

In the context of civil rights, Finland is the ultimate American school system.

The landmark Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court case of 1954 declared racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional, but it also stipulated in its order that public education “is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” That simple, beautiful phrase is settled national policy in the United States, but it has never been fully honored.
 

Those words should be symbolically carved onto the entranceways of every school, legislature and education ministry on Earth.

In Finland, they already are.

Pasi Sahlberg is a Finnish educator who has researched and examined education policies in Finland and the United States. His book “Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from Educational change in Finland”published by Teachers College Press won the 2013 Grawemeyer Award issued by the University of Louisville for an idea that has potential to change the world. He is currently Professor of Education Policy at the UNSWSydney.


William Doyle has served as a Fulbright Scholar in Finland, as a lecturer at Finland’s largest teacher training university, and as an advisor to the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland. In the last three years he has been a public school father in New York City and Tokyo, and currently in Helsinki, where he lives with his family.


Sahlberg and Doyle are co-authors of “Let the Children Play: For the learning, well-being, and life success of every child” (2019), published by Oxford University Press.

The BBC reports that the British Psychological Society warns that policymakers should emphasize children’s well-being rather than “catching up” with academics. They are concerned that children are facing too much pressure as the adults make decisions about what to do next. All schools in England are expected to open by March 8.

Dr Dan O’Hare, co-chair of the BPS division of educational and child psychology, said it was “absolutely understandable” that parents are concerned children have “been missing out on many aspects of their formal education” – but warned against setting expectations too high.

“The notion that children need to catch up or are ‘behind’ at school due to the pandemic reinforces the idea that children have ‘one shot’ at their education and puts them under even more pressure to perform academically after what has been a challenging and unprecedented time for everyone,” he told the PA News agency.

This is a wonderful and well-deserved tribute to Angela Merkel, who recently stepped down as leader of Germany and (for now) leader of the western world (Trump abdicated that position). Angela Dorothea Merkel has been Chancellor of Germany since 2005. She served as Leader of the Opposition from 2002 to 2005 and as Leader of the Christian Democratic Union from 2000 to 2018. A member of the Christian Democratic Union, Merkel is the first female chancellor of Germany. (Not sure why the post says 18 years; she was Chancellor for 16 years.) She was born in Hamburg (in West Germany) but moved as an infant to East Germany when her father, a Lutheran clergyman, had a pastorate there. She earned a Ph.D. in quantum chemistry, then worked in research until the democratic revolution of 1989, when she became involved in political life. The story below about her domestic life reminds me of what Harry S Truman said, when a reporter asked what he would do when he got home to Independence, Missouri. He said he would carry the empty luggage to the attic.

The Financial Times reports on a new phenomenon: educators around the world see the pandemic as an opportunity to break free of standardized exams.

Tony Stack, a Canadian educator, was developing a new way to assess children even before coronavirus. The decision to scrap end-of-year assessments after the pandemic struck presented the chance to put the “deep learning” approach into practice. “It offered an opportunity for an authentic learning experience, outside some of the constraints of an exam,” said Mr Stack, director of education for Newfoundland and Labrador province. This alternative model, used in 1,300 schools across eight countries, that prioritises skills and independent thinking “set a way forward for a more ethical approach to assessment,” he explained. “Skills that students need to learn through the pandemic cannot be assessed in a single test,” he added.

Most viewed the abrupt cancellation of exams in countries around the world as a regrettable loss that would diminish learning and life chances for a cohort of young people. A vocal group of educators also saw an opportunity to call time on the traditional exams system they say is unjust and outdated. “The pandemic has exacerbated all these problems that were already there with exams,” said Bill Lucas, director of the Centre for Real-World Learning at the UK’s Winchester university.

He believes traditional assessments unfairly standardises children of different abilities, fail to capture essential skills and put young people off through its rote-learning, one-size-fits-all approach. “Survey after survey says creativity, critical-thinking and communications are what we need. Exams don’t assess those things,” Mr Lucas said. “Covid has forced us to ask the question: ‘do we want to go back to where we were or do we want to stop and think?’” Rethinking Assessment, the advocacy group he co-founded to push for change, has attracted support from teachers, trade union leaders, policymakers and academics. Among them is Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a Cambridge university neuroscientist who argues that exams such as the GCSEs taken by 16 year-olds in England exaggerate stress and anxiety at a time when teenagers’ brains are still evolving. “We need to reassess whether high intensity, high stakes, national exams such as GCSEs are still the optimal way to assess the academic achievements of a developing young person,” she wrote late last year.

https://www.ft.com/content/9d64e479-182c-4dbd-96fe-0c26272a5875

He believes traditional assessments unfairly standardises children of different abilities, fail to capture essential skills and put young people off through its rote-learning, one-size-fits-all approach. “Survey after survey says creativity, critical-thinking and communications are what we need. Exams don’t assess those things,” Mr Lucas said. “Covid has forced us to ask the question: ‘do we want to go back to where we were or do we want to stop and think?’” Rethinking Assessment, the advocacy group he co-founded to push for change, has attracted support from teachers, trade union leaders, policymakers and academics. Among them is Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a Cambridge university neuroscientist who argues that exams such as the GCSEs taken by 16 year-olds in England exaggerate stress and anxiety at a time when teenagers’ brains are still evolving. “We need to reassess whether high intensity, high stakes, national exams such as GCSEs are still the optimal way to assess the academic achievements of a developing young person,” she wrote late last year.