Challenging Corporate Ed Reform

And 10 hopeful signs of resistance

By Stan Karp

Published in the Spring 2012 edition of Rethinking Schools

“Corporate school reformers like to call themselves just ‘reformers’ and counterpose themselves to the ‘status quo.’ And there’s no doubt that the corporate/foundation crowd has successfully captured the media label as ‘education reformers.’ If you support testing, charters, merit pay, the elimination of tenure and seniority, and control of school policy by corporate managers, you’re a ‘reformer.’ If you support increased school funding, collective bargaining, less standardized testing, and control of school policy by educators, you’re a ‘defender of the status quo.’ ”

“Standardized tests, which have been disguising class and race privilege as merit for decades, have become the ‘credit default swaps’ of the education world. Few people understand how either really works. Both encourage a focus on short-term gains over long-term goals. And both drive bad behavior on the part of those in charge. These deeply flawed tests have become the primary policy instruments used to shrink public space, impose sanctions on teachers, and close or punish schools. If the corporate reformers have their way, their schemes to evaluate teachers and the schools of education they came from with another generation of tests based on the ‘common core’ standards will dramatically expand the testing plague unleashed by NCLB.

Beyond changing the way schools and classrooms function daily, the larger goals of corporate reform are reflected in the attacks on collective bargaining and teachers’ unions, and in the permanent crisis of school funding across the country. These policies undermine public education and facilitate its replacement by a market-based system that would do for schooling what the market has done for health care, housing, and employment: produce fabulous profits and opportunities for a few and unequal outcomes and access for the many.”

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