Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Corporate Education Reformers Should Partner with, not Attack or Align Against, Educators

It's no secret or surprise that the major "education reform" efforts of the past decade or so are driven by the business world, not parents or educators or politicians or school boards. Driven by "stories" and news of the "decline of public education" and the "failing state" of public schools, people in the business world such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have joined with organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and think tanks like Achieve, Inc to launch nationwide efforts to change the nature of public education. The charter school movement and the Common Core national standards initiative have been born out of buinsess leaders belief that they can "fix public education." They base their hopes and fears on a view of public education based on the dismal nature of America's worst 30% of schools and the reports in the news that American students trail the world on standardized assessments like the PISA exam.

There are, clearly, numerous problems and shortcomings with this point of view. But it is the current reality, and schools must deal with it as such.

Thus, it's refreshing to hear from experienced educators and school administrators who can take a critical eye to both public education and the corporate-led reform movement. That is the feeling I got from reading the commentary "How Business Leaders Can Help Education" today in the Vail Daily from Eagle County Schools superintendent Jason Glass who offers some valuable recommendations for the education reformers. Glass's piece very astutely identifies the problems and challenges of corporate-led "education reform" while also acknowledging the good intentions and potential benefits of an education-business relationship. Glass offers some important recommendations for business leaders hoping to help, not the least of which is encourage business leaders to team with educators as opposed to painting them as the problem and the enemy. Imagine that.

And, in a particularly insightful observation, consider Glass's opening:

This week, a star-studded list of CEOs, investors and entrepreneurs from across the country gathered in Avon to discuss the important topic of improving the American education system. I felt fortunate to be invited and to be a participant in this event, the discussions and the ideation.

Clearly, the absence of educators and parents and students from the meeting in Avon to discuss how to fix education is the primary problem with corporate-led reform efforts. Not only should a school superintendent not feel "fortunate to be invited," but the "CEOs, investors" and business leaders should be ashamed of themselves for convening any discussion of "improving the education system" without the primary stakeholders as the center of the event. Discussion of improving education should take place in schools and communities with teachers and parents present, not at resort areas away from the crux of the matter.

So, thanks to Superintendent Glass for his commentary and insight. Let's hope some of the businessmen who gracioulsy invited him to discuss his area of expertise actually listened to his input.

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