Friday, October 19, 2012

Lessons from Finland and Chicago: Fighting Back Against the Corporate Education Reformers.

Today I went to hear a talk by Diane Ravitch at the Education Minnesota Professional Conference, and then heard Pasi Sahlberg at the Minnesota History Center.  The two of them made a clear case against the education "reforms" that dominate the discussions on public education, and for reforms that actually lead to educational equity.  I will present the arguments of each in the next couple of posts, but I'd like to share a couple of key details now.

Two important points from Diane Ravitch: Value Added Assessments (VAM) should never be used to evaluate teachers, and "reformers" simply ignore the actual data/research that overwhelmingly shows there ideas do not improve education.

From Pasi Sahlberg, I noted a couple of key quotes:
"Many Finnish teachers believe the enemy of creativity is standardization."
"Too many people are trying to do the wrong thing righter."

The second quote from Pasi, rang particularly true in Minneapolis in a very ironic way.  The main sponsor for Pasi's talk was The Minnesota Guild of Public Charter Schools, an organization created by my own union (the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, local 59), with a grant from the Innovation Fund of the AFT (the Innovation Fund was created in part with a grant from the Gates Foundation).  The Guild is trying to start "teacher-led" charter schools to out-complete other charter schools.  This effort feeds the competitive, free-market approach to education that, as Pasi pointed out, Finland has rejected.

We will not create a truly equitable, democratic, and socially-just system of public education by playing the games of the neo-liberal, corporate reformers, or trying to "out-compete" them, as too many of our own teacher union leaders are doing.  We need to listen to the information presented by Pasi Salhberg, Diane Ravitch, and we need to follow the model laid out out by the Chicago Teachers' Union.

Tomorrow, I will hear from, and talk to, Karen Lewis, the President of the Chicago Teachers' Union.  She is one of the few union leaders who have taken a courageous stance against the corporate reformers.  Also, next Saturday, October 27th, Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report will be in Minneapolis to give a full history and analysis of the damage done in the past few decades by the education 'reformers."

Posted by: Rob Panning-Miller

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