New Studies on the Failure of Market Reform

7/30/2016 William Mathis and Tina Trujillo have edited a massive compilation of the research demonstrating the severe problems with market-based reforms, Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms; Lessons for ESSA (2016) The book has twenty-eight chapters in five sections.

  • The Foundations of Market-Based Reforms;
  • Test-Based Sanctions: What the Evidence Says
  • False Promises
  • Effective and Equitable Reforms
  • Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act

The research and examples in the book are further support for many of the claims and research provided in this website.

7/30/2016 Mercedes Schneider’s book on the failures of the schools choice movement is now available in paperback. School Choice; The End of Public Education (2016)

To quote from an announcement of the book: Proponents of market-driven education reform view vouchers and charters as superior to local-board-run, community-based public schools. However, the author of this timely volume argues that there is no clear research supporting this view. In fact, she claims there is increasing evidence of charter mismanagement–with public funding all-too-often being squandered while public schools are being closed or consolidated. Tracing the origins of vouchers and charters in the United States, this book examines the push to ”globally compete” with education systems in countries such as China and Finland. It documents issues important to the school choice debate, including the impoverishment of public schools to support privatized schools, the abandonment of long-held principles of public education, questionable disciplinary practices, and community disruption. School Choice: The End of Public Education? is essential reading for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the past and future of public education in America.https://www.amazon.com/School-Choice-End-Public-Education/dp/080775725X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1468030602&sr=1-1 This book makes a similar case for the problems of schools choice as my articles.

7/30/2016. Further support for the failure of for-profit educational efforts has just been thoroughly documented in Samuel Abrams 2016 book, Education and the Commercial Mindset. He tells the instructive story of Edison, founded on the belief that public schools were so inefficient that applying the best business practices would save enough money to allow both high profits and high performance if private companies managed them. Chris Whittle, the super-salesman of Channel One fame (in return for TV’s schools agreed to have their students watch a slickly produced news show with commercials–Channel One eventually went belly-up due to negative evaluations and educator resistance), convinced foundations and the investment community to sink hundreds of millions of dollars in such a private management scheme. In the 1990’s the company took off with a bang, hired high-profile executives, and secured contracts to manage schools in such places as Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Contrary to promises the company produced no better and, in many cases, worse results than comparable public schools, alienated the communities they were in, narrowed the curriculum for test preparation, and couldn’t even keep order in many of their schools. Losses forced the company  to keep borrowing to stay alive. This did not stop Edison from providing top salaries and perks for its executives and spending large amounts on advertising and marketing. Edison eventually lost all but a few of its management contracts. By 2013 after being taken private, the remnant which had been reduced to a shell was sold for a pittance. Investors along the way lost most of their investment. The book also describes a similar fate for other Educational Management Organizations (EMOs) especially the on-line virtual academies referred to above in the Article. He also gives chapter and verse on the rise and fall of for-profit schools in Sweden as mentioned above.

Abrams argues that such a demise was inevitable. He quotes economic researchers who claim that  privatizing some services are easily monitored such as school busing or constructing buildings. Other services, however, where there is a mismatch of information or clout, run into difficulty in assuring quality service. Clients or contracting government entities in privatized prisons, elderly homes, or especially schools don’t have the power of correction or expertise to tell if the private company is cutting corners to increase returns or executive pay or if the service such as education students are receiving is worthwhile.

Abrams also provides a chapter on the non-profit Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) especially KIPP schools. As stated above, he finds that some are very good and others are spotty. He contends that even the best cannot be scaled because they rely on large foundation support, teachers who are unsustainably over-worked (and leave at much higher rates than the public school counterparts), and students and parents who are willing to endure a harsh “no excuses” management style. He also confirms the point I raised that CMOs can control who they accept,  many don’t backfill when underperforming students drop-out leaving a smaller, higher achieving remnant, benefit from a more committed student body and their parents which makes comparisons difficult, and since they live or die by test-scores narrow the curriculum and spend inordinate amounts of time on test-preparation which harms children later in high-school and college.

Finally, he shows how Finland took a different path. They raised teacher pay, improved teacher training and autonomy, used sampling strategies for test assessment instead of wide-spread testing, and provided a broad liberal arts education. Unlike Sweden, whose PISA results declined substantially after adopting privatization measures, Finland improved from mediocre results to become one of the top countries in the PISA assessments.

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