Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Daugaard's Assualt On Teachers Part Of Republican Governors' Strategy

The Republican Governors' Conference must have assigned a group project.  Writing in The Answer Sheet blog, Diane Ravitch shows how Governor Daugaard's merit pay, continuing contract, and testing proposals seem to have been plagiarized.
Gov. Jindal is in a race to the bottom with other Republican governors to see who can move fastest to destroy the underpinnings of public education and to instill fear in the hearts of teachers. It’s hard to say which of them is worst: Jindal, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Rick Scott of Florida, John Kasich of Ohio, or .... There are so many contenders for the title, it’s hard to name them all.

They all seem to be working from the same playbook: Remove any professionalism and sense of security from teachers; expand privatization as rapidly as possible, through charters and vouchers; intensify reliance on high-stakes tests to evaluate teachers and schools; tighten the regulations on public schools while deregulating the privately managed charter schools. Keep up the attack on many fronts, to confuse the supporters of public education.

The governors appear to be working from the ALEC playbook, ALEC (or the American Legislative Exchange Council) being an organization that shapes model legislation for very conservative state legislators.

Using the right coded language is a very important part of the assault on public education: Call it “reform.” Say that its critics are “defenders of the status quo,” even though the status quo is 10 years of federally mandated high-stakes testing and school closings. If possible, throw mud at the defenders of public education and say that they only have “adult interests” at heart, while the pseudo-reformers — the rich and powerful —are acting only in the interests of children.

Soon after I spoke, Jindal’s newly selected State Superintendent John White had a conference call with reporters to challenge what I said, which was odd because he was not present and did not hear what I said. He had no substantive response to my research review showing that charters, vouchers, and merit pay don’t produce better education. He had no substantive response to my critique of the vagaries of value-added evaluation of teachers. Instead, he pointed to the New Orleans model as a paradigm of “reform,” meaning, I suppose, the benefits of closing down public schools, turning the children over to private management, breaking the teachers’ union, and hiring inexperienced, uncertified teachers.
Ravitch's comments do prompt a few sardonic questions.

1. Did the Governor come up with his "I'm a lobbyist for the students" line by himself or did the other Republican governors help him with his homework?

2. Dr. Ravitch puts Governor Daugaard in the too many to mention category. Does that mean he's not in the top 20% of Republican governors and won't get merit pay?

3. Was there a special session about ignoring evidence or are these governors just winging their responses?

4. Is the Governor hoping to create a South Dakota miracle or a South Dakota model of reform? (I hope he remembers that the Texas miracle was based on a lie and that the data do no not support a New Orleans model or Michelle Rhee type reforms, but then again, I'm a hopeless romantic.  I still hope my students will use the study guide to remember the names of Greek gods and heroes.)


caheidelberger said...

That fourth paragraph in the quote, on "coded language", is huge.

LK said...

I agree.

I am also going to be a bit impolitic here. Too many teachers don't understand how language frames an issue. Unless SDEA and local teacher leaders start using the same tools, reactionary Republicans will continue to successfully destroy public education.

Too many teachers think that that "for the children" will make everyone automatically support teachers. More people will melt if one says "for the puppies."