Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Is Gotham Schools Comparing Apples to Reformy Windbags?

 When a true genius appears, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

~Jonathan Swift.

I'm very disappointed when I read something like this from Leonie Haimson. Apparently Gotham Schools has seen fit to write a story about where her kids attend school, days after a similar story surfaced about Michelle Rhee. It turns out she, like Rhee, has chosen to place her children in private school. In this space, you have not seen criticism of people for choosing private school for their children. You have seen criticism of people who choose private school for their children and force something inferior on our children.

 How dare they insist on a system for our kids they deem unfit for theirs?

For example, people like Michelle Rhee, Barack Obama, Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein send their kids to elite schools with small class sizes. For their kids, that sort of education is important. Yet our kids should sit in large classes while their teachers are vilified for their failure to reach 100% of the students in their classes. No excuses. Learning disability? No English? Too bad for you. Fire the teachers, close the schools, and salt the earth so nothing will ever grow there. Neighborhood schools? What's a neighborhood?

The schools Rhee, Obama, Klein and Rahm choose for their kids do not test them to death. Yet, these hypocrites think our kids should do nothing but test prep, our kids should be measured only by test scores. They push idiotic data systems on us. They insist teachers be rated by what is, in fact, junk science. The fact that it is garbage dissuades them not at all. I have actually heard arguments that it's only 20-40% garbage, so don't worry.

However, as an educator, I am firmly anti-garbage. I don't teach garbage, I don't write garbage, and I don't want garbage for your child or mine, or anyone's. I had a long conversation with a reformy friend of mine. My reformy friend argued people like Leonie are hypocrites because they send their kids to private schools. I don't think so.

Here are just a few differences between Leonie Haimson and Michelle Rhee. The first, of course, is that Leonie Haimson advocates for small classes for my kids and your kids. She fights so that they are not, in fact, subject to ridiculous tests that establish nothing yet enrich Michael Bloomberg's BFFs. She fights so all kids can learn under optimal conditions.

Michelle Rhee, on the other hand, runs around advocating for schools that relentlessly test our kids, because in her reformy world, nothing else matters. She does not fight for the one thing we know helps our neediest kids, reasonable class size. She walks around peddling the gun-to-your-head no excuses BS that led to the scandal recently uncovered in Atlanta, and the one not yet fully uncovered in her former fiefdom of Washington DC. Her idiotic notion that all kids need the same corporate-style crap directly contradicts the message we teachers always get--you have to differentiate. How on earth can you effectively differentiate instruction when the test is the same no matter what?

Furthermore, who knows how much Rhee gets to head her astroturf group Students First? Not me.  I'm certain she doesn't do it out of the goodness of her heart. I do know it costs 35K plus expenses if you want her to spread her wisdom around your place. 

Leonie does this work because she has a passion to improve education. I know she's working for my child, and for the children I'm privileged to teach. Rhee spouts corporate nonsense that doesn't work and helps no one but the companies that want to peddle useless crap to our hapless kids. There is a huge difference between these two individuals. I asked Leonie to come to our school and speak, and she did, gratis. We gave her a hoodie with the school name on it, but I'm pretty sure she'd have been just as happy if we didn't.

Leonie writes Gotham Schools intended to make the comparison between she and Rhee, though I did not see it directly referenced in their final story. Directly, obliquely, or coincidentally, it's preposterous beyond belief.

Full disclosure: My kid attends public school. She'd like to go to military school (really!) but I'm not going for it.
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