My twitter friend Dave Meister wrote this the other day and it has stuck with me:
Stop the Walmartization of education @dianeravitch— Dave Meister (@DaveMeister_) November 17, 2012
I’m guessing he was listening to or reading Diane Ravitch at the time, I’m not sure. Either way, this short post really struck a chord.
I haven’t written or shared much about it, but my district is currently a pilot for Colorado’s Senate Bill 191 (aka SB-191) educator effectiveness legislation. My district of 15,000 students was selected for this “opportunity” last January and I’ve watched it emerge over the last year feeling very conflicted about where this is all headed.
In addition to piloting the evaluation system — a 23-page-per-teacher document that comprises 50% of a teacher’s “effectiveness” combined with 50% from (you guessed it!) scores on state tests — we are also what is called an “integration” district. This means that we are also rolling out massive curricular shifts in the form of what are being called the math and literacy design collaboratives. These are huge initiatives that tie classroom instruction and assessment directly back to the Common Core State Standards.
None of these things is inherently “bad,” in fact much of the writing focus of the Literacy Design Collaborative I like quite a bit, but when I look at the intensity and speed with which these changes have shifted the work we do in our district, I’m crossing my fingers that it’s the right work. There is an awful lot of corporate funding behind this from The Gates Foundation and others. Last week, I read that Gates is out-funding the US Department of Education nearly 40-1 (You need to be an ASCD member to read the whole thing).
A friend shared his video with me last week as well.
I teach ethics in leadership every summer at CSU and, watching this video, something doesn’t pass the “stench test” for me. The companies that want to take over evaluation systems, create (and, of course, assess) new standards, and then sell us curriculum to teach to them are now essentially grooming superintendents with an astounding 43% placement rate.
I’m not sure what to make of any of this, but just watching the speed and scope of how this has played out in my own district, I can’t help but wonder whether, in 5 or 10 years, we will all be looking around at a Wal-Martized educational landscape, scratching our heads, and wondering, “How did this happen? Why didn’t we see this coming?”