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Jeannie Kaplan served two terms as an elected member of the Denver school board. As a strong supporter of public schools, she has been critical of the “reforms” in her city. Denver has been controlled by “reformers” for a decade. Recently Jeannie was invited by the Boston Teachers Union to explain what has happened in Denver and to assess the “reforms.”
Her remarks appear in full on her blog. Here is an excerpt:
“Public education in Denver despite what you may have heard or read about in the press is a system in chaos. It is a system run by a cabal. It is a system where politics, pardon the expression, trumps good policy and the truth. But let us be very clear: the top reform goal is to undermine teachers’ unions and the education profession.
“I am going to highlight some of what Denverites have witnessed in the past 10 years in public education. I will cover a lot of territory quickly but can’t cover everything. If you want more information, please ask me questions. If any of what I am about to describe sounds familiar to you in Boston or Massachusetts, sound the alarm and organize the troops
“Words to worry about:
Charters, particularly the strict regimented, “no-excuses” kind
High Stakes Testing
Longer school days
Longer school year
At Will Employees
Eliminating the achievement gap
Teacher evaluations based on high stake testing
“And my all time favorite, human capital. Boston Public Schools already has an office of human capital so my sense is you are on the way to being reformed.
“These elements of reform are the building blocks of an overarching national education reform policy based on a common business practice referred to as a portfolio strategy. What are the most common features of portfolio strategies? Keeping winners, dropping losers which in turn produces constant churn and chaos. This strategy in education reform greatly is helped along the way by legislation which ultimately results in the unfettered expansion of charter schools, the use of high stakes testing to evaluate teachers and schools, the demise of neighborhood schools through choice and resource starvation, destroying of teachers’ unions by whatever means necessary, fear and bullying of workers, all of which have resulted in a reduction in actual learning.
“A portfolio strategy may be a great business strategy. I can tell you from experience it is an awful educational strategy. Students and teachers and parents and communities are neither commodities to be bought and sold nor should they ever be characterized as winners and losers.
“My real message today is this: when you hear any of the above reform words. SOUND THE ALARM: Parents, Teachers, Students, and Communities (PTSC) unite and fight. Organizing, uniting and fighting this “reform” at the outset is the only way to stop this failing model from infiltrating your state and your city. PTSC UNITE AND FIGHT!
“Once education reformers get a foothold in your system, they become like dogs with a bone. They don’t ever let go, and they continue to fight to undermine the cornerstone of our democracy, public education, through privatization and corporatization Give them an inch and they take the world. Our only hope is to be brave and work as a coalition. We can’t match their money; we can and must overmatch their commitment.”