Books are Enough

The Power of Free, Self-Selected Reading

An Open Letter to Jeb Bush: Stop Lying about Education

I have really had enough of Jeb Bush lying about education. He recently said we need high standards, accountability, and choice. Let’s look at all three of his claims.

1. Standards- Well we already have standards. These standards are pretty good based on our results. The big problem is poverty. Bush refuses to deal with the big civil rights issue of the day- massive child poverty. Poverty is the most reliable predictor of school performance- not standards. How are we doing?

  • There is no crisis in standards or international test scores- Our NAEP scores are at record highs for Hispanics, blacks, whites, and Asians. Students in public schools – low poverty- score at the top of international tests (PISA).  Yes we are #1 with really low poverty schools (10%) and near the top with mild poverty schools (20%).  The massive poverty in the US brings us down to the middle of the pack. Is there some standards or teacher crisis? No.
  • Are we falling behind?  Well the World Economic Forum report on competitiveness ranks the US in the top ten out of 144 nations. Crisis? Nope.
  • STEM problem? Well the World Economic Forum ranks us #5 out of 133 nations in “availability of scientists and engineers.” We are #2 in “quality of scientific research.”  We are #1 in university-industry research collaboration. Is there a crisis? Nope.
  • We have  never been at the top of international tests -overall-  and we built the strongest economic nation the world as ever seen. There is no “slip.”

2. Accountability- We have accountability.  Teachers provide accountability each day. We have GPA and we have exams. We even have diplomas. Oddly, each time kids do well, Bush and Co. advocate raising standards to keep the manufactured crisis going.  By accountability, Bush means testing- a lot. He also means VAM. What about Bush massive testing?

  • There is no evidence that massive testing does any good. States with more high stakes testing do no better on NAEP than others.
  • The idea that college and career ready comes from testing is NOT supported by evidence. HSGPA is a better predictor. (See Geiser and Santelices 2007)
  • Deal with massive US poverty. Imagine taking all the billions- yes billions -thrown into the educational testing complex (testing, computers, programs, test prep materials, grading contracts, security checks, workbooks, common core materials) and direct it to kids needing BOOKS to read, houses, health care, food. Is it not clear that if we deal with poverty and despair that we will solve the other problems? The tests scores prove this is true. Kids who read more, do better, need little if any later remediation and do great in college.
  • Common Core and its PARCC testing has and will drain billions away from schools and kids. As you can see from above, there is no need for common core. We should institute the old Ted Kennedy idea of “Book Stamps” – money well spent helping kids be book-loving citizens. See Allington, Gambell, Krashen, Cunningham, and many more on the power of self-selected reading on lives and achievement.
  • Bush loves merit pay- tried for over 100 years and fails. FL has a merit plan with no money set aside. Brilliant!

3. Choice- Choice -or as we call it in FL “segregation” – implies schools are broken which as you can see from above is manifestly false. The diversion of funds is criminal. As many recent reports pointed out- choice students do no better than anyone else. The history of choice school disasters in FL is well documented. There are some great charters and private schools though. Do we need to be funding them with tax dollars based on the false idea that regular public schools are broken? No. Choice is the “great distraction” born from a false premise and now used to starve and privatize public education.

Jeb and Co. are doing their best to make attending regular public schools so terrible that folks want to flee to less testing and more freedom. Why not give all schools the freedom and “choices” charters and private schools have? No. We can’t have that now can we?  FL high schools can expect 45 different tests this year that will cover at least 70 days. Immoral? Criminal? You decide.

And the crowd began to notice that the Emperor was without clothes…


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