they’re coming to “save” your schools… (part 3)

Since 1983 and the publication of the report, “A Nation at Risk,” education “reformers” have been plentiful (though not cheap) and roaming the countryside, busking their reform riff for anyone who would pay the price.  Hucksters with degrees and pedigrees, these champions of  “education reform” have changed the entire landscape of public education for decades.  The results are now laid bare for anyone with eyes to see: smaller school budgets, technology for technology’s sake, “reformed” textbooks, stagnant teacher pay, increased pay for top administrators, greater workloads for teachers, reduced representation for teacher unions, elimination of tenure, pay for play schemes, merit pay schemes, school vouchers, charter schools, and high-stakes testing.

Various Years

Change in Test Scores (1973—2012)

And through it all, even through budget cuts and teacher demoralization, educational outcomes in this country have remained relatively stable.

So how do you create the impetus for change, especially when change isn’t necessary?  First, you have to manufacture a crisis by lying about performance, and then you have to discredit  the opinions of the professionals tasked with improving performance.  In Diane Ravitch’s recent book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, she documents just such a method.  Using doomsday verbiage, the hucksters have convinced average (and non-reading) Americans that their public school system is failing.  Not only is it not failing, but also scores as reported in the National Assessment of Educational Progress are currently at their highest point in history.

“Compared to the first assessment in 1971 for reading and in 1973 for mathematics, scores were higher in 2012 for 9- and 13-year-olds and not significantly different for 17-year-olds.” —NAEP Report (2012)

Long-term trend

Math scores (13 year-olds)

Long-term trend

Reading scores (13 year-olds)

Now, Ravitch is no left-wing liberal elite scholar-type the hucksters so love to dismiss as “part of the problem,” she is the former Assistant Secretary of Education during the first Bush administration.  Having finally seen the light, she is now fighting the good fight by throwing a spotlight on the disinformation and sleight of hand of the ranks of the educational hucksters.

Now there is an important question to be asked here:  If  there really is no crisis, then what’s the point of attempting to affect change?


In the mid 1980’s Ross Perot championed education reform in Texas,  and was able to hoodwink then-governor Mark White into buying the bilge water published in “A Nation at Risk.”  A commission was formed, and from that was born a number of educational “reforms” such as teacher “career ladder” (merit pay), teacher testing (a joke that has since morphed into certification exams), and, among other things, high-stakes testing known as Texas Educational Assessment of Minimum Skills (TEAMS).  And guess whose company was picked to grade the tests?

Standardized Testing Costs States $1.7 Billion A Year, Study Finds

Since that day, the hucksters have crawled out of the woodwork sniffing the fecund aroma of a new profit center.

Now, I don’t believe for a second that money is the education reformer’s only raison d’être.  Others would include: political power, creating an oligarchy or aristocracy, or just wrong-headed fervor.

In Part 4 we will examine each of these motivating factors in turn…


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