Reforming Like a Behaviorist, Part 1: Rising from the Dead

Overview: This series argues that many contemporary education reform efforts are behaviorist in nature; this analysis helps us evaluate current education reform efforts from a new perspective. Part 1 offers readers evidence of behaviorism’s influence, and introduces them to five tenets of behaviorist philosophy that are not widely discussed or debated. Part 2 uses what… Continue reading

Opt Out 2017: Refusing Education as a Police Power

The Opt Out movement is more important than ever. Why? There are several reasons. First, despite what the New York State Education Department (NYSED) is saying, and despite promises that the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will reduce testing demands, this year’s tests already have and will continue to negatively affect students, teachers, principals… Continue reading

Guest Podcast: The Origin of Charter Schools

Charter Schools Shawgi TellI’m posting a podcast presentation by Shawgi Tell regarding the origin of charter, or more accurately, contract schools. It is with this point of origin of charter schools in the market logic of the contract that we see both the private and corporate essence of charters. This arrangement is not an “innovation”. It harkens back to some features of colonial times (e.g., notice charter chains emphasis on a ridged morality of work — e.g., “grit”), to public/private ventures such as the early academies and charity schools, including those in New York State. It was, in part, the failure of these (pre-public school) arrangements that helped create the conditions for the advance of public school systems and state constitutional amendments mandating common schools. Most importantly, the struggle for public schools gave rise to the historic and yet unrealized aim of providing quality education to all as a right. As charters are bound to the logic of contracts, they are also bound to give rise to the same social, political and economic inequalities as competitive markets, especially under conditions of economic monopoly and in particular the domination of the claims of finance capital over public rights and the common good.

Podcast: School Receivership

A few weeks ago, Shawgi Tell (Nazareth College of Rochester) and I initiated what will be a series of podcasts on education reform. We decided to begin with the topic of school governance and privatization, with a focus on school receivership. We both hope readers find the discussion useful and in particular we hope it inspires more investigation and discussion of receivership and its alternatives.

Here are some facts that may be useful to know as you listen to the podcast.

  • In April 2015, Subpart E of Part EE of Chapter 56 of the Laws of 2015 created a new section of State Education Law (§211-f) pertaining to School Receivership.
  • In July 2015 State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia Identified 144 public schools to begin implementation of school receivership in New York State.
  • Under the receivership law, a school receiver is granted new authority to “turn around” “struggling” schools.
  • Receivers are appointed, not elected. They must be approved by the Commissioner.
  • Receivers have broad powers that override the authority of students, teachers, parents, principals, and elected school boards. Receivers can also abolish positions.
  • In the Buffalo Public School system, the superintendent, Kriner Cash, is the receiver. Among other things, he can involuntarily transfer any teacher any time and change the length of the school day or school year. He can also fire the entire staff, without cause, at a receivership school, change the curriculum and programs, or convert the school to a private charter school.

The Behaviorist Origin of Close Reading

I ended Metric Morality by outlining the role I believe behaviorism plays in the current attach on public education and democratic living more generally. In particular, I contend, behaviorism is implicated in “an ever increasing drug-like fixation on qualification, a mechanistic and reductionist mentality that deform understandings of skill, thinking, teaching and learning.” One such distortion is “close reading.”… Continue reading

Metric Morality

Metrics, metrics, metrics. More and more of educational life is governed by metrics. Changes in policy are said to be justified by trends in metrics; measures of school performance are down, so something must change. Students are accepted or rejected into college based on metrics. School closings are justified on the basis of metrics. Teachers… Continue reading

The Significance of Receivership

As new law granting executive powers to the Commissioner of Education is used to seize control of more than two dozen Buffalo Public Schools — a law that appears to be in violation of the democratic governance provisions of Buffalo’s Charter — parents, teachers, community activists and others are organizing to oppose this receivership law… Continue reading

Song: Refuse the Tests, Refuse Receivership!

Here’s the song “Refuse the Tests” to inspire everyone as the new school year begins — inspiration is key amidst a variety of attacks, uncertainties as well as to support the growing movement for real change that favors the public interest and democratic renewal.

At Sound Garrison over the summer, I recorded this group of Buffalo students, teachers, parents, youth and community activists organizing to defend public education and fight for the equal right to education for all. They wrote “Refuse the Tests” to both represent and inspire this movement.

This was a very quick session, as it was difficult to coordinate everyone’s schedules. We focused on the energy that is to be conveyed by the song, and the spirit of all joining in! Hope you enjoy!

Common Core and Corporate “Reform” Require a Governance Structure Fit to Impose the “Student as Product” Mentality

The following article was originally published on January 31, 2013. Its content is very relevant to solving the problem of receivership now facing the Buffalo Public Schools. I’ve revised it slightly for clarity.  Going back to Horace Mann, the argument given was that because public schools were funded with public money, and because they were to serve democratic… Continue reading

A New Public for a New Public Education is Emerging

Tomorrow afternoon, students, teachers, parents and community activists, moved by their collective conscience, and as agents in a historically significant battle for democracy, will converge at Performing Arts High School in Buffalo (at Ferry and Masten) to demand public schools remain public. Students, teachers, parents and community activists are demanding that the substantial redesign plans… Continue reading

Guest Post: Your Data Will Lie to You, if You Let It

By Eric (Big “E”) Mihelbergel: Eric Mihelbergel resides outside of Buffalo, NY with his wife and two daughters. His education advocacy, which started in his hometown of Tonawanda, has spread across the entire state of New York.  Mihelbergel is a founding member of the groups New York State Allies for Public Education and Western New Yorkers… Continue reading

Governing Outside the Public Sphere? Here’s Another Gates Funded Anti-Public Education Billionaire Front Group 

Bill Gates and venture philanthropy in general have been in the news lately[1] and I don’t believe the attention has been all that welcome in those circles. There is a lot of evidence these “disruptive innovators” are on the defensive. I take the Gates funded Higher Education for Higher Standards group rallying some higher education… Continue reading