Are we stuck with it?

Please do not dismiss this reading. Here is the real story of how Australia got stuck with Kleinism and the NAPLAN system at the GREATEST EXPENSE to the taxpayer.     `Let’s stop our APATHY and fix the problem. Please advise me if any politician or candidate in this election will promise to DO SOMETHING and SAVE millions of dollars and the future of our greatest asset- OUR CHILDREN.

“That night Treehorn was watching TV.  As he reached over to change channels, he noticed that his hand was bright green. He looked in the mirror that was hanging over the television set. His face was green. His ears were green. His hair was green. He was green all over.

Treehorn sighed. ‘I don’t think I’ll tell anyone,’ he thought to himself. ‘If I don’t say anything, they won’t notice.’”  [The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heidi, Pomegranate Kids, San Francisco, 2011] 

Yes. Treehorn had learned. Adults don’t care about kids, especially when kids have a serious concern.

KLEINISM – Are We Stuck With It?

 

In 2008, Minister for Education, Julia Gillard was at a cocktail party  in New York. She met Joel Klein a sweet-talking lawyer who was in charge of New York City’s School District – a very large district. Before the party was over, Ms Gillard was convinced that the Klein system was the best that Australia could buy. It was a bully’s bible. Plenty of fear-based operations. She arranged for him to duck down-under to talk to big business folk in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. ACARA was established.  NAPLAN testing was forced on all state authorities through funding threats; significant groups were cunningly captured and KLEINISM became the control mechanism for all Australian schools…..within a few months.  Joel was proud and openly boasted of the way his system was working in Australia. More Klein features like punishing teachers whose pupils don’t improve and testing 5-year olds have recently been added.

After a little while Joel took a job with Rupert Murdoch at an exorbitant salary, organising the distribution of testing material, test-preparation material and computer programs throughout the world. Billions of dollars. School testing became one of the biggest money-making rackets of all time. It’s a racket, nothing else. Were we sold a pup?  Upon Klein’s departure from the schooling game into the Testing Industry racket, Marc Epstein, through Valerie Strauss The Answer Sheet of THE WASHINGTON POST  wrote….

JOEL KLEIN’S SNOW JOB

In a series of interviews, a valedictory letter to his principals, a segment on the PBS News Hour, and a scrapbook full of clippings from the editorial pages of the New York press, Klein was variously described, and described himself, as America’s most significant educator, a radical, an innovator, and a transformational figure. For the past eight years he has claimed historic academic achievements for the nations’ largest school system that were reflected in higher test scores and record graduation rates!

So with all those seeming accomplishments his sudden departure remains something of a puzzle. His stated goals were to eliminate civil service seniority practices, teacher tenure, close “failing” schools, terminate teachers from closing schools, and expand privately managed funded schools. Klein enjoyed carte blanche from the mayor to pursue these policies and high praise from the president himself. So why end this quest now?

My guess is that it is because Klein’s and Bloomberg’s [NY Mayor] proud boasts of “historic” success dried up once The New York State Department of Education recalibrated the tests scores and New York City’s results fell like a lead balloon. [Bit like Australia’s results now] Overnight, Klein’s claims of pedagogical wizardry evaporated. And with that admission, the New York City “Miracle” went up in smoke.

As a result of this legerdemain, a generation of school children will have passed through the system with marginal literacy skills, when the billions lavished on outside consultants and malfunctioning computer systems designed to track their meaningless “progress” were put in place.

We now know that New York City’s gains on the state tests were illusory. The proportion passing the state reading tests fell from 68.8% to 42.4%, and Klein’s beloved charter schools [Australia calls them oxymoronic ‘Independent Public Schools’] had pass rates no different from the regular public schools.

The inflated graduation rates have been exposed too. With the recent news that 75% of the high school graduates require remedial reading and math when they enter community college, the Klein Era diploma has been rendered meaningless. So ill prepared are these students that the percent who graduate from college is in the single digits.

Despite the collapse of the New York City scores, the pundits and the chattering classes continue to heap praise on Klein. In their complete indifference to facts, the media sound like a claque that talks only to one another. The truth is what they say it is, with hardly a word of dissent tolerated or printed on their Op-Ed pages or in their news reports.

Most of those celebrating the progress made in the schools know about as much about the inner workings of a New York City public school as they the do the interior of a Sea Wolf class nuclear submarine. (Strange, he should mention submarines!)

They have unquestionably bought Klein’s self-congratulatory narrative about public education, as well as his narrow-minded views about teachers and unions. This narrative, as airtight as the most intricate Ptolemaic treatise, posits that a sclerotic dysfunctional bureaucracy ran the school system, and its classrooms were filled with incompetent teachers. That accounted for the dismal graduation results prior to mayoral control.

The Klein “spin machine” managed to convince his boss, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with New York’s opinion makers, that only he was capable of rescuing public education from the clutches of entrenched union and political interests before it was too late.

He accomplished this feat by appealing to liberal, conservative, and libertarian interests that love the rhetoric for their own particular ideological reasons, and don’t want to be bothered with the details.

The reality is something else, but why bother hunting down a story when you can “do lunch” with Joel Klein at a restaurant that serves yogurt at $23 a cup and get the scoop from the Wizard himself?(Are you listening, Julia?}

The question a good reporter should be asking was how did Klein manage to pull the wool over eyes of so many? Was it Bloomberg’s vast media machine or the power of Bloomberg’s fortune shrewdly integrated with the power of the political office he holds?

In part he succeeded because the media was not interested in the details of education administration and were willing to buy the myths spun by a Bloomberg PR machine that would be the envy of most heads of state.

Fail to clear the snow, threaten to close firehouses, or reroute a subway line, and the public outcry is deafening. But restructure the largest bureaucracy in the state four times and the press scarcely manages a yawn.

For conservative/libertarians like Rupert Murdoch, the lure of charter’s, vouchers, coupled with an attack on the hated teacher’s union proved irresistible.

For those on the left, the promise of a Peace Corps-like army of Teach for America volunteers and Teaching Fellows joining hands to close the Achievement Gap, the “civil rights issue of our day,” combined with a kaleidoscope of educational “choice” for disenfranchised students, made Klein’s spiel seductive music to their ears.

Any failures that popped up were airily dismissed because Klein was fine-tuning the mechanism. All Klein had to say to stave off criticisms as one reorganization followed another was that he was bringing accountability to a system that had been unaccountable for decades. Editorial hosannas would follow, drowning out reports of chaos and bewilderment that leaked out from those working inside the system.

Whether or not any of the several reorganizations accomplished anything went largely unexplored. The increase in the annual education budget –from $12 billion to $23 billion—more than the entire economy of some nations—went unnoticed.

As the reorganizations were implemented the school system lurched from tight centralization to extreme decentralization, the lines of communication between schools and central administration became increasingly frayed. Outside evaluators from England would evaluate schools. The pedagogy emphasized bulletin boards, students working in groups with differentiated “footprints,” teachers acting as facilitators, and computer tracking of student progress.

In short, classroom “reforms” represented every combination of a pedagogical game of pick-up sticks one could ever conceive of. Klein left behind a school system in which academic gains have been meager, parents have been shut out, and graduation rates are meaningless. The annual budget has nearly doubled, low-scoring students are shuffled from school to school, discipline problems are hidden, teachers are demoralized, and principals are scared of every twitch in the data, as incompetents rule the administrative roost. What is there to celebrate?

 

When will Australia wake up, dump NAPLAN and try some exciting and productive teaching and learning?  Our kids deserve it. Victims of Kleinism, they are not getting a fair ‘crack of the whip’, so to speak! We can lead the world if we try.

The choice of “Treehorn’ as the title for an anti-NAPLAN newsletter is proving to be,sadly, appropriate. Australian adults don’t care much about the traumas that child victims have to endure because of nasty attitude of the Testucators and their ilk. Some parents don’t care. . Politicians, who have the power to improve things, seem to ignore children, quite deliberately, on party lines.

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