In a short, readable reflection, Going the Wrong Way? What the Public Says about Education Reform, Bill Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center, former Vermont school superintendent, and educational researcher, explores the disconnect between the state of public education reform and the concerns of the public. His reflection was written to mark the beginning of the school year and the recent release of the 45th Phi Delta Kappa-Gallup poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward Public Schools.
Mathis declares, “A couple of findings jump out: Most people have not heard of many of the nation’s biggest reform efforts and when they have, they are increasingly dissatisfied with the top-down, test-driven market-model orientation of these initiatives.” He surmises that perhaps one reason most people have never heard of the Common Core Standards much discussed among policy experts is “because they were developed outside of the normal governmental oversight.”
He reports that the public has soured on mandated standardized tests, that most parents are pleased with their own child’s school, and that “the public sees the greatest problem is the lack of financial support—the number one concern for the last 45 years.” According to Mathis, “This view is supported by the fact that the United States is the only developed nation where educational spending on needy children is lower than for other children.”
As a companion piece to Mathis’ article, you may also want to read Anthony Cody’s concerns: Education Nation, 2013: Will NBC News Use the Gates Foundation’s Facts Again? Or Can We Get a Real Dialogue Going? He wonders whether this year, in the fourth edition of NBC’s Education Nation series (set to air between October 6 and October 8) we can expect objective news coverage or whether the sponsor’s biases will again provide the framework for the programming.
Anthony Cody is a former public school science teacher in Oakland, California and now a blogger at Teacher Magazine and advocate for supporting public school teachers and improving public schools.
The Education Nation series on NBC has been sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and has in the past portrayed Gates Foundation’s priorities as if they are the news. Cody reminds us that, “Two years ago, Brian Williams opened Education Nation‘s Teacher Town Hall event with an interview with Melinda Gates, saying: ‘Gates Foundation, one of the sponsors of this event, and the largest single funder of education anywhere in the world. It’s their facts that we’re going to be referring to often to help along our conversation.'”
Reading Mathis’ and Cody’s reflections together exposes the role of money these days in developing and promoting public education policy and at least part of the disconnect Mathis describes between the priorities of the public and the reality of the politics.