According to the December 4th City Sentinel article, “Fallin supports income tax cuts, spending reductions, ‘Oklahoma Spirit’,” recent governor-elect Mary Fallin has drank deeply from the Arne Duncan and Bill Gates sponsored educational reform kool aide. This continuation of NCLB as RTTT focuses on charter schools, high stakes testing, and blaming teacher unions for perceived failures of US schools as alleged means to improve education in US schools. The following quotation in the article, from Fallin, sounds like it was from 1989 at a pro-Chubb & Moe school voucher rally instead of an Oklahoma newspaper in December 2010.
“I [Mary Fallin] am a supporter of further reforms. I am for school choice. One of the best reforms in recent history has been choice in education, allowing parents and students a choice in where they go, the ability to choose the best place for school. A child’s success in education should not be determined by their zip code.”
Fallin renewed supportive comments she has made previously about U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, saying she was “fortunate” to sit by him at one of the briefings she attended in Washington on Thursday [December 2].
“He spoke about choice and improving schools, giving schools better options, and parents the right of choice. He supports more options and of course charter schools. He spoke about ideas like pay for performance for teachers, plans of action for teachers who are not leaving and who need improvement, virtual learning, distance learning, and high academic standards.”
Choice as a “recent reform?” Are we using geologic time as a temporal measuring stick or talking about current events? The school choice movement is not “new” or recent news. It also does NOT offer a panacea for the deep-seated challenges we face.
Fallin is correct a student’s geography (zip code) should not determine his/her educational success. The reality today, however, is that average test scores in Deer Creek are a far cry from south Oklahoma City. This is fundamentally because of poverty, not because “parents don’t have school choices.” It’s also not because “teachers and students aren’t being threatened enough today in our schools, and need to taste both stress and fear more often in order to perform at high academic levels.”
With a new state administration in Oklahoma, we have some new opportunities. I hope we’ll hear some NEW ideas about education reform from our leaders in the months ahead, particularly ones which include a focus on digital and media literacy. We need to systemically transform public education, but stop promoting a culture of fear and punishment (as NCLB / RTTT does) as the primary catalyst for change.
Like the kool aide offered by Jim Jones to his followers, the RTTT kool aide is poison. We need to reject it, and offer a coherent, readily understandable alternative which our state leaders can rally behind instead of acting as dutiful lemmings of Arne Duncan.
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