Opinion: Why competitive model fails schools. No one should lose in education.

An academic essay by two education researchers published on this blog sparked discussion around the country and promoted strong responses, two of which I shared.

The authors of the piece comparing the school privatization program in Chile with what we are now seeing in the United States were Alfredo Gaete of Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile and Stephanie Jones of the University of Georgia.

The pair sent me a second essay that addresses some of the criticisms:

No hedBy Alfredo Gaete and Stephanie Jones

Newspaper editorials are not the ideal form for opening up complex problems, and yet they play a key role in informing the public and generating dialogue and ideas of what might be possible.

We wrote an essay that was criticized by institutions that support the privatization of education and the idea that an unregulated free market is the best way to organize a society, including the public education system.

We responded to one of the critiques and largely perceived the second critique as a public relations effort. The Cato Institute has published a second critique, however, and we wish to respond to that criticism here.

Both criticisms focused on one or both of the first two points, out of seven, that we made in our original essay about the results of Chilean market-based education reform after 30 years of implementation. We acknowledge these two statements could have been phrased more precisely – and we will do so here.

But before doing that we want to note that even if we cut off these two points from the list, there are still five points virtually untouched by the criticism we have received so far – and also that these five points alone are everything needed to raise serious doubts about the desirability and success of the market-based educational model in question.

We claimed that the following seven facts were helpful to assess “the Chilean experiment” (the last 3 decades of market oriented educational policy in Chile):

  • First, there is no clear evidence students have significantly improved their performance on standardized tests, the preferred measurement used to assess schools within this scenario of the free market.
  • Second, there is now consensus among researchers that both the educational and the socioeconomic gaps have been increased. Chile is now a far more unequal society than it was before the privatization of education – and there is a clear correlation between family income and student achievement according to standardized testing and similar measures.
  • Third, studies have shown that schools serving the more underprivileged students have greater difficulties not only for responding competitively but also for innovating and improving school attractiveness in a way to acquire students and therefore funding.
  • Fourth, many schools are now investing more in marketing strategies than in actually improving their services.
  • Fifth, the accountability culture required by the market has yielded a teach-to-the-test schema that is progressively neglecting the variety and richness of more integral educational practices.
  • Sixth, some researchers believe that all this has negatively affected teachers’ professional autonomy, which in turn has triggered feelings of demoralization, anxiety, and in the end poor teaching practices inside schools and an unattractive profession from the outside.
  • Seventh, a general sense of frustration and dissatisfaction has arisen not only among school communities but actually in the great majority of the population. Indeed, the ‘Penguins Revolution’ – a secondary students’ revolt driven by complaints about the quality and equity of Chilean education – led to the most massive social protest movement in the country during the last 20 years.

Now, regarding point one, we neglected to include up-to-date data showing that in fact there are some relevant gains both in PISA and SIMCE scores (the two measures invoked by our critics) during the last 10 years or so.

Yet, researchers (including Professor Elacqua, whose work was cited against our assertions) have reasons to believe – and our critics have neglected to report this in turn – that these gains are not due to the competition mechanisms of the market-oriented scheme, but rather to other factors such as, for instance, the implementation of the “Ley SEP,” a recent affirmative action legislation developed precisely to alleviate the inequalities of the scheme.

It is this same affirmative action legislation that may explain the improvements in the last decade that have been made on equality, especially regarding the academic achievement gap. So it would not be in order, we think, to invoke this progress as evidence of the alleged advantages of the privatization of education. Nor does this render false our second point, namely, that Chilean society is more unequal (both academically and economically) today than it was before the privatization of education and that the correlation between family income and student achievement is clear.

And finally, we regret to acknowledge that in our original essay we fell into the trap of highlighting and questioning test scores as part of our argument against the privatization of public education. The testing and accountability fetish being used to support privatization efforts is destroying the integrity of the teaching profession, engaging in what we consider child labor where children’s forced and repetitive work on test preparation and testing has financial benefits for adults and private companies, and diminishing what the word education means in practice and theory.

Regardless of the “miracles” claimed by proponents of competition and privatization efforts, it seems as though the dirty – and much more complex – truth comes out at some point. The Texas Miracle used to design No Child Left Behind was a case of cooking the books; the Atlanta Miracle included systemic cheating to save jobs and schools from being closed and educators are now sentenced to serve time behind bars; the New Orleans Miracle continues to be an embarrassment with the retraction of research reports indicating success and criticisms about bad data; and in 2013 there was confirmed test cheating in 37 states and Washington D.C., but surely it is more widespread than that given the high-stakes of the very tests that have been criticized for their bias, invalidity, very high cost, and damaging effects on what schooling has become.

Not everything is a competition, not everything should be designed as a competition, and education – especially – should not be treated as a competition where there are guaranteed winners and losers.

No one should lose in education.

Education is a public necessity that calls for collaboration; the sharing of resources, information and practices; and justice. It should be the job of a healthy state aiming for the common good, not a game for businesses with a focus on profits, losses, and hedging financial bets.

 

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188 comments
Concerned Citizen 1234
Concerned Citizen 1234

I disagree with the article. I feel schools should be competitive. Education is about the only profession (that I know of at least) that does not follow a competitive model. Just about every other profession does. One big problem is teacher unions. They go all out to protect teachers. I understand the need for them. But the problem is - it is way too hard to fire bad teachers who are tenured. I other professions you either have to measure up or risk being fired. It should be the same with teachers, they should either measure up or risk being fired. I recently viewed a documentary with John Stossel called "Stupid in America". It highlights the issue of bad teachers, and competitive charter schools who have the freedom to fire at will. Those charter schools are outperforming schools on the state and national average. Education, like any other profession, requires work and often putting in extra hours, just like other professions. Powerful unions are protecting bad teachers. Teachers are not required to put forth nothing more than the "bare minimum". Good teachers should have no problem flourishing in a competitive model. Just like good  employees have no problem flourishing in a competitive setting in other professions, and the bad employees are weeded out. Being a teacher myself for 16 years now, I have witnessed bad teachers throughout my career. I am one of the highest rated teachers in the district year after year. I've won teacher of the in m district three times. I put in many extra hours beyond my contracted hours (including during weekends and school vacations). I sometimes take a lot crap from bad teachers. They tell me things like "You're taking your job way too seriously." or " Why do you do this to yourself?" These same teachers complain when they are not satisfied with their evaluations. They are real quick to get their union rep involved to justify a higher rating when they truly didn't earn it. They feel they should get a rating of either "Proficient" or "Exemplary" just because they met the bare minimum requirements. Can you imagine someone in a different profession only meeting the bare minimum requirements at their job. They may not get fired, but they will not get that raise or promotion. Teachers get a salary increase year after year regardless of their performance. And the fact that teachers are required to work roughly 185 days out of an entire year. Based on that teacher pay is excellent when compared to other professions who have to work year around. Charter schools have the freedom to run a school as they see fit, without the bureaucracy of unions and operate independently of local school systems. The data is available for research. Charter schools do it better.

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

I can assure you that the vast, vast majority of those watching the events occurring in Baltimore were not dressing in sack cloth, pouring ashes on their heads, and grinding their teeth. They were looking on in sad disbelief at the results of what nearly six decades of things being done for American blacks -- things that they should have been dong for themselves (regardless of how hard it would have been - and it would have been hard) -- have come to.


And  the elephant in the room is ignored. But the time will come, as it grows larger, that it will have to be acknowledged, but by then, it will be too late, if it already isn't. The black family structure is nearly gone from the American scene. Lots and lots can be written about how and why that happened and the bad choices that were made and the wrong path that was taken in the sixties to get Black Americans, and all of us, where they are today. 72% plus of black children are born today to single mothers. Many have multiple children by multiple fathers, most of whom take little or no responsibility for raising them or supporting them. By the age of 9 or 10, many young black boys find "fathers" out on the street and in gangs who do care for them. And by then, few are under the control of their mothers. 


No. Few, if any, were agonizing over "How has my white racism lead to this calamitous situation?" Many were probably watching and wondering how many of those violent kids were raised in a family by a responsible mother and father. Very few would be a good guess. 


And no, poverty is not an excuse for this either. The family is the first building block of civilization and progress. One of the things families do, and have done since time beginning, is over come the effects of poverty. One generation stands upon the shoulders of the last generation, and doing a little better, and then the next generation stands on their shoulders, doing a little better than the last. 


That process got short circuited when the Great Society and the welfare state were created in the 60's - when the Civil Rights laws were established, and white America realized that it was denying the very foundation of American freedom to black Americans - equal justice and opportunity under the law - and changed. 


So here we are. Can the black family be saved now? Only black Americans can save it? No one else, no person, no thing, no religion, no cause, no leader, no government, can do that for them.  Only they themselves. Will they? We can only hope and pray that they do. 




popacorn
popacorn

@Ficklefan You just can't fool Mother Nature, although fools will certainly try. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Ficklefan 

I lived through the era of the 1960s riots, and remember the 1967 report produced by President LBJ's Kerner Commission that was supposed to analyze the causes of the riots and recommendations for the future. The Kerner Report concluded:  we are fast approaching two Americas, one white and one black, with a different system of justice for each.


How have things changed since then?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Ficklefan 

P.S. Correction: The Kerner Report concluded: "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal."  My question still stands.

Starik
Starik

@OriginalProf @Ficklefan For one group of blacks, who took advantage of opportunities newly available to them, the change has been massive.  They live anywhere they can afford. They run for office and get elected. They succeed in every profession.  Whites have black doctors and are judged by black judges and policed by black police under black leadership.


A substantial number of blacks have been left behind; they live in neighborhoods where the successful folks have left; their society remains separate and unequal.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Beautiful and true words from the mind of Victor Hugo, shared by MLK and by Jay Bookman, as the closing words to his just released article on the Baltimore riots:


“If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not merely he who commits the sin but he who causes the darkness.”


We must each look into our individual hearts and minds to determine how much each of us has contributed to our common societal darkness.




popacorn
popacorn

And just think, only a few years ago, most of these criminals were some teacher's students. Classroom management problems? Nahhhhh. 

straker
straker

Ficklefan


Many fine observations.


Unfortunately, in today's politically correct world, you will be ignored at best and labeled racist and bigot at worst.

popacorn
popacorn

Look carefully. Here is your future. 

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

First, a comment about what the column was about, -- education. Being an "old guy" a "baby boomer" etc. I cannot remember a time when there was not competition in school. It began in kindergarten. Then in elementary school, grades 1 -6, then in junior high (grades 7 and 8), high school - where it really ratcheted up - and then in college (competing for seats in the professional schools made high school competition look like day at the beach), and then in law school, in order to get a good job with a good firm.


The over sensitive, politically correct, fragile, hot house flowers who may melt at the hearing or sight of  "trigger" words or any opinion, thought, or idea that may differ from their own,  should close their eyes for this part . . .  Starting in kindergarten, we even had competition at recess and later on in physical education classes in elementary school. Close your eyes again here . . . we even played dodge ball, and it hurt when you got hit, by the ball, especially when the teacher call "three quarters"  and you opponents were right on top of you. And then you were - try to deal with it - "out" and you could not play until the next game. 


And physical education in school, recess, and then its natural continuation outside of school, and the competition that made all of physical activity fun -- it  was all encompassing back then. It was seamless,  woven through our lives. We wanted to be the best dodge ball player, and best in the class at reading.  We wanted to be the best baseball player, and best in math. We wanted to be great at basketball, and great at English. We wanted to be the fastest runner, and the best at penmanship. It was life. We were young, but we knew instinctively that we were preparing for our futures, for the time we would leave home, school would be over - but educated, knowledgeable, informed, fearless, ready to compete, ready for whatever may come, face adversity, work out our disagreements, stand up for ourselves, and become self reliant - a self reliance that began to evolve in kindergarten. 


I know. This is like talking to the wall these days. I guess the big difference is that we were never told that we were special, or that we were somebody, or that we deserved anything, or that things had to be fair or that life was fair. We were told that the world did not owe us a living, and that if you want something you have to prepare yourself and work your butt off and compete for it, because other people would, if you we didn't.  True self esteem was something that could never be given to us - only earned. 


I know it would never occur to those who faint at the thought of an "unfair" or opposing viewpoints and who must  run to safe rooms (which incredibly exist today on college campuses - I can promise you that no one who graduated college between the years of 1965 and 1975 ever saw that absurdity coming)  should any one infer that they are not special and deserving just because they take up space on planet earth. But, has it ever occurred to you that education is such a complete and  total mess today, and that so many kids are not becoming well educated precisely because everything noted above is no longer politically correct and no longer exists? 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

We need more men and women of Robert Kennedy's vision and the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr. among America's citizens today.  But, today's citizens have lived almost a half-century within a corporate controlled, self-serving America in which "survival of the fittest" has prevailed.  This must change. We must again embrace the consciousness of King, the Kennedys, Hubert Humphrey, Jacob Javits to help solve our social and societal problems, once again, with insight and vision.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Robert Kennedy's words upon MLK's assassination, and the subsequent riots in cities throughout America:


"We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization -- black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love. . . .


And let's dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people."


http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/rfkonmlkdeath.html

Schools25
Schools25

The usual liberal posters are purposely ignoring what we all saw on our television screens last night: young black males in hoodies looting liquor stores, trashing parked cars and throwing cinder blocks at police—who, if anything, were reacting far too passively.

You enable these thugs with your "Yes, but ...!" nonsense.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Schools25 @OriginalProf 

Did I ever say that black criminals shouldn't be arrested?  Never.  Your reply completely avoids the issue of whether official police procedures are followed after the arrest and what should be done if they aren't.

scrappy-22
scrappy-22

@Schools25

Acknowledging the problem that caused the riots is in no way enabling them. 


Stopping the riots will be bring a time of peace, but it will not solve the root problem. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Schools25 

 There was an immediate cause for this particular riot, and it was similar to what's caused the other recent demonstrations (including here in Atlanta): police procedures that resulted in the death of an unarmed black man. One thing infuriating these rioters is that nothing seems to change in the procedures. Some higher national authority needs to act here, whether the police like it or not.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@OriginalProf @Schools25  I suspect many people including residents and business people of the immediate Baltimore area do not attribute the actions of the rioters and looters to some higher pursuit of social justice or whatever. More to an expression of opportunistic thuggish anti-social behavior. In truth I can't read their minds any more than you can, but I saw a lot of that opinion expressed by the locals on TV last night.

Schools25
Schools25

@OriginalProf 

You can personally help lower the high percentage of black arrests—by not calling police when you or family members are victims of crime. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

I think there was a mixture of motives for the Baltimore riots last night, not all of them having to do with racial injustice by any means.  Many participants seem to have been high school or high school age students, angry at the seemingly endless line of unarmed black men killed by police officers lately. But others seemed to be outsiders drawn by the hope of fiery violence, who saw any racial issues as the pretext for looting and burning strange neighborhoods. 

This has been the case in all street revolutions. Not everyone revolts for pure motives.


I was struck by reports from cnn.news that some of the local gang members tried to stop the violence:  "Baltimore members of the Crips and Bloods, two street gangs renowned for drug dealing and extensive violent crime -- and for killing each other -- came together with others who condemned the rage that swept through their neighborhoods. "The guys who pulled me aside are self-identifying as Crips and say they don't approve of whats happening. 'This is our community,' " Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton wrote." 

I would say that what is immediately needed is for our Justice Department to undertake an immediate and full-scale investigation of the police procedures in large urban areas, with changes to be made if needed. Never mind changing the black youth--providing jobs, educational opportunities, and so on. Address the immediate problem of how the police deal with them, nation-wide.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@redweather @OriginalProf 

Who would defend looters, no matter what their race? It's not where they live; they're not committed to any cause beyond their own survival; and they can pick up a lot of free stuff. 


But the police behavior in all of these situations is fitting into a pattern that should be prevented. You're quite right about the common police cynicism, I think, but understanding something doesn't excuse it.

redweather
redweather

@OriginalProf It must be really hard to be a policeman, knowing that every day of the week, every week of the year bad guys will get away with doing bad things.  That must do something to you. It must make you really cynical.  It might even make you overreact and shoot someone.  I'm not defending the cynicism or the overreaction.  Nor can I find it in myself to defend people who use situations like this to loot and pillage. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@redweather 


"It must be really hard to be a policeman, knowing that every day of the week, every week of the year bad guys will get away with doing bad things.  That must do something to you. It must make you really cynical."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


We must stop thinking in terms of the "bad" guys and the "good" guys and see into why we have the societal problems we have in America today.  We must encourage trust to be built among the black, poor urban communities and the police so that they will talk with one another in trust and release valuable local information, as a result.  But, the starting point is not blame but insight to build programs that build trust and care among these neighborhood citizens and the police.  Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Lt. Gov. of Maryland said that, not I.  But, I heard the truth and the vision in what she said.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@MaryElizabethSings @redweather 

Yes, I think such programs are needed in the long run.  But more immediately, there needs to be official federal action that removes the fuse for these riots: national assurance that official police procedures will be followed after arrests so that more such deaths of unarmed black men do not occur.

popacorn
popacorn

@OriginalProf Funny, I heard that several gangs met and vowed to kill one police officer each. I promise you, any personal run-in with these savages, and you will instantly change your political party affiliation. The view is foggy, but oh so safe, from high in an ivory tower.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@popacorn @OriginalProf 

Yeah, I read the same NY Post story about the gang members. No proof offered...and this is a typical NY Post story, as you would know if you were familiar w/NY.  The view is foggy, but oh so safe, when you're watching it all on your Ga. TV. You can just shout what you want at the screen.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@OriginalProf 


Those posters who are serious about fostering a better America, as you and I are trying to do, each have various points to offer. All of it, together, is valuable.

Belinda51
Belinda51

Well we knew they didn't get it themselves. LOL!!

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

We put so much priority on intelligence in America today, when what we need more than anything else is compassion, which is the starting point for wisdom, which is sorely lacking in America today.

straker
straker

Starik - "what kind of jobs can we provide that are not too hard and pay well"


You are kidding, right?

Starik
Starik

@popacorn @straker Ah, but welfare is over, mostly. These citizens need alternative ways to "get money."

Starik
Starik

Watch "The Wire" for deep background on West Baltimore...the schools, the culture, the police, the politicians...on blu-ray in June. 

atln8tiv
atln8tiv

@Starik It's on Netflix and/or Amazon Prime right now, if you don't want to wait for blu-ray.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Someone on "Morning Joe" just said it best.  "This is what happens when you combine anger, and no hope, and feelings that the system does not work for you.  The death of Freddie Gray by the policeman was only the trigger.  It was bound to happen in some city."


As I said yesterday, this had the same underlying reasons for happening as the Watts Riots almost 50 years ago.  When will we stop blaming and start seeing, and solving social problems with substance?  We must get over the self-serving America of the past 45 years and start doing something meaningful for black men, especially in America.


Only fools will refuse to see this.

Starik
Starik

@Schools23 @MaryElizabethSings It would be wise of us to address the problem - we need to find jobs for the ghetto folk, and convince them that it's better to work to get money and stuff than to riot, steal, or engage in the underground drug economy.  The next question is, what sort of jobs can we provide that are not too hard and pay well?

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik 


I'll try to post some answers or solutions which I posted on Jay Bookman's blog a few minutes ago - one of which involves educational changes.

atln8tiv
atln8tiv

@Starik @Schools23 @MaryElizabethSings Well, we could bring back some of the manufacturing jobs that have gone overseas. That would be a start, but a lot of business owners will scoff at the thought of having to pay decent wages for labor. What they need to realize is that it's going to come out of their pocket one way or another. Would they rather pay living wages for labor? Or pay for prisons, and governmental assistance programs with their taxes?

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@MaryElizabethSings


One would think in 45 years they would do something for themselves. You would think one would understand that when you burn you own house, you are in the street.  People only improve when they want too. You as a past educator should understand that when you teach children, you are not teaching black, white or other; you are teaching people that must grow and improve as people, not a race. The excuse is black people have been oppressed.....sure they have…..but do you get free pass forever?