Competition in education is probably the dumbest thing one can imagine. How can that be said when competition makes businesses stronger and better and the wivets they make must out do the other companies in order to sell more and make the company thrive?
The key words here are several: First is “to make the company thrive”. Does the “company” now become the greatest issue and the wivets, meaning the students become a lesser issue? The biggest issue in business is to make a profit selling the product. This means the cost of manufacturing the product must be less than the selling price. In other words, the cheaper the cost, the better even if it means cutting corners. And if a few of their products end up killing people, they can afford that. It is cheaper to cut corners. We see that in the auto industry on a regular basis. Guess what? We can’t recall kids. Those who drafted the No Child Left Behind legislation obviously didn’t understand the “No Child” part because they left many behind.
The second on my most stupid list is the insane thought that competition makes for better students. The real question becomes whose kids do you want to see fail? Because if the “other” kids fail, then my kids are the best and we win the competition. And to ensure that happens, we will covet our ideas so we can win. If we come up with a great idea that works for kids, we will keep it to ourselves so that only our kids get smart. Yes folks! That is what competition does.
But wait a minute. What if we don’t have better ideas? We still have to win, how can we do it? How can we make our school look better?
Let the games begin. We are well familiar with the scandals in recent years, erasing scores to make them better, but few realize the most effective of the games that are played by administrators. As an administrator I have seen these games in the past and they have been played for years,undetected.
The lottery: This seems innocent enough but the problem is that those kids with readily available support systems apply leaving others behind. And there is no telling what happens behind closed doors with the winners and losers.
2 Special needs kids: Those who give excuses for not servicing the kids who need us the most are most likely to do the same for any kids who don’t fit there mold. The goal is to cleanse the environment and get the highest scoring kids, while excluding the lowest scoring.
3 The artificial test: Of course the best way to make your kids look best is to become good at teaching to the test. This is improved through more sitting time to memorize what is needed. What is not said is when you focus on that, you take kids away from the kind of hands on learning that is valuable when they enter the community. Leaving school with artificial knowledge leaves kids unprepared for the world. This is done to give the privileged a leg up as they have more resources to provide real education. But their test scores are good! And the pipeline to prison continues.
4 Raising the bar: This is a well-known trick. Although many think it will make all kids smarter, what it really does is take those who are reaching for the bottom rung of the ladder and pushes them off, face first into the mud. “Hey teacher, I think I will make it this time”. Sorry kid we just raised the bar”.
5 Suspension: Low scoring kids are suspended or given a time out on the day before the test so those scores don’t show up. That’s easy to do with the anxiety that is caused by the test.
6 Push out: The late Steve Orel from the World of Opportunity School termed the phrase “push out” for students excluded from school. And there are many excuses to push kids out but where do they go? They go to traditional public schools allowing the schools of privilege to point their fingers and say what bad schools the traditional schools are. Remember, with competition, the goal is to make other kids look stupid to let your kids look good.
Money: And of course, money gets taken away from the schools that take the kids who need us the most.
8 Poverty isn’t destiny: This is my favorite. Actually to some extent they are right. Those kids in poverty that have a strong support system might actually do well. It’s the effects of poverty that are of concern. Most kids in poverty have childhood stress and other issues that, under the current 18th century system of education is destiny. Here is how it is played. The school leaders say “we have all poverty kids and they all graduated and went to college.” However they don’t say which poverty kids they have. Are they those who have the strong support systems or the ones who are struggling? They depend on the rest of the world adhering to the racist belief that all poor black children are the same, blossom at the same time and are struggling and the school miraculously steps in and saves them while they skim the most successful off the top. I might add that another Favorite of mine is “my kids come from single parent families and they all graduated”, thus insulting some great single parents out there who work their butts off to take care of their kids, and there are many.
9 And they all graduated: One of my middle school kids went to high school where she dropped out after three years. I went to graduation and low and behold she walks across the stage. Get the drift?
And the games go on!
In a recent interview on CNN the interviewer asked why the charter schools and the traditional public schools don’t get together. That’s simple, they are competitors. Can you imagine what collaboration would do? And for solutions? Sorry guys, you'll have to read my book.