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School Testing and For-Profit Colleges: Both Declining?

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There’s a useful slight reversal of position from President Obama and other Democratic politicians who have pushed a regimen of educational reforms, primarily constant standardized testing (or studying for those tests) that take much of the education and a whole lot of the joy of learning out of education. Obama and Arne Duncan are now saying that while testing should occur, it should take up no more than 2 percent of classroom time. Which is still too much and doesn’t include prepping for those tests. But given how utterly awful the Obama administration’s education policy has been, it’s good that they are willing to listen to the overwhelming complaints from parents and teachers about this and act a bit. Still, it’s hard not to roll one’s eyes. Or just get angry. Everyone’s favorite human, Andrew Cuomo has lauded Obama’s new position. That’s especially galling given Cuomo’s war on teachers, as Maria Kilfoyle writes:

Educators and parents in New York State have been protesting for years that the testing is over the top. Cuomo doubled down this past year making 50% (which is actually a 100%) of a teacher’s evaluation based on TEST SCORES. The New Education Transformation Act also allows a “second” optional ASSESSMENT for districts to negotiate. Districts who teach children with historically low state test scores will probably opt in for the second optional assessment. They will roll the dice to try and protect their schools from going into receivership. So, in essence, The Education Transformation Act (which is education law in New York State) will promote testing kids MORE in struggling districts– does that look like promoting less testing? Cuomo will continue to grow the opt-out movement by ignoring what over 200,000 opt out parents in New York State have been saying – we will not allow our children, schools, and teachers to be ranked and sorted.

Educators and parents in New York State have been screaming from the tops of the Adirondack Mountains to the shores of Long Island. They have warned the Governor that assessments do not effectively evaluate teacher impact on student learning. But Cuomo’s new Education Transformation Act doubled down on testing and teacher evaluations.

Gov. Cuomo has been on the wrong side of the fight for equity in education. There are two sides in the fight to make great schools for New York children– those who see public education as a public good and those who see it as a private good. Governor Cuomo has very clearly seen education as a private good.

Remember when Cuomo called public education a monopoly?

“I believe these kinds of changes are probably the single best thing that I can do as governor that’s going to matter long-term,” he said, “to break what is, in essence, one of the only remaining public monopolies — and that’s what this is, it’s a public monopoly.” He said the key is to put “real performance measures with some competition, which is why I like charter schools.” Cuomo said he will push a plan that includes more incentives — and sanctions — that “make it a more rigorous evaluation system.”

Cuomo has pandered to Wall Street at the expense of New York children. Guess what? You don’t get to take that back.

So yeah, shut up Cuomo.

Probably just as vile as the school testing regime and privatization of education through charter schools is the for-profit college scam. James Surowiecki has a good run-down of how for-profit colleges are now collapsing rapidly because they are a giant grift built around getting people to take out student loans they can’t afford for a vastly inferior education. People are finally starting to realizing that for-profit college is a terrible idea. There was the disastrous MOOC attempt at San Jose State that started pushing back against idea of firing all the professors and having everyone take giant online courses. And now there’s this. The Department of Defense has stopped including the University of Phoenix in GI Bill coverage, for instance.

I particularly appreciated Surowiecki’s concluding paragraph, which makes a ton of sense:

But if we really want more people to go to college we should put more money into community colleges and public universities, which have been starved of funding in recent years. We should also rethink our assumption that college is always the right answer, regardless of cost. Politicians love to invoke education as the solution to our economic ills. But they’re often papering over the fact that our economy just isn’t creating enough good jobs for ordinary Americans. The notion that college will transform your job prospects is, in many cases, an illusion, and for a while for-profit schools turned it into a very lucrative one.

Right. The fundamental problem here is that there simply aren’t a lot of good jobs anymore. And for the type of people who are likely to need to go to for-profit colleges–non-traditional students and traditionally under-represented students–what’s really happening is that there simply aren’t well-paying jobs for workers any more if they don’t have a college degree, since all the manufacturing has been sent abroad. So they take out huge debts and then don’t graduate. That shouldn’t happen. What needs to happen is that politicians and pundits must reject the idea that education is the answer to all our problems and understand that a) the economic benefits of education are often based on its relative scarcity and b) some people are simply not equipped to go to college but still deserve to live a dignified life. But that requires policies that include alleviating poverty through jobs that might discourage corporations from sending American jobs abroad whenever possible. Unfortunately, even mentioning such a thing means that you are History’s Greatest Monster, as Paul Theroux recently found out.

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