The Gig Economy for Teachers
Plus, the limits of testing and a really bad policy in Tennessee
Nancy Bailey blogs about how “high-dosage” learning is the new buzzword among reformers and notes that those pushing this ridiculous idea plan to deliver all these targeted doses of super-learning by way of tutors.
The pandemic showed that for students to get quality instruction, especially poor children of color, America must invest in real teachers, smaller class sizes, and better working conditions, including improved school facilities.
So why is the focus on tutors?
“Accelerated high-dosage” tutoring. We have been here before. With No Child Left Behind, tutoring didn’t work so now there’s brand new terminology and an intense marketing campaign by the same individuals who promote school privatization.
Never mind that, as Bailey points out, these types of schemes didn’t work out before. Policy makers and “reform” advocates in places like Tennessee are consistently pushing for this “high-dosage” learning.
In fact, in a January special session of the Tennessee General Assembly, lawmakers passed a raft of bills designed to tackle the myth of learning loss. Among these, a program of targeted tutoring designed to “accelerate” learning. Here’s a question: If learning can be “accelerated,” why aren’t we already doing that? Wouldn’t that be the easiest and fastest way to close achievement gaps?
But, forget about facts and logic for a minute, Tennessee’s SCORE for schools, a reform group with nebulous goals funded by friends of Bill Frist, is all about high-dosage tutoring:
The bottom line: Privatizers are using the pandemic as an opportunity to drive teachers toward a gig economy of tutoring for hire. Any crisis is a chance to privatize and move the focus away from actual reform that works like smaller class sizes, better pay for teachers, and improved infrastructure for schools.
Speaking of bad policy ideas . . .
Some school superintendents in Tennessee are speaking out about recently-passed legislation that would make retention the default option for nearly two out of every three Tennessee third graders:
“I have never seen anything that will hurt students as bad as what they are proposing,” Germantown Municipal School District Superintendent Jason Manuel told the suburb’s Board of Education in a recent meeting.
Another superintendent noted that the test Tennessee is using to assess third grade literacy is not, in fact, a literacy test:
“The legislation is attempting to address third graders who can’t read at grade level, but the TCAP test doesn’t test to see if students can read at grade level,” Lakeland Superintendent Ted Horrell said.
In spite of what actual educators say, Tennessee’s best-funded reform group (SCORE) is all-in on this bad idea, too:
Another bad idea that merits some attention here is testing during the pandemic. Peter Greene explains in Forbes why this is such a bad idea:
Test scores can be raised with several techniques, and most of those techniques have nothing to do with providing students with a better education. Drill the test prep. Take at-risk students out of electives and make them take test-related courses instead. And have teachers learn, over the years, how to teach more directly to the test. But do you want higher test scores or better education? Because those are two unrelated things.
The end result is that the test scores do not tell you what they claim they tell you. They are less like actionable data and more like really expensive noise.
In Other News:
A new report suggests America’s public schools are badly in need of an infrastructure upgrade:
School facilities represent the second largest sector of public infrastructure spending, after highways, and yet there is no comprehensive national data source on K-12 public school infrastructure. What data is available indicates that 53% of public school districts report the need to update or replace multiple building systems including HVAC systems. More than one-third of public schools have portable buildings due to capacity constraints with 45% of these portable buildings in poor or fair condition. Meanwhile, as a share of the economy, state capital funding for schools was down 31% in fiscal year 2017 compared to 2008. That is the equivalent of a $20 billion cut. The best estimates indicate a minimum of $38 billion annual funding gap for public school facilities across the country. Meanwhile, public schools increasingly serve a secondary function as emergency shelters and community resource facilities during man-made or natural disasters, and facility upgrades are needed to effectively fulfill this important community purpose.
And, in Missouri, there are a number of efforts to advance a privatization agenda:
Recently, the Missouri House narrowly approved a bill that would let donors provide scholarships for students to attend a private Missouri K-12 school, in return for state tax credits. Priority would be given to students with special needs, and those who qualify for free and reduce price school meals. Other proposals under consideration in the Missouri Legislature include charter school expansion in certain counties in the state, a school board member recall provision, and term limits for state education board members, among other things.