'...leaders in all three of the studied cities gave short shrift to more holistic approaches to education that have shown to have promise...' New study shows depth of failure of corporate school reform in Chicago, New York and D.C.

A new study shows just how mendacious the claims of corporate school reformers are when measured against the actual facts that can be gathered over time. Although in Chicago the lies of Arne Duncan and his publicists are well know and the ruthless destruction of communities under Duncan, his predecessor Paul Vallas, and his numerous successors is clear to anyone paying close attention, the commonality of the "failure" of corporate reform is now only becoming clear to the rest of the world. It's like a disease that had first to be identified, then studied and described before it could be conclusively fought.

Two of the three biggest cons in corporate school reform, Michelle Rhee (left) and Arne Duncan (right).Not clearly identified in these new studies is the fact that the ability of the hucksters of corporate school reform to get away with their lies rested on a traumatic time in the history of American media. Cutbacks in newspapers and other media coverage, combined with a simplistic approach to the problems of public schools dating back to the propaganda of the Reagan administration's lurid "A Nation At Risk," left serious discussion out of many debates. Instead, a simplistic "He said, but then she said..." version of reporting replaced weighing claims against the facts. Although the destructiveness of this temporary limitation in U.S. journalism was most dramatically exemplified by the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the terrible war that followed, the oversimplifications manipulated by the marketing departments of the major cities' education administrations became the template for a false understanding, for a time, about what schools could and could not do, and a very false version of reality.

Ironically, at the same time when former Atlanta Schools Supt. Beverly Hall and 34 others are now under indictment for corrupt manipulation of test scores (based on the merit pay versions of reality demanded by corporate reform), the three leaders of the urban school systems depicted in the new study are still at large, and in most ways more powerful than ever. Joel Klein who headed New York City's public schools during the height of the attacks on public education now works for Newscorp. Michelle Rhee is still quoted more than any ten sane critics of corporate reform. And the complete corrupt former head of Chicago's public schools, Aren Duncan, is the most powerful of all, heading the U.S. Department of Education courtesy of Barack Obama and still pushing Race To The Top and other eugenics and social Darwinian versions of reality.

On April 13, 2013, Valerie Strauss reported as follows in The Washington Post:

Study: School reform in 3 major cities brings few benefits, some harm. By Valerie Strauss, Updated: April 13, 2013

Many people paying attention to corporate-based school reform in recent years will not be surprised by this, but a new study on the effects of this movement in Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago concludes that little has been accomplished and some harm has been done to students, especially the underprivileged.

The report looks at the impact of reforms that have been championed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other well-known reformers, including Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, and, in New York City, Joel Klein, the former chancellor of New York City Public Schools and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It says:

The reforms deliver few benefits and in some cases harm the students they purport to help, while drawing attention and resources away from policies with real promise to address poverty-related barriers to school success…

The full study, titled “Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality,” was conducted by Elaine Weiss and Don Long of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education initiative, which was convened in 2008 by Economic Policy Institute President Larry Mishel in an effort to champion a well-rounded approach to education that goes beyond test-based accountability. It will be available here next week. [The executive summary can be found at: Because it includes several graphics that can be reproduced in the text here, the reader is better downloading the entire document and reading other materials from "Broader, Bolder..."]

Market-oriented education reform refers to a series of initiatives that include educator evaluations based in large part on student standardized test scores, the closure of schools that are considered failing or underenrolled, and an increase in the number of charter schools, many of which are operated by for-profit companies. Many people in the education world have long argued that the public education system is a civic enterprise that shouldn’t be operated like a business, but modern reformers have imposed market-oriented initiatives anyway.

The three cities studied were chosen because their school systems have all operated for years under mayoral control, participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress and have been led by well-known proponents of market-based reform. Furthermore, the reforms they have used have become the basis for much of federal education policy.

The executive summary of the report says that impacts of reform include:

* Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more, in “reform” cities than in other urban districts.

* Reported successes for targeted students evaporated upon closer examination.

* Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers.

* School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.

* Charter schools further disrupted the districts while providing mixed benefits, particularly for the highest-needs students.

* Emphasis on the widely touted market-oriented reforms drew attention and resources from initiatives with greater promise.

* The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance. Real, sustained change requires strategies that are more realistic, patient, and multipronged.

The report says that benefits of corporate-based reform have been exaggerated in each of these cities. For example, it says Bloomberg “claimed to have cut the race-based achievement gap by 50 percent from 2003 to 2011″ but “in reality, the gap closed by 1 percent.”

In Chicago Public Schools (CPS), it says:

President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan (when he was CPS CEO) have both cited large increases in elementary school reading “proficiency” of 29 percentage points—from 38 percent of students in 2001 to 67 percent

in 2008. CPS used these figures in January 2009 brochures. When scores were adjusted for changes in tests and procedures, however, the percentage of elementary and middle-school students deemed proficient (“at or above

grade level”) had grown by about 8 percentage points, while the percentage of proficient high school students had grown only a point and a half.

Furthermore, though Arne Duncan, who ran Chicago Public Schools before becoming Obama’s education secretary, said that students in closed schools would move to better-resourced schools, only 6 percent of those who did had better outcomes.

The summary points to incredible turnover in D.C. Public Schools as a result of Rhee’s reforms; after four years, 52 percent of teachers had left. And though Rhee and other D.C. officials have repeatedly touted a rise in standardized test scores, the executive summary points out that while black eighth-graders in D.C. schools dropped two points in reading between 2005 and 2011, their counterparts in other large urban districts overallgained five points.

It further notes that leaders in all three of the studied cities gave short shrift to more holistic approaches to education that have shown to have promise.



Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

4 + 2 =