Tennessee teachers Lucianna Sansan and Lee Ann Nolan write about protecting students from edu-profiteers in a recent piece in the LA Progressive. In it, they raise some interesting points:
These questions are relevant and timely considering the current educational climate in the state of Tennessee, which, according to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, and Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, is currently the “fastest improving” state in the nation. While these so-called ed-reformers would have us believe that Tennessee is making great gains in the testing arena, in actuality, we are making great gains FOR testing companies, Charter schools, and corporations, NOT our students.
It’s also worth noting that while the 2013 NAEP gains Huffman and Haslam refer to seem impressive, what they haven’t talked about (and likely won’t) is the expanding achievement gap between low-income students and the rest of Tennessee students.
Sanson and Nolan also point out that Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD) is failing to live up to expectations. They note:
In Tennessee, the “ influence….exerted over education policy ” is being exercised by the strong arm of the Achievement School District, or ASD (modeled after the failing Recovery School District in New Orleans ) which took over Memphis City Schools last year in a controversial merger with Shelby County, and which has recently gained entrance to Nashville through a vote backed by the local school board. According to the ASD website, the ASD “… is both an operator of schools and an authorizer of high quality public charter schools.” Obviously, “high quality” is open to interpretation as the ASD is modeled after a school system that, instead of “recovering” the community and students it serves, has destroyed and failed them miserably.
As Sanson and Nolan warn, Tennsseans should be wary of those seeking to make a profit on public education. Tennessee has real education challenges and badly needs investment in schools, in teachers, and in students. Instead, the reform machine is moving toward privatization. Tennessee parents would be wise to heed this warning, get engaged, and stop the edu-profiteers by focusing the General Assembly on proven solutions instead of costly privatization schemes.