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Topic: BOOK REVIEW: A Chronicle of Echoes
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Jerry P. Becker

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Registered: 12/3/04
BOOK REVIEW: A Chronicle of Echoes
Posted: Jul 16, 2014 7:58 AM
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From Posts by deutsch29 - Mercedes Schneider's EduBlog/ See
From The Progressive Populist, August 1, 2014

Sacramento Journalist Seth Sandronsky Reviews A Chronicle of Echoes

BOOK REVIEW / Seth Sandronsky

Education Reformers' Playbook

Want names of and motives for public school reformers? Read A
Chronicle of Echoes: Who's Who in the Implosion of American Education
by Mercedes K. Schneider.

The author has skin in this game. She is a public school teacher
against the corporate conquest of community-based public education.
Schneider opens with a chapter on Joel Klein, former head of New York
City's Department of Education, now on the payroll of Rupert Murdoch,
a billionaire media owner. In an era of growing income inequality,
such corporatists and reformers are two sides of the same coin,
according to Schneider.

Her evidence for this assertion is compelling. The implications are chilling.

Klein is not a former teacher. On his watch, the Big Apple's public
schools fell prey to reforms that benefit private interests, a trend
that runs a red line throughout Schneider's whistleblowing book.

She follows the pattern of reformers' high-minded words and
profit-driven deeds doggedly. Not trained as an investigative
journalist, Schneider shines bright lights on the acquisitive
structure of the deception and misrepresentation that is today's
reform of public education.

What accounts for the reformers' success is not actual facts but
copious greenbacks from wealthy interests. Schneider tracks these
dollars that buy political influence, with 88 pages of Endnotes.

Call this class war. And according to billionaire investor Warren
Buffet, his class is winning. Funding this conflict are venture
philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, Eli and Edythe Broad, and the
Walton Family foundation. They fund Democratic and GOP lawmakers,
think tanks (Fordham Institute) and advocacy groups (National Council
on Teacher Quality), a partial list of recipients.

These three billionaire funders are powerful interests. In a
capitalist society, they have the dollars to get what they want and
want what they get.

In NYC, Eva Moskowitz, vacuums up cash from Wall Street financiers
and taxpayers to expand her privately-operated charter school
franchise. School privatizing and financializing of the economy
dovetail, while Moskowitz, a former professor, demands and gets
government help. Wendy Kopp founded Teach for America, a contract
agency that provides teachers with five-weeks of training for a
two-year classroom commitment. Like Mr. Klein, Kopp has no classroom
teaching experience, but advances her business-brand of school
reform, while lapping up tens of millions in greenbacks from
taxpayers and the Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropic arm of
the owners of union-free Walmart Inc., the global retail giant whose
workers rely on public assistance to survive.

Schneider flays economist Erik Hanushek, who supports a reform policy
of financial incentives for school principals and teachers to raise
pupils' scores on achievement tests. He assumes such professionals
are self-maximizers who measure their labor services on a
cost-benefit basis.

Defining "high standards" for students and teachers on the sole basis
of scores on students' achievement tests is the Holy Grail of
education reformers such as Michelle Rhee, who Schneider slices and
dices for her role in undermining public education, first in
Washington, D.C., then nationwide as the head of StudentsFirst, an
advocacy group that depends on corporate donors. As a classroom
teacher who blogs regularly on education reform issues, Schneider's
moral outrage against private firms' profit-driven motives to alter
public schools is on display in chapters on what took place in
Chicago under Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan and Rahm Emanuel. The trio
lack teacher credentials and classroom experience. In the biased
practice and theory of public school reform, Chicago reformers' twin
deficits become qualifications to disrupt communities with the magic
wand of education privatization via standardized tests and charter

Vallas helps to worsen public schools in Philadelphia and New
Orleans. Meanwhile, he collects mind-numbing compensation.

David Coleman, architect of the Common Core State Standards, is a
non-teacher. His company, Student Achievement Partners, composed and
promoted the CCSS in conjunction with the National Governors
Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, Schneider
writes. She details this favored pattern of reformers with no
classroom teaching experience, their profit motive and, federal
government intervention. In Coleman's case, states that adopt the
CCSS receive funding from Race To The Top (successor to the No Child
Left Behind Act of high-stakes standardized tests and harsh

The CCSS is not piloted, or tested. Classroom teachers are uninvolved
in pushing the CCSS, and its "evidence" for improving students'
learning is a mirage, unlike the Gates Foundation's dollars
distributed to both political parties, think tanks and the American
Federation of Teachers and National Education Association. This is
influence-peddling the old-fashioned way: buying it. A lapdog
mainstream media has with some exceptions missed this story that
Schneider narrates concisely. In her last chapter, she unpacks
education reform from the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC
is proof of corporate America's lifeline via elected lawmakers, the
opposite of the so-called "free-market."

Here, I have a minor quibble with Schneider. ALEC self-defines as
conservative for "avoiding government regulation of corporate
activity so that what is public money might become corporate
profits," she writes.

So-called conservative politics actively shapes government regulation
to boost the bottom line. In ALEC's case, its policy disapproval of
the CCSS ended when Rupert Murdoch stood to profit from the national
standards' requirements for assessment and data collection. Follow
the money. Watch capital accumulation undermine public education.
This is not rocket science, folks. This is the wealthiest Americans
conquering our education system to line their pockets. In all,
Schneider hits her target of expanding a national discussion on
public school reformers. Hers is a fact-based counter-narrative for
Americans upset over the corporatist assault on public education.
Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the
freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild.

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