Obsession With “Academic Performance” is Charter School Disinformation

Promoters of privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools are obsessed with students’ scores on punitive and curriculum-narrowing high-stakes tests produced by big corporations. They think that test scores on these unsound tests are the end-all and be-all. They have even convinced themselves that the more technical and professional their “academic performance” reports look and feel the more believable and meaningful such test scores are.

Putting aside the 50 problems with these top-down corporate tests, the central issue when it comes to charter schools is not students’ scores on pseudo-scientific tests, but whether education is a public good and social responsibility that must be publicly-controlled and publicly-funded, or if education should be a commodity subject to the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market” and something parents compete for? Is education a social responsibility and basic right that must be provided with a guarantee by government or is it a business run by entrepreneurs who advertise their schools to consumers the same way a retailer advertises goods to consumers? Should education be fully-funded, high-quality, and available for free to everyone in every neighborhood, or should it be based on a hit-or-miss survival of the fittest ethos?

The law of the jungle is not a modern, responsible, and humane way of organizing education in the 21st century. The outmoded “free market” approach to education has led to thousands of charter schools failing and closing over the last 30 years, leaving thousands of black and Hispanic kids and their parents out in the cold. Poor and low-income minority families have not been served well by privatized education arrangements such as charter schools. Contracting-out education is retrogressive.

Even if every student in every charter school scored 100 on every corporate test, this does not mean there is any justification for the existence of privately-operated charter schools. Privatizing public schools, treating a modern social responsibility like education as a dog-eat-dog phenomenon, is extremely retrogressive in a modern society based on mass industrial production.

Privatization increases corruption, enriches major owners of capital, and leads to lower quality services.

Privatization harms education, the economy, society, and the national interest.

Privatization takes socially-produced wealth away from working people and the public and concentrates it in the hands of private interests whose narrow aim contradicts the broad purpose and meaning of the common good. Privatizing healthcare, water, transportation, aviation, parks, garbage collection, and more does the same.

Privatization also restricts the ability of the people from having a say in those affairs that concern them; it is anti-democratic.

Do not get caught up in students’ test scores in charter schools or comparing test scores in charter schools with test scores in public schools. Such an exercise is meant to fool the gullible. The fundamental core issue revolves around the private/public axis.

The fraud of marketizing and privatizing public enterprises and services must be condemned and opposed.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at stell5@naz.edu.. Read other articles by Shawgi.