Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Teachers Can Save New Bedford Schools From Privatization by Bruce C. Ditata

Interim New Bedford School  Superintendent, Michael Shea, a longtime administrator/educator had his moment of Zen when he urged caution, regarding the prospect of a state takeover of the Parker Elementary School because of flagging achievement scores.

“Once you give up a school, you give it up forever,” said Mr. Shea.

Among  the “non-profits” listed as possible receivers for the underperforming school is EdLabs. In its online brochure, EdLabs describes itself as “an eclectic collection of educators, scientists, and implementers… generating ideas and… experiments that have the potential to transform education.”

Under the glitzy façade of Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University, EdLabs tried to calm the restive masses who might question its motivation in the school takeover business, by maintaining that it has, “no political affiliation or agenda to promote.”

EdLabs’ pledge is, simply, to be, “bolder, more effective and more connected to the everyday challenges of school districts.”

Truth be told, EdLabs’ flowery rhetoric and self-effacing promise to just follow the data where it leads them, is contradicted by the list of its top corporate sponsors and stakeholders. It reads like a charter memberships list of the Billionaire Boys Club, corporate raiders who were villified by Diane Ravitch in her expose about the privatization of public schools in The Death and Life of the Great American School System.

Front and center, are Bill Gates and Eli Broad whose entrepreneurial skills as billionaire businessmen have now been focused on public education, one of the last strongholds of public funding up for grabs under the so-called education reform movement. To better assess the EdLabs effect, it’s better to follow the money.
As one of EdLabs Committee of Stakeholders, Broad asserts that, “ EdLabs is the institute that will… fuel the work of reform minded education leaders and to advance innovative practices.”

Innovative practices- it’s the catch phrase that the school privateers have used to transfix the media and hypnotize the general populace, who are all willing to genuflect and worship at the altar of this so-called education reform.

 But how does an institution- one like the Parker Elementary School, that is struggling to reach its achievement goals- actually tap into innovative practices?

A sage, former colleague of mine- in his own moment of Zen- stated, “ Schools are not innovative, teachers are.” One needs look no farther than the Wareham Middle School to find a shining example of true innovation by an incisive, creative public school teacher,  award-winning, Bonnie Lasorsa.

Lasorsa, a seventh grade mathematics teacher, unpacked the curriculum strands on her own initiative to develop a self-paced, multi-faceted approach, including online instruction.

While it might be too late for the Parker Street School to avoid receivership in the form of the corporate “non-profit” frontman, Ed Labs- pending this year’s test scores- other struggling schools in New Bedford can take solace in the success of Ms. Lasorsa. Individual schools can throw down the gauntlet. Motivated,  empowered teachers can turn around their schools, one classroom, one creative idea at a time.

And the time is now because privatization of a public school is like extinction. It’s forever.

Bruce C. Ditata lives in Wareham.

No comments: