Guest Blogged by George Thompson
Premier McGuinty’s Special Advisor on education and the architect of Ontario’s reforms, was also a key advisor to the Louisiana superintendent, Paul Pastorek, in directing the post Hurricane Katrina reforms which led to America’s charter-dominated city.
Katrina had presented an opportunity for what Naomi Klein refers to as “disaster capitalism”; “Within nineteen months,” writes Klein, “New Orleans’ public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools.” (The Shock Doctrine, 5) The hurricane was the ideal opportunity to replace the public schools with a new system of charter schools which would serve as the model for a broader movement across America. Danny Weil, author of Charter School Movement, argues that this shows “how public school systems in their entirety are being targeted for sweeping conservative change in the form of a contractualized charter school experiment that is the most radical of its kind in the nation.” http://dailycensored.com/2009/12/15/teachers-unions-and-charter-schools-taking-race-to-the-top-money-and-starving-public-schools-their-teachers-and-students/
The fact that Michael Fullan, McGuinty’s Advisor since 2004, was also a key player in the New Orleans reform should be the cause of great concern to advocates of public education, for it not only explains the nature of what Fullan has called Ontario’s “large scale” reform, but also the extent to which the province is committed to following the New Orleans model.
When Fullan and OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) got involved after the hurricane it was clear that they were there to help reform, not rebuild the system. Fullan’s crew was specifically brought in to help save the “gains” made by post-Katrina reform (i.e. the replacement of public with charter schools) and build the “sustainability” needed to ensure the long-term success. While Bush’s NCLB Act had already to some extent provided the necessary “disaster” throughout the U.S. with its provision that all schools that were failing to graduate all students by the 2014 deadline faced restructuring, there was, as yet, no reliable way to capitalize on this impending Bush-made disaster. Many restructurings that had already taken place based on schools failing to meet “Adequate Yearly Improvement” had resulted in charters that were not outperforming public schools. New Orleans was thus an opportunity to develop a working model from the ground up for the large-scale restructuring facing the rest of America in the very near future. And it is clear in the Senate Subcommittee’s blueprint for “A Fresh Start for New Orleans’ Children” that Fullan’s strategies were the key to a “sustainability” that NCLB reforms had so far lacked:
“Even after a decade of whole school reform models and 5 years after the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, we find educators struggling to maintain gains made once a visionary leader or core team of teachers leave or when a shift in student demographics occurs. In order for the gains seen from these reforms to be sustainable, we must think now about the issue of sustainability. As defined by Fullan, ‘‘sustainability is the capacity of a system to engage in the complexities of continuous improvement consistent with deep values of human purpose.” Through research, we have learned that sustainability is only possible when there is capacity building throughout the system at all levels that is developed intentionally. To this end, the RSD[Recovery School District] and OPSB [Orleans Parish School Board]have jointly entered into a partnership with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, headed by Dr. Michael Fullan and the Center for Development and Learning in Covington, LA to develop and implement a 5-year plan for systemwide capacity building.
Herein, what Fullan calls “capacity building” would have to take place more effectively than before. Fullan’s strategy of reform differed from other NCLB restructuring approaches, as he revealed during a workshop:
“[the] big feature of our work is to play down accountability in favor of capacity building, and then re-enter accountability later. If you lead with accountability, which most states do, then people are immediately on the defensive and it doesn’t work so well. http://www.houstonaplus.org/testimony/focus-michael-fullan
Fullan’s studies had revealed that it wasn’t enough for schools to merely be made accountable overnight; key parts of the “capacity building” such as a complete overhaul of professional development and a “reculturing” (Fullan’s term) would enable charters to succeed when subjected to the same accountability as the public system.
Fullan and OISE’s other partner, the Center for Development and Learning, was a pro-charter organization, led by members such as vice-chairman, Kathy Riedlinger, whose husband ran Algiers Charter Schools and who personally saw her salary as a principal more than triple since converting to a charter. http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2009/05/disaster-capitalism-paying-off-big-for.html
Fullan, the change guru, was now needed for “sustainability” to help make the charter system stay on top. To this end he had clearly become the leader of an experiment in cultural engineering within the state-run Recovery School District, whose June 2007 report reveals:
“The professional-development plan will be based on the research of Dr. Michael Fullan and other experts who focus on how to bring about systematic cultural change. The professional-development plan will work across all levels of the organization including: Teacher Institutes, Principals, School Leadership Teams, System Leadership [and] Policymakers.” http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:VdOjQfNIJBMJ:www.louisianaschools.net/lde/uploads/8932.doc+fullan+louisiana+charter&cd=9&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ca
And it is clear that Fullan played the central role in transforming New Orleans teaching, for a message from state superintendent Paul Pastorek on the Louisiana Department of Education website explains:
“The three pillars that Michael Fullan proposes are already being implemented in New Orleans, and there is reason to believe that we are setting the stage for real transformation of the quality of teaching in New Orleans RSD school.” http://www.doe.state.la.us/LDE//misc/pastorek_032707.html
The three pillars of Fullan’s reform model are accountability, capacity building, and partnerships, all of which provide the ideal soil for privatization. Pastorek’s commitment to the Fullan approach is also shown by his investment of $250, 000 in a five month contract with Michael Fullan Enterprises Inc. in 2009 to continue the reforms. http://thelouisianaeducator.blogspot.com/2009/03/board-250000-is-too-much-to-spend-on.html.
Danny Weil observes that, dating right back to the immediate, post-Katrina period, the man who brought in Fullan, Paul Pastorek, had been the driving force behind a New Orleans education system that would be based on free enterprise:
“[Pastorek] was quickly ushered in to help run the new “reform” effort. Pastorek had come to believe, in concert with [Paul T. Hill at the Center for Reinventing Public Education] and those who held the same conservative free-market ideology, that the problem with ailing school systems was their governance structure that hindered the freedom only found in the marketplace.” http://dailycensored.com/2009/12/15/teachers-unions-and-charter-schools-taking-race-to-the-top-money-and-starving-public-schools-their-teachers-and-students/
Lest there be any question as to where New Orleans and the state of Louisiana have been headed since Pastorek took the reins, the Louisiana Department of Education website itself boasts in its banner that “Louisiana charter schools outperform public schools.” As the keynote speaker at the 2009 leadership conference of the National Association of Charter School Authorities, Pastorek was hailed for “leading the most significant transformation of a state’s public education in America.” The advertisement elaborates that:
“He has been a driving force behind the development of the charter school sector in New Orleans. Less known to the rest of the nation is Pastorek’s use of charter schools to turn around failing schools elsewhere in the state, in cities like Baton Rouge and Shreveport as well as small towns like Pointe Coupee.”
Pastorek says his involvement with Fullan goes back to when he read Fullan’s Change Forces:
“Dr. Fullan talked about Accountability as the first horizon of education reform, but he observed that while Accountability was necessary, it would only take us part of the way to where we need to be. It was a lever, but it could only leverage so much. More levers were needed. He argued that we needed to move to the Next Horizon of reform. That resonated with me.” http://www.doe.state.la.us/LDE//misc/pastorek_032707.html
Pastorek adds that “During the past year, Dr. Fullan has been an advisor to me… personally on our Next Horizon effort.” Next Horizon is a think tank dedicated to partnering with business and non-profit organizations in order to foster school improvement. http://www ednexthorizon.org
Pastorek is now pleased to announce:
“With the help of Dr. Michael Fullan…I wish to focus on an education policy which relies on three pillars, Accountability, Capacity Building , and Partnership. I intend to put the highest priority on reading, writing and math, and put into motion steps that will result in substantial improvement over the next 4 years through the use of these three pillars. By keeping a firm hold on Accountability, but expanding to the next level of reform – building the capacity of our teachers, our principals and our administrators, and working in partnership with key stakeholders – we can be successful, rather than have them feel as though they are stuck with the punitive aspects of Accountability. With Dr. Fullan’s guidance, this approach is presently being pursued in New Orleans, and it has set the stage for the transformation of education there if we will just stay the course.”
In addition to his service to Pastorek, Fullan—now present on behalf of his company, Leadeship4change-was also involved in a study of the New Orleans’ education reform, as one of seven education experts that included only one researcher without direct business or pro-charter connections. http://www.tulane.edu/cowen_institute/stateofnola.pdf The group included a representative from the “New Schools Venture Fund” (a charter funding philanthropy) and from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—America’s most ambitious charter school backers, with over two billion dollars invested in education reform as of 2007. http://www.gatesfoundation.org/learning/Documents/reflections-foundations-education-investments.pdf
The authors were keenly aware that “Never before have so much national and local attention and support been focused on public education in New Orleans.” Thus, the report on “The State of Public Education in New Orleans” is clearly a study with heavily vested pro-charter interests aimed at prototyping what it calls “a new model for public education”, one based the domination of charter schools. Not surprisingly its conclusion is aglow with praise for the new model and assigns nearly biblical significance to the flood:
“When the waters subsided from Hurricane Katrina, the promise of a new and dramatically improved public school system for New Orleans captured the imagination of people across the nation and around the world. In September 2005, this vision became a beacon of hope for the nation. It was an opportunity, unlike any known before, to radically transform an urban public school system into a world-class system of schools. This innovative system would provide schools with autonomy and accountability, and it would give parents, who felt they had lost their voice in public education, the opportunity to choose the best schools for their children.”
The problem remains that “the city has made few systematic strides toward building a world-class system of schools,” and the study warns that despite “generous federal and private funding”, the New Orleans model, “one of the strongest rays of hope for urban education across the nation, will fade.” The solution that is needed would be a new, highly privatized and partnered “entity” for the oversight of “system-wide” reform.
Sucn an “entity” would include, among other things:
“Securing and marshaling funding from private sources — for example, nonprofit organizations and/or private foundations — to support high-priority initiatives…. Building relationships with local and national nongovernmental organizations, foundations, and education nonprofits to funnel much-needed resources to the public schools…. Partnering with local businesses and civic organizations to sponsor key education initiatives… Build[ing] the entity’s membership around a small group of community and/or business leaders…. Creat[ing] a small staff to adequately support the established entity…. Secur[ing] funding from private sources.”
While the study’s rhetoric, like that of most pro-reform literature, is ostensibly about “saving” public education, it is plain to see the new “entity” would be a kind of privatized government, run by businesses and non-governmental agencies, not democratically elected board officials. In this context, “partnerships,” wherever they exist, are clearly just a means to the end of privatization.
At about the same time as the above study, Fullan was working with principals at the Algiers Charter Schools to develop a new reform handbook. Algiers CEO, Brian Riedlinger (then Kathy’s husband), made a good news announcement at a board meeting “that a professional development book study has begun with led by Dr. Cliff St. Germain working with principals and school teams on a new book written with Dr Michael Fullan – Learning Places - paid through the School Leadership Center.” http://www.algierscharterschools.org/board/pdf/minutes_092707.doc
“The School Leadership Center” is an organization with strongly pro-charter commitments, as any visit to its website quickly reveals. Brian Riedlinger is one among several of Fullan’s pro-charter contributors in Challenge of Change: Start School Improvement Now!
Fullan, himself, is on the “Board of International Advisors” for Microsoft’s Partners in Learning program, an organization dedicated to partnering with governments to promote Microsoft-friendly reforms in over 100 countries. http://dailycensored.com/2009/11/06/the-global-privatization-of-education-policy-lorna-earl-conflict-of-interest-is-the-tip-of-the-iceberg/ Fullan’s books have become handbooks for the kind of reform Microsoft wants, as may be deduced from the following endorsement of Fullan’s Leading in a Culture of Change, posted by Tom Vander Ark, executive director of Education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:
“At the very time the need for effective leadership is reaching critical proportions, Michael Fullan’s “Leading in a Culture of Change” provides powerful insights for moving forward. We look forward to sharing it with our grantees.” http://www.citeulike.org/user/brianprickett/article/4146956
With the praises of an executive director of the most aggressive pro-charter organization on the planet, it is difficult to conceive of Fullan’s work outside of the context of global privatization.
While Ontario’s Premier McGuinty has employed Fullan as a Special Advisor since 2004 to lead reforms that were supposed to be “building confidence in the publicly funded system of education” the same three pillars of accountability, capacity building and partnerships have been established as key levers of privatization.
Because Ontarians have previously voiced their explicit disapproval of privatization in education, the restructuring has been smuggled into the province as a mandate-ironically enough-to restore faith in the public system of education. In “Results without rancour or ranking: Ontario’s success story” written by Ontario’s three key reformers, Ben Levin, Avis Glaze and Michael Fullan, the crisis of the 1990s is not presented as one that had been caused by the previous government’s relentless privatization campaign, but rather quite simply as a failure in strategy:
“From the early 1990s for about a decade education in Ontario was troubled. The province had significant labor disruption, lots of public dissatisfaction, increasing private school enrolment, and poor morale leading to high turnover among teachers. However in 2003 a new government was elected with the renewal of public education as one of their highest priorities….”
This so-called “renewal of public education” sounds vaguely critical of the previous government’s reforms, but there is no commitment whatsoever to undo any of the pro-privatization damage, such as Bill 160, or EQAO’s high-stakes testing, that resulted from Mike Harris’s “Common Sense Revolution”. Rather, the real commitment is simply to achieving the same “raise the bar” kinds of performance-based, measurable outcomes from students in math and literacy, but this time without all the conflict. Since such rancour had mainly come from the teachers, “provincial support for the negotiation of four year collective agreements with all Ontario’s teachers” will enable them to focus on “improving student outcomes instead of being distracted by labor issues.” When added to the twelve percent raises given all of the province’s teachers during a time of global recession their strategy is obvious.
Fullan’s “core goals” as stated further along in “Results without Rancour or Ranking” are exactly the same as those key levers of the privatization in the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and many other nations under neo-liberal reforms:
“The Ontario education strategy that began in 2003 has two main components – a commitment to improve elementary school literacy and numeracy outcomes, and a commitment to increase high school graduation rates. These priorities were chosen because public confidence in and support for education depend on demonstrated achievement of good outcomes for students. These core goals are each supported by a large-scale strategy based substantially on Michael Fullan’s work.” http://utdanningsledelse.uio.no/nnet/docs/Sucess story_BL_070607.doc
In other words, the key focuses on literacy and numeracy, and ever-higher graduation rates present the ideal “raise the bar” and “close the gap” scenario needed to make schools and boards accountable for contradictory and obviously unattainable “outcomes” (ie. “raising the bar” of achievement widens the “gap” between lowest and highest achievers). Such outcomes can ultimately generate a good number of “failing” or “turnaround” schools which can in turn be rescued by the private sector in various ways, including restructuring them as charters. The provisions for provincial take-over of school boards, which were stealthily released for “consultation” during the summer of 2009 as the “Provincial Interest Regulations” portion of Bill 177 provide a number of “triggers” for supervision which, according the school boards association seem “focussed on the path to Ministry supervision of a board.” The Ontario Public School Boards Association’s response also cited concerns that the new laws could eventually be favourable to the “establishment of vouchers and support for the charter and private schools.” http://www.opsba.org/files/PIR_Consultation_Paper_OPSBA_Prelim_Response_August25-09.pdf Such “Ministry supervision” is of course, a key lever of the charter school movement in New Orleans, where the district has been taken over by the state in order to “help” it get back on track after Katrina, but Pastorek has yet to return control to the local board.
Despite the claim, then, that Ontario would get “results without rancour or ranking”, such ranking has turned out to be the very cornerstone of Ontario’s privatization reform, for Bill 177 makes EQAO results on high-stakes math and literacy tests more important than ever to all school boards. Establishing a real threat of “intervention” leading to potential take over by a state or ministry has also been proven effective as a way to guarantee a steady demand for commercially produced school improvement products in the U.S. For example, the Louisiana Department of Education website contains a “Supplemental and Intervention Product Database” listing over 200 score improvement products http://www.doe.state.la.us/lde/uploads2/14766.xlsx. With over one thousand of Ontario’s schools already receiving “help” from the “Ontario Focused Intervention Plan” (OFIP), —some of these are even performing consistently above average but deemed to be “stagnating”-a robust marketplace for test performance enhancement products is assured down the road.
The fear of ministry intervention is also creating a dramatically increased need for professional development, a product which itself has become increasingly privatized in its delivery by many for-profit agencies promising to assist with raising EQAO scores and graduation rates. In fact the professional development services most “aligned” with the new school improvement mandates would certainly have to be those offered by Ontario’s leading reformers: Fullan’s “Leadership4Change” and in Avis Glaze’s EduQuest. Not to mention Ontario’s assessment reformer, Lorna Earl, who works on EQAO’s Board of Directors, is the Ministry of Education’s “Researcher in Residence”, and offers P.D. on how to improve school achievement through her Aporia Consulting Ltd. company. http://dailycensored.com/2009/11/06/the-global-privatization-of-education-policy-lorna-earl-conflict-of-interest-is-the-tip-of-the-iceberg/
While the reformers argue that “rankings” have not been needed in order to spur “results,” that is most obviously because the EQAO results themselves have already been ranked and widely publicized by the Fraser Institute, a think-tank aimed at total privatization. For its own part, the ministry has attempted to promote parental “school choice” through its “School Information Finder” website which originally included a “shopping basket” for parents to compare schools. Shortly after public school advocates opposed the explicit shopping basket, one of the pro-privatization groups that has become fully aligned with the Ministry’s current purposes, the Society for Quality Education, picked up the slack and simply uploaded an almost identical school comparison engine. http://www.sunshineonschools.ca/Default.aspx
As a further enticement to parental choice, the ministry has promoted as one of its core initiatives, more “specialized schools” http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/about/whatwedo.html . Such would certainly include magnet schools created through the Specialist Skills Major program http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/morestudentsuccess/SHSM.asp, as well as race and gender based school prototypes now being aggressively promoted in Toronto. Hamilton-Wentworth offers “Programs of CHOICE” schools including those which are based on career orientation, sports, ethnicity and gender.
But the ideal “disaster capitalism” opportunity in Ontario will certainly be presented by the upcoming closure of 170 schools due to declining enrolment. As mentioned in my earlier article in Daily Censored, there are clearly those who view this, coupled with the province’s record deficit, as a perfect storm:
“The storm we face is a potential driving force to move the operations of business functions to a new and expanded level. If we can capture some of these opportunities, the business functions in education will emerge as a vital and integral part of a new education environment.” http://dailycensored.com/2009/12/04/a-perfect-storm-massive-ontario-school-closures-seen-as-%E2%80%9Copportunity%E2%80%9D-by-privatizers/
One solution proffered by “the Report of the Declining Enrolment Working Group” is certainly “e-learning” which, with its reliance on commercially supplied technology, software and, often enough, outsourced and heavily standardized curriculum, is certainly one of the main ways being considered to deal with the impending closures. Moreover, as seen in the U.S., online or “virtual” schools can be run very profitably by outsourced providers with high margins of profit, since classes can be larger and no buildings or transportation is required. One of the key recommendations of the “Declining Enrolment Working Group” which would prepare for such outsourcing is that the government find “ways to promote e-learning and alternative program delivery as part of the solution to the effects of declining enrolment, while urging the government to ensure that all students have equitable access to broadband connectivity.” http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/DEWG.pdf
And, while “the Report of the Declining Enrolment Working Group” mentions e-learning 25 times in its 68 pages, it refers to “partnerships”—the third pillar of Fullan’s reforms—79 times. Its key recommendation is that the “boards that have unutilized school space or that are building new school facilities be required to seek opportunities for partnerships.” Hence, this will be part of a retreat of other public services into the same buildings, for “We also recommend that the government require services and agencies that it funds to consider the use of available school space in local communities before building, purchasing, or leasing other space.”
Moreover, Ontario’s new model of the so-called “full service schools” is being aggressively pursued by both the Hamilton Wentworth and Toronto boards. A TDSB position paper, for instance states that it plans to convert all schools into these heavily partnerized entities:
“Using public schools as hubs, community schools knit together inventive, enduring relationships among educators, families, volunteers, and community partners. Families, youth, and residents join with educators and community partners to articulate shared goals for students and to help design, implement, and evaluate activities. Participation by these stakeholders in decision making helps ensure that community schools meet local needs and show measurable progress.”
Such plans have also been spearheaded by the move to bring Junior Kindergarten, which is often privately delivered, into the public schools. That both of these policy shifts are perfectly synchronized with identical policy shifts by the pro-charter U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, should be enough to raise considerable suspicion. A recent headline in Education Week proclaims that “Blair, Duncan Push Schools as Community Hubs.” http://www.edweek.org/login.html?source=http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/10/28/10cep.h29.html&destination=http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/10/28/10cep.h29.html&levelId=2100
The origin of the “Community Partnership Strategy” as explained by Danny Weil goes back to the privatization strategies of Paul T. Hill at the Centre for Reinventing Education. Weil summarizes a key prong of Hill’s approach:
“The Community Partnership can be seen as a further development of the Diverse Providers approach. This strategy would also include multiple public and private partners and would be a genuine community-wide system in that all the community’s resources, not simply its schools, would be available in an organized way to meet children’s educational needs and their general well-being. It would license many entities to provide K-12 instruction, including conventional public school systems, contractors of the kind described under the Diverse Providers Strategy, unconventional educational and cultural options, including museums, libraries, arts agencies, church supported systems willing to operate under First Amendment constraints and dispersed “cyber schools.” Community Partnerships would go beyond Diverse Providers in three ways. A community education board would (1) encourage non-school educational resources; (2) preserve a portfolio of education alternatives for the disadvantaged, and (3) broker health and social service resources to meet children’s needs (Hill 2001).” http://dailycensored.com/2009/12/15/teachers-unions-and-charter-schools-taking-race-to-the-top-money-and-starving-public-schools-their-teachers-and-students/
In essence, this strategy is based on the sound reasoning that it is easier to take the step of partnerizing government services, before moving to the next horizon of privatization. Mandating partnerships that increasingly rely on voluntarism, corporate philanthropy and outsourcing will eventually wean education from government control. Such philanthropy and partnerizing has been the preferred strategy for the Gates Foundation with its “Partners in Learning” program, which directs massive “support” to the public system, at least on the surface, in order to promote “local autonomy” and thereby undermine government control.
It is not surprising to see seemingly not-for-profit groups (which typically front for any number of for-profit “partners”) such as the “Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education” salivating at the prospect of the full-service school. The silver lining in their vision of the future for these school choice advocates is that it will provide the perfect lever to overthrow union control of working conditions and government control of policy:
“Schools must have the authority to enter into the partnerships required to offer the services needed. This includes budget control, the ability to contract for services, hire staff, dedicate building space, flexibility in maintenance and security arrangements to permit the school to operate around the clock. Dispensation from some collective agreement work rules and district policies may be required. If parent volunteers are to be used in a program, for example, there must be assurances the union will not grieve their participation.
Strong leadership is essential. That leader is often the principal, although in other cases it is the project coordinator. The position requires vision, staying power, entrepreneurialship, and the ability to coordinate diverse groups and resources and build a common sense of purpose.
Appropriate governance structures must be in place. The full service school is a highly complex organization, requiring the development of joint action plans and coordination and monitoring of many separate program components. It must allow for overall planning and oversight and implementation committees whose roles and responsibilities are carefully delineated. A non-profit umbrella society is often part of the governance structure.”
A glimpse into the future of “community schools” is provided by the Manitoba “Community Schools Partnership Initiative.” Since 2005, “21 schools have qualified as community schools, acting as hubs for ‘a broad range of services, supports and opportunities that strengthen and support schools, families and communities.’”
http://www.peopleforeducation.com/schoolclosingreport/nov2009 While such descriptions have a wholesome sounding ring, the Community School Partnership sets up rules which are ideal for non-governmental individuals or organizations to “create a community school” of their own:
“There are two key elements to any community school. The first is a working group of decision makers who represent the school, families and the general community. This document refers to this decision-making group as the Community School Council but it might have various names or structures, depending on the needs of each school. The Community School Council may evolve from an existing Parent Council. In a school where a Parent Council doesn’t exist, a Community School Council could be established that would include a Parent Council’s scope of responsibilities….”
Although on one hand, the involvement of parent groups and community groups is an integral part of the charter mission’s appearance, the devil is in the details, for the new councils may also include businesses:
“A Community School Council (or its equivalent) includes students, families, the principal, teachers and residents. It may also include businesses and other community service partners on an as-needed, consultative basis.” http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/cspi/documents/support_doc.pdf
Since, “The Council makes decisions and advises on the learning program, school policies, facility use, community development and community programming,” government’s role will be to simply hand over the per-pupil funding. There are more than enough businesses, such as Microsoft, that are ready to offer their expertise in decision making. It is interesting to note that this movement draws a precise parallel to the shift towards “autonomous” schools in many other countries within the new global economy. Indeed, this fits perfectly with Microsoft’s Partners in Learning program’s definition of “decentralization” as “putting control of budgets, personnel, and academic affairs back into the hands of local communities.” Naturally, Fullan’s mission is no different in New Orleans from what it is in Ontario or Thailand, where he has been helping implement reforms for Microsoft:
“Through Learning to Lead Change, a workshop developed for Partners in Learning by international education reform expert Professor Michael Fullan, more than 13,000 educators throughout Thailand are learning strategies and tactics to prepare for decentralization and to help create a sustainable culture of leadership, collaboration, and innovation in their schools.” http://www.microsoft.com/education/partnersinlearning/Leadership.mspx#Thailand
The impact of the new partnership between schools and outside agencies will necessitate a complete cultural reformat including a considerable amount of re-languaging, as may be gathered from the presumption that students and/or parents are “customers” in a document by the Ontario Education Services Corporation, which was recently part of mandatory training for all the province’s education employees. “How May I Help You: Welcoming Customers with Disabilities to your School or Board Site” defines a “customer” as “any person who uses the services of the school board.” http://oesc.apandrose.com/static/resources/en_CA/Accessibility%20Standards%20for%20Customer%20Service%20Exemplar%20Policy.doc
And the word “customer” is no accident: it could easily have been replaced by “student” or “individual”-for school boards do not supposedly “sell” anything…yet. This is a textbook example of the kind of stealth privatization at work on the level of thought and language to “build capacity” in Ontario. The language and culture of business replaces that of pedagogy. “Teachers” are rapidly becoming “practitioners” who use “data-driven decision-making” to “strategize” on how to “align” their “best practices” with “assessments” in order to “achieve” performance “outcomes”. Instead of grades given two times a year, children are constantly given stock market-style reports including graphs of their rising and falling performance values from automated marking and reporting programs.
Fullan’s “culture of continuous improvement” is in fact no different from that of the stock market, where every stock’s profit margin must increase year over year or lose its funding. The social bonds, in this atmosphere of hyped up competition are strictly contractual: students, departments, schools and boards must each sign on to “improvement plans” which make them into suppliers who can be replaced if they fail to meet market “expectations”.
But the most important two key words of the new business culture are in the titles of most of Fullan’s books: “change” and “leadership”. Both of these words are presented as ends in themselves, as if they represented universal and unquestionable goods. Indeed, one would be a bit immoral to defy Fullan’s Moral Imperative and something of a coward or dinosaur to decline his Challenge of Change. But despite such consensus-building titles, sceptics still must inquire: leadership and change for what? Of course, one reason such questions never get asked is that everyone inside the industry knows that the “change” is simply to privatization for profit. The other is that privatizers know that it’s easier to get support from religious groups, parents, donors, volunteers, teachers and administrators for such altruistic sounding vagaries as “reform”, “leadership” or “change” than it is to build consensus from the specifics. Beneath the constant re-languaging and repackaging (ie. charter schools are sold as hubs or community schools or independent public schools) the real agenda of reform is identical everywhere: schools must be saved from a crisis in funding and/or quality. The only way to do this is through perpetual school improvement. Improvement means increased accountability (ie. to perpetual improvement, to raise test scores while lowing “gaps”), more high-stakes testing, hyped parental choice, local “autonomy” and the gradual smuggling of all educational functions to business via “partnering”.
Ontario is not a complete mirror image of New Orleans just yet. Ontario has still not yet followed Pastorek in tying teacher pay to test scores-what one administrator describes as “accountability on steroids”. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/12/AR2009121202631.html
But Fullan’s “three pillars” have almost completely replaced the public infrastructure with a privatization-friendly one. Democratic aspects of education have been supplanted by the threat of provincial intervention or takeover based on scores, creating widespread psychological insecurity—perhaps the most important ingredient to the real success of reform. The Education Act has been re-written under Bill 177 to make schools about “achievement” (a.k.a. the production of ever-higher test scores and graduation rates). The capacity has been built to focus exclusively on “outcomes”. All board funding above and beyond basic expenses must be rededicated to the new goal. All of the following are justified in the name of “achievement” in order to create needs for U.S.-based school improvement industry services: student success teams, credit recovery, professional learning communities, school climate surveys, character education, a culture of assessment, improvement contracts, outsourced “data warehousing” of all information, “targeted” funding, the expansion of e-learning to students and teachers, differentiated instruction, parental shopping for schools, specialty schools, segregation schools, the ideal of perpetual teacher retraining, and the trend towards “full service” schools which will be “hubs” of dramatically increased partnering. Indeed, in what Fullan ironically calls the “deprivatized” classroom (meaning one that is more open to experimentation, external scrutiny, data analysis and partnering), anything and everything is justifiable in the name of improving “achievement”, from the application of shamanistic brain-based pedagogy (e.g. exercising in math class to meet boys’ more physical learning styles) through to the constant data surveillance over all activities, from plagiarism detection (e.g. TurnItIn.com) through to teacher performance in relation to student test scores, all the way to “school climate surveys”. In the new culture of numbers, any experiment is justified if it makes claims to help ratchet up the scores.
The final ingredient-a crisis needed to drive public education into a partnership with the private sector-is supplied by both the closure of 170 schools and by the province’s record high deficit. The financial crisis is already being felt in the system, despite the government’s claims that things are getting better. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA),
“funding in Ontario finds the province’s per-student school funding lags behind 45 U.S. sates and 8 Canadian jurisdictions. The report’s author, Hugh Mackenzie, says Ontario’s shortfall is the result of a funding formula that desperately needs an overhaul.”
If the current economic crisis continues to justify this kind of passive de-funding of the education system, then it will not be long before performance outputs drop below wherever the government happens to set the “bar” of achievement, and the public system will follow the New Orleans system into a crisis that needs both private subsidization and the strings that will be attached to such “help”: private sector “leadership” and charter schools (albeit under some other name).
Then Ontario will be truly ready to move to the Next Horizon.