Kudos to AFT (American Federation of Teachers) for creating this video explaining the results of the PISA report that came out a few days ago creating quite the stir among some educators and many policy makers. U . S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s take-away from the report was in part: “So, the big picture from PISA is one of educational stagnation, at a time of fast-rising demand for highly-educated workers. The mediocre performance of America’s students is a problem we cannot afford to accept and cannot afford to ignore.” (ED.gov)
“Educational stagnation” may be one way to characterize what has been happening under Secretary Duncan’s leadership, but I would offer that it may be far more intertwined with a stagnant economy that has held millions of children in this country in poverty with little real hope of escaping. The current policies including Race to the Top (which was just a double down of No Child Left Behind) and others have done nothing but to throw the public education system in the United States into turmoil and to provide the kind of churn and chaos that lends itself to people wanting to throw their hands up and walk away using the current problems as the excuse they need to further the cause of for-profit charter schools and virtual schools. If students aren’t performing up to snuff, Mr. Duncan, it may be because many of them are hungry, angry, and dejected. Their teachers have been subjected to all sorts of psychological abuse, and they hear about “failing schools” from every reporter who offers a story on the topic of public education in America. The wonder isn’t that our students aren’t performing up to par in competition with countries where education is valued and teachers are respected…the wonder is that they are doing as well as they are given the current sorry state of affairs.
If I were Mr. Duncan, and I were as sure as he seems to be that the current policies are not working, I believe I would start to question whether the current policies are the right policies. Alas, however, I fear that that may be too much to hope for. I don’t get that Mr. Duncan is all that self-reflective. If he were, he wouldn’t so frequently stick his foot in his mouth as he is so prone to doing. As far as evaluating current PISA scores, however, I think Mr. Duncan and his department folks would do well to step back a moment and do some serious self-evaluation.