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The Lesson Cheyenne Teaches us About Education "Reform"

Well did she or didn’t she? Did author Charlotte Hsu realize that her description of Bennett’s valedictorian Cheyenne Ketter-Franklin (“Bennett’s Best,” Artvoice v12n31) would expose the criminality of the Bush-Obama education reform movement?

Cheyenne, we teachers would call her a gem; she studied hard, came to class prepared, asked questions, and persevered through the “ adversities and tribulations” learning “how to deal with them,” and not letting such “afflictions hinder achievements” in the future. Please, give me a classroom full of Cheyennes and my Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) will show “personal growth” that may bring federal funding for Bennett’s students.

Sorry, but that’s not the way the system works. Both Presidents Bush and Obama have put forth essentially the same educational reform agenda that penalizes the Cheyennes and rewards the wealthy test makers, correctors, privatizers, and the politicians backing them. The privatization/ corporate education reform movement started with President Bush as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and his secretary of education, Rod Paige, called teachers and their unions “terrorists.” President Obama continued this Orwellian reform as Race to the Top (RTTT), which gives funding on a competitive basis. His secretary of education, Arne Duncan, commanded the failed Renaissance schools in Chicago, showing the destructive results of competitive funding. Imagine the adversities facing students like Cheyenne competing with Williamsville East or Clarence high school students. This is the way to fund equality of opportunity?

Standardized test scores have been tracked since the 1960s to correlate closely with family income and especially the professional status of parents. In New York State it’s primarily the Pearson company that’s making out like a bandit. With $9 billion in test-related revenue in 2010 and $3 billion in digital revenue alone for 2011, Pearson is one of the nation’s largest publishing houses. It does certification, assessment along with its standardized tests, and they come with a large assortment of textbooks (and multimedia for Apple’s iPod).

New York State has a five-year, $32 million contract for RTTT online testing. Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed David Wakelyn as deputy secretary for education. Wakelyn has only spurious “Teach for America” credentials, but was chosen because he was a Pearson sub-division(America’s Choice School Design) senior associate. Pearson Foundation members brag of being the brains behind the Common Core Curriculum standards—the unresearched, untested, untried metric for students, teachers, and administrators, but not politicians.

Gem that she is, Cheyenne scored only average on her Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT). The crime is that such a student whose achieved goals were her intelligence and character—whichfor Dr. Martin Luther King were the true achievements of authentic learning—should be subjected to federal funding programs that undermine both character and intelligence. To me that’s a crime, a moral crime. Unfortunately the punishment for such villainy is increased private profits and political power.

- Ray Peterson, Buffalo

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