50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education by David C. Berliner, Gene Glass, and Associates takes on many myths that have support amongst reformers and the media. This is a must read for anyone fighting the madness of our current test-and-punish school reform system. Give a copy to any policy maker you know.
Myths, Hoaxes, and Outright Lies
- “America’s public schools are being hijacked and destroyed by greed, fraud, and lies.” James Meredith – 1st black students at the University of Mississippi 10/1/1961. This quote sums up the purpose of this book. The authors limited themselves to only 50 and hope that readers will send in some more that do not appear herein. Myths are beliefs in things that may or may not be true. They fill in the void left by ignorance. The focus here is on myths that are untrue and that are having unhappy consequences. Hoaxes are different in that the person pushing them knows them to be dubious or untrue, but also knows that they will greatly benefit the pusher. Liars are different in that they don’t even believe what they are saying. Once again the lies are promoted for someone’s self-interest. The overridding myth is that America’s public schools have failed. The authors do an excellent job showing that this is not the case.
Myths and Lies About Who’s Best: Charters, Privates, Maybe Finland?
- The focus here are the international tests where the US usually ends up in the middle of the pack. This is where we have been since the first efforts at country sorting where made in the 1960’s so it’s not like we have gone downhill. If you sort out the poor kids our scores are at the top with countries like Finland where poverty is 5%. The fact that the tests are in different languages and use the metric system makes them less valid. Never the less, reformers have used these scores to promote unproven reforms.
- The same test scores are used to show that private schools are better than public schools, but once you take socioeconomic the status of the students into consideration, public schools do better. Private school students are wealthier and whiter. Teachers have more autonomy, better resources, and few students with disabilities and English language learners. They also have less violence and discipline problems as they can control who they accept and who they get rid of. While charter schools are actually public schools, they share many of the same qualities as operators can game the system to control their population. While comparing publics to charters is difficult, the evidence we do have indicates that publics do better. The big reason in my mind is that when compared to public school teachers, charter school teachers are less experienced, less likely to be certified, less well paid, and have higher turnover rates.