Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Karp- Questions

In this reading, Karp explains that while there is no doubt issues in the education system in the U.S. it is not teachers who are to blame.  He states that while there are some bad teachers out there, this is not necessarily the majority, and it is a variety of other factors that should be blamed for failing schools. He also writes that the recent move to standardized testing, merit pay, and charter schools will not be successful in improving schools and that such things are motivated by corporate groups wishing to privatize eduction for their own monetary gains.  What Karp discusses in this reading is contrary to many of the things I find in mainstream media.   I chose to do questions this week because I believe that it is important to fuel discussion regarding failing schools and what or who is really to blame (especially if it is contrary to the media).  Only when the real problem is identified can it be fixed.  Along with the questions, I wrote my own opinions.  Feel free to comment :)

1. Why do you believe there is such heated debate surrounding education reform in America?

The current public opinion in the United States seems to be that schools are failing and in need of reform.  The Karp reading states that at the center of the debate is whether reform will lead to privatization of schools or keep them as public institutions that are “collectively owned and democratically managed.”  Those in favor of privatizing education have much to gain (in terms of money) by commercializing schools and push their ideas into politics and the media (through movies like “Waiting for Superman”). This media coverage popularizes the notion that schools are failing and therefore it has become a “hot topic” of discussion. It is hard to turn on the news (local or national) without some story relating to education.  In addition, because most of the population of the United States has experience public education, people may feel as though they have the experience to comment and develop opinions about reform (though sometimes these opinions may be misguided). 

2. What are some pro private interest arguments for educational reform?  What are some anti private interest arguments for educational reform?

Pro- Some may argue that if things like merit pay work in the private sector it must be able to work in the public sector.  There are also statistics about the success of charter schools that, shifty as they may be, some people take for face value.  This can lead to the mentality that if it works at school “xyz” then it should work for all schools. 

Con- If education becomes privatized, it is not protected against corporate abuses.  The article states that, historically, education has been protected from “unchecked commercial exploitation and privatization” but may no longer be protected if this becomes a reality.  This would mean that the democratic pillar of “free, appropriate, public education” would go by the wayside.  If our public schools are privatized, then who would be checking them against abuses such as racial or socioeconomic segregation and further inequities?

3. What are some pro public policy interest arguments for educational reform? What are some anti private interest arguments for educational reform?

 Pro- Accountability is necessary to ensure that teachers and administrators are doing what they are supposed to.  The article states that “we do need accountability systems that put pressure on schools to respond effectively to communities they serve.”  Without accountability, teachers could do whatever they want even if it means that they are not adequately educating students. Educational reform in the form of increased funding and decreased inequity would also help fix the nation’s schools. 

Con- Some may argue that the system is already broken and that there is no way to fix it in the public sphere. 

4. Do you believe education is a systematic failure?  What do you believe is at the heart of the concerns with education?

I believe that changes need to be made, but that the system is not broken overall.  In my opinion, inequity and the over-emphasis of high stakes testing are at the heart of the concerns over education.  Schools have been labeled a failure due to low test scores, but nothing has been done to address the reason for these low test scores.  Low test scores could be a result of inequity such as poverty, institutional racism, and underfunding not necessarily low performance in and of itself.  All schools are not equal therefore it is unfair to measure them by the same standards without providing help.  The article states that “schools are labeled as failures without providing the resources and strategies needed to eliminate the gaps,” and I agree that this is the heart of the problems with education.

5. What can we do to encourage healthy school reform? What are some suggestions provided by the article to promote change?

The article provides us with some ways to encourage appropriate reform.  First, the reading tells us that we need accountability systems to put pressure on the schools.  Karp states that “parents are the key to creating this pressure and teachers are the key to implementing the changes needed to address it.  Finding ways to promote a kind of collaborative tension and partnership between these groups is one of the keys to school improvement.” Therefore, parents and teachers need to collaborate in order to inspire reform. 

The reading also makes mention that instead of spending so much money on developing standardized tests and accountability policies surrounding these tests, that money could be better used to address the underlying problems (such as poverty) that are linked to poor performance. We should also work towards closing the inequity gap in the United States through fair and adequate school funding formulas.

Karp also cautions against allowing for the privatization of schools.  We should fight against things such as merit pay and test-based teacher evaluation because it has the possibility to destroy the collaborative environment of schools and “move decision making to external bureaucracies and managers.”  This would take the power away from those most able and most capable to make a real difference in educating students.


  1. Love how you posed the questions AND answered them! Great way to show how you make sense of both sides of these debates!

  2. Great questions. They will support a great debate in class.

  3. Nice questions Amanda! I like how you gave your opinion about the topic as well...Some of these issues were definitely touched upon during class today!
    Great post! :)