“We’re Done”: The Portland Business Alliance Chastises PPS and the Teacher’s Union

As the term winds down, I’m faced with an incredible amount of grading and class prep to do, so I’m going to make this short.  A few days ago the Portland Business Alliance wrote a letter to the editor condemning the teacher’s union and PPS for not applying for Race to the Top Funds (among other “failures”).  This was followed up by an article in the Oregonian on the topic rehashing the subject matter of the letter.  Read more here.

When I read this letter and the article, it raised concerns for me that have also been popping up in my reading and my activist work.  The big question for me is…does the business model work for schools and kids?  And should we be using this model on our education system?

Current and future teachers and education advocates,  I’d love to hear your perspective on this.  Is Race to the Top even worth applying for?  Does it represent a model of “reform” that we should not support?  Should the business community make decisions about classrooms?  What’s really holding students back?

Does this letter ring any alarms for you?  Or do you feel like the support of community members like the business association is needed for true school reform?


2 thoughts on ““We’re Done”: The Portland Business Alliance Chastises PPS and the Teacher’s Union

  1. I don’t think the business model would work at all for schools, and that’s part of why all this privatization talk by some politicians is so worrying to me. The vast majority of students, if schools were privatized, would not be going to the top of the line “gourmet’ schools. They’d be going the “fast food” schools. Cheap to run, easy to produce, formulaic, and ultimately unhealthy for the patrons of those schools. And just like in the food business, the negative effects of this low quality education would fall disproportionally on those from a low socioeconomic status. People with any sort of money would most likely pull their children out of those schools and into better schools, while the students whose parents could not make arrangements would have to stay.

    However, while that sounds very similar to what’s happening in some schools right not, the students would be even worse off because the schools would be accountable not to the citizens who attend to school or the community around it, but to the businesses that pay it’s bills.

  2. Zapoura,

    Wow, that letter from the Portland Business Alliance was scathing! The fact that this education-as-a-business model is being pushed by almost everyone lately is scary. I don’t think that schools should be run like businesses, nor do I think that children are products. Also, it is very unfair to imply that low scores on standardized tests are the fault of the teachers.

    There are so many things wrong in this article. For one, the money that Race to the Top will provide is like a drop in the bucket when it comes to school funding. Portland Public Schools’ annual budget for the 2012/2013 year is 483.2 million dollars. $40 million dollars, what Race to the Top might have brought in, is about 8% of that total. Is another 8% really going to make or break PPS? Not likely. Another problem is the use of standardized tests to measure teacher performance. Race to the Top demands that test scores be used in this manner. Unfortunately, standardized test scores do not provide an adequate picture of how well children are doing in school. For starters, these tests do not necessarily measure real life knowledge. A child can be a great test taker, yet lack the skills that are needed to successfully problem solve or think critically, and vice versa. These tests measure a very narrowly focused type of knowledge that doesn’t demonstrate the true breadth of skills a child may have. Also, standardized tests are often standardized on middle-class white children. This means that these tests are inadequate for testing minority and/or low SES populations.

    Knowing all this, why are teacher’s unions essentially being blamed for children doing poorly in school? Why aren’t a host of other factors like lack of school funding, poverty, and domestic violence being blamed as well? It seems to me that instead of demonizing the teacher’s unions, we should be demonizing the companies that don’t pay their workers a living wage and the government that won’t adequately fund our schools. We should be demanding that our children be tested fairly and that knowledge of all types is celebrated. It is my hope that the unions keep fighting for what is fair to teachers and best for students.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s