I look forward to reading John Hood’s perspectives on education in North Carolina. They reaffirm my stances on what is happening in the Old North State and its public schools.
I do not have his bandwidth. As the president of the John William Pope Foundation and the past chairman (still on Board of Directors) for the John Locke Foundation, Hood serves as the mouthpiece of Art Pope, the leader of the Civitas Group and considered by many to be the biggest financier in North Carolina of ultra-conservative politics.
John Hood will be heard. Too many microphones have been bought to be placed near his mouth.
But I have my blog and a teacher voice.
I find most everything that Hood writes about public education to be extremely slanted (not surprising), yet smugly conciliatory, as if he is appeasing the more liberal people into thinking he wants what they want from our state government. In his recent op-ed posted on EdNC.org entitled “School reform is good economics”, Hood begins,
“Although the debate about education policy is robust, complicated, and sometimes vitriolic, there is actually broad agreement about the bottom line:
If our students were better prepared for college, careers, and the responsibilities of citizenship, North Carolina would reap tremendous benefits.
Liberals and conservatives disagree about means, not about the ultimate ends — and often, even our disagreements on the means of school improvement are more about priorities and details, not about basic concepts. I know these policy debates will continue for years to come. I welcome them.
In the meantime, however, it’s worth devoting more attention to those ultimate ends.”
It’s as if he is saying, “Hey, I want what you want!” but then is thinking, “But I just want to help my cronies make money from it all.”
It is also not uncommon for Hood to start throwing out cherry-picked numbers to show that current reform movements in North Carolina are helping our state regain prominence in the country. I have written about his assertions before and those of his contemporary, Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation, on this blog before. These following are links to those posts, and please note that they were written in response to something written by Hood and Stoops.
If you read these posts and the pieces written by Hood and Stoops that inspired these posts, you will see that both Hood and Stoops reside in the gray nebula of lack of explanation and platitudes. Their love of broad statements and sweeping assertions really are a smokescreen for a political agenda that wants to further priviatize public education here in North Carolina.
In this latest op-ed on school reform, Hood cites work from three scholars who “reported the findings of a study they recently conducted of student performance and economic growth across all 50 states. Eric Hanushek of Stanford University, Jens Ruhose of Leibnitz University, and Ludger Woessmann of the University of Munich” did the study.
“They assert that because the level of education and skill in the labor force is associated with economic growth, more government spending on education and training will lead to more economic growth. That doesn’t logically follow, and isn’t confirmed by empirical research. Over the past 25 years, there have been some 119 academic studies probing potential relationships between state education spending and subsequent economic growth. Only 32 percent found a positive correlation.”
But what Hood doesn’t acknowledge is that North Carolina has actually proven that the converse is true. If Hood claims that spending more on state public education does not translate to subsequent economic growth, then does he claim that lowering spending would not hurt economic growth? I believe it does.
Because that is what has happened in North Carolina.
We are spending less per pupil now than we did years ago, and years ago we in North Carolina had what was considered the strongest public school system in the Southeast. Our teacher pay (no it is not better as the GOP claims for veteran teachers) is still in the lowest tier of the nation. Politicians have created grading systems that repeatedly cast public schools in a bad light to create the excuse for the very reforms that Hood champions.
Do not forget that John Hood works for Art Pope, who was the architect of the first Pat McCrory budget and campaigned to remove due-process rights from veteran teachers. He succeeded in removing them from newer teachers as well as removing graduate pay bumps – things that Hood has made hollow arguments for in the past (see referenced posts above).
But I digress. Hood then states toward the end,
“And what if we focused on low-performing students rather than average scores? If North Carolina raised all of our students to at least a “basic” level of competence in reading and math, the study found, our economy would be nearly $800 billion larger by 2095 than the baseline, an increase of 12 percent.”
Well colored me surprised or paint me green with envy because I didn’t say it first. Actually neither, because I am not as concerned about 2095.
I am concerned about 2016, 2017, 2018, and all the other years in between.
I’ll be dead in 2095. And if people like Art Pope have their way, there won’t be a public education system in North Carolina in 2095.
But our state constitution says we must have a quality one and that we must fully fund it, so we may as well fund it properly.
Oddly enough, John Hood uses Eric Hanushek of Stanford University as a buttress for his argument.
Hanushek was one of the people who wrote essays in a companion book for the documentary Waiting For Superman. I myself do not agree with the findings of that Gates-financed piece of propaganda, and in his essay “The Difference is Great Teachers” Hanushek does say that the biggest influence on a student’s performance is the teacher.
Anyone in education should read that essay, especially if you are a teacher. Hanushek claims that lowering class-size doesn’t affect student performance. That having graduate degrees doesn’t help teachers teach. He claims that if “we could simply eliminate the bottom 5 to 10 percent of teachers (two or three teachers in a school with thirty) and replace them with average teachers, we could dramatically change student outcomes” (p. 98).
I think that is pure bullshit.
If you know anything about what has happened in North Carolina in the last four years with teacher evaluation protocols, teacher salaries, removal of due-process, unregulated charter school growth, vouchers, and ideas for merit pay, then look at this essay by Hanushek and see a blue print for what people like Art Pope have financed and John Hood has vocally championed.
And then ask, are these “re-forms” really working? In a state where over 20% of children live in poverty?
By the way, people like Eric Hanushek are constantly spoken of in the same breath as Bill and Melinda Gates. It would be interesting to see how much financing the Gates Foundation has given to create studies that would show favorable results to their agenda.
Furthermore, Hanushek has been debunked quite frequently. Diane Ravitch wrote an essay in the The New York Review of Books on November 11, 2010 entitled “The Myth of charter Schools”. In two paragraphs Dr. Ravitch pretty much squelches Hanushek’s claims about teacher effectiveness, even with some of Hanushek’s own research.
“But this proposition is false. Hanushek has released studies showing that teacher quality accounts for about 7.5–10 percent of student test score gains. Several other high-quality analyses echo this finding, and while estimates vary a bit, there is a relative consensus: teachers statistically account for around 10–20 percent of achievement outcomes. Teachers are the most important factor within schools.
But the same body of research shows that nonschool factors matter even more than teachers. According to University of Washington economist Dan Goldhaber, about 60 percent of achievement is explained by nonschool factors, such as family income. So while teachers are the most important factor within schools, their effects pale in comparison with those of students’ backgrounds, families, and other factors beyond the control of schools and teachers. Teachers can have a profound effect on students, but it would be foolish to believe that teachers alone can undo the damage caused by poverty and its associated burdens.”
So if Mr. Hood wants to tout people like Hanushek as reasons to continue traveling down the road of reform that North Carolina is on now, then so be it. It fits Mr. Hood’s agenda.
But for a state that is gutting public schools, denying Medicaid expansion, and allowing environmental concerns to not be heard, 2095 is simply a stupid date to see if these reforms are working because they are not.
What reforms Mr. Hood is praising actually seem to creating more obstacles for many in NC, and we don’t need to wait another 80 years to prove that.
I see it in 2016.