The Big Lies of School Reform provides a critical interruption to the ongoing policy conversations taking place around public education in the United States today. By analyzing the discourse employed by politicians, lobbyists, think tanks, and special interest groups, the authors uncover the hidden assumptions that often underlie popular statements about school reform, and demonstrate how misinformation or half-truths have been used to reshape public education in ways that serve the interests of private enterprise.
Through a thoughtful series of essays that each identify one “lie“ about popular school reform initiatives, the authors of this collection reveal the concrete impacts of these falsehoods—from directing funding to shaping curricula to defining student achievement. Luminary contributors including Deborah Meier, Jeannie Oakes, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Jim Cummins explain how reform movements affect teachers and administrators, and how widely-accepted mistruths can hinder genuine efforts to keep public education equitable, effective, and above all, truly public. Topics covered include common core standards, tracking, alternative paths to licensure, and the disempowerment of teachers’ unions. Beyond critically examining the popular rhetoric, the contributors offer visions for improving educational access, opportunity, and outcomes for all students and educators, and for protecting public education as a common good.
Table of Contents
Paul C. Gorski & Kristien Zenkov
The Big Picture
1. The Pedagogy of Poverty: The Big Lies About Poor Children
2. Improving Education and the Mistaken Focus on “Raising Test Scores” and “Closing the Achievement Gap”
Curriculum and Assessment
3. The Common Core: Engine of Inequity
4. Direct Instruction: Effectively Teaching Low-Level Skills
5. Detangling the Lies about English-Only and Bilingual Education
6. The Test Does Not Know Best: On Collecting Good Evidence for Student Learning
Teachers and Teaching
7. Lying about Teachers and Their Training
8. Debunking the Lie that Teachers’ Unions Are Bad for Kids
Schools and Policy
9. The Truth about Tracking
Lauren Anderson and Jeannie Oakes
10. Poverty, Economic Inequality, and the Impossible Promise of School Reform
Paul C. Gorski
11. Seeing Students as Humans, Not Products: Why Public Schools Should Not Be Run Like Private Businesses
12. The Trouble with Federal Turnaround Policies and Their Impact on Low-Scoring Schools
Michelle Renée and Tina Trujillo
Paul C. Gorski is an Associate Professor of Integrative Studies, teaching in the Social Justice and Education concentrations, at George Mason University and the founder of EdChange.
Kristien Zenkov is an Associate Professor at George Mason University, where he teaches courses in secondary and literacy education and serves as co-director of the "Through Students’ Eyes" project.
“This smart, accessible, well-researched, usable book by Gorski, Zenkov, and colleagues could not come at a better time. It helps us to see the masks, revealing the power of rhetorical strategies and confronting us with the realities that lie beneath. This book provides essential resources to reframe the debate and reclaim public education. Read this, share this, and join the movement.”—From the Foreword by Kevin Kumashiro, author of Against Common Sense
“The Big Lies of School Reform is truth serum for the false debates on school reform that permeate the mainstream. Here, some of the nation's best scholars and educators provide the history, context, and analyses needed to make sense of the ed policy wars. It's a primer every citizen concerned about public schools should read.”—Stan Karp, Director of the Secondary Reform Project for New Jersey’s Education Law Center, and editor, Rethinking Schools