Finland's Pasi Sahlberg has sounded the alarm about the focus on competition, standardization and test-based accountability around the world. He warns, "education has become a commodity where the efficiency of service delivery ultimately determines performance."
Alongside the rush to introduce unproven technologies into classrooms, standardized testing has become a political instrument wielded by organizations such as Students First, Democrats for Education Reform and the American Legislative Exchange Council. Linking teacher pay to student test scores and eliminating tenure and collective bargaining is nothing less than a direct assault on the teaching profession and public education. Standardized test scores are used to undermine confidence in public schools so that education entrepreneurs can pour private equity and venture capital into companies that aim to profit from the public.
After a decade of intense standardized testing and sanctions under No Child Left Behind, California Democrats passed a resolution that aims at supporting public education and dispelling the corporate ‘reform’ agenda by stating, “the reform initiatives of Students First, rely on destructive anti-educator policies that do nothing for students but blame educators and their unions for the ills of society, make testing the goal of education, shatter communities by closing their public schools, and see public schools as potential profit centers and children as measurable commodities.”
In the face of tough economic times, some governments might see this as a way of easing pressure on their beleaguered budgets; however, Diane Ravitch warns us that, "Our schools will not improve if we expect them to act like private, profit-seeking enterprises. Schools are not businesses; they are a public good. The goal of education is not to produce higher scores, but to educate children to become responsible people with well-developed minds and good character."
Over the last two decades, the United States has proven to be a cautionary tale for how Canada, and the world, should not reform education, and Canadians would be wise not to think that the 49th Parallel offers any kind of inherent insulation from the corporate education reformers’ agenda.