Wall of Shame

Bill Gates – For throwing teachers under the school bus and shitting on students.

Bill Gates and fellow education “reformers” such as Michelle Rhee, Davis Guggenheim, US Dept. of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, etc, have concluded that children fare poorly in school because there is little accountability for educators (facilitated by evil teachers unions). I know, I know…Gates has already been intellectually spanked by Diane Ravitch (see also this by Doug Henwood at Left Business Observer), and I don’t want to repeat what has alredy been said (much better than I could say it); instead, I want to apply data from local school districts (local to LHC, anyway) to support quite strongly what we know and they dismiss, that there are very clear, very strong correlations between student achievement and student material security. 

For example, in a recent assessment of all 9-12 graders in a local county (northwoods, rural), respondents were asked how often they went hungry because of limited access to food during the past 30 days – Never – 65%; Rarely – 16%; Sometimes – 10.5%; Most of the time – 3.5%; Always – 3%; Refused to answer – 2%. However, when the data are organized according to student achievement…

  Mostly A’s Mostly B’s Mostly C’s Mostly D’s Mostly F’s Total
Never 76% 62% 57% 44% 38% 65%
Rarely 12.5% 18.5% 19% 22% 31% 16%
Sometimes 6.5% 13.5% 14% 18% 0% 10.5%
Most time 2.5% 4% 4.5% 7% 8% 3.5%
Always 2% 1.5% 3% 4.5% 23% 3%
Declined 1% 1% 3% 4.5% 0% 2%

Or looking at a more specific context…

On how many of the past seven days did you eat breakfast?

  Mostly A’s Mostly B’s Mostly C’s Mostly D’s Mostly F’s Total
0 days 4% 15% 8% 23% 31% 9%
1 day 5% 8% 8% 12% 15% 7%
2 days 3% 5% 15% 6% 8% 7%
3 days 7% 11% 12% 6% 0% 9%
4 days 3% 9% 10% 6% 8% 7%
5 days 6% 7% 4% 12% 8% 6%
6 days 11% 8% 8% 12% 8% 9%
7 days 58% 37% 36% 24% 23% 44%
Declined 2% 1% 0% 0% 0% 1%

The trends clobber you over the head.  Leftover Halloween Candy knows these school districts and their students well and is familiar with some of the ‘between the lines’ stories hidden by the stats. For example, several students who fare poorly academically work to support not only themselves but also their families.  They might not indicate food insecurity in the assessment, but that is largely because of their contributions to the family economy – contributions that come at the expense of attention to academics.

During an average week when you are in school, how many hours do you work at a paying job outside your home?

  Mostly A’s Mostly B’s Mostly C’s Mostly D’s Mostly F’s Total
0 hours 61% 57% 55% 56% 38% 58%
1 to 4 hours 15% 11% 13% 11% 15% 13%
5 to 8 hours 9% 11% 10% 7% 0% 9%
9 to 12 hours 4% 6% 7% 7% 0% 6%
13 to 20 hours 4% 7% 5% 9% 16% 6%
21 or more hours 4% 3% 6% 2% 23% 4%
Declined 3% 3% 6% 9% 8% 4%

These assessments indicate that student (and institutional) access to resources significantly influence student achievement. Public education is a small, imperfect, but significant measure to ensure at least some measure equal access to and creation of knowledge – the further we remove education from the public sphere, the more we allow it to privatize and grow wed to profit imperatives, the more students become like commodities and their education becomes merely an input into the production process in service of the capitalist class, i.e. education will be “worth something” *only* if it can produce surplus value. Public schools and teacher unions are small, sometimes impotent, assurances against such trends – this is why they are under such fierce attack from “reformers” such as Gates, and why they must be defended with equal vigor.

But really, I should nominate somebody else for the Jackass of the Month – Gates’s douchebaggery is widely recognized already.

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