The past couple of days have been pretty interesting when it comes to news in education. Former Indiana state superintendent, Tony Bennett, was found to have been in talks with a charter school system his donor supports to make some alterations to their grade. In states such as Indiana and Florida, schools are graded A-F based on standardized end of the year assessments. In an era of high stakes testing and accountability, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that an episode like this occurred and many more are sure to follow if they have not already taken place. Anthony Cody over at Education Week believes that this could mean the the beginning of the end for corporate K-12 education reform. I agree with him so long as incidents like these begin to occur so the public sees corporate reform for what it is. Even more importantly, is the research and data corporate reformers are hoping to rely on since the theory for the past two decades has been: if we privatize education then achievement gains will follow. So far, the results are fuzzy and are not in their favor.
With K-12 market reform under attack, the pendulum seems to be swinging towards another target by corporate reformers: higher education. The Wall Street Journal published an article a few days ago titled the “$4 Million Teacher“. The premise of the article is that we should look at South Korea as evidence that market reforms work because a few superstar mentors make a lot of money by selling recordings of their lectures . Sound familiar? Over the past couple months, corporate reformers have been talking a lot about MOOCs(massive open online course) as the solution to driving down higher education cost while achieving the same outcomes. That is similar to what they said about K-12 reform as well. What is most interesting to me though is how the hagwons reinforce inequalities which is a common critique of many MOOC critics. Affluent parents, wanting their children to get into the best universities in South Korea, bid up the price of these mentors which becomes a form of social proofing. Right now, most MOOCs are free though corporate reformers are hoping the kind of processes that occur in South Korea will happen in the states so they can try and systematically try and destabilize higher education.