Michael Gove and the "Sweetheart Deals" between American School Reformers and Rupert Murdoch

Allan Beavis's picture
Dana Goldstein, in this piece for The Nation
, reveals how scrutiny of News Corp is also focusing on Murdoch's and Joel Klein's educational ambitions. In New York City itself, The Working Families Party, Common Cause/New York, and New York City Public School Parents are using the hacking scandal to call attention to what they see as a series of sweetheart deals between New York and News Corp.

Even more interesting is the suspicion that Murdoch has been funding Michelle Rhee’s “Students First” , an organisation whose mission “is to build a national movement to defend the interests of children in public education and pursue transformative reform, so that America has the best education system in the world.” This organisation was formed to raise $1 billion to advocate for the changes she believes in. She has been advising some of the nation's most conservative governors to fight the teachers' unions and rely on standardized tests to fire or reward teachers.

Michelle Rhee is as controversial a figure as Joel Klein. The corporate education reform movement in America has had no more visible star than Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. After she left office last autumn, her credibility has been directly challenged by revelations of possible widespread test fraud in the D.C. schools while she was in charge. An article in USA Today revealed that more than half the public schools in D.C. were found to have an unusual number of erasures on standardized tests of reading and maths.

Michael Gove was impressed enough with her credentials, despite the controversy surrounding her, to single her out, along with Joel Klein and Arne Duncan, in his National College Annual Conference Speech last month and his policy adviser Sam Freedman was sympathetic to what she and Klein were apparently “up against” as reported here:.

Gove shares the ideology of these American school reformers and is implementing their controversial policies into our schools. Unfortunately, Murdoch has his eye on the American schools market and has hired Joel Klein to oversee this but News Corp, Klein and the British government are intertwined in the still developing scandal which exploded with revelations of wide-spread phone hacking.

Gove’s apparent championing of Michelle Rhee was perhaps ill advised and dubious to begin with but if she is now unwilling to confirm or deny the Murdoch money, then not only might she be in danger of being further discredited by her detractors but Gove and our present government have another Murdoch-rooted error of judgment to contend with.
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Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 22/07/2011 - 10:43

Is Mr Gove unaware of the difference between his self-congratulatory rhetoric and what he’s actually doing? Below are some quotes from the speech, with comments in brackets.

“It should be Government’s job to help, serve and support you - not direct, patronise and fetter you.” (But he’s giving himself more powers than any previous Secretary of State, and why he tells teachers how to teach reading).

“We recognise that it is professionals, not bureaucratic strategies and initiatives, which drive school improvement” (But he ignores professional opinion and continues to push through his radical reforms – see Lord Griffith’s warning http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/07/%e2%80%9csuch-men-are-dang...)

“Twenty years ago we were 14th in the world when nations were measured on how well they educated their teenagers. Now we are 23rd,” (Does anyone know where he got this “20 years ago” figure from?”)

“In English, Maths and Science, the figures from the most respected international comparisons also show us falling behind other nations.” (But UK pupils are still above-average for science in PISA tests, and the highest performers among European pupils in Maths and Science in the TIMSS 2007 rests).

Mr Gove’s listed features of high-performing educational systems. These include:

1 They extend a high level of autonomy to individual schools. (English schools already had a high level of autonomy since the introduction of Local Management of Schools)

2 And they are expected to lead the drive for improvement in other schools. (Does Mr Gove really think that schools which are in competition with each other are going to collaborate?)

3 The political leadership is uncompromising in the drive for higher standards. (OECD has warned that there is too much emphasis in the English educational system on raw test results)

4 There is a culture of high expectations which does not allow excuses to be made for poor performance on the basis of class, ethnicity or background. (The OECD factor in socio-economic circumstances when judging school performance. If OECD considers it important, then the Government should too, instead of blithely shooing such factors away.)

5 There is a proper national framework of accountability… Which includes the transparent publication of academic performance on a school-by-school basis with proper, externally set and marked, testing (see point 3. Accountability does not just mean league tables based on raw exam results)

6 And an inspection regime which is very light touch for high performing institutions so the real focus can be on under-performance. (OECD has warned that the inspection regime should not be reduced for schools judged outstanding, and Lord Lucas speaking in the Lords on 14 June warned that schools can go “off the boil” quickly).

7 Teaching is a high status profession which draws its recruits from among the highest performing graduates (Mr Gove is introducing policies which will undermine teachers’ conditions of service thereby discouraging entrants to the profession – although he did say that teachers in academies could have private health care. At the same time he says that free schools needn’t have trained teachers.)

8 Teaching is a craft and it is best learnt as an apprentice observing a master craftsman or woman (obviously he has taken no notice of Finland’s insistence that all teachers graduate with a degree in teaching theory as well as subject knowledge).

Bill Bolloten's picture
Mon, 25/07/2011 - 08:47

The links between Gove and Klein are starting to emerge and this needs further investigation. At the moment it seems it is mainly independent bloggers who are exploring this. This piece is interesting: http://politicalscrapbook.net/2011/07/michael-gove-murdoch-links/ as is this one: http://followersoftheapocalyp.se/spinning-a-story-gove-klein-becta-cameron-and

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