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Education and the Commercial Mindset
     

Education and the Commercial Mindset

by Samuel E. Abrams
 

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America’s commitment to public schooling once seemed unshakable. But today the movement to privatize K–12 education is stronger than ever. A veteran teacher and administrator, Samuel Abrams examines the rise of market forces in public education and reveals how a commercial mindset has taken over.

For decades, Milton Friedman and his disciples

Overview

America’s commitment to public schooling once seemed unshakable. But today the movement to privatize K–12 education is stronger than ever. A veteran teacher and administrator, Samuel Abrams examines the rise of market forces in public education and reveals how a commercial mindset has taken over.

For decades, Milton Friedman and his disciples contended that private markets could deliver better schooling than governments. In the 1990s, this belief was put to the test by Edison Schools and other for-profit educational management organizations (EMOs). Edison grew rapidly, running schools in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and many other cities across the country. Yet disappointing academic and financial outcomes soon pushed the company and its competitors to the margins. The focus of EMOs on efficiency and results nevertheless found expression in federal policy with No Child Left Behind in 2002 and Race to the Top in 2009. The new ethos also defined nonprofit charter management organizations (CMOs) like KIPP that surfaced in the wake of EMOs and flourished. But the dependence of CMOs on philanthropists, tireless teachers, and students capable of abiding by rigid expectations limits their reach.

Abrams argues that while the commercial mindset sidesteps fundamental challenges, public schools should adopt lessons from the business world. Citing foreign practices, he recommends raising teacher salaries to attract and retain talent, conferring more autonomy on educators to build ownership, and employing sampling techniques rather than universal assessments to gauge student progress.

Editorial Reviews

Richard J. Murnane
Abrams describes eloquently the disconnect between the optimism underlying for-profit companies’ efforts to improve urban education and the realities that their schools faced. He also describes the history of KIPP charters, their accomplishments, and the limits of the KIPP model as a strategy for improving the life chances of urban children growing up in low-income families.
Diane Ravitch
Given the near-complete absence of public information and debate about the stealth effort to privatize public schools, this is the right time for the appearance of [this book]. Samuel E. Abrams, a veteran teacher and administrator, has written an elegant analysis of the workings of market forces in education in his book Education and the Commercial Mindset.
David Rogers
Lucid, thorough, and balanced, Education and the Commercial Mindset is a riveting analysis of current education policy and how we got here. It will serve as an invaluable resource for policymakers involved in urban school reform.
Russell W. Rumberger
Abrams provides a comprehensive and insightful analysis of the private sector’s foray into public education. His analysis of Edison Schools, an educational management organization, demonstrates why private sector practices may easily be applied to purchasing scheduling software or contracting bus service, but why they cannot be easily applied to the management of schools where the purpose and process of education is much more complex and opaque. He also examines charter school organizations, the use of publicly funded vouchers for students to attend private schools in Chile and Sweden, and the application of business practices to schools in Finland. Altogether, Abrams makes a compelling case on the limits of private sector practices in public education.
Pasi Sahlberg
Grounded in meticulous research in Finland and Sweden as well as the United States, Education and the Commercial Mindset is a bracing assessment of contemporary education reform and its consequences.
Washington Post - Valerie Strauss
[An] outstanding book.
Huffington Post - Glenn C. Altschuler
In Education and the Commercial Mindset, Abrams provides a detailed, informative and insightful account of the rise and fall of The Edison Project, as a case study of for-profit schools…Abrams demonstrates that for-profit schools have no incentives to consider long term educational or social goals. Obsessed with achievement metrics that might persuade consumers to purchase their product, they often exclude students with cognitive, emotional or behavioral problems. Or with failing grades…Running schools like businesses won’t solve the problem, Samuel Abrams makes clear.
Washington Post - Carol Burris
[An] outstanding book.
Teachers College Record - Megan Tompkins-Stange
In 1962, Raymond Callahan’s classic text Education and the Cult of Efficiency argued that the goal of efficient operations had become a first order priority in public education. Callahan’s work is now joined by a new definitive account, the brilliant book Education and the Commercial Mindset by Samuel E. Abrams…Abrams has provided a thoughtful, critical, and rigorous explanation of crucially important distinctions that will be invaluable to scholars, policymakers, administrators, and teachers alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674049178
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
05/02/2016
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
235,889
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Samuel E. Abrams is Director, National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, Teachers College, Columbia University.

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