Wednesday, September 18, 2013

OEIB Makeover Brought to You by Nike

Talk to any teacher, parent, student, or community member and chances are, they can't explain what it is they Oregon Education Investment Board does or even why it exists.

Let's face it, the OEIB has an image problem. Even interim Chief Education Officer Nancy Golden recognizes this.

At the August 13th OEIB meeting, Nancy Golden, in her recap of where the OEIB has been, mentioned that they needed to basically get people to understand what it was they did.  Only Oregon Education Association President, Hanna Vaandering raised important questions regarding how important it is to support and fund what schools say they need to show success.  But unfortunately, her voice is outnumbered with the current make up of the OEIB board.

Even after Ben Cannon's speech about how much of what the OEIB does is "advisory with a capital A" (much to Ron Saxton's chagrin) and how they have "influence" in shaping education policy in Oregon, it was clear that the OEIB is seeking their own version of an Extreme Makeover.  They hope to reach out to various groups, such as parents and the clergy, so they have a better understanding of what the OEIB is trying to do with such things as the 40/40/20, inputs and outcomes, silos, and longitudinal data systems. What about the kids?  Anyone really paying attention to what kids need outside of being a data point?

But wait, there's more!  Nike is coming to the rescue, and Golden is excited about it, as she gushes to members of the OEIB  about a wonderful opportunity where Nike is offering to send one of their people to help "operationalize the strategic plan."  Huh?

The OEIB is about to be branded.  What do companies do when they can't sell their product as easily as they had hoped?  Go back to the marketing table and re-brand.  And as Golden says at the August 13th OEIB meeting, " I don’t think anyone brands better than Nike."
After all they made Air Jordan's a hot commodity.  

In Macklemore's song "Wings", he sings in reference to his shoes growing up:

"My movement told me be a consumer and I consumed it
They told me to just do it, I listened to what that swoosh said
Look at what that swoosh did
See it consumed my thoughts
Are you stupid, don't crease 'em, just leave 'em in that box
Strangled by these laces, laces I can barely talk
That's my air bubble and I'm lost, if it pops
We are what we wear, we wear what we are
But see I look inside the mirror and think Phil Knight tricked us all
Will I stand for change, or stay in my box
These Nikes help me define me, but I'm trying to take mine, off."

Now the OEIB wants Nike to save them, because deep down they know they are a tough sell.  We as teachers and parents know what our kids need without a bunch of new bureaucracy, plans, and schemes.  We do need funding, but it is currently being sucked away to new positions and projects being created by the OEIB as they go. 

Getting Nike involved may have some celebrity cache, but it will come at a price.  The price will be the loss of our democratic public schools that serve all children and provide them with a well-rounded quality education--complete with a full school year, counselors, nurses, no more high-stakes testing, trusted teachers, smaller class sizes; PE, music, and library specialists, project-based learning, field trips, and locally-created curriculum.

Instead, the OEIB has to sell their version of corporate education reform that wants to run our schools and educate kids like a business.  The new system creates competition for funding as proof of being a good investment---that is proof according to a test score--which is a dangerous practice.  This idea of running schools like a business will never be successful--not when your "business" is educating the minds of growing children.  There is no silver bullet, one-size fits all solution to this, and to follow this approach will decimate our public schools.

But maybe that is the plan.  Because others want it to fail, so they can profit.  Who are the "others?"  Stand for Children.  Oregon Business Association.  Portland Business Alliance. Pearson--for starters. 

We parents, teachers, students, and community members need to see through this "commercial" for corporate education reform.  We have had it for over a decade and it is a failure--first NCLB, then the NCLB Waiver, and now the 40/40/20.  Their next hope is to sell it with the branding experts at Nike.

You can makeover the OEIB, but makeovers are usually surface changes with little substance.  Eventually you have to deal with what one is on the inside.

No amount of branding will work if we can see through their charade.

As Macklemore sings, "Will I stand for change, or stay in my box"?