Why is Stand Selling Voters a Pig in a Poke?

What is a pig in a poke?

  1. A term dating from the Middle Ages meaning buying something claimed to be a suckling pig in a bag (“poke”) without looking to see what was inside.
  2. The Stand For Children ballot question called “promoting excellence in public schools.”

Will it actually:

  • Turn good teaching into mindless test prep?
  • Cause further narrowing of the curriculum?
  • Punish teachers of the neediest students and deter teachers from working with these children?
  • Drown principals in pointless paperwork?

Nobody knows!

Stand wants to force school districts to take a new teacher evaluation system that does not yet exist and has not been tried in the real world, and use it to decide on layoffs, transfers, and other critical matters. The system is just beginning to be developed, so nobody knows yet how it’s going to work.

But the New York Times reports a similar system in Tennessee has been a disaster, keeping principals tied up with endless paperwork, sending teacher morale into a tailspin and prompting such insanity as measuring music teachers by a school’s writing scores. [“In Tennessee, Following the Rules for
Evaluations Off a Cliff,” Nov. 6.]

Even Mass. Education Secretary Paul Reville, a big fan of a recently approved Massachusetts teacher evaluation system, thinks we need to find out if it works before we use it the way Stand wants. [State House News Service, Aug. 2.]

So why is Stand in a rush?

In a talk in Colorado last summer, Stand CEO Jonah Edelman described how Stand raised big bucks from rich Illinois business people to beat down teachers unions. Then he laid out his strategy for doing the same in other states. In Massachusetts, he said, “It might be, we have a ballot question on the ballot
and we use it as a lever.” [Aspen Ideas Festival web site.]

What is Stand’s real agenda and who’s driving it? Does it have to do with the surge of money coming to Stand from big corporate foundations? What’s really in that ballot question bag?