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Learning at its Best

GOOD Education: Students For Education Reform? Not the Change We Need

This piece originally appeared on GOOD Education: Students For Education Reform? Not the Change We Need. chair.schoolIt all began in early August of this year. Stephanie Rivera, a student at Rutgers University and future teacher, published a gutsy, investigative piece uncovering the lunacy behind Students for Education Reform, an organization founded by two Princeton students, Catharine Bellinger and Alexis Morin. I highly suggest you read it yourself, but the commentary struck a profound chord with me for a number of reasons.

SFER has rolled out its corporate reform agenda onto over a hundred college campuses across the nation, which includes defending the takeover of public schools by charters and teacher evaluation systems that tie salaries to test scores. Don’t believe me? Bellinger and Morin, marionettes of the likes of Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp, and Eli Broad, are now forcing some chapters to sign onto agreements that they carry out the mission of SFER—this was, not surprisingly, uncovered by Rivera.

SFER’s primary mission is to close the achievement gap, but as education historian Camika Royal writes (referring to those who generally use the term), the organization only “speaks of academic outcomes, not the conditions that led to those outcomes, nor does it acknowledge that the outcomes are a consequence of those conditions.” Where do they address on their site the putrid effects of poverty on schooling? They don’t.

As journalist Dana Goldstein writes,

“…No school can find decent jobs for under- or unemployed parents who can’t put nutritious food on the table; nor can a school make up for the chronic instability of a young life spent in foster care or moving from apartment to apartment in a futile quest for safe, affordable housing. Volumes of research show such experiences affect cognitive development and children’s ability to focus in school; dedicated educators and counselors work wonders with such children each day, but they don’t rescue neighborhoods from poverty.”

In terms of funding, Education Reform Now gave SFER and Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst—or as I like to call it StudentsLast—over $1.6 million in 2010. Remember, this is an organization whose PAC is DFER, a group bankrolled by Wall Street hedge-fund titans, moguls, and a number of billionaires. That’s not to mention that SFER’s board members include evangelists of KIPP and Teach for America. Many of these college students do not realize they are literally being bought out. Both Bellinger and Morin are in bed with these organizations.

When I was in the beginning stages of researching my book, Morin contacted me for a brief conversation and I agreed to speak with her. I recall that she particularly discussed SFER along with the “successes” of the New York City public school system, and said that Mayor Bloomberg had made significant progress. I was flabbergasted. After the conversation Morin, sent me a piece written by Joe Williams, the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. I kept my unease to myself, but then three months ago Rivera’s piece was published, validating my concerns.

That same day I was banned from posting on SFER’s Facebook page. All I wrote was, “Don’t get tricked by SFER tactics! It promotes a corporate agenda! It’s hurting millions of kids around the country,” and I included a link to Rivera’s post.” Oh well.

A question I’d like to ask is: What is in the water at Princeton University? Two epitomes of failure in educational change—first Teach for America and now Students for Education Reform. Please, make it stop.

Educators, administrators, parents, I beg for you to not think for a second that SFER represents the voice of students. It doesn’t. It is instead a mob of baby sheep, educated in obedience and submission, kowtowing to the forces that seek to obliterate public education. As a student, it’s shameful and degrading watching these delinquents bash the very people who educated them, call for evaluations that reduce children to numbers, and allow for corporations and billionaires to wither away our democracy. It’s a national disgrace.

Longtime teacher Susan Ohanian put it beautifully, “Either you join the revolution or you stand against the needs of children and democracy.” Wake the hell up, America.

Wooden chair and blackboard photo via Shutterstock

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About Nikhil Goyal

Nominated for the U.S. Secretary of Education by Diane Ravitch and lauded as an “emerging voice of his generation,” at age 17, Nikhil Goyal is the author of One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School by the Alternative Education Resource Organization. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox and Friends, Fox Business: Varney & Co., NBC Nightly News, and Huffington Post. Nikhil has spoken to thousands at conferences and TEDx events around the world from Qatar to Spain and has guest lectured at Baruch College in New York. He is leading a Learning Revolution movement to transform the American school system. A senior at Syosset High School, Nikhil lives with his family in Woodbury, New York. To contact, email him at ngoyal2013 at


2 thoughts on “GOOD Education: Students For Education Reform? Not the Change We Need

  1. These people are living in glass houses. They should not be throwing stones. At the same time, more people should be able to see through to the agenda as transparent as it is now. The biggest lie that I ever believed is that, here in America, we all have the same chances. I no longer believe that lie. Thank you!

    Posted by OneHotMess | November 13, 2012, 8:26 pm
  2. Here is the problem: the current system isn’t effective either. We have students that are graduating that are not prepared for the workforce, neither are they prepared for college. There are increasing numbers of freshmen that require remedial classes their first year. The unions have an agenda to keep the current system intact, when we need change for the sake of the students.

    Posted by mosbyknowsme | November 16, 2012, 1:15 am

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