Archive for January, 2013

Preparing For Tests vs. Preparing for the Future

January 30, 2013 Comments off

In his column in today’s NYTimes Tom Friedman, a great advocate of “education reform”, writes about the kind of future we can expect now that the world is “hyper-connected”. He reaches this conclusion (with my emphasis added):

How to adapt? It will require more individual initiative. We know that it will be vital to have more of the “right” education than less, that you will need to develop skills that are complementary to technology rather than ones that can be easily replaced by it and that we need everyone to be innovating new products and services to employ the people who are being liberated from routine work by automation and software. The winners won’t just be those with more I.Q. It will also be those with more P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime. Government can and must help, but the president needs to explain that this won’t just be an era of “Yes WeCan.” It will also be an era of “Yes You Can” and “Yes You Must.”

So… are US students following a rigid curriculum in a “failing” public or charter school having their passion fed? Are they given an opportunity to develop curiosity? Of course not. Are schools in affluent communities feeding each student’s passion and stoking their curiosity? FAR more so than the drill-and-kill schools serving children raised in poverty. Is the education system helping or hindering equality? I think the answer is clear. My comment on Friedman’s article follows:

Obama’s education initiative, Race To The Top (RTTT), does nothing to promote initiative or to develop skills that are “complementary to technology”. It does the opposite. The testing regimen imposed by RTTT and supported by “reformers” compels teachers to prepare students for standardized assessments by following ever constricted curricula. If technology is used at all it is used to administer periodic assessments to determine if the students are getting sufficient preparation for the tests that will determine if a school is “successful” and a teacher is “adding value”. This is the antithesis of developing initiative on the part of the student. We are preparing students for tests. We are not preparing them for the future.

My fantasy is that someday Tom Friedman will see the contradiction between the “reform” schools he champions and the future he predicts and join the rising chorus of educators who question the direction RTTT is taking us.

Categories: Uncategorized

Hurried Children Creating Replicants

January 29, 2013 Comments off

Diane Ravitch’s latest blog post is titled “Common Core is Horrible for K-3″… hardly an understated headline… but also accurate in light of the links and anecdotes included in the blog… and VERY accurate in light of Ravitch’s Sunday blog post that included a semi-satirical Vanity Fair article on the current status of childhood. My theory on why this is happening is included in the comment I posted on the blog, which is posted below:

Your blog post with the Vanity Fair article on Sunday said it all… David Elkind’s Hurried Child and Neil Postman’s Disappearance of Childhood saw this coming in the early 1980s… let’s see… the kids in elementary and middle school at that time are probably the parents of the kids who are being pressured to get into the right-pre-school-to-get-into-the-right-elementary-school-to-get-into-the-right-college-to-get-into…. WHAT? Oh… and the business folks who are advocating these standards for pre-school grew up in “hurried” households without a childhood and think that everyone else should grow up the same way if they want to turn out like they did…

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

We Caused the Creation of USDOE; Now Let’s Change It

January 29, 2013 Comments off


One of Diane Ravitch’s blog posts this afternoon is titled “Local School Board’s to Duncan: Back Off”. In the post she describes a gathering of local school board members in Washington proposing legislation that would require the federal government to hold public hearings whenever a change of the magnitude of RttT is being proposed. The NSBA’s letter to Secretary Duncan concludes with this paragraph:

“We must ensure that the decisions made at the federal level will best support the needs and goals of local school systems and the communities they serve,” said Gentzel. “Local school boards must have the ability to make on-the-ground decisions that serve the best interests of our school districts.”

In most of my years as Superintendent, which coincided with the implementation of 94-142 and many various “Title” programs, I served on state legislative committees and was among the chorus of Superintendents and Board members decrying “mandates without money”… a chorus I would clearly join today. But at the same time, I conceded the fact that school boards and state governments invited a lot of the federal intrusion by their action or— in most cases— by their IN-actoin. My comment to Diane Ravitch elaborates on this:

It would be wonderful to have no federal interference… but State governments and local school boards have no one but themselves to blame. If states and local boards provided all children with an equal opportunity, Brown v. Board of Education would never have been heard… If States provided sufficient funds for districts serving children born into poverty, the federal government never would have needed to introduce Title 1… If states and local boards provided a free and appropriate education to children with handicaps we never would have passed 94-142… and given the prevailing attitudes in some states, if the federal money and mandates went away we’d be back where we started from in the “good old days” when blacks attended “separate but equal” schools, kids born into districts with no tax base attended ramshackle schools with unqualified teachers, and handicapped kids were warehoused in Dickensian facilities… I am opposed to the testing regimen imposed by RttT and NCLB, but districts who paid no attention to their drop out rates and student performance brought this on for all of us. In my judgment, we need to work with the hand we’ve been dealt and provide those in power with a better way to measure school performance.

My thought: if we want to get the federal government out of the mandating business, those of us who support public schools need to come up with some means of assuring the federal government that we will address their concerns regarding accountability, equal opportunities for all children, and due process, which are, after all, the concerns of taxpayers and voters. Some of my ideas on the kinds of measures schools might use in lieu of tests are described in the White Paper that deals with getting the metrics right. At the same time as boards rightfully bemoan the lack of federal support for the mandates being imposed, they should also have some counter-proposals that would demonstrate their understanding that accountability is a necessity. In the coming days I’ll be sharing these ideas with the School Board Associations in NH and VT where I served most recently as Superintendent and where I am now consulting. I’ll be interested in the response I receive.