Archive for August, 2013

Learning Constant, Time Variable

August 26, 2013 Comments off

A few day ago I commented on Charles Blow’s column on the Common Core. In the column he remarked that in implementing the Common Core, “we” (presumably he means policy makers) prioritized testing over teacher. The comment I made used that turn of phrase to summarize my thinking on the Common Core as it relates to the Factory School model:

Schools have always prioritized testing over teaching. We operate schools like factories where children are expected to proceed through academic instruction at the same rate despite their varied backgrounds, despite the reality that each child’s intellectual growth— like their physical growth— happens at different rates, and despite the fact that formal schooling occurs only six hours a day after a child reaches the age of five. For decades, we have punished students who fail tests they are unprepared for. When No Child Left Behind was adopted and large groups of unprepared students failed tests, schools were punished.  Soon, if “reformers” have their way, teachers will be punished when unprepared students fail tests. The Common Core provides a definition of WHAT we expect students to learn. In order for the Common Core or ANY agreed upon curriculum to be implemented, we need to administer tests to students when they are prepared to take them… not when we need to administer them for administrative convenience. If we really want to reform schools, we should make learning constant and time variable.

South Korea’s Secret: Hagwons

August 25, 2013 Comments off

South Korea outscores the US in all kinds of international comparisons and a recent Wall Street Journal article explains why:

In 2012, their parents spent more than $17 billion on (hagwons). That is more than the $15 billion spent by Americans on videogames that year, according to the NPD Group, a research firm.

What are hagwons? They are privately operated after-school tutoring services offered in strip malls or on-line, tutoring services that supplement the instruction offered in public schools… tutoring services that prey on parents’ fears that their children will fall behind unless they enroll… and they pay huge salaries to superstar teachers and huge profits to shareholders who invest in the corporations that operate them.

The article naively suggests that this trend might be embraced by our country. In fact, it already HAS been embraced by our country: many tutoring centers operate in upscale suburban areas and SAT-prep centers have sprung up in strip malls. To an extent this is nothing new: I supplemented my income as an undergraduate teaching speed reading to affluent suburban students in Philadelphia in the late 1960s and some of my teaching colleagues in Philadelphia in the early 1970s offered tutoring services for a fee in the summer. As this article illustrates, the internet makes these private tutoring services more widely available… and because internet instruction is disproportionately available to high income parents and students it exacerbates the economic divide in place.

On-line learning can close the gap, but only if it is readily available to parents and students at all economic levels. That may be the case in Korea, but isn’t the case yet in our country.


Funding College Like HS? We’re Doing the Opposite!

August 24, 2013 Comments off

David Sirota’s August 22 Salon post titled “Start Funding College Like High School” recommends that the public use broad based taxes to fund colleges the same way we use those taxes to fund high school. While I wholeheartedly agree with this concept, the fact of the matter is we are moving in the opposite direction. I can recall that in the 1960s when I attended HS in PA that my classmates and I were envious of people we knew in CA whose college costs were minimal because CA provided nearly full funding for ANY State college. Unfortunately some of the conservatives in that State decided that taxes needed to be lowered and over time the costs of college in CA rocketed upward… a trend that spread from west to east.

Now comes our President exhorting our colleges to lower their costs while at the same time failing to acknowledge that one of the horrific by-products of the recession has been a marked increase in the cost of state colleges… an uptick in costs that banksters have been happy to address by offering high interest loans to current and/or prospective students. Instead of insisting that the banks offer low interest loans, though, the President is insisting that colleges lower their costs… and suggesting this might be accomplished by offering more MOOCs and by focussing on those courses-of-study that reward graduates with higher compensation.

A final concern with the premise of Sirota’s article: it assumes that the way we fund public schools is fair and equitable when, as many of my previous posts indicate, it is inherently unfair and inequitable…. and getting worse as we short change the urban schools who need more funding the most.

Fund college like HS? Not until we fully fund HS in a fait and equitable fashion.