Archive for February, 2014

Preparing Students for the Future

February 23, 2014 Comments off

Tom Friedman, who is an unapologetic and unequivocal supporter of “school reform” wrote a column today about the skills Google seeks in its applicants…. and there appears to be NO connection between what Google wants and what schools are currently measuring. Friedman writes that “Google (has) determined that “G.P.A.’s are worthless…(and) the “proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time”. Google, instead, looks for five attributes

  1. General cognitive ability, which ISN’T IQ… it’s learning ability
  2. Leadership, by which Google means knowing when to step up and when to step back
  3. Intellectual humility and ownership, which is the willingness to provide a solution but accept another’s if it’s better than yours
  4. Coding skills
  5. Expertise, which is least important since most people who possess the first four skills can gain expertise over time

All of this led me to write this comment:

So, Mr. Friedman… if degrees are not a “proxy for ability” and the world values “soft skills”… why on earth are you and your friends in the advocating high stakes tests that measure  “college readiness” as a proxy for quality schooling? If we REALLY want to prepare students for the future, instead of spending billions on tests and content standards we should be finding ways to foster “leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability, and loving to learn and re-learn” in our students.

Stated in education policy terms, how does the common core deal with any of these desirable qualities? How does traditional schooling deal with them? How do the traditional credentials we issue in education relate to them? And the lsat question: Why are we using early 20th century models to prepare for a 21st century workplace?

Presidents Privatization Push Irrefutable

February 21, 2014 Comments off

To date, President Obama has been given a pass for the privatization of public services that has taken place during his term of office, particularly in public education where Arne Duncan has been demonized while the President has been largely unaffected by anti-privatization bloggers and writers. But as his term continues and the recession and unemployment persist, and more and more public employees lose their jobs, and those public employees remaining in the workforce are increasingly targeted by Tea Party types and profiteers to help fuel the ire of the voting public, the President is being called to task. The most strident example of this appeared recently in Michael Brenner’s recent Counterpunch blog post titled “Obama’s Extinction Plan: AmericanPublic Schools RIP.” The post opens with this sentence:

A feature of the Obama presidency has been his campaign against the American public school system, eating way at the foundations of elementary education.

The article describes how the President has played to the narrative of failing public schools, promoted charter schools despite the lack of evidence that they have done any better than their public counterparts, championed more high stakes tests, and stood silently while the Governors of MI, WI, PA, FLA, IN, and virtually the entire south have gutted budgets, teachers rights, and teachers pensions and benefits. Students have done no better during Obama’s term of office than they did during the Bush administration… but someone IS doing better: investors. Brenner describes how the game is played and how Obama has the game rigged against veteran teachers:

A number of start-up companies have jumped onto the charter school bandwagon with little experience in education and with their eyes fixed on the bottom line.  They hire a disproportionately large percentage of young teachers who may be highly motivated but who lack the essential seasoning that makes for quality teaching.  These youngsters of course are given lower salaries that veteran teachers would receive.  This exploitation is encouraged by Arne Duncan who makes much of the opportunities thereby created to tap the market of unemployed recent college graduates.  It supposedly is a good and virtuous thing that they may spend only a few years in the classroom before moving on to other career “experiences” – to be replaced by yet another batch of enthusiastic, underpaid novices…

…The distressing truth of the matter is that, in most states, any group of guys able to present what looks like a “sound business plan” can obtain a certificate to set up a charter school.

I recently completed teaching a course in our regional continuing education program on the Challenges of Public Education Past Present and Future. Those enrolling in the course expressed their heartfelt support for pubic education throughout the course with only one of the 15 students having attended a private or parochial school. To identify the problems of the future I used the first chapter of Diane Ravitch’s latest book, Reign of Error, To my dismay, as we discussed the book, the group had near unanimous antipathy toward teachers in terms of their workload as compared to private sector employees (“EVERYone takes work home nowadays” on class member declared) and their generous benefits as compared to the private sector (“NOBODY I know has pensions” one class member declared and, to underscore this, I asked and learned that only two of the 15 had defined benefit pensions— and all of them are retirement age.) This illustrates the uphill battle faced by the anti-privatization forces, described by Brennan as a “…few outgunned elements (who) fight a rearguard action against a juggernaut that includes Republicans and Democrats, reactionaries and liberals – from Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York to the nativist Christian Right of the Bible Belt.”

The bottom line in the defense of public education: if “the unions” are opposed to privatization many voters are reflexively for it because they believe teachers are compensated too highly for their work…. and neither party is interested in providing the public education system described by Brenner in his concluding paragraph:

Of all the institutions that made the United States into a coherent society, none made a greater contribution than our public schools.  It was they that fashioned a loyal citizenry bound by a core of civic values and a collective identity – regardless of creed, national origin, religion or political preference.  It was they that molded a disparate population into a unified nation. That may not be the case in the future.


Ready for School, Ready For Tests

February 18, 2014 Comments off

I’ve read several articles over the past few days that describe the some potentially adverse unintended consequences of prekindergarten all of which involve testing and screening at increasingly early ages.

The NYTimes article, titled  “The 13 page Preschool Application” describes just that… and indicates that parents who aspire to their child’s placement in prestigious preschools begin developing baby resumes almost from the minute the child is out of the womb. Blogger Judy Batalion describes the struggle she has with the notion of completing the forms and getting into the competitive mode the form requires, but ultimately yields to the pressure because she “…wanted to provide my daughter with the best education – and life – possible, with the childhood opportunities I didn’t have.”

Diane Ravitch blogged about fellow blogger Jason Stanford’s report on the latest developments at Amplify, a testing company that has determined that “…the new big-bucks frontier is pre-K assessment.” To get into this lucrative market in Texas, Sandy Kress, who is credited with coming up with the model for NCLB, has filed to become a lobbyist in TX where prekindergarten assessment is about to be launched. She concludes her post with this excerpt from Stanford:

“Making a 4-year-old take a high-stakes test at an age when it’s hard to make them take a nap sounds like heaping child abuse on top of a failed educational theory. But at least we can all rest assured that Kress has figured out a way to get his cut of the early-education bonanza. It’s time we saw schools as a place to create opportunities for children, not profiteers.”

Last week Ravitch also blogged about an Education Week article. The post is re-printed in its entirety below:

Edweek reports a new study that concludes kindergarten is too easy.

The little tykes need rigor, not play!

Clearly the kiddies need Common Core and a stiff dose of hard work. Too much play spoils them.

How about a rod?

These are all indicative of the latest trend to keep America competitive… which leads to the ultimate question: do we need to sacrifice childhood to “competition?”

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,