Archive for December, 2015

Thank You, Yves Smith, For This Cross-Post!

December 31, 2015 Comments off

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism’s primary blogger, cross posted an article by Pam Vogel titled “5 of the Worst Examples of Biased and Distorted Media Coverage of Education in 2015″…. and they were ALL doozies! To save your clicking, here’s a synopsis:

5 – Campbell Brown’s 74 Website

4 – National newspaper editors perpetuating myths of union strength and activism

3 – Fox News

2 – The complete and total absence of K-12 education in Presidential debates

1 – State newspapers baseless attacks on unions

The details are all on point!


NY Times Editors Botch Another Analysis

December 31, 2015 Comments off

A few days ago I wrote a post critiquing the article written by Mokoto Rich on the erosion of graduation standards. Today’s NYTimes has an editorial on this topic that is wrong in so many ways that it warranted multiple comments… but rather than pick the particular flaws to pieces I decided to focus on the underlying problem which is (no surprise to anyone who reads this blog regularly) the use of standardized tests administered to students in age-based cohorts as the primary merit for measuring school performance:

Standardized tests administered to students grouped in age-level cohorts are based on the assumption that all children learn at the same rate and begin their schooling with the same foundational skills. Neither of these premises is valid. Yet when test results remain stagnant the “solution” is never the abandonment of the age-based cohorts that were instituted in the 1920s when such groupings were seen as the most “efficient” way to deliver instruction… an era when children who couldn’t meet graduation standards could find work in factories that ultimately provided them with a living wage.

ESSA, the NYT editorial board, and the test-and-punish “reformers” reinforce the existing structure of schooling by emphasizing the results of standardized tests administered to students batched in age cohorts. If we really want to provide an education that lifts up those students who are struggling in school now we should provide a robust preschool program for all children and use technology to individualize instruction in a fashion that allows each student to progress at a rate that assures their success. In this model teachers provide individual guidance and assistance to students and spend time with them one-on-one.

If you want to see evidence that this model works look no further than the way we train and test for the issuance of drivers licenses where performance assessments, not bell-curved standardized tests, are used to measure performance.

Instead of focussing on the wrongheaded premise that testing is a valid means of measuring school performance, college readiness, and workforce preparedness, the times criticized teachers unions, state legislatures, and “weak tests” for the lack of qualified high school graduates. Worse, the editorial board made no mention of poverty, economic and racial segregation, and funding inequities in their analysis. When the editorial board of the “national newspaper of record”, a supposedly liberal paper, cannot get the facts straight on the cause of disparate and low performing public schools it is hard to imagine a time when the public’s thinking about schooling will change.

A Sad, Insightful Story About Philadelphia Schools, Where Choice and Cuts Lead to Resegregation

December 30, 2015 Comments off

Aaron Traister’s Fusion article, “Public Schools Are Still Segregated. These Parents Are Making It Worse” , is a lament for the decline of public education in Northwest Philadelphia neighborhoods which I recall were a bastion of integration in the early 1970s. Traister, a Roxborough parent activist, describes his efforts to persuade neighbors to attend the neighborhood school instead of the charter schools at an event that was billed as “…“mixer” for local schools and parents of children about to start kindergarten”. Traister saw it for what it was: a recruiting fair where charter schools with brand new facilities and mostly white and affluent students competed against neighborhood schools. Traister captured the difference between the twin this paragraph:

The charter on the other side of my neighborhood has a new $13.5 million state-of-the-art-building and “learning pond” on their campus. My children’s school has a drain in the playground that backs up and floods the basketball courts every time it rains.

Traister does an excellent job of capturing the feel of the neighborhoods in NW Philadelphia and he also does a good job of describing the inherent hypocrisy of parents who choose to live in the city but fail to support their public schools by “showing up”.

The hardest thing about the school conversation is that most parents aren’t thinking about race and class when they choose a school, everyone just wants to do what is best for their kid. But why do so many parents assume that what is best for their kid exists in a bubble that is too often separated by race and class? Why have we decided that what’s best for our kids is divorced from what’s best for the communities and larger cities they grow up in? To the point where we abandon our communities, or remove our children to exclusive schools outside our neighborhoods, in effect isolating them from kids who would naturally be a part of their world…

Everyone says the right things about the choices they make when it comes to schools, but to not acknowledge the fact that those choices have created a world in which schools are one of the last socially acceptable excuses for white flight and racial and economic segregation, is to not be completely honest.

I did have one criticism of the article: neither Traister nor the public school Principals he interviewed were hard enough on the political forces that created this situation. The playground that has water doesn’t drain is the consequence of budgets that are held hostage in Harrisburg. This underfunding leads to the disintegration of facilities, increases in class sizes, devastating cuts to programs and services… and all of this fuels the privatization movement in Philadelphia. What parent, given the choice, would send their child to a school with a playground that floods regularly when they could choose to send that child to a spiffy charter school?

The funding inequities contribute mightily to the resegregation of schools— and that connection cannot be understated.