Archive for November, 2018

Students at Wilder High School in Idaho: Learning on iPads is a Hoax!

November 30, 2018 Comments off

Though the Wilder ID students are doing poorly on standardized tests, they are doing VERY well in Democracy 101. And… SURPRISE… the Trump administration did not pay attention to details, like these facts that are included at the end of this post:

the State Department of Education identified Wilder Middle School as one of the lowest-performing schools in Idaho. At Wilder Elementary, where Trump and Cook checked in Tuesday, just 26.7 percent of students scored “proficient” on math Idaho Standards Achievement Test in 2017-18. At Wilder High School, the go-on rate in 2017 was 25 percent, well below the state average of 45 percent, according to Idaho EdTrends.

via Students at Wilder High School in Idaho: Learning on iPads is a Hoax!

Helicopter Parents Stymied by Administrators in Darien, CT

November 29, 2018 Comments off

Today’s Boston Globe features an AP article by Michael Melia describing a problem faced by Darien CT: over-protective parents joining their children for lunch!

In Darien, a town of Colonial-style homes behind stone fences where the median household income exceeds $200,000, so many parents had begun attending lunch that principals felt they were affecting the day-to-day running of the elementary schools, according to Tara Ochman, chairman of the Darien Board of Education.

The decision by the Board had a mixed reception:

One Darien mother, Beth Lane, said at an education board meeting last month that she welcomed the change.

“It was good because kids have to be able to learn how to work with each other and socialize with each other, and putting a parent in changes the dynamic dramatically,” she said.

But others who spoke up at the meeting said the midday visits allowed them to see how their children were faring and to help them resolve friction with other children. For the youngest children, they could offer helping opening milk cartons and finding items in the lunchrooms.

Terry Steadman, a parent, told the board she was shocked and driven to tears by the news.

“To just ban parents from the lunchroom, which is effectively what you’re doing with this email, I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s in the spirit of a collaborative environment,” she said.

As the article notes, this is a “problem” that could only be encountered in a school district where stay-at-home mothers are prevalent, stay-at-home mothers with the time and energy to visit their children at lunch. In a couple of throwaway paragraphs Mr. Melia dismisses this as a situation where parents are disengaged and a spokesperson for a county district in FL sees it as something that “MAYBE” some parents can’t do.

The practice is unheard of in many urban and poor areas where parents may not have the same engagement with schools.

“In some schools it’s not really an issue at all because based on the population, parents aren’t able to come and have lunch. It’s something maybe parents aren’t able to do,” said Tanya Arja, a spokeswoman for schools in Hillsborough County, Florida.

I have news for Mr. Melia and Ms. Arja: there are a whole host of parents who are “disengaged” because they need to be ready to work when their workplace demands it and they cannot predict whether they’d be available for parent conferences let alone lunch.

The Darien parents may think their visits are helpful, but ultimately, a special education therapist at a school in nearby (and equally affluent) Weston CT  has it right:

“From a professional perspective, when we’re the ones left dealing with your child when you leave, it wasn’t good,” said Ms.Franzese, who worked for eight years as a special education therapist in Weston until earlier this year. “We would call them helicopter moms.”

In short, kindergartners are better off opening milk cartons and putting on their leggings than having mom there to help them. It might teach them the “grit” that school reformers see as the essential element poorer kids need to get ahead.

How the Teacher Revolt Promoted the Blue Wave

November 29, 2018 Comments off

I am reading Anand Giridharandas’ book Winners Take All in preparation for a course I will be offering in our communities Adult Education program this winter. (NOTE: Expect many quotes and concepts from this book going forward!)

One of the points Mr. Giridharandas makes in the book is that the plutocrats have managed to convince employees that they are “mini-corporations”. Consequently, many members of younger generations do not appreciate the power of banding together with colleagues at work to change the system. They have bought into the idea that they are “free agents” who can hop from career-to-career and devise their own health plans and their own retirement plans. If you enter teaching (or any career path) with the notion that it is a way station and not a job you want to commit to for life the idea of pushing back against the forces that want to undercut your wages, hours, and working conditions is alien.

In reporting on the “wildcat strikes” in these states where unions are unwelcome and under- appreciated one fact has been overlooked: the teachers marched together are the teachers who are the most passionate about their work and the most committed to their career. They WANT to teach and are only asking for wages that will enable them to devote their time and energy to making their classrooms the focal point of their life.

As one who sat across the table from union leaders for 29 years, I came to appreciate the fact that unions are not only looking out for the interest of their employees, they are looking out for the well-being of public education.

via How the Teacher Revolt Promoted the Blue Wave

Chalkbeat: “Indiana’s War On Teachers Is Winning”

November 29, 2018 Comments off

“Reformers” can get legislators to suspend regulations but they can’t change the fundamental laws of supply and demand…. nor can they entice creative teachers to a state where teaching to the test is a de facto mandate. The teachers, though, aren’t the real losers in Indiana: the students are.

via Chalkbeat: “Indiana’s War On Teachers Is Winning”

Deregulation: We’ve Seen This Movie Before… and It Doesn’t Have a Happy Ending

November 27, 2018 Comments off

The Washington Post’s Laura Medlar’s recent article, “DeVos Rescuing For-Profit Education” seems like a rerun of the movies that came out after the crash of 2008, movies that described how a toxic mix of deregulation and lax oversight by auditors combined to undercut our economy.  In place of de-regulated banks, the article features three profiteering post secondary education institutions—Virginia College, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute— and in place of Moody’s, the firm that accredited loans, we have ACICS, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

The Obama administration, who saw the ominous parallels between the student loan industry and the banking meltdown in 2008 instituted stricter accreditation guidelines that resulted in ACICS no longer being recognized as an accrediting agency and the denial of government backed loans to students attending Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, a decision that led to the closure of those enterprises. Why? Because the USDOE under the Obama administration saw its role as protecting students from enrolling in “...poorly performing career training programs” that failed to prepare them for the employment the for-profit colleges promised and protecting taxpayers from spending billions of their funds on those same schools.

Unsurprisingly… Betsy DeVos and President Trump see things differently.  From their perspective, regulations “interfere with innovation” and prevent students from having a wide range of choices when it comes to seeking higher education. And, as Ms. Medlar reports, this is only a portion of the deregulation Ms. DeVos is implementing:

At the Education Department, DeVos has long believed the federal government should exercise as little control as possible over the nation’s schools, and she has spent a large chunk of her tenure undoing the work of her predecessors. She has revoked guidelines on affirmative action and transgender students, and is expected to cancel guidance regarding racial bias in school discipline.

Now, DeVos is poised to build a legacy of her own — creating new rules for schools and not just jettisoning regulations in place when she arrived. Her goal, aides say, is to encourage innovation by letting new players into the federal student loan program who are barred by today’s regulations, and eliminating or modifying requirements that no longer make sense.

I suppose protecting the taxpayers’ commitment to pay off loans to fly-by-night for profit education enterprises that do not have to meet regulations is an example of a “requirement that no longer makes sense“… and, similarly, guidelines that avoid racial bias and protect the rights of transgender student must also fall under that rubric. Here’s hoping, as noted in an earlier post, that the Democratic controlled House enacts legislation that undercuts these efforts to protect minorities, students, and taxpayers.


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My Thinking: The Democrats in the House Should Spend Time and Energy Legislating Instead of Investigating

November 27, 2018 Comments off

Yesterday’s Morning Report from Politico included a rundown of the various investigations the House Committee chairs might launch. The synopsis is pasted below, with my commentary in red italics. :

HOUSE DEMOCRATS GEAR UP TO TAKE ON DEVOS: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will face new scrutiny next year from as many as many as five Democratic-led House committees. Even as Democrats eye a wide-ranging list of oversight priorities across the Trump administration, DeVos stands out as a major target.

— A handful of the Democrats who are set to wield gavels next year are lawmakers who have long worked on education issues and have been particularly vocal about their opposition to DeVos. Read our full story here — and here’s a guide of what to expect from each of the presumptive Democratic committee chairs:

— Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), poised to be chairman of the House education committee, will have DeVos squarely in his sights. Earlier this month Scott said his top oversight priorities would be the Education Department’s implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as its handling of claims for student loan forgiveness by public servants and borrowers defrauded by their colleges. Maybe Rep. Scott could introduce a bill that forgives student loans.

— Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) , who is expected to lead the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said that a top priority would be oversight of for-profit colleges that enroll veterans — including DeVos’s efforts to deregulate them. “I want to examine the extent to which her rollbacks of regulations negatively impact veterans,” he said in an interview.

— Takano said he’d like to see joint hearings with the House education committee on “the impact of the for-profit industry on our student veterans.” In addition, Takano said he’s “concerned about the reach of for-profits on military bases in terms of their recruitment”—an issue he wants to address by working with the House Armed Services Committee. Maybe Rep. Takano could introduce a bill forbidding the use of federal dollars to pay for tuition of for-profit schools unless those schools accept regulatory oversight and funds are provided to ensure that such oversight is possible.

— Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) , in line to lead the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing education funding, said that taking on the Trump Education Department will be a priority. The panel’s oversight work, DeLauro said, will focus on ways to “hold Secretary DeVos accountable for her agency’s failure to uphold federal protections for our students.”

— DeLauro called DeVos’ record on student debt issues “appalling,” pointing to her efforts to eliminate or scale back the “gainful employment” and “borrower defense” rules enacted by the Obama administration. “I will make sure Secretary DeVos knows Americans want her to protect students and veterans, not the for-profit school industry,” she said. Maybe Rep. DeLauro could introduce a bill that incorporates the “rules enacted by the Obama administration and funds auditors to make certain federal protections for students are in place. 

— Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) , incoming chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee, said that while she’ll largely be focused on big banks and Wall Street, the panel also has jurisdiction over student loan companies and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “I’ll be involved in student loan issues, absolutely,” she told POLITICO.

— Waters has also long railed against for-profit colleges – and forecasted more scrutiny for the industry with Democrats in control of the House. “Just as you saw us put the pressure on Corinthian [Colleges] so that they had to basically close down, I think you’re going to see more work that’s being done on private postsecondary schools,” Waters told POLITICO. Perhaps that “work” might include the passage of legislation that regulates for-profit colleges and, while she’s at it, regulates for profit K-12 schools. 

— Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is the presumptive chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which could also take on DeVos. Cummings conducted an investigation of CEO pay at for-profit schools during the Obama administration. And this past year, he and Scott expressed concern over DeVos’ treatment of the union that represents her agency’s employees. Maybe his committee could introduce legislation that restores the power to unions that was eviscerated by the Trump administration.  

— DeVos has so far struck a conciliatory tone with Democrats coming to power in the House. “I look forward to working with Congressman Scott and the rest of the committee as well,” she told reporters last week. An Education Department spokesperson declined to comment on how it was preparing for an onslaught of oversight requests.

My thought: hold back on those oversight requests and begin drafting legislation that will empower the government to regulate the for-profit colleges and K-12 schools. In doing so, it might help the public appreciate that their tax dollars are going from the pockets of hard working students and veterans and into the pockets of billionaires and shareholders… and since the agencies have been stripped of money and power “government” cannot intervene on their behalf. The Democrats have an opportunity to do something positive: they can pass legislation that is designed to help middle class Americans. I hope they don’t squander that opportunity by “going after” the Trump administration, for in so doing they will be giving the Trump administration the opportunity to frame the argument. Why give Betsy DeVos and her cronies another chance to convince voters that choice is a good idea. Force them to agree that the regulation of avaricious profiteers is a bad idea.

Learning to “Get to the Next Level” is Flawed… Learning to Satisfy One’s Curiosity is Not

November 27, 2018 Comments off

Medium blogger Dawson Eliason wrote a post last week with the provocative— but inaccurate– title “How Public School Fails Students“. The title IS clickbait, but it is inaccurate because the post really describes WHY public schools fail children. I have written many posts describing HOW public education fails students by insisting that they be compared to their age cohorts and progressing through a prescribed curriculum that is designed to keep them in lockstep as they accumulate a series of boxes on a checklist. … and Mr. Eliason intimates the HOW public schools fall short of the mark in some of his opening paragraphs. But his real message, WHY public education fails, is found in the penultimate paragraphs of his post:

The problematic mindset that public school instills in students is very damaging to the way students perceive college. Because students believe that they attend high school so they may attend college, so they may get a degree, so they may get a job, they are missing out on the most valuable quality a member of society can have: a desire to learn. The most significant reason to attend university is to build independent learning habits into your mode of work; the experience demands that you develop your own ways to figure things out.When you leave university, you are conditioned to be a curious, independent problem solver. The sort of person that society needs to move forward.

But this doesn’t happen if the student does not carry the desire to learn for the sake of learning.The student must be motivated by his or her own curiosity, not the promise of a high-paying job. If a person’s motivation is external, he or she will not be an effective thinker or problem solver and therefore not as valuable as he or she could be.

I concur with Mr. Eliason’s conclusion that the real purpose of education is to develop a desire to learn for the sake of learning and agree that public education fails miserably in this regard, especially when the “quality” of schools is “measured” by performance on standardized achievement tests. Here’s hoping more people begin questioning the WHY of schooling… for if they do we might move more quickly in the direction of abandoning the metrics that now create the HOW schools operate.