Archive for March, 2020

Do We Want to Emulate South Korea? I Don’t Think So!

March 30, 2020 Comments off

This article describes the obsession that South Korean parents have with a national exam that determines whether their children will be able to attend the universities or not. It strikes me that if we continue to use standardized tests as our primary metric, especially TIMMS scores, we will soon find our parents emulating the South Korean parents and our country becoming explicitly stratified based on one test. NYC is there already. There must be a better way forward!

No Surprise: Heritage Foundation Sees School Closures as Opportunity to Expand ESAs

March 29, 2020 Comments off

Heritage Foundation education policy specialist Lindsay Burke wrote an op ed piece for Fox News using the emergency closures of public schools as evidence that states need to expand their use of Education Savings Accounts— a wholly predictable and unsurprising conclusion. What WAS surprising to me was that Michael Horn, one of the advocates of the disruption that online education would create, was very clear-eyed about the practical impact of this emergency implementation:

Michael Horn, distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, writes that “all of a sudden, the competition for online learning isn’t live, in-person classes. Those classes are canceled. Now, the alternative is nothing at all.”

Typically, when there is a flood of new entrants into a market (in this case, families thrown into homeschooling out of necessity), one would expect that enabling technologies (such as online learning) would be able to gain a good share of the business — either as a facilitating service or as a viable or even more desirable alternative.

Yet Horn isn’t so “sure we’re in the typical circumstance where the logic and usual patterns of disruption hold,” particularly if students experience “poorly constructed, hastily built online courses by faculty.”

These reservations are especially applicable to higher education, where professors are now being asked to translate in-class lesson plans — including laboratory exercises — into online instructional experiences.

Horn’s reasoned expectations do not stand in the way of the true believers of Education Savings Accounts, though. Here’s how Ms. Burke connects the dots. She begins with this premise:

Freeing up existing education dollars to be more nimble generally and to follow families to learning options of their choice is good policy anytime, and perhaps a critical policy during a global pandemic.

Then, after acknowledging that this interruption of services might not change the minds of parents regarding the current format of schooling, she concludes that the coronavirus’ impact should “…change the way government officials think about education policy.” How so? Well… it appears that the “good policy anytime” argument works here as well!

Students who were already learning online, homeschooling, or accessing private tutors are likely experiencing less disruption in their education. Freeing up existing education dollars to be more nimble generally and to follow families to learning options of their choice is good policy anytime, and perhaps critical policy during a pandemic.

And… here’s added benefit! It’s less costly!

To that end, states should provide emergency educations savings accounts (ESAs) to families for the remainder of the academic year. States should deposit into these parent-controlled accounts 90 percent of what the states would have spent on their children in the public school system from the time public classrooms were shut through the end of the school year.

Families should then be allowed to use their ESA to pay for private tutors, online tutors, special education services and therapists, online courses and curricula.

So, if Mr. Burke’s idea caught on, States could cut 10% of their spending for the balance of the year and parents would froths point forward get 90% of the funds their state spends on average to, presumably, go to the school of their choice.

Heartwarming Essay on Value of Public Schools Overlooks One Reality: Economic and Racial Homogeneity STILL Prevails

March 29, 2020 Comments off

A few days ago I received a heartwarming essay on the value of public schools written by Donald Cohen titled “COVID-19 is Putting the Value of Public Education on Display“, an article that made many of the same points I described in an earlier blog post that I honed into an op ed piece that was published yesterday in our local newspaper. In the essay, like my post, Mr. Cohen points out all of the services public schools provide above and beyond instruction on the basic skills. But I believe he overstates one of the qualities provided by public education in reality (as opposed to in theory):

But perhaps most importantly, public schools provide kids with the opportunity to learn alongside their peers. Schools are where the community comes together to learn and grow regardless of skin color, income level, sexual orientation, or any other difference.

I desperately wish this were so and (probably incorrectly) believe it was the case in the small college town where I attended high school in the early 1960s. I DO believe ALL public schools aspire to being a place where their “…community comes together to learn and grow regardless of skin color, income level, sexual orientation, or any other difference”… but I also know that fewer and fewer communities posses economic or racial heterogeneity and, therefore, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for children to experience the opportunity to be with children of different skin colors, income levels, or nationalities. I also sense (and fear) that too many students in our country encounter different treatment based on their gender and/or their sexual orientation and that changing those behaviors will take decades.

Looking forward, I hope that public schools will break down the artificial boundaries that have the effect of isolating students based on their race and income, for if that were the case I believe there would be far more empathy that we experience in our society at large today. MAYBE our on-line encounters based on current school boundaries could be intentionally re-designed so that groups of students from the heartland could meet groups of students from the coast… and groups of students of different races could interact with each other to discuss common issues… and students of different economic backgrounds could interact with each other. MAYBE we could find a way to use our technology to bring students from disparate groups together in virtual classrooms to engage in dialogues about their experiences during the lock down. if we did so, I think we would find that we have more in common with each other than we now believe.