Posts Tagged ‘Efficiency is the Enemy’

Florida Legislature to Students: Want a Scholarship? Forget Liberal Arts and Go Only for a High ROI

April 8, 2021 Comments off

As the NBC report below indicates, the conservative legislature in Florida is considering the passage of a bill that would stop the issuance of State scholarships to students who are not majoring in subjects that will result in highly compensated jobs. The effect of this would be the de facto end of scholarships for liberal arts majors and anyone aspiring to a career in public service… which would include social workers, nurses, and (ahem) teachers— none of whom, especially in Florida, will ever earn as much as, say, real estate sales persons. If our country is only interested in money, this is what the future holds… and the Democrats were all in on an Return On Investment model during Obama’s years.

Efficiency is the Hallmark of Virtual Academies… But COVID is Showing America the Difference Between Efficiency and Effectiveness

February 21, 2021 Comments off

Efficiency is defined as by Wikipedia as follows:

Efficiency is the (often measurable) ability to avoid wasting materials, energy, efforts, money, and time in doing something or in producing a desired result. In a more general sense, it is the ability to do things well, successfully, and without waste.

The same source defines EFFECTIVENESS as:

Effectiveness is the capability of producing a desired result or the ability to produce desired output. When something is deemed effective, it means it has an intended or expected outcome, or produces a deep, vivid impression.

We’ve learned over the years that our current model of education is both inefficient and ineffective, assuming the “expected outcome” of funded education is a universal cohort students who are ready for work, ready for college, or ready for both. Many observers of our current model see it as a failure because it is not subject to “market forces”, believing that such forces will yield both efficiency and effectiveness. While there is no evidence whatsoever that this happens in the REAL marketplace, there is a massive amount of evidence that the marketplace CAN drive down costs by substituting lower wage employees for higher wage ones by outsourcing labor or diminishing the power of employee groups OR introducing technology. Those who value the marketplace model place a premium on EFFICIENCY over EFFECTIVENESS…. and far and away the most EFFICIENT means of educating children is replace sentient teachers with algorithmic models.

As readers of this blog know, I’ve often used the phrase “efficiency is the enemy” in blog posts to decry the practice of REPLACING live teaching with some form of computer instruction. At the same time, I am a big fan of flipped instruction, Khan Academy mini-lectures that explain complicated issues in clear language, and even entire units in Khan Academy where subjects like math lend themselves to algorithmic learning— learning that can replace the rote drills that teachers often oversee in large groups. When technology AUGMENTS learning in the form, it is, I believe, unarguably GOOD.

But when technology is the primary (if not exclusive) form of instruction, it is unarguably BAD.

All of this is a lead up to this Diane Ravitch post from last weekend that describes the boots-on-the-ground experience of a newly minted K12 teacher in California, an experience that included this observation:

Though it seems nauseatingly naive in retrospect, I had hoped and at one time believed that “free and fair education for all” could and logically should include our nation’s public schools having efficient access to the technologies and mass deployment systems for online education which our tax dollars have paid for.

Instead, I now realize that an otherwise logical process of voting tax payers receiving the public education they deserve has been perhaps irrevocably hijacked and perverted by the “double-speak” of “school choice” proponents and the contemporary scourge of insatiably greedy corporations.

The private for-profit enterprise K12 is notoriously efficient: they deliver a McDonald’s education at the price of a sit down restaurant. They do so by employing newly minted teachers instead of those with experience and assigning the teachers large numbers of students. It’s VERY inexpensive to deliver this instruction… and when K12 provides this at the same rate states pay for traditional schooling the taxes don’t need to go up to get the same results as before and the K12 shareholders are VERY happy.

After living through the past year, it should be abundantly clear to voters and taxpayers that online schooling is insufficient and ineffective even if it IS efficient in terms of cost. If that lesson hasn’t been learned, maybe it’s time for the voters to get some remedial education.

Chester-Upland PA’s Sordid History Recounted by Peter Greene

January 19, 2021 Comments off

As noted in several earlier posts, “poor performing” districts or schools rarely if ever improve as a result of state takeovers, the injection of “competition” through charter schools, or privatization. If anyone ever wanted a poster child district to prove this point, look no further that Peter Greene’s recent Forbes article describing the sordid history of the Chester-Upland School district in PA. Two sections o the article explain what went wrong with the district and where it stands now.

Here’s what went wrong:

The Chester-Upland school system’s history is a history of U.S. segregation in miniature. Through the first half of the 20th century, the schools were segregated as a matter of policy (this is covered in some detail in John McClarnon’s portrait of civil rights leader George Raymond in Pennsylvania History). In 1946, the school board finally agreed to a plan to desegregate students (but not faculty). But then the board instituted a policy that allowed students to request transfer to a school outside their assigned boundaries. Most applications by whites were approved; most by Blacks were denied. By the 1953-54 school year five elementary schools had almost entirely Black student bodies, even though white students lived within the schools’ boundaries.

In 1953, the board floated a $3.5 million bond issue intended to finance a redrawing of school boundaries. “The bond issue was,” McClarnon writes, “in fact, a #3.5 million re-segregation project.” Shortly afterwards, the Supreme Court issued its Brown v. Board of Education ruling, but the school superintendent noted that the decision wouldn’t have any legal ramifications for the county “where segregation is admittedly a fact but not a policy.”

Now… if Chester-Upland was the only district in Pennsylvania or America “where segregation is admittedly a fact but not a policy” it MIGHT be possible to solve the problems. But as readers of this blog undoubtedly realize, racial and economic segregation IS a fact everywhere even though our purported policy is an equal opportunity for all. Chester-Upland’s particular story in unique… but the general outlines of its story are not. Which leads to the closing paragraphs that describe where Chester-upland stands now:

The district’s story is complicated—this long post skips over many other issues there—but the lesson is simple. When a district is segregated, abandoned, underfunded, and deprived of resources, it suffers. And when the state, rather than aiding it, allows it to be picked over and fed upon by private for-profit businesses, it suffers even more, creating the possibility of a community that is no longer able to fulfil the promise of a free public education for all of its children. Chester Upland seems less likely to have a happy ending and more likely to end as a tragic cautionary tale. Pennsylvania’s students deserve better.

Now… if Chester-Upland was the only district in Pennsylvania or America that was segregated, abandoned, underfunded, and deprived of resources it MIGHT be possible to solve the problems. But as readers of this blog undoubtedly realize, racial and economic segregation, abandonment, underfunding, and deprivation of resources is universal in our country… and so is the suffering that results.  The sad ending that Chester-Upland faces could be the sad ending that all of the racially and economically segregated district face unless some form of funding equity is put in place, equity achieved NOT by redistributing resources but by adding them to the districts that need them.