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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Does Goldman Sachs care about your kids or $$$?

What an easy question, right?
You have to worry when the first sentence in their push for educational technology is this:

"With the level of investment in education technology now ten times what it was a decade ago, technological innovation is poised to change virtually every aspect of how students learn, at every age, at every level." (Scroll down to watch their 2 minute video.)

TRANSLATION: Invest in ed tech so we can make money and we don't care if it kills the joy of learning and financially stresses schools from kindergarten through college.

"Victor Hu, global head of Education Technology and Services in the Investment Banking Division at Goldman Sachs, explains three ways technology is altering the traditional model of classroom education. With more sophisticated technology entering the classroom, teachers and students will soon collaborate in ways never before anticipated, while enabling earlier intervention for struggling students and reducing dropout rates."

 TRANSLATION: We have hired amazing marketing firms to spin exaggerated claims about the value of ed tech in our schools, while implying that kids sitting at screens and plugging away is not "traditional". BF Skinner thought of it in 1954 with his "Teaching Machine". Looks like an innovative way for children to learn, no?

Mr. Hu has an impressive education, as found on Linkedin, but none of it is in the education field. In fact, his top three skills are listed as mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, and private equity. Venture capital is number four. I would certainly ask him investment advice, but he might be one of the last people I'd ask about how to educate our nation's youth.

Watch this 2 minute video from Goldman Sachs and think about the real reasons ed tech and "personalized learning" are being pumped into our children's schools. I wrote about this previously here, here, here, and here.

Anyone who really cares about our nation and the education of our children should be pushing back against the misuse of technology in our schools. Technology can be wonderful, but it should be the servant, not the master.

Question everything or our kids will pay the price.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Got 1:1 devices at your child's school?

You know the good side of it. Now read below to learn the rest.

This is about so much more than normalizing computers teaching our kids instead of human teachers... but it is about that, too. In another spot on post by education activist, Alison McDowell, she explains that the big problems start with de-humanizing education, but then it gets creepier.

Take 10 minutes to watch this stranger than fiction, but true video summarizing how the Department of Defense, lots of corporations, and Bill Gates are unnervingly involved with education.

Problem #1:

"Data-driven, standards-based tactics have been intentionally employed to regiment the very human process of teaching and learning. During ADL’s first decade, the imperative was to get technology and Internet into schools. Once that infrastructure was in place, they could concentrate on restructuring the curriculum making screen-based education central and pushing the teacher into a secondary role on the sidelines."

Dreambox, Achieve 3000, and other "personalized learning" systems do not get students to love learning.  

 Problem #2:

" The Learning Registry is another important piece of the puzzle. It was created in 2011 as a partnership between the US Department of Education and once again the Department of Defense. It is an open source distribution network of learning resources that holds meta data and para data. It is important to understand that learning objects can be tagged in many ways, including adding tags for a variety of standards. For that reason even if we get rid of Common Core State Standards, it wouldn’t necessarily make a dent in slowing down the rollout of adaptive, digital curriculum."

Problem #3:
"The devices in our children’s classrooms are largely there because a specific set of government policies have prioritized technology over human educators for the past fifteen years. These devices are watching us as much as we are watching them. And we should be aware that many of the programs in use are direct outgrowths of work done by the Department of Defense in partnership with private sector interests and institutions of higher education. Technology can be used for good, but not if it is given an unconditional pass in our classrooms."

Our kids are pawns in a big $ grab.

Creepy, unethical, and bi-partisan.
 Watch the video. Share the facts.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Don't be fooled by "Anytime, Anywhere Learning"

A brilliant activist friend of mine, Alison McDowell, created this 4 minute, must-see video. She has been putting the attack on public education puzzle pieces together and it is clear to me that she is spot on. After watching this short video, check your school district's strategic plan and website. Do you see many of the terms & jargon mentioned in the video? I bet you do.

Concerned? Here are some next steps:

1. Recognize the danger.
2. Educate yourself and others.
3. Ask questions publicly.
4. Opt out of data collection.
5. Organize resistance to automated teaching and virtual schooling... and badging.

Learn more here at Alison's blog.

"The push for conditioning and compliance will continue as we finalize the transition to an education system where surveillance is branded as data-driven “personalization” and devices monitor our children’s classrooms continuously. It’s difficult to organize and fight such a nebulous foe... I hope to convey the reality of the reformers’ true end game- a future of automated teaching, virtual schooling, and community-based badging programs where workforce skills trump knowledge and critical thinking in the human capital game.  A future where parents and students must cobble together dozens of credentialed online and offline educational opportunities for their e-portfolios, feebly attempting to pay for them from meager virtual wallets/Educational Savings accounts."

Orwellian? Yes.
Science fiction? Sadly not.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

"I Can’t Answer Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poems."

In the debate regarding high stakes standardized testing, a poet whose work has appeared in the Texas state tests shared a shocking revelation. She stated, " I Can’t Answer These Texas Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poems."

Perhaps you are tired of the discussions about standardized testing, or perhaps your child hasn't yet been subjected to the joys of your state tests. You may wonder why this even matters. If you have been keeping an eye on the President-elect's cabinet choices you have surely noted that the nominee for our next Secretary of Education wants to put an end to our locally controlled public schools. 

The standardized tests of the past 20 years or so are not the same as the ones many parents (like myself) took when we were in school. Today's tests are high stakes for many reasons, including using test scores to "prove" schools are "failing". One can turn to our urban schools to see how test scores are used to close schools and offer the illusion of "choice" through charter schools... even when parents/tax payers don't want their school handed over to a charter school chain.

What will people who want to get their hands on suburban tax dollars do to to fulfill their goals? Step one has been to continue to make the state standardized tests more confusing, longer, and absolutely mentally draining on the kids. I have written about this here and here

And if the test companies can't write enough poorly written test questions to get suburban district scores down, there are sure to be other attacks on our locally controlled public schools... like this one.

Consider previewing your child's state tests this year. In Pennsylvania you simply need to set up an appointment with the school and you can see the entire litany of tests that will suck up weeks of instructional time.

If you decide to opt your kids out, here is a helpful site
Parents can only make our voices heard in one way that can be measured and reported.
To show politicians that we want to keep our public schools locally controlled, opt out.

And if you want to know what is being planned when they phase out high stakes tests, read this post on stealth testing. Your kids are already dipping their toes in the pool of the misleadingly named "personalized learning" through sites like Achieve 3000, Dream Box, Khan Academy and others. 

It is time for parents to tell our elected officials that we demand a voice in our children's public education.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Fight for Lower Merion Schools: A Must Read

What will motivate you to take action against those who are seeking to lower the quality of public education for our children? 

Huge class sizes? 
A push for low quality, cheap online learning? 
Loss of real estate value on your home? 
Ethics and morals that insist that ALL children deserve a first class education? 
All of the above?

No matter who you are or if you have children in our public schools, the quality of education impacts not only our community, but our society as a whole. Please consider signing the petition below, which will get you on a mailing list for LM Fight for First Class Public Education.

If you  haven't yet signed the petition, please do.
We thank you in advance for your efforts to save our schools.

Parents Across America: 


NAACP against charter schools:

Posts by Danielle Arnold-Schwartz, LMSD Parent, Blogger, Villanova University Teacher of Courage & Conscience Award Recipient & LMSD Teacher:






Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Lower Merion: Are Public Schools and Elected School Boards Obsolete?

Here in Lower Merion, PA, heads are spinning from the Lower Merion School District's loss of a lawsuit brought by Arthur Alan Wolk.

Some people are appreciative of Mr. Wolk's questioning the transparency of the tax situation, but many of us are concerned about a much larger issue – the protection and preservation of local school board control and the quality of education for our children.

Is it a coincidence that Mr. Wolk stated to a reporter that, "He wants district administrators removed from office... and plans to launch a 'Dump the Lower Merion School Directors' movement to run a slate of independent candidates"?
It is still too early in the game to know for sure, but threatening local control through aggressive and hostile attacks—well, that is just what corporate education reformers do.

In this post by former Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, the big issues are brought to light about the aggressive movement by charter school investors & the politicians they support to end local school board control. There is no reason, other than personal financial gain, that these non-education experts are sticking their noses into the education of America's children. Just because people went to school does not make them experts in education. 

The only obstacle to charter schools in Lower Merion is a school board that does not want them. If we lose local control, we are ushering in charter schools and the demise of LMSD. For every student a district loses to a charter school, a large percentage of their spending per student leaves with them. This is what has destroyed nearly every district that has allowed them. As we have seen in Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, LA, and around the country, charter schools are no friends of public education or the families they serve.

Read below:
"Chester Finn, Jr., Bruno Manno, and Brandon L. Wright declare in the Wall Street Journal that public schools and elected school boards are dying a slow death and being replaced by charter schools. All three are associated with right wing think tanks (Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Walton Family Foundation).

Bear in mind that some 50 million children attend public schools, and fewer than 3 million attend charter schools. Bear in mind also that voters have never voted to replace public schools with privately managed charter schools. Americans have never been asked whether they want to pay their taxes to private corporations to run schools that can choose their students. The charter movement has flourished because of massive investments by billionaires like Gates, Broad, and Walton, political support by right wing groups like ALEC, right wing governors, and the unfortunate support of the Obama administration. 

Public education, open to all, has for many years been considered an essential democratic institution and a basic cause of the great economic, social, and cultural success of our nation. Finn & friends hope for and celebrate its demise. They tacitly acknowledge that charter schools don’t get higher scores than public schools. They note that some charter operators are frauds. What they don’t admit is that they welcome the hyper-segregation of American society. One of the reasons our society functions as well as it does is because public schools bring children from different backgrounds together, across lines of race, religion, class, gender, and ethnicity. It doesn’t happen enough, but the authors don’t care if it happens at all. They welcome the return of segregation as a step forward, not as a retrenchment from our ideals. 

Similarly, they see no value in democracy. Elected school boards are a fundamental exercise of democracy. They are established in state constitutions. Yet the authors would wish them away and replace them with privatization. 

This article and the book it is based on comes at a time when the privatization movement is staggering. Charters were just recently criticized by the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives, a collection of 50 organizations. Charter scandals are breaking into the mainstream media, most recently with the admission by an online charter founder in Pennsylvania that he stole $8 million from the school. And the CREDO study finding that students in online charters learn close to nothing. And then there was the John Oliver program on the shoddy and corrupt practices of charters that close overnight and charters that steal and cheat taxpayers. And there was the Washington State and NLRB decisions that charters are not public schools."

 Watch this John Oliver segment and be prepared to learn.

"When the charter movement began, Finn and Manno wrote about the promise of charter schools: in return for public money, they would be held accountable for better results at lower costs. Now we know that charters are not held accountable, do not produce better results unless they cherry pick students, and do not cost less." 

Respected education blogger and teacher, Mercedes Schnieder, responds to the Wall Street Journal piece here.

Diane Ravitch reports, "[Schnieder] says there is no mass movement to charter schools. Instead, there is a movement bought and paid for by billionaires, millionaires, and others who have embraced free-market ideology."

"Finn et al. are just a part of the well-financed corporate ed reform mass of think tanks, billionaires and hedge funders trying to foist reforms onto the American public in the name of a “quiet revolution."

Sure, watch the district's spending. Absolutely, ask for transparency. But don't sleep at the wheel for a second on the issue of local school board control.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Lower Merion, wake up or forever hold your peace.

Make no mistake, the lawsuit against the Lower Merion School District is not by a lone, selfless attorney who wants to save tax payers a few bucks. This is as clear as can be in this fluff piece about Arthur Allen Wolk and his new puppy. I love puppies, too, but his sweet puppy can't distract me from Mr. Wolk's actual goal, which seems to be to strip local control from Lower Merion tax payers. Here we go again. It is the same old story they used in Philadelphia, Camden, and many of America's other cities. And it happened to this wealthy, suburban school district in Brookline, Massachusetts, which is a lot like Lower Merion. Once the corporate education reformers are on our school board, all bets are off.

When education entrepreneurs (edupreneurs) want to make money off of our tax dollars, they find a way to belittle and discredit the officials, whom tax payers elected. Below, Mr. Wolk is clear about his agenda.

 "In the interview, Wolk called Copeland's letter 'inflammatory' and 'wrong,' and the district 'arrogant.' That was an opening salvo. He wants district administrators removed from office, he said, and plans to launch a 'Dump the Lower Merion School Directors' movement to run a slate of independent candidates.

I wrote about the sharks that are circling Lower Merion's school tax dollars here back in May. 

In the piece, it is clear that Mr. Wolk's family is not invested in our community’s schools. With all due respect, if he does not want to pay the district’s school taxes, he can certainly afford to move somewhere else.

The article states that, "Wolk's two children did not attend Lower Merion schools; they graduated from Cheltenham High School and Abington Friends School. But 'he's got a large house and pays lots of taxes,' said Knauss, adding that he thinks Wolk viewed the suit as a 'civic service. 'Wolk said he thought it was 'worthy.' The median refund of $1,400 that Smyth said taxpayers might eventually receive is kibble compared with what he said he spent out-of-pocket on the case."

Should Lower Merion tax payers be grateful that Mr. Wolk is spending out-of-pocket to undo a democratic process? School boards are elected the old-fashioned way. The people who show up and vote make their voices heard. I respectfully suggest that Mr. Wolk put his money towards a campaign to get residents out to vote, instead of trying to buy his preferred school board.

Those of us who closely follow what is known as corporate education reform find the kind of attacks we are seeing in Lower Merion as cliché, except for the fact that this horrific treatment has been reserved for our cities... until now.  

In this Washington Post article, you can see how a businessman with his own agenda wants to get rid of locally elected school boards (so unoriginal, folks). Netflix's very own CEO, Reed Hastings spoke at a charter school conference to" ...advocate for the end of locally elected school boards. Hastings said the 'fundamental problem' with school districts is that they 'don't get to control their boards.' He suggested that the democratically elected school boards are the problem with public education and they should be replaced by privately held corporations."  Hastings is developing his own ideas for how public school children, our children, should be educated... and it will make him even richer. But first he has to get rid of those inconvenient local school boards who would reject his generic, low quality edu-business models.

As Lower Merion residents are trying to put the pieces of this puzzle together, I predict it won't take long before we connect the dots and realize that this attack on local control is really all about opening the education market to investors who want to profit off of our spending per student. After all, this is one of the few bipartisan ideas where so many politicians fill their glasses and toast together. Read more here and here

I am a recipient of Villanova University's Teacher of Courage and Conscience Award. I try my best to live with integrity and to educate my community about the corporate attack on our schools and the unethical (yet mostly legal) ways local control is stolen from communities in the attempt to pocket public school tax dollars.

Lower Merion and all suburban school districts, it is time to wake up. We are in the thick of it and it all happened while we were asleep. Maybe Kathy Boccella is trying to warn us when she writes, "As Boo, the golden retriever, said in the book Wolk wrote about her: 'Dad has been home with me after work every day and wrestles with me every chance he gets. He always wins even when I try to bite him.'" He always wins, which in this case would mean that the children of Lower Merion School District would be the losers.

Speak up now or forever hold your peace.

Sign this petition to show your support for Lower Merion and public education, in general.