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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Parents are clamoring for this?!

If you haven't read my Einstein against standardization entry yet, please read that here. It is an important entry to read before you move on to this one on the brazen effort to get the business world's interest peaked in this, "...amazing moment for private equity investors to explore for-profit education opportunities."  





Yes, you have heard it here, and actually it is no secret at all. That line of marketing genius comes from this ad, which attempts to grab the interest of investors looking for the next big money making opportunity.

"This is a long-overdue shift the public has been clamoring for -- measuring quality by what students are able to master, not by time spent in a classroom -- and the private sector is offering numerous opportunities to ride this wave."


Really? We are clamoring for this? You think we want you to ride the wave at our children's expense?

Not only are these opportunists salivating at the thought of getting their hands on our tax dollars, but the Kindergarten - 12th grade is not enough. They are sinking their talons on the higher education "market," as well. 

That is the reason business and education shouldn't mix. Business people see a market, educators see children.


Unleash powerful market forces...?

I am so naive. I thought he was going to say something about his belief that students will benefit, and learning will be improved.




They are selling kid's data!
I wonder why they want so much data...


"...The most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school.
In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school - even homework completion. Local education officials retain legal control over their students' information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.Entrepreneurs can't wait.”

"This is going to be a huge win for us," said Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at CompassLearning, which sells education software. Read about it here. 

“The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states. Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch's news corps, built the infrastructure over the past 18 months. When it was ready, the Gates Foundation turned the database over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom Inc, which will run it.”
“States and school districts can choose whether they want to input their student records into the system; the service is free for now, though inBloom officials say they will likely start to charge fees in 2015. So far, seven states - Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Massachusetts - have committed to enter data from select school districts. Louisiana and New York will be entering nearly all student records statewide.”
Read the full article here.
It states that parents are spooked....indeed. UPDATE: "After months caught in the crosshairs of parents, advocates, and educators concerned about student-data privacy, controversial nonprofit inBloom announced... that it will close its doors." Guess who stopped it? PARENTS. Read more here.  And it is not over: " Leonie (Haimson) almost singlehandedly stopped the effort to mine student data, whose sponsors wanted confidential and identifiable information about every child “for the children’s sake.” Leonie saw through that ruse and raised a national ruckus to fight for student privacy. Privacy of student records is supposedly protected by federal law (FERPA), but Arne Duncan weakened the regulations so that parents could not opt out of the data mining. It is not over. The Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation put up $100 million to start inBloom, and Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation got the contract to develop the software, and amazon.com plans to put it on a “cloud.” They will be back. We count on Haimson and the many parents she has inspired to remain vigilant on behalf of our children. As a grandparent of a child in second grade in a Brooklyn public school, I have a personal interest in keeping his information private."



Is Pennsylvania next? Keep an eye out.
 (I know my school district’s on-line grade book is a Pearson product…)  

Even our colleges aren't safe...

Read below about what Diane Ravitch posted on her blog about the Gates Foundation and higher ed: 

"Read this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Just as it has done in K-12 education, the foundation has bought the research, bought the evaluations, bought the advocacy groups, and even bought the media that reports on what the foundation is doing.
But as the article reveals, good journalists have a tendency to tell the full story, even if their employer is on the Gates' dole."

"The story is shocking. It describes an experimental online degree program with no traditional professors or courses. "Instead, students progress by showing mastery of 120 "competencies," such as "can use logic, reasoning, and analysis to address a business problem."
Here is the typical, local way to address the business problem 
of corporations taking over schools...


By the time most communities get to this point, the struggle is difficult to win.
We need to speak up long before it is in our own neighborhood. Our neighbors & friends in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Chicago, LA, New York, and now the suburbs of DC, and entire states, like North Carolina (Which is destroying their public education system) are being sacrificed:

"According to the National Association of Counties (NACo), Prince George’s County—which lies on the eastern border of Washington, D.C, and is home to nearly 900,000 people and 125,000 students who attend the county’s schools—is the first county in the United States where the executive has that level of control over a formerly autonomous school district. It is similar to some cities, such as Philadelphia, where the mayor appoints school board members."



That's right...the suburbs.
Read more about it here.
 
 This blogger hopes that once our eyes are open, that we will just say no...


"Once people realize that their own children are being experimented upon and used for profits, the greed grab will end. The testing craze, the corporate education reform industry, the for-profit and non-profit charter industry, the online educational programing business, etc. will dwindle and either die out or become minuscule."


"The profit margins are estimated, the marketing planned, and the technologies used to lure parents into believing that purchasable technology and the education of their children are one and the same thing – all of these and more are planned with little or no long term proof or assurances that children will benefit as little human beings. Create a brand. Do market research. Sell-Sell-Sell. Use fear marketing or exclusive-limited-edition appeal – whatever. Sell-Sell-Sell. (Edu-Brands: InBloom. Pearson, KIIP, Broad, White Hat, Uno, K12 Inc., etc.)"




Corporations sell widgets. Schools teach children. All the technology and Race to the Top money won't help children.Children need passionate, properly trained, well-educated teachers. And that is why I moved to the district where I teach. I wanted my own children to get the education that I saw the students in my district receiving. I suppose that means that strong school districts help keep property values up. And I suppose that means that if our public schools are compromised, our home values will go down...




Standing up for our schools seems to make good educational sense, good ethical sense, and wait...good financial sense. 
Wow.


"How much in potential profit is at stake? $$$$$$$$$$$$ Billions. Federal and state tax “incentives” guarantee that these testing/textbook/online-programming corporations will double their money within a few years. Guaranteed. (See here.)"


You have got to click on the link above. This is a bipartisan effort, and it will take a bipartisan effort on the part of caring parents, teachers and community members to come together.


 No matter our politics, it seems that people who really care about kids, all kids,  
are standing together.

Criticism of the corporate reform movement, "... is coming from liberals (who say Gates is trying to privatize education and is attacking unions) as well as conservatives (who say Gates and President Obama are in cahoots to federalize education through the Common Core learning standards)." Read more in this editorial called, The Trouble with the Common Core.

It seems to me, that nobody wants the corporate reform movement, except the corporate reformers... 


 
 Which brings me back to that conference ad:
 "... new wave methods are exactly what students, parents, and employers believe is necessary for America to keep pace with the world. Delivering education through the right means for success -- be it online, ground-based, a blended model or some other hybrid -- continues to be a for-profit industry specialty."

What market research have they used to determine that WE want on-line or a hybrid or blended model of education? oh, right, the $$$$$$ model. Watch them ride the wave....or make your voice heard. 








 


 
 


 

 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Einstein in '29: Standardize Cars, Not Humans

Okay, it is almost embarrassing to admit another intellectual crush on this blog, but I think I am not alone on this one. 

 Yeah...it's Albert.
Here is the thing, we have a problem in public education....and it is not the kids, the parents, the teachers, the administrators, the superintendents, or the school boards (Though all of the above are often blamed for the "problems").
Although "We" didn't actually create these problems, it is very important that "We" make sure we are using different thinking from the folks who did create them. "We" want our children to have an outstanding public education like kids in elite private schools get. Families in my home district know that "We" have extremely successful schools. Our kids are the some of the lucky ones, and "We" want to keep it that way. The time has come for us to speak up for our kids and for all kids everywhere.
There is a national movement to "prove" that public schools are failing. This bipartisan movement is trying to make families believe that vouchers (taking our school tax dollars out of public schools and using that money to help pay a fraction of private school tuition) and funding charter schools with our public school tax dollars will be better for our children (They market this as "Choice"). And this is where my business background comes in handy...



In addition to my Master's in Education, I also happen to have a Bachelor of Business Administration from the highly respected Frank G. Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University. 
And although I am proud of my degree and all I learned at Hofstra, I can see why business and education just shouldn't mix. I majored in marketing, which is really about using psychology to get people to want something, to believe they really need it, and hopefully to get them to act on that desire and make a purchase. It seems to me this corporate education movement (also called the school reform movement) is outstanding at marketing (A+ for you, corporate reformers). 
Another priceless principle of business is that the customer is always right. Readers, you wouldn't believe how many of us there are who do not want this "product." We want to stop the attempts to "prove" our schools are failing when they are not. We want schools that value humanities, art & music programs, foreign language, recess, physical education, critical thinking, and the absolute pleasure of inquiry and intellectual pursuit.
....And you know we are right.
There are just too many standardized tests being pushed on public schools by this movement at this time. The schools have no say, these laws have been passed. That is why "We" have become more important than ever.
We must channel our inner Einstein. He knew what he was talking about: 


"I believe in standardizing automobiles. I do not believe in standardizing human beings. Standardization is a great peril which threatens American culture. . . ."
    — Albert Einstein, Saturday Evening Post interview, 10/26/1929"

I don't think anyone would argue that  Einstein was a genius, and not just at physics. Our politicians are great at creating reform rhetoric, where language is turned inside out to disguise reality. 
Listen for terms like the ones below:

Assessment (noun): A test made by a corporation and protected from peer review and public scrutiny by intellectual property laws and strict confidentiality agreements.

College and Career Ready (adjective): This refers to the school of thought that children born into privilege can be skimmed into top-tier schools and allowed to explore a broad spectrum of interests, while 99% of children should be prepared to work for those other children someday.  College Ready refers to raising assessment scores enough to get students into college, provide photo opportunities for reformers and simple graphs and charts which suggest student growth for the media.  Career Ready means willing to accept a life of minimum wage labor in the service industry, without the false hope that a better future is possible, all while fighting for policies that enrich one’s bosses at the expense of one’s self interest.

Data Driven Assessment (noun): A test made by a corporation and protected from peer review by intellectual property laws and strict confidentiality agreements whose purpose is to provide numbers too complicated and nuanced for the general public to understand, but vague enough that they can be molded into a variety of purposes as the need for “data” to support reforms arises.

 I can't really delve into the corruption of the test companies and their "interest" in our children and tax dollars, that needs a post of its own. Below is a tidbit from this watch dog site.

" (Test Company) Pearson is one such entity that as of late always seems to be at the right place and precisely at the right time. In other words, just as new legislation is passed, as new educational mandates are set, Pearson is suddenly able to provide the legions of educators and school systems clamoring for some kind of answer with just the right product. How can this be? In recent years, this once relatively small publishing house turned itself into a massive provider of a range of educational products, from traditional print materials for the K-12 sector, higher education resources and technology solutions for public school systems. It is one thing to have various products to sell and to allow the marketplace to judge their success or failure. It is another matter to reorganize the rules so that Pearson products are all one needs to buy to satisfy a range of emerging Federal and State education mandates."

Read the article at the link. You won't believe everything they have their hands on.

In addition, our children are losing instructional time (class time) to take "field tests" for these test companies. Field tests have no educational value. The tests don't count for our kids. Basically, our kids are taking the tests so the test companies can learn which questions they want to throw out. In my marketing experience, corporations had to ask parent permission to get minors to test their products. In addition, they got paid for their time. These practices are being questioned in this article.


"Doing a field test is to the point where it's abusive to students..."  "You're putting kids in the position where they're guinea pigs."

Again, what may be good business, is not good for our children.
And again, Einstein knew it:
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
I think we know it, too.

 What are we actually allowing the test companies to "teach" our kids?

One last gem for the road:
"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."
– Albert Einstein
Let's do something about it.
 Oh, Albert....wish you were here.