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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Jargon, Big Brother, and Underestimating Us

It has been over a year since my heart was broken with the realization that the Federal and State Department of Education want to close all of our public schools, open up education to the free market, and manipulate and mislead the public in order to do so.

It sickens me that so many of our politicians are running scared thanks to Citizens United. They need the money from the big donors (Think Gates, Waltons, Broad. If you are not familiar, please look them up. And while you are at it, Look up ALEC, The American Legislative Exchange Council), so that their opponents don't outspend them. So many of us believe that the more ads we see, the better the candidate. And the candidates think it is worth it to accept the big money and let the billionaires run the country.

 In the depth of winter, on the darkest days when I was the most worried about public education, it occurred to me that there is only one thing that has more power than money. Us.

What if the politicians who mislead and misspeak about our public schools are just waiting until We, the Parents, We, the Grandparents, We, the students SPEAK UP AND SAY, "NO MORE!"

No more telling us that our schools are failing when they are not. No more testing, testing, and testing our children (and threatening their high school diplomas if they don't pass the Keystones). No more  curling up in bed by the fire with the testing companies, and smoking a cigarette after they count our wasted tax dollars. 

It is happening all over the country with the opt out movement. Parents are simply opting out of the tests. In PA we can only opt out of PSSA's for grades 3 - 8. The Keystone exams need to be changed by our next Governor. If you are a Democrat, vote carefully in the May primary. Many of the candidates avoid mention of the Keystones, testing, and privatization. Don't let them off the hook. Question them, push them.
Read my blog post about what the NAACP has to say about the Keystones here.

So how can you know when you are being, shall we say, underestimated by politicians, the Department of Education, and misled by the media? Easy. Listen for jargon. Below is a list of key words that should set off warning bells for you. Some of these terms were originally used correctly and meant something different than they do today. Thank you to & the Department of Education.
Want to know more about these terms? Look 'em up. We need to know this stuff.

21st Century Skills
College and Career Ready
Computer Adaptive Technology
Computer Adaptive Test
Professional Learning Community
Close Reading
Formative Assessment/Summative Assessment
Backward Design/Curriculum Mapping
Benchmark Assessment
Competency Based Learning
Personalized Learning
Data Based Instruction
Evidence Based Instruction
No Excuses
Flexible Learning Pathways
Learning Loss
Valued-Added Model
Hybrid Learning/Blended Learning
Outcomes Based Learning/Teaching
STEM v. the humanities/arts
Summer Slide
Turn Around Schools
Race to the Top
Competing for Gains
Shared Responsibility & Leadership
Successful Teaching and Learning
Engaged Communities
Teacher TV
The RESPECT Project
Merit Pay
Response to Intervention
Competency-based report cards
Khan Academy
Flipped classrooms

I will stop, but the list could go on and on. So often the terms are familiar. Many of them were once used and respected by great teachers and administrators. This is why they resonate with the public and sound like they mean something positive when they no longer do. Sadly, this is really all about the money. Public education is now seen as, "...the world's most data mine-able industry by far..." 
Watch this video which is actually titled, "Education Datapalooza.

 I know I am growing tired of what a dear friend calls, "Word Salad." Parents, students, school board members, and friends of public education, please listen for the jargon and speak up respectfully. We are the constituents, we are the tax payers. The government works for us. The more we know, the sooner we can tell the powers that be that we don't want the doublespeak. 

We want our public schools, and we want them controlled locally by an elected school board.

No more jargon. No more big brother. No more underestimating us.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Trompe-l'oeil: You can't fool all the people all of the time...

If one were to believe that the Common Core State Standards and the Pennsylvania Core Standards were the next best thing since sliced bread, then why in the world wouldn't our nation's private schools want to adopt them?

The Lakeside School where the Gates children attend. No Common Core for his kids.

If they are so "rigorous" and get kids so "college and career ready" and push kids to have more "grit," one would think the school where Bill Gates sends his kids would adopt them, but amazingly, nope. No Common Core State Standards (Or trompe l'oeil CCSS, like Pennsylvania's. A rose by any other name...). In fact, no private school is adopting them. Catholic scholars blasted the Common Core and don't want Catholic schools adopting them either. You know, it is only for those public school kids and their highly qualified teachers who have degrees in education.

The CCSS are the key to creativity for your schools, not ours.

If the CCSS are so great, why would Bill Gates have to be on the defensive, holding press conferences about how "....the Common Core standards (are) the key to creativity in the classroom."
I consider myself a pretty creative and innovative teacher. I have read the CCSS, and they are no key to creativity.

We know what is best for your children. Trust us.

All of this said, if Gates wants to save face, which would save face for a hell of a lot of politicians out there as well, he should stop pushing the high stakes component and divorce the CCSS from the testing.

Gates has had one well-intended idea after another in education. To him they are well-meaning experiments with the lives of the wee people whom he does not come in contact with often. He has a history of starting projects (small schools, Microsoft Schools, and others) and abandoning them. He has recently claimed that, "“It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” What the heck? This "stuff" is impacting the lives of my children as I type this. It is impacting the lives of all of our children.

So here you go, everybody, here is the answer to this bipartisan, Gates infused reform that is ruining public education. Let local school districts adjust the CCSS and the trompe l'oeil versions (we know our students and communities best), stop the high stakes testing, and get our kid's test scores out of teacher evaluations.

The way to solve this problem is to get the business people out of public education. They don't know what they are doing, put data at the center of the discussion instead of our kids, and throw a lot of jargon at us, assuming we are too dumb to question it. We aren't.

Enough is enough. You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.