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Monday, March 14, 2016

ESSA: Kids get more tech, less teachers

We all have been wondering what the real story is with the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind. As I wrote about here, I subscribe to The Nellie Mae Foundation's emails to see what the enemies of public education are stirring up in their cauldrons. Promoted today was this post on how the highest education law in the country is opening the door on oxymoronic "personalized learning."

One of my education heroes, Alfie Kohn wrote here about the difference between personal learning and personalized learning:

"Personal learning entails working with each child to create projects of intellectual discovery that reflect his or her unique needs and interests. It requires the presence of a caring teacher who knows each child well. 

Personalized learning entails adjusting the difficulty level of prefabricated skills-based exercises based on students' test scores. It requires the purchase of software from one of those companies that can afford full-page ads in Education Week."

Check out this unbelievable doc showing how ESSA is "better" for "personalized learning" than NCLB.

Kohn asks, "How can we tell when the lovely idea of personal learning has been co-opted[3] and then twisted into (personalized learning)? Here are four warning signs:

 1. The tasks have been personalized for kids, not created by them.

2. Education is about the transmission of bits of information, not the construction of meaning.  

3. The main objective is just to raise test scores. (When we hear a phrase like "monitor students' progress," we should immediately ask, "What do you mean by progress?" That word, like achievement, often refers to nothing more than results on dreadful tests.)

 4. It's all about the tech. (... for example, in language arts, where millions are made selling leveled "guided reading" systems, skills-based literacy workbooks, and the like. Simpler strategies, such as having kids choose, read, and discuss real books from the library may be more effective, but, as reading expert Dick Allington asks drily, "Who promotes a research-based practice that seems an unlikely profit center? No one.")

Kohn continues, "This version of 'personalized learning' actually began 60 years ago when B.F. Skinner proposed setting each child before a teaching machine, an idea rooted in 'measurability, uniformity, and control of the student.'"


And don't we all know this is the truth:

"If we favor an approach by which students actively construct meaning, an interactive process that involves a deep understanding of ideas and emerges from the interests and questions of the learners themselves, well, then we’d be open to the kinds of technology that truly support this kind of inquiry. 

Show me something that helps kids create, design, produce, construct — and I’m on board. Show me something that helps them make things collaboratively (rather than just on their own), and I’m even more interested — although it’s important to keep in mind that meaningful learning never requires technology, so even here we should object whenever we’re told that software (or a device with a screen) is essential.

Far more common, in any case, are examples of technology that take for granted, and ultimately help to perpetuate, traditional teacher-centered instruction that consists mostly of memorizing facts and practicing skills. Tarting up a lecture with a SmartBoard, loading a textbook on an iPad, looking up facts online, rehearsing skills with an “adaptive learning system,” writing answers to the teacher’s (or workbook’s) questions and uploading them to Google Docs — these are examples of how technology may make the process a bit more efficient or less dreary but does nothing to challenge the outdated pedagogy. To the contrary: These are shiny things that distract us from rethinking our approach to learning and reassure us that we’re already being innovative."

Read Kohn's full article on The Overselling of ed Tech here

Achieve 3000/Teen Biz

Did you know EESA eliminated the NCLB requirement for highly qualified teachers? 
Wonder why?

Read more here.

"... interest in computer-assisted instruction is surging. New firms, such as DreamBox and Knewton, have joined more established companies like Achieve3000 and Carnegie Learning in providing “intelligent tutors” for 'adaptive instruction' or 'personalized learning.' In the first quarter of 2014, over half a billion dollars was invested in education-technology startups. Not surprisingly, these intelligent tutors have grown fastest in fields in which many problems have well-defined correct answers, such as mathematics and computer science. In domains where student performances are more nuanced, machine-learning algorithms have seen more modest success."

" ... we’re not nearly as good at testing the kinds of things that the labor market increasingly rewards. In 'Dancing with Robots' an excellent paper on contempotary education, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane argue that the pressing challenge of the educational system is to “educate many more young people for the jobs computers cannot do.” Schooling that trains students to efficiently conduct routine tasks is training students for jobs that pay minimum wage—or jobs that simply no longer exist."

Want to learn more? Read this. It will blow your mind.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Public-ish Schools? Short videos you MUST WATCH!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, these videos are worth a billion of our tax dollars.

Click here to watch a 2 minute video that explains how flipped classrooms, blended learning, and other familiar terms come from those who are cashing in on OUR public schools. 
And they are not necessarily pedagogically appropriate or properly researched.

And don't hesitate to click here for the next two minute video that explains the lie of failing public schools and how public private partnerships (charter schools), especially charter chains are sweeping the nation... Hopefully they are NOT coming to your neighborhood (but really, they plan to break in everywhere). And don't believe for a minute that charter schools are public schools.
They are public-ish.

Public education is all about the kids. Public private partnerships are all about the money.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Why I Speak up...

Fellow activist, Cheryl Masterman (right), and me in this Philadelphia Inquirer article.

I never thought I would be put in the position that our government and members of both political parties have put me in. For years I was just busy in my classroom, working with my wonderful students in our great public school district. I cherish those memories. Today I have one job that helps feed my family (which I still love) and one that is a labor of love. I spend much of my free time learning about the attack on public education, worrying, and trying to teach people about it.

 Not that long ago my eyes were opened to the concept that has invaded each and every American public school: 

The Hidden Agenda Behind 21st Century Learning

You may not have heard the term public-private partnerships, but in education you know them as charter schools. And they are strategizing to take over the vast majority of the American public education system, and to profit off of our tax dollars.

So why would a middle-aged teacher with two kids of her own heading off to college in the not-too-far future put herself out there to fight for public education? Let me tell you through this experience:

Last week, a dear colleague and I went to see the play, Exit Strategy, in Philadelphia. It tells the story of, " ...a dilapidated public school in Chicago targeted for closure and the power struggles that ensue among the faculty and students desperate to keep it open."

As I read through the Phillymag review of Exit Strategy, I felt myself shifting in my chair. Reviewer, David Fox states, "But the bigger picture is, indeed, a bigger picture: the importance of salvaging education for any and all students who aren't able to attend private or top-tier public schools." 

I felt a pit in my stomach because Mr. Fox, like so many of us, misses the point. He misses the bigger picture. We have been fed a steady stream of "Our public schools are failing" lies, and we never even realized it. Mr. Fox, with ADR (all due respect) here is the bigger picture: 

Our schools are targeted for closure and the faculty and students are desperate to keep them open. 

Google it, or just click here.

 Even our "top-tier public schools" are being impacted by open market greed and questionably designed corporate education reform ideas. I should know. I live and work in one. For years I heard about the implosion of our neighboring Philadelphia school district. I understand the challenges my colleagues there face; intentional financial starvation of schools, students struggling with poverty, hunger, homelessness, addiction, violence, and more. Yet for quite some time I didn't realize that we are all in the same boat. First they came for the inner city schools, next they will come for ours. We all must stand together.

There is a line in the play that really resonates with me. "If you don't fight the monster, you become the monster." Corporate education reform, opening the education market, and constant churn & disruption are the monster. And they are here.

That is why I speak up. 
Will you join me? If not now, when? 

A comment from this Diane Ravitch blog post.