publischools   11

Corporations are taking advantage of our underfunded public schools
"There are a lot of problems with McTeacher Nights, teachers and advocates for reduced commercialism in school argue. The Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood conducted research last year on how much money is actually raised on these nights and found that they typically only provide $1 to $2 per student. In return, McDonald’s gets free labor from teachers, free advertising, and introduces a product to children in the hope of creating brand loyalty.

“What are we saying to educators? Are we not telling our educators to put in eight hours a day and then asking them to work a shift at McDonalds? For paltry field trip money?” said Cecily Myart-Cruz, NEA vice president of United Teachers, Los Angeles, who added that teachers shouldn’t be promoting unhealthy food. “It’s another way to privatize education. Education is already privatizing and this is just another way to do it.”

These events also help its public image. McDonald’s looks like a great corporate citizen, despite the fact that it could simply donate money to schools in amounts that would dwarf what schools receive from participating in McTeacher’s Nights."
schools  publischools  labor  economics  funding  money  politics  policy  privatization  corporatization  uber  mcdonalds  verizon  advertising  nestle  pepsico  generalmills  bumblebeefoods  cocacola  togethercounts 
october 2016 by robertogreco
The Common Core Costs Billions and Hurts Students - The New York Times
"FOR 15 years, since the passage of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind act, education reformers have promoted standardized testing, school choice, competition and accountability (meaning punishment of teachers and schools) as the primary means of improving education. For many years, I agreed with them. I was an assistant secretary of education in George H. W. Bush’s administration and a member of three conservative think tanks.

But as I watched the harmful effects of No Child Left Behind, I began to have doubts. The law required that all schools reach 100 percent proficiency as measured by state tests or face harsh punishments. This was an impossible goal. Standardized tests became the be-all and end-all of education, and states spent billions on them. Social scientists have long known that the best predictor of test scores is family income. Yet policy makers encouraged the firing of thousands of teachers and the closing of thousands of low-scoring public schools, mostly in poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

As the damage escalated, I renounced my support for high-stakes testing and charter schools. Nonetheless, I clung to the hope that we might agree on national standards and a national curriculum. Surely, I thought, they would promote equity since all children would study the same things and take the same tests. But now I realize that I was wrong about that, too.

Six years after the release of our first national standards, the Common Core, and the new federal tests that accompanied them, it seems clear that the pursuit of a national curriculum is yet another excuse to avoid making serious efforts to reduce the main causes of low student achievement: poverty and racial segregation.

The people who wrote the Common Core standards sold them as a way to improve achievement and reduce the gaps between rich and poor, and black and white. But the promises haven’t come true. Even in states with strong common standards and tests, racial achievement gaps persist. Last year, average math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress declined for the first time since 1990; reading scores were flat or decreased compared with a decade earlier.

The development of the Common Core was funded almost entirely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was a rush job, and the final product ignored the needs of children with disabilities, English-language learners and those in the early grades. It’s no surprise that there has been widespread pushback.

In 2009 President Obama announced Race to the Top, a competition for $4.35 billion in federal grant money. To qualify, states had to adopt “college and career ready standards,” a requirement that was used to pressure them into adopting national standards. Almost every state applied, even before the specifics of the Common Core were released in June 2010.

The federal government, states and school districts have spent billions of dollars to phase in the standards, to prepare students to take the tests and to buy the technology needed to administer them online. There is nothing to show for it. The Race to the Top demoralized teachers, caused teacher shortages and led to the defunding of the arts and other subjects that were not tested. Those billions would have been better spent to reduce class sizes, especially in struggling schools, to restore arts and physical education classes, to rebuild physically crumbling schools, and to provide universal early childhood education.

Children starting in the third grade may spend more than 10 hours a year taking state tests — and weeks preparing for them. Studies show that students perform better on written tests than on online tests, yet most schools across the nation are assessing their students online, at enormous costs, because that is how the Common Core tests are usually delivered. Computer glitches are common. Sometimes the server gets overloaded and breaks down. Entire states, like Alaska, have canceled tests because of technical problems. More than 30 states have reported computer testing problems since 2013, according to FairTest, a testing watchdog.

Standardized tests are best at measuring family income. Well-off students usually score in the top half of results; students from poor homes usually score in the bottom. The quest to “close achievement gaps” is vain indeed when the measure of achievement is a test based on a statistical norm. If we awarded driver’s licenses based on standardized tests, half the adults in this country might never receive one. The failure rates on the Common Core tests are staggeringly high for black and Hispanic children, students with disabilities and English-language learners. Making the tests harder predictably depresses test scores, creating a sense of failure and hopelessness among young children.

If we really cared about improving the education of all students, we would give teachers the autonomy to tailor instruction to meet the needs of the children in front of them and to write their own tests. We would insist that students in every school had an equal opportunity to learn in well-maintained schools, in classes of reasonable size taught by expert teachers. Anyone who wants to know how students in one state compare with students in other states can get that information from the N.A.E.P., the existing federal test.

What is called “the achievement gap” is actually an “opportunity gap.” What we need are schools where all children have the same chance to learn. That doesn’t require national standards or national tests, which improve neither teaching nor learning, and do nothing to help poor children at racially segregated schools. We need to focus on that, not on promoting failed ideas."
2016  dianeravitch  commoncore  standardization  standardizedtesting  testing  government  us  nclb  rttt  georgehwbush  gatesfoundation  billgates  standards  education  schools  publischools  poverty  inequality  segregation  naep  statistics  achievementgap  opportunitygap  politics  policy 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Education at Risk: Fallout from a Flawed Report | Edutopia
"Nearly a quarter century ago, "A Nation at Risk" hit our schools like a brick dropped from a penthouse window. One problem: The landmark document that still shapes our national debate on education was misquoted, misinterpreted, and often dead wrong."



"Once launched, the report, which warned of "a rising level of mediocrity," took off like wildfire. During the next month, the Washington Post alone ran some two dozen stories about it, and the buzz kept spreading. Although Reagan counselor (and, later, attorney general) Edwin Meese III urged him to reject the report because it undermined the president's basic education agenda -- to get government out of education -- White House advisers Jim Baker and Michael Deaver argued that "A Nation at Risk" provided good campaign fodder.

Reagan agreed, and, in his second run for the presidency, he gave fifty-one speeches calling for tough school reform. The "high political payoff," Bell wrote in his memoir, "stole the education issue from Walter Mondale -- and it cost us nothing."

What made "A Nation at Risk" so useful to Reagan? For one thing, its language echoed the get-tough rhetoric of the growing conservative movement. For another, its diagnosis lent color to the charge that, under liberals, American education had dissolved into a mush of self-esteem classes.

In truth, "A Nation at Risk" could have been read as almost any sort of document. Basically, it just called for "More!" -- more science, more math, more art, more humanities, more social studies, more school days, more hours, more homework, more basics, more higher-order thinking, more lower-order thinking, more creativity, more everything.

The document had, however, been commissioned by the Reagan White House, so conservative Republicans controlled its interpretation and uses. What they zeroed in on was the notion of failing schools as a national-security crisis. Republican ideas for school reform became a charge against a shadowy enemy, a kind of war on mediocrity.

By the end of the decade, Republicans had erased whatever advantage Democrats once enjoyed on education and other classic "women's issues." As Peter Schrag later noted in The Nation, Reagan-era conservatives, "with the help of business leaders like IBM chairman Lou Gerstner, managed to convert a whole range of liberally oriented children's issues . . . into a debate focused almost exclusively on education and tougher-standards school reform."

The Inconvenient Sandia Report

From the start, however, some doubts must have risen about the crisis rhetoric, because in 1990, Admiral James Watkins, the secretary of energy (yes, energy), commissioned the Sandia Laboratories in New Mexico to document the decline with some actual data.

Systems scientists there produced a study consisting almost entirely of charts, tables, and graphs, plus brief analyses of what the numbers signified, which amounted to a major "Oops!" As their puzzled preface put it, "To our surprise, on nearly every measure, we found steady or slightly improving trends."

One section, for example, analyzed SAT scores between the late 1970s and 1990, a period when those scores slipped markedly. ("A Nation at Risk" spotlighted the decline of scores from 1963 to 1980 as dead-bang evidence of failing schools.) The Sandia report, however, broke the scores down by various subgroups, and something astonishing emerged. Nearly every subgroup -- ethnic minorities, rich kids, poor kids, middle class kids, top students, average students, low-ranked students -- held steady or improved during those years. Yet overall scores dropped. How could that be?

Simple -- statisticians call it Simpson's paradox: The average can change in one direction while all the subgroups change in the opposite direction if proportions among the subgroups are changing. Early in the period studied, only top students took the test. But during those twenty years, the pool of test takers expanded to include many lower-ranked students. Because the proportion of top students to all students was shrinking, the scores inevitably dropped. That decline signified not failure but rather progress toward what had been a national goal: extending educational opportunities to a broader range of the population.

By then, however, catastrophically failing schools had become a political necessity. George H.W. Bush campaigned to replace Reagan as president on a promise to confront the crisis. He had just called an education summit to tackle it, so there simply had to be a crisis.

The government never released the Sandia report. It went into peer review and there died a quiet death. Hardly anyone else knew it even existed until, in 1993, the Journal of Educational Research, read by only a small group of specialists, printed the report.

Getting Educators Out of Education

In 1989, Bush convened his education summit at the University of Virginia. Astonishingly, no teachers, professional educators, cognitive scientists, or learning experts were invited. The group that met to shape the future of American education consisted entirely of state governors. Education was too important, it seemed, to leave to educators.

School reform, as formulated by the summit, moved so forcefully onto the nation's political agenda that, in the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton had to promise to outtough Bush on education. As president, Clinton steered through Congress a bill called Goals 2000 that largely co-opted the policies that came out of the 1989 Bush summit.

After the 2000 election, George W. Bush dubbed himself America's "educator in chief," and until terrorism hijacked the national agenda, he was staking his presidency on a school-reform package known as the No Child Left Behind Act, a bill that -- as every teacher knows -- dominates the course of public education in America today."



"Reform, Not Improve
Bush Sr. launched the idea of a national education policy shaped at the federal level by politicians. Clinton sealed it, and our current president built on this foundation by introducing a punitive model for enforcing national goals. Earlier education activists had thought to achieve outcomes through targeted spending on the theory that where funding flows, school improvement flourishes. The new strategy hopes to achieve outcomes through targeted budget cutting -- on the theory that withholding money from failed programs forces them to shape up.

Which approach will actually improve education? Here, I think, language can lead us astray. In everyday life, we use reform and improve as synonyms (think: "reformed sinner"), so when we hear "school reform," we think "school improvement." Actually, reform means nothing more than "alter the form of." Whether a particular alteration is an improvement depends on what is altered and who's doing the judging. Different people will have different opinions. Every proposed change, therefore, calls for discussion.

The necessary discussion cannot be held unless the real alternatives are on the table. Today, essentially three currents of education reform compete with each other. One sees inspiration and motivation as the keys to better education. Reform in this direction starts by asking, "What will draw the best minds of our generation into teaching? What will spark great teachers to go beyond the minimum? What will motivate kids to learn and keep coming back to school?"

In this direction lie proposals for building schools around learners, gearing instruction to individual goals and learning styles, pointing education toward developing an ever-broader range of human capacities, and phasing in assessment tools that get at ever-subtler nuances of achievement. Overall, this approach promotes creative diversity as a social good.

A second current, the dominant one, sees discipline and structure as the keys to school improvement. Reform in this direction starts by asking, "What does the country need, what must all kids know to serve those needs, and how can we enforce the necessary learning?" In this direction, the curriculum comes first, schools are built around the curriculum, and students are required to fit themselves into a given structure, controlled from above. As a social good, it promotes national unity and strength. This is the road we're on now with NCLB.

A third possible direction goes back to diversity and individualism -- through privatization, including such mechanisms as tuition tax credits, vouchers (enabling students to opt out of the public school system), and home schooling. Proponents include well-funded private groups such as the Cato Institute that frankly promote a free-enterprise model for schooling: Anyone who wants education should pay for it and should have the right to buy whatever educational product he or she desires.

What's Next?
Don't be shocked if NCLB ends up channeling American education into that third current, even though it seems like part of the mainstream get-tough approach. Educational researcher Gerald Bracey, author of Reading Educational Research: How to Avoid Getting Statistically Snookered, writes in Stanford magazine that "NCLB aims to shrink the public sector, transfer large sums of public money to the private sector, weaken or destroy two Democratic power bases -- the teachers' unions -- and provide vouchers to let students attend private schools at public expense."

Why? Because NCLB is set up to label most American public schools as failures in the next six or seven years. Once a school flunks, this legislation sets parents free to send their children to a school deemed successful. But herds of students moving from failed schools to (fewer) successful ones are likely to sink the latter. And then what? Then, says NCLB, the state takes over.

And there's the rub. Can "the state" -- that is, bureaucrats -- run schools better than professional educators? What if they fail, too? What's plan C?

NCLB does not specify plan C. Apparently, that decision will be made when the time comes. But with some $… [more]
anationatrisk  2007  tamimansary  assessment  diversity  class  ronaldreagan  georgehwbush  georgewbush  nclb  policy  education  1983  1990  1993  1989  1992  2000  billclinton  sandiaeport  testing  standardizedtesting  statistics  power  politics  publischools  privatization  curriculum  rttt 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Beautiful Bytes of Data | The Jose Vilson
"The word data slides easily off the tongue but has no personality and sounds as dry as a funeral drum. School administrators try to grace the word by telling parents that “data-driven school districts” will radically change public education, hoping that a staccato of words and a flare of alliteration will impress a captive audience. Some disingenuous school officials assert that “data-driven” is an essential tool for effectively managing a business, so why not a school system?

But it’s all a ruse. The sum of all the rhetoric about the importance of designing data-driven school districts is a shell game, a slight of hand practiced by illusionists to distract trusting parents who believe school administrators know what is best for their children. Anything “data-driven” must be beneficial for schools, parents are told, because data is information, and information is necessary to make sound decisions about curriculum, instruction and learning. And since even the best used car salesperson can no longer sell the faux elixir of Common Core now that this failed one-size-fits-all education policy has been exposed, school administrators need a new mantra to mystify parents.

Data has an ugly side, a face that frequently emerges when it is misinterpreted or convoluted to justify a faulty assumption or bad decision. The countless financial manipulations practiced by Wall Street brokers and bankers have repeatedly proven that data can be exploited and cause financial ruin for millions of people. Data may be defined as a set of values of quantitative and qualitative variables, and business savors at the trough of data, but schools should be people-driven rather than data-driven institutions.

The young man who stepped in front of the train was a beautiful byte of data, but he was more than the sum of the quantitative information collected by a data-driven school district. His social and emotional data fills less space on his school district’s list of quantifiable student data than math and science scores, and that is the shame of the present state of American public education.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24, and more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease … combined. Need quantitative data? Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,400 suicide attempts by young people grades 7-12, and four out of five teens who have attempted suicide give clear warning signs. Maybe its time to take off the blinders of a data-driven school district to see clearly that our students are suffering.

Data is not our generation’s penicillin. It is an ugly word used by school administrators, policy makers, and government officials to demean the greatest social institution ever designed by human hands – a public school. Data is being used to compare the United States with countries such as Finland because the Finns score higher on international math and science tests, but can someone – anyone – tell me what Finland produces with their wealth of science and math knowledge?

[crickets]
The United States may score lower on international math and science tests, but somehow we instill creativity in our students and produce amazing technologies.

I taught and helped mentor the young man who stepped in front of the train. I helped him get a scholarship to a vocational school after he earned a high school diploma. He wanted to be an electrician, but I also knew about the many demons that tormented his gentle soul. He endured a miserable childhood, never knew his father, drank too much, and could not leash his black dog of depression. I tried to place him on a road that could lead him to a better place, believing that terra firma would make him feel a clearer path to success and salvation, but he could not see nor feel the ground beneath his feet. I failed.

I believe the vast majority of classroom teachers are not opposed to collecting data that may enhance instructional strategies or improve learning, but do object to a school system trying to emulate a business model designed to increase production and profits rather than enhance social and emotional growth. The social and emotional learning needs of children are too often omitted when describing the purpose of a “data-driven school district” and this is a flawed education philosophy.

The young man was a beautiful byte of data. Now he is a cold dead statistic."
2014  data  depression  metrics  schools  publischools  comparison  standardization  standardizedtesting  politics  policy  pisa  finland  us  testing  commoncore  josévilson 
november 2014 by robertogreco
A Not-So-Simple Majority | This American Life
"We take it for granted that the majority calls the shots. But in one NY school district, that idea — majority rules — has led to an all-out war. School board disputes are pretty common, but not like this one. This involves multimillion-dollar land deals, lawyers threatening to beat up parents, felony criminal charges, and the highest levels of state government. Meanwhile, the students are caught in the middle."
politics  schools  2014  thisamericanlife  publischools  money  government  governance 
september 2014 by robertogreco
We 'Choose' for Poor Children Every Day - Bridging Differences - Education Week
"You challenge me: "What gives you confidence that we get to choose?" You insist that "I don't pretend for a second that I get to choose. At least not for other people's children."

But in fact you/we are choosing, every day. In acts small and big, from deciding small classes don't matter, to deciding to gentrify Manhattan. The people of Harlem didn't have a choice. It's some other "we" who are moving other people and their children to locations not specified. What/who is it that didn't "adapt"? It wasn't the working people of Detroit or New Orleans or Manhattan who failed to "adapt"—it was the industries they counted on, the expertise of those well-educated people who did have the power to make some choices and failed to do so.

It was my dear old mother who warned me about people who cry "crisis" too often. I should beware of them, she said. Tell me what years there hasn't been a "crisis" that was blamed on our public schools? (Read Richard Rothstein's The Way Things Were—it's truly a fun read.) Yes, in some ways, I'm more "conservative" than you: I know who gets hurt first when we "disrupt" regardless ....

Yes, there is a lot of money spent on education, and any good entrepreneur seeks his or her opportunities where the money is. And then looks for ways to make more. That's not a plot or a conspiracy. Just good straight thinking. But not all entrepreneurs are equal when it comes to pushing for their self-interest.

So we agree on tests? If we do, then it wasn't test scores that revealed the rot in Detroit's schools for the poor. If you walked into them, without any data, you'd know immediately that you wouldn't CHOOSE to send your children there. Although for many parents it was a "home" of a sort, better than having none.

You wouldn't CHOOSE to live where these children do either. So whites moved out—by choice—and left Detroit what it is today. Whether the kinds of solutions that those who remained are exploring are utopian or not, I'm on their side. They're trying to reconstruct a city built on a different set of assumptions—that a community can be rebuilt out of the ashes. I wish them all the best, and offer any help I can.

It's too easy, from perches of comfort and adaptability, to say that factories come and go, as do oceans and rivers and mountains, and species. But the triumph of the human species, up to now, rests on its use of its brains. We're not exempt from some "laws" of nature. Adaptation isn't accomplished overnight. If we don't use our brains better (and more empathetically) we, too, will become extinct—although I can't adapt to that idea yet!

You and I—or some other somebodies—are deciding the future of "other people's children" unless we provide ways for "them" to have a voice, a vote, and the resources to decide their own future. We need to restore a better balance between local communal life (with its power to effect some immediate changes like we did at the small self-governing schools I love) and distant, "objective" moneyed power. It's our democracy that rests on our rebuilding strength at the bottom. If we don't, we induce a passivity that surely cannot be in the self-interest of the least powerful, but might (just might) be in the self-interest of others. And then we blame them for being passive?

The experiment in democracy may or may not survive this round, but I'm not giving up on it. "Self-governance"—of, for, and by the people, Robert, is what's at stake. Do we agree that it's an essential aspiration, another way of describing what we mean by freedom within community, or communities of free citizens? If so, what would it look like in schools given, as you remind me, the realities we must all "accept"—for the moment. Until we create new realities."
deborahmeier  2014  edreform  reform  education  democracy  choice  passivity  robertpondiscio  entrepreneurship  gentrification  adaptability  opportunity  community  schools  publischools  policy  self-governance  citizenship  civics  acceptance 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Adopt the Arts Foundation
"It is the mission of Adopt the Arts Foundation to bring together well-known artists, public figures, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and the general public to save the arts in America's public schools. We believe that it is morally and ethically incumbent upon us to foster the creativity, dreams, hopes, and imaginations of our children."
arts  art  losangeles  schools  education  publischools 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Daily Kos: So, Teacher, You Don't Want to be "Political"? That's No Longer An Option
"The only way left for you to not be "political" is to stop being committed to public education. So, welcome to "the collective", like it or not. Your critics have made sure that you are locked in."
via:lukeneff  teaching  politics  publischools  professionalism  education  policy  purpose  2011  from delicious
june 2011 by robertogreco
Sam Chaltain: Dear Mr. President: Just Go With the Flow ["research that breaks happiness down to four qualities: perceived control, perceived progress, a sense of connectedness, and a sense of meaning and purpose..."]
"Tony Hsieh gets this. He realizes the worst thing you can do, in an organizational context, is constrain people by micromanaging their activities. In the same way a soccer manager would look ridiculous by attempting to control the game from the sidelines -- his work is largely done by the time the game starts, and the rest is up to the players -- a business CEO must know what shared structures, & what individual freedoms, are essential. ...

Why is such simple, powerful wisdom so absent from our current conversations about public education? Why are we so afraid to acknowledge that the learning process is, like a soccer match, more dependent on simple structures, improvisation, and freedom than it is on complex structures, standardization, and fear? And why do we think the best way to improve school cultures is by incentivizing behavior with financial rewards, when scores of leading voices in the business world know that such a strategy is fool's gold?"
samchaltain  zappos  schools  teaching  management  administration  tonyhsieh  values  structure  organizations  learning  incentives  assessment  rewards  tcsnmy  lcproject  hierarchy  control  worldcup  metaphors  2010  happiness  well-being  progress  meaning  purpose  connectedness  belonging  perception  motivation  publischools  arneduncan  rttt  sports  football  soccer  flow  rhythm  futbol 
july 2010 by robertogreco

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