Archives for the month of: June, 2012

A judge in North Carolina turned down K12″s application to open a cyber charter in that state.

In doing so, the judge sided with the North Carolina Department of Education, which did want to approve the request.

As the story explains, there were many questions about the cyber charter, including the fact that its educational record is not impressive.

In fact, its educational record is downright unimpressive. As I said in an earlier blog, granting this charter would add to the coffers of the publicly-traded for-profit corporation that runs the cyber charters, but would have drained money from NC’s public schools and provided an inferior education. In short, it would have been a waste of taxpayers’ money. And a bad decision for children.

Happily, the court did the right thing. It’s nice to have some good news at the end of the school year, or any other time, for that matter.

The judge protected the children of North Carolina.

After reading about the corporate reform “fight club,” Imagine Wisconsin writes:

Add to the fight club the Education Action Group that is anonymously backed by Tea Party funding. This group works hand-in-hand with breitbart.com, MacIver Institute, & Heartland Institute. EAG is Michigan based, but with a national mission to bring down public education. They messed in the WI recall of Gov. Walker. I suspect this covert group has much more involvement in local affairs

Readers, who are your nominees?

A 16-year teacher wrote to say he had just completed his professional development course for the Common Core.

He got a certificate “honoring” him for having done so. It was co-signed by someone from the New York City Department of Education and someone from “Pearson/America’s Choice.”

Why a private vendor that is making a profit selling this stuff should sign the certificate is beyond my understanding.

But here’s the context: This teacher has a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in history. He taught history and social studies in a large high school that the Bloomberg administration closed down and replaced with five small schools. Most of the veteran teachers don’t have jobs anymore; instead they were placed into the Absent Teacher Reserve, which means they float from school to school for a week at each school, like permanent substitutes.

So, to add to the indignity of losing his school, losing his position, and losing his colleagues, this teacher now has the honor of a certificate congratulating him for having mastered the Common Core learning standards, co-signed by the vendor.

What kind of a world is this? Maybe that should be the title of my blog, because I ask that question almost daily, it seems.

Diane

Back when I was on the right side of the political fence, I was on the editorial board at Education Next. It is supported by the Hoover Institution and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, both conservative think tanks with which I was affiliated. The journal, which is based at Harvard and edited mainly by Paul Peterson, was created to counter what was seen as the liberal bias of the mainstream education media.

Education Next is a well-edited journal (I used to write a monthly book review there), but it does have a strong bias in favor of charter schools, vouchers, and testing. It is the journal of the corporate reform movement.

The current issue of Education Next has a fascinating article about the “reformers’ fight club.” I have been writing and speaking about the interconnections among these organizations (and there are many more), and it is good to see confirmation of what I have been saying.

For some reason, these incredibly rich and powerful organizations like to portray themselves as underdogs in contrast to the teachers’ unions.

So, get this picture: On one side are the 3.2 million teachers who belong to the NEA and the AFT. On the other side are the Gates Foundation ($60 billion), the Broad Foundation (billions), the Walton Foundation (billions, and spent $159 million this past year alone on education grants), the Dell Foundation, big corporations, Democrats for Education Reform (Wall Street hedge fund managers who can pump millions into political campaigns at will), and 50CAN (more hedge fund managers). And there are supposedly “liberal” advocacy groups like Education Trust and Ed Sector.

Gosh, that is surely an unequal lineup. No wonder the “fight club” feels like underdogs. Those teachers’ unions are just so doggone powerful and rich. Why, they have the big foundations and Wall Street trembling. Who knew that teachers had so much power?

Diane

In response to my blog about “A Confusing Job Market,” a reader proposes that the Department of Education merge with the Department of Labor.

Maybe the U.S. Dept. of Labor and the U.S. Dept. of Education should work together. In order to save money and improve test scores my suburban/urban ring high school has eliminated auto, electricity, wood-shop, culinary arts, and child development. Aren’t schools supposed to prepare students for employment and civic responsibility? The Dept. of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table 6, lists the 30 occupations with the most employment growth - http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.t06.htm. It’s clear that ALL children don’t need to go to college. It’s also becoming clear that education is becoming the newest pyramid scheme. I’ve noticed a proliferation of post-secondary career and technical schools which teach skills that used to be taught in comprehensive high schools.
What careers do standardized tests prepare students for? Psychometrician? I don’t see it listed in the top 30.

This is not a new idea. Before there was a federal Department of Education, there was the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. As the federal government’s programs grew, HEW became too large, and discussions began about breaking it up. One proposal was to have a Department of Education and Labor, but eventually the two were separated into two departments. It might have made just as much sense to have a Department of Health and Education, had we honored the age-old principle of “a sound mind in a sound body.”

We have all heard the stories about how American workers don’t have the skills to get the good jobs there are waiting for them, so American businesses have to hire people from other countries. This is meant usually as an indictment of public education, although it is really quite a stretch since the skills that are allegedly lacking are usually in highly technical jobs, not in jobs where high school students are likely to be prepared.

Consider an example of this is in the New York Times on Thursday. The story in the business section goes on at great length about how the CEO of a small web design company in New York City searched high and low to fill ten jobs and he couldn’t find anyone with the right technical skills. So he had to look abroad.

The article goes on to say that there are 300,000 jobs for truckers that are open right now. Someone in the trucking industry says they have a hard time holding on to good drivers. He says, “I think it boils down to high expectations. Trucking is the classic blue-collar job that nobody wants anymore.”

As I read this article, it became clear that the jobs that are open do not require a college degree.  They require people who can speak, read, and write good English, people who have “social skills,” which I suppose means the ability to get along with customers and co-workers. (The narrative gets even more complicated if you read another story, same day, about a young woman with a community college degree who joined 26,000 others in line, hoping to get a job as an usher or a ticket-seller or food vendor at a new sports stadium. Note: half the African-Americans in New York City are unemployed).

The schools have never been very good at forecasting what the economy of the future might want, or what kinds of jobs will be open in five or ten years, or how the nature of work will change. Even people who do this for a living are often wrong or not around to held accountable when we find out that they were wrong.

This article reminds me that the role of the schools is unchanging: to equip young people with the skills and knowledge to be good citizens and help to sustain our democracy into the future. They need a grounding in science, mathematics, history, literature, the arts, world cultures, and foreign language. They need to learn the social skills of sharing, cooperation, and courtesy. The adults in charge need to encourage the development of good character, which is fundamental to good citizenship.

Some things never change. The job market will change, however, as it always has, and young people should be prepared to learn new skills and to take change of their own life.

Diane

A reader with an engineering degree read my blog about Bill Gates’ ideas for reforming American higher education, and he offered his advice to Gates:

I’m sure that everyone who has felt the sting of the Gates approach to k12 education will really love his cavalier, innovate, make mistakes and learn approach. How nice for him to treat not just one school or state but the whole nation as his guinea pigs.
What was chilling was his terrier like tenaciousness that his focus on education will be there 15-20 years from now until his job is done.
Someone out there please give this man a real job to do. His so called philanthropy is killing education, is warping parts of the planet ecologically and is suffocating any real innovation.
If Bill Gates had had more eye opening classes, maybe one in the classics or philosophy or literature or art, he might have more ‘reverence’ for the opening up of the mind. I had to fight tooth and nail to take liberal arts electives as an engineering undergrad and I to this day my favorite class was a medieval literature class taught at UC Berkeley. Didn’t pursue that, had no job skills attached to it but it completely changed the value I placed on things I knew nothing about it. Learning as a means to open the mind.
The B school model is really decimating that.
I would really love it if Bill Gates took on college sports teams and THEIR graduation rates- I would pay money to watch those arguments flying.

I received an email with a copy of this blog by a parent in Iowa who happens also to be a law professor.

He is justifiably incensed that the people, the policymakers and the legislators who love choice have taken away all his choices as a parent.

He wants his kids to go to a school where there is no high-stakes testing, but he doesn’t have that choice.

He wants his kids to go to a school where teachers are allowed to use their professional judgment, but he doesn’t have that choice and neither do the teachers.

He wants his kids to go to a school where his children have time for physical activity and play, but he doesn’t have that choice.

He wants a school that has not been pressed into a standardized mold tied to standardized tests, but he doesn’t have that choice.

He has a proposal for real choice. Read the blog to see what it is.

As I read his ideas, I realized that if he lived in New York City or New Orleans and perhaps other cities, there is one other choice that he would not have: the choice to send his children to a neighborhood school. Our elites have decided that choice should not be available in their new marketplace of choice.

Diane

I received a notice of a major conference of equity investors in the for-profit education industry.

It will be held on July 26 at a private club in New York City.

Tickets are $1,195 for the day.

The invitation to purchase a ticket came from the respected K-12 journal Education Week, which is a “media partner” for the event.

I think I am entitled to a discount because I am a subscriber.

I don’t want to go.

I don’t want to see the for-profit corporations taking over more schools.

I don’t like what is happening.

I wish the U.S. Department of Education and President Obama would speak out against the creeping–no, galloping–privatization of education.

The for-profit online “colleges” and “universities” recruit students in volume, collect the federal aid that comes with them, have high dropout rates, and low graduation rates.

Why are our top education leaders sitting back and letting this happen without a squawk.

I think we should all squawk.

This is crazy.

Diane

Dear Readers,

As you know, I have been posting about four to ten blogs every day since I started doing this at the end of April. There are now more than 300 blogs in the archive.

This summer, I am trying to do something I have never done before. I am trying to write a book during the months of July and August. My deadline is Labor  Day. I don’t know if I can do this, but I am going to try. The only book that I ever wrote on a short timeline was The Language Police, and that took six months. (My other books took years.) I am now in the realm of “I think I can, I think I can…”

So, to give myself more time to write the book, I plan not to blog on weekends. Maybe I’ll post only three or four blogs a day. I’ll see how it goes. For me, the blogging is so much fun that it is almost irresistible. I love sharing my thoughts, and I love giving voice to teachers and parents through my blog. I think of this blog as my hometown newspaper, but this hometown is not in one geographic spot.

So, please do read the blog on weekends, use it as a time to go into the archives.

And keep reading Monday through Friday.

Diane

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