I received the following communication and think it will appeal to some readers of this blog.
I received the following communication and think it will appeal to some readers of this blog.
Ken Previti, a retired teacher, has been watching the evolution of school “reform,” and he wonders when the public will catch on to the schemes and fear-mongering. What is it all about? Sell-sell-sell.
Just doing what business does. Monetizing the children.
Robert D. Shepherd, one of our many brilliant readers, offered the following explanation of the impulse to standardize the education of children across the nation:
“It’s no secret that income inequality has skyrocketed in the United States in recent decades, that economic and social mobility have plummeted, that wealth has been increasingly concentrated at the top, and that increasingly, the affluent in this country are isolated in their own circles–living in their own separate neighborhoods; sending their kids to their own separate schools from preschool through college; keeping their money offshore; spending much of their time in homes outside the country; and so on.
“Isolation from ordinary people breeds contempt and prejudice. Lack of intimate, long-term interaction with ordinary people makes it easier for the wealthy to generalize about “those people,” whoever they might be–workers, teachers, the poor, etc., and to buy into across-the-board, one-size-fits-all prescriptions regarding those Others. It becomes easy to think that it makes sense that we have a top-down, mandated, invariant curriculum for the masses based upon the vise of invariant standards on the one side and invariant tests on the other if one thinks of teachers, students, workers, the poor–of any group of people outside the privileged class–as homogenous. “If only we held those people accountable via a standardized test!” begins to sound sensible, even though giving the same test to every third grader is equivalent to giving the same certification exam to plumbers, doctors, airplane mechanics, and NBA players. And when the privileged, with all their accomplishments and clout, make such generalizations, others buy in out of fear and self interest and, of course, respect. How could a man as clearly brilliant and skilled as, say, Bill Gates, be so terribly wrong? Our politicians left and right have almost entirely bought into the absurd generalizations underpinning the accountability movement. And our educational “leaders” have lacked all leadership; they haven’t had the courage to say that the emperor has no clothes.
“There are two main issues here: First, we can have liberty, or we can have standardized objectives (and, inevitably, the standardized curricula that follow from them) mandated by a small, centralized, unaccountable, totalitarian authority. Second, we can recognize students’ uniqueness and diversity and foster their individual propensities and talents, or we can give them a homogenous, one-size-fits-all education.
“It’s astonishing to me that there is even any debate about which we should do. And it’s horrifying that our “leaders”–professional education people–have come down so often on the side of taking away educators’ autonomy, their ability to make their own decisions about what to teach, when, and to whom.”
Since she upset the heavily-funded favorite in the recent Los Angeles school board runoff, many eyes are on Monica Ratliff.
Some of her supporters were concerned when she appeared at an event where the Gates-funded Educators for Excellence presented a report on teacher evaluation. The event was attended by Superintendent John Deasy and school board president Monica Garcia, an ally of Deasy.
Immediately the tweets began to fly claiming that Ratliff supported paying teachers by student test scores. Some worried that she had crossed over to the side that opposed her in the election.
I wrote Monica Ratliff, we had a candid conversation, and Monica advised that we should judge her by her votes as a board member, not by tweets that did not come from her.
“When I advocate for fixing the LAUSD teacher evaluation system and professional development system, I am NOT advocating that we link test scores to monetary gain for teachers or administrators.
“Across LA, there are public schools where scores have been rising over the years sans any monetary gain for teachers or administrators. If we link test scores to monetary gain, I have no doubt that we will see some increases in test scores but at what cost and by what means?
by Edgar Guest
My father knows the proper way
The nation should be run;
He tells us children every day
Just what should now be done.
He knows the way to fix the trusts,
He has a simple plan;
But if the furnace needs repairs,
We have to hire a man.
My father, in a day or two
Could land big thieves in jail;
There’s nothing that he cannot do,
He knows no word like “fail.”
“Our confidence” he would restore,
Of that there is no doubt;
But if there is a chair to mend,
We have to send it out.
All public questions that arise,
He settles on the spot;
He waits not till the tumult dies,
But grabs it while it’s hot.
In matters of finance he can
Tell Congress what to do;
But, O, he finds it hard to meet
His bills as they fall due.
It almost makes him sick to read
The things law-makers say;
Why, father’s just the man they need,
He never goes astray.
All wars he’d very quickly end,
As fast as I can write it;
But when a neighbor starts a fuss,
‘Tis mother has to fight it.
In conversation father can
Do many wondrous things;
He’s built upon a wiser plan
Than presidents or kings.
He knows the ins and outs of each
And every deep transaction;
We look to him for theories,
But look to ma for action.
- See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/20860#sthash.oIJqejbn.dpuf
There are far better ways to celebrate Father’s Day, but here is one to make you smile.
by: Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
“OU are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head–
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”
“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”
“You are old,” said the youth, “as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door–
Pray, what is the reason of that?”
“In my youth,” said the sage, as he shook his gray locks,
“I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment — one shilling the box –
Allow me to sell you a couple?”
“You are old,” said the youth, “and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak–
Pray, how did you manage to do it?”
“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw
Has lasted the rest of my life.”
“You are old,” said the youth, “one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose–
What made you so awfully clever?”
“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,”
Said his father; “don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I’ll kick you down-stairs!”
“Father William” is reprinted from The Hunting of the Snark and Other Poems and Verses. Lewis Carroll. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1903.
The Public Interest Center of Philadelphia analyzed Governor Corbett’s budget cuts. It should be no surprise to learn that the cuts fall most heavily on the neediest children, the children who are low-income and children of color. Their communities are not Governor Corbett’s political base. Even so, most public schools across the state have suffered because of the cuts.
The report found:
“In 2011 Governor Tom Corbett cut $1 billion in public school funding. As a result of these cuts 70 percent of school districts have increased class sizes, 44 percent slashed extracurricular activities and 35 percent eliminated tutoring programs. He has maintained this cut for the past two budgets and now proposes to increase public school funding by a mere $90 million. This still leaves a massive funding gap that 75 percent of public schools must account for by continuing to lay off teachers and staff this coming year. Because of this gap, Philadelphia school district is $300 million short of the budget needed to maintain its current minimal programs, forcing it to lay off 3,800 persons and strip its schools of all except mandated teachers and a principal; allowing no counselors, aides, or even a secretary to answer the phone.”
The Gates Foundation gave $10 million to the Discovery Institute.
This is a conservative public policy institute that promotes “intelligent design” and is skeptical of evolutionary theory.
It was founded by Bruce Chapman, an official in the Reagan administration.
The purpose of the grant is for research, advocacy, and transportation.
Presumably this mean the Gates Foundation wanted the Discovery Institute to do research about and advocacy for intelligent design. Why they needed so much money for transportation is not all that clear.
If these are concerns of the Gates Foundation, why didn’t they give the money to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Research Council, or some other august scientific group?
I don’t understand the Gates Foundation.
I always hold out hope that Mike Petrilli will be the conservative who one day leaves behind his brethren and realizes that the punitive policies of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top were a huge and costly mistake. Why do I hold out hope for Mike? I know him, and I know he is a good man. He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He has young children, and he will soon see how the testing monster will try to devour them and destroy their love of learning.
In his last exchange with Deborah Meier at “Bridging Differences” at Education Week, I see the glimmer of hope that I have been waiting for. Mike describes himself as a “Whole Foods Republican,” and then asserts that we are helpless to do much about poverty because we don’t know what to do. That is not a glimmer of hope, as I think we can forge poverty-reduction policies that work, as other nations have. We should not give up trying.
What gives me hope is not Mike’s sense of futility about poverty, but his proposal that states should have the authority to allow schools to opt out of the soul-deadening testing-and-accountability regime if they can show that their metrics are better than those of the federal and state governments.
Thus, he would give his consent to the New York Performance Standards Consortium, which has documented its success in graduation rates, college admission rates, and persistence in college rates. Granted, it took time to get that data. A group of schools needs a decade or more to generate the results of their program.
But think of the creativity and innovation that would be unleashed if schools were offered the freedom to opt out and select different ways to measure their success.
Good job, Mike.
Newark, New Jersey, has been under state control for 18 years, and many residents have sought a return of local control. Their demands have grown louder since the district became a playground for reformers after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave the city $100 million for reform and the state appointed Broad-trained superintendent Cami Anderson.
In a surprise move, State Commissioner Chris Cerf gave the district’s powerless elected board “fiscal control” but no one knows what that means. Can they cut the budget proposed by Anderson? Can they change it? Can they raise or lower her salary? No one knows.
The most important responsibility of a school board is to hire and fire the superintendent, and this power they definitely do not have.