Archives for category: Global Education Reform Movement

Denny Taylor is Professor Emerita of Literacy Studies at Hofstra University. She has won many awards for her writing about literacy and literature. She is also the founder and CEO of Garn Press, which published the book I am reviewing (and also published Anthony Cody’s The Educator and the Oligarch).

 

Save Our Children, Save Our School, Pearson Broke the Golden Rule is a political satire about the current education “reform” movement. It takes place in an imaginary “Cafe Griensteidl” in New York City, at 72nd Street and Broadway, where the author and a friend meet for coffee. In this comedy, the leading players in the “reform” movement appear at the cafe and get into discussion or debate with the author. Nine powerful men happen to be in the cafe, including Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Joel Klein, and Michael Barber (of Pearson). They banter with the author and her friend. She makes clear that these nine powerful men know nothing about education yet are taking control of the American public school system.

 

The men leave, and in the last “Act” of the book, twelve eminent female scholars (living and dead) talk about what is happening and the need to resist. The chapter is headed by this statement: “In which twelve venerable women scholars with more than 500 years of teaching experience refuse to capitulate to the demands made by nine rich men who have no teaching qualifications or teaching experience.” Hannah Arendt, Virginia Woolf, Simone Weil, Adrienne Rich, Yetta Goodman, Toni Morrison, and more are there. As the wise women speak, people come into the cafe and make YouTube videos, Tweet, or just listen. Yetta begins to rap. Horns honk. Traffic jams form at the corner of 72nd Street and Broadway. The women at the table clap along with Yetta’s rapping. The women talk about how to stop the corporate takeover of U.S. education.

 

Denny Taylor, sitting at the table with the great women, says, “Children have a right to a free and public education. For the pursuit of human knowledge and understanding that is free of corporate greed.”

 

“We should not have to ask permission for teachers to teach in developmentally appropriate ways that inspire and excite, and enhance our children’s incredible capacity to learn–

 

“–for the sheer joyfulness of their lives and for their lightness of being.”

 

The great women agree: We are and always will be defenders of every child’s right to a childhood free of despots and demons, except those they imagine when playing with friends….”

 

The author says, “Dump Pearson….Barber and Pearson are taking our children in the wrong direction,” she says. “His Whole System of Global Education Revolution is a global social catastrophe, a total system failure.”

 

Others ask how to stop this recklessness. The author responds, “The madness will stop if we refuse to participate. The struggle for democracy is always ground up….Make it a crime for oligarchs to interfere with democratic social systems. It’s vote tampering on a national scale.” She adds, referring to Bill Gates, “He’s violating the rights of fifty million children, jeopardizing their future. Send him to jail.”

 

“Tell Gates we choose decency and democracy and not the indecency of his oligarchy. He does not have the power to dictate how our children are taught in public schools.

 

“Tell him we refuse to participate in his Common Core experiments. Ban the use of galvanic skin devices in affective computing trials that he’s funded.

 

“Tell him to stop wasting his money. To spend it for the Common Good. Build new public schools. Create parks in poor urban neighborhoods. Make sure there are health centers. Medical care for everyone in the community.

 

“Tell him to put his money into Earth-friendly low-income housing.

 

“Libraries. Media centers.

 

“Work with local leaders. Make sure they’re not exploited…

 

“Pearson could too. Tell Barber we take back our independence. That US public schools are no longer under Pearson’s colonial rule.”

 

The book is funny, learned, and zany. If you want to order it, go to http://www.garnpress.com.

Which is the most powerful player behind the scenes in corporate reform?

This article says, without doubt, McKinsey.

Where did David Coleman, architect of the Common Core standards, get his start: McKinsey.

Which firm pushes the narrative of a “crisis in education”: McKinsey.

Which firm believes that Big Data will solve all problems? McKinsey.

Look behind the screen, behind the curtain: McKinsey.

Pasi Sahlberg, a visiting professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, spoke recently to Citizens for Public Schools in Massachusetts.

His topic: what can Massachusetts learn from “Finnish Lessons”?

It is worth watching. Pasi is always a wonderful speaker, and he is a leader in the international fight to resist test-mania and privatization and to protect education and children.

Professor David Hursh of the University of Rochester visited New Zealand, where he explained so-called “education reform” in the United States. He very bluntly describes the bipartisan agenda that is proving to be harmful to students, teachers, and public education.

Hursh met with educators in Australia and New Zealand over a five-week period, encouraging them to resist the high-stakes testing movement.

A teacher in the UK describes what happens when superiors demand that he or should hit their predicted targets, without respect to reality.

It begins:

“The Secret Teacher

“Some years ago I was called by my head of department to discuss the grades I’d predicted for a year 11 class. They were aspirational and realistic. I was told to change them. My forecast was not in line with school targets for A*-C so if I didn’t change them I would be “targeting failure”. I changed them.

“I’ve got young kids, a mortgage and could do without the stress of a capability procedure. Morals don’t pay the bills. The class achieved close to my original prediction. I was admonished over my underperformance and the inaccuracy of my predictions – the predictions which weren’t actually mine at all.

“Following so far? Good. Because that’s target-driven education; a farce.
This September, Birendra Singh, who spent five years observing science teaching in three unnamed London schools, told BBC News that “the rate of cheating suggested in [my] small study may be indicative of a bigger picture”. He was right. It’s epidemic.

“We’ll go to epic lengths to fiddle controlled assessment. We’ll enter whatever number we need to make the spreadsheet turn green regardless of whether a kid has done the work. Until recently, we’d lie about pupils’ speaking and listening scores (easy pickings – nobody ever checked) to boost them to a C. In short, we remove every last scrap of accountability from the pupil and pull every trick in the book to make sure “they achieve their potential”.

“The result? There’s a demographic of our children with little cognitive link between hard work and achievement – that hard work leads to achievement. It doesn’t matter if you work hard or not, you’ll get the grade anyway and we’ll parade you under the banner of “improving standards”.

A reader describes the impact of GERM in Spain, where she teaches. The Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg coined the term GERM in his book “Finnish Lessons.” It refers to the Global Education Reform Movement. GERM refers to interlocking strategies of testing, choice, competition. PISA spreads GERM. GERM turns education into a competition for test scores, instead of a process of human development.

“Thanks for your blog I have just discovered two months ago.

“Here in Spain we are having lot of troubles in schools and as teachers, due to the policy of our new goverments whose only aim is to reach higher figures in school results without paying any attention to the needs of our students or the increasing difficulties of budgets. During the last year, they have been cutting our budgets and criminalised teachers, they have only paid attention to PISA results, but not in order to solve real problems. So reading your posts makes me see we are not mistaken, and our fight for a public and democratic school is legitimate.”

Finland was not at the top of the PISA league tables in the latest assessment. So what does this mean for the future?

Here, Pasi Sahlberg explains that Finland never cared about being first.

What it wanted most was to have the kind of education that was best for youth development.

What will happen now that its scores have dropped?

Sahlberg writes:

Finland should not do what many other countries have done when they have looked for a cure to their ill-performing school systems. Common solutions have included market-based reforms, such as increasing competition between schools, standardization of teaching and learning, tougher test-based accountability and privatization of public schools. Instead, Finns must protect their schools from the Global Educational Reform Movement (GERM) that has failed to help schools to get better in other countries.  The better way for Finland is to ensure that schools are able to cope with increasing inequality, that teachers have tools to help students with individual needs, and that all schools get support to succeed.

PISA results are too often presented as a simple league table of education systems. But there is much more that the data reveal. The Finnish school system continues to be one of the most equitable among the OECD countries. This means that in Finland, students’ learning in school is less affected by their family backgrounds than in most other countries. Schools in Finland remain fairly equal in learning outcomes despite the rapid growth of non-Finnish speaking children in schools.

Finland should also continue to let national education and youth policies — and not PISA — drive what is happening in schools. Reading, science, and mathematics are important in Finnish education system but so are social studies, arts, music, physical education, and various practical skills. Play and joy of learning characterize Finland’s pre-schools and elementary classrooms. Many teachers and parents in Finland believe that the best way to learn mathematics and science is to combine conceptual, abstract learning with singing, drama, and sports. This balance between academic and non-academic learning is critical to children’s well-being and happiness in school. PISA tells only a little about these important aspects of school education.

Please read Jersey Jazzman’s hilarious spoof on “The Night Before Christmas.”

He anticipates not the joy of Christmas and Santa, but the much-anticipated release of PISA scores, when Arne Duncan gets to tell the nation once again how terrible American education is and how we are losing the global competition and why we are still a nation at risk.

He will conveniently overlook the fact that he is Secretary of Education and has now been in charge for nearly five years. No accountability for him!

He will surround himself with Beltway insiders who agree that our schools are dreadful despite 11 years of No Child Left Behind and nearly five years of Race to the Top.

How many more years must we wait until we declare these programs failures?

This is how JJ’s poem begins:

“‘Twas the night before PISA Day, when all through the foundations
The wonks were all dreaming about Bill Gates’s donations;

The rankings were crafted for each nation with care,
In hopes that more grants would come from billionaires;

The children were tested and stressed at their desks;
While visions of bubble sheets made them feel quite grotesque;

Suburban moms in their ‘kerchiefs, and dads in their caps,
Hoped on test day their children’s brains wouldn’t collapse,

When out at the DOE there arose such a clatter,
I looked up from Klein’s tablet to see what was the matter.”

Two nations were influenced by our thinkers and example:
Finland and Chile. Finland learned its lessons from John Dewey. Its
schools are child-centered. It prizes the arts and physical
education. It has no standardized testing. Its schools are noted
for both excellence and equity. It is a top performer on
international tests. Chile learned its lessons from Milton
Friedman. It has vouchers and testing. Its schools are highly
segregated by social class. The quality of education is highly
dependent on family income. Students in Chile are rioting to demand
free public education. No one considers Chile a model. Which
direction are we going? Why? Whose ideas are dominant
today?

Chilean researcher Alvaro Gonzalez Torrez has read the
posts about Chile and thinks the solutions are too timid. Here are
his suggestions for what is needed to get free of free-market
ideology:

“I’ve been following the series of three blog posts about
Chile, being a Chilean ed researcher myself. I believe Waissbluth’s
contribution to the blog opens a debate of international relevance
by showcasing the Chilean example in the context of a global
advance of neoliberal policies in education (what Pasi Sahlberg
calls ‘GERM’).

I agree with the (dreadful) diagnosis offered by
Mario Waissbluth in terms of the consequences of neoliberal and
market policies in school education: high social segregation and
low attainment in schools, plus a weakened public image of public
education and the teaching profession.

Sharing the diagnosis,however, I do believe Waissbluth’s (and Educación 2020’s) proposals
to revert this situation would fall short to produce the necessary
changes. I don’t think this is the place to get in a detailed
argument, but I would say that Chile’s problems won’t be solved by
employing ‘market tools’ and ‘special funds’ as change levers.

There’s a need for more radical responses to address the radically
grim scenario of Chilean school education. The idea is to break
free from the neoliberal principles underpinning the Chilean school
system (market, choice, privatisation) that have turned education
into a commodity.

To do so, it isn’t enough to think that ‘we can
play the game better’ than the people that came before us, and use
neoliberal strategies to improve education quality (which is, in my
opinion, what people from the Concertación thought in the
90s).”

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