Archives for category: Students

Tim Slekar, dean of education at Edgewood College in Wisconsin, has been a relentless fighter against high-stakes testing and privatization for years. Here he explains what the recent election meant for children and public schools in Wisconsin, what might be called politely a fist in the face or a hard blow to the gut.

 

There can be no doubt that re-elected Scott Walker will push for more vouchers, more charters, more high-stakes testing and call himself a “reformer.”

 

The Assembly speaker said that it was time for a new accountability bill, despite decades of failed accountability demands from Washington, D.C. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting better results is the definition of insanity, isn’t it?

 

Some local school boards plan to “hunker down” and wait for the next election.

 

Tim shouts “NO!” as loud as he can:

 

“Hunkering down” has to be one of the most damaging strategies for anybody or any organization that has the democratic and constitutional responsibility to do what is best for children. Just the idea that the new found power elite are proposing educational “accountability” after 30 years of failed accountability should motivate all that care about children and public schools to regroup, organize, strategize, and then counter attack.

 

Winning an election does not give permission to anti-intellectual, political hacks to prescribe abusive accountability schemes that only hurt children, teachers, and communities and funnel tax dollars to political donors.

 

Hunker down? No! My daughter and son don’t need spineless adults unwilling to protect the only chance they have at a critical and powerful democratic education. My children deserve (and so do all Wisconsin children) advocacy and action! Vos and all the other accountability hawks hellbent on killing childhood are the ones that need to be held accountable. For 30 years they have defunded and redirected precious resources to an accountability scam designed to enrich test and data companies and dismantle OUR public schools. NO MORE! Test and punish accountability has been a disaster!

 

It’s time for an accountability system that holds legislators accountable for making sure all children come to school well fed, well clothed, warm, healthy, and protected from the trauma of living in a state of perpetual uncertainty—poverty. If this new set of power pawns fail to pry our most vulnerable from the trappings of generational racism and destroy the economic system that only rewards their campaign funders then they must be the ones held accountable, judged “legislatively inadequate” and stripped of all legislative power. We must get rid of “failing” legislators.

 

 

Jose Luis Vilson is a math teacher. Not just any math teacher. He is also a poet, a blogger, an activist, an outspoken professional. His blog, thejosevilson.com, is immensely popular. I am writing about Vilson today because I hope you will read his book. This Is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education.

The book is an autobiography, but it is also—as the subtitle says—a reflection on race, class, and education. As you read it, you have the opportunity to walk in Vilson’s shoes. To understand where he came from and how he became a teacher. He grew up in a mixed-race family (a Haitian father and Dominican mother), so he is both black and Hispanic. He was raised by a single mother; when a new stepfather moved in, he was often beaten for little or no reason. The family moved to the Lower East Side when he was a child, and he became accustomed to seeing rats and roaches as part of everyday life. And yet, despite all adversities, despite a deck that was decidedly stacked against him, he exuded confidence, confidence in himself and in his ability to succeed. His mother was determined that he would get a good education, and Jose took to education naturally. He loved learning, and he excelled in school. He went to PS 140, a neighborhood public elementary school, where his teachers encouraged him, then to an independent Catholic middle school (Nativity Mission School on the Lower East Side, where he had a strong mentor), and to Xavier, a Jesuit high school, where he was one of a small number of students of color. There, the issue of race became important in discussions of who would be included, who would participate, who would be slighted. In each of his schools, he remembers the teachers who touched his life and changed it.

Vilson went to Syracuse University, where he intended to become a computer scientist. Even as he studied his major field, he had some concern about spending the rest of his life staring at computer code. After he graduated, he decided to try teaching. He applied to Teach for America, but was rejected. Then he applied to the New York City Teaching Fellows, another alternate program but one that (unlike TFA) prepares teachers who are likely to make a career in the classroom. He was accepted, worked with a cohort, and eventually earned a degree from City College of New York.

The balance of the book describes Vilson’s experiences in the classroom. He is assigned to a middle school where most students are black, Hispanic, and poor. He identifies with them. But beyond identifying with them, he must teach them, get their attention, persuade them about the importance of mathematics, deal with angry and belligerent students, figure out how to respond to students who challenge him with humor or ridicule or hostility. If you want to know what it is like to teach in an urban school, read this book. Vilson does not spare himself. He is honest about his mistakes and celebrates small victories. He has no great love or respect for “the system,” but it is just one more obstacle to overcome as he concentrates on teaching the students in his care.

Through the book runs references to rap music, to Hip-Hop, to other cultural references that flow naturally among those a generation far younger than mine and in a culture that is not mine. And yet, of course, it works for Vilson, because it is his generation and his culture. These references help to illustrate one of his central themes: that teachers must be able to identify with their students to understand them, to get below their surface, to make connections beyond academics, in order to reach them and teach them. He cares deeply what his students think and feel.

He admires Jaime Escalante, the math teacher who inspired Hispanic students in Los Angeles to excel in math. When he gets word that the administration of his school is planning to give him a U (unsatisfactory) rating (which is likely to end his career as an untenured teacher) because his bulletin board was ordinary, he hangs a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speech (“I’ve Been to the Mountain Top”) on his classroom desk, reminding him to feel no fear. He did not get that U rating.

As Vilson becomes a more confident teacher, he becomes a more outspoken activist. He is not shy. He advocates for more teachers of color in the classrooms where children are overwhelmingly black and Hispanic. When he attends conferences, he often finds himself the only person who is black (or Hispanic), and he makes sure to make enough noise so that next year’s conference will include more teachers of color, so that the issue of diversity becomes important to the conference organizers. He becomes an advocate for “teacher voice,” aware that most decisions about how and what to teach are all too often made by people who never set foot in a classroom or did so years ago.

He offers tips to other teachers: Get your students’ respect; “don’t try to change them, try to know them”; show up to student activities, like basketball games, talent shows, to show your support; talk to them; humble yourself; “celebrate and accentuate the positive”: most of your students are trying hard and want to succeed; celebrate their achievements.

When Jose Luis Vilson starts his blog, he gains a national following and finds himself invited to national conferences. He uses his new-found acclaim to advocate for kids and other teachers.

Yes, he has written a new narrative on race, class, and education. But he has also written an inspiring account of what it means to teach. He loves teaching. It defines him. He writes:

“Teaching grasps the soul like a finger probing, not clenching, the heart. It begs you to advocate on behalf of the children, even when you least expect to. Teachers learn to be selfless, to deliver sincerely no matter what’s happening in their personal lives. Despite my difficulties with my homeroom, my administration, or other teachers, when I walk into my classroom I’m given another reason to love what I do. I rarely ever have two bad days in a row (or else!). I love walking into school knowing that it’s not going to be the same exact job it was a day, a month, or a year ago. A student always finds a way to inspire me or crack me the hell up. The only real feedback I need is from the students in front of me.
“Teaching has given me no choice but to activate my best inner qualities and to accept and embrace that I will never stop being a student myself. I love that every day there’s a new set of problems for me to solve. Even as I’m teaching my kids math, I’m learning along with them…..

“I hope that becoming a key player in the lives of hundreds of students a year will fuel your fire—knowing that it’s not enough to simply do, but that you must leave a legacy of doing. As a teacher you will play such an important part in your students’ lives that even when they forget the specifics of what you taught them, they’ll remember the feelings and life lessons you left them with, the impression that someone other than their parents (if applicable) cared enough to spur them toward their own success.

“You can make the difference.”

Jose Luis Vilson gives his readers a heavy dose of honesty, self-reflection, and insight. He cares passionately about his students. He fights for them (and occasionally spars with them). He loves his work. How many people can say, as Vilson, does, that they love what they do? That is what the detractors of teachers never understand; it is a joy that they will not experience. Vilson shares his joy and his experience.

Chalkbeat in Colorado reports that school authorities are worried about a mass opt-out by high school students in Boulder and in Douglas County and possibly other districts. The students say they have been tested nonstop during their entire school careers, and “enough is enough.” They are right.

 

This letter just in from a student leader in Colorado, who attends Fairview High School in Boulder, the epicenter of the student revolt. When the students organize and push back, they will change the national climate. Students are the true victims of our nation’s obsession with high-stakes testing and standardized testing. It is they who are losing a real education while their schools are compelled to administer test after test, taking away a month or more of instruction, dropping the arts and other subjects that encourage creativity. When teachers and administrators protest, they can be fired. The students cannot be fired. They are powerful because they are free to voice their opinions without fear of retribution.  If this time of national test mania should ever subside, it will be because students like these in Colorado stood together and demanded real education, real instruction, instruction meant to recognize their talents and to inspire them to ask questions, not to check the right boxes. As the scholar Yong Zhao writes in his last book about Chinese education, standardized tests are inherently authoritarian; they require students to give the answer that the authorities demand. These students reject authoritarianism; they want an education that challenges them, inspires them, brings out the best in them. And they are right. They are the Tom Paines of our time. May their numbers multiply. They act in the authentic American tradition of revolt against distant and oppressive authorities.

 

For their intelligence, their courage, and their resistance to mindless demands that destroy their education, I name these students to the honor roll of the blog. The adults are “just following orders.” The students are taking an active role in their own education.

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Ms. Ravitch,
My name is Jennifer Jun and I am a senior at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado. I’m writing to tell you that the senior class of our school, along with several other schools, is planning a protest of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) test that is expected to take place this Thursday 11/13 and Friday 11/14.

 

I have been following your blog and updates to educational issues for some time now, and I simply wanted to reach out and let you know. It would be an honor to have our event recognized by a key individual in the national education reform dialogue like you.
After extensive and research and discussion our senior class has decided that the implementation of this test did not take into account student opinions, and also does not accurately reflect the Colorado social studies and science curriculum. Therefore, we students have decided to opt out of the test and gather by the school during the testing hours to protest the lack of student voice that goes into such educational reform.

 

The students have been actively initiating dialogue with school administration, the district, and intend to find other channels to talk to policy makers and individuals that are involved in implementations of such tests.

 

Students have made a 3-minute informational video about the protest, which outlines additional details about the event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38zAfVOu1tw&feature=youtu.be . We have also written an open letter discussing our opinions of the test: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1tbDg-SEqpYrBUwixGh4wuMu6B0YYnfftt6u-cI5dWmQ/edit?usp=sharing

 

The protest was just released to the public today, and here is one of the several articles outlining the event: http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-schools/ci_26910001/boulder-valley-seniors-plan-protest-state-tests-this
Thank you for your time and for being such an active voice for the students and the betterment of education.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Jennifer Jun
Fairview High School

jenniferjunfhs@gmail.com

Peter Smagorinsky, professor at the University of Grorgia, is one of our most astute critics of the current testing mania. This essay appeared in Maureen Downey’s blog in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He writes:

“The Georgia Department of Education has introduced a new assessment vehicle, the “Student Growth Model,” to measure student and school progress. According to the DOE, it produces “[t]he metric that will help educators, parents, and other stakeholders better understand and analyze the progress students make year to year.”
Very enticing. Who wouldn’t want such an instrument to track students’ growth?

Georgia plans to assess teachers based on student growth, but are we clear on what growth really means?

The Student Growth Model relies on two measurements. One is based on the percentage of students who meet or exceed state standards on standardized tests. The second measurement is designed to assess year-to-year progress of each student, compared both to students in other Georgia schools and to students at the national level in “academically similar” schools in terms of demographic and socioeconomic statistics.

These measurements make up a major portion of the state’s new teacher assessment system. The model assumes that there is a one-to-one causal relationship between individual teachers and individual students in terms of their test scores, which serve as a proxy for learning, for growth, and for teacher effectiveness in all areas.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, whose coverage of education I respect, has provided very favorable exposure of this initiative, using the language of advancement to describe its (as yet untested) effects in terms of students’ “progress,” “learning,” “achievement,” and “growth.”

Damian Betebenner, the statistician who designed the model that Georgia has adapted, has said, “You may have a teacher that’s in a classroom and the kids aren’t growing. We’re not saying that you’re necessarily a bad teacher, but it’s just not working here.” Yet by factoring in “growth” in these measurements, the system does indeed conclude that teachers whose students do not improve their test scores relative to local and national peers are bad.
I would like to offer some alternative understandings of what human growth involves, and how to measure it. As one who is immersed in developmental psychology, I always ask of claims of growth, Development toward what? And thus by implication, Development by what means?

For a committed Southern Baptist, this growth might involve learning, through faith-based texts and adult guidance, Biblical precepts so as to walk a righteous path according to the church’s teachings. This path is, above all, going somewhere and might be measured by attendance at church, tithing, good works, and other indicators of devotion. Which would you find more valuable measures of growth within this community, a multiple choice test on the Holy Bible, or living a virtuous life led by worship?

Now, I am not a religious person, so this conception of growth would not suit me. I’m an old high school English teacher who now works in teacher education. There is great disagreement among English teachers about what it means to grow through engagement with this discipline and its texts, traditions, and means of expression. To some, growth through English involves learning canonical works of literature and the cultural traditions that they embody.

To others, growth involves becoming a more involved citizen through engagement with the values and beliefs available in literature. Others might see English as a vehicle through which personal reflection and maturation are available; or as a discipline that requires mastery of the conventions of formal English…..”

Growth, progress, achievement, learning: We all want these attributes in our children and expect our teachers to promote them. But the new Student Growth Model measures do not measure up to what most people hope for in their child’s developmental course: their development into good human beings according to some cultural definition of a quality life.
So, what does it mean to conceive of a curriculum and assessment package in terms of human growth? I don’t think it’s the same for everyone, because people are headed in different directions.

Even those headed in the same direction often take different pathways, follow different paces, integrate that pathway with different goals, and otherwise follow Henry David Thoreau’s wisdom: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away…..”

Statisticians’ solutions are admirable in their ability to reduce assessments to single numbers, and thus are prized in the policy world. Teachers’ solutions tend to be much knottier, because they work with kids of delightful variety and hope to help each one realize his or her potential in an appropriate way.

If you agree that Georgia’s Student Growth Model does not rely on measures that encapsulate either student growth or teacher effectiveness, and if you agree that making students and teachers accountable for growth is a good idea, what might be a better alternative in terms of developing teacher effectiveness measures? If you believe that test scores constitute valid measures of student growth, toward what end are they growing, and in what manner do these scores demonstrate that growth conclusively?

In prior essays in this forum, I’ve made points I needn’t recapitulate here in detail. I oppose the standardization of diverse people, and believe that teachers should be entrusted to know their disciplines and how to teach them. I think that standardization is conceived especially poorly when it is measured by people who have never taught. I think that factory-style schooling is more likely to set back authentic human growth than to promote it in ways that lead to satisfying and productive lives. I think that single-iteration test scores are unreliable measures of performance. I think that most conceptions of curriculum and assessment provided by today’s policymakers are misguided and harmful to teaching and learning.

- See more at: http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2014/10/06/georgia-will-judge-teachers-on-student-growth-but-growth-toward-what-end/#sthash.1MDQKxAb.dpuf

Myra Blackmon, journalist in Georgia, writes here about the testing resistance that is growing by the day,

“Despite Georgia’s ridiculous “assessment” of college and career readiness, it’s impossible to predict how the life of a first- or second-grader will turn out.

“All the tests we administer can’t predict a child’s future. The tests don’t measure real learning. They measure test-taking ability.
Research has shown that test scores are most accurate in measuring the socioeconomic level of the student.

“That’s correct. We use tests that don’t measure teacher competence or student learning to make or break careers, categorize children and place them in certain groups or pathways. We assume poor test scores mean a poor teacher, when often the opposite is true.

“We are obsessed with our ridiculous tests. The state legislature insists that test scores make up at least 50 percent of a teacher’s performance evaluation. The lobbyists for Pearson, McGraw-Hill and others fund the campaign coffers of candidates and court high-level administrators to convince them we need more testing. And more testing is exactly what we get.

“What if we spent those millions on authentic testing, that actually allows students to demonstrate mastery of content by performing an action, doing a presentation or building something that explains the concept? What if we spent some of those millions on more observation in the classroom, or gathering feedback from parents and students that actually tells us how the teacher works with children, assigns homework, provides extra help or many of the myriad other indicators of professional competence?

“Why is it so easy to say, “Every child learns in a different way,” and at the same time insist on testing them all in exactly the same way? We have become so blinded by our obsession with accountability that the testing, not the accountability, has become the priority.

“There is a growing wave of anti-testing action across the country. Some states (including Georgia) have rolled back graduation tests.
I’ve read of several dozen school boards that have passed resolutions protesting the outrageous waste of time, resources and money of high-stakes testing. Thousands of parents opt their children out of the tests each year.

“Do you see where the resistance to testing is coming from? It is from the parents, teachers and school boards who are in the trenches of public education every day. It is from those who actually teach children and study how they learn and what they need to thrive and grow.

“Do you see where the resistance hits the brick wall? In state legislatures and the U.S. Department of Education. Those are the folks who get millions in support from the Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the testing companies. Those mega-wealthy people wouldn’t dream of subjecting their own children to what they insist is essential for all others.

“Money talks. Money wins. At least until the people who know what is right make enough noise, opt out of enough tests, and vote for people who agree with them. It is time to rise up.”

Whenever a superintendent speaks truth to ower, their voice should be heard. What is more, they deserve to be honored. I am glad here to honor William G . Hochgesang, Superintendent, Northeast Dubois public schools and to add him to our honor roll as a champion of public education. The politicians are hurting children, hurting teachers, and decimating public education. Thank you, Superintendent Hochgesang, for speaking up with courage and clarity for our kids and our democracy.

This letter from Superintendent Hochgesang came from another Indiana superintendent, Dr. Terry Sargeant:

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Over the weekend, I received this letter through the Indiana Small & Rural Schools Association. It was written by Dr. Bill Hochgesang, Superintendent of Northeast Dubois Schools, to his school board the evening he asked them to approve their new teacher contract. In a nutshell, I have not heard the circumstances currently faced by Indiana Public Schools expressed any better. This letter is beginning to go viral in Indiana and I thought you might enjoy reading it. I agree with Bill 100% and I only hope that the political pendulum in Indiana will begin to swing the other direction soon – for the sake of our kids.

Most sincerely,

Terry

Dr. Terry R. Sargent
Superintendent
Jennings County School Corporation
34 W. Main Street
North Vernon, Indiana 47265
(812) 346-4483
tsargent@jcsc.org

“All children are gifted; some just open their packages earlier than others.”

– Michael Carr

​”​ Board,

I am recommending to the board this evening that they ratify the contract as presented. This contract for the second year in a row has a zero increase . Our Classroom Teachers Association does this fully knowing that zero isn’t in reality a zero. It is a negative as our insurance rate increased by 4% in 2013 and increased 8% for the 2015 school year. In the past there was a salary schedule for teachers that had an increment in place for experience . That option was taken away two years ago by our legislature. So this is a true pay cut for the second year in a row. Along with our teachers, all employees of Northeast Dubois have taken this same cut in salary the past two years . It saddens me to have to ask for this and accept this. But that is the reality of what we are currently dealing with.

It does however give me great pleasure to work in this school system where kids truly come first. Our school corporation is a system where people honestly put students’ needs ahead of their own as evidenced by these actions. Our school corporation is innovative as shown by our technology, our atmosphere and, of course, our success . Still we are never satisfied and continuously work to improve. Our school system strives to provide students the opportunity to pursue their passions and excel in many areas! Our school system is one where there is no talk of cutting any programs or enlarging class sizes in order to save money-yet. I worry about this trend continuing. Staff has shown their dedication to students by forgoing pay in order to protect these programs and class sizes.

I only wish I lived in a state where legislators cared as much for students as we do at Northeast Dubois. In 2009, $300,000,000 was taken from the education budget and never returned. Yet we all read in the news that the state has a $2,000,000,000 surplus. One doesn’t have to be a math expert in order to see where 75% of that money came from. Take five years times $300,000,000 and it is crystal clear that $1.5 Billion has come at the cost of the schools in Indiana. Many schools have turned to referendums, just to make ends meet. In fact, after the May election one out of every three schools in Indiana has run a referendum on the voting ballot. Yet, what do we as educators get from our legislators? We get higher standards, more accountability and forced competition, competition for money that is not increasing. We are forced to compete for students, as the money follows the child . We get forced competition where students are ranked, teachers are ranked and schools are ranked. Ranking always produces winners and losers, there is always a top and always a bottom, and in education there cannot be any losers! The education of every child in this state is critical. I am a firm believer that every school in this state is giving their best effort! I wish the legislators would truly see what great things are happening in our schools and begin to support our efforts . I feel they have forgotten the essential role education has played in the success in their own lives and that an education is the most important aspect in leaving a legacy for our children. Public education as we know it is in grave danger. Our legislators need to know just how much we care about our schools and we need their support!

Northeast Dubois is surviving like every other school corporation in this state; we are surviving by a slim margin. We are surviving because of our dedicated, caring and giving people. To all Northeast Dubois employees: Thank you for truly putting kids first! I am humbled to be a part of this school corporation. And hopefully better days are ahead! Let’s keep working together for all our students!

Thank you,

William G . Hochgesang,
Superintendent, Northeast Dubois ​”

Sarah Jaffee attended the October 11 meeting of Public Education Nation in Brooklyn, convened by the Network for Public Education, and she saw the emergence of a new and vital spirit of resistance and dedication to public education.

 

She noted the well-known bloggers and advocates on the stage and in the crowd, but the show-stopper, she said, was a student activist from Newark named Tanaisa Brown.

 

Tanaisa Brown of the Newark Student Union perhaps best set the tone for the day when she told the crowd that the movement needs to have a central message, a central idea. “Remember that there’s other people fighting for the same causes that you are,” she said. While each location has its own specific fights – in Newark, she noted, they’re fighting against the “One Newark” plan being imposed by Chris Christie and his appointed superintendent, Cami Anderson – the movement, she suggested, needs a positive vision to anchor it.

 

“We want community schools,” she said. “Not a community school that is now a charter school, but a school that is embedded in the community and helps out the parents, the teachers, and anyone else who lives there that can benefit from wraparound services at those schools.”

 

This idea came up again and again throughout the day. It is no longer enough to simply say no to the top-down reforms, high-stakes tests, charter schools and school closings. It is no longer even enough to strike, to hold dramatic actions, to speak out. The movement, the day seemed to suggest, needs to take the next step and figure out what it is for.

 

Tanaisa is an articulate representative of students. And she is right. Saying no is not enough. But she also knows that you can’t begin to build positive change until the negative forces now crushing students, teachers, administrators, and public schools are stopped. Cami’s “One Newark” must be stopped, and students are trying their best to stop it. It is hard to climb when someone keeps cutting out the rungs on the ladder beneath you. It is hard to make progress when someone keeps beating you with a whip and threatening your job, your income, your pension, your reputation.

 

Perhaps Jitu Brown said it simplest when he said that we can’t work an inside-outside strategy. We must directly confront and block the damaging movement that calls itself “reform.” Closing schools is not reform, it destroys families and communities. Jitu Brown and his group Journey for Justice are bringing civil rights complaints against the school-closing, privatization “reforms” in New Orleans, Newark, and Chicago.

 

When Tanaisa Brown was asked for her own vision, she said she would like to go to a school that had the arts, that had dance and music. She would like to go to a school that had foreign languages and a library. She would like a school that offered the liberal arts.

 

That doesn’t sound radical or crazy or far out. Why is that so far out of reach for students in cities like Newark and Detroit and Philadelphia? Why?

 

We must continue to stop what is wrong and we must continue to fight for what is right.

 

 

 

 

EduShyster had a conversation with Ruby Anderson, a high school senior who belongs to the Philadelphia Student Union.

 

If you read this interview, you will be astonished at how knowledgeable and insightful Ruby is.

 

She explains why and how the students disrupted the SRC showing of a pro-charter, anti-union film.

 

She understands that Governor Corbett cut the education budget in the state by $1 billion.

 

She doesn’t think that teachers should have to sacrifice to make up the state’s neglect of the Philly schools.

 

She knows that the School Reform Commission’s ultimate goal is to get rid of public schools and she knows it is wrong and she knows why it is wrong.

 

Ruby thinks that Philly should have democratic control of its schools.

 

This is a wise student. If only the grown-ups on the SRC and in the Legislature were as wise as she.

The Philadelphia Student Union held a demonstration in support of their underfunded, beleaguered schools and their teachers, whose contract was summarily terminated by the SRC. According to this story, a member of the School Reform Commission–the state-appointed board that runs the schools–shouted at the students that they should be in jail, that they probably go to failing schools. Wow.

Meanwhile, the SRC screened the anti-public school, pro-charter propaganda film “Won’t Back Down” as part of Parent Appreciation Night. The film, produced by rightwing billionaire Philip Anschutz, depicts a parent and a teacher using the parent trigger to turn their public school over to a charter operator. The teachers’ union is portrayed in the film as the bad guys. Not only was Anschutz a producer of “Waiting for Superman,” he is a major player in the fracking industry, which is huge in Pennsylvania. He doesn’t like unions or public education. “Won’t Back Down” was a total bomb when it was released a few years ago. It disappeared from the nation’s screens within 30 days with the worst box office of any national film in decades. Funny that the SRC disinterred this stinker to show appreciation for parents.

According to the story:

“Things turned ugly when members of Philadelphia Student Union interrupted a film screening at the School District of Philadelphia’s headquarters with School Reform Commissioner Sylvia Simms.

“In a video posted on YouTube, Simms began shouting at students sitting-in on the screening of “Won’t Back Down,” chanting, “SOS, save our schools,” and, “Philly is a union town.” While in the video there is too much noise to make out what Simms said, students reported that the SRC commissioner told them, “you all probably go to failing schools,” and, “you belong in jail.”

The National Science Foundation has awarded grants of $4.8 million to several prominent research universities to advance the use of Big Data in the schools.

Benjamin Herold writes in Education Week:

“The National Science Foundation earlier this month awarded a $4.8 million grant to a coalition of prominent research universities aiming to build a massive repository for storing, sharing, and analyzing the information students generate when using digital learning tools.

“The project, dubbed “LearnSphere,” highlights the continued optimism that “big” educational data might be used to dramatically transform K-12 schooling.

“It also raises new questions in the highly charged debate over student-data privacy.

“The federally funded initiative will be led by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, who propose to construct a new data-sharing infrastructure that is distributed across multiple institutions, include third-party and for-profit vendors. When complete, LearnSphere is likely to hold a massive amount of anonymous information, including:

“Clickstream” and other digital-interaction data generated by students using digital software provided to schools by LearnSphere participants;

“Chat-window dialogue sent by students participating in some online courses and tutoring programs;

“Potentially, “affect” and biometric data, including information generated from classroom observations, computerized analysis of students’ posture, and sensors placed on students’ skin.

“Proponents say that facilitating the sharing and analysis of such information for research purposes can lead to new insights about how humans learn, as well as rapid improvements to the digital learning software flooding now flooding schools.”

Whoa! The Gates-funded “galvanic skin response monitors” are back! Two years ago, it seemed to be a joke but it’s no joke. Researchers are still trying to gauge biometric reactions with sensors placed on students’ skin.

This really is Brave New World stuff.

Just think: Your tax dollars will help to fund a project to mine your children’s data and turn that data over to for-profit vendors to sell things to the children and their schools.

What can we do about it? Refuse to use digital learning tools in school. Don’t give them the data. Use pencils and pens. Now we understand why the two federally-funded Common Core testing consortia must be tested online and online only. This is the means of producing the data that will be mined.

This is all very sick. It has nothing to do with education and everything to do with violating the rights of families and children. No child will be better educated by mining their data, observing their posture, and monitoring their skin responses. this NOT ABOUT LEARNING. This is about money. Greed. Profits. And we are paying for it.

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