Archives for category: Technology, Computers

While tech entrepreneurs are rubbing their hands together gleefully about the dawn of the new age of technology in the classroom, Clay Shirkey of New York University has resolved to ban all electronic devices from his classes about the new media. Why? Students could not pay attention or learn what he was teaching because they were so distracted by the messages on their cellphones, laptops, tablets, etc.

Clay Shirkey is not just any technology professor. He is one of the leaders in the study of new techologies and social media.

He writes:

“This is all just the research on multi-tasking as a stable mental phenomenon. Laptops, tablets and phones — the devices on which the struggle between focus and distraction is played out daily — are making the problem progressively worse. Any designer of software as a service has an incentive to be as ingratiating as they can be, in order to compete with other such services. “Look what a good job I’m doing! Look how much value I’m delivering!”

“This problem is especially acute with social media, because on top of the general incentive for any service to be verbose about its value, social information is immediately and emotionally engaging. Both the form and the content of a Facebook update are almost irresistibly distracting, especially compared with the hard slog of coursework. (“Your former lover tagged a photo you are in” vs. “The Crimean War was the first conflict significantly affected by use of the telegraph.” Spot the difference?)

“Worse, the designers of operating systems have every incentive to be arms dealers to the social media firms. Beeps and pings and pop-ups and icons, contemporary interfaces provide an extraordinary array of attention-getting devices, emphasis on “getting.” Humans are incapable of ignoring surprising new information in our visual field, an effect that is strongest when the visual cue is slightly above and beside the area we’re focusing on. (Does that sound like the upper-right corner of a screen near you?)

“The form and content of a Facebook update may be almost irresistible, but when combined with a visual alert in your immediate peripheral vision, it is—really, actually, biologically—impossible to resist. Our visual and emotional systems are faster and more powerful than our intellect; we are given to automatic responses when either system receives stimulus, much less both. Asking a student to stay focused while she has alerts on is like asking a chess player to concentrate while rapping their knuckles with a ruler at unpredictable intervals.”

Shirkey realized he had to choose between teaching and watching his students interact with their devices. He chose to teach.

Kenneth Chang, who writes about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects realized that his child in a Jersey City charter school would be taking the Common Core test called PARCC this year. He noted that while 42 states have signed on for Common Core, the federally-funded testing has “fractured.”

He writes:

“Supposedly, the economies of scale were to lead to better tests at lower costs, and initially, almost all states signed up with one of two federally financed organizations developing Common Core tests: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or Parcc, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. (Some states belonged to both groups.)

“Parcc has dwindled to 12 states plus the District of Columbia. New York, a member of Parcc, will continue to use its own Common Core-inspired test. Smarter Balanced has 21 states participating, but four members will not use the tests, at least not this school year. A survey by Education Week found that less than half of public school students would take either test this year.”

Nonetheless, millions of students will take one of them this spring.

Chang took a practice version of PARCC, the test chosen by New Jersey.

He writes:

“In many ways, it is a better test than the fill-in-the-bubble multiple-choice exams of my youth. With a computer-based test, the questions can be more complicated but still easily graded. Both consortiums also offer paper versions for the time being, because not all schools have enough computers and Internet connectivity.

“Some questions require several calculations to come up with the answer, testing a deeper level of understanding. For example: “Hayley has 272 beads. She buys 38 more beads. She will use 89 beads to make bracelets and the rest to make necklaces. She will use 9 beads for each necklace. What is the greatest number of necklaces Hayley can make?”

This is a multi-step problem but not that difficult (but then, I have a Ph.D.). I will wait to hear from fourth grade teachers whether it is a good question.

What struck me about Chang’s comment was that he said the PARCC test was better than “the fill-in-the-bubble multiple-choice exams” of his youth. As a student in the 1950s, I never took multiple-choice tests. Why does he assume that is the natural order of things? Did he think about the cost to his charter chain of the technology to administer the tests? Did he wonder who (or what) would grade any written answers? Does he know that his daughter will get a grade but the teacher will not be allowed to see her answers on the test and will get no diagnostic information from the test to help her? What is the value of the test if the teacher learns nothing from it other than a score? Is the grade all the father expects from this expensive investment? Did it occur to him that the real purpose of the test is to derive data to evaluate the teacher, not to provide information to help his daughter?

Hannah Oh, of State Budget Solutions, wonders whether states and districts can afford the required technology.

Question: why should all tests be taken online? Whose idea was that? Why shouldn’t the federal government pay for the new technology? Why the windfall for the tech industry?

Franziska Raeber describes how parents in Florida are organizing resistance to online testing of children in K-2. Please be aware that the purpose of online testing is to enrich the testing industry and tech corporations. The best tests are written and evaluated by teachers, who know what they taught and can use the tests for instant feedback, not to rank students, but to help them. This is true not just in K-2, but throughout education, whether K-12 or higher education.

Raeber writes:

“We are the parents of Kindergartners and 2nd graders. After Susan Bowles from our school district (Alachua County FL) made national headlines by refusing to administer a computerized test, we felt it was time to get our voices as parents heard.
The whole process has been a truly eye opening experience. We never realized how excessive testing is and how much miscommunication is happening. During a town hall meeting teachers brought examples of tests and result print outs to the meeting. Shocking for us all.

“On September 8 we launched a petition (Say NO to computer testing in K-2nd grades) and we have collected over 390 signatures so far, but we don’t want to stop. We have been actively lobbing newspapers, spoke out at town meetings, talked and contacted legislators, PTAs (district as well as state). We have also launched a FB page and trying to get our message out. We are now reaching out to other similar minded groups here in FL, but also within the United States as we believe this problem is not a local issue, but is and should be a national concern.

“When we asked the school-board representatives and administrators what we should do and how to keep this discussion going the message was clear: Speak up! Write letters, emails, call legislators and sign/launch petitions.

“And that is exactly what we are doing, we parents are tired of sending our kids to schools, where great teachers become test facilitators and computer technicians. We want our kids to have fun learning. We strongly believe that in early years good experiences with school will lay the foundation for a life long interest in education, learning and personal growth.

“We have now launched a petition and invite you to sign it.

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/say-no-to-computer-testing?source=c.em.cp&r_by=11297164

“We have launched a Facebook page and are posting articles/resources to it as we come across.
https://www.facebook.com/Notocomputertesting”

Los Angeles’ school politics is beginning to sound like a soap opera. Tune in next week to see if long-suffering Superintendent John Deasy, much admired by billionaire Eli Broad, survives yet another unjust attack at the hands of the brutes who disapprove of the $1.3 billion iPad fiasco, the bungled computer mess, the other snafus unjustly laid at the feet of a man guilty only of caring too much. Forget the emails showing possible collusion between Deasy and Apple, Deasy and Pearson. What matters details like this when a great man is in our midst, loved and appreciated most by those too rich to patronize the schools he oversees. Never forget: every organization funded by Bill Gates adores this man: think Educators 4 Excellence; think United Way of Los Angeles.

It was not enough that the LA Times’ editorial writer Karin Klein paid him tribute and chastised the LAUSD for seeking to hold him accountable: how dare they! Now her boss Jim Newton weighs in with another full-throated defense of the Indispensable Man. Okay, says Newton, so his handling of the $1.3 billion deal for the iPads was “admittedly sloppy.” Well, “sloppy” is one way to characterize the friendly negotiations between Deasy and Apple. Others might have less kindly words. Like, why did LA have to buy an obsolete model at a higher than retail price? Why did Deasy think that buying iPads mattered more than repairing schools, which the voters wanted in the first place? What part of 25-year construction bond approved by the electorate did Deasy misunderstand?

Do read Jim Newton’s apologia for Deasy. All of his errors on blamed on the Board, for daring to expect accountability, and on the union for…. for being the union, always a ready scapegoat for the editorial board of the L.A. Times, even for matters in which the u ion had no role.

Stay tuned. This is the soap opera that ends in tragedy or never ends at all.

But also read this letter to the editor, which I post in full, in case it gets deleted:

Offred Gillead on September 29, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am said:
We have officially entered into a super bizzaro, gothic world with Jim Newton.

With his Emily Bronte opening: “There’s a storm cloud gathering over Los Angeles politics these days” before moving into gaunt, haunted purple poignancy, “It’s taking a toll on the superintendent. I visited him in his office last week…he looked drawn. Already slight, he’s lost weight.”

Deasy’s rich, cultish supporters, have always given us a variation of THE MARTYRDOM OF JOHN DEASY. I tingle over Newton’s words like “have been dragged across these coals” and “put through the local grinder”.

Okay. I get it.

I’m really reading 50 SHADES OF DEASY, a story that makes Deasy’s backers swoon.

Newton says, “Deasy has made matters worse by some admittedly sloppy handling of a deal intended to put iPads in the hands of students.” Really? “Admittedly?” When did Deasy EVER admit to this?

Newton tells us, “So, what’s not to like? By his own admission, Deasy can be bullheaded and impatient.”

Ana Steele could understand that. She might say, like Newton, “No one is suggesting he did anything for personal gain, but his trademark impatience may have left him…vulnerable.”

Sensitive and obsessively-driven! Like Moses! Dr. Frankenstein! Ahab! Hamlet! Dr. Strangelove!

Deasy confides, “‘I could have done a thousand things better,’ he conceded during our conversation.”

Really? How about naming ONE thing, Doc?

In Deasy’s perverse brain, his biggest fault is that he CARES TOO MUCH. He is TOO MUCH of a perfectionist. His only goal is to lift children out of poverty and has to put up with hundreds who stand in his way.

“He’s quick to correct and sometimes short-tempered….Even Deasy’s critics acknowledge that he is a powerful intellect and a determined education reformer.”

Karl Rove also breathlessly informed us that George Bush was the smartest person he ever met and, famously, “The Decider”.

I don’t know what Christian Grey non-disclosure contract might have gotten signed between the two, but the Op-Ed hints: “But here’s the perversity of punishing Deasy for aggressiveness…”

Sizzle!

Do we really need to read the whole trilogy to find out where this story ends? I hope the BOE has the good taste to call this series quits.

Journalist Kathleen Sharp summarizes the incredible iPad fiasco in Los Angeles in Salon. The article is called “Rotten to the Core.” Let’s face it: the gold rush is on, and tech companies will clean up.

She writes:

“Technology companies may soon be getting muddied from a long-running scandal at the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation’s second-largest system. A year after the cash-strapped district signed a $1 billion contract with Apple to purchase iPads for every student, the once-ballyhooed deal has blown up. Now the mess threatens to sully other vendors from Cambridge to Cupertino.

“LAUSD superintendent John Deasy is under fire for his cozy connections to Apple. In an effort to deflect attention and perhaps to show that “everybody else is doing it,” he’s demanded the release of all correspondence between his board members and technology vendors. It promises to be some juicy reading. But at its core, the LAUSD fiasco illustrates just how much gold lies beneath even the dirtiest, most neglected public schoolyard.

“As the U.S. starts implementing federal Common Core State Standards, teachers and administrators are being driven to adopt technology as never before. That has set off a scramble in Silicon Valley to grab as much of the $9 billion K-12 market as possible, and Apple, Google, Cisco and others are mud-wrestling to seize a part of it. Deasy and the LAUSD have given us ringside seats to this match, which shows just how low companies will go.”

The deal was ballyhooed as a win for civil rights, but that was a cynical joke. Apple was the winner, having sold LAUSD an outmoded model at top dollar.

She writes:

“Alas, problems began to appear almost immediately. First, some clever LAUSD students hacked the iPads and deleted security filters so they could roam the Internet freely and watch YouTube videos. Then, about $2 million in iPads and other devices went “missing.” Worse was the discovery that the pricey curriculum software, developed by Pearson Education Corp., wasn’t even complete. And the board looked foolish when it had to pay even more money to buy keyboards for iPads so that students could actually type out their reports.

“Then, there was the deal itself. Whereas many companies extend discounts to schools and other nonprofits, Apple usually doesn’t, said George Michaels, executive director of Instructional Development at University of California at Santa Barbara. “Whatever discounts Apple gives are pretty meager.” The Chronicle of Philanthropy has noted Apple’s stingy reputation, and CEO Tim Cook has been trying to change the corporation’s miserly ways by giving $50 million to a local hospital and $50 million to an African nonprofit.

“But the more we learned about the Apple “deal,” the more the LAUSD board seemed outmaneuvered. The district had bought iPad 4s, which have since been discontinued, but Apple had locked the district into paying high prices for the old models. LAUSD had not checked with its teachers or students to see what they needed or wanted, and instead had forced its end users to make the iPads work. Apple surely knew that kids needed keypads to write reports, but sold them just part of what they needed.

“Compared with similar contracts signed by other districts, Apple’s deal for Los Angeles students looked crafty, at best. Perris Union High School District in Riverside County, for example, bought Samsung Chromebooks for only $344 per student. And their laptop devices have keyboards and multiple input ports for printers and thumb drives. The smaller Township High School District 214 in Illinois bought old iPad 2s without the pre-loaded, one-size-fits-all curriculum software. Its price: $429 per student.

“But LAUSD paid Apple a jaw-dropping $768 per student, and LAUSD parents were not happy. As Manel Saddique wrote on a social media site: “Btw, thanks for charging a public school district more than the regular consumer price per unit, Apple. Keep it classy…”

The deal, she says, is indeed rotten:

“If you step back from the smarmy exchanges, a bigger picture emerges. Yes, LAUSD is grossly mismanaged and maybe even dysfunctional. But corporations like Apple don’t look so good, either. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Hewlett Packard — the companies that are cashing in on our classroom crisis are the same ones that helped defund the infrastructure that once made public schools so good. Sheltering billions of dollars from federal taxes may be great for the top 10 percent of Americans, who own 90 percent of the stock in these corporations. But it’s a catastrophe for the teachers, schools and universities that helped develop their technology and gave the companies some of its brightest minds. In the case of LAUSD, Apple comes across as cavalier about the problem it’s helped create for low-income students, and seems more concerned with maximizing its take from the district.

But the worst thing about this scandal is what it’s done to the public trust. The funds for this billion-dollar boondoggle were taken from voter-approved school construction and modernization bonds — bonds that voters thought would be used for physical improvements. At a time when LAUSD schools, like so many across the country, are in desperate need of physical repairs, from corroded gas lines to broken play structures, the Apple deal has cast a shadow over school bonds. Read the popular “Repairs Not iPads” page on Facebook and parents’ complaints about the lack of air conditioning, librarians and even toilet paper in school bathrooms. Sadly, replacing old fixtures and cheap trailers with new plumbing and classrooms doesn’t carry the kind of cachet for ambitious school boards as does, say, buying half-a-million electronic tablets. As one mom wrote: “Deasy has done major long-term damage because not one person will ever vote for any future bond measures supporting public schools.”

“Now, the Apple deal is off, although millions of dollars have already been spent. An investigation into the bidding process is underway and there are cries to place Deasy in “teacher jail,” a district policy that keeps teachers at home while they’re under investigation. And LAUSD students, who are overwhelmingly Hispanic and African-American, have once again been given the short end of the stick. They were promised the sort of “tools that heretofore only rich kids have had,” and will probably not see them for several years, if ever. The soured Apple deal just adds to the sense of injustice that many of these students already see in the grown-up world.

“Deasy contends that that he did nothing wrong. In a few weeks, the public official will get his job performance review. In the meantime, he’s called for the release of all emails and documents written between board members and other Silicon Valley and corporate education vendors. The heat in downtown Los Angeles is spreading to Northern California and beyond, posing a huge political problem for not just Deasy but for Cook and other high-tech captains.

“But at the bottom of this rush to place technology in every classroom is the nagging feeling that the goal in buying expensive devices is not to improve teachers’ abilities, or to lighten their load. It’s not to create more meaningful learning experiences for students or to lift them out of poverty or neglect. It’s to facilitate more test-making and profit-taking for private industry, and quick, too, before there’s nothing left.”

Missouri Education Watchdog is a wonderful blog that I discovered only recently.

 

In this post, these questions are raised: why doesn’t the U.S. Department of Education know about the tenth amendment to the Constitution? Why, under Arne Duncan, is the DOE unaware of federalism? Why is the DOE constantly overstepping its bounds, trying to impose its ideas not only on states but on districts? Don’t the leaders and lawyers know that they are breaking the law? The law is clear: no employee of the U.S. government is supposed to influence, control or direct the curriculum or instruction in the nation’s public schools. Democrats and Republicans agreed on that provision; neither wanted the other to interfere in what is a state and local responsibility.

 

The most recent transgression is an initiative called “The Future Ready,” in which the DOE is bypassing states and going right to the districts to hawk technology.

 

“The main goal of this initiative is to get districts, charters and private schools to commit to maximizing their use of digital learning and broadband access to the internet. They want schools to fund the resources necessary to “leverage their maximum impact on student learning… to develop the human capacity, digital materials, and device access to use the new bandwidth wisely and effectively.” In other words, buy more devices so you can meet our Race To The Top goal of 1:1 student:device ratio so you can purchase more digital learning services and supplies. They have a lot of high powered (well funded) friends of Washington who produce educational supplies and services who need to be repaid for helping get the right people in office so the bureaucrats could get an appointment.

 

“They want districts to “transition to effective digital learning,” to “achieve tangible outcomes for the students they serve.” So here we all still are on the outcomes based education bandwagon.

 

“It’s a nice little system. Millions of students with no other education option, will be pushed into using a private company’s product which will in turn continuously collect data on their use to improve said product. And who benefits from this? The private company. How many of our Superintendents will gladly be team players and sign this little pledge without any careful consideration of the costs of such an action? If history is any example, it unfortunately will be many.

 

“Among other things, the pledge commits districts to helping support home internet access. Since when is this the job of a school district? If it is, then shouldn’t they also support efforts to get every child a nice desk and chair at which to study? Shouldn’t they also be in the business of making sure every child has a nice bed since sleep is critical to learning readiness? Where does the school district’s responsibility end when it comes to a child’s education? And since when is it the job of the education department of the federal government to make sure that internet is available in the home? Sure the internet is useful, but is this how we want our education dollars spent – paying for school officials to work on these kinds of ancillary projects? Aren’t we in fact turning our district personnel into free lobbyists for all the private companies who will benefit financially from the district’s use of technology?”

This is the most important article you will read this week, this month, maybe this year. Lee Fang, a brilliant investigative reporter at the Nation Institute, documents the rise and growth of the new for-profit education industry. They seek out ways to make money by selling products to the schools, developing new technologies for the Common Core, writing lucrative leasing deals for charter school properties, mining students’ personal data and selling it, and investing in lucrative charter schools.

Their basic strategy: disrupt public education by selling a propaganda narrative of failure, which then generates consumer demand for new, privately managed forms of schooling (charters and vouchers), for new products (a laptop for every child), and for new standards (the Common Core) that require the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars for new technology, consultants, and other new teaching products. The Common Core has the subsidiary effect of reducing test scores dramatically, thus reinforcing the failure narrative and the need for new schools and new products. Meanwhile, absent any evidence, the boosters of the Common Core promise dramatic results (“bigger better cleaner than clean, the best ever, everything you ever dreamed of, success for all, no more achievement gap, everyone a winner”), while reaping the rewards.

The end goal is the reaping of billions in profits for entrepreneurs and investors.

The crucial enabler of the entrepreneurial takeover of American public education has been the Obama administration. From the beginning, its Race to the Top was intended to close schools with low scores, require more charter schools, all to create a larger market for charter organizations. Its requirement to adopt “college-and-career-ready standards” established the Common Core standards in 45 states, thus creating a national market for products. Its funding of two national tests guaranteed that all future testing would be done online, thus generating a multi-billion dollar market for technology companies that produce software and hardware. At the same time, the Obama administration was curiously silent as state after state eliminated collective bargaining and silenced the one force that might impede its plans. Neither President Obama nor Arne Duncan made an appearance in Wisconsin when tens of thousands of working people protested Scott Walker’s anti-union program.

Lee Fang has connected the dots that show the connection between entrepreneurs, the Obama administration, ALEC, and Wall Street. We now know that their promises and their profit-driven schemes do not benefit students or teachers or education. Students will be taught by computers in large classes. Experienced and respected teachers do not like the new paradigm; they will leave and be replaced by young teachers willing to follow a script, work with few or no benefits, then leave for another career choice. Turnover of teachers will become the norm, as it is in charter schools. “Success” will be defined as test scores, which will be generated by computer drills.

This is the future the entrepreneurs are planning. Their own children will be in private schools not subject to the Common Core, or large computer-based classes, or inexperienced teachers. The public’s children will be victims of policies promoted by Arne Duncan to benefit the entrepreneurs.

We see the future unfolding in communities across the nation. It can be stopped by vigilant and informed citizens. If we organize and act, we can push back and defeat this terrible plan to monetize our children and our public schools.

Curt Guyette, an investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan, published this story at Detroit Metro Times, based on an in-depth exploration of internal documents of Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority. The EAA was announced by Governor Rick Snyder in 2011 to “save” the lowest-performing children in Detroit.

 

Governor Snyder said in 2011:

 

In June of 2011, Gov. Rick Snyder stepped behind a microphone at Detroit’s Renaissance High School to announce the start of a revolutionary new approach to education in Michigan.

The problem of poor academic performance would be addressed in dramatic fashion.

“We do have too many failing schools in our state,” he said. “If you look at us statewide, only 16 percent of our kids are college-ready. That’s absolutely unacceptable.

“We need to focus on a new way of doing things.”

The target would be Michigan’s lowest-performing schools. The bottom 5 percent.

The stakes could not have been higher. As the governor explained it, the future of both the city and the state as a whole would be riding on this experiment in education.

“For Detroit to be successful, it depends on having successful schools. For Michigan to be successful, it depends on having a successful Detroit,” Snyder declared. “So we’re all in this together, and we’re going to make this happen as a team.”

 

A year later, the EAA opened its doors. Don’t you think the EAA would have smaller classes for intensive learning, experienced teachers, and the other research-proven methods of successful schools? No.

 

What Guyette learned was that the EAA was an experimental platform for an online program called BUZZ.

 

Buzz “came to Detroit from Kansas City, along with John Covington, the controversial figure hired by the EAA board to be the new system’s first chancellor. Along with Buzz, Covington also brought to Detroit a group of administrators who worked under him in Kansas City. A key member of that team is Mary Esselman, first hired on as the EAA’s Chief Officer, Accountability, Equity, and Innovation for the EAA, and later promoted to the position of deputy chancellor.

Covington is gone now, having departed under a cloud of scandal generated by news reports of the credit card spending that occurred under his watch.

But the software remains, significantly upgraded twice since it arrived. Those upgrades were made possible because of the students and teachers at the EAA, who were bitten again and again and again by the many bugs that plagued Buzz for the first two years of its use in Detroit.

Created by a Utah-based company called Agilix Labs, Buzz is education software that provides what its marketing material describes as an individualized learning experience. With the help of $100,000 from the EAA, Buzz was merged with other educational software created by the School Improvement Network [SINET], also based in Utah. Another $250,000 from the EAA would eventually pay for improvements suggested by the teachers, students, and administrators who were using it, according to Esselman.

 

The children were guinea pigs for product development.

 

Guyette writes:

 

What internal EAA documents reveal is the extent to which teachers and students were, over the course of two school years, used as whetstones to hone a badly flawed product being pitched as cutting-edge technology.

In fact, a SINET employee in November of 2013 informed Mary Esselman of his “fear” that another school district might want to start using Buzz (re-branded as GAGE for the purpose of marketing the product to others) before a second major upgrade could be finished and ready for use in March of the following year.

Records show that such an upgrade did finally land in April of 2014, and was installed over spring break. Another two months passed before a press release was issued announcing that the upgraded product would be available to selected school districts for the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

Agilix and the School Improvement Network began working with Covington and his team in Kansas City.

“In Kansas City, the leadership team implemented the model with limited technology…,” according to the response provided to Snyder. “In Michigan, they have had the opportunity to select staff and leverage a strong teaching and learning platform with strong, short-cycle innovation.”

By short-cycle innovation they mean this: improvements were made as Buzz moved from Kansas City (where it is no longer used) to Detroit. And in the two years since its arrival here, it has gone through technological upgrades significant enough to warrant press releases heralding the breakthroughs that were achieved.

“We’re building this plane as we fly it,” is a phrase numerous sources we’ve interviewed have attributed to Mary Esselman, who was in the thick of the technological planning.

Part of that build-it-as-they-go model included paying inexperienced Teach for America instructors to provide curriculum content that was loaded into Buzz when it arrived at the EAA. They were recent college grads who didn’t study to become teachers and who lacked certification, coming to the EAA with only a few weeks of training in the art of teaching. (About 25 percent of the EAA’s teachers were from TFA when its schools opened in 2012.)

 

The EAA announced dramatic score increases. They claimed the experiment was working. But documents show that students were allowed to retake tests they had failed. And the stellar results were not replicated on state tests:

 

Numerous teachers interviewed by the ACLU told us that, because of intense emphasis on producing positive test results, students were allowed to re-take tests when they failed to perform well. It was described as standard procedure throughout most, if not all, EAA schools.

Asked by the ACLU if she ever became aware of these types of improper testing procedures, Esselman responded: “Yes. We were made aware at a public meeting and immediately made the necessary steps with our school leaders to address this issue.”

Adding more darkness to those shadows is this fact:

In stark contrast to the internal test results are the state’s standardized achievement tests, known as MEAP. The most recent MEAP results show that a high majority of EAA students are either stagnating in terms of reaching math and reading proficiency, or falling even further behind.

 

In fact, BUZZ was unsuccessful. The plane built in mid-air couldn’t fly. The children were used to improve it, but it did not improve their education.

 

During the course of our investigation, the ACLU interviewed a dozen current and former teachers, one former administrator, and several students. Many of the teachers asked to remain anonymous, saying that, because they lacked the protections afforded by a labor union, they feared retaliation by the EAA if they spoke on the record. Others feared that the EAA would blackball them. Others, however, did agree to go on the record.

One of them is Jordan Smellie, a tech-savvy former music teacher now working in the IT industry.

“Buzz overall I would describe as a travesty. To say it was incomplete when it arrived is giving it too much credit,” he said. “The software was in a state that any other firm would have never released. The design was poor, front to back, top to bottom. The user experience was horrendous. It was incredibly slow, if it worked at all.”

Nearly everyone interviewed talked about the dearth of content when Buzz first arrived in the fall of 2012, which is contrary to Mary Esselman’s unequivocal written assertion that Buzz arrived on time and fully formed.

 

Even students testified that they used the classroom computers to play games and visit porn sites.

 

Were the children “saved”? Of course not. They were used to pilot new technology that could be sold to other districts. Based on the EAA’s experience, the message to other districts should be: BEWARE.

 

 

The Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards unanimously passed a resolution calling for a suspension of high-stakes testing.

“The Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards is comprised of 11 of Florida’s coastal school districts — Collier, Lee, Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Monroe, Charlotte, Sarasota, Pinellas, Indian River and St. Lucie. Together, the districts represent more than 42 percent of the state’s public school students, 55 percent of the state’s property tax base and 51 percent of Florida’s legislative members, according to the School District of Palm Beach County website.”

Will the Florida legislature listen to parents, educators, and elected school boards, or will they continue to pile on more tests and unfunded mandates? All of the state’s districts are required–under present law–to create hundreds of new tests for every student in every subject in every grade, for before and after, to evaluate students, teachers, principals, and schools and to award merit pay to some and fire others. No money comes with the mandate.

It is payday for the testing and tech industries but mayday for education in Florida.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 113,592 other followers