Larry Cuban is a keen observer of the marketing of new technologies to schools. In this post, he looks at the common practice of claiming that the product being sold causes guaranteed success, I.e. a “proof point.” The salesmanship involved is akin to the advertisers’ claim that their product will cure all illnesses, calm your itch, make you beautiful, and fix your hearing.
Schools have long been targets of fast-talking salesmen, but now the snake oil is presented professionally as a miracle cure to raise test scores. In addition to the usual profit motive, there is today the entrepreneur’s devout faith in disruptive innovation. Heaven help the schools. When they come calling, slam the door and don’t let them put their foot in it.
Over the past couple of weeks, there have been many articles about PARCC deleting blogs and tweets. In every case, PARCC complains that the offending blogger and Tweeter has infringed on its copyright.
But Mercedes asks an overlooked question: Does PARCC Inc. actually own the copyright to the PARCC tests?
Mercedes seeks the answer directly from Laura Glover, the executive of PARCC Inc.
If they own the PARCC, let the world see the evidence.
One of our most perceptive essayists Rachel Levy watched John Merrow’s program about Rocketship charters and recoiled with alarm.
She said if she put her children in front of a screen two hours a day, she would be called a bad parent, but the charter does it and it is called innovative.
She was distressed that the school treats test scores as the only goal of school, so stuff like art and music don’t get time. That’s what kids do on their own time, if they choose, after school.
And what is it that parents do, other than chant with their children?
What’s clear to Levy is that Rocketship is a school for “them,” for other people’s children, not for “ours.” It is all about test scores, for the glory of the founder, not about education.
Rocketship may be a Model T, an apt means of mass-producing test scores, but that’s a horrifying metaphor for stamping out standardized children who never ask questions, never day dream, always find the answer demanded by the program.
Rocketship is a school designed by Alphas and staffed by Betas for the children who are Delta, Gamma, and Epsilon. Read your Huxley.
Rachel also notes possible conflicts of interest. See her P.S.
This is one of the most important posts you will read this year–or next.
The Rocketship charter chain hopes to be the mass-produced model for poor kids in America. It intends someday to enroll one million children.
Jersey Jazzman takes a close look at John Merrow’s PBS episode about Rocketship charters. .
The children in these charters get no music or art. None.
The leaders of Rocketship don’t see this as a problem.
In their view, poor kids need basic skills, not the arts.
Affluent parents wouldn’t accept this kind of schooling.
It is not education. It’s just schooling.
It’s schooling on the cheap for Other People’s Children.
The school district in Manchester, New Hampshire, is considering online classes–not blended learning–as Acosta-saving device. The idea is to put kids online and lay off teachers. Anyone who deals with children and adolescents knows that face-to-face contact, human-to-human relationships are very important. Something’s, like reading a book our practicing an instrument, may best be done alone. But it’s best to discuss what you have read with others and exhilarating to play your instrument as part of a group.
Here is Massachusetts high school history teacher’s letter to the editor of the Boston Globe, expressing his concern about the misuse of technology.
Experienced journalist Tom Toch visited a Rocketship charter school in San Jose, California, and came away impressed.
What impressed him most, however, was not the ubiquitous computer instruction, but the intensity of the human interactions.
He took away a lesson about the importance of parent involvement and support, as well as the intense engagement of teachers.
Conservative commentators see the Rocketship model as a way to reduce the number of teachers and to break the hold of teachers’ unions.
Toch is not so sure.
Rocketship charters are now expanding rapidly into other markets outside California.
What do you think?
A reader sent this comment:
Here is my take. Our school in NYC used an online, computer based reading program for the first time last year. Some of our students were clocked in as reading 600 articles and having their lexile scores increase by 4 grade levels. At the end of the year, the representatives from the program came to the school and gave an assembly for all of the students who participated; giving out prizes and accolades to the most prolific readers. One student in particular kept going up to the stage to receive accolade after accolade. NYS’s ELA and Math scores recently came in, and guess what? – she did not show any growth from last year.
Here’s the problem: When I observed the students who were clocking in an inordinate number of articles, I noticed that they were just answering the questions in order to get the “rewards” that the system gave out. I asked them why they weren’t reading the articles. Their response was that it was boring. You see, it’s like a video game. They are doing it for the rewards that the system produces; not for the enjoyment of reading.
There is always room to game the system. Ask any video game player about “cheats” and they will tell you. Kids will always find a way to game the system. Online publishers will always find ways to game the system as well.
A bombshell report about the highly touted “School of One” revealed that students in the program did no better on state tests than those in traditional math programs.
School of One is an online program that was piloted in 3 schools.
Two of the three schools have dropped it, but the Bloomberg administration plans to expand it to more schools.
School of One was developed by Joel Rose, who was TFA, Broad Academy, Edison, then worked for Chis Cerf and Joel Klein at the NYC Department of Education. The NYC Parent Blog describes the history of the School of One here and points to some important ethical issues.
Time magazine cited School of One as one of the best inventions of 2009, before it was implemented.
It won a $5 million grant from the US Department of Education as one of the most innovative programs in the nation.
The city put $9 million into the program so far, and previously projected the cost at $46 million. It will be added to four more schools, with the help of the federal grant.
I just read that Indianapolis has okayed the opening of 19 new charter schools based on the concept of “blended learning.” The schools will lean heavily on technology to reduce the teaching staff and save money while promising higher test scores.
Embedded in this approach is the belief that computers do a better job of teaching basic skills than live teachers. Or that vast sums of money can be saved by dividing instruction between computers and teachers.
The article includes claims about test score gains that resulted from blended learning. Was there more or better test prep? Do the students have the knowledge and skills to think critically, to read thoughtfully, or just to pick the right bubble? It will take a while longer before we know.
But in the meanwhile, there was a major study of technology in education by the federal government that has been almost completely ignored. The bottom line: There is no evidence for blended learning as a superior approach to education. Maybe there will be some day, but there in none right now.
My old-fashioned brain says that what matters most in a classroom is a teacher who engages in a deeply human way with students: to encourage them, enlighten them, inspire them, teach them. There is a place in every classroom for technology. I use it every day. And certainly students can use their computers to do research and writing and explore.
But in the current environment of high-stakes testing, computers are geared to passing the tests.
And that’s not teaching. That’s testing. The end of education is not to pass tests, not even to get higher scores.
The goal of education is to lead us out from our ignorance; to develop our humanity; to give us the tools to take control of our life.
For that, a teacher is still the best of all technologies.