Archives for category: Blended Learning

The New York Times wrote about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ sudden turnaround, from champion of local control to heavy-handed advocate of federal threats to reopen schools regardless of local conditions or wishes. Those quoted in the story are DeVos allies, which makes sense, since they must feel a sense of betrayal.

*Keri Rodrigues of the Walton-funded National Parents Union; she was a leader of the battle in Massachusetts for more charter schools, which was overwhelmingly defeated in a state referendum.

*Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a prominent voice for charters, vouchers, and high-stakes testing, issues quite far from the interests of the 85% of U.S. students who attend public schools.

*Sarah Carpenter of the Walton-funded Memphis Lift, which is highly critical of the local public schools; several low-performing Memphis public schools were turned into charters and handed over to the Achievement School District, but experienced no gains over five years.

*Ubiquitous conservative pundit Frederick Hess.

DeVos’s allies are surprised to see her depart suddenly from her conservative principles.

Supporters of public schools must be even more surprised, but for different reasons.

DeVos has repeatedly denounced and demeaned public schools and their teachers. She has sung the praises of online learning, which she now finds inadequate. (Her mentor Jeb Bush is still predicting that online learning is the future, even though most parents and students have had their fill of it.)

Most likely, Trump’s campaign consultants told him that this was a winning issue for him, and Betsy is falling into line, denouncing the distance learning and home schooling that she usually celebrates, and insisting that students must return to their brick-and-mortar public schools for full-time instruction.

We have learned, to our great surprise, that Betsy, like Donald, has no fixed principles.

Tom Ultican pulls together four divergent strands of the effort to undermine public education, and iReady seems to be the tie that binds them together.

He writes:

“iReady is an economically successful software product used in public schools, by homeschoolers and in private schools. It utilizes the blended learning practices endorsed by the recently updated federal education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). iReady employs competency-based education (CBE) theory which is also advocated by ESSA. The outcome is iReady drains money from classrooms, applies federally supported failed learning theories and undermines good teaching. Children hate it.

“Public education in America contends with four dissimilar but not separate attacks. The school choice movement is motivated by people who want government supported religious schools, others who want segregated schools and still others who want to profit from school management and the related real estate deals. The forth big threat is from the technology industry which uses their wealth and lobbying power to not only force their products into the classroom, but to mandate “best practices” for teaching. These four streams of attack are synergistic.”

What does iReady have to do with the big picture?

“Profiting from Education Law

“A group of billionaires with varying motives are using their vast wealth to shape America’s education agenda to their own liking. The last rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 called ESSA was larded up with provisions like the big money for technology which is listed in Title’s I and IV. It also specifies generous grants to promote both “blended learning” and “personalized learning.” (See page 1969 of the official law.) Charter schools, vouchers and social impact bonds are promoted in ESSA. All these initiatives drain money from the classroom and none have been credibly shown to improve education outcomes.”

Read the tangled web that Tom Ultican unweaves.

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.