Archives for category: Competency Based Education

Tom Ultican became a teacher of math and physics in San Diego after a career in Silicon Valley. He is retiring. He loves teaching.

He describes with precision the people who imposed bad ideas on the schools and messed them up. Maybe they meant well but their lack of knowledge or experience in the classroom led to naive and foolish and failed interventions, like Common Core and “turnaround,” with mad firings.

He writes:

“Standards based education is bad education theory. In the 1960’s Benjamin Bloom proposed mastery education in which instruction would be individualized and students would master certain skills before they moved ahead. By the 1970’s this idea had been married with B.F. Skinner’s behaviorist philosophy and teachers were given lists of discrete items for their students to master. The “reform” became derisively known as “seats and sheets.””

Tom says he is leaving the classroom. I hope there is a way to keep his kbowledge, experience, and wisdom engaged in educating the next generation.

Please watch the 10-second video at the end of this post. You will love it!

Emily Talmadge, a teacher-blogger in Maine, used to worry about the dangers inherent in a Clinton administration. Now she warns that the threat of competency based education–delivered online, all the time, profiting a few, bad for humans–will thrive in a Trump Administration.

“The real agenda – the ongoing march toward a cradle-to-grave system of human capital development that relies on the most sophisticated data collection and tracking technologies to serve its unthinkably profitable end – is fueled and directed by a multi-billion dollar education-industrial-complex that has been built over the course of decades.

“It’s an absolute beast, an army of epic scale, and it’s a system that has the same uncanny ability to blend in with its surroundings as a chameleon.

“Take, for example, the new “innovative assessment systems” that are being thrust on us every which way in the wake of ESSA. Under the banner of free market ideology, the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is promoting the very same assessment policies that far-left groups like the national unions and the National Center for Fair and Open Testing are now pushing. And though some claim that one ideology is merely “co-opting” the ideas of the other, the reality is that they lead to the same data-mining, cradle-to-career tracking end.

“Consider, too, the massive push for blended, competency-based, and digital learning – all unproven methods of educating children, but highly favored by ed-tech providers and data-miners.

“Most of these corporate-backed policies were cooked up in Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, and then made their way not only to the far-right ALEC, but also to left-leaning groups like the Center for Collaborative Education, the Coalition for Essential Schools, and the Great Schools Partnership. Depending on what sort of population each group is targeting, these wolves will dress themselves up in sheep’s clothing and make appeals to different values. For the right, they will package their policies in the language of the free market and choice; for the left, they will wrap them in a blanket of social-justice terminology.

“Pull back the curtain far enough, however, and you will see they are selling the same thing.”

Emily lives in Maine, whose Tea Party Governor Paul LePage was one of the first to jump on the Jeb Bush “Digital Learning Now!” bandwagon.

It was exposed in a wonderful, prize-winning “follow the money” investigative report.

Whenever you listen to the rhetoric of “reformers,” you must always bear in mind that what they mean is actually the opposite of what they say. “Reform,” for example, does not mean that they want to improve public schools; it means “privatization” and the elimination of public schools.

Emily Talmade, teacher-blogger in Maine, says that we must be wary of the new reform focus on “social emotional learning.” They do not mean that teachers and parents should pay attention to children’s ability to work and play well with others, or to their feelings of adequacy and self-worth.

Behind the new buzzwords is a renewed effort to push competency based education (CBE) and computer-based teaching and assessment. The leaders of the new reform movement hail from the tech sector–Gates, Zuckerberg, Reed Hastings, Pearson, and more–and they see a future of computer-driven education, teaching and testing at all times, measuring and ranking students.

Can they be stopped? Emily doesn’t say how, but the answer lies with local school boards who are informed and who refuse to jump on their bandwagon. Maybe that is why ALEC is so determined to strip power from local school boards and transfer it to governors and state control. After all, it is easier to buy 50 governors than to persuade nearly 15,000 local school boards. The answer also lies with informed parents. Be aware of what your state is doing; refuse to allow your child to be subject to data mining and CBE. Opt out. Send a message: Not with my child.

Kevin Ohlandt, a parent blogger in Delaware, says that Bill Gates no longer even pretends to hide his ultimate goal: to digitize education and put all children online.

He writes:

Bill Gates wants a Federal Student Data Tracking System. That’s right. He also wants competency-based education, more career pathways programs, and personalized learning to take over public education. This is the same guy who funded Common Core. Remember that when you read the document released by the Gates Foundation today. If I had to guess, now that many education bloggers have exposed all the agendas which will lead to the Bit-Coin inspired Blockchain Initiative, the corporate education reformers (clearly led by Bill Gates) have nothing to lose by getting it all out there now. Now I know why U.S. Senator Chris Coons (Delaware) is chomping at the bit for his post-secondary legislation to get passed by Congress.

Read this. Every single word. Read between the lines. This is the endgame they have been pushing for, the complete and utter destruction of public education in anticipation of online education for all. Where you will be tracked from cradle to grave, with data allowed to be looked at through a federal database, which will track everything about you. The sad part is they play to civil rights groups by assuring more success for minorities. They screw over students with disabilities every chance they get. But their manipulation of under-served communities is at an all-time high in this document. Words like “outcome-based funding” scare the crap out of me, and it should for every single American. Look at all the footnotes in the below document. Look at the companies and think-tanks that are reaping immense profits for every bogus report they come out with. Look how embedded this already is in every single state and our national government.

This is all about the workforce of tomorrow. It has nothing to do with education, or liberal education, or liberating education.

Denis Ian warns that “competency based education,” online teaching and assessment, spells the end of education and of childhood. It is not just a threat to public education. It is a mortal threat to education of any kind.

He posted this comment:

Competency based education isn’t a mirage anymore. It’s here.

Beyond the view of skirmishes now underway across an array of states, is an emerging reality that … in a very short while … this destroying reform will have razed an American institution to a mound of rubble.

And in its place … for as far as the eye can see … will stand drive-thru learning centers offering kiosk-educations from a B. F. Skinner touch-screen that will supply the finger-pointer with all they need to succeed in a life of rich monotony.

That’s what your now titling schools are going to look like. And that’s your child’s purgatory. Dante would have had devilish fun imagining the distinct horror levels of academic hell that await children in their most crucial years.
Kindergarten is now the Boot Camp Moment. Classroom drill instructors seem unbothered shoving 70 month-olds into a rush-hour of academic traffic … because some basement gnome alleges it’s the ideal moment to vaccinate them with “grit” and “rigor”. And these academic tykes are denied recess and songs and giggles … because those would be indicators of unseriousness. And education is, above all else, an extra-serious business. Even for cherubs still ill-at-ease knotting their own sneakers.

The elementary time seems destined to be called the Tablet Years. The Mario Bros. Educational Principles will rule the day as students win points and pile up Magical No. 2 Pencils as they are prompted from one level to the next. Competency-based-education will erase all of those annoying human variables and every learner who reaches Level Extreme will see their names glitter in on-screen pixie dust. And an 8 X 10 screen-shot of that conquering moment will become the new moving-up document.

Middle school will usher in The Skinner Stage … when on-screen accountability and specially-tapered curricula designs will suffocate all of those aggravating teenage twitches and quirks. School magistrates will homogenize this stage of maturity so that no nail stands up … and individuality is mocked as antithetical narcissism that is thoroughly unacceptable. Creativity will be dubbed a day-dreaming activity … time-consuming musing more symptomatic of a sloth than of genius.

High school will be The Divergent Time… when, at long last, the future of every young adult will become crystal clear. Youngsters will be endlessly nudged in this or that career pathway … justified by the overwhelming mounds of data that can be Hansel and Greteled all the way back to the days when joy was first run out of their very brand-new lives.

And at every level, parents will lose more and more control of their children. They will be less and less invited by school authorities to take part in the joy-remembering rites of passage we all associate with growing up. And that is all by design because the very last thing these new educational absolutists want is any mother or father acting as though they have any regency at all over their own child’s education.

Orwell yourself beyond the moment and come to terms with what awaits us all on the horizon of touch-screen scholarship. Huxley yourself into the world of tomorrow when your children will have been programmed and plugged into lifetime situations based not on their passions but on some algorithmic prescription burped out by some electronic-ouija-motherboard.

If you are doubting of this .. and too, too many are … examine what the last half-decade has wrought. In the blink of an eye, schools have been systematically transformed, childhood recalibrated, and parents richly tattooed as adversaries. Government now dictates to the schools, and politicians have morphed into carnival barkers for every profiteer determined to get their slice of the Big Education pie.

And all the while, half-a-generation has already endured this child-abusing gauntlet of educational malpractice as they are guinea-pigged into blazing trails in the brave new world of scholastic madness.

And that is the great tilt. What is it you are going to do about it?

And if you decide to do nothing … then stand ready to watch their lives topple into misery in a very grave new world.

Denis Ian

What is competency-based education? Twenty or thirty years ago, it referred to skill-based education, and critics complained that CBE downgraded the importance of knowledge.

Today CBE has a different meaning. It refers to teaching and assessment that is conducted online, where students’ learning is continuously monitored, measured, and analyzed. CBE is invariably susceptible to data-mining of children, gathering Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that can be aggregated and used without the knowledge or permission of parents.

The first time that I heard of CBE (although it was not called that) was in a meeting in August 2015 with The State Commissioner of Education in New York, MaryEllen Elia, after her first month in office. I organized a discussion between Commissioner Elia and several board members of NYSAPE (New York State Allies for Public Education), the group that created New York State’s massive opt out that year (and again this year). It was a candid e change, and at one point, Commissioner Elia said that the annual tests would eventually be phased out and replaced by embedded assessment. When asked to explain, she said that students would do their school work online, and they would be continuously assessed. The computer could tell teachers what the students were able to do, minute by minute.

This kind of intensive surveillance and monitoring is very alarming. Once teaching and testing goes online, how can parents say no?

A group of bloggers wrote posts last week to express their concern and outrage about the stealth implementation of CBE. The lead post warns that opting out of annual tests is not enough to stop the digitized steamroller. It’s title is: “Stop! Don’t Opt Out. Read This First.” The author argues that parents are being deceived.

The blogger warns:

Schools in every state are buzzing this year with talk of “personalized” learning and 21st century assessments for kids as young as kindergarten. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its innovative pilot programs are already changing the ways schools instruct and assess, in ways that are clearly harmful to our kids. Ed-tech companies, chambers of commerce, ALEC, neoliberal foundations, telecommunications companies, and the government are working diligently to turn our public schools into lean, efficient laboratories of data-driven, digital learning.

He or she recounts the ways the technocracy responds to parents’ concerns and fears. The new way, they will say, is “personalized learning.” Don’t worry. We know what is best. When the parent objects that the test results come back too late to inform instruction, the technocrat says, “embedded instruction provides real-time feedback. No problem.” Parent asks, what about the stress? Technocrat: “Children won’t even know they are being tested.”

The blogger doesn’t actually say to parents, “Don’t opt out.”

Quite the contrary:

“Opt out families nationwide are encountering these same arguments, as though a pre-set trap is being sprung. Great. So opting out of end-of-year testing isn’t the silver bullet we hoped it would be. Now what?

Now that we know the whole story, go ahead and opt out of the end of the year tests. No child should suffer through them. But we have to expand our definition of opting out, to protect our children from data mining and stop the shift to embedded assessments and digital curriculum.

In addition to opting out of end-of-year testing, there are other important steps we need to take to safeguard our children’s access to human teachers and to protect their data, their vision, and their emotional health. There is no set playbook, but here are some ideas to get us started.

1. Opt your child out of Google Apps for Education (GAFE).

2. If your school offers a device for home use, decline to sign the waiver for it and/or pay the fee.

3. Does your child’s assigned email address include a unique identifier, like their student ID number? If yes, request a guest log in so that their data cannot be aggregated.

4. Refuse biometric monitoring devices (e.g. fit bits).

5. Refuse to allow your child’s behavioral, or social-emotional data to be entered into third-party applications. (e.g. Class Dojo)

6. Refuse in-class social networking programs (e.g. EdModo).

7. Set a screen time maximum per day/per week for your child.

8. Opt young children out of in school screen time altogether and request paper and pencil assignments and reading from print books (not ebooks).

9. Begin educating parents about the difference between “personalized” learning modules that rely on mining PII (personally-identifiable information) to function properly and technology that empowers children to create and share their own content.

10. Insist that school budgets prioritize human instruction and that hybrid/blended learning not be used as a back door way to increase class size or push online classes.

Parents, teachers, school administrators, and students must begin to look critically at the technology investments we are making in schools. We have to start advocating for responsible tools that empower our children to be creators (and I don’t mean of data), NOT consumers of pre-packaged, corporate content or online games. We must prioritize HUMAN instruction and learning in relationship to one another. We need more face time and less screen time.

Every time a parent acts to protect their child from these harmful policies, it throws a wrench into the gears of this machine. The steamroller of education reform doesn’t stand a chance against an empowered, educated army of parents, teachers and students. Use your power to refuse. Stand together, stand firm, be loud, and grab a friend. Cumulatively our actions will bring down this beast!”