Archives for category: Curriculum

Standing in front of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution at the National Archives, Trump denounced the teaching of history in U.S. schools as leftist “indoctrination” and pledged to create a “1776 Commission” to restore “patriotic” American history. He is especially vitriolic about the “1619 Project,” which revised the role of African-Americans in U.S. history. He thinks that any effort to think critically about history or to include nonwhites is “leftist” propaganda.

This is not as difficult as it might seem. He could just resurrect the U.S. history textbooks used in the 1950s, which presented a homogenized and triumphalist version of history, centered on white heroes. Then add a last chapter about the Reign of Trump. Whitewashed is the right word.

Do you think he has ever read either of the nation’s founding documents? Remember that he repeatedly claimed that Article II of the Constitution allows the president to do whatever he wants. Clearly he has never read Article II.

Do you think he knows that federal law prohibits any federal official from interfering with curriculum or instruction in the schools? Obviously not, but if he knew, he wouldn’t care since he is convinced that he is above the law.

Federal law 20 USC 1232a prohibits “any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system…”

Michael Crowley writes in the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Trump escalated his attacks on “left-wing demonstrators” and “far-left mobs” on Thursday, portraying himself as a defender of American heritage against revolutionary fanatics and arguing for a new “pro-American” curriculum in the nation’s schools.

Speaking at the National Archives Museum, Mr. Trump vowed to counter what he called an emerging classroom narrative that “America is a wicked and racist nation,” and he said he would create a new “1776 Commission” to help “restore patriotic education to our schools.” The president reiterated his condemnations of demonstrators who tear down monuments to historical American figures, and he even sought to link the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., to the removal of a founding father’s statue in Mr. Biden’s home state, Delaware.

“Our heroes will never be forgotten,” Mr. Trump said. “Our youth will be taught to love America.”

Since the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, in police custody in May in Minneapolis, and the protests that followed nationwide, the president has seized on cultural issues and has sounded many of the same themes — notably including at a showy Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore.

Since then, his vision of a Democratic Party hijacked by anti-American Marxists has become a core theme of his campaign. But he elevated the concepts on Thursday by delivering them in the august setting of the National Archives Museum, standing before the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in what was billed as the first “White House Conference on American History.”

The event was held on Constitution Day, the anniversary of the document’s signing in 1787. Mr. Trump said it reflected “centuries of tradition, wisdom and experience.”

“Yet as we gather this afternoon, a radical movement is attempting to demolish this treasured and precious inheritance,” he added.

The president focused much of his speech on his claim that American schools have become infected with revisionist ideas about the nation’s founding and history, producing a new generation of “Marxist” activists and adherents of “critical race theory” who believe American society to be fundamentally racist and wicked — and who have taken to the streets in recent months.

Mr. Trump said that “left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools,” adding that “it’s gone on far too long.” He boasted that the National Endowment for the Humanities “has awarded a grant to support the development of a pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history.”

Douglas Brinkley, a historian at Rice University, said that conservatives have long been angry at what they see as a growing emphasis in American public schools on themes of civil rights at the expense of more traditional historical narratives, mainly those revolving around white men.

“I think Donald Trump sees the cultural wars as a pathway to victory,” Mr. Brinkley added. But, he said, “what he sees as a cultural war is just trying to open up the narrative to other peoples’ experiences — not just white males.”

Mr. Trump gave his remarks a campaign twist when he promised to include a statue of Caesar Rodney, who rode 70 miles to Philadelphia in 1776 to cast a tiebreaking vote to declare independence, in a national statuary garden to honor “American heroes” whose creation he ordered in July. Mr. Biden, he charged, “said nothing as to his home state’s history and the fact that it was dismantled and dismembered.

“And a founding father’s statue was removed,” the president added.

Denouncing “propaganda tracts” that “try to make students ashamed of their own history,” Mr. Trump singled out The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, named for the year the first enslaved Africans arrived in the Virginia colony, and which reframes American history around the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans. The project, whose lead author, Nikole Hannah-Jones, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, has been incorporated into a curriculum and is taught in many schools across the United States.

Mr. Trump said the project in fact “rewrites American history to teach our children that we were founded on the principle of oppression, not freedom.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Mr. Trump continued, saying that the United States’ founding “set in motion the unstoppable chain of events that abolished slavery, secured civil rights, defeated communism and fascism, and built the most fair, equal and prosperous nation in human history.”

A Times spokeswoman, Danielle Rhoades Ha, described the 1619 Project as “landmark, groundbreaking journalism.”

“It deepened many readers’ understanding of the nation’s past and forced an important conversation about the lingering effects of slavery, and its centrality to America’s story,” she said in a statement. “We are proud of it and will continue this vital journalism.”

Seemingly as a counterpoint, Mr. Trump said that he would soon sign an executive order to create the 1776 Commission, named after the year the American colonies declared their independence. He said the commission would promote a “patriotic eduction” and “encourage our educators to teach our children about the miracle of American history and make plans to honor the 250th anniversary of our founding.”

William R. Ferris, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina and a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, criticized Mr. Trump for “treating historians just as he treats scientists — by disregarding our very best voices who have written on American history and race.”

Mr. Ferris said that creating a new commission to promote American history makes little sense. “We already have institutions like the National Archives and others that preserve and promote our nation’s history,” he said. “I would encourage him to request congressional support for the existing programs at the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, the National Archives and the National Endowment for the Humanities.”

“They do a good job with very little funding, and I know they would welcome his strong support to expand those budgets,” Mr. Ferris said.

Mr. Trump’s speech also singled out the doctrine of critical race theory, the view that the law and other societal institutions are based on socially constructed theories of race that benefit white people. He called the theory “a Marxist doctrine holding that America is a wicked and racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression, and that our entire society must be radically transformed.”

“Critical race theory is being forced into our children’s schools, it’s being imposed into workplace trainings, and it’s being deployed to rip apart friends, neighbors and families,” Mr. Trump said.

In what he called an example of critical race theory in action, the president condemned the Smithsonian Institution for publishing online a description of “whiteness” that included the concepts of rational thinking, hard work and the nuclear family.

“This is offensive and outrageous to Americans of every ethnicity, and it is especially harmful to children of minority backgrounds who should be uplifted, not disparaged,” Mr. Trump said. “Teaching this horrible doctrine to our children is a form of child abuse in the truest sense of those words.”

The president did not offer more detail, but he appeared to be referring to a graphic removed from the website of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture last month after criticism from conservatives, including Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son.

“Our ‘Talking About Race’ website was designed to help people talk about racial identity, racism and the way these forces shape every aspect of society,” said Linda St. Thomas, the chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution. “We removed a graphic that did not contribute to productive discussions.”

This month, Mr. Trump directed administration officials to halt or revise racial sensitivity training programs that he deemed “divisive” and “un-American propaganda,” and he threatened on Twitter to cut off federal education funding to California over the state’s incorporation of the 1619 Project in its public school curriculum.

Hours after extolling the United States’ iconic heroes, Mr. Trump missed a ceremony honoring a major one. He was absent from the dedication of a new memorial to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington. That was unusual: President Bill Clinton dedicated a memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt, President George W. Bush dedicated one to World War II, and President Barack Obama dedicated one to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Trump instead left town for a campaign rally in Wisconsin.

John H. Jackson is president of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, one of the few philanthropies that unequivocally supports public schools. He writes here that Trump’s efforts to suppress the 1619 Project—a history of African Americans—is “unworthy of a democracy.”

More than that, the president has no business interfering in school curriculum. Federal law specifically prohibits any federal official from interfering with curriculum or instruction. In this case, Trump is openly appealing to his white suptemacist base, encouraging them to believe that he can prevent schools from teaching black history. He can’t and he shouldn’t.

You have often read Gary Rubinstein’s sage insights into the hoaxes associated with “miracle schools,” charter schools, and Tesch for America.

But his fist love is teaching mathematics. That is also his profession. So, in this time when face-to-face instruction is imperiled, Gary has prepared some lessons to share with parents, teachers, and students.

With this pandemic going on and so many people learning math through videos, I’m making a series of videos that I hope helps some parents and teachers help their children or their students learn math.

When complete, this will surely be over 12 hours long, starting with addition and ending with trigonometry. So far there are three videos that go from kindergarten through about 3rd grade, ending with the dreaded ‘long division.’

This post includes a playlist and the first three lessons.

Johann Neem, historian of education at Western Washington University, wrote an article in USA Today about the threat that COVID-19 poses to the future of public education. Affluent parents, he notes, are making their own arrangements. Some have created “learning pods” and hired their own teachers. Others will send their children to private schools, which have the resources to respond nimbly to the crisis. He recounts the early history of public schools and points out that they became essential as they served an ever-growing share of the community’s children.

Neem writes that the increase in the number of charter schools and vouchers, as well as Betsy DeVos’s relentless promotion of charters and vouchers, has already eroded the stature of public schools.

He warns:

We are at a moment of reckoning. The last time public schools were closed was when Southern states sought to avoid integration. The goal then was to sustain racial inequality. Even if today the aim is not racist, in a system already rife with economic and racial inequality, if families with resources invest more in themselves rather than share time and money in common institutions, the quality of public education for less privileged Americans, many of whom are racial minorities, will deteriorate.

His warnings are timely. Others warn that home schooling will increase so long as pinprick schools stay closed or rely on remote learning.

But there is another possibility: Eventually, schools will open for full-time, in-person instruction, when it is safe to do so.

How many parents will continue home schooling when their children can attend a real school with experienced teachers and a full curriculum and roster of activities? How many parents will pay $25,000 or more for each child when an equivalent education is available in the local public school for free? At present, only 6% send their children to charter schools. How likely is that to increase when new charters close almost as often as they open?
How many parents want vouchers for subpar religious schools, when only a tiny percentage chose them before the pandemic?

My advice: Don’t panic. Take care of the children, their families, and school staff. Fight for funding to make our public schools better than ever. After the pandemic, they will still be the best choice because they have the best teachers and the most children.

David Berliner has devoted his life to the study of education. He has achieved the pinnacle of his profession as a researcher and statistician. He is currently Regents Professor Emeritus at the College of Education at Arizona State University. His list of honors is too long to mention. I welcome his original contributions to the blog and am honored to present them to you. His title for this post is: “Learning Losses Associated with the ‘Required Curriculum’ Can Be Easily Offset by Gains in Learning in the ‘Not-Required Curriculum.'”


Parents currently worry that their children have not or will not learn enough by participating in the non-standard styles of schooling associated with our pandemic. Some worry, particularly, that their children will not test well if they miss too much of what we have come to regard as “regular” schooling. The regular or standard school curriculum differs slightly by state, but it is what teachers try to deliver in each grade. It is the curriculum designed to prepare children for their states’ tests, and for the SATs and ACTs taken near the end of high school.

The pandemic also has teachers and administrators worrying about safety, and the arrangements needed for instruction as our crisis continues: In-class? On-line? Hybrid? What? Educators are afraid that the reputation of their schools could suffer, if their students don’t test well because of missed schooling, or because instruction appears not to be as effective on-line as it is when it occurs in classrooms, the historic and preferred mode of delivering instruction. In addition, a reduction in test scores could easily reduce housing values in the school catchment area, eventually changing the pool of students that they work with. Worry, worry, everywhere, and no solution apparent.

But much of this worrying can easily be relieved. Think of it this way: If we stop worrying about learning the “required stuff” in the ordinary, test-prep oriented curricula now in place in most American schools and districts, and instead started thinking about learning, just learning good stuff, the problem disappears. The issue for every parent and every educator should be about students learning. Period (cf. Westheimer, 2020).

Learning, growing, forming beliefs that are factually based, gaining deep insights into particular subject matters, extending ones’ horizons, and mastering something complex is really what is important. Surely, we can all agree that there is a plethora of ‘stuff’ worth learning out there, things that are of interest, utility, or beauty. Much of this is not found in the standard/ordinary school curriculum. If we can accept that there are countless worthwhile things to learn that are not in the accepted/normal/required/test-prep school curriculum, we might worry less about our students, as long as they are learning many of these other acceptable things. Actually, some of these other things may not just be acceptable, but quite desirable to learn.

I simply can’t get as distressed, as so many others do, when we believe kids are missing the “proper” time in their development to learn gerunds and the role of apostrophes, long division and simple algebra, or the date the constitution was signed. These certainly may all be worthy goals in our youths’ passage to a competent adulthood through our public schools. But what if a good part of the thinking and learning they are engaged in during these unusual times is, instead, based on a project the student chooses, or is assigned and willingly accepts? What if they had a topic to study and become highly knowledgeable about? And what if students must eventually report on their project or topic of study?

Even first graders are quite capable of learning sophisticated information about, say, dinosaurs. In fact, many of them do this spontaneously, and are quite capable of knowing more about dinosaurs and the lives they led than the vast majority of adults (Chi and Koeske, 1983). Sophisticated domain knowledge, the knowledge of experts, can easily be learned in a child’s study of rainfall, global warming, dog breeding, or a hundred other topics. What if our children began to learn these other good things, as well as whatever on-line instruction a teacher or school provides during the pandemic? Would America’s children lose anything? Or, might our students actually gain from such experiences?

On-line contact with their classroom teacher is likely not to be for the six hours per day that the child experiences during regular classroom instruction. But on-line contact about projects or topical areas will allow teachers to individually assist, tutor, critique, and advise on each project or topical area studied. After a semester or a school year, the child should be ready to present a project or topical inquiry to an audience of peers, teachers, and parents.

The beauty of these kinds of inquiries is that there would be little down time for students during education in this time of pandemic. Students will be learning about something of interest to them, though just not necessarily everything that is in the state required curriculum for their age group. Since not everyone is likely to have access to the full, required curriculum for their grade, the validity of any test scores at that grade level is greatly compromised and thus of little use. No attention should be given to invalid tests of the “required stuff” for students of a certain age and grade. But I certainly do want a way for students to learn “good stuff,” when limited in their getting access to the “required stuff”. Learning something in depth, and sharing it with others, may be an excellent replacement to the losses in learning the “required stuff” that are likely to occur in this pandemic.

Let us take a closer look at project based learning. Imagine if one or a few students had some months to turn in a project on whether: the climate is changing in their community, the air or water in their community is breathable or drinkable, their schools are adequately funded, their food is safe to eat, or a robot could be built to help the school cafeteria staff. Or the students investigated the causes of homelessness or asthma, or the need for public transportation in their community. There exists an endless supply of challenging projects, local and otherwise, worthy of study. Many will be appropriate for a particular age group, and some will require sustained effort over a moderately long time period to master the material at an age appropriate level.

A project not only teaches an individual, but if done with another it can substantially remove the feelings of loneliness that many of our students are feeling because of virus-caused school shutdowns. Moreover, two things are frequently noticed when students present their research projects or topical research to peers, teachers, and parents. First, students show evidence that they have learned how to organize and reorganize their ideas to prepare presentations from which others could learn. Second, their presentations regularly demonstrated that deep learning in the domain of study had taken place. The remarkable educator Debbie Meier (1995) describes successful schools where this has happened on a regular basis. The schools she describes didn’t wait for a crisis to incorporate the idea that children can direct their own learning with some adult scaffolding. Her experience and the testimony of others who studied her schools, convincingly established that students can and do dig deeply and happily into subject matter that they want to learn and share with others!

Topics to study. What if students negotiated with their teachers a topic: Birds, automobiles, penguins, glaciers, honey bees, artificial intelligence, the civil rights movement, internment camps during WWII, comets, and so forth. The topics investigated by a particular student might be of interest for them, or even assigned. The students’ job is to become expert in that topic and present a talk on that topic at the end of the school year, conveying to their classmates and others what is exciting and important to know about that topic. A version of how this approach might work schoolwide and across grades is described by Kieran Egan (2011), a most creative philosopher of education.

If learning from projects and topical studies as I have described was made more salient in the educational experiences of our youth, while the ordinary/standard curriculum was taught whenever and however it could be taught, what might happen?

We actually have some data related to this kind of arrangement. It comes from a classic, long-term, highly creative study conducted many years ago (Aikin, 1942). As the push to standardize the American curriculum gained traction, history has forgotten this study. But it is still quite instructive.

Students in 30 unique high schools, “progressive” schools, were studied. These 30 schools had agreed to let their students take a non-standard curriculum. The students studied some of what the school wanted them to, as current on-line instruction is meant to do. But these students also received high-school credits for choosing to study, think, write about, and to build, almost anything they wanted. The high school gave them credits for doing some highly unusual, self-determined projects and papers, few of which would have been approved had these students been subject to the standard high school curriculum of their time.

The students of these progressive schools, taking a very non-standard high school curriculum, went on to about 300 colleges and universities that had agreed to monitor and document their progress and achievements. They were also to monitor students’ deficits as well, since they had not been “properly prepared” for their college experience. They clearly had not studied the regular, standard, state sanctioned curriculum, so how could they compete in college?

From Aiken (1942) and the High School Journal (November-December, 1942), we learn that when each of the progressive school graduates was matched with a traditional school graduate who shared many similar background characteristics, the graduates of “progressive” schools showed: more leadership; joined and led more clubs; were rated as thinking more clearly; demonstrated a better understanding of democracy; had greater interest in good books, music, and art; got slightly better grades in college than those from traditional schools; and won more academic honors (e.g. Phi Beta Kappa, and honor roll designations). A special sub-study of the graduates of the six most progressive schools, what traditionalists thought of as the “wildest”, revealed that those students were superior to their peers from the other progressive schools! Thus, they scored well above the traditionally educated students on all the indices used for comparison. These poor students, deprived of the regular curriculum, achieved the highest college grades, and were rated the highest in intellectual drive, highest in thinking ability, and highest in extracurricular activity participation.

All I have written on this topic, above, now comes to this: The scholars reporting on the 8-year study said that the belief that students must have a prescribed school curriculum is not tenable. Studying almost anything in depth and breadth, with some (but not necessarily a lot of) teacher support, and reporting it out, prepares a child for the highest levels of scholarship at the next levels of their learning. There were no apparent negative effects from studying “this”, instead of “that”, if it was studied well. Learning seriously, deeply, and sharing that knowledge through papers and presentations (perhaps with power-points and YouTubes, maybe via film, television, music or art,) to one’s peers, parents, and the school faculty, apparently has no long-term ill effects, when compared to learning the “required” curriculum.

So to all the worried parents, teachers, and school administrators concerned that our youth will not learn about gerunds and the role of apostrophes, or long division and simple algebra, or the date the constitution was signed, “on time,” relax! Let us instead make sure our children are learning though projects and topics that capture their fancy during the time they have open. That should more than suffice for what they might miss of the traditional curriculum.

Aikin, W. (1942). The Story of the Eight-Year Study. New York: Harper.

Chi, M. T. H., & Koeske, R. D. (1983). Network representation of a child’s dinosaur knowledge. Developmental Psychology, 19(1), 29–39. https://doi.org/1031037/0012-1649.19.1.29

Egan, K. (2011). Learning in Depth. A Simple Innovation That Can Transform Schooling. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Meier, D. (1995). The power of their ideas: Lessons from a small school in Harlem. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

The High School Journal, Nov.-Dec., 1942), 25 (7), 305-309.

Westheimer, J. (2020, March 21). Westheimer: Forget trying
to be your kid’s substitute school teacher during
COVID-19. Ottawa, Canada: Ottawa Citizen.

Marion Brady is a veteran educator who has been trying to reform the school curriculum for many years. He persists.

He writes:

When face-to-face schooling isn’t possible

There’s no getting around it. Firsthand experience is the best teacher. If what’s attempting to be taught is worth knowing, it’s going to be complicated. And if it’s complicated, firsthand experience isn’t just the best teacher, it’s the only teacher.

That’s the main reason most adults remember so little of what they were once “taught.” Information delivered by teacher talk, textbooks and computer screens is dumped on kids’ mental “front porch”—short-term memory—but gets no farther. To be useful, information has to be interesting enough to be picked up, taken inside, and a place in memory found for it that allows logic to access it weeks, months, or years later.

That rarely happens. Most classrooms are purpose-built for delivering information, making it hard to create firsthand experience. It’s even harder to do it via laptops, which goes far toward explaining the usual failure of virtual, remote, and distance instruction.

Alfred North Whitehead, in his 1916 Presidential Address to the Mathematical Association of England, identified a fundamental problem with traditional schooling:

“The second-handedness of the learned world is the secret of its mediocrity.”

Schooling’s bottom-line aim is societal survival in an unknowable future. Survival requires new knowledge—continuous evolution of citizens’ mental models of reality. An honest look at the world today says time is growing short for creating schooling that teaches kids the most important of all survival skills—how to turn information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom.

That’s doable, but it requires changing the primary aim of middle school-level instruction from covering the content of the core curriculum to improving the ability to think—to hypothesize, generalize, synthesize, imagine, relate, integrate, predict, extrapolate, and so on.

There are dozens of thought processes and countless combinations of thought processes that make humanness possible, but they’re not being taught because they’re too complex to be evaluated by machine-scored standardized tests.

Make maximizing adolescents’ ability to think the aim, and the resulting efficiency from the sharpened focus will be revolutionary. Reducing the hours each day devoted to the soon-forgotten conceptual chaos of the core curriculum will make available a big chunk of time for programs keyed to individual learner interests and abilities.

Dealing with Covid-19

Nothing really substitutes for face-to-face schooling, but when that’s unwise or impossible, learning’s fundamentals still need to be respected.

–          Real-world experiences

–         Teachers or mentors who ask thought-stimulating questions

–         Keeping a journal

–         Instruction paced by learner understanding rather than the calendar

–         Learning teams small and intimate enough for dialogue—”thinking out loud” about matters of significance.

Textbooks, teacher talk and laptop screens give kids a steady stream of information, but it’s been “processed.” The interesting, creative, intellectually challenging work has already been done, leaving nothing to do but try to remember it.

Would newspapers publish completed crossword puzzles? What the young need that they’re not getting is “raw” reality to chew on—reality in a form that lends itself to description, analysis and interpretation.

Primary data—the “residue” of reality—provides it. However, for kids to engage, data has to come in the form of puzzles, problems and projects, with lesson aims they consider important enough for attention to be paid, and content interesting enough to be self-propelling.

But guidance is necessary. Teams of teachers with varied expertise need to monitor the teams and sometimes comment or pose questions.

Below is an illustrative activity consistent with the above that meshes with existing middle-level curricula and bureaucratic requirements.

Use the present crisis to give education back to educators, and make middle-level schooling’s aim maximizing the quality of thought, and adolescents will demonstrate abilities only long-experienced teachers knew they had.

 A Project: Town Planning, 1583

Big idea: Humans shape habitats that then shape humans.

Age group: Middle school and older learners.

Instructional organization: Small, three-to-five-member work teams.

Technology requirements: Broadband internet access, laptop computer.

App: Zoom or another screen-sharing program

Primary data:

Page 2@https://www.marionbrady.com/documents/AHHandbook.pdf

 

 

 

 

The National Center for Education Statistics released NAEP scores in history and geography, which declined, and in civics, which were flat.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos went into her customary rant against public schools, but the real culprit is a failed federal policy of high-stakes testing narrowly focused on reading and math. If DeVos were able to produce data to demonstrate that scores on the same tests were rising for the same demographic groups in charter schools and voucher schools, she might be able to make an intelligent point, but all she has is her ideological hatred of public schools.

After nearly 20 years of federal policies of high-stakes testing, punitive accountability, and federal funding of school choice, the results are in. The “reforms” mandated by No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as the federally-endorsed (Gates-funded) Common Core, have had no benefit for American students.

Enough!

When the ESSA comes up for reauthorization, it should be revised. The standardized testing mandate should be eliminated. The original name—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—should replace the fanciful and delusional title (NCLB, ESSA), since we now know that the promise of “no child left behind” was fake, as was the claim that “every student succeeds” by complying with federally mandated testing.

Restore also the original purpose of the act in 1965: EQUITY. That is, financial help for the schools that enroll the poorest children, so they can have small classes, experienced teachers, a full curriculum including the arts and recess, a school nurse, a library and librarian, a psychologist and social worker.

Here is the report from Politico Morning Education:

MANY STUDENTS ARE STRUGGLING’: Average scores for eighth-graders on the Nation’s Report Card declined in U.S. history and geography between 2014 and 2018 while scores in civics remained flat, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The results follow disappointing scores for math and reading released in October.

— “The results provided here indicate that many students are struggling to understand and explain the importance of civic participation, how American government functions, the historical significance of events, and the need to grasp and apply core geographic concepts,” stated Peggy G. Carr, the associate commissioner of assessment at NCES, which runs the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, known as The Nation’s Report Card.

— The digitally based assessments were administered from January to March 2018 to a nationally representative sample of eighth-graders from about 780 schools. The results are available at nationsreportcard.gov. They will be discussed at a livestreamed event, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

— Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, in a statement, said “America’s antiquated approach to education is creating a generation of future leaders who will not have a foundational understanding of what makes this country exceptional. We cannot continue to excuse this problem away. Instead, we need to fundamentally rethink education in America

Open the link to find links to the NAEP reports.

Laura Chapman writes:

“EdReports, an independent curriculum review nonprofit, rates curriculum on three gateways: Text Quality, Building Knowledge, and Usability. Amplify CKLA earned a green rating in all three.”

This should not be regarded as a trustworthy endorsement. Here is Why. Recall that the Common Core State (sic) Standards were first marketed as if they were not intended to be about curriculum (but they were), because the owners of the CCSS soon offered up “publisher’s criteria” for curriculum materials (2011). Those criteria morphed into a system for reviewing curricula, based on absolute compliance with the CCSS, including grade-by grade alignments. In 2013, the initial criteria for reviewing curriculum materials for compliance with the CCSS were called “drop dead” (meaning comply with these criteria or do not waste the time of reviewers). A year later, the language was softened to the idea that materials had to meet “gateway” criteria (2014), but with the same meaning,—comply or else the reviewers will not bother to look at anything else.

By 2015, the promoters of the CCSS had set up a non-profit called EdReports.org to function in the capacity of a consumer-reports of newly published math and ELA materials. The purpose was to rate publications that claimed to be in compliance with the CCSS.

EdReports is said to be the result of a meeting at the Annenberg estate of “the nation’s leading minds in math, science, K-12 and higher education.” I have not been able to find a list of participants in that meeting or the sponsors, but in 2014 professionals in branding and communications were hired to promote EdReports. You can see the strategy and their pride in getting coverage in national news, http://www.widmeyer.com/work/edreports-org.htmlincluding from Peter Greene at http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/search?q=EdReports

In August 2015 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $1,499,988 to EdReports for operating support followed in 2016 with $6,674,956 for operating support. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation gave EdReports.org $1.5 million in 2015 and $2 million in 2016.

Ed Reports.org is also funded by Broadcom Corporation (Board member from Broadcom is with EdReports), the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, the Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Overdeck Family Foundation, the Samuel Foundation, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, and the Stuart Foundation.

You can find more about the quest for absolute continuity from the writing of the CCSS, largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to current efforts to impose “approved curriculum materials” for any state that has adopted the CCSS… https://www.edreports.org/about/index.html

EdReports is a Gates funded review process initially marketed to ensure that “approved” curriculum materials were in compliance with the common core. Any curriculum materials that did not pass muster with three gateway “drop dead criteria” would not be subjected to further review.

Amplify does not want you to know the history of this phony system of rating materials. Bob Shepard has offered another excellent history of this absurdly wrong effort to standardize ELA curriculum.

I see that Margaret Spellings, former Secretary of Education, has found a position at Amplify. She also serves on the board of Gates’ relatively new lobby shop. She is not competent to make judgments about education, but that seems to qualify her to be a crony of the disrupters who will do almost anything to please a billionaire.

Education is always ablaze with the latest fad (think “grit,” “think “self-esteem,” think “character education,” think “growth mindset,” think a hundred other hot topics).

Now it is “social and emotional learning.” You might think that SEL is simply built into the classroom experience. But no, there is now a demand from some quarters to teach it as a separate activity or even subject.

Peter Greene has a few choice words on the subject.

With Peter Greene, experience and common sense go a long way.

He begins:

 

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) has been gathering traction as a new education trend over the past few years. Back at the start of 2018, EdWeek was noting “Experts Agree Social-Emotional Learning Matters, and Are Plotting Roadmap of How To Do It.” But as we head into the new year, many folks still haven’t gotten far beyond the “it matters” stage in their plotting.
I’m here to teach you how to be human.
That’s the easy part. We can mostly agree that SEL matters; in fact, we ought to agree that it already happens in classrooms. It’s impossible to avoid; where children are around adults, SEL is going on. Asking if SEL should occur in a classroom is like asking if breathing should happen in the room. The real question is whether or not it should occur in a formal, structured, instructed and assessed manner. That is the question that starts all the arguments. We can break down the arguments by asking the same questions we ask about any content we want to bring into the classroom.
Why do we want to teach this?
Some SEL proponents have developed a utilitarian focus. Summarizing the work of the Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development, EdWeek said “social-emotional learning strategies center on research that has linked the development of skills like building healthy peer relationships and responsible decision making to success inside and outside the classroom.” But what happens if we approach what used to be called character education with the idea that it’s useful for getting ahead? Doesn’t SEL need to be about more than learning to act like a good person in order to get a grade, a job, and a fatter paycheck? Are you even developing good character if your purpose for developing that character is to grab some benefits for yourself?
We can reject that kind of selfish focus for SEL and instead focus on the “whole child,” and treat SEL, as Tim Shriver (co-chair of that Aspen Institute) and Frederick Hess (of the American Enterprise Institute) wrote, as “an opportunity to focus on values and student needs that matter deeply to parents and unite Americans across the ideological spectrum—things like integrity, empathy, and responsible decision making.” But then we find ourselves with another problem.
What do we want to teach?
If we’re going to adopt SEL in order to essentially teach students to be better people, then who will decide what “better” looks like? Is “tolerance” going to be one of the virtues, and if so, does that mean that students must learn to tolerate persons who would not be tolerated by their families (be that married gay folks or strict religious conservatives)? Should students be taught to feel empathy for everyone, from Nazis to sociopaths?
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) identifies five “competencies” for SEL(self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, relationships skills). That framework is widely used, but “explained” with a wide variety of definitions (one resource says it includes “achieving useful goals”). All of them are heavily loaded with value judgments; how many arguments have you been in your life about whether or not something was a “responsible” decision or not? Who decides if a goal is “useful?”
We have been down this exact road before. In the 90s, Outcome Based Education was going to be a great new thing in education, but before it could gain traction, a bunch of folks noticed that it included an element of teaching values, and a large number of parents were certain that was not a job they wanted the schools to do. OBE never recovered. As two articles in this packet from AEI note, much of what comes under the SEL umbrella used to be considered the providence–indeed, the whole point–of religious and faith-based education.
Wherever SEL is implemented, expect a huge fight over what will actually be taught.
He has much more to say on the topic. Read it.

Sarah Sparks writes in Edweek about a curriculum company that is suing a parent in Wake County, North Carolina, for criticizing its math program. The company says the parent is defaming its product. The parent’s lawyer says the company is attacking the parent’s First Amendment rights.

As the story notes, this is a SLAPP suit, a suit meant to silence public criticism. The last time I encountered this sort of thing was when a charter company filed a suit against a school board member in California for negative criticism. The ACLU came to her defense. It should defend this parent too, who is using his Constitutional right to disagree with a program adopted by his district.

A group of families in Wake County, N.C., have pushed for months to get the district to stop using a controversial new curriculum. Now the company behind the curriculum is suing one of the most vocal parents for defamation.

It’s a surprising move that some say could have broad implications for parent advocacy around curriculum and instruction. A win by the company “would certainly cast a shadow on the idea that parents have a right to participate in their own children’s education, to criticize schools for buying particular textbooks, to voice their concerns about instruction and curriculum,” said Tom Loveless, an education researcher formerly at the Brookings Institution, who is not involved in the case.

The Mathematics Vision Project, a nonprofit provider of open source math curricula, filed a complaint this summer against Blain Dillard, a parent in the Wake County public school system. MVP has accused Dillard, an outspoken opponent of the math program, of libel, slander, and “tortious interference with business relations.”

The company alleges that Dillard has launched “a crusade against MVP” through his online criticism of the curriculum and advocacy with school officials and employees.

In a written statement to Education Week, Jeffrey Hunt, Dillard’s lawyer, wrote that the lawsuit “has no legal merit.”

“It is alarming that a parent would be sued for defamation for expressing opinions and making truthful statements about his son’s high school math curriculum,” Hunt said. “The lawsuit appears to be an attempt to silence Mr. Dillard and other critics of MVP, and to chill their First Amendment rights to speak about MVP’s services.”

The district is entering its third year using the MVP curriculum, which received a favorable evaluation from the curriculum reviewer EdReports. The open source curriculum emphasizes problem-solving and collaboration—students learn by working through problems, and teachers are expected to act as facilitators.

For months now, parents have spoken out against lessons that they say are confusing and poorly structured, lodging complaints with the district and making statements at school board meetings. Parents said their children weren’t getting enough direct instruction and were encouraged to rely on their classmates for help. As a result, they said, students who used to get As and Bs were now getting Cs and Ds, which would have long-lasting effects on their grade point averages and college prospects.

Barbara Kuehl, an author and consultant at MVP, said that the organization’s materials encourage a variety of methods. “Our curriculum not only supports well-timed direct instruction, we advocate for it,” she said. Kuehl declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing pending litigation.

Pushback from parents over a new curriculum, and particularly a discovery-based program, is nothing new, said Loveless.

“There have been all kinds of programs that have been oriented around that philosophy, and they have been quite controversial,” Loveless said.

What is new? A curriculum provider suing parents over such complaints.