Archives for category: Curriculum

The Commack Public School District is located on Long Island in New York. The district has about 79% white students, 9% Asian, 9% Hispanic, 1% African American, and a small number of multiracial students. The Commack public schools have strong academic outcomes. 95% of their graduates go to college.

Recently the district and its school board have been under attack by parents who insist that their children are subjected to Critical Race Theory and The 1619 Project. At a recent public hearing, parents listened to administrators and school board members, who assured them that the Commack schools did not teach CRT or The 1619 Project. Angry parents were not mollified, as you will see if you watch the video posted below.

Jake Jacobs, a NYC art teacher and co-administrator of the New York BATS, watched the video and wrote the following commentary.

CRT DEBATE BLOWS UP: In Commack, NY this school board forum shows how insane things have gotten. The audience comments are unhinged and mostly ignore everything the board and superintendent say. The first part of the video is just the staff going over the curriculum, explaining how they do not support CRT, but the parents already start interrupting and shouting.

The Commack board and superintendent said over and over they reject CRT and created a policy where no child feels “less than”.
Yet parents came up to the mic and accused them of lying, said CRT was “seeping in” and were convinced the state is going to impose CRT, that teachers were politically biased and only teach their side.
They pointed to board members and said they are all going to get voted out, just like they had in the neighboring district. Some parents came up gripped with anger, convinced that everything they didn’t like was indeed CRT, and that it has to be nipped in the bud before this can go any further.

Some spoke about their kids being bullied because they were conservative, or cops being negatively portrayed, they quoted MLK as not seeing skin color and they spoke about inappropriate images and themes in the book Persepolis, none of which were CRT.
Some speakers got on the mic screaming at the top of their lungs, accusing the schools of indoctrinating kids to hate, or threatened to put their kids in private school and sue for damages. One woman pointed repeatedly to the only Black trustee and said she “had something on him.”

Meanwhile, some brave Asian students got up and said they loved Persepolis, an award winning graphic novel taught in the district for 13 years. They noted it was the first time they saw themselves reflected in class readings and that the district has a severe lack of representation of diverse characters and authors. The students were constantly interrupted and badgered. One girl pointed that there were also graphic themes in Romeo and Juliet, Tale of Two Cities and To Kill a Mockingbird. A teacher who spoke in support of the students was also interrupted constantly and heckled.

One outraged NYPD officer got up and read a bullet point from the NY State Education Dept web page on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion which suggests schools cover “the senseless, brutal killing of Black and Brown men and women at the hands of law enforcement.” The Commack superintendent immediately took his side and disavowed the passage as inappropriate, promising cops would not be disparaged in the district, but the folks in the crowd wanted more.
They asked for apologies to police families, they asked for something in writing that CRT would not be taught even if the state mandates it, they wanted to know if teachers would be fired for political statements, they wanted to be notified when BLM will be mentioned in school so they can opt out. Some said schools should only be teaching math, reading, science and social studies and leave all the social-emotional and diversity stuff for parents to teach.

I don’t know if this was just a very loud minority or this is the prevailing view in this part of Long Island but these folks are 100% convinced that everything they don’t like is “CRT” and they are extremely animated, just like Christopher Rufo said. They said it is Socialism and Marxism and some got extremely emotional saying they need to hear the district will fight for their kids.

This is light years from what’s going on in NYC schools and the new Culturally Responsive framework approved by the Chancellor which centers racial, cultural and gender identity in the classroom, so this is a major clash of opposing ideas (fueled by wholesale misinformation) and it’s working really well in suburban areas to put school officials on the defensive and kids in the middle of electoral politics.

One day after he stood against removing Persepolis, the Commack English Dept Chair was removed from his position and stripped of tenure. The district also now has removed Diary of Anne Frank as well.

Click on this link to see the video:


Full video: https://boxcast.tv/view/community-forum-6-8-21-multiracial-curriculum-review-dyj9wrxcc8oqby2xtsbo?fbclid=IwAR1Tcal2N9B0V4_sFyxgkDrLbINNXyvh9u4ONssLly97-acBjNLyDgfv6DI

This one works too:

https://boxcast.tv/view/community-forum-6-8-21-multiracial-curriculum-review-dyj9wrxcc8oqby2xtsbo

Jane Nylund is a parent activist and educator in Oakland.

She writes:

A bit of background: we are a family of two kids through OUSD, nearly 20 years with the district. Strong foundation in math and science, and some experience with statistics. As a classified educator in a high-needs school, I have recently spent time proctoring the I-Ready diagnostic in my fourth grade class. Out of concern for my math group, who all had pained looks on their faces, I was able to view some of the math test questions.

I was appalled at what I saw. Yes, I know the test is supposed to be adaptive, but the material that they expected the kids to try and answer was 6th grade level math, possibly higher. I noted the following:


1) Multi-step unit conversions in the context of a word problem2) Definitions/examples of independent and dependent variables3) Simplification of algebraic equations with two variables.


These types of questions appeared around the 15% test completion point for one student. It’s possible that there was some kind of operator error on the teacher’s part and that’s why these types of math problems showed up on the diagnostic. Nevertheless, the idea of creating a diagnostic that is essentially designed so that the kids fail 50% of the questions is a problem.


I could go on and on about how wrong this is and why this diagnostic test is completely unnecessary for our kids to suffer through. It almost seems like none of the adults in the decision-making process bothered to take it themselves. And if they did, and still thought this was all reasonable for students who are still learning math facts and long division, they have no business working around kids.


What I’m more interested in is how our district decided that I-Ready should be a thing. Did they just read the marketing and hype and just go along with it? Did they bother to check the “studies”, most of which were commissioned by Curriculum Associates (CA)? None of which were peer-reviewed. Or was it just an off-the-shelf substitution for the SBAC, like buying a box of cereal?

Anecdotally, I heard the Rainin Foundation provided funding for the project. It also turns out that the board voted on an item on the Consent Agenda that allows the district to share our kids’ I-Ready data with Johns Hopkins for a study; only two districts are part of the study. Why? And why Oakland? I’ll get to that. The Rainin Foundation contracts out with a consulting firm calledBridgespan. They, in turn, make all kinds of ed reform-based recommendations to their clients. So, it’s possible that Bridgespan, Rainin Foundation, and OUSD were working in tandem somehow to recommend I-Ready. Rainin agrees to fund it, and Johns Hopkins is gleefully rubbing their hands together at all the data they will capture. The district is notorious for never turning down a free data lunch, even if it’s an I-Ready garbage sandwich. It’s what they do.


What’s the feedback around I-Ready? Across the board, nearly everyone despises it: teachers, students, families. Who loves it? None other than Jeb Bush of Foundation for Excellence in Education. Yeah, that guy. Is this the same path that we should be heading down with yet another ed-tech privatization tool that just makes money for Curriculum Associates? Should we really be emulating what they are doing and supporting in Florida, a hotbed of dubious ed reform, profiteering, and graft? After an entire year of screen time, should we be supporting an ed-tech industry product that makes a fortune off the very thing that we have said is bad for our kids, even more testing and screen time? In typical ed-tech fashion, what our district is allowing them to do is collect our kids’ data for free, then later sell a product back to OUSD to get our kids to “improve” their achievement. At the same time, the I-Ready team will likely find that their products/services neatly dovetail into the brand-new residual gain growth model that the SBE has just approved. Yet another golden opportunity sought after by Curriculum Associates and I-Ready. Oakland has now become the perfect market for an educational tool that serves no purpose other than to punish and demoralize our children, waste our teachers’ time, demean the teaching profession, and make big bucks for Curriculum Associates.


Here’s my favorite part. According to the literature (See one “independent” study here), which students perform better on I-Ready? The ones who are already performing at a high level. Wow, there’s a prediction. Who would have thought? Apparently, high-achieving kids are willing to stick with it longer because they don’t fail the program’s adaptive algorithm right away. So it’s not quite as miserable an experience for them. In addition, there is no longitudinal peer-reviewed data showing the effectiveness of I-Ready on achievement. The referenced study (WestEd, funded by Gates and Silicon Valley Education Foundation) had no randomized test design, just for starters and there’s no way to show causation.


What’s the end game? Are the students going to be subjected to the IAB, ELPAC, SBAC, and now I-Ready? By the way, the program is so universally despised that our smart young people have figured out how to hack into the program to add time to the lessons so they can quit the program sooner. According to one Reddit user, “finally, the suffering is over”.
https://www.reddit.com/r/Iready/comments/m4pw38/iready_is_over_for_the_second_time/


Another quote from an actual user: “As a student required to use this program twice a week before the quarantine and an hour a week during, this is an issue. The program has specific and bizarre questions with very broad categories and overall fails to teach anything, as students are turned off from engaging due to the sheer amount of frustration that it is caused from the lack of sensible instruction. It absolutely fails to properly give students the right lesson. I am a 7th grader in 9th grade math, however it gives me and many students 5th and 6th grade math, some students have had basic division and multiplication despite their actual math abilities. I give my full advocation and so does my boyfriend and all of my friends to the removal of this harmful and unhelpful program.”


Another example:


“FCPS (Fairfax County Public Schools, Florida) defends critique of the iReady assessment by asserting that teachers should use iReady as a screener to identify students “at risk,” not as a diagnostic assessment. I think this defense wears thin when schools begin to use iReady assessment data as a measure of growth on their School Improvement Plans. I think this defense wears thin when schools print out the reports and use them to sort and label children for intervention in data dialogue meetings. “
https://mathexchanges.wordpress.com/2018/06/14/why-iready-is-dangerous/

This author nailed it. What is supposed to be a diagnostic tool will be mislabeled and misused as a tool to “measure” achievement. News flash, we already have a flawed standardized test to “measure” achievement and we don’t need another. All this is also predicated on the usual idea that teachers have absolutely no clue how their kids are doing in class even though they are with their students for hours at a time, you know, teaching. I’ve already seen charter schools use I-Ready to boast of their superior “achievement” on social media. Charters aren’t using it as a diagnostic tool. They are using it as a marketing tool.


This author wrote an extremely well-researched piece on how I-Ready and other programs like it are all tied into privatization and profiteering. It’s a long read, but it really sums up all that is wrong with this kind of educational climate that promotes tech over experienced teachers and our willingness to be participants in its many forms, while sacrificing any real hope of authentic improvement.
https://dezignzbydeb.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/i-readymore-like-i-scam-and-other-deceptions/#comments

Finally, Curriculum Associates will embrace all that tasty Johns Hopkins data from our kids to sell their brand of misery to other unsuspecting districts. Our children have experienced enough “rigor” in their everyday existence this past year. They don’t need another ed-tech company treating them like lab rats and preying upon them for the almighty dollar. Just stop it, I-Ready. We’ve had enough. Do the right thing and cancel the contract with Johns Hopkins. That would be a move in the right direction. Thanks for listening.

Marion Brady is a progressive educator who has never given up the fight to make education a lively and engaging experience.

He wrote the following to me:

Diane,The courses of study I give away were developed for Prentice-Hall over a period of seven years, working with dozens of middle school teachers nationwide. They taught every lesson, providing feedback and suggestions, and those that P-H thought were most insightful were brought together for a week at the end of every semester to go over final versions. 
P-H shelved it and gave me copyrights when the marketing department concluded that Phyllis Schafley’s claim that departures from tradition were a slippery slope to communism.
Since my brother and I put them online and free, downloads of files range from 600 to 1600 per week without a dime to advertise. 
Standardized testing is the major obstacle to acceptance.I’ve double-checked the links. They’re important.
Thanks much for all you do.


Marion

Salvaging public schooling

By Marion Brady

Public schooling should be the bedrock of democracy, but the institution’s failure to produce a citizenry more resistant to authoritarianism and fantastical conspiracy theories is surely evidence of a serious institutional problem. 

Unfortunately, it’s also a problem that most schools are poorly equipped to address. It has to do with what learners think and, with one exception, traditional schooling’s interest in what learners think is minimal. 

That exception: How much of the “core” curriculum’s standardized, secondhand information can kids stuff into short-term memory long enough to pass a test?

Good teachers do good things with the subjects in the core curriculum, but no mix of traditional school subjects will produce learners or a citizenry with sufficient intellectual depth and breadth to support democracy, societal stability, and the fresh thinking required by the accelerating rate of social change.     

Think I’m wrong?

Rethinking the core 

Woodrow Wilson said that changing the curriculum is harder than moving a cemetery. He was right, but the curriculum is where the rubber meets the road in schooling, and for general education purposes, the core curriculum’s failure to model reality systemically and holistically creates a fatal vulnerability.

The brain seeks order, organization, pattern, regularity, connections, relationships, wholeness. The core gives it a hodge-podge of disconnected subjects with differing aims, incompatible conceptual frameworks, specialized vocabularies, myriad abstractions and dissimilar methodologies, all at odds with both the integrated nature of the world that schooling is supposed to explain and the way our brains organize information to create sense and meaning.

A couple of paragraphs from a column I wrote twenty or so years ago for Knight-Ridder/Tribune newspapers for a series called “Rethinking Schools” illustrates why the core’s standalone subjects can’t do the job that needs doing.  

“We want a pair of socks. Those available have been knitted in a Third World country. Power to run the knitting machines is supplied by burning fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming. Global warming alters weather patterns. Altered weather patterns trigger environmental catastrophes. Environmental catastrophes destroy infrastructure. Money spent for infrastructure replacement isn’t available for health care. Declines in the quality of health care affect mortality rates. Mortality is a matter of life and death. Buying socks, then, is a matter of life and death.

“Making detailed sense of this simple cause-effect sequence requires not only some understanding of marketing, physics, chemistry, meteorology, economics, engineering, psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science and a couple of other fields not usually taught in middle or high schools, it requires an understanding of how fields fit together and interact.”

Planet Earth is on an unsustainable path largely of humankind’s choosing. The accelerating rate of environmental, demographic and technological change is creating problems with no known solutions. If our children and our children’s children are to have more than a snowball’s chance in hell of coping with the world they’re inheriting, they need more than a curriculum based on the Common Core Standards or similar knowledge-fragmenting curricula can give them.  

Curricular change 

Fortunately, a general education discipline that welds not only the core subjects but all present and future school subjects into working parts of a single, comprehensive, integrated, easily understood and used structure of knowledge doesn’t have to be invented. It already exists, is in universal use, teaches at rates unmatched by any other approach, costs nothing to adopt, and fits inside present bureaucratic boundaries and expectations. 

Every reader of these words began using that discipline’s major organizers at birth and developed them to sophisticated levels long before reaching school age. 

We’re born hungry. We fuss and a nipple with nourishment appears, introducing the thought process that, radically elaborated by lived experience and appropriate schooling, will teach us most of what we’ll learn for the rest of our lives. 

That thought process? Not recalling information, but relating it.

Relating

Knowledge expands as relationships are discovered between and among aspects of reality not previously thought to relate—nipples relate to fussing, tides relate to moon, societal stability relates to trust, peace relates to justice, time relates to space. 

The relating process that teaches so much so rapidly and efficiently has five elements rooted in the questions where, when, who, what, why? When we focus attention on a particular matter, we (1) locate it in space, (2) establish time parameters, (3) identify relevant actors or objects, (4) describe action, and (5) assume or postulate the action’s cause. The five, integrated systemically, create sense, meaning, “stories,” knowledge, understanding.   

Because all fields of study are elaborations of answers to the five questions, and because (when focused on a particular matter) the questions integrate systemically, all knowledge integrates systemically, maximizing the knowledge-creating relating process.

And humankind’s chances of survival.

Institutional transformation

Do this: Switch middle and high schooling’s primary focus from learner ability to recall secondhand information, to learner ability to relate information. Engineer “deep” understanding by requiring adolescents to discover the relating process for themselves via “active learning”—engaging in activities that help them lift the relating process into consciousness and put it to intellectually challenging use.* Do that, and the young will move to levels of academic performance not now possible, levels so far beyond the reach of machine-scored standardized tests their inability to evaluate complex thought will be obvious. 

I know this to be true beyond a shadow of doubt from leading a seven-year-long nationwide project involving dozens of middle school teachers working with kids of every level of ability. The project was cut short by the reactionary “back to basics” fad, followed by “standards and accountability” and high-stakes testing.  

Using scores on tests of recalled core curriculum content to shape education policy doesn’t just invite societal suicide, it assures it.

                                                              ###

*The links below access FREE—no strings, no advertising, no obligations—materials supporting and implementing the above. 

· What’s Worth Learning? Small, jargon-free e-book elaborating the above. Read a review:  

· Courses of study written for middle school and older learners—
An introduction to systems thinkingAmerican historycivicsworld historyworld cultures. (Free for teachers/mentors for use with their own learners:)

https://www.marionbrady.com/Systems-Based-Learning-Courses.asp

· Provision for user dialogue to encourage continuous improvement of lessons; other books, articles, op-eds, blogs. https://www.marionbrady.com

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics in California, is a dogged researcher who uncovers the mysteries of privatization and the education industry. In this post, he responds to a parent who asked him about an organization that was providing free airfare for her school district’s leaders. He was on the case.

He begins:

A North Carolina resident asked “what do you know about the Urban Collaborative?” She was concerned about a company providing free airfare to school leaders in her child’s district; airfare to meetings in far-off cities. She wondered, “What is their motive? Is it more about money and power than special education?”

The Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative was founded by Dr. David Riley, Educational Co-Chair of the Summer Institute on Critical Issues in Urban Special Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Riley was the Executive Director of the Collaborative until he succumbed to cancerMay 2, 2016. The Collaborative is a national network of education administrators responsible for youth with disabilities in urban school districts. It is a national version of the Massachusetts Urban Project, a state-wide network that Dr. Riley founded in 1979. In 1994, The Education Development Center (EDC) expanded the Urban Collaborative into a national organization.

Ultican then goes on to describe the history of the organizations and their collaborations with a foray into changes in the physics curriculum.

EDC once had noble ambitions and accomplishments:

In the early years, the EDC was an organization making liberal ideology a reality. They developed a science curriculum specifically for the realities of Africa. They led a consortium of U.S. universities in founding the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur. The EDC produced educational TV shows noteworthy for their African American and Latino casts. They engaged in educating village health workers in Mali.

Unfortunately, in the 1980s, EDC seems to have become distracted by power and money while it dove into education technology.

And then, oh my, money and power begin to change things.

He concludes:

The relationships that Urban Collaborative fosters and the curricular development activities at EDC may have value. But sadly, these organizations have been corrupted by billionaire dollars and the lust for national prominence. They have lost their focus on improving public education and have become power players in the world of corporate education reform.

I recently received a copy of Hillary Clinton’s policy book, assembled for her by her most trusted advisors in 2014. This policy book was released in 2016 by Wikileaks after it hacked into John Podesta’s emails. The education section begins on page 156. Clinton’s lead education advisor was Ann O’Leary, who is now chief of staff to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Let me say at the outset that if I had read this brief before the 20116 election, I would have been disappointed and disheartened, but I still would have voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump. Despite my disagreement with her education advisors and plans, she was still 100 billion times better than Trump. Maybe 100 zillion times better.

Her education advisors came right out of the Bush-Obama bipartisan consensus that brought up No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Common Core. The brief tells us that this wing of the Democratic party, which was in the ascendancy during the Obama administration, is an obstacle to improving American education. After thirty years of promoting charter schools and billions of dollars spent increasing their number, it is obvious that they are not a source of innovation, transparency, or accountability. The charter sector is a problem, not a solution. They have not brought great ideas to public schools; instead they compete with public schools for students and resources. Anyone who is serious about education must consider ways to help and support students, teachers, and communities, not promote schemes of uneven value that have opened the public purse to profiteers, entrepreneurs, religious zealots, and corporate chains.

What the brief teaches us is that the Democratic party is split between those who are still wedded to the failed bipartisan agenda that runs from Reagan to Clinton and those who understand that the Democratic party should commit itself to equity and a strong public school system that serves all children.

The education section of the policy brief makes for sobering reading. (It begins on page 163.) O’Leary wrote the education section of the policy brief. Among the “experts” cited are billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs and Bruce Reed of the Eli Broad Foundation. Among the policy papers is a statement by Jeb Bush’s spokesperson Patricia Levesque, recommending Jeb’s horrible ideas.

To sum up the recommendations:

  1. The brief lauds charter schools as a solution to the nation’s low academic performance (only a year earlier, CREDO had released a report saying that only one of every five charter schools outperforms public schools).
  2. The brief excoriates colleges of education and their graduates. It calls for Clinton to “professionalize teaching” by embracing TFA. TFA is likened to Finland as a model for finding excellent teachers. The brief does not mention that Finland would never admit teachers who had only five weeks of training into their classrooms. Every teacher in Finland goes through a multi-year rigorous program of preparation.
  3. The brief contends that tests should be “better and fewer” but should not be abandoned. Jeb Bush and Florida are cited as a model.
  4. The brief says: Don’t shy away from equity issues: While the root cause on inequity in our schools is still disputed – with reformers focused on the in-school availability of good teachers, good curriculum and rigorous course offerings and the unions focused on the challenges faced by teachers who are asked to find solutions to problems that stem from poverty and dysfunction in the community – there is an agreement that our public school system is one of the root causes of income inequality in our country, and that you should not be shy about calling it out and demanding we work to fix the inequities inside and outside the school building. [sic]
  5. Support the Common Core standards, which were already so toxic that they helped to sink Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. The brief says: Stand Up for the Common Core. There is strong agreement that we need high academic standards in our public school system and that the Common Core will help us to be more globally competitive. There is recognition, however, that the implementation of Common Core and the interaction with the testing regime has made many supporters nervous (including Randi Weingarten). However, all agree that you must stand for common core while working on the real challenges of how to implement it in a way that supports teachers. 
  6. The brief holds up New Orleans as a dramatic success, when in fact its greatest achievements were busting the teachers’ union, firing the entire teacher force (most of whom were African American, and turning public schools over to charter operators. We now know that about half of the charter schools in New Orleans are considered “failing schools” (ranked D or F) by the state’s own metrics, and that New Orleans is a school district whose scores are below the state average, in one of the lowest performing states in the nation. Hardly the “success” that should be hailed as a model for the nation.

Ann O’Leary interviewed Laurene Powell Jobs as an “expert” on education. One of Jobs’ strong recommendations is to reconsider the value of for-profit entrepreneurs.

Instead of just looking at the deficits of these schools, consider it a huge opportunity for transforming learning. Beginning to see some of this work in Udacity, Coursera – and we should be doing more of making the best in technology available to support students in getting skills and credentials they need. 

More from education expert Mrs. Jobs:

Re-Design entire K-12 system – know how to do it, but it comes down to political will. Public schools are a huge government program that we need to work brilliantly b/c it could change everything and be the thing that reduces income inequality; but we are stuck in system right now 

 Think about Charters as our R&D – only 5% of public schools still – MUST infuse ideas into the public school system, it is the only way – must allow public schools to have leaders that can pick their team and be held accountable; take away categorical funding, allow them to experiment and thrive 

 Need to increase IQ in the teaching sector: Teach for America; they are a different human capital pipeline – if Ed schools could be rigorous, highly esteemed, and truly selective like TFA and Finland, we’d see a different kind of teaching profession that would be elevated. Right now we have mediocre students become teachers in our classrooms; 

 Need transformation in our pipeline – Ed Schools should be like Med Schools – need to compensate teachers accordingly from $45K to 90K – have a professional union – like SAG; like docs and lawyers that have professional unions – individual contributors can negotiate; scientists and mathematicians; Teachers shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty 

 Need to use technology to transform – technology allows teaches and children to focus on content mastery versus seat time; get to stay with your age cohort, but you have a “learn list” and “dashboard” set up to help you reach the needed content skills. This is happening with Sal Kahn and schools in Bay Area – need to learn from it and grow it. 

 Need to call out and address the inequities – Huge differential between what is taught in higher income and lower-income schools; the top 50 college admissions professionals in US know which high schools have rigor embedded; in low-income schools, kids top out and cannot get more; black 12th grader curriculum/school equivalent to 8th grade curriculum for white student 

Then Ann O’Leary interviewed “education expert” Bruce Reed, president of the Broad Foundation, but with zero experience in education:

 Hillary’s initial instincts still hold true – that choice in former [sic] of charters, higher standards and making this a center piece of what we do as a country – nation of opportunity – still all true, nothing has changed; turned out to be even more true than it was 30 years ago 

 Challenge of education reform: school districts are pretty hard, if not impossible, to reform – they are another broken part of democracy b/c no leader held accountable for success or failure; no one votes on school board – don’t’ know who it is; sups not elected; mayors don’t want to be involved. 

o New Orleans is an amazing story – when you make it possible to get political dysfunction and sick a bunch of talent on the problem – it’s the one place where grand bargain of charters has been kept the best 

 Problem with Charters as R&D: 

o Traditional system – less incentive and less freedom to do things in different ways – big part of charter success is to pick staff you want and pick curriculum you want – don’t have anyone to blame if you are failing; principal is ultimately accountable, but in traditional system principal is often without any power 

o Critical mass…. Get to certain tipping point and rest of the system and will follow – New Orleans – if you create the Silicon Valley of education improvement, which is what New Orleans has, you can get there; but the central office must let go of thinking it knows how to run schools; Denver does it, letting go of micromanagement on curriculum, instead do transportation and procurement….pro charter; pro portfolio system for public schools. 

o Critical mass…. Get to certain tipping point and rest of the system and will follow – New Orleans – if you create the Silicon Valley of education improvement, which is what New Orleans has, you can get there; but the central office must let go of thinking it knows how to run schools; Denver does it, letting go of micromanagement on curriculum, instead do transportation and procurement….pro charter; pro portfolio system for public schools. 

Andrea Gabor, the Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism at Baruch College of the City University of New York, writes here about the importance of civics education, especially in a time when democracy is under attack by a defeated president and the leadership of the Republican Party.

Put Civics Back in the Classroom, Right Now

Has there ever been a better time to resume lapsed efforts to teach young Americans the structure and purpose of U.S. democracy?


By Andrea Gabor

The presidential election seemed to mark a revival in American civic engagement. A record two-thirds of the electorate voted. Candidates raised at least $3 billion in small-dollar donations, and historic get-out-the-vote efforts had an impact in NevadaGeorgia and elsewhere.


Yet large numbers of Americans appear to believe President Donald Trump’s baseless charges of election fraud. Civic life and discourse have been eroded by the normalization of lying by elected leaders, the dissemination of disinformation via social media and the attempted weaponization of the courts to undermine confidence in voting.
Has there ever been a better time for a revival of civics education? Not your father’s bland civics, with its how-a-bill-becomes-law tedium, but a vigorous set of lessons about American society and government that encourages fact-based exchanges of views and civil debate about controversial topics without taking sides in contemporary disputes about such issues as abortion or immigration policy.

Civics should begin with a common narrative that Americans can agree on, beginning with what the Declaration of Independence and Constitution say about the role and structure of U.S. government. It should explore the definition of citizenship and how it has evolved over the course of 250 years via such documents as the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, the Seneca Falls Declaration on women’s rights, and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It should address the role of the electoral college, how it works, and how votes are counted. And it should examine the prerogatives of state and local governments and their relationship to the federal government.
A foundational civics course must include uncomfortable truths. That would mean delving into the three-fifths compromise of the constitutional convention, which made slaves count toward the congressional representation of slave states without granting them any political rights, along with the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the Supreme Court’s sanction of Japanese internment during World War II and its 2018 decisionto overturn that precedent. But divisive and complex debatesabout the degree to which slavery shaped American society should be left to more advanced classes.


Civics should also make room for local variations in content and execution. For example, the terms on which Southern states were readmitted to the union following the Civil War might receive more emphasis in the South, and the role of the 1787 Northwest Ordinances in expanding statehood could be stressed in the West.


The refreshing of civics curricula in Illinois and Florida provide a roadmap for how states should approach the topic today. Illinois’s civics mandate, especially a requirement that classes discuss “current and controversial issues,” is especially important. The law passed overwhelmingly in 2015 with bipartisan support — Illinois was among 11 states that previously had no civics mandate — and was signed by former Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican. (While Illinois had long required high schools to teach two years of social studies, including one year of American history, the law now requires that at least one semester be devoted to civics.)


Facilitating constructive discussions of controversial topics requires special teacher training. Illinois offered all civics teachers professional development courses over a three-year period, and created a mentoring program for civics teachers, especially in schools with no previous civics course — as many as 13 percent of the total. The problem is that the state didn’t set aside money for the training, relying instead on philanthropies; a subject as important as civics should have a dedicated funding stream for educators and schools.Nor should the introduction of civics concepts wait until high school. Last year, Illinois added middle school to the grades that must provide civics instruction. Similarly, Florida’s decade-old civics law makes passing a middle-school civics course a requirement for high 
school matriculation.


A well designed middle-school civics test could support fact-based debate and is arguably less onerous than a high-school graduation requirement; students who fail the class (in Florida the test accounts for just 30 percent of the middle-school civics grade) could retake the test and go on to high school. When the coronavirus pandemic recedes, states should consider eliminating all middle-school testing in lieu of a single meaty civics test that might include geography and some economics.


When it comes to civics, states have a lot of ground to make up. For decades, government policies, including state testing mandates and federal initiatives like President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program and President Barack Obama’s support for Common Core, have focused on college and workplace readiness. Civics instruction got short shrift and was often abandoned.

As attacks on democratic institutions picked up steam during the Trump presidency, civics remained an afterthought. As of 2018, only eight states required students to take a yearlong civics and government class. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is considered the nation’s report card, dropped its 4th- and 12th-grade civics and American history exam in 2014.

Few recent state civics efforts succeeded.
Now, as a few states begin to pursue a civics revival, one concern is political interference from the left and right. California Governor Gavin Newsom just vetoed an ethnic studies law that threatened to erode time and effort spent on other subjects, including civics. Last year, Florida’s legislature passed a bill requiring the state to review civics materials, a concern at a time when Republican lawmakers and Governor Ron DeSantis have promoted Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud.


But civics instruction needn’t take sides to promote democratic involvement. Last year, Massachusetts became the first state to require schools to coordinate nonpartisan student-led civics projects. The redesigned Advanced Placement U.S. government and politics course taken by many college-bound students also requires students to work on a civics project, either partisan or not.
States should borrow good ideas from each other, including Florida’s emphasis on middle-school civics and Illinois’s focus on constructive debate. A shared narrative will be stronger if buttressed by productive argument and brought to life by civic action.


Andrea Gabor
Bloomberg Chair of Business Journalism 
Baruch College/CUNY
After the Education Wars (The New Press, June 2018)
www.andreagabor.com

Donald Trump, a man who is noted for his ignorance of history, signed an executive order the day before the election to create a “1776 Commission” to establish guidelines for “patriotic education.” The commission was established as a counterpoint to the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which told the story of African Americans in the colonies and the nation.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/elanagross/2020/11/02/trump-signs-executive-order-to-establish-a-1776-commission-to-instill-patriotic-education/

Although Trump surely did not read the 1619 Project, he somehow gleaned that it detracted from the all-white, all- male history that he imbibed at his military school. While he doesn’t remember it, he does know that it portrayed America as a nation that was blameless and pure. He wants to assure his base that he will fight to protect white paternalism and privilege. Whatever his commission comes up with, it’s unlikely to affect curriculum, which is decided by states and textbooks.


Lucy Calkins is one of the most influential reading researchers In the nation. She created the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, whose teaching materials have been widely adopted and is a proponent of “balanced literacy.” BL prominently opposed the “phonics first” approach.

In my book Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform,” I described in detail the long-standing debates about teaching reading, which dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. The phonetic approach was the conventional method until the advent of the very popular “Dick and Jane” reading books in the late 1920s. Those readers relied on the “whole word” method, in which children learned to recognize short words (“Run, Dick, run.” “See Sally run.”) and to use them in context rather than sound them out phonetically. In the 1950s, the debate came to a raging boil after publication of Rudolf Flesch’s “Why Johnny Can’t Read,” which attacked the whole word method. Many more twists and turns in the story, which should have been settled by Jeanne Chall’s comprehensive book, Learning to Read: The Great Debate (1967). Chall supported beginning with phonics, then transitioning to children’s books as soon as children understood phonetic principles. Nonetheless, the 1980s experienced the rise and widespread adoption of the “whole language” approach, which disdained phonics. Then came Calkins and “balanced literacy,” claiming to combine diverse methods. Critics said that BL was whole language redux.

According to this post by Sarah Schwartz in Education Week, Professor Calkins has called for a rebalancing of balanced literacy to incorporate more early phonics. I continue to object to the use of the phrase”the science of reading,” which I consider to be an inappropriate use of the word “science.” Reading teachers should have a repertoire of strategies, including phonics and phonemic awareness.

Early reading teachers and researchers are reacting with surprise, frustration, and optimism after the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, the organization that designs one of the most popular reading programs in the country, outlined a new approach to teaching children how to read. 

A document circulated at the group’s professional development events, first reported on by APM Reportson Friday, calls for increased focus on ensuring children can recognize the sounds in spoken words and link those sounds to written letters—the foundational skills of reading. And it emphasizes that sounding out words is the best strategy for kids to use to figure out what those words say. 

“[P]oring over the work of contemporary reading researchers has led us to believe that aspects of balanced literacy need some ‘rebalancing,'” the document reads.

While the document suggests that these ideas about how to teach reading are new and the product of recent studies, they’re in fact part of a long-established body of settled science . Decades of cognitive science research has shown that providing children with explicit instruction in speech sounds and their correspondence to written letters is the most effective way to make sure they learn how to read words. 

But it’s significant to see these ideas coming from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. The program, founded by Lucy Calkins and housed at Columbia University, has long downplayed the importance of these foundational skills in early reading instruction, and has pushed other, disproven strategies for identifying words. 

In a statement to Education Week, Calkins said that the document reflects work they have done with researchers at the Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit that supports children with mental health and learning disorders. 

“Those who know us well, know that we are a university-based learning community, and that the knowledge we offer is constantly evolving and expanding. The document reflects my strong belief that children will benefit when people with diverse perspectives and backgrounds sit at the same table and listen carefully to each other,” Calkins wrote. 

Calkins also noted that the document has been shared at dozens of TCRWP events, including a virtual reunion for teachers this past weekend. 

Mixed Signals on Cueing

The Units of Study for Teaching Reading, the TCRWP curriculum for reading instruction in grades K-5, is one of the biggest players in the early reading market. A 2019 Education Week Research Center survey found that 16 percent of K-2 and special education teachers use the Units of Study to teach reading. 

But as APM Reports noted, the curriculum has faced increased scrutiny, including from reading researchers. Some states and districts have reconsidered its use. 

The curriculum doesn’t include systematic, explicit teaching in phonemic awareness or phonics in the early grades, as Education Week has reported. The company started publishing a supplemental phonics program in 2018, but marketing materials for the new units imply that phonics shouldn’t play a central role in the early years classroom. “Phonics instruction needs to be lean and efficient,” the materials read . “Every minute you spend teaching phonics (or preparing phonics materials to use in your lessons) is less time spent teaching other things.”

But it’s not only that the materials sideline phonemic awareness and phonics—they also teach reading strategies that can make it harder for students to learn these skills. 

Calkins’ materials promote a strategy called “three-cueing,” which suggests that students can decipher what words say by relying on three different sources of information, or cues. They can look at the letters, using a “visual” cue. But they can also rely on the context or syntax of a sentence to predict which word would fit, the theory goes. Reading researchers and educators say that this can lead to students guessing: making up words based on pictures, or what’s happening in the story, rather than reading the words by attending to the letters.

This new document seems to signal a major change in instructional theory from the organization. 

It emphasizes the importance of foundational skills, recommending that students in kindergarten and the fall of 1st grade receive daily instruction in phonemic awareness, and saying that all early readers could benefit from frequent phonics practice. It recommends decodable books—those with a high proportion of letter-sound correspondences that students have already learned—be a part of young children’s “reading diets.” And it suggests regular assessments of phonemic awareness, as problems in that area can indicate reading difficulties. 

Especially notable, the document seems to do an about-face on cueing. Students should not be “speculating what the word might say based on the picture,” the document reads. Instead, teachers should tell children to “respond to tricky words by first reading through the word, sound-by-sound, (or part by part) and only then , after producing a possible pronunciation, check that what she’s produced makes sense given the context,” it reads.

The statement on cueing contradicts advice Calkins was giving less than a year ago. In November 2019, Calkins released a statement pushing back on those whom she called , “the phonics-centric people who are calling themselves ‘the science of reading.'”

In that statement last year, Calkins said teachers shouldn’t encourage students to guess at words. But she did say that students could create a hypothesis based on the context of the sentence. 

In a response to Calkins’ statement, reading researcher Mark Seidenberg wrote at the time, “Dr. Calkins says she disdains 3-cueing, but the method is right there in her document.” 

Teachers Need ‘Fine-Grained Guidance’

The past couple of years have marked an evolution of publishers’ and reading organizations’ public positions on reading science and how it should guide instruction, spurred in large part by media coverage of best practice from Emily Hanford of APM Reports, and other outlets, including Education Week

In July of last year, for example, the International Literacy Association published a brief emphasizing the importance of systematic, explicit phonics instruction, a clear distinction of stance from an organization that has long included members on opposing sides of the “reading wars.” 

But it’s not a given that any of Calkins’ or TCRWP’s statements will change classroom practice, said Julia Kaufman, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, who studies how school systems can support high-quality instruction. Past research from RAND has also found that Calkins’ materials are widely used in U.S. schools

“I don’t think there’s any way that we can expect a shift in [TCRWP’s] philosophy and ideas to change anything unless it’s documented and really clear to teachers where they need to change,” she said. 

Curriculum and implementation is complex, Kaufman added: “Teachers need specific and detailed and fine-grained guidance in order to know what they need to do in the classroom.”

In their reporting on this recent document, APM Reports noted that educators at a recent TCRWP training received supplemental curriculum materials that encouraged decoding. 

The core curriculum, though, still promotes cueing. For example, a strategies chart from a sample 1st grade lesson tells students to “Think about what’s happening,” “Check the picture,” and “Think about what kind of word would fit,” as ways to solve hard words. 

Unless and until TCRWP puts out a new edition of the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, with detailed teacher guidance that reflects these philosophical shifts, Kaufman said she wouldn’t expect to see much change in elementary classrooms. 

Some educators were optimistic that TCRWP’s new position could lead to more widespread adoption of evidence-based instruction and higher reading achievement. “Lots of changes still to make but this is encouraging!” wrote Erin Beard, a literacy coach, on Twitter.

Others expressed frustration over a move they saw as too little, too late. 

“Is she handing out refunds for all the intervention needed for the missed learning opportunity?” LaTonya M. Goffney, the superintendent of Aldine Independent School District, wrote on Twitter . “Our most vulnerable students – black, brown, poor, ELL, & special education students paid the ultimate cost!”

Sharon Contreras, the superintendent of Guilford County schools, noted that any changes would likely come at a cost for districts using Calkins’ materials. 

“Millions of dollars wasted. Thousands of students cannot read proficiently. Districts spending a small fortune on new curriculum & to retrain teachers. All totally avoidable,” she wrote, on Twitter .

Peter Goodman, former teacher and frequent blogger about education in New York City and New York State, reviews Bill Gates’ next big idea to reform education: Redesign Algebra 1.

He begins:

From Small High Schools to Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) to Value-Added Measurements (VAM) to the Common Core State Standards, the Gates Foundation has been searching for the magic bullet, a vaccine for curing education, and the “cures” have proven fruitless (See links above)

The next magic bullet is a cure for Algebra 1, the course viewed as standing in the way of graduation and success in the post graduate world.

The Gates Foundation released an application for a new initiative: “Balance the Equation.”

Goodman warns that Gates is wandering into another mess:

Why is the Gates funding another algebra initiative? Why not expand the Moses Algebra Project?

Bill is tip-toeing into another education morass.

If so, at least his record is consistent.

Trump wants to restore “patriotic history” and has vowed to creat a “1776 Commission” to carry out his wishes. Historians, history teachers, and everyone who cares about accurate teaching of history and academic freedom are alarmed.

Kevin Kumashiro has drafted a petition. If you agree with it, please consider adding your name.

Friends–I’m writing to folks who lead or are closely connected to a number of educational organizations/associations/centers/unions. I haven’t had a chance to update the website yet, but in just the first few hours since the first announcement went out, we already have 300+ signers, and we’ve only just begun to publicize! Individuals AND ORGANIZATIONS can endorse, so I wanted to make sure you saw this and that I reached out to you first to:

(a) invite your organization to endorse (T4SJ already endorsed, thanks!), and

(b) ask you to please help to spread the word to your members and comrades.

The announcement is below, which includes the URL to the sign-on form. I hope to push out to the media the full statement (with all the endorsements) in the coming days. Let me know if you have questions, and thanks for considering and helping,
Kevin

*

Dear Friend, Colleagues, Comrades: A coalition of organizations and a team of educators and scholars invite all educators, educational scholars, and educational organizations in early-childhood, K-12, and higher education across the United States to join us in endorsing this important new statement:

“Educating for Democracy Demands Educating Against White Supremacy:
A Statement by U.S. Educators and Educational Scholars”

To view and endorse the statement: https://forms.gle/PcSRzSSvTbDp69V36

From the Introduction: “The battle over what story about the United States gets taught in schools and who gets to tell that story is what has made education, particularly history curriculum, one of the main sites of ideological struggle. Today, as has happened repeatedly before, those who insist on teaching only a white supremacist rendition of U.S. history claim that curricula about the historical and systemic nature of race and racism are based on lies, biased, divisive, and un- or anti-American—but research soundly rejects such claims.”

From the conclusion: “Our country cannot become more just and democratic without illuminating, addressing, and healing from its long legacies of injustices, including imperialism, colonialism, and racism. As educators and educational scholars who specialize in early-childhood, K-12, and higher education across the United States, we reject the renewed calls to deny or ignore the legacies and systems of racism that have long defined and shaped U.S. schools and society and that continue to do so. Our job is to teach toward democracy by teaching the truth, and we proudly work collectively and in solidarity with the communities most impacted by injustice to do so.”

All educators, educational scholars, and educational organizations in early-childhood, K-12, and higher education across the United States are invited to join us in endorsing this statement. Read the full statement and add your endorsement here: https://forms.gle/PcSRzSSvTbDp69V36

Please forward to other educators, scholars, and organizations who may wish to join us. Thank you!
-In Solidarity-
***
Kevin Kumashiro, Ph.D.
https://www.kevinkumashiro.com
Movement building for equity and justice in education
***