Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Ed. Beat: On-line Hype; Common Corruption; Gahhhd! Texas!

 Techno-Hype!: Richard D. Wolff, the most popular Marxist in the USofA, writing in Truthout, dissects the latest flatulence from the Tom Friedman, The NYTimes' Moustache of Punditical Masterfulness, on the subject of what costs are concealed behind the "Wonders" of the electronic classroom:
Thomas Friedman's latest column touting online education "is another exercise in (1) finding a potential positive dimension of capital's latest profit-driven move, (2) hyping it and (3) ignoring its contradictions, especially those that are negative."  No doubt such exercises comfort and distract many of his readers who might have entertained the suspicion of something important lost in the proliferation of online "education." They can relax in the secure feeling that critics of that proliferation are enemies of progress, while promoters of that proliferation are overcoming poverty. If this sounds more like TV soap opera morality than social analysis, you may be right.

The Common Corpse Curriculum: MUCH needs to be said about the burgeoning efforts to force all USer schools into the same box, the so-called Common Core Curriculum. To say it is controversial, at least among most educators, is a HUGE understatement; a fate shared by how it is speciously misrepresented by its advocates. A case in point, here, a dialogue between an advocate and a detractor, on the blog of that red-haired, educational gad-fly, Susan Ohanian. It's long but needs to be read in whole:
What I am against is Common and Core, that is, the same standards for all students and a few subjects (currently math and English language arts) as the core of all children's education diet. I might even love the Common Core if they were not common or core.

Tucker disagrees. He argues it is both possible and necessary to predetermine and impose upon all students the same knowledge and skills and America is immune to the damages of such efforts that have been experienced in China and other similar East Asian countries."

There is no evidence that standards and tests improve school achievement. The huge sums of money budgeted for standards and for tests to enforce the standards should be used to protect children from the effects of poverty, the real reason so many students struggle in school...It is simply not true that the Common Core will prepare our children for the future. To conclude, I quote a comment left on my Facebook page by one of my personal heros, former president of America Educational Research Association (AERA) and widely respected educational researcher Gene Glass: "Common Core Standards are idiots' solution to a misunderstood problem. The problem is an archaic, useless curriculum that will prepare no child for life in 2040 and beyond."

"Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Texans!": A bunch of ignorant, hyper-biased, white supremacist, cretinous, Christard/dominionist fucknozzles, peckerwoods, asshats and douchewaffles with the average IQ of dust mites, and the social sensitivity of steel-wool, controls the content of school textbooks from a back room in Austin, Tx. That, alone, SHOULD be cause for alarm. But these shitwhistles also dictqte the content of more than HALF of the rest of the nation's school books. A documentary on the subject, the Revisionaries, recently appeared on PBS' program, The Independent Lens.

What are the consequences, you might ask? Well, some Texas schools have revived the biblically-founded canard about the theologically inspired theory about the inferiority of blacks:
A new  report put out by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund revealed that Texas Public School books are filled with flawed Biblical theories, including the idea that Jews practice a ‘flawed religion’. The classes, which are supposed to be about the impact of the Bible on history, are basically right wing propaganda classes.
The students are being taught that the world is only 6,000 years old and that blacks were descendants of HAM, while students are taught that whites are descendants of Japheth, and Jews are descendants of Shem.
The report found that the textbooks adopt a right wing nationalist ideology, and even pass off lies about the Founding Fathers:
And if that weren't bad enough:( A recent) report by Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, reveals that at least 57 school districts and three charter schools in the state taught courses about the Bible in 2011-12. That's more than double the 25 school districts teaching such courses in the 2006-06 school year. In 2007 the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1287, which included guidelines designed to improve the quality of such courses while protecting the religious freedom of students and their families.The new report shows that state agencies and many local school districts have largely ignored those guidelines.



Last week we told you about the brave, Seattle teachers who have organized behind their refusal to administer yet another, meaningless, but required, standardized exam. Apparently, the movement is spreading!
A boycott of Washington state’s mandated standardized test by teachers at a Seattle school is spreading to other schools and winning support across the country, including from the two largest teachers’ unions, parents, students, researchers and educators.

The decision by teachers at Garfield High School to boycott the state’s Measures of Academy Progress because, they say, the exams don’t evaluate learning and are a waste of time is fueling a growing debate about the misuse of standardized tests in public education.

The Garfield teachers have now been joined by some teachers at a few other schools in Seattle, including the alternative Orca K-8 school. Colleagues at other schools have sent letters of support, as have groups including the Garfield PTSA, the Seattle Student Senate and a group of more than 60 researchers, educators and education activists, including Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Kozol. "...
...Almost all of the teachers and staff at Garfield High are boycotting the test because they say it is not aligned with curriculum and is inappropriately being used by administrators to evaluate teachers, a purpose for which it was not designed. District administrators have defended the test.

The presidents of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, which collectively have more than 4.5 million members, issued separate statements supporting the Garfield-led boycott."

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ed Beat: A Personal Note; Resistance!, Gran Snark!

Rant: The CorpoRatistas, the Standardistas, the Charteristas are making tortured noises about the condition of Amrica's public schools, bemoaning the recently released test results which place the US 18th overall, among the 34 industrialized nations.

 Just as COMPARISONS between Iceland's treatment of its bankers, and ours, are difficult at besT, to sustain with any relevance, SO comparisons on such global, and ephemeral measures ad test scores among countries are virtually meaningless. Their significance is merely political. 
The scores of Finnish kids, nor Korean kids, nor English kids in school are not comparable to those recorded by USer kids, in general.

Why? Lots of reasons, many abstruse and statistical. 

But the BIGGEST one is the economic. 
In discussions of these sorts of reports, NEVER do you hear mentioned anything about consistent finding that middle-class American students attending WELL-FUNDED schools outscore students in nearly all other countries on these tests

Our overall scores are unspectacular because 23.1% of our children live in poverty, the second-highest percentage among 34 economically advanced countries. High-scoring Finland has less than 5.3% child poverty. Poverty means poor diet, poor health care, and little access to books; all have a devastating effect on school performance. 

It's a typical right-wing dodge to blame the schools for the conditions of their students over which they have little or no influence, and this includes teachers in those schools. 

You wanna raise the US standing in the Academic world, reduce the number of kids in poverty to 5%..


Alert, Will Robinson: If anyone cherished any illusions that the enterprise of 'schooling' had become anything more than just another business, here's a useful, apposite reminder: Educational technology companies and entrepreneurs may face the risk of a "tech bubble," similar to the massive boom-and-bust that rocked the technology market in the late 1990s, according to market analysts and a recently released paper. The triumph of the corpoRistas has costs, though they are seldom borne by those who incur them.

Vive l'Resistance!:  On January 9, teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle announced their pledge to refuse to administer a standardized test that has faced widespread and persistent opposition throughout the Seattle Public Schools (SPS). The Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test is supposed to chart student academic growth in math and language arts, but teachers--members of the Seattle Education Association (SEA)--are frustrated by the failure of the test to align with state standards they are supposed to teach to. And because MAP test results don't affect student grades or graduation, many students don't take the test seriously.
The latest news indicates that the teachers at Garfield ar standing firm, and have earned support from local groups, including parents. The struggle goes on.

World-Class Snark: The Ode to the Unknown Teacher
She was found by the U. S. Department of Education to be
One against whom there was no official debit side,
And all the reports on her conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, she was highly qualified,
For in everything she did she obeyed Standardisto decrees.
Except for maternity leave, till the day she retired
She worked in a classroom and in dissent never was mired;
She satisfied the State and the literacy coach
In following script she was above reproach.
She wasn’t a complainer, not odd in her views,
And her Union reports that she paid her dues,
(Our report on her Union shows it was sound
Advocating NCLB, RTTT, CCSS reform, and did not revolt expound.)
She cared for children and offered no danger to the power elite.

The State is pleased she offered phonemic segmentation fluency each day
And kept the Bill Gates-funded Common Core on display
And that her responses to directives were obedient in every way.
Both Republicans and Democrats assert it:
She was fully sensible to the advantages of the Standardisto gas
She had everything necessary for a Global Economy class,
A script, a timer, and a bag for collecting vomit.
Bill Gates and Eli Broad are content
That she held the proper opinions for the corporate-politico crowd
When there were DIBELS, she DIBLED; she offered no dissent.
Her students scored a proficiency
Which our experts say was a sufficiency.
Was she free? Was she happy? Don’t cause a fuss.
Had anything been wrong, her union certainly would’ve told us.

Susan Ohanian, with apologies/gratitude to W.H. Auden:, in honor of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ed Beat:Praying, Asking, Da NUTZ, Da Shortz

Say Your Prayers! There's a saying that goes, "as long as there are tests, there will be prayer in public schools."
At one time, that likely reflected a fairly uniform view about school prayer: that despite what federal law said about the practice, religious Americans by and large approved of it.
A new study, however, paints a more complicated picture of attitudes toward school prayer over the last four decades, finding sharp differences in school-prayer support between different generations and their religious denominations.
Forthcoming in the journal Sociological Forum, the study maps a general decline in advocacy for school prayer starting in the mid-1970s and accelerating as skeptical Baby Boomers became ascendant through the 1980s.
According to the study's findings, school-prayer support remains markedly lower today among Catholics and mainline Protestants yet unwaveringly high among their evangelical counterparts.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-01-school-prayer.html#jCp"


Serious People Are Asking: Can Public Education survive? That's the frequently heard question, as more and more of the terrain of the academy becomes the battlegrounds for competing social/economic forces, sites of battles which CorpoRat interests USUALLY prevail.
Schools, either per se or in the abstract, were NOT regarded as anything  but an undiluted "public good" from the mid-19th Century until Brown v. Board of Education. Thereafter, a lot of (mainly white) parents decided  they didn't want to send their kids going to school--mingling, socializing, and maybe even having sex with--with "those people."
On a similar note:  Along with every other facet of the "commons," such shreds as have still escaped being engulfed in the ravening maw of predatory, shock-driven capitalism, everything "public" has been subjected to a kind of specious scrutiny and criticism based as much on ideas of "class" as any measurable criteria. Answering a similar question--"Why You Can Kiss Public Education (and the Middle Class) Goodbye," ;a piece on Alternet last month/year began with this provocative hook:
 "Quick - when you hear "public housing," what picture jumps into your mind?  Or "public hospital"?"

All around us, our public institutions are disintegrating, and the most important public
institution of all – our public education system – is the next to be ghettoized.

This is the coda to the mantra of privatization, and a self-fulfilling prophecy. Unfortunately (quote-unquote), the new, private, charter schools won't be able to take EVERYBODY. There will always be (much poorer, much shabbier, much more dangerous) "public" schools for the losers and the dregs.
Da Nutz
: "It’s becoming increasingly unlikely that a low-income student, no matter how intrinsically bright, moves up the socioeconomic ladder. What we’re talking about is a threat to the
American dream." - Sean Reardon, a sociologist at Stanford.
  That's why the for-profit "Schools" and so-called 'private' universities like Phoenix and its emulators are such predatory scum. They sell spurious (at best) "degrees" as credentials for professions don't exist to people desperate to believe in the mobility myth...A recent piece in the NYTimes provided some of the nasty details.


The CTU Took It In The Shortz: In the context of a moving and accurate Jeremiad on the decline--well, the erasure, if we were honest--of anything even remotely resembling an American "left," an Australian scholar, writing on TruthOut, explains just how FAR the Chicago Teachers' Union were backed into a corner by Rahm Emanuel, and how MUCH to which they were forced to concede.
Quotha: As Reuters reported on September 18,
 "those were major goals for Emanuel and positive outcomes for any Emanuel financial backers associated with the national education reform movement." The outcome, however, was widely viewed in the United States as a victory for the teachers, since (amazingly, to most Americans) they retained their pre-strike jobs, salaries, and health insurance benefits