Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ed Beat: Read It & Weep

Finland's Success! The Finns are becoming the internationally acclaimed leaders in successfully educating their children for the future. Valerie Strauss, the WaPo's "The Answer Sheet" blog, ran a long, fairly exhaustive, critical analysis of the differences between the way the Finns approach education and the way that we in the USofA do. The differences are stark, and the results are instructive, focusing on three commonly believed (and frequently acted-upon) fallacies about schooling:
Fallacy 1: The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.” This statement became known in education policies through the influential McKinsey & Company report titled How the world’s best performing school systems come out on top.  Which leads to:
Fallacy 2: "The most important single factor in improving quality of education is teachers.”  This is the driving principle of former D.C. schools chancellor Michele Rhee and many other “reformers” today.
Fallacy 3: “If any children had three or four great teachers in a row, they would soar academically, regardless of their racial or economic background, while those who have a sequence of weak teachers will fall further and further behind”. This theoretical assumption is included in influential policy recommendations, for instance in “Essential Elements of Teacher Policy in ESEA: Effectiveness, Fairness and Evaluation” by the Center for American Progress to the U.S. Congress. Teaching is measured by the growth of student test scores on standardized exams.
I encourage you to read the full report, and the thoughtful and convincing rebuttals to the fallacies. Finland has arguably the 'top-performing" (on standardized tests) population in the world, but the Finns do NOT devote hours, days, and/or weeks to "preparation." Of course, they have FEWER children trying to learn while experiencing poverty: a mere FIVE percent of Finnish kids, as opposed to nearly TWENTY-FIVE percent of USer kids. That makes a BIG difference.


Twelve Steps: The Gates Foundation is at the center of a LOT of criticism about "CorpoRat" school reform, mainly because 1) they know so fucking LITTLE about schools, at all, but 2) they're fiercely interested in creating more markets for Intel crap in the marketplace (and very little else). Teachers have been being soft-soaped and massaged into joining the "corporat" team (I included a piece in last week's column about the fete in the desert).

However, there is a substantial amount of resistance out there, swtill (though it is diminishing). Here is the reply of a dis-enchanted teacher to the imposition of CorpoRat sensibilities and strategies on the schools, in the form of an "open letter" and a "12-step" program to shake off the "CorpoRat" demon:
We now embark on the process of recovery from this devastating disease that is killing public education. As we take the first steps, we ask others to join us in reclaiming our profession:
  • Hi, I am Susan DuFresne, and I admit that I am powerless over corporate education reform and that my teaching, my profession, and my philosophies of teaching for the whole child have become unmanageable. I admit that I have become a TESTER, not a TEACHER.
  • Hi, I am Katie Lapham, and I admit that I am powerless over corporate education reform and that my teaching, my profession, and my philosophies of teaching for the whole child have become unmanageable. I admit that I have become a TESTER, not a TEACHER.
All teachers under the influence of corporate education reform are welcome to join us. Let the Testers Anonymous meetings begin.
There is a new group on Facebook, unfortunately "closed," but not limited, called the BadAss Teachers' Association. You may ask to be invited to join.

 Educated Elites

Priorities! Science or Shit-wipes?  In the Kenwood suburb of Chicago, last month, after school closed:  Budget cuts are forcing Shoesmith Elementary School to cut Spanish for all students and sharply cut back on music, science and math programming to pay for toilet paper and other janitorial supplies.
(Principal Sabrina) Gates said for the first time she had to budget $6,000 for janitorial supplies out of the school budget and she said it meant she couldn’t fund some educational programs. She said her budgeted figure is probably low, as CPS provided about $14,000 for janitorial supplies like toilet paper and paper towels at Shoesmith last year.
But the cuts are “big enough that when I had to put in janitorial supplies I couldn’t fund science tech supplies,” Gates said.
Those tech supplies cost $5,000, meaning one hands-on science program will get cut.
What do you suppose the dominant, racial/ethmic group which attends Shoesmith Elementary School is?

Public schools' bleak future

Recovery: Dr. Diane Ravitch was one of the early, enthusiastic advocates and acolytes for the "Nation-At-Risk"-ers of the early Raygun years, eagerly casting her lot with the likesof Lamar Alexander, Bill Bennett, and Chucker Finn to introduce "scientific" management and assessment into Murka's schools. She, at least has seen the light, changed sides, and now rants quite convincingly from the OTHER side, as witnessed here, on the subject of Ohio teachers being subjected to "Junk Science" in the guise of performance assessment.
Now it is teachers in Ohio that have been rated by a secret value-added formula.
Teachers in affluent schools were twice as likely to score well as those in low-income schools.
Here is the key language:
“The details of how the scores are calculated aren’t public. The Ohio Department of Education will pay a North Carolina-based company, SAS Institute Inc., $2.3 million this year to do value-added calculations for teachers and schools. The company has released some information on its value-added model but declined to release key details about how Ohio teachers’ value-added scores are calculated.
“The Education Department doesn’t have a copy of the full model and data rules either.
What could POSSIBLY be wrong widdat?
These models,based on standardized tests, are inaccurate and unstable.
Do not trust the ratings. They are garbage. No high-performing nation is rating teachers this way. It is mean-spirited, mechanistic, and meaningless.
But other than that, they work just fine.

 Didja Ever Hear Of "Pearson?" Seems that the faculty at the infinitely prestigious Columbia Teachers' College are at loggerheads with their Dean over an apparent conflict of interest. The Dean is deeply invested, both intellectually (one hopes) and financially (almost 13,000 shares) in the Pearson "model" of standardization, privatization and other anti-student (but PRO-business) reforms.
Columbia University’s Teachers College, long esteemed as a premier institution for progressive pedagogy, is having an identity crisis. While majestic quotes from education philosopher John Dewey remain etched across the walls of the school’s Morningside Heights headquarters, his words ring increasingly hollow as Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman continues to serve on the board of—and hold 12,927 shares in—Pearson, the world's largest educational resource corporation, which distributes everything from standardized tests and textbooks to teacher certification and curriculum programs. Arguing that this role hampers their ability to speak out against the disastrous policy of high-stakes testing, students at Teachers College began a campaign last month demanding that Fuhrman divest from Pearson....
Perhaps the most grievous consequence of Fuhrman’s tenure at Teachers College is an emerging cynicism within the student body, threatening the school’s very capability to train and turn out inspirational teachers. As Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, wrote in an email:
Testing is big business these days. Educators must be free to criticize the tests and their publishers. Faculty members at [Teachers College] might feel constrained by the fact that the president of the institution is on the board of Pearson, my own sense is that she has a conflict of interest, because as a board member she is not [in] a position of independence to speak out against the misuse and overuse of testing and how it hurts children and warps education.



Privatizers, Corporatizers, Oh, MY! Cheap-jack freeloaders, is more like it. CorpoRats have long gotten the advantage of "public schools" in which their future employees would learn the requisite skills in literacy, numeracy, and society to contribute to the future welfare of the private oranizations.

But now the skeevy fux are reneging, seeking more and more "loopholes" by which to escape paying the (local) taxes necessary to support public schools. Funny thing: the short-fall in public school funding nationally just about equals the amount the CorpoRats have been withholding and avoiding.
We hear a lot about corporations avoiding federal taxes. Less well known is their non-payment of state taxes, which along with local taxes make up 90% of U.S. education funding.
Pay Up Now just completed a review of 2011–12 tax data from the SEC filings of 155 of the largest U.S. corporations. The results show that the total cost of K-12 educational cutbacks in recent years is approximately equal to the amount of state taxes left unpaid by these companies.
Who gnu?

Funny teacher Glasbergen school  cartoon from May 23, 2012

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