"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, October 24, 2016

Children should not be allowed to behave like children

Sent to the Star-Tribune, October 24, 2016

I am happy to know that Minnesota really understands the importance of rigor in kindergarten ("Across state, kindergarten is becoming the new first grade," Oct. 24).
   The unfortunate tendency of children to want to enjoy themselves must stop, despite claims of mushy-minded "experts" who claim that play improves "social and emotional development," whatever that is.
   We must maintain our economic and military superiority. Children should not be allowed to behave like children.

Stephen Krashen
President, Kindergarten Kalculus Association

Original article: http://www.startribune.com/new-demands-make-today-s-kindergarten-look-like-first-grade/398128751/#1

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Personalized Common Core Worksheets on a Screen

"MobyMax solutions are designed to help teachers 'find and fix missing curriculum skills, motivate students, power up, and save time.' The online, interactive software and services offered by MobyMax are designed to be an 'innovative learning ecosystem,' that allow teachers to create a diagnostic-based learning plan for each student, based on the student's abilities, that allow for independent learning." 
A teacher just wrote that her school is one of many now using professional development time to allow MobyMax salesmen to demo another 19th Century learning tool in a 21st Century box.  This one is particularly tempting because it is inexpensive to get started, and it allows students to be plugged in for hours at a time without human intervention.

All you have to do is explained in the video below, and before you know it, MobyMax will be diagnosing deficiencies and offering Common Core lessons to get your child or your students up to speed.

There is the added advantage of having your school administrator's "dashboard" track every student's performance in the school at any point in time.

And don't worry, children, the data gathered by the Willett Bros. who own MobyMax is stored on their corporate server and can only be sold to companies that the Willett Bros. work with, either now or in the future. Their on your side!

Oh, you don't have enough screens for all the children yet at your school?  Not to worry, you can get all of MobyMax's 21st Century curriculum on worksheets that you can pass out to keep your children entertained for hours, days, months at a time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Will NAACP Courage on Charters Blaze a New Trail?

Ever since Bush II and the dregs of Bill Clinton's DLC successfully framed NCLB's undeniable assault on public education, poor children, and their teachers as a civil rights crusade, I have been amazed at how acquiescent the NAACP has remained during the years of unrelenting denigration and humiliation of black and brown children in urban charter schools.  

Did the NAACP really believe the cynical rhetoric of the corporate usurpers and the predatory privatizers who built education industry empires on the backs of unpaid child laborers working 10 hour days to grind out test scores that are then held up as tangible signs of "educational equity?" 

Could the punishing segregated test prep charter schools for black children really become choice enough for NAACP leaders, who once led the charge for high quality integrated schools for all children?

How long would it take for civil rights leaders to throw off their passivity and inattention, so that schools might once more become instrumental in bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice?

One might argue that the NAACP has begun its awakening.  The ratification on October 15 of the resolution passed in July at the annual convention is a significant first step.  

Even so, there is evidence in the press release accompanying the ratification vote that the pressure from the neoliberal corporate press, the education industry, and the corporate foundations has had some success in influencing the final wording of the ratification statement:
We are calling for a moratorium on the expansion of the charter schools at least until such time as:

(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools

(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system

(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and

(4) Cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.
Numbers 3 and 4 above could be worded more strongly, and here's why.   

As to #3 above, charter school rarely "expel" students, but suspensions are common and grade failure, more so. In effect, children who represent threats to the corporate brand, whether KIPP or another of the "no excuses" corporate chains, are provided a multiplicity of draconian reasons to leave.

As to #4 above, charter schools have been found to be more segregated than public schools, whether or not they have higher or lower test scores than the public schools they replace.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Podesta Promoted GOP Fringe to Make Clinton Palatable

Chris Hedges has another insightful piece that should be required reading for all those celebrating HRC's imminent win.  It features John Podesta's emails once again.  A clip from TruthDig:

. . . .The Clinton campaign, aware that the policy differences between her and a candidate such as Jeb Bush were minuscule, plotted during the primaries to elevate the fringe Republican candidates—especially Trump. To the Democratic strategists, a match between Clinton and Trump seemed made in heaven. Trump, with his “brain trust” of Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, would make Clinton look like a savior.

A memo addressed to the Democratic National Committee under the heading “Our Goals & Strategy” was part of the trove of John Podesta emails released this month by WikiLeaks.

“Our hope is that the goal of a potential HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] campaign and the DNC would be one-in-the-same: to make whomever the Republicans nominate unpalatable to the majority of the electorate. We have outlined three strategies to obtain our goal …,” it reads.

The memo names Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Ben Carson as candidates, or what the memo calls “Pied Piper” candidates who could push mainstream candidates closer to the positions embraced by the lunatic right. “We need to be elevating the Pied Piper candidates so that they are leaders of the pack and tell the press to [take] them seriously.” . . .

Friday, October 14, 2016

Moral Necessity and the NAACP Charter Moratorium, Part 1

Principal Jondré Pryor of KIPP South Fulton Academy (KSFA) is just one among many corporate education reform schoolers who are wringing their hands over the NAACP's 2016 decision to support a strongly-worded resolution calling for a moratorium on the spread of privately-operated charter schools (see resolution at bottom of this page). 

Rather than accepting the possibility that NAACP members have read and heard about too many child abuse cases at "no excuses" charters to remain silent any longer, Mr. Pryor claims the problem is simply a matter of NAACP delegates suffering from an overload of "misinformation.  Pryor says,
I came to understand the NAACP’s position a little better when I attended a panel on education with several of my KIPP colleagues and when I talked one-on-one with several delegates. It became clear that misinformation was the basis for their opposition. They had heard stories about a few bad charter schools, and they were using that to judge all 6,800 schools in the movement. There have been some terrible stories about charter schools, just as we’ve all read terrible stories about traditional public schools and private schools. Those are unfortunate, embarrassing, disheartening exceptions.
"Embarrassing, disheartening exceptions?"  How about Mr. Pryor's own KIPP school, where he has been principal for the past eight years?  Mr. Pryor could have mentioned in his October 9 essay published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his first year at KSFA was marred by news stories of student mistreatment and abuse, which resulted in at least seven parents yanking their children from his school:
Sunday, March 22, 2009

A south Fulton County charter school following one of the most lauded education programs nationwide is embroiled in a dispute over discipline that has led at least seven parents to yank their children out midyear.

The parents were so angry at what they saw as excessive punishment at KIPP South Fulton Academy that they complained to several agencies, including the Fulton school board and state Department of Education.

The parents said a group of children were mistreated by teachers who separated them from their peers in class and at lunch. The students, parents said, reported sitting on the floor and said one girl urinated on herself after not being allowed to use the restroom immediately.

School administrators said they erred in not calling parents as soon as their children got in trouble. First-year principal Jondré Pryor said he also should have done more to warn parents about the high expectations for conduct, as well as academics. . . . .
Some of the angry parents who pulled their children said "their children needed counseling afterward."   One male student told his mom, Ms. India Wood, that "I can’t take them yelling at me 10 hours today."  Ms. Wood withdrew her son in February 2009.

Below is a photo from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution showing KIPPsters sitting on the floor until students "earned" desks by displaying totally compliant behavior.  Embarrassing, I guess.  Or maybe criminally negligent would be a better description.

While Mr. Pryor offers up the usual short list of carefully-selected data claims related to high test scores to underpin his argument for more charter schools and to justify his condemnation of the NAACP demand for a charter moratorium, there are other KIPP data closer to home that Mr. Pryor does not mention.

For instance, KSFA performance has been moving down steadily among the state rankings of middle schools since 2007, when KSFA ranked 31st among Georgia middle schools.  In 2016 it ranks 129th.

During that past eight year span, which coincides with Mr. Pryor's tenure at KIPP,  KSFA's average standard State score has declined from 84.71 to 70.88 in 2016.

Oddly, KSFA academic performance seems to be moving in the opposite direction of its "profitability."  For a "non-profit" charter school, this KIPP seems to be doing pretty well, based on information from 2013:

I checked online to find out what parents are saying about Mr. Pryor's school, and I found this single 2016 rating here by a parent who gave KSFA "one star:"
My child comes homes crying because she feels dumb... because the teacher yells at her constantly for small things like dropping a pencil more than once in one class period. They also call kids to school to early. There is a summer school program even for kids that got good grades, its mandatory. They really only get one month of summer which really takes away from traveling plans and just family time all together. Very disappointed. I mean my child learns but i hate for her to learn in such a cruel way. NOT RECOMMENDED AT ALL.

 Perhaps the NAACP delegates should look the other way.

Part 2 will have more to say about Mr. Pryor's essay and the NAACP resolution below, which spawned his outpouring of concern:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Wikileaks Email Dump Shows NEA Rigged Hillary Endorsement

Source here.

The release by Wikileaks of the e-mails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, revealed that the leaders of the National Education Association were determined to win an endorsement for Clinton well before determining the wishes of the union’s representative bodies .

Despite constant pressure from NEA’s leaders, and a positive recommendation from the union’s PAC Council ( although I suspected some manipulation there as well ), there was still serious doubt whether the proposed Clinton endorsement would meet the 58% threshold needed from the union’s board of directors.

NEA’s executive officers acted quickly, urging Clinton to appear in person before the board on October 3, 2015 to answer any questions and alleviate any concerns. This she did, and the board ultimately voted to endorse her .

But NEA was prepared to call off the vote and whitewash the setback if things had gone awry. A Podesta e-mail dated September 29, 2015 described the situation and NEA’s plan to Clinton:
here’s the status of things, which you may already have been briefed on. Executive Committee of 7 (3 officers and 4 others)) voted unanimously to endorse. Next step is the PAC Committee, which is weighted by PAC participation and the votes are there to endorse. Final step is a vote of the full 120 member Board where the threshold for endorsement is 58%.

Sanders forces are working furiously to put off an endorsement. We do not have certainty on hitting the 58% threshold despite the intense work of Lilly and John Stocks. You are scheduled to see the full Board on Saturday morning. John’s assessment is that your appearance is critical if they are going to get the endorsement this weekend. There is some risk though that you show up and they remain uncertain of a successful vote so that they put it off for further work by the leadership.

They will not call the vote unless they are certain that they will hit the threshold. Downside is that the Sanders people will spin that notwithstanding the PAC Committee recommendation, the Board delayed action. All here assess that it’s worth the risk and that you should show up and try to get the endorsement now. If the vote is delayed, Lily and John will say this is a multi-layered process and good progress was made by securing the PAC Committee recommendation. I wanted you to have a good sense of the state of play, because they have to let people know that you will be there no later than tomorrow early am. I and the rest of the team think you should confirm participation, but wanted to give you a chance to discuss if you have a different view.

Cash Is Figural for Gestalt Charter $chools

The Gestalt Community Schools operate a half-dozen segregated corporate reform schools in Memphis.  Their stated vision at their website is 
. . . building better communities through education. To this end, Gestalt targets low-income communities that have failing schools, then catalyzes grassroots leadership to revitalize the neighborhood, educates the youth through high-performing schools, and partners with providers to tackle out-of-school challenges that hinder students from succeeding.
This week it was announced that two of its schools in one of Memphis's shrinking neighborhoods are shutting down, thus leaving parents to wonder where their children will attend school next year.  

With Gestalt collecting about 10K for each student attending and with enrollment shrinking, it seems that Gestalt's "vision" has to take a back seat to their business plan and financial projections.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

FairTest Fumes and Obfuscates

There was much disgust expressed when Diane Ravitch promoted FairTest's NEA-supported report, Assessment Matters: Constructing Model State Systems to Replace Testing Overkill.  In the report, FairTest managed to do some major league pimping for the New Hampshire competency-based child plug-in learning model and competency-based assessment pilot.  

Here is heart of Monty Neill's response, with my comments interspersed in italics.
First, there is no doubt that corporations backed by some foundations and politicians are promoting a version of schooling that is built around computerized packaged programs that combine curriculum, curricular materials, instruction and testing. The tests are in most cases multiple-choice and short-answer with occasional write-to-a-prompt items, to be machine graded. They seriously narrow and diminish education and should be exposed and stopped.
. . . . not one of the examples in FairTest’s report rely on these kinds of computerized packages. Each one is teacher controlled and very much teacher controlled. We clearly support and praise those that allow significant student voice and control over the learning and assessment processes. New Hampshire fought for a deal that has opened doors that have been nailed shut since the start of NCLB and thus deserve serious credit. As we point out, we can learn from and improve on what they have thus far done, and that ESSA makes it easier for that to happen.. . .

The New Hampshire example that FairTest studies is Rollinsford Grade School, which DOES NOT participate in the frenetic attempts in the other dozen or so NH assessment pilot venues, where Gates Foundation know-nothings are supervising the construction of a Rube Goldberg assessment system that tries to standardize the unique and to quantify the unquantifiable.  Why, pray tell, does Monty not examine a system that is plugged in to the NH pilot project, which is meant to look like this:

Monty Neill continues: "People can choose to believe the fight is over because corporations are trying to seize control of terms such as personalized and competency-based. We believe that is a mistake. It is not over, and one part of the battle is the fight to own the terms. The more important fight is the one to determine the shape of education, whether it is built on human relations among teachers and students, with parents and other community people also engaged; or it is based on computer algorithms and subordinating human relations to the computer packages.
FairTest fights for the former. We think that is clear in what we call for and the programs we highlight. If people have questions about that, they should read what we actually write and then follow it up, looking at the programs themselves."
The resistance to corporate education does not believe the fight is over, despite FairTest's surrender to the ESSA charter and CBE stimulus package passed last year.  If FairTest were fighting, why do we not see any outlined strategy to expose the hazardous and reckless advances of the child plug-in model for poor schools that is being advanced by Gates and Silicon Valley?  

While FairTest promotes its progressive boutique alternatives to the unhealthy and intrusive plug-in competency-based model, neither FairTest nor NEA/AFT has one word of warning or concern for parents, educators, or students who will be the victims of this miseducative money-making scheme if it goes forward.

FairTest is fighting for FairTest and the NEA agenda, which is the corporate agenda and the Clinton agenda and the Wall Street agenda.  Nothing will block their train until the tracks are removed.

Trade you a backpack of badges for a caring teacher & well-resourced school.

from Wrench in the Gears
October 10, 2016

This is the third in a series intended to describe the process by which education reformers are transitioning us from neighborhood schools to learning eco-systems. For additional background you can read “From Neighborhood Schools to Learning Eco-Systems, A Dangerous Trade” and “Questions We Should Be Asking About Future Ready Schools.”

Since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the drumbeat for “innovative,” “personalized” education has grown stronger and more insistent. Key to the successful implementation of Education Reform 2.0 is convincing the public that education in school buildings with certified human teachers is obsolete. The No Child Left Behind Act laid the groundwork. It created increasingly hostile working conditions for teachers, inhumane learning conditions for students, and emphasized standards and test scores above all else.

While the public was sold a story that national standards were about ensuring equity for all children, parents of children enrolled in predominately low-income districts know that is not true. Time and time again we have seen that the standards-based accountability frameworks established under NCLB focus on outputs, NEVER inputs. These laws did not secure additional resources for children in need. They were designed to raise expectations for college and career readiness while kneecapping, through ongoing austerity budgets, our schools’ ability to meet our children’s most basic needs. Imposition of Common Core State Standards, value-added measures, high school exit exams, third-grade reading guarantees, test-score based “turnaround” policies, data-walls, and the like, have gradually institutionalized a punitive, data-driven approach to education across our country.

So what exactly does that have to do with badges? Well, data-driven education and badges go hand-in-hand. It makes sense once you realize the end goal is to replace our current system of public education with individualized pathways geared to “anytime, anyplace, any pace” learning mediated largely through technological devices that collect and aggregate educational data. The data is all aligned to The Common Educational Data Standards and now xAPI or Tin Can has replaced SCORM to make collection of online and offline educational data easily trackable.

This is not limited to K12 or even P20, the powers that be envision this process of meeting standards and collecting badges to be something we will have to do our ENTIRE LIVES. If you haven’t yet seen the “Learning is Earning” video-stop now and watch it, because it makes this very clear. Badges are representations of standards that have been met, competencies that have been proven. Collections of badges could determine our future career opportunities. The beauty of badges from a reformer’s perspective is that they are linked to pre-determined standards and can be earned “anywhere.” You can earn them from an online program, from a community partner, even on the job. As long as you can demonstrate you have mastery of a standard, you can claim the badge and move on to the next bit of micro-educational content needed to move you along your personalized pathway to the workforce.

In this brave, new world education will no longer be defined as an organic, interdisciplinary process where children and educators collaborate in real-time, face-to-face, as a community of learners. Instead, 21st century education is about unbundling and tagging discrete skill sets that will be accumulated NOT with the goal of becoming a thoughtful, curious member of society, but rather for attaining a productive economic niche with as little time “wasted” on “extraneous” knowledge as possible. The problem, of course, is that we know our children’s futures will depend on flexibility, a broad base of knowledge, the ability to work with others, and creative, interdisciplinary thinking, none of which are rewarded in this new “personalized pathway/badging” approach to education.

Click on this link to read the entire article in Wrench in the Gears.