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

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Followership Skills and the Great Withering Away

Just as John Dewey knew that real education is the key to creating the inclusive, participatory democracy that he envisioned, all of those (both the Mass. Brahmin and the Texas cowpoke) who prefer rule by the technocratic elite know how to stop any potential realization of the Deweyean ideal: just eliminate the possibility of real education, and replace it with the followership skills that the corporate experts require.

The ed reformers, then, who would save our industrial consumer society from the requirements of thinking will be glad to know that their preferred brand of anti-thought education for high schools has already come to Long Branch, NJ. Desperate to help high schoolers pass the high school proficiency test (HSPA), educators have crafted a test-prep blitzkrieg that will be incorporated throughout the curriculum--or what is left of it.

In a show of support that offered students a chance to be tested before they forgot everything they had just "learned," New Jersey's Ed Commissioner, Lucille Davy, even gave Long Branch permission to administer the HSPA immediately following the test-exploring "seminar" first offered at Long Branch last summer as the "Summer Scholars" program. Thus, we create a model for the rest of the state, yes?

Supporters of the program were simply ebullient, claiming that this cramfest actually offered these urban children the skills (to pass tests?) they will need beyond high school. Oh yes, I forgot, they will be going on to state colleges, and we know that the corporate bean counters have plans for mass testing ("accountability") there, too. Pour it in, pump it out. Work hard, be nice.

Here is a clip from the Atlanticviille:

. . . .As part of the program, Ferraina had reached out to the state commissioner of education and received permission to administer the HSPA test at the end of the program.

Of the 55 students who attended the summer program, 35 passed the HSPA after completing course.

"It is pretty amazing," said Salvatore. "These kids had failed the test before and with six weeks of intense instruction they were able to pass."

The classes concentrated on students and teachers working side by side to not only cover the necessary content of mathematic and English, but to also develop test-taking strategies, according to Salvatore.

"It is very intense," Salvatore said. "It focused on strategy and it wasn't just a focus on the content.

"It wasn't that these students didn't know the math, it was that when they saw it on a test, they did not know how to answer it."

The class also instructed the students on how to analyze tests, using the HSPA test as an example.

The students learned how many points were assigned to each question on the test, how many questions they needed to answer correctly in order to pass and which questions needed additional focus, according to Salvatore.

"We interviewed the kids [who passed] after they got their results and it was so great to hear what they had to say," Salvatore said. "One kid told us he believes in himself now, and as an educator, after hearing that, you know that you are doing the right thing."

Ferraina called the program "a rewarding experience."

He added, "Did you look at the faces of the students? This is one of my favorite moments as an educator.

"We were able to provide them with skills and strategies they need to be successful beyond high school.

"It shows that changing a few things here and there really makes a big difference," he said.

Although the program was a success, Salvatore said the district's hope is that it will not be needed anymore.

"We have taken this program and incorporated it into everyday classes at the high school," Salvatore said. "We find that kids, who even passed the test, need the strategies taught during the programs to apply in everyday testing.

"We have taken the elements and infused them into the classroom," he said. "We were alarmed at the number of kids that failed the test.

"This is going to help those kids."

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