This space explores issues in public education policy, and it advocates for a commitment to and a re-examination of the democratic purposes of schools. If there is some urgency in the message, it is due to the current reform efforts that are based on a radical re-invention of education, now spearheaded by a psychometric blitzkrieg of "metastasizing testing" aimed at dismantling a public education system that took almost 200 years to build. JH August, 2005
What busy, hassled, and probably desperate teacher can
resist this lure: a new
learning that will give students powerful boost to their growing neural
networks of executive functions. Executive functions! I came to Judy Willis’ Student
Responses to Common Core Instruction and Assessment through ASCD’s daily SmartBrief [sic] which, since
receiving their filthy lucre from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, rarely
present more than daily neon light
evangelism for the Common Core.
July 2013 to support
implementation of the Common Core State Standards
teachers and school leaders with supports to implement
the Common Core State
Standards at the district, school, and classroom levels $3,024,695
Yes, that’s another story, but just know that money is never far from the evangelism.
At Edutopia, Judy Willis, MD, starts out her piece on brain-baased learning with a
“I am an advocate of
the goals embodied in the CCSS -- building strong neural networks of executive
functions. These networks of neuron-to-neuron connections have been an
essential element of the neurological examination of patients for over 75
years. The functions of these unique neural networks were initially revealed
through neurological case histories of patients with prefrontal cortex
degeneration, lesions or trauma. They consequently lost their
"highest" thinking skills of goal-directed behavior, judgment,
emotional self-awareness, deduction, reasoning, abstraction or subsequent
Well, I'm not ready to declares Wowser! But it sure sounds good: strong neural networks of executive
functions. Teachers are supposed to be training all students for higher job functions, right? However,the studies I found
using this term have to do with autism, attention deficit
disorder, mild traumatic
brain injury. . .which gives one pause.
Remember the researchers who brought us Reading First? Almost all of them had a background in special ed. They provided the fodder for the US Department of Education edicts that all students should be taught using special ed methodology. Think DIBELS.
Writing at Edutopia,Judy Willis,
MD, says, “The CCSS goals support
cognitive actions that are the executive functions for a global economy.” I don't claim to have read loads of articles on the topic but I can report that some of the findings surrounding the strong neural networds of executive functions are discussed in terms
of anatomical and neuropharmacological dissociations of different aspects of
executive function within the prefrontal cortex shown in monkeys. Well!
I made mention of how baboons greet each otherand how much DNA they share with
corporate leaders of ed reform on page
One Size Fits Few: The Folly of Educational Standards. Every reviewer who read the book in manuscript form contacted
the editor with the recommendation, “Publish it and keep the baboons!” Nobody thought the publisher would have the nerve. They surprised us all. See page 103.
Writing at Edutopia, Judy Willis, MD, declares, “The CCSS goals support cognitive actions that
are the executive functions for a global economy. We cannot let this
educational goal be subverted through the challenges posed by the tests
themselves or how they are used. One of our goals is understanding how we might
best support students during the transition from passive memorization to
actively constructing understanding and applying knowledge.” She does not provide even one classroom example of these miraculous CCSS goals.
The reader must take on faith her declaration that these are “requisite 21st century
skillsets.”Acknowleding that the new
Common Core curriculum and tests cause student stress and even illness, Willis
says teachers must help students deal with stress, not fight the Common Core which is a marvel to be embraced. In other words, when the Common Core makes a whole third grade class burst into tears, the teacher must buy more tissue, not refuse to give such a test again.
Dr. Willis is also the author of
Inspiring Middle School Minds: Gifted, Creative, and Challenging, declared a “must
read” by the president of the National
Association for Gifted Children, in which ‘executive function’ is discussed 46
times. Truth to tell, she explains it
much better in this book than she does when pushing the Common Core. As it happens, I’ve also written about the
challenges of teaching middle schoolers: Caught in the Middle: Nonstandard Kids and a Killing Curriculum. The
term “executive function” does not appear in the book's 195 pages, but Deborah Meier wrote the foreword and
Gerald Bracey gave a rousing back cover blurb.