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

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Noam Chomsky: 'The Republican Party is the most dangerous organization in human history'

Noam Chomsky: 'The Republican Party is the most dangerous organization in human history': This interview originally appeared on the blog of the Institute for New Economic Thinking. To help make sense of where we stand as an economy, as a country, and as human beings, Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Laureate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona, shares his thoughts with Lynn Stuart Parramore on the Age of Trump, foreign policy, dissent in the internet age, public education, …

Ted Dintersmith is not here to save neighborhood schools!

March 21, 2018

No, Ted Dintersmith is not coming to save our schools, because to him they’re obsolete. Last week Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post pitched Ted Dintersmith’s new book “What School Could Be,” and many ed-activists ate it up. I thought by now a “philanthropic” white male technocrat investor with absolutely no teaching experience coming on the scene to tell us how to fix our broken-on-purpose schools would be met with a healthy dose of skepticism. Dintersmith might say what we want to hear. His pitch might validate our concerns about punitive high-stakes standardized testing and the psychological damage caused by developmentally inappropriate education standards. He may criticize AP classes and the College Board; but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Consider his quote from a recent EdSurge article “the focus should really be on funding schools the produce future entrepreneurial adults, instead of entrepreneurial adults today funding obsolete schools.”
Dintersmith’s is the face of Ed Reform 2.0. The new paradigm for education he envisions replacing our “obsolete” schools with is one where:
Competency or mastery-based education is the norm.
Skills are uploaded to online portfolios via apps.
Mindsets and habits of work are tracked.
Children teach one another.
Students are expected to be “in charge” of their learning.
Teachers become “mentors;” or are even replaced by volunteers.
Out of school internships are prioritized.
Instruction may be outsourced to community or work-based organizations.
Students are expected to have a passion and a pathway to the workforce.
With such a model, bricks and mortar schools and certified teachers could wither away and eventually disappear.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Monday, March 19, 2018

‘Where is Mark Zuckerberg?’ Reporter nails Facebook for data ‘scandal’ that helped deliver Trump and Brexit

If you enjoy the havoc that has accompanied Trump and Brexit, thank Mark Zuckerberg for the crucial role he played.

‘Where is Mark Zuckerberg?’ Reporter nails Facebook for data ‘scandal’ that helped deliver Trump and Brexit: British journalist Carol Cadwalladr has been sounding the alarm on Facebook and Cambridge Analytica for more than a year, and her investigative work helped reveal a massive data breach exploited by the Trump campaign. The company was founded on a Facebook data breach that exposed personal information belonging to about 50 million users, although the social media giant denied the incident until a whistleblower told his story. “They knew about the data breach two years …

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Too Big to Map, But I Tried

from Wrench in the Gears
March 18, 2018

I realize this is a very long post and not all that readable. I will try and break it down further in the near future, but for now consider it a work in progress; a way for me to gather a lot of divergent ideas, spheres of influence, and money trails in one place. The graphic above is my attempt to trace what is happening with Out of School Time learning where I live; how it relates to impact investing; how they are building the data infrastructure around it; and how that data will advance social impact investing in Philadelphia, a city of deep poverty. I am including selections from the map in this piece, but the interactive version can be accessed here.

I expect pressure for these flexibility measures will ramp up if elected officials manage to pass enabling legislation for Education Savings Accounts. While many education activists have framed ESAs as vouchers, they are actually considerably more dangerous. Instead of a single lump sum tuition payment, ESAs would allow payments to be made to multiple providers. This type of system aligns with the “credit-flex” model, one in which cyber-education providers and Out of School Time programs could offer a range of standards-aligned instructional opportunities. When Betsy DeVos spoke about funding students, not schools or districts in her recent interview for 60 Minutes, THAT is what she had in mind.

It seems clear that Pennsylvania and Philadelphia are moving steadily towards a Pay for Success model of education finance. When I asked about it at the Philly OST meeting, Mr. Tucker seemed to blanch and after recovering from the shock of someone raising this issue said somewhat hesitantly, “Not yet.” The laudable goal of literacy is being used to advance a program of informal, out of school time learning and digital instruction that will deliver impact metrics at the expense of authentic education that is developmentally appropriate and acknowledges the humanity and agency of students and teachers. In putting together this enormous map, I am trying to resolve a situation I feel is akin to the blind men and the elephant. Many people involved in this machine see one small part of it. The part they see, might in fact look like it is a good thing. It is only once you step back and grasp the enormity of it that you can properly assess the situation.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Florina Rodov: The Truth About Charter Schools

“[W]hen teachers aren’t unionized, they’re exploited — and when teachers suffer, so do kids.” — Florina Rodov

This amazing piece by Florina Rodov on Shondaland is a must read. Taking place at one of the seedy charter corporations here in Los Angeles, the story Rodov tells is all too familiar to all of us that are anti-privatization activists. Much of the mistreatment of faculty and students mirrors the accounts in Professor Horn's Work Hard, Be Hard: Journeys Through "No Excuses" Teaching. Hat tip to Leonie Haimson, whose Tweet regarding this essay caught my eye.

An excerpt, but please go and read the whole work:

"But I soon realized there was a gulf between charter school hype and reality. Every day brought shocking and disturbing revelations: high attrition rates of students and teachers, dangerous working conditions, widespread suspensions, harassment of teachers, violations against students with disabilities, nepotism, and fraud. By the end of the school year, I vowed never to step foot in a charter school again, and to fight for the protection of public schools like never before."

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Armed teacher injures 3 students when he accidentally fires gun during firearm safety lesson

And this is the guy teaching gun safety:

Armed teacher injures 3 students when he accidentally fires gun during firearm safety lesson: President Donald Trump believes that arming well trained teachers will prevent future school shootings — but a new story out of California shows that armed teachers can create risks of their own. Local news station KSBW reports that Seaside High School teacher Dennis Alexander on Tuesday wounded three of his students when he accidentally fired his gun in class. Police say that Alexander, who also serves as a reserve police officer, was trying to teach …

This is what the Koch Brothers want children to learn about slavery

This is what the Koch Brothers want children to learn about slavery

Given that the billionaire Charles Koch has poured millions of dollars into eliminating the minimum wage and paid sick leave for workers, and that in 2015 he had the gall to compare his ultra-conservative mission to the anti-slavery movement, he’s probably the last person you’d want educating young people about slavery.
Yet the history-teaching wing of the Koch brothers empire is seeking to promote an alternate narrative to slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. The political goal of these materials is to ensure students see racism and slavery as flaws in an otherwise spotless U.S. record, rather than woven into the fabric of our country from its inception. . . . .

Monday, March 12, 2018

Humane Education Versus Educational Technology and Pay for Success: My Testimony to Philadelphia City Council

from Wrench in the Gears
March 12, 2018

Today I offered public testimony at a special hearing discussing early literacy education and standards held by the Education Committee of Philadelphia City Council. Below is a recording of my testimony, followed by the written text I submitted for the record. In my introductory remarks I mention Econsult Solutions, a firm that has two affiliates who made it from the pool of hundreds of candidates to be considered for appointment to the new school board. Suzanne Biemuller, Senior Advisor, and Lee Huang, Senior Vice President,  were designated finalists, their names among the twenty-seven put forward for consideration by Mayor Kenney. I wrote about the firm’s ties to Pay for Success and Ready Nation here.

“In 1976 my third-grade class constructed a geodesic dome reading nook under the guidance of our teacher Mrs. Nevius. Inside, with books and carpet squares and flashlights, a bunch of eight year olds found magic. Wilder Elementary had a librarian who could place the perfect book in the hands of each and every child. We anxiously waited for Mrs. Nevius to take out her bookmark to read the next chapter of The Cay or Island of the Blue Dolphins aloud to us. Those were formative experiences for me. I am now the parent of a Philadelphia student and have witnessed a relentless campaign to steal this magic from our schools. Today, I welcome the opportunity to consider what humane education looks like and how we can support it.
  • reduce class sizes
  • hire certified reading specialists
  • make sure every school has a library with a certified librarian
  • shower children with books that are culturally relevant
  • build a teaching force that reflects our student body
  • choose teacher-led professional development over disruptive consultants
  • give children time to think, to discuss, to reflect, to challenge and to question
Many students, including pre-k and kindergarteners, are instead being logged into software programs designed to harvest personal data. Rather than age-appropriate, play-based learning, they are being put in front of screens. Increased screen time leads to social isolation and creates angry, depressed children. Instead of developing healthy relationships through quality time with teachers and peers, they are having their education shaped by algorithms and computer code.

They may not have libraries, but they do have unique IDs that track their every move online. Children have no idea their data is fed into predictive analytics systems; that their unpaid digital labor creates value for ed-tech investors. There is no guarantee their data will be protected from hacks or leaks. No one can be sure it won’t be used to profile them in ways that limit their future opportunities rather than open doors.

The most powerful companies in the world are cloud-based computing companies that have an interest in pushing education online. Venture capital and philanthropies are helping to facilitate this transformation through social impact investments. In the name of “evidence-based” policy, there is a now a bipartisan push to embrace “innovative” finance schemes that use private money to fund social programs, including pre-k and early literacy.

The “Pay for Success” model requires a lot of data to prove that programs “work.” Not coincidentally, this is what education software systems promise to deliver. Remember the housing market crash of 2008 when bundled mortgages were turned into vehicles for financial speculation? There are powerful global interests who want to do it again using the debt associated with pre-k and literacy program investments. The next “Big Short” could very well be our nation’s education system, gambling not on homes but on children’s lives. Philadelphia’s youth must learn to be independent, creative, courageous thinkers. No software system is going to teach them that. When allocating resources for education, invest in people first. That’s where the magic is. Approach big data with caution. It can be weaponized against children and the common good.”

Sunday, March 11, 2018

KIPP: Do-Rags Are "direct component of school-to-prison pipeline"

Recently, KIPP has had its share of bad news, and all of it has been self-generated.  Alleged pedophile, KIPP Houston's Mike Feinberg, was recently fired for having sex with a middle school student in the late 1990s.  Since the story broke about the co-founder's sexual abuse of children, both KIPP and Feinberg have been quiet as church mice. 

Now another embarrassing story is breaking, this time involving KIPP's ongoing efforts to culturally sterilize its students.  However, something must have happened on the way to the final brainwashing of KIPP high students in Lynn, MA, for male students are now protesting KIPP's arbitrary decision to ban do-rags. 

According to KIPP Lynn's dean students and culture (yes, KIPP has a dean of culture), do-rags are a "direct component of school-to-prison pipeline" and, further, they are "also reflective of some gang culture."  If that weren't enough to make any proud teen to don't his do-rag, then there is another consideration that Dean Shauna-Kaye Clarke wants students to remember, too:  ". . . they can recede your hairline. That’s not setting you up for success.”

If KIPP were really interested in addressing the "school-to-prison pipeline," the deans of culture at KIPP  would be concerned with the hemorrhaging of KIPP students who leave KIPP feeling that they are failures for being unwilling to give up their lives to make KIPP test results look better.  KIPP teaches students that those who leave are failures who are unwilling to do what is necessary to succeed.  The intense sense of shame that results does feed, we may presume, that school the prison pipeline that Dean Shauna-Kay seems to think can be diverted by ditching the do-rag.

KIPP Lynn kids aren't buying it, and that is the most positive sign I've seen of KIPP's failure so far.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Will Econsult Solutions be a foot in the door for early childhood “Pay for Success” in Philadelphia?

from Wrench in the Gears
March 9, 2018

My friends at the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools have done commendable work researching the slate of candidates initially selected by the nominating panel to be considered for the mayoral-appointed Philadelphia School Board. Reading through their first installment, I noticed that two of the twenty-seven have ties to Econsult Solutions. Suzanne Biemuller is a Senior Policy Advisor and Lee Huang is a Senior Vice President. The name rang a bell, so I decided to do a little more digging.
It is a large economic consulting firm that does business with private and government interests from the Philadelphia region and farther afield. Their extensive client list includes the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well as philanthropies like the MacArthur Foundation, known for promoting digital learning, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, known for promoting Pay for Success, and the William Penn Foundation, known for hiring Boston Consulting Group to recommend closure of 23 Philadelphia schools and recent initiatives to promote out-of-school time, informal learning initiatives.
One of Econsult Solution’s four areas of practice is public policy and finance. Philip Peterson, a former actuary who now acts as an expert in the use of Pay for Success finance in early childhood education, became an advisor to the firm last September. Peterson’s LinkedIn profile states that he manages KidSucceed LLC, a firm he founded in July 2016 with addresses in Marlton, NJ and Manchester, VT.

Click here to read the rest of the post.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Florida teacher drops N-word in class and tells white girls not to date black boys: ‘They’re not worth it’

More of what the Trump Era has unleashed in the classroom:

Florida teacher drops N-word in class and tells white girls not to date black boys: ‘They’re not worth it’: A Florida middle school teacher has been suspended after students told the administration that he made racist remarks in class last year. Local news station Action News Jax reports that David Swinyar, a teacher at the Kernan Middle School in Jacksonville, has been suspended without pay for ten days after an investigation by the school concluded that he dropped the “n-word” in class and told students that “you should not be dating all these different …

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Student-Teacher Relations Are Central to Authentic Education

March 3, 2018

Today I share a guest post from an elementary school teacher in Maine, a state in the vanguard of Ed Reform 2.0 implementation. Unless changes are made, this year’s freshmen are expected to graduate under the state’s new proficiency-based diploma requirements. In recent months, push-back against this new educational paradigm has grown substantially. Parents, teachers and students are finding standards-based education, a model that emphasizes technology-based education delivery, highly problematic. Here is one teacher’s perspective:

“I love technology. I love it so much that I got my Masters in educational technology through Boise State University in Idaho. Through this program I learned to teach online, gamify my curriculum, personalize learning, use countless technology tools, and promote digital literacy in the classroom.

When I switched to a school district that had one to one technology for my students, I was over the moon! That was until I actually saw it implemented on a large scale. What I saw was not more engaged students, but students clicking through activities without a moment’s notice or even thought. What I found were kids wanting tablets, but not wanting to learn on them; they just wanted to play on the devices.

So I tried to implement activities that would get them really thinking and creating. We made PowToons for our learning. We used educreations to show our thinking. We used Google docs to share writing. Most of what we tried did not enhance learning one bit. Sure, it looked cool and professional, but my students could present a wonderful powerpoint and not even be able to answer questions about what they presented.

In addition, I had to sift through hundreds of different websites, tech tools, and resources to see what would be the best to use in my classroom. I found very little that was better than what I had been using in the classroom before technology. I was disheartened to discover that this was not the silver bullet I thought it was for education. The funny thing is that I thought technology would save me so much time. It really hasn’t, except for a few instances where I don’t have to grade spelling tests; and the apps that I use for spelling do not promote better spellers.

Unless you think I am now anti-technology, I am not. I use technology every day both personally and professionally. I appreciate how it connects me with some of my family far away. I love how I can create products only imagined before, like an iMovie. I love the ease of a word processor and platforms to collaborate and share my writing with others. I also love having my students use the technology for many of the things listed above, but now I know they need so much more than a flashy program for learning. They need me. They need my instruction. They need to discuss face to face with myself and their peers. They need to struggle through problems, with me encouraging them to press on and knowing when to come alongside them and help, but not enable. They need human accountability.

There is a movement in our country to transition students into more digital learning. I could go on about why this is all happening, but others have done that work for me (see Save Maine Schools and Wrench in the Gears). In the end, it will boil down to fewer teachers and more screen time for even our youngest learners. Kids will adapt and learn to click through the system like Pavlovian subjects. We will probably have “experts” claiming increased performance on their very narrow metrics.

What I see in my own school district is not better learning but more behavior. As we push kids beyond what they are capable of understanding, and think that “personalized learning” through technology will be the answer, we are sorely misinformed. Technology has its place in the classroom, but it should never replace what has made education great for hundreds of years-teachers.”

Signed, An Elementary School Teacher in Maine

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Florida public school teacher busted for white nationalist podcast calling for complete elimination of Muslims

If there is anything positive about the Trump Era, it is that racist, hate-mongering "teachers" have become so brazen that some of them, at least, self-identify so that they can dealt with.  

It is now the responsibility of the Citrus County School District to act.

Florida public school teacher busted for white nationalist podcast calling for complete elimination of Muslims: According to a report at the Huffpost, a Florida public school teacher  has been using an alias to to secretly host a white nationalist podcast and has been bragging about teaching her views in the school where she teaches. The report states that Dayanna Volitich, a 25-year-old social studies teacher at Crystal River Middle School, uses the name “Tiana Dalichov” and preaches white superiority while calling for genocide of Muslims. According to the report, “her …

UPDATE: Teacher with white supremacist podcast removed from Florida classroom: A Florida teacher who hosted a white supremacist podcast in which he bragged about indoctrinating her students has been removed from the classroom pending an investigation, the Miami Herald is reporting. The teacher, Dayanna Voltich, had allegedly used an alias while interviewing leading white nationalists like the notorious “lipstick fascist” Lena Lokteff. “Children is very important,” the podcaster said. “The communists always knew that. They always wanted the minds of the children. That’s the future. …

Friday, March 02, 2018

Dear Democrats, Corporate America Is Not Your Friend

By Krystal Ball published at The Hill:
Repeat after me: Corporate America is not your friend. They are not your friend when they stop running ads on a right-wing propaganda show. They are not your friend when they run feel-good multicultural rainbow Super Bowl ads. They are not your friend when they pull their NRA perks. They are not your friend when they defend LGBTQ rights. They are not your friend when they restrict sales of AR-15s. 
Are we glad when big corporations make these choices, often under pressure and duress, which happen to coincide with the public good? Absolutely. Do not let yourself imagine, though, that they are making these decisions out of some charitable or noble impulse. There is a reason that the bottom line is called the bottom line. Corporations act for one reason alone: to maximize executive salaries and shareholder value. They don’t act to maximize value to you, or to be loyal to a nation, or to promote tolerance or any other lovely thing. Corporations are there to make money for their wealthy execs and wealthy shareholders.
Sometimes, the bottom line means capitulating to decent behavior through organized public shaming. Note that Delta Air Lines and many other corporations were perfectly happy to be cozy with the NRA until a group of nearly murdered high school students in Florida shamed them into doing otherwise. And again, to be clear, the shaming has convinced them that their continued ties to the NRA will hurt the bottom line, not that cutting ties is the right thing to do.

Here, the counter-example of FedEx is an instructive one. FedEx has not cut ties with the NRA. Why? Because FedEx makes a lot of money from a special relationship with the NRA and the gun manufacturers that the NRA represents. They are not any more or less benevolent than UPS (although I vastly prefer UPS, thanks to their Teamsters-organized workforce). FedEx did the math and it came out differently for them because they have a special deal with dozens of gun makers that enables them to make a mint off the shipment of handguns.
So no, I’m not sad that Georgia Republicans have decided to punish Deltafor walking away from the NRA by pulling Delta’s corporate welfare. It’s a nasty tactic but they understand the game. The politicians were just trying to change the math for Delta. I didn’t support that corporate tax giveaway before Delta gave the NRA the cold shoulder and I don’t support it now.
Sometimes maximizing shareholder value happens to coincide with decent behavior such as advocating for immigration or LGBTQ tolerance, or throwing some token dollars at corporate social responsibility window-dressing. These are lucky coincidences.
Consider, for example, the treatment of their workforces. Why does the white-collar professional creative class get plied with extensive perks and decent pay while blue-collar and service workers get treated like a chain gang? Corporate America happens to see value in professional workers and treats them like actual human beings so that they will actually stick around. The working class, on the other hand, is viewed as disposable, a commodity to be continually replaced (unless forced to do otherwise by unions or bad publicity).
If you fall on the happy side of that divide, it doesn’t mean the corporation is your friend. When a robot comes along to read your spreadsheets or write your news articles, you’ll see just how friendly things are. 
So if corporate America decides that running a pro-immigrant ad during the Super Bowl will help sell more Cokes, than that’s what they will do. And if they decide that selling millions of pain pills into a town of 400 people will enrich their shareholder beyond belief, they will do that too. Corporate America is not your friend when they sponsor Chamber of Commerce seminars on how to break unions, and they are not your friend when they sponsor summits on women  empowerment.
We forget this at our peril, and the nation’s. Because, Democrats, we are supposed to be the friend of the worker, not the corporation. The more we forget this fact, aligning ourselves with supposedly benevolent corporations and happily taking their cash, the more the multiracial working class of this nation is left to fend for itself. The more desperate these workers become, the more willing they will be to trust the siren song of scarcity that says, “There are only so many seats at the table, so we must secure those seats for US and good luck to THEM, the immigrants.  Forget about the poor, rural whites who struggle, or the urban African-Americans who might be jobless or disproportionately incarcerated.”
Democrats, it’s the multiracial working class that is your friend — and you need to be their friend again. Tell Corporate America that you appreciate their ethical opportunism and their election cash, but you are going to stick with workers, thank you very much.
Krystal Ball is president of The People’s House Project, which recruits Democratic candidates in Republican-held congressional districts of the Midwest and Appalachia. A former candidate for Congress in Virginia and host on MSNBC’s “The Cycle,” she is a video host for the soon-to-be-launched Hill.TV project. Follow her on Twitter @krystalball.