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

Friday, September 21, 2018

School Libraries and Books Critical for School Success

Published in the New York Times, September 20, 2018
To the Editor:

Re “Why libraries still matter.” [https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/08/opinion/sunday/civil-society-library.html (Sunday Review, Sept. 90]

Not mentioned in Eric Klinenberg’s essay is the importance of libraries and books to school success. 

Studies consistently show that children of poverty typically have low levels of literacy development. But research also shows that children of poverty have little access to books at home, in their neighborhoods and at school, and that increasing access to books and other reading material results in more reading. 

Increasing reading increases vocabulary, increases the ability to read and write, and results in better grammar and better spelling.

The library is a major source of reading material for many children of poverty.

Our research, as well as the work of Keith Curry Lance, confirms that more investment in libraries and librarians means better language and literacy development, and that supporting libraries can help overcome the negative effect of poverty on literacy development and school success.

Stephen Krashen

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Police-Free Schools

From the Advancement Project:

Safety does not exist when Black and Brown young people are forced to interact with a system of policing that views them as a threat and not as students.  
For many Black and Brown youth, the presence of police in their schools disrupts their learning environments. There is a culture clash that exists between law enforcement and the learning environment: police enforce criminal laws, while schools are supposed to nurture students. This report addresses the stark reality that police in schools is an issue of American racial disparity that requires deep structural change. We will explore the question of why police are in schools at all and conclude that police are incongruent with the educational environment we envision for our children.
First, this report examines the advent of policing practices in America’s public schools and their historical roots in suppressing Black and Latino student movement and the criminalization of Black childhood. We discuss the documented harms of school policing, including the disparate impact that policing has on students of color, students with disabilities, and students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual (LQBTQIA).
The report centers the voices of young people from around the country who describe the everyday indignities that they experience at the hands of school police. It also, for the first time, catalogues known assaults of young people by school police officers. The report shines a spotlight on three particular cases where young people were assaulted by school police and how their communities responded. These case studies – in Oakland, CA, in Philadelphia, PA, and in Spring Valley, SC, serve as models in the fight to end school policing. The report chronicles how Black and Brown youth have used organizing and advocacy to advance a vision of school safety that is not reliant on policing.
This report then documents the school policing model and discusses how school police became institutionalized in America’s public education system through funding and policy at both the federal and local level. This report exposes the broad lack of accountability that school police benefit from. By illustrating how different school police operations are structured and function, this report provides readers with a clearer understanding of how pervasive and negative the impact on educational outcomes for students of color truly is.

Finally, the report calls for the removal of police from schools and envisions schools where Black and Brown students are afforded the presumption of childhood that they deserve.  Policing in our schools must be supplanted by divesting from militarization and investing in community-building strategies that not only improve the quality of safety for students of color, but the quality of their educational experience.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Mismeasure . . . Celebrates Five Years

Really?  Five years?  Guess so. 

Find out why almost 600 university libraries own copies of The Mismeasure of Education:

The Mismeasure of Education

Published 2013

With new student assessments and teacher evaluation schemes in the planning or early implementation phases, this book takes a step back to examine the ideological and historical grounding, potential benefits, scholarly evidence, and ethical basis for the new generation of test based accountability measures. After providing the political and cultural contexts for the rise of the testing accountability movement in the 1960s that culminated almost forty years later in No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, this book then moves on to provide a policy history and social policy analysis of value-added testing in Tennessee that is framed around questions of power relations, winners, and losers.

In examining the issues and exercise of power that are sustained in the long-standing policy of standardized testing in schools, this work provides a big picture perspective on assessment practices over time in the U. S.; by examining the rise of value-added assessment in Tennessee, a fine-grained and contemporary case is provided within that larger context. The last half of the book provides a detailed survey of the research based critiques of value-added methodology, while detailing an aggressive marketing campaign to make value-added modeling (VAM) a central component of reform strategies following NCLB. The last chapter and epilogue place the continuation of test-based accountability practices within the context of an emerging pushback against privatization, high stakes testing, and other education reforms.

This book will be useful to a wide audience, including teachers, parents, school leaders, policymakers, researchers, and students of educational history, policy, and politics.


"When the Obama Administration decided to spend the billions it got for schools as part of the stimulus package to launch the Race to the Top program and the NCLB waivers, forcing many states to adopt teacher evaluation based on changes in student test scores, leading experts warned that this “value added” system did not have a reliable scientific basis and would often lead to false conclusions. This sobering and important study of the long experience with this system in Tennessee (where it was invented) shows that it did not work, was unfair, and took attention away from other more fundamental issues." Gary Orfield Distinguished Research Professor, UCLA, Co-Director, Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, UCLA

"If The Mismeasure of Education offered only its penetrating new look at Conant and Coleman, it would be worth the price. But that’s just the beginning. Horn and Wilburn uncover the obsessive instrumentalist quantification and apocalyptic rhetoric soapboxed by both liberal and conservative political elites. Their autopsy of value-added accountability reveals the pathology of ed reform’s claim about teachers not being good enough for the global economy." Susan Ohanian Educator, Author, Activist

"A well-researched (and frightening) look at examples of shameful pseudoscience in America, the latest manifestation of which is value-added assessment for determining teacher competency... A well-documented and thorough analysis, inescapably leading to the conclusion that student test data cannot be used to determine teacher effectiveness. A must read for policy makers enamored of the idea that value added assessments will do what is claimed for them. They do not!....An excellent and scholarly history of how we got to an educational-testing/industrial complex, now promoting invalid assessment strategies that are transforming education, but not for the better. A scary book that should be thoughtfully read by those who value America’s greatest invention, the public schools." David Berliner Regents' Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University

"The Mismeasure of Education is a magnificent work, an elegantly written, brilliantly argued and erudite exposition on why the “what,” “how” and “why” of effective teaching cannot be adequately demonstrated by sets of algorithms spawned in the ideological laboratories of scientific management at the behest of billionaire investors... This book will serve as a sword of Damocles, hanging over the head of the nation’s educational tribunals and their adsentatores, ingratiators and sycophants in the business community... The Mismeasure of Education will have a profound resonance with those who are fed up with the hijacking of our nation’s education system. This is a book that must be read by everyone interested in the future of our schools. It is a book that advocates real educational justice, for student, teachers, administrators and the public; it is informed by impressive scholarship and compelling argument. It is surely to become a classic work." Peter McLaren Professor, GSEIS, University of California, Los Angeles, Distinguished Fellow in Critical Studies, Chapman University

What the FBI Is Not Telling Parents about Student Data Security

by Alison McDowell (First published at Wrench in the Gears)
On September 13, 2018, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation released a public service announcement outlining risks associated with the collection of sensitive student data through educational technologies. Many applaud the FBI’s actions. I do not. I believe it to be yet another calculated move in a long range campaign to misdirect the public and goad us into accepting the inevitability of cloud-based computing as the primary method of delivering educational content in our nation’s public schools.
It is a diffuse campaign carried out across many platforms by a range of interest groups, each gently but insistently nudging us towards a box canyon where the fin-tech elite anticipate we’ll eventually give in and accept the constraints of algorithmic data-driven learning. There will be, of course, a tacit, mutual agreement that data will be “secured” (though I suspect that won’t preclude it from being searchable with a FISA court order).
This “security” will exact a terribly high price. Submitting to the bullying behavior of Silicon Valley will erode children’s rights to humane, face-to-face instruction and siphon critical funds away from offline-activities like art, recess, music, libraries, and sports. The precious, small pots of education funding we have left will be directed into vast, impenetrable sinkholes of cyber-security.
The FBI’s alert discusses examples of data stored online, the ways data breaches and hacking have harmed students, and recommendations to parents about what they should be doing. One suggestion was to purchase identity theft monitoring services for children. How did this become the new normal?
While the FBI wants to foster the appearance they’re concerned about student wellbeing, the Bureau is not about to go out on a limb and state the obvious. The most effective way to protect children’s personal data is to not collect it or store it in the cloud in the first place. Rather than signing up for a Life Lock subscription, families would be better served by demanding schools stop using digital devices as a primary mode of education delivery.
The third sentence of the FBI’s PSA offers a not-so-subtle pitch touting the benefits of online education: “EdTech can provide services for adaptive, personalized learning experiences, and unique opportunities for student collaboration.” What is the business of the FBI? Surveillance. Do we think the Bureau would be inclined to recommend dialing back one of the most expansive flows of information ever? No. Consider the data lakes of personally identifiable information pouring out of our nation’s schools. The FBI doesn’t want to turn off that tap. They want us to ask them to protect us, to make the collection “safe” and “secure” from child predators and the Dark Web. It is an approach that will conveniently permit a steady stream of information to be channeled into Bluffdale’s server farms waiting out there in the Utah foothills. It’s a facility that has the capacity to hold a century’s worth of digital data on every citizen.
More on the NSA Data Center here.
Many in the education activist community felt validated by the fact that the FBI officially recognized the severity of this threat. But pause for a moment and look at what just happened. The education reform community keeps winning because they are strategic and disciplined and get out and frame the discussion to their advantage.
What the widespread sharing and support of the FBI’s PSA did, in my opinion, was further entrench the perceived inevitability of data-driven online education, even if it is horrible for children, for teachers, and for the future of our economic system. It also painted the FBI as the good guy, while glossing over the Bureau’s abhorrent history of infiltrating, threatening and even murdering political dissidents. We must view this “alert” within the context of state surveillance, Cointelpro, threats to Dr. King, and the murder of Chicago Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. It is a pattern of behavior not limited to some distant past, but one that continues in the present as demonstrated by the set up of activists like Red Fawn Fallis, a water protector at Standing Rock. The FBI wants to keep this educational data “safe” for themselves. They are looking out for their own interests, not those of our children. . . . .
Read the rest here.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Brief comments on "hard words"

S. Krashen. Sept 16, 2018.  
Hard Words (https://tinyurl.com/ybgv4742) champions systematic intensive phonics, teaching all the rules of phonics is a strict order to all children. Here are objections to their conclusions.
(1) Researchers admit we have not discovered all the rules.
(2) Even among those rules that have been described, some are extremely complex.
(3) Many children learn to read with little or even no phonics instruction.
(4) Studies show that intensive phonics produces strong results only on tests in which children pronounce words out of context. Systematic intensive phonics has little or no impact on tests in which children have to understand what they read.
(6) The best predictor of performance on tests in which children have to understand what they read is real reading, especially self-selected reading.
(7) “Basic phonics” can be helpful: teaching straight-forward rules that children can learn and can actually apply to texts to make them more comprehensible. Our ability to use complex rules is acquired as a result of reading.
(8) I know of no scholars or teachers who support “zero phonics.”

Supporting bibliography is available for free download at sdkrashen.com, section on phonics and phonemic awareness. Many of these points have been presented by Frank Smith and Kenneth Goodman.
Hard Words strongly supports the report of the National Reading Panel. For another point of view, please see papers in the Phi Delta Kappen by Garan, by Krashen, and by Yatvin. I will supply references if requested.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Marc Tucker Digs Up New Rationale for Public School "Unbuilding"

Marc Tucker is at it again, with a newly-excavated rationale for blowing up public schools and universities.  

My reaction:

Tucker continues to weave a narrative that entirely ignores the systematic formation in the early 20th Century of a racist and classist education system that reflected the prejudices of social efficiency zealots, who threw open the doors to the new education factories they built for exploitation by succeeding generations of snake oil salesmen with a never-ending supply of fake remedies for manufactured problems.
The learning "crisis" of American schools in the 1970s grew from an unacknowledged fear of racial integration and social progress. The rise of testing accountability, which was based on the same racist testing technologies from the eugenics era earlier in the 20th Century, functioned to efficiently label, sort, and segregate students, and to further incentivize the monetization of public education by what has since become the testing-technological complex.
Mr. Tucker's half-baked history lesson and his blinkered rationalizations would clear the way for another generation of capitalist plunderers who know nothing about schooling, learning, or teaching, this time centered in Silicon Valley and backed by another generation venture philanthropists with self-serving solutions. With new schemes in the making for increased monitoring, surveillance, data sharing, neurological reprogramming (SEL), and increased screen time isolation, the paternalist threat to humane learning environments and democratic institutions has never been greater, and the opportunities for social capital investment predators has never been higher.
There is nothing new in Mr. Tucker's tired tirade that we haven't heard before. His suggestion to allow a new generation of "scientific" managers to "unbuild" public schools and public universities expresses an antiquarian faith in the ingenuity of capitalist enterprise in education that is as undeserved as it is irresponsible.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Blockchain: Welcome to Your Permanent Record

by Alison McDowell (previously published at Wrench in the Gears)
I realize my Blockchain video presents an abundance of information that may be difficult to absorb all at once. For that reason, I’ve pulled together images from the video and accompanying text into a slideshare that people can review at their own pace.
Access the slideshare here.
Access a PDF of the script here.
I hope the scenario below provides a compelling enough reason why regular folks need to get up to speed on Blockchain, decentralized (digital) identity, tokenized behavior, and smart contracts. You can be sure the Davos crowd is well aware, and we really do have to start catching up if we want to save humanity.

Picture this:

A possible future, perhaps fifteen years from now. 
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is well underway.
Wages and conditions for jobs involving physical labor and direct service are forced below subsistence levels.
Austerity continues.
Debt is omnipresent.
“Smart” devices, facial recognition software, and drone surveillance ensure the public and private spheres are constantly monitored.
People’s lives have become ever more precarious.
The working class has few resources left and cannot serve as a market for goods and services.
There is limited currency in circulation. 
Instead, alternative exchanges of value are logged in Blockchain ledgers.
People are increasingly managed as commodities to keep capital circulating.
Economic activity, such as it is, revolves around data.
That data is stored on Blockchain, your permanent record.
Data are used to prove compliance and demonstrate the successful “impact” of poverty management systems.
Public services, like education and healthcare, have been outsourced to private entities funded by speculative investors.
Predictive analytics dominate the lives of all but the most powerful.
Big Brother lives in the cloud.
Each person carries a minder, a smartphone or a chip inserted in the hand.
Finance and technology interests anticipate managing humanity as an extractive industry. 
It is a future that hinges on bringing self-sovereign identity and Blockchain to scale.
So, will it scale?
Will people recognize the peril?
And will they refuse to cooperate?

For more information:

Smart Cities: Link
Internet of Things: Link
Blockchain: Link
Smart Contracts: Link
Self Sovereign Identity: Link
Alternative Currencies: Link
Behavioral Economics / Nudge: Link

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Mindful Compliance or Non-Cooperation

by Alison McDowell 
(Previously published at Wrench in the Gears)
Classrooms have always been sites struggle. We find ourselves in the midst of a battle pitting human agency and relationships against technologized surveillance and predictive profiling. Can schools evolve into places of community where new ways of being in the world, ways that begin to address past harms against oppressed people and the earth, can be imagined and tested? Or will educational spaces become even more authoritarian? With each passing day we see students distanced from one another as algorithms, artificial intelligence, and online games mold their minds in “personalized learning” bubbles.
The lean-production, dystopian economy the Davos crowd envisions will offer few stable living-wage jobs. Their model will force most people to adopt a practice of unrelenting “lifelong learning,” continual reinvention that might allow them to piece together a patchwork of precarious, soulless jobs. It is a process that will demand the acquisition of just-in-time skills, but perhaps more importantly it will demand the proper mindset. In this future, the most desirable trait for hires won’t be the level of knowledge they possess. Far more attractive will be their demonstrated ability to adapt to and thrive on instability. That is where grit, self-regulation, resilience, and executive function come in. That is why these words are becoming so prominent in professional development, new “evidence-based” curricula, and educational literature. We are being groomed.
There will be limited opportunities for creative thinking in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Knowledge will be controlled among the general populace. In fact knowing enough to question or disrupt the status quo will likely land a job candidate in the algorithmic rubbish bin. The current system works fine for the elite. They won’t onboard anyone who might organize with others to actually fix the system and make it more humane. For those at the top, the best employee is the one who thrives in dystopia and shames others into doing the same by example.
Neoliberal interests have secured esteemed social scientists and branding consultants to sell the unsuspecting public on their poisonous program of human capital engineering. It is being packaged as “whole child education” and “social emotional learning.” Legions of parents and teachers are embracing top-down programs of mindfulness training, structured recess, and gamified behavior management systems. Shell-shocked from years of test and punish, their defenses are understandably weakened. When they hear “play” and “soft skills,” most just sigh and cross their fingers hoping the worst of it is over. The privatizers know exactly how to push people’s buttons.
Efficient markets require a robust pipeline of interchangeable, cheaply paid employees who will labor with minimal complaint under intolerable conditions. Everything today is about return on investment. The logic of the market dictates it’s never too early to triage who is worth an investment of public resources and who is not. Schools have always been sorting mechanisms, but with digital surveillance education, the sorting systems are becoming ever more vicious.
Lest we be lulled into a trance by the zen masters of corporate mindfulness, we must recognize that the push to monitor, track, and cultivate an appropriate learner mindset, is not emerging from an authentic grassroots concern for the well being of children. It is an intentional campaign launched by philanthro-capitalists to expand the metrics of student measurement into the non-cognitive sphere.
These metrics will be used to profile children and double the size of educational impact investment markets. Why limit yourself to gambling on children’s academic proficiencies when you can do the same thing on their behavioral proficiencies, too? Believe me, the folks in this game are not ones to leave money on the table.
Who are you?
What kind of person do we predict you will become based on your data profile?
How do you score in the Big Five traits? OCEAN: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism
Will you obey?
Will you work hard?
Are you a team player?
Are you a leader?
Are you a follower?
Are you broken beyond what we’re willing to invest to repair you?
THAT is what social-emotional learning is really about. They will put resources into creating the metrics, the systems, the rubrics, the monitoring systems to ensure fidelity. It is the metrics that drive the social impact investment markets. It’s about moving data on dashboards, not caring for children.
So, before you do another thing in the classroom with respect to student behavior or social emotional learning, take a look around and recognize we ARE living the Hunger Games. Stop and think about where the intervention you are using came from? Whose interests does it advance? What data are YOU collecting on the children in your care? Where is it stored? Do you know what behavioral information the devices in your classroom may be capturing on your children? Do you know how that is being used? Do you know who is funding the new SEL curriculum in your school? Do you know who is funding that nice non-profit that wants to manage your recess program? Could it be a defense contractor (Playworks / Bechtel)?
Are you teaching children to be good players in the Hunger Games or are you teaching them what they need to know to upend the game? And if you are doing the latter, keep it offline. Don’t give the elite any power over the children who depend on you. Adopt a policy of non-cooperation. Find your way to resist the corporate SEL agenda and do it.
Much respect to John Trudell.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Why Parents Want Their Kids to Stay Out of Teaching

This year's annual PDK/Gallup Poll of public attitudes toward public education found for the first time a majority of American parents unwilling to advise their children to become teachers:
Two-thirds of Americans say teachers are underpaid, and an overwhelming 78% of public school parents say they would support teachers in their community if they went on strike for more pay, according to the 2018 PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. 
Even as most Americans continue to say they have high trust and confidence in teachers, a majority also say they don’t want their own children to become teachers, most often citing poor pay and benefits as the primary reason for their reluctance.
Here are just a few of the good reasons that the majority of parents have made the right call:

  • Over the past two decades, corporate reformers and politicians have put in place teacher evaluation schemes that are invalid, unreliable, and unfair to teachers.  Untold numbers of teachers have lost their jobs as a result, even as many other teachers fled to other career fields to escape the unrelenting pressure.  Those who have stayed now focus on producing test scores by any means necessary in order to survive evaluations, which, in turn, results in moral breakdowns, nervous breakdowns, and miseducated children.

  • Targeted mass killings in schools with weapons of war threaten the safety of all school personnel and children.  Growing numbers of politicians and corporate lobbyists make the case for arming teachers in schools, and kevlar book bags are now prominent on schools' mandatory supply lists for parents.  Who can blame college students and their parents for thinking of their safety and that of their children?

  • The metastasizing of the corporate cancer known as "rigor" has turned schools into training grounds for the increasingly alienating and disaffected corporate adult workplace.  Teachers are expected to function as efficiency-driven managers who increase the bottom line (test scores), and their own creativity and ingenuity have been sacrificed on the alter of standardization and quantifiable results that ignore the sociological and psychological realities of children.  

  • Teachers have continued to lose economic ground to other career fields over the past decades.  With a wage gap larger today than it was in 1980, teachers work two jobs to maintain some semblance of middle class living standards.

St. Hope Charter School Students Have Had Enough

St. Hope Charter Schools, Inc. is a small charter school chain owned by Kevin Johnson and his wife, Michelle Rhee. These are "no excuses" KIPP Model schools that enable Kevin and Michelle to live the lavish lifestyle to which they are accustomed, while providing the total compliance training and cultural sterilization pedagogy that makes this model so attractive to white philanthropists and their minority servants.

Apparently, students and parents at the St. Hope High School are tired of being treated like dirt.  A short video below shows us what real hope looks like in action:

Saturday, September 01, 2018

At least 920 Florida teachers out of jobs after failing state test, desp...

ABC affiliate is on the story of how the State of Florida is using a standardized test to weed out qualified teachers across the state.  Two reports below, the first from July of this year and the second a follow-up attempt to get a straight answer from Commissioner Pam Stewart, who is more concerned with losing her lunch break than providing a sensible answer to a very good question.

ABC Action News catches up with Commissioner Pam Stewart