If A Pig Wore A Wig And Other Tales of School Reform

» 07 October 2014 » In Commentary, Ed Policy » No Comments

if a pig wore a wig

Bill Gates had an idea. He was passionate about it, absolutely sure he had a winner. His idea? America’s high schools were too big. 
When a multibillionaire gets an idea, just about everybody leans in to listen. And when that idea has to do with matters of important public policy and the billionaire is willing to back it up with hard cash, public officials tend to reach for the money with one hand and their marching orders with the other. Gates backed his small-schools initiative with enormous amounts of cash. So, without a great deal of thought, one school district after another signed on to the notion that large public high schools should be broken up and new, smaller schools should be created.

With that lede, former NY Times columnist, Bob Herbert details The Plot Against Public Education: How millionaires and billionaires are ruining our schools POLITICO Magazine October, 6, 2014.

Herbert catalogues the failed hit-or-miss reforms driven by corporate America’s assault on public education. Smaller schools, charters, on-line schools, and big testing have yet to deliver significant improvements in student performance. What they have produced is a “testing-industrial” complex that has turned schools into test factories that harness the labor of students to toil at the "bubble-test" assembly line producing dubious "achievement" data. While I’m sure that corporate leaders, venture capitalists and foundation experts are nice people, I doubt their primary goal is student achievement. Not with the big profits to be made servicing the "K-12 space” and privatizing public education.

The piece profiles a cast of well-placed educational "reformers" - Bill Gates, Ronald Packard (former Goldman Sachs banker), Michael Milken (disgraced junk-bond king), Larry Ellison (billionaire co-founder of Oracle), Rupert Murdoch (king of the News Corp media empire), and Cathleen Black (longtime media executive and short-lived NYC school chancellor). What they lack in educational expertise is more than offset by their wealth and political influence. Herbert closes

Those who are genuinely interested in improving the quality of education for all American youngsters are faced with two fundamental questions: First, how long can school systems continue to pursue market-based reforms that have failed year after demoralizing year to improve the education of the nation’s most disadvantaged children? And second, why should a small group of America’s richest individuals, families, and foundations be allowed to exercise such overwhelming—and often such toxic—influence over the ways in which public school students are taught?

Image credit:
Taken from Page 255 "Illustrated Poems and Songs for Young People. Edited by Mrs. Sale Barker"
(1885) The British Library Identifier: 000201665

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Thinking Like A Historian: Student-Designed Lessons

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Over the last few weeks my University of Portland EdMethods students have been designing lessons in historical thinking skills based on the work of Sam Wineburg and the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). They focussed on three key skills – Sourcing, Contextualizing and Corroborating.

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Quantify Culture with NGram Viewer and NY Times Chronicle

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To demonstrate transformative web-based research tools, my EdMethods students spent time using Books NGram Viewer and NY Times Chronicle – to develop and test hypotheses. Here’s their results.

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Invaders Came from the North: French Attack on Upstate NY

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Over 300 years ago the French sent the largest army ever seen in North America to attack the Seneca Nation of the Genesee Valley of Upstate NY. The expeditionary force set in motion a series of events that would ultimately result in the French expulsion from North America.

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Get the Word Out: A Social Media Case Study

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Here’s a brief case study in how use social media to showcase your work and create a professional learning network.

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Students at the Center of the Learning

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I learned to be an instructional designer – an architect of learning environments. I designed lesson “spaces” where the thinking was being done by my students. By “flipping” a few instructional components and providing a student-driven evaluation, my students will be at the heart of the lesson. I’ll be floating at the periphery. Here’s how.

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#PDX Flipped Classroom Workshop Series

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Join us at NWRESD Hillsboro OR. (Portland) Feb 2015 (dates TBA) for 2 and a half days of engaging hands-on workshops that will give you the ideas, tools and support to flip your class. Open to K-12 teachers and administrators (All tech and flip experience levels welcome) / Cascade Technology Alliance

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How to Read Documentary Films

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Lesson on using films as documents to develop historical thinking skills in sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating and close reading. The lesson compares two documentary films detailing the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII. The first film was made in 1943 by the US government to justify the action. The second film was made in 2014 and features interviews with Japanese American incarcerees.

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The Bots are Coming! Better Re-think My Lesson Plans

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The video’s thesis is simple – robots are coming for our jobs. That begs the question – what skills should we be teaching to students who will have to compete against the bots for employment?

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#edcampPDX Back2School Edition: Twitter Archive

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We just completed our 10th edcampPDX – a chance to get pumped up for the new school year, network and share new ideas with our colleagues. Here’s our Twitter Storify archive. Check back for updates as attendees have time to reflect and tweet on the awesomeness we shared. We have lots of great resources.

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