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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Invaders Came from the North: French Attack on Upstate NY

» 17 September 2014 » In Commentary, History / DBQ's » 2 Comments

de-Denonville-featured

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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Students at the Center of the Learning

» 08 September 2014 » In Commentary, Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, How To, Strategies, Students, Teachers » No Comments

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

» 17 August 2014 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Strategies » 3 Comments

Star-Strider-Robot-featured-image

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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Learning to Think Like a Historian

» 03 June 2014 » In Commentary, History / DBQ's, Strategies, Students, Teachers » No Comments

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I’m joined by other educators who comment on “Teaching History By Encouraging Curiosity.” Ideas on how to create a more engaging history classroom that teaches students the foundations of historical thinking. With links to more resources and a podcast.

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5 Rules of Infographic Excellence

» 14 October 2013 » In Commentary, Visualizations » No Comments

xkcd-featured

xkcd’s brilliant mockery of the explosion of “info-junk” should remind us that the best infographics should efficiently combine quantitative data, prompt pattern recognition and cogent visual storytelling. Perhaps aspiring infographic designers would do well to revisit the work of the Edward Tufte, the guru of the art form. His five rules of “Graphical Excellence” are detailed and illustrated with an example he considers “best narrative graphic of space and time.”

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PBL: I Come to Understanding by Making

» 11 September 2013 » In Commentary » No Comments

Matthew-Shlian-featured

Watch this short video as Matthew Shlian talks about himself, how he learns and the role that curiosity plays in his work. Then think about the kind of classroom that would foster Matt and learners like him. He states, A lot of my work is about curiosity. I come to understanding by making. If I can see what something’s going to look like when it’s finished, then I don’t want to make it. That would be like filling out a form.

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Get a iPhone 5s Or Switch to Android?

» 06 September 2013 » In Commentary » 7 Comments

ios-android-war-featured

With my iPhone 4s about to go off contract, I’m wondering should I go iPhone 5s / iOS 7 or Android? I pick up a Nexus 7 to test how I’ll move my content from iCloud to Google and stay in sync with my Mac desktop. And I offer some comparisons of programs running on both platforms.

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David Foster Wallace on Water and the Value of Education

» 16 May 2013 » In Commentary, Reflection » 1 Comment

This is water

Sadly, the world lost David Foster Wallace, in 2008. Fortunately, his writings live on. Recently his thoughtful 2005 Kenyon College commencement address was given new life in “This is Water” a video by The Glossary.

Wallace concludes: It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over. This is water.

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Boston Bombings: Close Reading A Media Frenzy

» 26 April 2013 » In Commentary, Literacy, Social Web, Strategies » No Comments

Suspects Together- featured

Here’s a suggestion for high school teachers. Postpone a lesson you had planned for next week and use the time to explore the cacophonous infosphere spawned by the apprehension of the suspects in the Boston bombings. If that media circus tells us anything, it’s that we need a lesson in digital hygiene and responsible use.

It’s also a good chance for students to hone their close reading skills. The events should be fresh in everyone’s mind. Ask students to reflect back on network news and social media coverage of the manhunt using these three critical thinking prompts: What did it say? How did it say it? What’s it mean to me?

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