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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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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First Presidential Debate – Obama, Romney, Lehrer Word Clouds

» 03 October 2012 » In Ed Policy, Visualizations » 2 Comments

debate1 wordle

I enjoyed watching the first 2012 Presidential debates. Here’s three word clouds – from President Obama, Governor Romney and debate moderator, Jim Lehrer. Each word cloud represents the 30 most frequently used words, with the frequency represented by font size. For all three, I removed names and titles from consideration. Interesting that “47” never turned up.

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Common Core Skills: Deeper Reading and Critical Thinking

» 31 July 2012 » In Ed Policy, History / DBQ's, Literacy, Strategies, Teachers » 2 Comments

First automobile-featured

Across the county teachers are looking for lessons and resources to implement new Common Core standards. While some see Common Core skills as something new, most of these skills are exemplified in the well established, document-based approach to instruction. As a long-time advocate of DBQ’s, I’ve re-posted sample lessons (elementary, middle and high school) that demonstrate how to build student skills in literacy and critical thinking, while supporting mastery of the Common Core.

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14 Provocative Questions for the Faculty

» 25 July 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Reflection, Teachers » 3 Comments

nostopping-featured

It’s back to school time. Get ready for that opening day faculty meeting where you sit and listen, while wishing you could be getting some actual work done in your classroom. Here’s few disruptive questions you could pose to subvert the status quo in your school. Let’s begin with who’s learning, who’s not, and what are we doing about it?

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Schools Making A Difference: Films and Discussions

» 08 February 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Students, Teachers » No Comments

Lessons from the Real World- featured

The Portland City Club is continuing its educational series “Schools Making A Difference: Portraits of Excellence, Engagement and Equity” – films, panel discussions and participant dialogues

Though economic realities pose significant challenges for our education system, when schools and communities work together with a clear vision and heroic effort, they can achieve stunning results. Exemplary schools provide high expectations and opportunities for all students to succeed. They also provide real world learning experiences that prepare students for college, careers and citizenship in the 21st century. They do this through an engaging curriculum that recognizes the diverse talents and needs of their student populations. Join fellow citizens, educators, and students for any of four evenings of films, panels, and participant dialogues that offer portraits of such schools in our region and around the world.

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Worksheets and Kodachrome: Lessons in Kodak’s Bankruptcy

» 20 January 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, History / DBQ's, Students » 2 Comments

Kodak Simplicity featured

This week Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy. Is there a lesson for educators about what happens when you lose touch with your customer?

At the core of Kodak’s eventual demise was the failure of the leadership to remain connected to their customers. They convinced themselves that the public would continue to want to buy film, load it into the camera, take a picture, drop the film off at the processor, and return later to pick up their photos. Easy to believe when you’re making money at every stage of that process.

Has our educational leadership lost touch with their customers – the students? Given the growing array of cheap digital tools available to our students, will they passively wait to be told what, how, when and with whom to learn? Is the information flow of the traditional classroom (lecture, note-taking, test) as outmoded as taking your film to the drugstore for processing?

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Testing or Teachable Moments?

» 30 November 2011 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Teachers » No Comments

Extinguished-featured

Several years ago, after I brought in tulips from my garden, my fifth-grade students wanted to plant their own. I learned that few students in my school’s high-poverty community had ever planted anything, so we planted tulips (not in the curriculum). In the process, one student found part of a rusted horseshoe, so we studied the history of the neighborhood (not in the curriculum), discovering that a farm had existed there 90 years earlier. Then, because of the proliferation of questions about the artifacts we’d unearthed, we studied archaeology (not in the curriculum). With the new push for common core standards nationwide, perhaps no student in any fifth grade in the United States will plant tulips, explore the history of his or her neighborhood or learn about archaeology ever again.

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Black Friday: Will Teachers Be Shopping or Working at the Mall?

» 25 November 2011 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Events, Teachers » No Comments

american.teacher-feature

Statistics show that nearly half of all teachers leave within the first five years. Low salaries and high stress are among the top reasons teachers “burnout” and quit the profession. Sixty-two percent of our nation’s teachers have second jobs outside of the classroom. What’s your kid’s teacher doing tonight – home working on lesson plans, or selling cell phones at the mall?

American Teacher is a film that follows four teachers who struggle to make ends meet while trying to stay in the profession they love. With narration by Matt Damon, it tells their stories through a mixture of footage and interviews with students, families, and colleagues, as well as the teachers themselves. By following these teachers as they reach different milestones in their careers, it uncovers a deeper story of the teaching profession in America today. This post features a trailer and information about screenings in your area.

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Why I Teach? A Voice from StoryCorps

» 30 October 2011 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Teachers » No Comments

Ayodeji-Ogunniyi-featured

It’s not an best of time for teachers – budget cuts, layoffs, increased class size, test-score based evaluations, and attacks on collective bargaining / tenure, etc. Meanwhile, the self-appointed corporate reformers would have you believe that they can fix education with a strong dose of market incentives. This morning I heard a moving StoryCorps narrative on why one young man chose to become a teacher. Spoiler alert – it wasn’t merit pay.

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