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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Common Core Training: Five Essentials

» 05 May 2013 » In How To, Literacy, PD, Strategies, Teachers » No Comments

plainfield featured

Teachers everywhere are concerned about the impact of Common Core. But they won’t benefit from lecture-style PD that itemizes specific strands and standards of Common Core. Promoting curricular “checklists” doesn’t build capacity, it fosters either resistance or mindless compliance. Don’t talk about “close reading” – do it!

Here’s five PD essentials to support teachers in transitioning to close reading and the Common Core. Teachers are too savvy to fall for an empty promise that something is “common-core-aligned.”

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Why Do Teachers Ask Questions They Know the Answers To?

» 06 February 2013 » In Ed Tech, Strategies, Students, Teachers » 6 Comments

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Here’s a TEDx video – The Future Will Not Be Multiple Choice – that showcases the power of a PBL / design-based approach to learning. While you watch it, try to think of a meaningful career that looks like filling out a worksheet.

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14 Provocative Questions for the Faculty

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

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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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13 Subversive Questions for the Classroom

» 23 July 2012 » In Commentary, Reflection, Teachers » 16 Comments

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As a teacher you get to reinvent yourselves every year, but if you want to change schools everything is conspiring against you. Here’s some reflective questions that will help you subvert the status quo in your classroom. Let’s begin with, If a question has a correct answer, is it worth asking?

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How to Motivate Students: Researched-Based Strategies

» 22 May 2012 » In How To, Reflection, Strategies, Students » 2 Comments

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A new CEP report, “Student Motivation—An Overlooked Piece of School Reform” pulls together findings about student motivation from decades of major research. Four key elements of motivation are detailed – Competence, Control/autonomy, Interest/value, and Relatedness. Links to report, findings and suggestions that teachers, schools and parents can use to motivate students.

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

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

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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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Studio H Classroom: Design. Build. Transform. Community

» 20 November 2011 » In Events, How To, Strategies, Students, Teachers » No Comments

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“Studio H: Design. Build. Transform” is a new exhibit that just opened at Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft. It offers visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in the design process. Studio H embodies the key elements of project-based learning while inspiring and empowering student as change agents in their community. Studio H is a public high school “design/build” curriculum that sparks rural community development through real-world, built projects. By learning through a design sensibility, applied core subjects, and industry-relevant construction skills, students develop the creative capital, critical thinking, and citizenship necessary for their own success and for the future of their communities.

The MoCC’s Studio H exhibit re-imagines the gallery as a laboratory and teaching space. Visitors get see how students were taught a non-linear design process based on a more authentic learning environment that grows out of a dynamic interplay between research, ideation, development, prototyping and building. The exhibition asks viewers to reflect on how that process can teach the next generation of designers to transform the world for themselves. Artifacts from the studio classroom in rural Bertie County, North Carolina (where Emily Pilloton, and Project H partner Matthew Miller, teach design thinking to high-school students) are on display and illustrate how a socially engaged design process can result in significant and positive solutions.

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Why Johnny Can’t Search – a Response

» 23 October 2011 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Literacy, Students » 21 Comments

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Clive Thompson wonders “Why Johnny Can’t Search” (Wired Magazine Nov, 2011). I note that schools contribute to the problem in two ways. In an effort to protect students from offensive online content many schools respond by sequestering students behind an information firewall. That sets Johnny up to fail in our “wild west” of information. Every day he walks into a sanitized information landscape with the expectation that anything he finds behind the school firewall is acceptable.

Schools inhibit the development of critical evaluation skills in another way – the relentless (test prep) focus on mastery of facts. Johnny can assess the validity of information because he’s awash in a sea of text without context. Critically evaluating sources requires a deeper understanding of author and purpose. That’s developed with an inquiry-based approach to learning. No time for that – we have to “cover” content for the test. In the relentless march to the exam, Johnny gets well acclimated to quickly stuffing his head with facts. No wonder he’s willing to take up Google on the bet that “I’m Feeling Lucky.”

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