"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Parents Have Just Not Been Successful

Deb Levine is an education entrepreneur. She saw a need and filled it.  The need she saw was for better information about sex that children could access in middle school. The school was not providing enough information. "The message has basically be distilled down to; wait to have sex and when you do use a condom."  And the parents efforts "just weren't successful."

The reporter does not ask her to clarify what she considers successful parenting about sex. The fact that children have questions about something is more a statement about the nature of youth than a condemnation of an educational forum. She, however, seems to think that this thirst for knowledge demonstrates a void in public education. So Ms. Levine developed the ISIS website, so that kids could address the "icky" matters of sex with total strangers.

ISIS also has a mobile app that can give kids daily sex advice.  The tidbit for the day this story aired was,  "Talk it out. If you have sex, talk with your partner about safe sex, getting tested and what you like before you get in bed."  Such a statement, without supporting context and values, would probably throw a typical 6th grader into a panic. The implication that they are supposed to know what they like "in bed" as an immature prepubescent could ratchet down their already shaky self confidence. But there is probably some totally disinterested stranger on a hotline who could answer their questions.

The good news is that this "tool" is already in the public school curriculum in Chicago and DC.  And ISIS is working on getting into other schools as well. Gee, maybe she could get it into the CCS. Wouldn't that be just what every middle school parent wants?

Friday, December 16, 2011

The George School Christmas Program Promotes the Christmas Tradition 'Occupy the North Pole'

The  Quaker based George School in Newton, PA sponsored an annual Holiday Dance Performance this past weekend.  As one boarding student from South Africa stated:

“The holiday dance is our opportunity, as dancers, to really get everyone in the spirit of Christmas for holiday weekend....we kick off with a fun performance on Friday that always has exciting costumes. We create a story centered on a Christmas tradition.”

So what hallowed Christmas tradition did the school center its celebration on this year?  This year's selection was the well known and beloved tale of Santa's workshop being taken over by eminent domain for oil and the resulting 'Occupy North Pole' movement helping Santa regain his workshop:

Here is the storyline of the 'Occupy North Pole' saga:

This year’s dance theme is based on an original story written by Barbara Kibler, who has been a George School dance teacher for twenty-eight years. The action takes place in the North Pole with Santa Claus and his elves losing their workshop as a result of eminent domain. Soon, the elves’ work is outsourced and the workshop is taken over by a new corporate conglomerate, whose acronym is GREED. The sad and unfulfilled executive in charge begins using background checks to determine if children have been naughty or nice.

From this plight, Occupy North Pole is born. 

This is an interesting interpretative program based on a Christmas tradition.  Aren't Christmas traditions usually centered on tales of peace, love, joy, compassion, giving and worship?    The revisionist Christmas tradition in this school centers on a story of greed, evil capitalists, outsourcing, and revolution. 

Ho Ho Ho.  The Occupiers have rescued Santa and his elves from the evil doers.  Whatever would Christmas be without these protesters?  The Occupiers are the "saviors" and have allowed Santa to open once again to make toys for children world wide.  Hallelujah. 

The State University System Might Become The State's Bank

There's no doubt the Missouri Legislature faces a tough challenge when they come back in session in a couple weeks; a $750 million  budget deficit that must be closed. This is a time for innovative thinking, but also a time for facing reality.

The Post Dispatch reported on an idea floated by Governor Nixon's office to have Missouri universities float interest free loans to the state.  According to the article the largest contributor would be University of Missouri who would kick in $63 million. Missouri State would add another $13 million and an additional $10 million would be shared by three more state schools.  The proposal is reported to be something Nixon is just kicking around.  It is also not the first time the governor has tried to make a deal with higher education. In each year since he took office in 2009, Nixon has attempted to cut a deal with colleges and universities before presenting a budget. In the first year, it was stable funding in exchange for no tuition increases. For the 2011 budget year, the deal was no tuition hikes if budget cuts were limited to 5 percent. (source: Colubmbia Tribune)

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R- Columbia) said such a proposal has many flaws even on its surface. For one, it basically asks MU to subsidize other institutions who have not "taken any steps towards efficiencies" like MU has. This is a typical progressive concept; take money from the responsible and proactive and give it to those who are neither.

The proposal is promoted as a good alternative for the universities because it would provide them a return of this money in seven years, whereas making the cuts necessary (estimated to be 50% of state scholarship funding) would cut into the institution's reserves. But this justification itself demonstrates why this proposal is unrealistic.

The major reasons the state has such a large deficit is because it is losing federal stimulus money and federal Medicaid funds. Does anyone realistically see either of those sources of revenue returning any time soon?  Should a state budget be developed assuming the availability of emergency revenues like stimulus funds?  With the roll out of Obamacare, is Medicaid funding likely to increase? Asking for a large loan to cover the deficit assumes that such shortfalls are temporary and can be overcome by economic gains or the magic appearance of outside revenue, neither of which is a realistic assumption.

The state will spend seven years trying to pay back the universities who will have to find other sources of revenue in the interim or cut back on their own budgets. Realistically, both of these things will have to be done regardless. Between the permanently stalled economy and the growing public resistance to the high cost of higher education (and subsequent debt), colleges and universities can count on dropping student enrollment. This loan process will simply slow the drain of funds. In the mean time, it will push more students towards the Dept of Ed's Federal Direct Loan Program.

The bigger question that should be asked is, "Should our institutions of higher learning be in the business of providing bail out loans to a fiscally unbalanced state?"  When your alma mater called you for a donation, did you think you would be funding the state, or did you assume that your money would actually go towards helping someone else get an education? Are all state reserves fair game when trying to balance a budget?  If they are, what impact will that have on state institutions retaining any reserves in the future? If you knew someone else could raid your savings account any time they wanted to, with no return on their borrowing, would you keep a lot of money in savings?

We will be watching the governor's budget proposal closely when it comes out next month.  Like a credit card junkie who thinks paying down their balance is just something you do for a short period of time before you can resume your previous spending, the state is in need of spending rehab. It must face the reality of what its income limits are and learn to live within them.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Signs Of Life

Missouri Education Watchdog, like many of the other groups shown on the right side of our blog, have been ringing the warning bell about public education for a long time.  Unfortunately it seemed like everyone in town was fast asleep, comfy in their status quo beds. Whether it is the normal circadian rhythm kicking in, or just the sheer number of bells ringing, we are definitely seeing signs of groups wiping the cobwebs from their eyes as they realize they are waking to a world very different from the one they went to sleep in.

Once such example comes from the Heartlander.  They reported  that teachers are leaving the bloated national teachers union NEA for smaller non-union options.  Groups like Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), California Teachers Empowerment Network, and Boston-based Teach Plus are seeing a rise in their memberships as the NEA saw a loss of 100,000 members last year.  The reasons teachers are leaving the NEA?

  • Don’t feel like they have much of a voice
  • Rank-and-file teachers making $50,000 while their union bosses are making $500,000
  • Concern for teacher pensions in an era of city bankruptcies and union abuse
  • Feeling that the union has lost its focus
The NEA still has 3.2 million members which encompasses some 80 percent of organized teachers so this is only a small first step, but it is a step in the right direction. The Heartlander author believes charter-schools and Teach for America can be credited with this change. It is clear that a disconnect is happening for the new teachers entering the system today who don't see union membership as a benefit but rather as an unproductive expense or in some cases a liability. Teachers in Missouri have had options for non-NEA union membership (e.g. MO State Teachers Assn.) and have frequently chosen that option, citing the expense and lack of clear benefit to NEA membership as their reason for choosing to join something else.

The great mantra of the federal government for education is accountability. If that is to be truly embraced, then teachers should demand it from their unions and non-union associations as well. Accountability is best handled as close to the source as possible. There is a great tendency to try to increase power by increasing numbers.  To do that, most groups end up expanding the geographic area they serve.  Every local community, like every child, is different, with different abilities and limitations. When you start trying to serve an ever increasingly diverse membership you invariably end up watering down your stance on issues to the point of being useless to any single membership group.  This is what happened with the NEA. They argue a one size fits all approach to teachers. We know this doesn't work for students.  Why would it be any different for teachers?

If these non-union teacher associations are to remain beneficial and responsive to their membership, they need to stay close to their members both geographically and philosophically. The more homogenous their membership the better they will be able to serve their needs. The more they interact, both in terms of face-to-face and frequency, the more accountable they will be.

The members also need to be more active in holding their union/association staff's feet to the fire.  This requires more time and effort, something teachers are short on these days due to the government's accountability requirements. Younger teachers at least will have more energy to do this and will thus shape the non-NEA groups that are cropping up locally.

As teachers wake up to the requirements of the Common Core Standards shining brightly in their eyes, they should start asking whichever group they are paying dues to, what they are going to do about it on their behalf.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Follow The Yellow Brick Road to The Wizard(s)

Since we started the week in the land of Oz, we thought we'd talk about another piece of advice Dorothy got: "Follow the yellow brick road," or in this case, the golden trail of money. He who has (or gives) the money, gets to dictate the terms of how that largess is used, and this truth still holds in the field of education. One group, Great Schools For America,  has decided to doggedly follow the money trail to see who is dictating the direction of education.  This is from their website:

Under the provisions of No Child Left Behind and through many organizations like the ones listed here, our public school system is being stealthily co-opted by America's elite. In 2009, Rahm Emanuel called it The Quiet Revolution. In his New York Times op-ed column, David Brooks, speaking of Arne Duncan, gushes over these education reform ideas, and quotes Jeb Bush as saying, “President Obama has been supporting a reform secretary, and this is deserving of Republican support.” When Jeb Bush suggests an Obama agenda deserving of Republican support, it's worth a second glance. And when President Obama praises Jeb Bush on education reform, something's rotten in the state of these United States. Education Watch is presented here to shed some light on “education reform” and the reformers. Today, the Quiet Revolution has become quite noisy.
GSFA has created an on-line database called Edwatch. Using information from the various organizations' websites and the publicly available financial information (e.g. IRS 990 Forms), GSFA hopes to show the connections between donors, policy, government funding and directives.  Their database currently has over 130 organizations with financial information going back to 2006,  and they are adding to the list and data daily.  A few examples of who they are watching:

  • Carnegie Learning, Inc.
  • Academy for Urban School Leadership
  • Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools
  • Battelle for Kids
  • Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession
  • Fordham Institute
  • Education Testing Service
  • National Academy Foundation
  • KIPP Academy

It is interesting to note that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was listed as a major donor to all of the above listed organizations.  KIPP Academy in particular has an impressive list of major donors as well.

The Walton Family Foundation, U.S. Department Of Education, Robertson Foundation, Rainwater Charitable Funds, NewSchools Venture Fund, Goldman, Sachs & Co., Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, The Broad Foundation, Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation

Here in St. Louis, KIPP boasts that, since opening in summer of 2009 with 90 5th grade students they advanced those students from the 8th percentile in Math and English to the 39th percentile in one year: a seemingly impressive accomplishment. That a private organization was able to take a group of kids with parents who took the time to apply to KIPP and supported their kids to attend school DURING THE SUMMER, where they received intensive often one-on-one teaching and increased their reading a math skills is perhaps not as impressive as it would appear on the surface. It should be noted that in the time frame referred to, St. Louis City school MAP averages were in the 20-25% range, even when looking solely at the Black subgroup. If the 90 students KIPP took in were truly performing in the 8th percentile, then they were a grossly neglected subset of the student body. KIPP did a great job with them, but something seems amiss in the whole story.

All these organizations can spend their money as they see fit, and they have a right to operate their education centers any way they choose. What Edwatch is doing is simply letting people know who is behind them. They will also begin to add information to their databases tracking what policy these backers are pushing for from the government and where government funding is being mingled with this private funding, because the public has a right to know where their tax dollars are going.  We also have a right to know who is really writing the rules that we all will be subject to in the future.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Is Marc Tucker More Dangerous than Bill Gates to American Education?

Who is Marc Tucker and why is his article  "Why Innovation Can't fix America's Classrooms" published by The Atlantic important?  It is important for what it contained (Tucker's partial vision) and what it didn't contain (his decades long push for national aka federal standards).  It can be summed up into these two sentences:

Forget charter schools and grade-by-grade testing. It's time to look at the best-performing countries and pragmatically adapt their solutions.  

He argues American exceptionalism is a thing of the past and America needs a national curriculum:

The apostles of exceptionalism say we need more innovation. But our problem is not lack of innovation. Our problem is that we lack what the most successful countries have: coherent, well-designed state systems of education that would allow us to scale up our many pockets of innovation and deliver a high-quality education to all our students.

I am not a fan of the Bill Gates design of crony capitalists dictating American educational policies.  The "innovation" currently offered by the multi-million dollar lobby based school choice crowd only speaks to the delivery of education, not the content.  Tucker's vision also provides the framework of the education via common core standards but he expands it to include tracking children to specific career paths.  To understand how chilling Tucker's vision of a "well-designed state system of education" is, you need to discover his definition of "innovation".  

Tucker has been on the educational front for decades.  His "reform" vision can be found in an 18-page letter to Hilary Clinton in 1992. Mathematically Sound Foundations has linked the letter and provided brief biographies of the players of this reform.  

What is the basic gist of this letter?

The "Dear Hillary" letter, written on Nov. 11, 1992 by Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), lays out a plan "to remold the entire American system" into "a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone," coordinated by "a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels" where curriculum and "job matching" will be handled by counselors "accessing the integrated computer-based program."
Tucker's plan would change the mission of the schools from teaching children academic basics and knowledge to training them to serve the global economy in jobs selected by workforce boards. Nothing in this comprehensive plan has anything to do with teaching schoolchildren how to read, write, or calculate. 

It parallels the report  "A Human Resources Plan for the United States" from the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) in 1992.  This plan to "nationalize" (Tucker makes huge pains not to call it "federal") has been in the works for decades.  Tucker collaborated in this report. 

The following is from a reader who has followed Tucker's plans and references the "Human Resources Plan".  The parentheses denote the reader's additional information and thoughts:

The preface is one paragraph by Marc Tucker.  Tucker wrote, “ The advent of the Clinton admin. creates a unique opportunity for the country to develop a truly national system for the development of its human resources, second to none on the globe.  The National Center on Education and the Economy and its predecessor organization; the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy, have been elaborating a national agenda in this arena over the last 8 years.  Here we outline a set of recommendations to the incoming Clinton administration in the area of resources development.  It builds directly on the the proposals that the President-elect advanced during the campaign.  This report is mainly the work of a small group of people with close ties to the National Center:  Tim Barnicle, David Barram, Michael Cohen, David Haselkorn, David Hornbeck (who wrote the AL and KY OBE plans of Goals 2000)  Shirley Malcom, Ray Marshall, Susan McGuire, Hilary Pennington, Andy Plattner, Lauren Resnick (she and Betsy Brown Ruzzi are still in NCEE pushing for CCSS and she and Larry Berger of WirelessGeneration are pushing the Excellence for All plan),   David Rockefeller, Jr., Betsy Brown Ruzzi ), Robert Schwartz, John Sculley, Marshall Smith, Bill Spring and  me (Tucker).  While all of these people are in general agreement with what follows, they may not agree on the details.”

Tucker’s document says this is a vision of the kind of national—not federal—human resources development system the nation could have.  It is “interwove with a new approach to governing” , is a “seamless web of opportunities to develop one’s skills that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone...”  It includes an “apprenticeship system as the keystone of a strategy for putting a whole new postsecondary training system in place” including “reforming postsecondary education finance (like Obama’s administration has done).”  There would be a “national system of education in which curriculum, pedagogy, examinations and teacher education and licensure systems are all linked to national standards  (like CCSS) but which provides for substantial variation among states, districts and schools.  This new system ... will abandon the American tracking system, combining high academic standards with the ability to apply what one knows to real world problems and qualifying all students for a lifetime of learning in the postsecondary system and at work.”  (like the CCSS College and Career Standards) .... “All students who meet the new national standards ... are entitled to the equivalent of three more years of free additional education ... So a student who meets the standard at 16 would be entitled to two free years of high school and one of college. (The college year will be at a community college/tech school by the way which they admit is “redefining college”).

The 1993 plan was to be funded in 4 ways:
  • dropouts under 21 would get the same amount of funding they would have received had they stayed in high school
  • the chronically unemployed and dislocated workers would be funded by the federal government such as state unemployment insurance funds
  • employed people could access the system through the requirement that their employers would have to spend an amount equal to 1 1/2% of their salary on training leading to national skill certification
  • those in prison could get reductions in their sentences when they participate 

All jobs would be required to be listed and fully computerized There would be a system of labor market boards and means testing would be removed. Much like Race to the Top, the 1993 plan was for groups of states to sign on, a few at a time. A data base is required to combine data at local labor market board offices with employment data so counselors and clients can look at programs offered by colleges and other vendors.

How does Tucker propose to accomplish this massive shift of political power? He would:

1. Eliminate local school boards. (This is also what ACHIEVE’s CEO Emeritus Lou Gerstner wrote Obama at the time of his election).
2. Shift teacher's employment and compensation from local boards to the state.
3. Require that students pass 10th grade tests, based on UN content standards, in order to be free to continue in a school.
4. Make free college preparatory education (based on UN content standards) available for all present workers.
5. Establish universal pre-school for all children (even though scientific research reveals that pre-school has no academic benefit past 3rd grade. Other programs are inserting the UN's curriculum into pre-school education, as well as child care).
6. Create regional development authorities that will plan economic development as well as education in areas larger than states. These authorities will be given the power to tax and will take over what little authority the states have left.
7. Have states take over teacher training which can be expected to require teachers to follow the UN value system. (Private colleges that train teachers will be out of luck. Private colleges will also lose their right to determine who may attend their colleges and who may not, because admission requirements will be dictated by, and measured by, the government.)
8. Establish merit-pay for teachers who best meet the goals of the plan. 

The Atlantic Monthly article doesn't give the reader Tucker's background and his plans for American education.  Tucker can complain all he want about how "innovation" can't fix America's classroom.  HIS plan is a total takeover by the federal government that is truly a cradle to grave agenda and the goal is to supply the workforce with your human capital.  From learn-usa.com:

In the total quality environment of performance-based education, training children to meet the needs of the new customer of education – business – becomes the primary focus of education. America's Choice: high skills or low wages! (Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, National Center on Education and the Economy, 1990) made this statement regarding the level of education sought by business,

But in a broad survey of employment needs across America, we found little evidence of a far-reaching desire for a more educated workforce.

Providing children with a broad but intensive liberal arts education—indeed, educating for intelligence—is out. Using the education system as a means to inculcate in children the behaviors – the attitudes, values and beliefs – supposedly wanted by business, is the new focus of education in the classroom.

While the battle rages on about school choice, it would behoove legislators, parents and taxpayers to understand the real war is the implementation of common core standards Marc Tucker has been wanting for over two decades.  The common core standards are the vehicles needed for the longitudinal data base that will track your child (and your family) throughout his/her life and dictate his/her placement in a career track and employment.

THIS is the "innovation" Tucker has envisioned.  He said it himself:

Our problem is that we lack what the most successful countries have: coherent, well-designed state systems of education that would allow us to scale up our many pockets of innovation and deliver a high-quality education to all our students.

What he doesn't reveal in this article is the "high-quality state systems of education to all our students" consists of:
  • data gathered on your child by the state 
  • career tracks chosen for your child by the state to be used by a workforce board controlled by the state

I wish the Atlantic would alert its readers to this bit of information Tucker didn't bother to include.  Do you think it might have garnered some concern from parents?


Monday, December 12, 2011

Arne Duncan Needs an Educational Tip from Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz"

The New York Times has an article on the results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test.  Public education is having difficulty closing the achievement gap between black and white students.   

However, there are some schools making good progress on the NAEP test and they outperform the traditional public schools. Where are these successful students learning?  They are taught on military bases.  Reporter Michael Winerip interviewed a principal and a parent (not educational theorists and politicians) and asked them why these schools worked.  How are schools on military bases different than traditional public schools and what can the "experts" learn about the success of base schools?

They would find that the schools on base are not subject to former President George W. Bush’s signature education program, No Child Left Behind, or to President Obama’s Race to the Top. They would find that standardized tests do not dominate and are not used to rate teachers, principals or schools. 

They would find Leigh Anne Kapiko, the principal at Tarawa Terrace Elementary, one of seven schools here. 

Test preparation? “No,” Ms. Kapiko said. “That’s not done in Department of Defense schools. We don’t even have test prep materials.” 

At schools here, standardized tests are used as originally intended, to identify a child’s academic weaknesses and assess the effectiveness of the curriculum. 

Ms. Kapiko has been a principal both inside and outside the gates and believes that military base schools are more nurturing than public schools. “We don’t have to be so regimented, since we’re not worried about a child’s ability to bubble on a test,” she said. 

Zounds, Batman.  That's how education is SUPPOSED to work:  
  • no federal overreaching, smothering mandate like NCLB (or the waiver), 
  • no endless assessments to satisfy federal testing requirements for diversity purposes (tests instead are for purposes of identifying weakness and effectiveness of curriculum), and 
  • autonomy and innovation of teachers and principals is a job expectation (not a top down pyramid of regulations mandated by the Department of Education, CCSSO and NGA).
What is the achievement difference between base schools and traditional public schools?

In the last decade, the gap in reading between black and white fourth graders at base schools has decreased to 11 points this year (233 compared with 222), down from a 16-point difference in 2003 (230 compared with 214), a 31 percent reduction. In public schools, there has been a much smaller decrease, to a 26-point gap this year (231 compared with 205) from 30 points in 2002 (227 compared with 197), a 13 percent reduction. 

Schools operate differently on the bases and they are working for these children, parents, teachers and administrators.  They have autonomy and support each child (and their parents) based on his/her abilities:

Nevin Joplin, a sergeant in the Air Force, has a son in the sixth grade at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. Sergeant Joplin, who is black and a single father, said both he and his son, Quinn, had been given ample opportunities to succeed. Quinn has been placed in a gifted program, and Sergeant Joplin said he had been treated fairly in the military promotion system. “My records go to the board, my name is blacked out, anything that would identify me is blacked out; they only see what I’ve done and decide on the merits,” he said. 

 How does principal view the children she is responsible for in her base school?

Military children are not put through test prep drills. “For us,” Ms. Kapiko said, “children are children; they’re not little Marines.” 

 Base schools operate under these beliefs:
  • children are children (not units for assessing)
  • teachers can really teach (not follow a list of common core standards crafted by private companies unanswerable to voters)
  • principals can make educational decisions (unlike having to follow the prescribed script from Washington)
  • parents (in their military jobs) and students (in their base classrooms) are graded on their accomplishments

What's absent in the base method of education that's pervasive in public schools?  The base schools don't operate under the assumption of "people and thought control" and trust the adults running the schools are competent and professional:

“We don’t micromanage,” said Marilee Fitzgerald, director of the Department of Defense Education Activity, the agency that supervises the military base schools and their 87,000 students. “Individual schools decide what to focus on.” 

Imagine what traditional public schools would look like if children were nurtured and the staff and students were not micro-managed.  Our schools would have the possibility of results realized by the base schools.  This paragraph from the NY Times article reminds me of Dorothy's proclamation in the Wizard of Oz: "There's no place like home":

It has become fashionable for American educators to fly off to Helsinki to investigate how schools there produce such high-achieving Finns. But for just $69.95 a night, they can stay at the Days Inn in Jacksonville, N.C., and investigate how the schools here on the Camp Lejeune Marine base produce such high-achieving Americans — both black and white. 

Dorothy had all her answers in her own backyard.  She didn't need to go to Finland or the Emerald City and neither do our politicians and education gurus. 


Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Sunday Education Weekly Reader 12.11.11

Welcome to the Sunday Education Weekly Reader for 12.11.11.  Highlighted today:

  • Another story comparing education providers to living in the Wild, Wild West to make money , rather than living there to provide better education;
  • The tipping over of the education pyramid;
  • An analogy on how the Common Core standards are akin to Obamacare and the proposal of one group to stop them.

Not only are businessmen like Bill Gates and convicted hedge fund managers like Michael Milken setting policies and direction for education, so are social networkers.  From Bloomberg Businessweek:

Reid Hoffman and Matt Cohler, two of Silicon Valley’s social-networking pioneers, are throwing their hats into the education ring.

The entrepreneurs-turned-venture capitalists today led a $15 million investment in Edmodo, a free learning site for teachers and students that claims almost 5 million registered users. The cash pile, from Greylock Partners and Benchmark Capital, gives the management team the runway to hire developers and add products without doing the one thing they prefer not to talk about: making money.

Rob Hutter, the company’s chairman, said the new financing gives the company “several years” to build and expand the product without worrying about generating revenue. He and Borg are looking for developers who are passionate about education and want to build something that they say is helping change education. (emphasis added)

Of course, venture capitalists don’t invest in startups unless they see the opportunity to make several times their money back, and Greylock and Benchmark have been among the most successful firms in that regard. 

Question:  How are these social networkers (investors) helping to "change education"?  The delivery of providing education is what they are changing, not the education itself.  Remember, the education (WHAT students are learning) is controlled by the Federal Government, the NGA and the CCSSO.  These venture capitalists are providing the vehicles to deliver education, not crafting the core of what students are learning.  Remember what Scott Joftus said about education:

“You know we’re in a new era when school turnaround firms in the U.S. are being funded out of the Middle East,” Joftus said. “To me, that says there’s money to be made. I call this period the Wild West in education.” 

There IS money to be made in education reform but is it really "for the kids"?  If investors and developers are delivering educational "reform" that  is faulty and insufficient at is core, it doesn't matter how it's presented.  


Education Week reports on the "education pyramid".  The pyramid is:

the prevailing model of ed policy decision-making, illustrated in The Mitchell 20 film: a hierarchical pyramid, with decision-making power concentrated at the peak--Congress and the Department of Education-- flowing down through layers and layers of state bureaucracy, district offices and administrators, and ending up on the shoulders of teachers.

 The author envisions what it might be like if that pyramid is turned on its side and the power would flow horizontally so teachers would have more voice (megaphones) in the actual teaching of children.

I would add additional stakeholders to the pyramid.  Parents and taxpayers need admittance into that pyramid and a turn at the megaphone.  Everyone wants a seat at the table but parents and taxpayers seem to never be mentioned as an important stakeholder.  After all, they are the ones paying for the education and they provide the human capital necessary to staff these publicly funded halls of learning.


Will conservatives finally push back on the educational version of Obamacare? Why haven't more legislators made the connection the educational reforms are as constitutionally egregious as the health care plan?  From Heritage and its reporting on model legislation waiting for adoption by ALEC:

For the past two years, the Obama Education Department has been supporting an effort to implement national education standards and tests. The national standards push, which will affect all public schools, has been underway outside the normal legislative process. At least (to quote Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute) Obamacare went through Congress.

It’s time for state leaders to stand up to strong-arming from Washington, instead of faulting conservative organizations for pushing back on this latest federal overreach. A nationalization of education is underway, and unless conservatives work to fight Washington’s power grab, Obamacare won’t be the only overreach we’ll have to live under.


Educational quote for the week:

Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

H. G. Wells (1866 - 1946), Outline of History (1920)

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