Monday, October 3, 2016

Scholars Review the Funding of the Common Core - Diane Ravitch's blog

Diane Ravitch's blog

This post is a scholarly analysis of the funding of Common Core: Who put up the money, who benefitted. The paper (which can be downloaded


) was written by three scholars at Pennsylvania State University: Mindy L. Kornhaber, Nikolaus J. Barkauskas, and Kelly M. Griffith.

They track where the money came from and where it was spent.

The biggest problem for the Common Core standards was that they were released based on a hope, not on evidence or experience. They were never tested in advance, so no one could say with assurance how they would affect students, the achievement gaps, teachers, classrooms.

Their closing paragraph is chilling:

An analogy to the Gold Rush may be useful here: The claim stakers are the federal government and philanthropies that have staked out the Common Core for public policy. To work that stake, they incentivize states and school districts to mine the Common Core and get higher measured achievement. To do so, the miners need equipment. The vendors who sell the equipment profit in the short term, even if their tools rarely enable the miners to get the sought-after results. In essence, those who set directions for the Common Core and those who provided resources for its implementation have benefitted, even as potential benefits to schools, educators, and students are elusive, and the entire claim may ultimately be empty. 


Friday, September 30, 2016

Bankers and Teachers: Scandals and Accountability (Part 2) - Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Part 1 described how Wells Fargo bank and the Atlanta public schools defrauded large numbers of customers and students. At the bank, over 5,000 employees were fired. The bank’s CEO admitted responsibility for the fraud before a U.S. Senate Banking Committee yet the fine levied by federal regulators ($185 million) wasn’t even a slap on the wrist, given the $80-plus billion in revenues that the bank took in last year. Nor did the bank admit in that agreement to pay the fine any responsibility for for their actions. The CEO is still CEO.

The Atlanta public schools cheating scandal found evidence of 178 principals and teachers in over 40 schools tampering with student scores on state tests. Eleven teachers were indicted, tried, and convicted (over 20 other educators took plea deals).  Those 11 are in prison.

Two questions occurred to me as I read and pondered these instances of corruption Wells Fargo and the Atlanta public schools.

First, why did employees scam customers with bogus bank accounts and educators tamper with test scores?

The familiar answer is: some bad apples caused the problem–which is basically saying it was individuals acting badly not an organizational problem. Over 5,000 fired at Wells Fargo is a lot of “bad apples, however.” Over 40 schools and 178 educators is also a lot of “bad apples.” The “bad apples” answer side-steps the pervasive culture in Wells Fargo and Atlanta public schools that top leaders shaped and drove unrelentingly.

Top officials created an organizational culture of producing results at any cost. Ample evidence exists of top managers  setting very high performance goals that were difficult to meet; the company and district created fear among employees who didn’t meet those goals. Penalties for low performance and retaliation for those who complained fostered a culture of fear. Compliance to do what expected even if it disadvantaged customers was a powerful reason to keep a job. In short, the culture caused employees to peddle bogus accounts and fix test scores.

But–you knew a “but” was coming–not all of the lowest paid employees engaged in the fraud. While cultural pressures can be strong and influential, they do not always determine individual action.  Sure, 5,300 Wells Fargo employees were fired but many more retained their jobs by figuring out ways to perform and not defraud customers. Similarly, all Atlanta  educators experienced the same intense pressure to raise students’ test scores but many principals and teachers followed the rules and did what they were supposed to do in administering and scoring tests. Yes, organizational culture surely shapes behavior but it does not determine how every individual acts.

Top officials were greedy; they thought they could get away with the fraud and cheating and boost the reputation of their organizations.   Over the years, bipartisan policies deregulated industries (e.g., financial companies, airlines) creating a climate where profit seeking is highly prized. Billionaires become American heroes dispensing donations, advice, and encouragement to aspiring millionaires. The  language describing unvarnished greed has softened, euphemisms abound describing the unceasing chase for more and more money (e.g., “being entrepreneurial,” “individual enterprise”). Not only in the corporate sector, this profit-seeking culture has now spread across public institutions such as schools, hospitals, and prisons (see here, here, and here).

None of this should surprise any reader since individual profit-seeking is in the DNA of a capitalist democracy. From John Jacob Astor to John D. Rockefeller to Cornelius Vanderbilt, billionaires made their money in trade and real estate, oil, and railroads. They became legends in their own time. They were admired, inspiring their fellow Americans whether they were poor, working class or just got a hand-hold in the middle class to get rich In the U.S., the job of curbing the unrelenting search for profit has been the role of government, as it has in most developed countries. We have lived in a mixed economy where both business and government have interacted constantly checking and balancing one another for nearly two centuries.

When that partnership breaks down or one side becomes too powerful—too much government regulation or too much business influence on governmental policy then shifts in political power  occur to correct that imbalance. Consider the New Deal following the Great Depression  of the 1930s. Or deregulation of industries since the 1980s and reforming the tax code to benefit the wealthy. The U.S. is in such a moment now of inequalities in wealth that call for restraining the richest of the rich from re-shaping government policies to make it easier for them to become even wealthier while leaving middle class families trail far behind in increasing their salaries.

Second, why are there differences in holding public and private employees accountable for their crimes?

Since the late-1970s, The U.S. is in a moment when business success, corporate entrepreneurs, and keeping government regulation at arm’s length has dominated public policy. “Government is the problem,” as Ronald Reagan put it. Getting rid of government rules and bureaucracy, conservatives argue, will unleash business owners to invest and create more jobs for Americans. Anti-government rhetoric morphed into state and federal laws–e.g., tax cuts, incentives for investors to locate their monies in off-shore accounts and not pay taxes, low interest rates, fewer IRS audits– that benefited those who ran companies and had large investment portfolios.

Corporate leaders, backed by large sums of money, hired lobbyists to influence legislators to deregulate airlines, banks, pharmaceuticals, and other industries so that more money would flow to the already rich. To the rich, public institutions were  feeding at the tax-payer trough and were not as efficient and effective as private sector companies. Accountability was needed, business leaders said, to hold public officials in schools, hospitals, and prisons to be responsible for student outcomes, curing illnesses, and punishing criminals.

And that is how I explain why no CEO of a company heavily involved in the chicanery of the Great Recession of 2008 has gotten convicted while some Atlanta school employees went to jail.



Friday, September 9, 2016

'What About Tutoring Instead of Pills?'

Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan is one of the world's leading experts in child development. In a SPIEGEL interview, he offers a scathing critique of the mental-health establishment and pharmaceutical companies, accusing them of incorrectly classifying millions as mentally ill out of self-interest and greed.

SPIEGELWhat does it mean if millions of American children are wrongly being declared mentally ill?

KaganWell, most of all, it means more money for the pharmaceutical industry and more money for psychiatrists and people doing research.

SPIEGELAnd what does it mean for the children concerned?

KaganFor them, it is a sign that something is wrong with them -- and that can be debilitating. I'm not the only psychologist to say this. But we're up against an enormously powerful alliance: pharmaceutical companies that are making billions, and a profession that is self-interested

Friday, August 5, 2016

A Heartfelt Tribute to Seymour Papert by Gary Stager | Children's Technology Review

A Heartfelt Tribute to Seymour Papert | Children's Technology Review: "Papert’s ideas are not so much controversial as they are ignored by the education technology “community.” Papert was bad for business, If you’re a school system hell-bent on compliance or standardization, a message of student agency, creativity, and intellectual freedom threatens the status quo. When kids build, maintain, and program the software for their own personal computer, fewer gadgets and apps will be purchased. Such views are a menace to a profit-centric edtech industry and an education system Papert described as idea averse."

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Papert - in his own words - Learning with 'e's

Learning with 'e's
Seymour Papert passed away this week aged 88. His efforts to reform education through advancing social-constructivist theory will be perhaps one of his most important legacies. Papert has been widely acknowledged for developing the theory of constructionism. He saw learning as an active process that involved not only social interaction, but also constructing artefacts. Learning by making became an important component of learning in the digital age, and has been used as an explanation of the rise in user generated content.

He also encouraged meta-cognition as an important pedagogical method. In his own words: "You cannot think about thinking, without thinking about thinking about something." That 'something' was clearly the object that could be created through thinking about thinking, about problems, about knowledge.

His work around the early computer programming language LOGO was also ground breaking - introducing an entire generation of learners to the idea that coding could cause direct action with objects and space. The ability to command a floor robot to do one's bidding added a new level of engagement to maths and science lessons. Seymour Papert understood that fundamentally, people learn because they are interested - and that engagement with a problem, construction of an object or exploration of a space was essential for deeper forms of learning.

He was a stern critic of instructional and didactic forms of education, and was a champion of student centred learning, active engagement and creativity. These ideas will continue to inspire generations of educators to come, and his influence will not be dimmed by his passing. In memory of Seymour, here are some of the most significant (and inspirational) quotes from his illustrious career as a thought leader, developmental theorist and influential pedagogue:

On video games: "Every maker of video games knows something that the makers of curriculum don't seem to understand. You'll never see a video game being advertised as being easy. Kids who do not like school will tell you it's not because it's too hard. It's because it's boring."

On student centred learning: "I am convinced that the best learning takes place when the learner takes charge."

On the role of teachers: "The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready made knowledge."

On transferable skills: "We need to produce people who know how to act when they are faced with situations for which they were not specifically prepared."

On the purpose of education: "The principal goal of education in schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done."

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Creative Commons License
Papert - in his own words by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's


Friday, June 17, 2016

Peak Facebook? New Study Finds Social Media App Usage Tumbles Across The Globe

Facebook's Instagram saw the biggest year-over-year drop: usage was down 23.7% this year, closely followed by Twitter (down 23.4%), Snapchat (down 15.7%), and Facebook, while down the least, still saw a notable 8% decline in usage. In the U.S., where social media continue to rake in the highest CPMs and where revenue remains highest, Instagram use was also down the most, or 36.2%, Twitter was down 27.9%, Snapchat was down 19.2% and Facebook fell 6.7%.