Thursday, April 9, 2015

Edutopia | Jacobin

Edutopia | Jacobin:


Edutopia

Education is not a design problem with a technical solution. It’s a social and political project neoliberals want to innovate away.

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At a recent professional development training, I was told to imagine what kind of school I would design if I had five million dollars. I scribbled down a few ideas, shared them with the group, and was then asked to consider how I could implement them now, without the money.
The point was this: forget the cash. Forget that American teachers spend an average of $500 a year supplying their classrooms with materials. Anything is possible, if you put your mind to it.
Similarly, Design Thinking for Educators, the eighty-one page “design toolkit” made available to teachers as a free download by New York City-based firm IDEO — which has designed cafeterias for the San Francisco Unified School District, turned libraries into “learning labs” for the Gates Foundation, and developed a marketing plan for the for-profit online Capella University — contains no physical tools. Problems ranging from “I just can’t get my students to pay attention” to “Students come to school hungry and can’t focus on work” are defined by the organization as opportunities for design in disguise.
Tim Brown, IDEO’s CEO and a regular at Davos and TED talks, has described design thinking as a way to inject “local, collaborative, participatory” planning into the development of products, organizational processes, and now schools.
Design Thinking for Educators is full of strikingly drawn graphic organizers and questions like, “How might we create a twenty-first century learning experience at school?” with single paragraph answers. “Responsibility” is used three times in the text, always in reference to teachers’ need to brainstorm fixes for problems together and develop “an evolved perspective.” (The word “funding” is not used at all — nor is the word “demand.”)
We’re told faculty at one school embarked on a “design journey” and came to an approach they call “Investigative Learning,” which addresses students “not as receivers of information, but as shapers of knowledge,” without further detail on how exactly this was accomplished.
Of course, the idea of engaging students as experienced co-teachers in their own education isn’t novel, nor is it an innovation that sprang forth from a single group of teachers using graphic organizers to brainstorm and chart solutions.
Marxist educator Paulo Freire developed his critique of the “banking model” of education — in which students’ minds are regarded as passive receptacles for teachers to toss facts into like coins — while teaching poor Brazilian adults how to read in the 1960s and ’70s. His book Pedagogy of the Oppressed helped reignite the progressive education movement during that era, and his collaborative approach to learning remains influential in American schools of education today.
Peter McLaren, who taught elementary and middle school in a public housing complex for five years before becoming a professor of education, has since further developed Freire’s ideas into an extensive body of revolutionary critical pedagogy, which I was assigned in my first class as a master’s student in education. The Radical Mathproject, launched a decade ago by a Brooklyn high school teacher whose school was located within a thousand feet of a toxic waste facility, draws heavily on Freire’s perspective in its curriculum for integrating social and economic justice into mathematics.
Yet, here we are, a “nation at risk,” with lower test scores than our international peers and children still arriving at school every day without breakfast.
Like all modern managerial philosophies that stake their name on innovation, “design thinking” has been framed by creative-class acolytes as a new way to solve old, persistent challenges — but its ideas are not actually new.
According to Tim Brown, design thinkers start with human need and move on to learning by making, “instead of thinking about what to build, building in order to think.” Their prototypes, he says, “speed up the process of innovation, because it is only when we put our ideas out into the world that we really start to understand their strengths and weakness. And the faster we do that, the faster our ideas evolve.”
What design thinking ultimately offers is not evolution, but the look and feel of progress — great graphics, aesthetically interesting configurations of furniture and space — paired with the familiar, gratifying illusion of efficiency. If structural and institutional problems can be solved through nothing more than brainstorming, then it’s possible for macro-level inputs (textbooks, teacher salaries) to remain the same, while outputs (test scores, customer service) improve. From the perspective of capitalism, this is the only alchemy that matters.
Design Thinking for Educators urges teachers to be optimistic without saying why, and to simply believe the future will be better. The toolkit instructs teachers to have an “abundance mentality,” as if problem-solving is a habit of mind. “Why not start with ‘What if?’ instead of ‘What’s wrong?’” they ask.
There are many reasons to start with “What’s wrong?” That question is, after all, the basis of critical thought. Belief in a better future feels wonderful if you can swing it, but it is passive, irrelevant, and inert without analysis about how to get there. The only people who benefit from the “build now, think later” strategy are those who are empowered by the social relations of the present.
The same people benefit when analysis is abandoned in favor of technical solutions — when the long history of education for liberation, from Freire to the SNCC Freedom Schools to Black Panther schools to today’s Radical Math and Algebra projects (none of them perfect, all of them instructive) is ignored.
It’s not surprising, then, that when Carlos Rodríguez-Pastor Persivale, the billionaire son of an elite Peruvian banking family, decided to expand his empire of restaurants and movie theaters by buying up a chain of for-profit English-language elementary schools, his first step was to contact IDEO and commission them to design everything: the buildings, the budget, the curriculum, professional development opportunities for teachers. The network is calledInnova, and it’s on its way to becoming the largest private school system in Peru.
According to “ed tech community” edSurge, Innova is “more than just an example of how first-world ideas about blended learning and design thinking can be adapted in a developing country.” It aims to close the achievement gap, build Peru’s next generation of leaders, “and make a profit while doing so.”
Innova students use computer tutoring programs designed by Pearson and Sal Khan, a Gates Foundation protégé. (By now, Khan’s story is canonical among readers of the Harvard Business Review: in 2005, the former hedge-fund analyst created a simple computer program for practicing math problems and some instructional videos to help tutor his cousins remotely. These went viral on YouTube among parents looking for after-school enrichment activities for their children, including Bill Gates.)
In a photograph of one location posted to IDEO’s website, students sit in groups of six, each absorbed in his or her laptop. The school’s modular walls collapse to allow classes of thirty to be joined together into one large group of sixty students at various times throughout the day.
After a visit, Khan remarked, “I was blown away when I visited Innova. It was beautiful, open, and modern. It was inspiring to see an affordable school deliver an education that would rival schools in the richest countries.” The question is, affordable for whom?
Tuition at an Innova school is $130 a month, which is considerably less than the cost of your average American private school, but would require shelling out over a quarter of the monthly income of a family Edutopia | Jacobin:

As testing begins, parental opposition to Common Core ramps up - The Hechinger Report

As testing begins, parental opposition to Common Core ramps up - The Hechinger Report:

As testing begins, parental opposition to Common Core ramps up

In some districts up to 80% of families opt-out










 Dear Jayne,

I am glad to hear that you were able to avoid the problems with Common Core testing experienced by other Florida schools. Testing is stressful enough without technology glitches.
New York will begin its third year of 3-8 Common Core testing next week. Last spring, the parents of 60,000 New York students refused to have their children take the test. This year the number will be far higher, with estimates of a quarter million or more. Thirty percent of our district’s parents have already handed in opt-out letters. The superintendent of the Comsewogue Schools has test refusal letters for 80% of his students, and a principal upstate has over 60%. All across the state, resistance to Common Core tests is increasing.
Boards of Education have reacted in various ways to the opt-out movement but most districts have been tolerant of parental rights. Many local teacher associations have their support, and the president of the New York State United Teachers, Karen McGee, called for a boycott of the tests. One of the members of our state’s Board of Regents, Kathleen Cashin,  a retired superintendent, publicly stated that she does not believe that the Common Core tests measure learning and that they should not be used to evaluate teachers, principals or schools.  She also said she understood why parents were refusing to have their children take the test.
In my 25 years in education, I have never seen such resistance to standards and their tests. Opt-out has become a movement of conscience for parents and teachers. Prior changes to standards and tests were implemented with some grumbling, but we quickly adapted. This is not the case with the Common Core.
The local television station, PIX11, did a series on the standards. The reporter, a Yale graduate, took the eighth-grade test and was stumped by several questions. I was interviewed by him and asked to participate in a Webchat on the topic. One after another, parents expressed their dismay. I was saddened when two students lamented, “I don’t think this test really measures if I am smart.” I reassured them that it does not.
I find that to be one of the most distressing aspects of standardized testing—students internalizing the results and drawing conclusions about their abilities and potential. Whether it is an IQ test, SAT or a Common Core test, the sorting and labeling of children deeply disturbs me.
Jayne, at the heart of our disagreement is that you see the Common Core Standards as a path to equity and I see them as a wall. You separate the standards from the tests and their consequences, and I cannot. There are high-stakes decisions made on the basis of student performance which impact children, teachers and schools. Standards are the first link in that chain.
How will we respond when the Common Core tests exacerbate the inequality in graduation rates, school entrance and promotion? As school leaders, how can we stand by and let that happen? I know from your last letter that you believe that retention does more harm than good. I hope you speak out on that issue in your state. You are well respected and your voice will matter.
I also disagree that the standards themselves promote more equitable opportunities for economically disadvantaged students. You wrote that the Common Core “minimizes personal experience, by calling on students to respond to questions with evidence from the text”, thus eliminating what you see as disadvantage for students of As testing begins, parental opposition to Common Core ramps up - The Hechinger Report:

My Observations on the Alexander-Murray ESEA Reauthorization Draft, Part II | deutsch29

My Observations on the Alexander-Murray ESEA Reauthorization Draft, Part II | deutsch29:

My Observations on the Alexander-Murray ESEA Reauthorization Draft, Part II







 I have been reading the Alexander-Murray, Senate reauthorization draft of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which they have entitled, Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.

The Alexander-Murray draft is scheduled to go before the Senate education committee on April 14, 2015.
In my first post, I wrote about my impression of key issues in the first 136 pages (out of 601 total) of the Alexander-Murray reauthorization draft. (The full draft can be read here.)
Below I add some details from the first 136 pages not included in my first post. These investigations are the result of inquiries from readers. The notes immediately following concern money, state standards, alternate standards, assessments, alternate assessments, and special populations (students with cognitive disabilities; English language learners).
Here are those additional observations:
Page 12: Regarding federal funding, the Alexander-Murray document does not include specific dollar amounts. For funding 1) local education agency grants, 2) state assessments, 3) education of migratory children, 4) prevention and intervention programs for children and youth who are neglected, delinquent, or at-risk, 5) federal activities, and 6) school intervention and support, the Alexander-Murray reauthorization document, Section 1002, states, “…there are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 6 2016 through 2021.”
Page 29: State standards are to be “aligned with [college] entrance requirements, without the need for remediation.” This does not mean that students might not require remediation; only that the standards account for what academic exposure is required of students upon acceptance to college. Also, state standards need to be “aligned My Observations on the Alexander-Murray ESEA Reauthorization Draft, Part II | deutsch29:

Special Nite Cap: Catch Up on Today's Post 4/9/15


Special Nite Cap - Catch Up on Today's Post 4/9/15


Special Nite Cap 

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2015 National Conference – Chicago

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