Is it time to give up on reading?

Many schools in the nation have given up on the teaching of cursive; the reason they give is because modern technology has made it passé. Well maybe because of the modern student reading has become passé too. I know that’s not going to be a popular thought but read along for a moment.

Our education leaders need to come to grips with the fact we don’t have the children they wish we had, but instead we have the children that we do and then should start planning accordingly. Today’s kids aren’t like the ones from just a generation ago. They have been raised on fast food, video games and MTV and not the MTV where they played music videos but the MTV that glorifies bad choices (The Real World, Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, etc).

Many kids today don’t read books to get information or heck even for fun anymore. They hit a few keystrokes and their computers take them to Google and Wikipedia. When they do read it is usually an article or a passage about whatever subject they are being forced to learn about and I use the word “force” on purpose.

These Ritalin popping kids who can barely sit through a ninety-minute movie don’t look at education as a way out or even as a way to do what they want. They look at school like it is hoops they have to jump through before they and three of their friends can get their own apartment working minimum wage jobs. They don’t look to the future unless the future is three o’clock and the dismissal bell rings, freeing them.

Society can’t keep looking to what worked in the past to find our solutions to the problems facing education today. Just a generation ago we had four channels and one was PBS and instead of having aliens, zombies and stolen cars spoon fed us, we had to go into our neighborhoods and use our imaginations to create them. Then when the street light came on we had to find them in books because we couldn’t find them in video games or in the hundreds of channels kids today have to choose from.

When I grew up thirty years ago I did so on a steady diet of comic books that led to a whole world of literature, Heinleim, Howard, and Adams among others but have you read comic books recently? They are written for guys that grew up reading them 30 years ago.

Who knows if I would have spent so much time at my desk reading if I had had the SYFI channel, the History Channel and the NFL network to watch on TV or Resident Evil, Grand Theft Auto and Metal Gear Solid to play?

We have to look at today’s kid and find today’s solution and we have to come to grips that reading may not be a big part of it; who a generation ago could have predicted society would give up on cursive writing.

I believe step one is to recognize that not every kid is going to go to college and we should be okay with that. Somewhere along the way we lost sight of the fact that the country needs tradesmen and a skilled workforce and that those are honorable and in many instances high paying jobs. A kid marginally interested in school thinks of the light at the end of the as a freight train rushing at them, especially if they have to gut out four more years of college to get a decent job.

What do you think would happen to our kids’ interest in school if we could promise them a job making 15-18 dollars an hour upon graduation, not “maybe” four years down the road, when they will most likely have tens of thousands of dollars in student debt as well? I think they would eat it up like they do their video games and MTV now.

There are all sorts of trade and skills programs we could be teaching kids in unison with their reading, writing and arithmetic. We could graduate nursing assistants, certified child care workers, plumber and carpenter apprentices, mechanics, chefs, kids with certificates in the computer or technology fields and cosmetologists among many others. You know all those positions that aren’t being outsourced to third world countries and emerging markets.

We make school irrelevant to kids. We make it such drudgery. We put the kids in one-size fits all curriculums and then we wonder why so many of them do so poorly. Do you know what the difference in curriculum between a student with a 130 IQ at Stanton who wants to be a doctor and a kid with an 80 IQ at anyone of our neighborhood schools who wants to drive a truck is? If you answered there is none then you win the prize. Unfortunately the neighborhood school kids prize is to spend four years in high school learning things they aren’t interested in and most likely will never use.

After kids are in the workforce for a while they can then decide if college is for them. I didn’t finish my degrees until I was thirty preferring to bounce around in special needs camps. It was only when I was passed over for a few jobs, I believe because of my lack of education that I became serious about school. However do you see what had to happen? Education had to become relevant for me; it had to make a difference in what I wanted to do.

I am not saying blow up the basics. I am saying for many what the basics have become is immaterial. Kids today have to take Algebra II and Chemistry whether those things will be applicable to what they want to do or not. There are so many jobs that don’t require a working knowledge of those subjects to be successful. Do you know what class I wish I had taken in high school that would have helped me out as an adult and here is a hint it wasn’t any math class. It was typing. What do most of you use more often, your keyboard or your advanced math skills?

We can also use the basics as carrots for the classes they like. You want to be a draftsman, okay we will need to see at least a C average in Algebra I (a genuine algebra I class, not the move on through classes that have replaced the legitimate classes of yesteryear). Want to take cosmetology classes, sure but I need to see those grades in English come up.

In a way kids are more sophisticated than they were a generation ago. I went to school and made an effort because I was told it would lead to a brighter future, but with jobs being shipped over seas, a nine plus percent unemployed rate, double that is we count the under employed; kids today buy that same line of thinking with a wink and a nod. They know somewhere inside that it isn’t true. They have a sinking feeling that unlike their parents with their grand parents, they aren’t going to have it better than mom and dad.

We don’t have to give up on reading but it’s time we took an approach to reading, an approach to education that serves the kids. Like how changing times have forced schools to take a different approach to writing in cursive, it’s probably time we lumped reading in along with it. Once again, we don’t have the kids we wish we did, we have the kids we do and it’s time we planned accordingly. It is time we came up with solutions that will make more of our kids successful even if that means they don’t go to college right away or ever at all. It’s time we had programs that gave all are kids a chance, even if they “don’t read so good”.

NCLB gets a dose of steroids, or How just how bad is Arne Duncan

From the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet

By William J. Mathis

The Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO) plan for replacing the No Child Left Behind accountability system, hinted to be the recipe for states to win a waiver from the Education Department from the worst provisions of the law, not only retains the most ineffective pieces of NCLB but magnifies them. Contrary to all we have learned, it suggests to additional mandates and testing.

Americans are now well aware of at least four main drawbacks of NCLB, none of which are remedied in the CCSSO plan: (a) the huge inequities in funding and opportunities to learn (b) the neglect of out-of-school and environmental factors, (c) an inordinate and unbalanced emphasis on testing which leads to narrowed and dumb-downed curriculum, and (d) the ineffectiveness of turnaround strategies.

As longtime educator Larry Cuban has noted, despite 20 years of state-based and federal top-down accountability mandates, there is not a single example of a successful urban district reform generated by this type of scheme.

The CCSSO touches on a couple of useful and sound ideas, but the bulk of their plan signals that the authors have learned little from the past decade’s voluminous research. The chiefs’ roadmap provides “references” yet almost all of these can be characterized as speculative documents. Thus, major educational policy would again be determined by ideology rather than research and experience.

The CCSSO organizes its plan around nine principles and processes (its roadmap is organized differently):

1) College and Career Ready Standards

State curricular alignment to uniform national standards (the Common Core) with annual performance benchmarks would be required. Instead of all students reaching proficiency by 2014, all must be proficient on the new standards by graduation. Adequate Yearly Progress, known as AYP, is replaced with an “on-track” interim measure or “school effectiveness targets.” This simply continues the same flawed NCLB practice albeit flowered with new euphemisms. If the standards are truly “rigorous,” then — absent a substantial increase in resources and opportunities­ — all students in all groups will not come close to “success,” while Duncan’s “slow-moving train wreck” careens on toward its destiny.

2) Annual Determinations for Each School and District

This represents no real difference from the current model except a growth aspect is required. As naturally attractive as growth scores are to most everyone, the measurement limitations make this almost impossible. For example, the objectives at grade seven are not the same as the objectives at grade 8. Subtracting one from the other subtracts apples from oranges. To compound the problem, when it comes to testing higher order skills like reasoning and problem solving, the entire “standardized” system gets very unstandardized. Growth models can be very useful but they don’t have enough power to justify attaching high stakes consequences. As one prominent psychometrician wagged, “There are three ways to do growth scores and all of them are wrong.”

3) Focus on Student Outcomes

CCSSO suggests that more tests in more grades and subject areas are needed. Other measures would also be necessary (college entry, remediation rates, etc.). As reading and math tests narrow the curriculum, the chief’s solution is to expand testing to other curriculum areas.

This is probably the biggest conceptual fallacy in the chiefs’ plan. The previous system did not work, so doing more of it is not exactly a logical conclusion. We should, instead, look to areas of greater promise. Schools are not single-handedly responsible for or capable of over-coming all adverse conditions. Setting aside ideological proclamations, we have to face the fact that the differences in social capital is a deeply documented, incontrovertible and sober truth. Any plan with promise for success must simultaneously address social and school issues. The chiefs’ ignore this vast framework.

4) Continued Disaggregation of Sub-Groups

This principle calls for the continued break-out of scores by race, language status and poverty and that these sub-group scores continue to be part of the accountability process. Since all students must reach the new standards, the effect is no different from NCLB. In time, all schools fail.

Perhaps the greatest danger of this thinking is that it continues “the myth of the shining of the light.” That is, if we just shine the light on low scores, things will improve. We have been shining the light on poor sub-group performance for 10 years while we neglected to provide effective and sufficient resources and assistance to solve the problems. Illumination of problems, without providing solutions, may provide sustenance to the failure proclamation industry but it does nothing to solve learning problems.

5) Timely Reporting of Actionable and Accessible Data

This goal is laudable and necessary but has the ring of tokenism. The Institute of Education Sciences reports that the collection and use of data has little evidence of being an effective reform strategy. While additional “input data” and “returns on investment” information may represent new data collections and reporting burdens for schools and/or states, it is not at all clear as to how this will improve children’s learning.

6) Deeper Diagnostic Reviews

State summative tests, because they are designed to have the most power around the cut score, cannot provide useful diagnostics for teachers. They are general survey tests. “Deeper diagnostic reviews” would require the collection of more detailed assessment data. Increased reliance on standardized tests comes at the price of decreased attention to higher order skills, experiential learning and activities designed for advancing the common good. It’s also poor pedagogy. Such a narrow and singular definition of the purposes of education is basically incompatible with the needs of the twenty-first century.

7) Building School and District Capacity

While there would likely be broad consensus favoring increasing the capacity of schools, the roadmap interprets this point as increasing the precision of identifying schools. Specific recommendations are absent other than such phrases as “. . . hold providers of supports and interventions accountable. “ The report says states should be motivational and not just punitive, yet the focus of the section (pp32-33 of the roadmap) is top-down and directive. Students cannot be expected to learn more unless they are given greater opportunities to learn, and these opportunities depend on increasing school and district capacity. The chief’s plan falls well short on this criterion.

8) Targeting Low Performing Schools

Instead of NCLB’s progression through stages of increasing sanctions, the lowest scoring five percent (or more) of schools in each state will be subject to “significant interventions.” Sadly, a review of the literature about the current “turn-around” or intervention strategies shows a remarkable lack of success. Those hoping to find better intervention models will be disappointed. Instead of actions that help children by addressing the community and school needs in our most economically and socially marginalized communities, the emphasis is on changing governance and staffing.

9) Innovation and Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is laudable in most every enterprise. “Innovation” in our schools, however, has come to simply mean change, which can be either good or bad. It therefore requires a bit of caution. Moreover, when reform “churn” hits a school, the effects can be extremely disruptive to reforms that are just beginning to take root.

Sadly, the CCSSO plan does not demonstrate a command of the research literature, just as President Obama’s Blueprint for Reform never found a sound evidentiary footing. The chiefs would be well-served to review the recent National Academies report that finds no evidence that such high stakes, test-based models are successful. Accordingly, if this CCSSO plan is widely adopted, the evidence says it will, most likely, also be unsuccessful.

Schools can’t be run like a bussiness

Run it like a business seems to be the cry people outside of education both yell and try to sell. I wonder what business schools should it be run like? Should they be run like a bank or a mortgage company, probably not they have had their fair share of problems recently. What about like a car company or an international oil conglomerate, probably not either right as they have had their problems too. I recently read a statistic that said 20,000-business fail a month, which of those should we run education like? The truth is we can’t run a public school system like a business and even though it sounds good to some, saying it is impractical does a disservice to things that are truly impractical.

No shoes, no shirt, no service right? Well what about no school supplies no service? If I kicked out every kid who didn’t bring a pen or pencil to my class, some days I would have had an extra planning period. If I gave away one pencil or pen I gave away a thousand. And don’t get me talking about paper and books.

Businesses can fire employees that are don’t do their work or who sleep while at work. Schools can’t, if they did they would be getting rid of some of their best workers.

Businesses can fire employees and then get a restraining order against workers who threaten or throw things at the boss. Teachers are required to welcome them back after a brief time out.

Do businesses call disruptive and disrespectful employees parents and ask them to do something to get them under control? I didn’t think so.

As far as I know the winners of popularity contests don’t run most businesses either.

Now are their business strategies the school system can employ? Definitely. How about we don’t put teachers in nearly impossible situations and blame them when they don’t succeed. How about we foster creativity and autonomy and support our teachers when they are faced with other disrespectful and disruptive students.

We could follow our own rules as laid out in the code of conduct instead of ignoring it. We could also maximize our workforce by putting everyone in the classroom. Duval County literally has thousands of certificated employees who don’t work directly with students. Then how about over-time, wouldn’t it be nice for teachers to get paid for the hours they actually worked, though if we did that now schools would truly go broke.

Good businesses also have their best employees be managers instead of promoting friends or people that can pass a test and just because you can pass an Ed leadership class or two does not magically transform you into a leader. Good businesses also have a coherent and realistic plan; unfortunately all we have is a mission statement and it’s not very realistic.

The closest business I can think of to teaching is being a bike builder, except teachers are suppose to build the bike while riding it with some of the pieces missing too, oh and more often than not it’s raining too.

Schools shouldn’t be run like a business they should be run like what a loving parent would do if they had a very sick child. If the parent loved the child there isn’t anything they wouldn’t do, no stone would be left unturned, no bush would go unbeaten and no expense would be spared. They would do whatever in their power they could to help their child get better. They wouldn’t say, lets tackle this illness like a business. If they did they might cut their losses and move on.

Rick Scott’s next plan, destroy higher education

I can’t beleive some of you voted for this guy. Did you really hate ObamaCare that much? -cpg

From the Palm Beach news

by Lilly Rockwell

Gov. Rick Scott may have one crucial ally in his nascent effort to overhaul higher education in Florida: State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan.

Brogan met with Scott earlier this year to discuss the controversial changes to higher education, which were first championed by Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry. The idea is to treat universities and colleges more like private businesses, with more scrutiny over professor and university performance.

“We had a great conversation,” Brogan said in an interview with the News Service of Florida. “He’d be the first to tell you he’s not wed to the Texas plan. What he is wed to is the notion that we need to look at those and other possibilities that might create a better system of higher education in the state of Florida.”

The Texas proposal supports the concept of tying state funding to performance, financially rewarding professors based on effectiveness, and using higher education tuition vouchers that can be used toward private schools. It takes many of the concepts being used in K-12 education policy, such as merit pay, and applies them to universities.

Increasingly, some Republican lawmakers and governors are seeing higher education as a system in need of reform, with escalating tuition and costs, much like health care. In Ohio, the Republican governor also pushed for tying state funding to degree production and the number of classes professors teach.

Brogan said he supports “accountability-based funding” for Florida’s state universities. “A greater emphasis on outcomes and incentives to those outcomes is important,” he said. “We should be looking at quality of programs.”

But the Texas plan encountered a lot of resistance from universities there, who were critical of Perry’s attempts to overhaul how higher education functions and is financed. Only a few of the “Seven Solutions” championed by Perry were implemented, most at Texas A&M University, Perry’s alma mater. The issue became so fraught in Texas that a special legislative committee was appointed to study the issue.

In Florida, Scott appears to be taking a more deliberate approach. He discussed the reforms privately with Brogan, as well as Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, who oversees the college system.

“The Governor has been openly talking about higher education ideas with anybody who wants to talk about it and listen,” said Scott spokesman Lane Wright, though he said formal discussions with legislators had not taken place.

“One of the things I said to the governor is much of what you saw in Texas was that it moved very quickly,” Brogan said.”Here in Florida, we are starting the conversations on some of these very important issues and bringing the people in higher education to the table to have those conversations with us.”

Brogan said he hopes in Florida higher education reform discussions will be “far less problematic.”

Like Perry, Scott has ensured that people he appoints to university governing boards are aware of his interest in changing how higher education functions and is funded. Each college or university in Florida is overseen by a Board of Trustees that approves its budget, new programs, and selects the president of the university.

Scott appoints some, but not all, members of university governing board. Scott appoints most members of the Board of Governors, which oversees all the state universities, and will get the opportunity for the first time next year to appoint new members, with five terms coming to an end.

But many of these newly-appointed members were reluctant to openly discuss higher education reforms. Calls to a half-dozen Scott-appointed board members for interviews were either not returned or the request was declined.

Joseph Gruters, the chairman of the Sarasota County Republican Party and Florida State University trustee, said he supports the governor’s policies on higher education.

“I hope to do everything I can to put them into place at Florida State,” he said. “I am a Scott appointee and he is trying to change the state and is a big believer in higher education and the reforms are needed.”

Much like Texas, some of these proposals may be examined first by the governing boards at universities, and at the Board of Governors, rather than through the Legislature.

Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, said he has not been approached about a legislative solution.

“It would be premature for me to say we should pursue it,” said Proctor, the Chancellor at Flagler College and the head of the House committee on education. But he said there were some parts of the report that he found troubling.

“There are things that are over-simplifications, particularly for a major research university,” Proctor said. He also said while universities adopt many business methods, they have a different focus and purpose than a business.

“They speak of students as customers,” Proctor said. “I reject that.”

State University System spokeswoman Kelly Layman said Brogan has engaged in his own discussions with university presidents to assess their opinions of the Texas proposal.

Brogan said he expects to “immediately” begin a public discussion at an upcoming Board of Governors.”This year you will see some of those things go on top of the table to begin at least conversations about this issues,” he said.

“It’s exciting and I know change always makes some people nervous, but again we should never accept the premise that our state university system is perfect the way it is,” Brogan said.

Florida puts tests ahead of children

From Scathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sykes

Jada Bryant-Roland – the Fort Meyers teenager whose FCAT score was invalidated because it couldn’t be proved she didn’t cheat – gained an ally in her home town paper. The Fort Meyers News-Press editors write:

Bryant-Roland, a 17-year-old honor student at South Fort Myers High School, learned last week that the state is upholding its invalidation of her FCAT because of possible cheating.

Possible? What kind of standard of proof and fairness is that to stand for, and to hold up as an example to young people working hard to succeed? A lousy one.

The stakes for her and for the 50 other accused students in Lee County, 7,500 statewide, are enormous. Bryant-Roland cannot graduate and her educational future is in jeopardy; she hopes to become a pediatrician. Her reputation has also been smeared.

The state is using a forensic testing company for the first time this spring to check the 4 million tests taken.

Bryant-Roland said she was told her test was similar to the incorrect answers – not the correct answers – on another student’s test. She says that student was seated several rows away from her. The test was supervised by roving monitors, so cheating seems unlikely.

A system is needed that does not punish the student when the state fails to actually prove they cheated.

“I will not stop, until I prove her innocence, even though she has never been found guilty,” Bryant-Roland’s stepfather, Alan Reinmiller, wrote to a school district official. “I have at least 20 good years of life left to be a squeaky wheel.”

He deserves some help. Our new education commissioner, Gerard Robinson, should review this system, and if he doesn’t act, our legislators should advocate for a fairer way of rooting out cheaters

This episode couldn’t be a more dangerous moment for the test-base education reform movement. Is this what they meant by empowering parents? Or making schools accountable? What’s happened to Byant-Roland is a clear demonstration that tests now are the only things that matter – and to a level of absurdity that no one could have foreseen.

Even if Robinson acts, this is a wound that will leave a permanent scar. Why some adult didn’t use good judgement before this became public is reason enough to question the motives and judgement of those making and enforcing policy.

Arne Duncan’s been running around the country saying that those involved in cheating scandals to be morally bankrupt. An entire movement presumes that they alone are putting students first. This sordid affair makes crystal clear that it is the tests which come first. Now who’s morally bankrupt?

Florida Board of Education hates Big Bird

From the St. Petersburg Times

by Jeff Solochek

Akshay Desai has heard the complaint: Conservatives don’t support public broadcasting because they view it as too liberal.

But that didn’t stop Desai, a Florida Board of Education member and known Republican bundler, from calling upon his fellow board members today to ask Gov. Rick Scott to put state money back into public radio and television as part of the BOE’s education budget.

The 26 outlets of Florida public broadcasting “are not only involved in education but also in emergency management and economic development,” Desai explained. Sure, Scott vetoed funding this year. “Perhaps we can see if we can convince him there is a usefulness of purpose.”

His colleagues did not jump on board.

“What do they do for education?” chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan asked pointedly, saying this would not be her priority.

“Big Bird, of course,” Desai responded bluntly. “Kids in poor communities watch and learn from the characters who are well known to the entire nation.”

He said he understood the political nature of the discussion. “But my feeling is we don’t lose anything by including it in the legislative budget request. At least that would keep the conversation going.”

One by one the others shot down his proposal, although a couple said they’d be willing to reconsider with more information.

“Thanks for listening,” Desai said.

Teachers spend over a billion dollars (of their money) to outfit their classrooms

From the Journal

by David Nagel

Public school teachers in the United States spent more than $1.33 billion out of pocket on school supplies and instructional materials in the 2009-2010 school year, according to new research released by the National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA), a trade association for educational product companies.

The report, “The 2010 NSSEA Retail Market Awareness Study,” was based on a survey of 308 K-12 teachers in May 2010 conducted by Perry Research Professionals. It revealed that teachers spent on average $356 of their own money on supplies and resources, including an average of $170 on supplies and $186 on instructional materials. (Instructional materials were defined as software and games, as well as paper-based teaching aids and other non-equipment teaching materials; supplies were defined as printer paper, arts and crafts supplies, pencils, glue, and other similar supplies.)

Despite the total $1.33 billion out of pocket price tag for classroom materials, average individual teacher expenditures were actually down this year compared with previous studies: $395 in a 2007-2008 NSSEA study and $552 in a 2005-2006 NSSEA study.

Why the recent decline?

“Teachers are feeling the pinch just like others affected by the downturn in the economy,” Adrienne Watts Dayton, vice president of marketing and communications for NSSEA, told us in an e-mail. “While teachers continue to supplement the resources in the classroom, parents too are asked to contribute to the shortages in school budget.”

A full 92 percent of teachers reported spending some amount of their own money on classroom supplies, while a smaller but still significant 85 percent reported spending their own money on instructional materials.

Looking beyond out of pocket expenses, teachers spent a total of $3.5 billion in the 2009-2010 school year, an average of $936 per teacher–$398 on supplies and $538 on instructional materials.

The major source of classroom supply funding aside from the teachers themselves was parents, who spent an average of $19 per student on classroom supplies. NSSEA estimated that amounted to about $475 per teacher based on a 25-student average classroom. The study said that 47 percent of teachers indicated parents are required to buy classroom materials. Other sources of funding included PTA funds and school purchase orders but were not broken out in the report.

Does a deep distrust of Charles Darwin motivate Rick Scott’s education policiies

From the Orlando Sentinel

by Mike Thomas

Rick Scott wants to reform our universities and turn them into great institutions of higher education.

You would hope he might look to North Carolina, Virginia or any basketball state, for that matter.

But, alas, he is turning to Texas and his new friend, Gov. Rick Perry, who graduated from Texas A&M University with a 2.22 grade-point average and a deep distrust of Charles Darwin.

This should be interesting.

It is an expansion of the public-school reform movement. That effort was relatively straightforward. You measured student-learning gains, graded the schools, gave parents the option of switching their kids from a failing public school to a failing charter school and busted the teachers union.

Seemed to work.

But this requires an FCAT, and there is no FCAT in Florida universities because of the potential impact on football programs.

So the universities are an unaccountable maze of immeasurable degree programs, most of them run by liberals who hate America but can’t be fired because of tenure.

Anyway, this is what Texas conservatives think — and what’s behind their reform movement.

The first order of business is to turn everything into a business. This requires quantification, fiscal accountability, calling students “customers” and abusing the help.

So Texas examined the cost-effectiveness of its professors. It compared what they were making to how many students they were teaching and projects they were researching.

This exposed several tenured freeloaders making six figures, teaching six students and still awaiting publication in the Journal of Irreproducible Results.

The professors went ballistic, and it has been war ever since.

The conservatives argued that if professors taught more and did less research on darn-fool theories like dinosaurs, they could educate a lot more students for half the cost.

The conservatives also want merit pay for professors.

Because there are no standardized tests to measure student-learning gains, they would have students grade the professors. If you think public-school teachers loathe being judged by a test, consider the reaction of not-really doctors judged by a bunch of entitled “customers.”

The eventual result would be Mutually Assured Excellence: You give me an A and I give you an A.

Professors preferring only to do research would have to pay for themselves with grants, encouraging them to work on more practical scientific breakthroughs such as Gatorade.

There also would be full-disclosure “learning contracts” between the university and students.

For example: You hereby agree to major in political science. The odds are 58 percent you’ll graduate. According to ratings by previous customers, half your professors will be insufferable communists who feel this university is beneath them. After graduating, you will drive a furniture truck for a year, hoot at women in convertibles, make $7 an hour and then try again with a journalism degree. Sign here.

That’s the deal I got at the University of Florida.

I like this reform. Psychology majors should be made aware of their impending starvation.

The university establishment says you cannot enlighten minds with this assembly-line model.

Dean Randy Diehl from University of Texas College of Liberal Arts (big surprise there) wrote that the reforms would dumb down the school, send top professors packing and scare away bright graduate students. This would leave Texas with a bunch of undergraduates with 2.22 GPAs.

Well, at least that’s good enough to run the place. or 407-420-5525,0,3646791.column

Education Reformers Ignore Poverty

From Reuters

by Diane Ravitch

In my nearly four decades as a historian of education, I have analyzed the rise and fall of reform movements. Typically, reforms begin with loud declarations that our education system is in crisis. Throughout the twentieth century, we had a crisis almost every decade. After persuading the public that we are in crisis, the reformers bring forth their favored proposals for radical change. The radical changes are implemented in a few sites, and the results are impressive. As their reforms become widespread, they usually collapse and fail. In time, those who have made a career of educating children are left with the task of cleaning up the mess left by the last bunch of reformers.

We are in the midst of the latest wave of reforms, and Steven Brill has positioned himself as the voice of the new reformers. These reforms are not just flawed, but actually dangerous to the future of American education. They would, if implemented, lead to the privatization of a large number of public schools and to the de-professionalization of education.

As Brill’s book shows, the current group of reformers consists of an odd combination of Wall Street financiers, conservative Republican governors, major foundations, and the Obama administration. The reformers believe that the way to “fix” our schools is to fire more teachers, based on the test scores of their students; to open more privately-managed charter schools; to reduce the qualifications for becoming a teacher; and to remove job protections for senior teachers.

The reformers say that our schools are failing and point to international test scores; they don’t seem to know that American students have never done well on international tests. When the international tests were first launched in the 1960s, our students ranked near the bottom. Obviously these tests do not predict the future economic success of a nation because we as a nation have prospered despite our mediocre performance on international tests over the past half century.

The last international test results were released in December. Our students ranked about average, and our leading policymakers treated the results as a national scandal. But here is a curious fact: low-poverty U.S. schools (where fewer than 10% of the students were poor) had scores that were higher than those of the top nations in the world. In schools where as many as 25% of the students were poor, the scores were equal to those of Finland, Japan and Korea. As the poverty rate of the schools rose, the schools’ performance declined.

An objective observer would conclude that the problem in this society has to do with our shamefully high rates of child poverty, the highest in the developed world. At least 20% of U.S. children live in poverty. Among black children, the poverty rate is 35%.

Reformers like to say — as they did in the film “Waiting for ‘Superman’” — that we spend too much and that poverty doesn’t matter. They say that teacher effectiveness is all that matters. They claim that children who have three “great” or “effective” teachers in a row will close the achievement gap between the races. They say that experience doesn’t matter. They believe that charter schools, staffed by tireless teachers, can close the gap in test scores.

Unfortunately, research does not support any of their claims.

Take the matter of charter schools. The definitive national study of charters was conducted by Stanford University economist Margaret Raymond and financed by the pro-charter Walton Family Foundation and the Dell Foundation. After surveying half the nation’s 5,000 charter schools, the study concluded that only 17% got better test results than a demographically similar traditional public school; 37% got worse results, and the remaining 46% were no different from the matched public school. An eight-state study by the Rand Corporation found no differences in results between charter and regular public schools. On federal tests, students in charter schools and regular public schools perform about the same.

The overwhelming majority of charter schools are non-union. They can hire and fire teachers at will, and teacher attrition at charter schools is higher than in regular public schools. Many studies have shown that charters have a disproportionately small number of students with disabilities or students who don’t speak English. Yet, despite these structural advantages, they don’t get better results. Furthermore, right-to-work states where unions are weak or non-existent don’t lead the nation in academic achievement; most are middling or at the bottom on federal tests. Brill simply refuses to acknowledge these inconvenient facts because the charter movement is a central part of the “reform” claims.

Research provides no support for Brill’s belief that the teacher is the ultimate determinant of student success or failure. Economists overwhelmingly agree that families, and especially family income, have a larger impact on student academic performance than teachers. Typically, economists estimate that teachers account for 10-15% of student performance; non-school factors influence about 60%.

And what about the reformers’ claim that three great teachers in a row close the achievement gap? It is a sound bite, not an actionable policy proposal. The reformers can’t point to a single school or district that has actually made this happen.

The reform movement is already failing. Its remedies don’t work. It ignores poverty, which is the root cause of poor academic performance.

If we are serious about improving education, we would work to improve both schools and society. We would invest in the recruitment and preparation of career teachers and make sure that every child has a curriculum that includes the arts, history, civics, foreign languages and other subjects. We would also invest in prenatal care so that every child is born healthy and invest in high-quality early childhood education, so that children arrive in school ready to learn. We would stop the budget cutting that is now increasing class sizes and reducing needed services to children.

Unfortunately, such research-based strategies are not part of today’s reform movement, which is why it will most assuredly end up in the dustbin of history, like so many others.

Mismangement and bad ideas define Duval County (rough draft)

That collective sigh you heard the other day may have been from the city as it realized the school board and superintendent don’t really have a plan to turn our “failing” schools around. In case you missed it twelve days ago the school board contracted Education Directions to run the original four intervene schools and then yesterday the second day back with kids it seceded control of three more schools to them. Six of these schools are neighborhood high schools and the district is shelling out 1.9 million dollars to give them away.

The district was so impressed with Education Directions that six months ago they picked random citizens off the street and formed Duval Partners to be the education management organization tot run the failing schools if it came to that.

The district was so impressed with Education Directions that two months ago with Duval Partners imploding, they sent Pratt-Dannals to beg for one more year of control.

If you are impressed with the districts decisions I have some swamp land you can buy cheap.

It’s worse than that folks as apparently Education Directions has been in the district for years so the district new them and what they could deliver. Yet still they tried to move heaven to avoid using them. The school board only went with them when it became obvious that the superintendent’s only plan was to move administrators around and they just couldn’t stomach it.

Even if we could excuse the lateness of the changeover, and does nobody at the school board building have a calendar, can we really sit back and accept this monumental waste of money. According to the Times Union, Education Directions plans to embed an administrator at each of the schools and to provide coaching services (7 administrators and some coaching services cost 1.9 million dollars?). Well friends as the grade at my last school, one of the intervene schools, plummeted, the amount of administrators and coaches already was going up. In 2010 before I was surplused, and I believe it was because it was hard for me to keep quite about all the waste and mismanagement, my school had five assistant principals and four full time coaches; we would have had more coaches if one wouldn’t have left on maternity leave. The last thing these schools need to turn around is more coaches and administrators.

Furthermore can we really over look the close ties the district has to employees of Education Directions such as former area superintendent Steve Hite an executive with the EMO. I am not saying there are any shenanigans going on but for once wouldn’t it be nice if a huge contract like this occurred without the appearance of impropriety?

Finally, I could turn these schools around in a year and for a lot less than 1.9 million dollars paid Education Directions, instead for the bargain basement price of what was already allocated to them in the first place and it wouldn’t take reinventing the wheel to do so. First improve discipline and I would do so by having on campus suspension centers where kids would both not miss school and get meaningful consequences for bad behavior. Next acquire teacher buy in by taking meaningless things off their plates and putting meaningful things on and finally by making the curriculum realistic, which would include fewer, shorter classes, grouping based on ability and by having more classes that the kids enjoyed. You know none of the things that the district just paid 1.9 million dollars to a group they initially thought a group of random citizens without education experience (Duval Partners) could do a better job than, are doing.

That wham you just heard was probably the city collectively beating its head against a wall.