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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Reclaiming Educational Reform - Long View on Education

Reclaiming Educational Reform - Long View on Education

Reclaiming Educational Reform

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“American writers have tended to see themselves as outcasts and isolates, prophets crying in the wilderness. So they have been, as a rule: American Jeremiahs, simultaneously lamenting a declension and celebrating a national dream.”  Sacvan Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad (1978)
“These schools, these students, are the fool’s gold of America’s education system. They’re museum artifacts in the innovation era, the context that will define the adult lives of these children.” Ted Dintersmith, What Schools Could Be (2018)

After keeping their education reform movie Most Likely to Succeed (2015) largely inaccessible to the public for three years, Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith have now released it on iTunes for people to buy or rent. Reflecting on the public viewings of the film in his latest book, Ted Dintersmith says that he takes a walk during the community screenings (previously the only way you could watch it), and returns for the last 5 minute “final blow-you-away stretch”.  At this moment, Ken Robinson appears with a truth-bomb, an “irrefutable fact”: “education is a complex human system. It’s about people.” Instead of an industrial metaphor for education (and it’s unclear to whom this metaphor belongs), Robinson says we need an organic one: “the plant grows itself if you create the right conditions”.
And what are ‘the right conditions’ that we see at the end of the movie? As Robinson talks about the problems with standardization, we watch a student at High Tech High work on fitting gears together in a project that culminates with him placing his gears into the larger mechanism built by the class. After studying how civilizations change, his teacher tells the students they must represent their understanding through laser-cutting a gear system. While the film highlights how project based learning benefits the two leaders of different groups, the frustrated group-mates literally disappear in the final scenes. We are told that 4 weeks have passed since exhibition night, and that one of the group leaders has continued working over the summer to get his gear to work and fit (yet the film shows the student and his teacher wearing the same outfit in each shot). Finally, he snaps his mechanical gear into the larger mosaic, ironically contradicting Robinson’s plea for a new organic metaphor.
The film features another project in which students read a play by Euripides, the teacher splits the students into two groups by gender, and then tells them to re-stage the play in modern Pakistan. While High Tech High is supposed to serve as a model of what schools could be, as it is presented in the film directed by Greg Whiteley, it arguably replicates some of the most problematic parts of schooling: students have no meaningful choice, the assessments are inauthentic (why make gears to represent an argument?), and the film focuses on only a select few who are ‘most likely to succeed’. While High Tech High is often presented as having a strong record for getting kids into college (ironically, Dintersmith argues against the drive to make a college an increasingly essential part of education), an important analysis finds that the causal impact of attending High Tech High isn’t what it at first seems.

While Most Likely to Succeed focuses on just one school, in What Schools Could Be, Dintersmith charts his year-long journey across the U.S. school system. In his visits to 200 schools, he “found sparks of learning that are so, so promising but reach only a sliver of our kids.” Dintersmith, a former venture capitalist who writes passionately about trusting teachers (though not enough to give them tenure), positions himself in contrast to other billionaire reformers when he rejects “our core assumption”: “that, in a fair world, kids with lower numbers should be tossed into the reject pile.” That’s refreshing and worth listening to. It’s also been argued by many people who are a part of the education system and have been working for change long before Dintersmith arrived on the scene. That being said, I did genuinely enjoy how Dintersmith emphasizes the plurality of what schools can be, especially when he highlights progressive education in a detention center and a homeless shelter.
Unfortunately, the potential for What Schools Could Be to challenge the dominant narrative about education is quickly lost because of what Dintersmith describes as his ‘frame’:  his “innovation career”, “having lived through waves of disruption”. Dintersmith’s sense of urgency for a transformation of schools is filtered through the late capitalist economics popular in Silicon Valley that, along with the financialization of the economy, has been responsible for the destruction of whatever security some people had gained in the 20th Century. Contrary to the venture capital mythology, it was massive investment by the U.S. government with taxpayer money that fueled innovations and helped to bring them to market.

Dintersmith’s disruption frame comes through most clearly when he describes a fictional abstraction of a ‘good’ suburban school that does well on test scores. Dintersmith says that the school and its students “are museum artifacts in an innovation era”:
“Regarding their studies, I asked which topics they found exciting. Blank stares, as though I was speaking a foreign language… When I inquired about interests pursued in their free time, silence punctuated by a few nervous giggles. No signs of absorbing hobbies, internships, projects, or jobs.”
Rather than rely on what sounds like an implausible caricature of students in a ‘good’ suburban school, you’d be better to read the in-depth Inequality in the Promised Land by R. L’Hereux Lewis McCoy.
In contrast to what Dintersmith describes as dull individuals turned out by ‘good’ suburban schools, he claims that the workforce requires smart creatives: “If adults are competing with smart machines for jobs, they need distinctive and creative competencies – their own special something.” In the first few sentences of the book, Dintersmith warns that: “Machine intelligence is racing ahead, wiping out millions of routine jobs as it reshapes the competencies needed to thrive. Our education system is stuck in time, training students for a world that no longer exists.” Dintersmith writes as if people and corporations have exerted no agency in the destruction of work.
The sections where Dintersmith writes about economic realities are especially dangerous because we might assume that as a venture capitalist, he’s an expert in this area. However, Dintersmith backs up his disruption frame with a sparse fifteen endnotes and no other sources. More importantly, he fails to offer even a basic critical analysis of the ‘new economy’. In contrast, Tressie McMillan Cottom does superb work in Lower Ed dissecting the ways that the new economy “shift(s) new risks to workers.” Dintersmith simply tells us “Everyone needs to be entrepreneurial” when we really need an analysis of precarity and of the fact that many people are over-qualified for the work they do. When Dintersmith Continue reading: Reclaiming Educational Reform - Long View on Education

Diane Ravitch's blog | A site to discuss better education for all - via @dianeravitch

2nd BANANA: Top Posts This Week 9/1/18

Top Posts This Week 9/1/18

Top Posts This Month
Big Education Ape: California Legislature Approves McCarty Measure to Ban For-Profit Charter Schools | East County Today -
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Big Education Ape: Betsy DeVos Orders Flat Earth Disks In Every Classroom | Andrew Hall -

Big Education Ape: Wendy Lecker: As public education stumbles, democracy falls - StamfordAdvocate -
This artwork by Kevin Kreneck refers to Betsy DeVos and how she might change and influence the Department of Education. Photo: Kevin Kreneck

Big Education Ape: New direction for Gates Foundation aims to build on progress in L.A. schools -

Big Education Ape: It's time to address the hidden agenda of school dress codes -

Big Education Ape: LeBron James Akron school: Why it matters that I Promise is public. -
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Big Education Ape: Nearly 750 charter schools are whiter than nearby district schools -

Big Education Ape: 'Radical Cram School' is Sesame Street for the Resistance -

Big Education Ape: Healthy Kids Survey Results - Year 2018 (CA Dept of Education) -

Big Education Ape: OMG: Arizona school districts and charters that pay teachers the most, least -

The NYT Editorial Board | Schools Can Keep Kids Safe Without Giving Their Teachers Guns - The New York Times

Opinion | Schools Can Keep Kids Safe Without Giving Their Teachers Guns - The New York Times
Schools Can Keep Kids Safe Without Giving Their Teachers Guns
Betsy DeVos’s latest scheme flies in the face of expert advice.

Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, floated a plan last week that stood out in its absurdity even among her many other foolish proposals: She is considering using an obscure federal grant program to let schools buy guns and pay for firearms training for faculty and staff members.
That news stoked the ire of educators and gun-control advocates. They argue that guns will contribute to a climate of fear in schools and note that study after study equates more guns with more injuries and deaths.
Still, Ms. DeVos is not alone in her thinking. Since the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., this past February, lawmakers in at least 14 states have proposed laws that would use taxpayers’ dollars to arm educators.
Only one of those state laws has passed. And Congress, for its part, has barred new school safety funds from being used to buy firearms. (Ms. DeVos’s plans would circumvent this restriction by drawing from a different fund.) But it’s clear that plenty of policymakers still see this as an option worth pursuing.

That’s too bad. In their rush to arm up, they are overlooking solutions that are both more promising and less contentious, and that violence prevention experts have spent years clamoring for.

Prioritize “school climate.” That term refers to the general level of well-being and comfort students and teachers experience on campus. Is bullying pervasive? Do students feel comfortable confiding in the adults around them? The concept might sound fuzzy and foreign — it rarely comes up in the national conversation about violence prevention — but experts say that a healthy school climate is crucial to reducing the threat of violence.
The Department of Education has developed at least some protocols for doing this: frameworks for how to respond to outbursts, guidelines for how to penalize students without alienating them. But there is no national requirement that schools implement such protocols, nor any dedicated funding for doing so.
Provide more mental health services. If you put an armed guard into a school, there’s at best a possibility of preventing a shooting there, says Dewey Cornell, a professor of education and a clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia. But, he says, “put a counselor or psychologist in a school, and you have the potential to prevent shootings in any building anywhere in the community.”

The average student-to-counselor ratio in the United States is nearly 500 to one. According to the American School Counselor Association, it should be closer to 250 to one. Mr. Cornell and his colleagues say that schools also need far more psychologists and social workers than they currently have. Hiring more of these professionals is the key to helping students who are on a path to violence before they bring a gun to school.
Implement proven threat-assessment programs. Law enforcement has long used threat assessment to protect public figures, but after the Columbine massacre in 1999, psychologists began adapting the protocol for schools. In such programs, teams of educators, mental health professionals and law-enforcement officials work together to assess threats within a school and decide how to respond them on a case-by-case basis.

Since 2013, Virginia has required all of its K-12 public schools to employ threat-assessment teams. The results so far have been encouraging. Fewer than 1 percent of students seen for a threat assessment have carried out their threats; none of the threats to kill, shoot or seriously injure someone were carried out; and, in most cases, students deemed a threat were able to get help without having to leave school. This past July, the Secret Service endorsed this approach to school safety.
These three ideas for improving school safety, along with several others — including the obvious need to strengthen federal gun control laws — were included in a call for action published earlier this year. So far, it has been endorsed by some 4,000 experts in the field.
Similar reforms were called for in 2013, after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people, 20 of them small children. But those calls were never heeded, and in the years since, more than 100 students, teachers and school staff members have been killed in American schools. That should infuriate everyone, regardless of their personal feelings about guns.

The price of punishment — new report shows students nationwide lost 11 million school days due to suspensions | EdSource

The price of punishment — new report shows students nationwide lost 11 million school days due to suspensions | EdSource

The price of punishment — new report shows students nationwide lost 11 million school days due to suspensions

The data, from the 2015-16 school year, also show California students losing nearly 750,000 days

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Children in America’s public schools lost more than 11 million instructional days due to suspensions during the 2015-16 school year, with California students losing nearly 750,000 days, according to a report released this week by the ACLU and the UCLA Civil Rights Project.
The report, based on federal government data, also found that racial disparities in suspensions remain an acute problem. Nationwide, African-American students lost 66 days of instruction per 100 students enrolled in 2015-16, which is five times as many days as white students lost.
In California, meanwhile, there are four times as many white students enrolled in public schools as African-American students, yet the total number of instructional days lost by African-American students due to suspension was nearly the same as the number of days lost by whites — 141,000 for African Americans compared with 151,000 for whites, the report said.
“There are too many evidence-based alternatives to suspensions for there to be this level of educational deprivation,” said Amir Whitaker, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California who co-authored the report with Daniel Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.
The disparities were also wide for California’s Native American students and students with disabilities. Native Americans lost 2.5 times as many days to suspensions as white students, and disabled students lost 2.6 times as many.
The gap between whites and Latinos was much smaller, with Latinos statewide losing 12 days of instruction per 100 students enrolled due to compared to 10 days for whites, the report said. Asian students were the least affected group — losing only three days of instruction per 100 students enrolled in California.
The report is based on data kept by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which collects suspension data from nearly every public school in the United States. The 2015-16 school year was the first time every school was required to collect and report data on the days of lost instruction due to out-of-school Continue reading: The price of punishment — new report shows students nationwide lost 11 million school days due to suspensions | EdSource
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