January 6, 2015

Common Core is just another public ed money machine

A recent article highlighted how many people are making money off of the Common Core reforms:
Millions of dollars and an exciting career are huge attractions for people to do well by themselves. But we yet have no proof that any of this has been doing well by the kids. In fact, the evidence suggests Common Core will spectacularly fail children and society. Shouldn’t people earn money only for demonstrated success, instead of promised success? In a free market, they would. But we all have to buy Common Core, whether we like it or not, and we have no ability to demand proof that it works before the sale. These sweetheart deals are only going one way, and it’s not ours.
Making money off of public education is nothing new. The public service to private business model is a time-honored tradition. There's the military-industrial complex and then there's the public ed-complex. To some, though, making money this way is considered more legitimate pre-Bill Gates than post-Gates. Take Gates out of the equation and you have very similar money-making involved in the No Child Left Behind reforms. Even when big time reforms aren't in the making, there have always been textbook publishers touting a new book to sell or private education companies telling school administrators what new bells and whistles teachers need to improve student learning. There have always been former government officials who peddle their own public education "reforms." There have always been tutoring companies, teacher training companies, and curriculum writers. Somehow, pre-Gates, it was legitimate. Now (for some reason) it isn't any longer.

Let's look at the list of the top ten money-makers. Of the ten, six had in their past some sort of government position. The remaining four had connections through universities (historically, a fairly typical and consistent way to make money off public education). Just look to University of Chicago for this country's favorite math fad--Everyday Math. Untold sums of money have been made through the development, sale, training, manipulatives, and remediation (don't forget the Sylvan, Kumon, and Mathnasium tutoring required to fix the kids messed up by it) involved with Everyday Math.

The realization people fail to make is that public education is, and always will be, a money-making proposition for some people--the agitators, the fixers, the wonks, etc. Because public education is supposed to be the one-size-fits-all answer for the masses, any and every member of the masses will always be unsatisfied with it....which leads to all the reforms and fixes that will continue to leave everyone unsatisfied. So, we should all either be okay with people profiting, or we shouldn't and end it.

December 3, 2014

Parents as School Consumers

Parents are used to the no-brainer of sending their children to the school in their attendance zones. Of course, your child will go to the school down the street where all the kids in the neighborhood go. The most comparison shopping parents will do is to look into the teacher choices for their children's grade. Maybe they'll listen to word of mouth about the pros and cons of each teacher. Minus that, there will be no thinking of what type of school their children go to or how it compares to other options around (if there are even options around).
Look into Rick Hess' review of new book exploring the consumerism of the parents of DC's Opportunity Scholarship program in Edweek. There is very little research being done into what parents care about when they do have educational options for their children since choices are so hard to come by within public education. Here's a bit from the article:
Fortunately, this slender book uses an array of surveys, focus groups, and interviews to dig into the key questions. Stewart and Wolf offer a terrific framework for thinking about the nature of choice. When it comes to the different relationships that public agencies can have with program participants, the authors distinguish between clientism, consumerism, and active citizenship. Clientism treats individuals as simple recipients, placing little emphasis on soliciting feedback from participants. They argue that this is the typical relationship of low-income parents to schools.
Stewart and Wolf find that the process of participating in the DC scholarship program led many parents into a new trajectory, one in which they started to approach schools as consumers. Before the program, most participating families had never ventured outside their neighborhood schools to explore other educational opportunities. They'd never had the chance or the need to evaluate schools, ask questions, or take actions (like filling out applications or visiting schools) that involved them in the process. Few had ever even bought houses or cars, and had little experience with comparing services or providers. In the course of the program, parents developed more awareness of the need to compare schools, interest in the data that allows them to, and self-confidence in their ability to do so.

September 24, 2014

The failings of AP

The controversy over the new AP American-history framework has been hard to cut through. Who do you believe, how much is hype, and how much is real bias that we need to expose? Finally, we've got two good sources: Rich Hess and Chester Finn in Getting Our History Right out at National Review.

Here's a brief paragraph as to why AP the framework will always be a powder keg:
The idea of Advanced Placement, after all, is to provide high-school students with college-level coursework that, if successfully mastered, will be accepted by colleges and yield credits to students upon entry. But securing post-secondary credit for work done in high school means that the College Board’s AP courses need to resemble those that the students would take in college — which means their content will be driven primarily by what college professors teach in their own lecture halls. Which, in turn, means that every pedagogical and political fad to be found on today’s postmodern campuses will creep into courses taught to high schoolers.
 This little part explains a lot more:
Moreover, the College Board defends its AP course content by saying that such courses are supposed to be taken on top of previous instruction in the subject. In other words, they expect school kids to have studied U.S. history before they get to the AP course. Swell if true. But how many high-school students take U.S. history twice? And how satisfactory is the grounding they get from whatever history they studied during K–8 “social studies”?
AP anything should be a deeper investigation in addition to the foundational knowledge that our kids are supposed to be getting through our public education system. This is just not happening on either count. Instead, we're getting students graduating who know nothing, but think they know everything. It explains a lot.

August 7, 2014

Rehashing the Math Wars in an Understandable Way, Again

The Math Wars never seem to go away. Those who created the idea that children learn better by not being taught recycle and repackage it, year after year.

The latest incarnation is Common Core math. True, CC are just standards...but, they really aren't. Nothing is ever free of interpretation, especially standards. This is especially true when purveyors of fuzzy math are in charge of teacher education, curricula, tests, and everything else imaginable in public education.

Read this article by Elizabeth Green that started the latest dust-up. In a nutshell, she asserts what fuzzy math supporters have always asserted: fuzzy math is good and will raise our test scores if only teachers were trained properly in how to teach it. She and others believe that Common Core math will succeed if only there were better teacher preparation schools out there. Again, the most wonderful teacher prep paired with the best teachers the world (paired with extra bright, with-it parents who can teach this "new" math to their children) could provide will not make something that could just be ill-informed and unworkable.

It doesn't make sense to start 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 year old children thinking about and having to explain math when they don't know math. Of course, children mature at different rates. Children also grasp different things at different times, as well. However, by signing up for Common Core standards, there is NO deviation from the Common Core timetable of what is taught and when it is taught. The timetable will be rigid because of the testing component.

Then read the Tom Loveless article, "Six Myths in the New York Times Math Article By Elizabeth Green." His article hits on many of her myths (or points).

Lastly, read this article by Barry Garelick entitled "A common-sense approach to Common Core math standards." It is long, but it spells out what you need to understand about what math does and does not do right now. Also, the author gives an easy example with 1st grade math standards. 

After reading everything I've suggested, you'll have a better idea about the main math issues that have bled into Common Core. 

July 4, 2014

Public Ed Dread is Homeschooling!

I started homeschooling in October of 2013. I had always resisted homeschooling. Instead, I opted to go the private school route because we could afford it, and because I had always thought Montessori was great. My husband and I had already decided that our son wouldn’t go to public school. I taught public school; I have VERY strong opinions about government school (just read my blog a bit). My first to last choices were as follows: private school, homeschool, and public school as the last resort.

Public schools can only do one-size-fits-all because they are (or should be) trying to educate the masses on a budget. Public schools only seem to be able to handle a few kinds of kids well, like the ones hanging around average intelligence and who have more manageable temperaments. In general, public schools favor girls because they like to sit quietly, color, and they like to work in groups. Boys don’t do as well unless they are mostly calm (or they can daydream through the coloring and group work). I have a boy.

Anyway, my son was in Montessori school, but I always seemed to have to teach him things at home because he demanded it. We did the afterschooling, unschooling type of thing. He’d get interested in something, and I’d get it for him or teach it to him. This started when he was 4. So, he was slowly advancing beyond what was going on at school. He didn’t seem very patient there either; he was often in trouble. I decided I may as well go in all the way with him. He’s a tough one to homeschool. He’s a 7 ½ year old boy who needs constant challenge and learning. He doesn’t deal well with frustration yet either; he’s a perfectionist. I don’t know where he’d fit in but in a homeschool situation.

Our first year of homeschooling went surprisingly well. It turns out he isn’t the Montessori type at all (he got such a wonderful foundation at the classical Montessori school he was at). He loves quiet, few distractions, and workbooks! He’s very self-directed. I find materials that he can do on his own while learning on his own. He’s also very okay not being around a lot of kids all the time. His social and emotional development is not anywhere as advanced as his academics. But, being around a lot of kids didn't seem to help that either. There is always time for everything. Homeschooling makes nearly everything possible.

When I tell people that I am homeschooling, they show their approval of MY homeschooling only because they consider me "qualified" to do it. After all, I have a Master's in educational psychology and current teaching credentials in my state. I always tell them that a degree or a credential isn't necessary. I learned things and learning things is always good, I guess. However, did any of that help me to be a good teacher? No. What is learned from colleges is what the colleges want you to know. Often, what is learned in those places is the wrong thing.

There are so many wonderful online resources. If you're interested, start with what you don't like. Once you know what sort of education you don't want for your child, you can begin to explore what you want. For example, if you don't want anything Common Core (and who would?), you can start finding resources that are not in any way aligned with it. Start here at The Homeschool Resource Roadmap.

Search Public Ed Dread