School Transformation Double Talk Threatens Students and Teachers

Reposted with permission from Nancy Bailey’s Education Website.

college ready

Empowered is a popular word. But in North Dakota they are handing schools over to Knowledgeworks, a foundation that will convert schools to technology.  The only way teachers will be empowered is if they sign on to Knowledgeworks!

It’s easy to be confused by what is said about schools today. We are told one thing, when quite the opposite is taking place.

We are told that with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), education will involve local decision making. Simultaneously, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation is giving $44 million to affect state school decisions.

A citizen may have suggestions for their local school board, but who’s going to listen when that school district is taking money and doing what the Gates Foundation wants them to do?

Another example is North Dakota. Superintendent Kirsten Baesler did a podcast six months ago discussing “innovation” and “customization” of learning. She was trying to get teachers and citizens to support ND 2186, a bill that passed there to transform schools to technology.

The discussion involves double talk. These same buzz words and claims can be found in school districts across the country.

Claim: Teachers will be “empowered.”

The Reality:

Empowered is a popular word. But in North Dakota they are handing schools over to Knowledgeworks, a foundation that will convert schools to technology.

The only way teachers will be empowered is if they sign on to Knowledgeworks!

Claim: We are moving away from No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

The Reality:

NCLB was all about destroying public schools with strict accountability.

Total technology without teachers is the NCLB frosting on the cake!

Claim: Teacher creativity is important.

Reality:

The State of North Dakota has partnered with Ted Dintersmith, who wrote a book about what schools should be like. But he is not an educator.

Ted’s professional experience includes two decades in venture capital, including being ranked by Business 2.0 as the top-performing U.S. venture capitalist for 1995-1999. He served on the Board of the National Venture Capital Association, chairing its Public Policy Committee. From 1981 to 1987, he ran a business at Analog Devices that helped enable the digital revolution.

Where’s the teacher creativity in this?

Dintersmith uses the same line as Betsy DeVos and other corporate school reformers. In a Forbes interview he says, Schools still use a 125-year-old model, put in place to train people for industrial jobs, which lives with us to this day. 

He has also worked with Tony Wagner who once worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Claim: Customized learning is innovation.

Reality:

Customized learning is also called personalized, competency-based, proficiency-based, digital, and online learning. It means children will rely on screens for instruction and nonstop testing. Much data will be collected about them.

Teachers will become secondary to the computer as facilitators, or they could be out of a job.

Brick-and-mortar schools are also jeopardized. Students might learn at home or in libraries, museums, or charter schools.

Claim: Teachers will get authority because they are trusted.

Reality:

If this is true, why has North Dakota partnered with Dintersmith, and turned schools over to Knowledgeworks? Are teachers being used to spread the customized learning message? Will their jobs be intact in a few years?

Claim: Loosening regulations and laws will help students.

Reality:

This is dangerous. We hear it echoed by Betsy DeVos. Think about laws that protect students.

For example, if it weren’t for IDEA,  schools would not have to work with students with disabilities.

Other federal laws include Section 504, FERPA, and Protection of Pupil Rights.

North Dakota State laws can be found here. 

ND 2186 permits these changes, found on the Knowledgeworks website.

  • Awarding credit for learning that takes place outside normal school hours
  • Awarding credit for learning that takes place away from school premises
  • Allowing flexibility regarding instructional hours, school days, and school years
  • Allowing any other appropriate flexibility necessary to implement the pilot program effectively

How will we know what students learn? You can see here how brick-and-mortar schools could be on their way out.

Claim: We are doing what’s right for children.

Reality: There is no proof that this is true. An OECD study in 2015 found that students did better with less technology!

______________________________

This is just some of the double talk out there. Check out my list of state superintendents and compare what they say with other state leaders.

Tune in to the language. It isn’t always what it seems.

Note. Knowledgeworks will be working with North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina (and Indiana?). Will they be coming to your state?

All of the changes in North Dakota were across party lines.

______________________________

Here is a well-researched and more detailed explanation of North Dakota’s situation. “They’ve Got Trouble, up there in North Dakota.” Wrench in the Gears.  

-Nancy Bailey

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When Democracy Suffers

Reposted with permission from Teacher Tom.

Statue of Liberty in Disgust

I did not enter the teaching game to prepare young children for their role in the economy and if vocational training is the primary function of schools, then I’d say we ought to just shut them all down and let the corporations train their own damn workers. No, the purpose of education in a democracy ought to be to prepare children for their role as citizens and that means that they learn to think for themselves, that they ask a lot of questions, that they question authority, that they stand up for what they believe in, and that they understand that their contribution to the world cannot be measured in money. The project of self-governance requires educated citizens, people who are self-motivated, who are sociable, and who work well with others. That is why I teach.

I’m weary of hearing about “STEM,” the popular acronym for “science, technology, engineering, and math.” I’d be shocked if anyone reading here isn’t aware of it being tossed around. Indeed, many of us have picked it up and held it high, declaring that play-based education is the perfect preparation for a career in STEM. Some of us have gotten clever and begun talking about STEAM education, tossing in “art” by way of expanding the notion, but it’s a poor fit because “art” is not a career path the way the others are.

We’re right, of course. When children play, they are scientists: exploring, discovering, hypothesizing, experimenting, concluding. When children play they are using the technology at hand, solving engineering problems, and engaging in the sorting, organizing, and categorizing that forms the foundations of mathematics. All of that is true.

My objection is that all this talk about STEM is just the latest way to keep our schools focused exclusively on vocational training, to prepare our children for those mythological “jobs of tomorrow,” jobs that may exist today, but are unlikely to exist two decades from now when our preschoolers are seeking to enter the job market. It’s a scam as old as public education, an idea that emerged from the Industrial Revolution because back then the “jobs of tomorrow” were stations along an assembly-line, where rote and repetition were king, so we made schools to prepare the next generation for that grim life. Today, those “jobs of tomorrow” are in cubicles, pushing buttons on computers, vocations that are equally prone to rote and repetition and equally likely to not exist in the future.

Most of the jobs my daughter will be applying for in the coming years didn’t exist when she was in preschool. If I’d pursued the careers my guidance counselors recommended in high school, I’d be unemployed today. Anyone who claims to know the specific skills required for the jobs of tomorrow is just blowing smoke. They are wrong and they have always been wrong. Those jobs of tomorrow, as is true in every generation, will instead be largely invented by the generation that fills them.

I did not enter the teaching game to prepare young children for their role in the economy and if vocational training is the primary function of schools, then I’d say we ought to just shut them all down and let the corporations train their own damn workers. No, the purpose of education in a democracy ought to be to prepare children for their role as citizens and that means that they learn to think for themselves, that they ask a lot of questions, that they question authority, that they stand up for what they believe in, and that they understand that their contribution to the world cannot be measured in money. The project of self-governance requires educated citizens, people who are self-motivated, who are sociable, and who work well with others. That is why I teach.

I’m married to the CEO of a technology company. She didn’t study STEM in school. In fact, she admits to having stayed steer clear of those classes, opting instead for a broad liberal arts education, one in which she pursued her passion for learning languages. Today, people invite her, as a one of those rare unicorns, “a woman in STEM,” to speak with young people about her career. She is rarely invited back because she doesn’t tell the kids what their teachers want them to hear. Instead, she tells them the truth, which is that her success is based on being self-motivated, being sociable, and working well with others.

Being able to earn a living is important and none of this is to say that children ought not pursue their STEM interests whether they lead to a career or not. But these things cannot stand at the center of education and when they do, democracy suffers.

-Teacher Tom

Editor’s note: Want to read more from Teacher Tom? He just published his first book. If you are interested in ordering Teacher Tom’s First Book, click here