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November, 2014

  1. Education system neuters reforms

    November 16, 2014 by Tunya

    [ Yet another effort is made to teach READING to students for success in school.  The saying goes:  Learn to Read by end of Grade Three — then Read to Learn from Grade Four onward. It is a lamentable frustration to parents that this is not a priority for schools in general.,  This post to Society for Quality Education describes the effort and below is my comment. ]

    BEWARE:  Education System Swallows Reforms

    This essay is NOT to diminish or dampen enthusiasm for this Reading Intervention initiative in Wisconsin.  Good intentions, good people, good funding, however, do not necessarily result in enduring results over the long haul. 

    The Reading Wars have been around a long time.  So has the mortifying knowledge about the Matthew Effect — illiteracy at an early age has a downward spiraling effect on students whose failures compound toward unfulfilled lives and even criminal records. 

    The Reading Wars are political, not pedagogic, and some time in the future — despite tons of books and articles on the topic — the agenda issues will be revealed.  So far there is no definitive answer as to why this feud continues to spoil good education practice.  This RTI (Response to intervention) research project is favoring phonics as the preferred approach.

    As far as the school to prison pipeline this is also addressed by this project whose funding agency stresses the loss to productivity of illiterate citizens.

    Why do I show concern for this project?  Mainly because it is yet another research project — added to the tons of other previous research efforts — that stands to be neutered or absorbed by a performance-averse education system — a system which cares more for its own survival than what’s good for the children.

    I am hoping that written into the plan— in black and white in a prominent place — are the expectations for this program’s survival and succession once the professional consultants leave.  Thanks for the link but I see no prospects for long-term commitment.

    By way of cautionary tale, I add this story from the book, “Getting Schooled” by Garret Keizer — {quotes and paraphrasing]  *** The author’s wife, a highly trained special needs teacher, was involved in an enthusiastically supported, well-funded, project to build special facilities for treatment, classes, parent programs, service agencies, and offices for specialized personnel. . . . a ‘one-stop shopping for parents in need of broad-spectrum services, a cafeteria, activity rooms, cushioned playground’ . . . volunteers worked around the clock, community involved . . . ‘reporters came to snap the pictures . . . ‘A new day dawned.  It would be a short one.  You can build a school from the ground up, but the directing destiny will always move from the top down.  You can say ‘the kids come first’ till the cows come home, but in practice the kids come fourth behind the administrators, parents and teachers — or fifth, in a dairy economy, behind the cows. Within the space of about three years a new superintendent relocated his office to the building. The social service agencies vanished . . . at least one treatment room was rededicated as a space for obsolete computer equipment . . . ‘the spacious ‘gross motor room’ was commandeered for district-wide principals’ meetings . . . ‘ [few remembered the original project] ***

    Best wishes and Good Luck with your wonderful research study which promises so much good!



  2. Public Education is “performance-averse”

    November 13, 2014 by Tunya

    [To Jay P Green blog Nov 13 on New Yorker article — Better All The Time: how the “performance revolution” came to athletics – and beyond] ]

    Teacher Training Is A Key To Societal Benefits

    It wasn’t the “performance revolution” which produced such enormous benefits for Finland. Nor was it competition from other countries for markets. It was the notorious reputation Finland had for being the suicide capital of the world. The incidence of teen suicides was particularly troubling.

    Deliberate and vastly improved public education was the main approach adopted. Along with augmenting other social services, teacher training became a high priority for longer and more concentrated training. Each graduate was skilled in identifying and addressing special needs. About 25% of students are at one time or other receiving specialized, customized education assistance.

    This New Yorker article — Better All The Time: How “performance revolution” came to athletics – and beyond (Nov 10, 2014) — is really, bottom line, about teacher training. Yes, it’s a long article, with most of the content about athletics, then somewhat about manufacturing, then at the end is the QUESTION. “What are the fields that could have become significantly better over the past forty years and haven’t?”

    The author, James Surowiecki answers: “In one area above all, the failure to improve is especially egregious: education.”

    It’s teacher training where the author would recommend the application of insights gained from the sports and manufacturing fields. The very nature of sports — highly competitive — lends itself to application of skills mastery. Competition, choice and reliability were the leading factors in improvements in consumer goods — cars, TVs, etc. “Lemons, for the most part, have become a thing of the past,” says the author.

    Not mentioned, but certainly known by the readers, is the fact that many legal actions for “wrongful deaths”, for example, were also a stimulus for improvements as well as Nader’s book, “Unsafe at Any Speed.”

    What’s to be done about education? Unfortunately, we have no Nader. The closest we’ve seen was an article by Nat Hentoff, a long-time writer for the Village Voice who wrote: The Greatest Consumer Fraud of All, Social Policy, Nov/Dec 1977. He proposed the usual, obvious, intuitive solution — consumer/client/parent power and suits for damages. Of course, those in the education reform cause know the fierce opposition to that approach. And, we know how the “floodgates” argument has been used to quash malpractice suits.

    Furthermore, the education field has become not just any field of endeavor like sports, manufacturing or medicine but a conduit for political transformation of society. Leaders of this intended transformation in the teacher unions and university teacher training faculties strategically oppose any drift away of their captive consumer audience.

    We are awaiting a Review of Teacher Training in Australia. When a new conservative regime took over from a Labour government two reviews were launched. The one on the Curriculum is now being examined and we’re expecting the second soon.

    Australia is a highly politically polarized nation and feathers are starting to fly. The curriculum review had two controversial commissioners in charge — of course, seen as government messengers. Interesting that Kevin Donnelly, one of the two, had this to say about Australia’s teacher training just two years ago: “Many of the academics involved in teacher training have never been classroom teachers or worked in schools. Many are also committed to a cultural-left, progressive view of education that uncritically celebrates fads like open classrooms, critical literacy and personalized learning . . . students are often indoctrinated with ineffective theories like constructivism . . . much of the theory in teacher education is postmodern, neo-Marxist, politically correct and new-age.”

    In my opinion, North America will find relevance in both reports.


  3. Parents: 3rd Force in Education

    November 8, 2014 by Tunya

    [Society for Quality Education has been posting excerpts from the book, The Teaching Gap, (Stigler, Hiebert) and below is my comment.]

    Parents:  The THIRD FORCE In Education

    Every time some new eye-opener appears that claims some magic bullet to improve teaching, parents will sigh and exclaim:  “Why don’t they just teach?”  They may even say: “ Why, even Johnny asks why he should go to school because the teachers don’t teach!”

    So much is already proven (evidence-based it’s called) about effective learning and teaching it becomes a huge puzzle why there is so much toying in the education industry.  If styles do differ between cultures but the outcome is there — an “educated” student — why does it matter?  The bottom line is that knowledge can be transferred and skills can be developed and positive social behaviors can be acquired — if the expectation is clear and enforced.  By whom?  By the client, the parents who are the primary pivot in this enterprise. 

    For too long, parents have been seen as the “enemy” of the system.  Please, don’t say this is exaggeration! Just Google “parents enemy schools” and you’ll get 1,000s of entries.

    An active third party is actively resisted by the two main forces in education today — the ruling government and the powerful teacher unions.  Even while there may be appearances of disagreement between the two, let’s not for one moment think their behavior is not mutually beneficial.  Each party benefits from labor peace.  It’s the client — the parents and their children — who are left out of meaningful participation.

    The book, Parents and Schools: The 150-Year Struggle for Control in American Education (Cutler) outlines the struggle parents have had, and always ending in their involvement in terms conducive to the system, not the other way around.  Our democratic beliefs say otherwise, but the system contrives to make convenience for itself as the priority. 

    Parents should and must take a stand so that their children benefit from systems paid for by the public purse in the lifetime of their children — not some utopian distant future when all issues tossed at them (poverty, class size, class differences, racism, etc.) are solved.  It’s the here and now that counts for this developing child.  Don’t listen to system proclamations.

    Read:  Liberals, don’t homeschool your kids (wait several generations for the system to get better )

    Some say there are no Parent Rights in Education.  There always have been rights, and we codified them in the 70s — what’s known, what’s good practice.

    Go to my site and Search — parent rights.  Lots of articles.

    Australia has just finished a Review of their education system.  Big priority is improving relations with parents and services for parents.  The suggestion is to provide easy guides to what the curriculum is expected to do at each stage. 

    New Zealand has had 20 years of self-governing schools, with majority of parents on each school board.  This experience in self governance is a transferable skill to the rest of society.  NZ is tops of the chart on the CPI, Corruption Perception Index — that is, LEAST corrupt.

    See the Michigan story I posted in SQE on Ontario small communities.  Here is it that parents, who have homeschooled for 20 years, are now able to have co-operative mutual arrangements with public schools.

    It’s in the air.  Parents want IN in their lifetimes and their children’s lifetimes.