Want to know how to wage war against public schools? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s ongoing campaign provides us some pointers…
1. Decide on a catchy title for your campaign. How about Breaking the Monopoly of Mediocrity?
Nice title! Pat yourself on the back!
Wait a minute… Does this mean that the U.S. Chamber wants to be mediocre but someone else holds the monopoly on that and thus is preventing the Chamber from also being so? No, silly goose. It means that public schools are both a monopoly AND mediocre and thus need to be broken up!
2. Create made-up statistics to prove your point. How about Approximately 70% of middle school students score below grade level in reading and math?
Perfect. This statistical sound bite sounds terrifyingly awful. Of course we must do something about this immediately!
BUT… this statistic is based on NAEP data and refers to the percentage of students who score at the ‘proficient’ level. Never mind that the consensus of the scientific and research communities is that the NAEP levels are arbitrary, lack any kind of statistical validity, and don’t make sense. Never mind that the National Academy of Science concluded that “the results [on NAEP] are not believable.” Never mind that the National Academy of Education concluded that NAEP’s achievement-setting processes were “fundamentally flawed” and “indefensible.” Never mind that experts affiliated with NAEP’s Governing Board have explicitly stated that “the proficient achievement level does not refer to ‘at grade’ performance” (and that instead NAEP’s basic level is more akin to ‘at grade level’). Never mind that Congress insists that all NAEP reports be accompanied with the disclaimer that achievement levels “should be interpreted with caution.”
Because, hey, we’ve got a campaign to run and people to scare and other groups that also will spread the same inaccurate data (thank you, StudentsFirst!). What does it matter if our essential premise is untrue?
3. Come up with splashy, eye-catching graphics to reinforce your misleading and untruthful message.
4. Make color-coded maps.
You gotta have color-coded maps. Lots of ‘em. And make sure you use selection criteria that are guaranteed to reinforce your message. For example, how about this map, which shows that achievement gaps in EVERY state are not just bad but downright UGLY?
Or, even better, this map that shows that overall achievement is horrendously UGLY in… wait for it… EVERY SINGLE STATE?!
Sorry, Massachusetts, we know that you beat Finland handily on the TIMSS math test, but we set the criteria so that your student achievement is UGLY. Sorry, Vermont, despite your reading levels being on par with Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, and Canada, your student achievement is UGLY too. Sorry, North Carolina, even though if you were a country you’d be in the top 10 worldwide in math, your student achievement is UGLY, UGLY, UGLY. Sorry, America, it doesn’t matter that your students’ achievement on international tests is closely tied to your high levels of poverty. You don’t have a single state – not even one! – that falls into the BAD or GOOD categories. Every state is UGLY with a capital ugh.
[Handy Tip 1: Never, ever use neutral or pro-school data (e.g., actual peer-reviewed research). Instead, use ideological, made-up data provided by other anti-school organizations to create your maps!]
5. Make report cards.
Just like maps, you gotta have report cards. And fact sheets. And playbooks. And movies. And whatever else you can think of to reinforce and spread your scary but untruthful message. Also see Handy Tip 1 above.
6. Use social media.
Create example messages and tweets for others to use. Set up a Facebook page. Make hashtags like #breakthemonopoly and #jobs13. Pay for sponsored tweets on Twitter. Again, remember, it’s not about the truth. It’s about spreading your message to the public and to policymakers.
7. Spend a boatload of money.
And finally, of course, spend tons of money on all of this and more. How about a nationwide tour where you spread your message to anyone who will listen (complete with media coverage at every location)? How about an email newsletter that you can use to pepper folks’ inboxes with even more inaccurate data? How about conferences and webinars and summits and forums and workshops and conference calls? Sure, why not? After all, you’ve got to outspend those evil teachers’ unions!
[Handy Tip 2: Don't forget to use a lot of your money for political campaign contributions!]
And, that, dear readers, is how you wage war on public schools. What, you say you want to defend public schools? Hahahahahaha! Oh, you’re serious. Okay, then. Better do all of this and more… Good luck!
Image credit: yoda
Sue Altman says:
old-fashioned Fordism isn’t even how good business operations are done anymore. That ugly, dehumanizing, and elitist way of thinking about factory work went out of fashion with the poodle skirt. In contrast, the Toyota Production System, which business school students are taught is the best in the world, relies on a philosophy rooted in respect for people, teamwork and employee empowerment. The Toyota approach replaced Fordism as the gold standard for product manufacturing decades ago. Further, mainstream operations managers employ a method known as statistical process control or SPC to measure effectiveness without assigning blame. If a part of the production process is found to be lagging, it is given additional resources, not punished needlessly.
[If] education reformers are going to use the language of business to justify their policies, how about they at least use business ideas from this century?
Ben Reynolds and Zack Quaratella say:
the purpose of the industrial classroom is not to “repress and alienate” workers and teachers, its purpose is to produce them in a particular way. We have serious qualms with a system of education designed, in effect, to produce docile bodies for consumption in the production line. . . . The ‘Taylorist’ classroom is rather the intensification of certain techniques of measurement and discipline in a classroom that has, since its inception, always been a mirror of industrialized society.
Are we to be content with producing students who simply regurgitate information on command? Or are we better served envisioning a student who cannot be standardized, a student who looks and behaves more and more like a complete individual? Such a student would defy the very logic under which the industrial classroom operates.
We cannot be satisfied with half-solutions and a backwards gaze. Education demands a conceptual revolution. At the very least, we must abandon the disciplinary impulses and intellectual stagnation of a classroom that is becoming increasingly destructive and has now become totally obsolete.
Over at the PsyBlog, they note that there are only two reasons why we do anything:
- Because we want to
- Because someone else wants us to
The former is what we term intrinsic motivation. The latter is what we call extrinsic motivation.
- Competence. We want to be good at something. Things that are too easy, though, don’t give us a sense of competence; it has to be just hard enough.
- Autonomy. We want to be free and dislike being controlled. When people have some freedom – even within certain non-negotiable boundaries – they are more likely to thrive.
- Relatedness. As social animals we want to feel connected to other people.
Autonomy. Mastery/competence. Purpose. Relatedness. These are four principles around which we can build powerful learning environments for students. They also are four principles which are violated nearly every single day in most classrooms in America. Ask yourself these questions about your own classrooms:
- Autonomy: Do students have freedom to make meaningful choices in school, and does that freedom increase as they get older? Or are they told what to do almost every minute of every day?
- Mastery/competence: Do students want to be good at the things that we ask them to do in school? Or do they just do those things because we ask or force them? Do students get to work at their optimal level of challenge? Or do they have to do the same things as everyone else, regardless of their own learning needs and readiness?
- Purpose: Do students see the meaning and relevance of what we ask them to do in school? Or do they struggle to see the authenticity and purpose of the things that we have them do?
- Relatedness: Do students get to connect and collaborate with others in meaningful ways in school? Or do they primarily do their own work in isolation from others?
Reading over these questions, it’s easy to see why students are disengaged from the learning tasks that we give them. The big question is whether we care. So far, most of our school systems don’t seem too bothered by their environmental deficiencies when it comes to fostering internal motivation.
Our actions put the lie to our school mission statements that state that we’re about creating “self-motivated, life-long learners.” The result is that
most of what [our students] experience during school hours passes over them like the shadow of a cloud, or through them like an undigested seed. They may be present in the classroom, but they are not really there. Their pencils may be chugging away on the worksheets or the writing prompts or math problems laid out for them, but their intelligence is running on two cylinders at best. They pay some attention to what their teacher happens to be telling them, but their imagination has moved elsewhere. . . .
And, worst of all, by the time our kids have reached fourth or fifth grade, they think what they are experiencing in school is normal. [Robert Fried, The Game of School, p. 1]
As school leaders and classroom teachers, how long can we continue to ignore core principles of intrinsic motivation?
I enjoyed watching this video from Apple about Burlington (MA) High School’s 1:1 initiative. It’s very well done. If I remember correctly, Patrick Larkin, then principal of BHS, came to one of our first Iowa 1:1 Institutes before he and his colleagues launched their program. Now they’re rockin’ out!
I especially loved all the shots of the students (and Patrick’s desk!) in the hallways. Hey, wherever they can find a place to stretch out, intermix, and work together!
Although my Twitter birthday is April 11, 2007, it took me four tries over at least a year’s worth of time before I really understood how to make it work for me. Since then it’s been an invaluable resource for my professional and personal growth, both as a learning channel and as a resource dissemination vehicle.
Three days ago I hit the milestone of 25,000 subscribers. I realize that following someone on Twitter doesn’t require an enormous effort, but nonetheless that’s a big number. The numbers of people who follow me on Twitter and read my blog are roughly equal now. Thank you, each and every one of you, for including me in your learning networks. I’m humbled every day by your willingness to connect with my ideas and resources and am grateful that we live in a time when we have so many different options for global communication, connection, and learning.
Just 40,151,317 more to catch Justin Bieber!
[Scott: Chris Crouch, Kelly Stidham, and their blog, Working on the Work, are new discoveries for me. Chris was kind enough to offer this vulnerable reflection of 1:1 teaching with us. Happy reading!]
“Our students deserve a 21st century education.” I’ve heard this often during my career, and while I can sometimes name the 4 Cs, I’m concerned that educators are trying to adapt 20th century practices and experiences to the future we can’t even define yet. This phenomenon manifests itself typically by the rapid and ill-advised adoption of any and all technological products, i.e. hardware, software, personal devices, portable devices, and on and on and on. While it is true the technology and expertise necessary to manipulate this technology are important to 21st century skills, we, as educators, must not fall into the trap of imposing our cemented perspectives cured from our fleeting experiences of the past upon the students of the future. In this wave of Bring Your Own Device or Technology, depending on which variant you prefer, (BYOD), the instructional shift that must happen to fully capture the power of this movement is grossly behind the crest.
I’ve personally experienced the feeling of ineptness meeting the needs of my students when my school asked me to pilot a 1 to 1 laptop program. The idea seemed amazing. A small group of my students, one entire class, would be given a laptop, access to the school’s Wi-Fi, and the computer would be in their hands every day, all day. The students were excited. I was excited. We were imagining the possibilities. Paperless classrooms. Interactive blogs. Interactive discussions. Amazing Projects. Digital textbooks. Then, something happened that I had not anticipated. The laptops became a barrier. Not because laptops are bad, or were misused by the students, but because I wasn’t ready for them. I didn’t know how to use all the resources that each student now had at their fingertips to improve their learning outcomes. I tried to make my paper instruction fit into this digital world. I didn’t know how to reshape my experiences, my past, so that I could create opportunities for the students to have new and better experiences. Of course, the students and I made the best of it. We all survived and overall it was probably a good experience for the students. The unsettling part occurred at the end of the school year, when a group of teachers that had the students in the 1 to 1 pilot decided that the technology was not needed. The pilot had crashed and burned.
Fast forward to today, and schools and districts are quickly implementing BYOD to take advantage of these technologies that our students already possess. These policies are essential in transitioning our brick and mortar schools to the digital world and the field of education cannot continue to ignore the fact that most students are already bringing these devices to school with them. What I see lacking is the instructional support that teachers will need to make these types of policies successful. I’m concerned that BYOD will go by the wayside much like my experience in the 1 to 1 pilot. We cannot let that happen. We cannot doom another generation of students to instruction that will not prepare them for their future.
Add the adoption of new content standards, evaluation instruments, and all of sudden, the significance of instruction through technology slips down the list of priorities. What’s even more frustrating is that there are success stories all over the country and we need to focus on these as models for schools and districts everywhere. So, I’m coming to you, the experts. Help me understand what must happen in the classroom in order to help our teachers help students.
Chris Crouch is an aspiring “teacherpreneur” and a literacy specialist in Kentucky. He has been an educator for 13 years and is just now starting to figure out what it really means to be a teacher. Hear more of Chris’ ideas on education at his blog, Working on the Work, and on Twitter at @the_explicator.
Remember last September when I made available for free my most recent book chapter, Supporting Effective Technology Integration and Implementation?
Well, that chapter’s still available to you for free, but I’m pleased to announce that the rest of the book is now available as well. Featuring a diverse set of authors, perspectives, and topics, there’s something for everybody in Principal 2.0: Technology and Educational Leadership.
Here are the chapter titles and authors (including all 4 CASTLE directors!):
- Foreword: Ready Set Go! with Educational Technology, Governor Beverly Perdue.
- Introduction: Making the Case for Principal 2.0, Jennifer Friend and Matthew Militello.
- Augmenting Educational Realities, John Militello.
- The Role of For-Profit Firms in the Educational Ecosystem, Michael J. Schmedlen.
- Generation X Meets Generation Y: Reflections on Technology and Schooling, Jennifer Friend and Alexander David Friend.
- Zen and the Art of Technology in Schools: Multigenerational Perspectives, Matthew Militello, Ronald Militello, Dominic Militello, Luke Militello, and Gabriel Militello.
- Digital Storytelling for Critical Reflection: An Educational Leadership Story, Francisco Guajardo, Miguel A. Guajardo, John A. Oliver, Mónica M. Valadez, and Mark Cantu.
- Engaging Youth Voice: Collaborative Reflection to Inform School Relationships, Processes, and Practices, Christopher Janson, Sejal Parikh, Jacqueline Jones, Terrinikka Ransome, and Levertice Moses.
- There’s an App for That: 50 Ways To Use Your iPad, April Adams and Jennifer Friend.
- Student-Owned Mobile Technology Use in the Classroom: An Innovation Whose Time Has Come, Tricia J. Stewart and Shawndra T. Johnson.
- Affective Learning Through Social Media Engagement, David Ta-Pryor and Jonathan T. Ta-Pryor.
- The Central Texas Community Learning Exchange Digi-Book: Fostering School and Community Engagement Through the Creation of a Digital Book, Lee Francis, IV, Mónica M. Valadez, John A. Oliver, and Miguel A. Guajardo.
- Leaders Online: Enhancing Communication with Facebook and Twitter, John B. Nash and Dan Cox.
- Balancing Effective Technology Leadership with Legal Compliance: Legal Considerations for Principal 2.0, Justin Bathon and Kevin P. Brady.
- Connected Principals: In Pursuit of Social Capital via Social Media, Candice Barkley and Jonathan D. Becker.
- School Leaders’ Perceptions of the Technology Standards, Matthew Militello and Alpay Ersozlu.
- Supporting Effective Technology Integration and Implementation, Scott McLeod and Jayson W. Richardson.
- Taking notes / word processing (look, we’re using computers!)
- Looking up stuff (Google and Wikipedia reign supreme)
- Making PowerPoints (and they’re not even good ones)
Honorable mention: Completing Google Docs electronic worksheets (just type in the empty spaces…)
The unholy trinity of teacher classroom technology usage
- Interactive whiteboards (can you say ‘really expensive chalkboards?’)
- Clickers (digital multiple choice! woo hoo!)
- Pre-selected YouTube videos for students (passive viewing of filmstrips, VHS tapes, laserdiscs, or DVDs is s-o-o-o yesteryear)
Honorable mention: Blackboard or Moodle (let’s devise really complex systems for transmitting really basic information!)
Is this the vast majority of what we see in P-12 and postsecondary classrooms? Yep. Can we do better (a lot better) than just this? Yep.