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New resource page: Internet filtering and blocking

I created a new resource page on Internet filtering and blocking. Hope it’s useful to you…

See some of my other resources too!

Personalized learning v. targeted advertising

Arguing that ‘the line between educational and commercial purposes may be somewhat blurry,’ Katherine Varker, Associate General Counsel for McGraw-Hill Education, asks:

Where does targeted advertising end and personalized learning begin?


The fact that you don’t know – or don’t care – means that I don’t want your company anywhere near my kids.

Education reformers want double standards for THEIR schools


In what is likely to be my favorite post of the week (and, yes, it’s Monday!), Shaun Johnson says:

in case you’re confused, let me summarize Jay P. Greene’s innovative arguments: Standardized test results – and consequences driven almost exclusively by them – are wonderful ways to hold public schools accountable, up to and including shutting down public schools, because public schools are funded by taxpayer dollars and the taxpayer has a right to expect accountability for the effective use of his or her taxes. On the other hand, standardized test results – and consequences driven almost exclusively by them – are terrible ways to hold voucher schools and tax-credit scholarship programs accountable, even though voucher schools and tax-credit scholarship programs provide the exact same service and are also funded by taxpayer dollars and the taxpayer would normally be right to expect accountability for the effective use of his or her taxes but is (for some reason) not right in expecting those things of voucher schools and tax-credit scholarship programs.

Look, you can have public funding with public accountability, or you can have an absence of public accountability and an absence of public funding. You can’t have the public funding and sidestep the public accountability. Sorry, that isn’t how it works.

And if choice advocates don’t like the public accountability system as it snarls at their weaker choice schools, someone should remind them that they all cheered as it tore “failing” public schools limb from limb. Oh, and they also insisted for years that choice schools would leave public schools in the dust, performance-wise. That was one of the reasons for promoting a choice system, wasn’t it?

Jay P. Greene can’t have it both ways. Either public funding should come with test-and-punish accountability, or it shouldn’t.

Being adamantly pro-testing while the tests are used to undermine traditional public schools and then flipping a switch and becoming thoughtfully anti-testing when the same tests threaten to gauge the quality (or publicize the lack thereof) of private schools that are funded with public money doesn’t “feel like” a bait-and-switch.

It *is* the height of cynicism.

Let’s not soften what Jay P. Greene has done here. . . . He has switched his opinion to its polar opposite when the same logic he long applied to the schools he wants to kill was applied (entirely fairly) to the schools he wants to save and replicate. Jay P. Greene even tossed out this gem to bolster his point: “score increases may well be just an artifact of … schools deciding to start prepping students for that high-stakes test… Fordham is confusing real learning increases with test manipulation.”

What? Standardized test scores don’t accurately reflect quality of education? Didn’t Jay P. Greene’s blog once call people who think that way about testing “nihilists?”

Where was all this refreshing nuance when Jay P. Greene was pro-standardized test? Oh, I know where it was: Diane Ravitch was using it, and Jay P. Greene was blasting her for it.


As the supposed achievement benefits of many education reformers’ initiatives fail to materialize, we are seeing this about-face more and more. Stay alert for further hypocrisy…

Image credit: Flip-flop in the morning, Melissa Segal

The digital equity concerns of ‘good enough’

Close up

Tim Holt says:

[George] Couros had a really nice statement in his article “… Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil; it shouldn’t be an event. How many pencil labs do you have in your school?”

Great point. Tech should be at the point of instruction. He left off a word however: GREAT.

GREAT Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil…

Not “adequate”, not “ok,” not “mediocre,” not “the cheapest we could buy,” not “good enough,” not “hand me down,” not “hobbled.”

The technology we provide students should be the best we can provide.

Miguel Guhlin uses the “90% of all tasks can be completed” argument here as a way of implying that good enough is good enough. (He cites a study in the article.)

Again, a terrible argument.

This idea of providing something that ALMOST can do the job is laughable. It is like giving a kid a donkey to run the Kentucky Derby. Okay kid, that donkey will actually make it around the track just like the thoroughbreds can. Never you mind that the race will be over for 30 minutes by the time you finish. The donkey is good enough for your needs.

Here kid, we are giving you a 1975 Chevy Vega to run the Daytona 500. Good luck. It is LIKE a Nascar car, heck, it is 90% of everything that a Nascar car is: It has an engine, it has four wheels, it has a seat a speedometer, a stick shift … Heck, it does 90% of what a Nascar car can do. Be happy.

The kids coming from low SES are the farthest behind. To give them something that is already hobbled is insulting. Here kid, you are behind already, here is something that will make you farther behind, But be glad, because you can do 90%!


I greatly appreciate Tim’s digital equity concerns and passion. We should indeed strive to provide the same for our children that we use as adults if we want their technology usage to be as authentic as possible. I’m struck by his observation that adult educators typically aren’t using cheap computers to do their day-to-day work but we seem to think it’s okay for kids:

Here is the deal: If cheap is the way to go and it is preparing kids for college and the workforce, then everybody in a school district that is IN THE WORKFORCE, every administrator, every clerk, every secretary, and every accountant at every campus all the way up to the district superintendent should be willing to use the cheap devices.

Let’s see the district architects use them.
Let’s see researchers use them.
Let’s see the accountants use them.
Let’s see the principals use them.
Let’s see the IT staff use them to run the servers.

If it is good enough for the least among us, then it should be good enough for the most advanced of us. I wonder how many upper administration would move to cheap devices if they had to use them 100% of the time to do 90% of the work?

All that said, I’m having a hard time reconciling digital equity concerns with the realities of funding during this time of mindset and paradigm shifts. I want the best for kids too, but I’d rather have 90% for them than nothing. Tim might agree with me on that point. However, he’s not framing this as a choice between 90% and 0% but rather as a choice between 90% and 100%, with iPads closing the final gap at a price point similar to Chromebooks. I think that both devices have their limitations. If you forced me to choose personally (I have both), I’d rather have an iPad than a Chromebook, primarily because of its apps and ease of taking photos/videos. I’m not sure if I’m ready yet to pillory schools that make the opposite choice as they go for 90% instead of 0%.

Lots of food for thought in Tim’s post

Image credit: Close Up 0410, Mike Liu

Data resisters aren’t Chicken Littles

Chicken in a pot

John Kuhn says:

The vocal opposition we see to data collection efforts like inBloom, to curriculum standards (which define the data to be collected) like the Common Core, and to tests (the data source) like the MAP can all be traced back, largely, to two things: (1) dismay over how much class time is sacrificed for the all-encompassing data hunt, and (2) a foundational mistrust regarding the aims of those who gather and control the data. If your dad brings home a new baseball bat, it’s a pretty happy time in the family – unless your dad has been in the habit of beating the family with blunt objects. Data is that baseball bat. A better analogy might be a doctor who causes his patients pain unnecessarily with his medical equipment. Patients are naturally going to resist going in for procedures that the doctor says are “good for them” if they know it will come with excessive pain. There is a vigorous campaign online and in the papers and political buildings to discredit opponents of school reform as just so many Chicken Littles “defending the status quo” and sticking their heads in the sand. A salient question, though, is this: has the sector-controlling school reform movement, going back to the dawn of No Child Left Behind, wielded data honestly, ethically, and constructively? If not, then yeah, there will be resistance. These people aren’t Chicken Littles. They’re Chickens Who Won’t Get in the Pot.


Educators don’t trust the powers that be, and the powers that be don’t trust educators. And thus our dysfunctional systems and dialogues…

Image credit: 11.20.11 Every Sunday, Peas

Emulating downward: Iowa’s misplaced idolization of Florida’s retention policies

Dunce cap

The Iowa Department of Education (DE) was quoted recently as saying, “We really aren’t looking at [3rd grade retention] as being punitive.” The problem, of course, is that it doesn’t matter how we as adults perceive retention. What matters is how the retained 8-year-olds perceive retention. And four decades of research is very clear that retention is viewed as extremely punitive by those students that are retained. In fact, students rate academic retention as a life stressor on par with losing a parent and going blind.

John Hattie, author of Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, notes that “it would be difficult to find another educational practice on which the evidence is so unequivocally negative” (p. 99) and that “the only question of interest relating to retention is why it persists in the face of this damning evidence” (p. 98). Study after study, researcher after researcher, finds the same few things about retention:

  • No long-term achievement gains. Being retained does not increase academic achievement in the long run. Let’s say that again: being retained does NOT increase academic achievement in the long run. Sometimes we see short-term score bumps but they always wash out by the upper grades. This is true even in Florida, whose educational ‘miracle’ Iowa is apparently desperate to emulate despite having better overall academic achievement, high school graduation rates, etc. A quick comparison of NAEP proficiency rates shows that Florida may have found ways to artificially inflate its 4th grade reading scores – results always look better when low-achievers have been removed from the grade cohort and/or students have had an extra year of schooling – but by 8th grade its students revert back to the lower half of the national rankings. [Quick aside: if Iowans want to reclaim our place at the top of the state education rankings, shouldn’t we be adopting practices of the states that do better, not worse, than us?] This means that – despite intuition and anecdotes to the contrary – there are no long-term achievement differences between students who are retained and those who are ‘socially promoted.’ One more time in case it’s not clear: “there are more positive effects in the long term for promoted students than for retained students – even when matched for achievement at the time of decision to retain or promote” (Hattie, p. 97).
  • Significantly higher dropout rates. Students who are retained don’t do any better academically in the long run but they do have a significantly higher risk of dropping out. For example, one study showed that 65% to 90% of overage children in grade 9 do not persist to graduation. Retention has found to be a stronger predictor of student dropout than socioeconomic status or parental education. That extra year is a killer – literally – when it comes to retained students’ secondary school completion rates. Florida’s graduation rate is 43rd in the country, while Iowa’s is 5th. Again, why are we emulating downward?
  • Lower life success. Retention has been shown to negatively impact long-term life success factors such as postsecondary education attendance, pay per hour, and employment competence ratings. Retained students also are more likely to display aggression during adolescence.
  • No increase in motivation. Retention – or the threat of retention – is not a motivating force for students. Students don’t try harder and aren’t motivated to do better after they’re retained. Instead, retention greatly diminishes student self-concept and impairs self-efficacy. Just to make clear how wrong DE’s statement is, research shows that students would rather wet themselves in class in front of their peers than be retained.
  • Discriminatory impacts. Students of color are four times as likely to be retained as their White counterparts, even when they exhibit the same academic achievement. Students in poverty also are more likely to be retained than their more affluent peers. The burdens that come with being retained are borne primarily by those students whom already are traditionally-disadvantaged by existing schooling practices.

So there we have it: incredible damage to students’ self-concept, substantial increases in students’ dropout rates, and significant reductions in students’ future life success – with bonus discriminatory impacts! – all for the mere potential of a statistically-manipulable, now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t test score bump for interstate bragging rights. And, if that weren’t enough, we also get to pay more and get a worse outcome! It would be difficult to envision an educational practice that has less going for it than retention. And yet it is now enshrined into Iowa law, to be made operational (and, apparently, rationalized) by our Department of Education. [One final aside: DE also tries to justify retention because “we really want to get parents to take their child’s literacy development very, very seriously.” Most parents care very much about their children’s literacy development, of course. Parents of struggling readers need help and support, not blame or stigmatization or penalization of their children.]

Retention is not a policy unknown. Even the laziest of reporters or legislators can do a quick Google Scholar search and see that decades of peer-reviewed studies are clear that retention hurts kids and will hurt Iowa. The real policy question here is why don’t we care?

Image credit: Children playing, 1908; Library of Congress

Integration matters. A lot.

White, Colored

Richard Rothstein says:

When African-American students from impoverished families are concentrated together in racially isolated schools, in racially isolated neighborhoods, exposed only to other students who also come from low-income, crime-ridden neighborhoods and from homes where parents have low educational levels themselves, the obstacles to these students’ success are most often overwhelming. In racially isolated schools with concentrations of children from low-income families, students have no models of higher academic achievement, teachers must pitch instruction to a lower academic average, more time is spent on discipline and less on instruction, and the curriculum is disrupted by continual movement in and out of classrooms by children whose housing is unstable.

Social science research for a half century has documented the benefits of racial integration for black student achievement, with no corresponding harm to whites. When low income black students attend integrated schools that are mostly populated by middle class white students, achievement improves and the test score gap narrows. By offering only a “diversity” rationale for racial integration, [United States Department of Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan indicated that he is either unfamiliar with this research or chooses to ignore it.

[Duncan’s] response was especially troubling because the segregation of black students is increasing, not decreasing.


Even better, here in Iowa – at least as long as we don’t talk about or consider the resultant resegregationist effects – we’re supposedly in favor of school choice!

Image credit: img_1673, Joe Jarvis

Moving toward something better than corporate ed reform

Anthony Cody says:

We want to move away from seeing student growth in terms of test scores, and towards authentic assessments of learning. We want to move away from the disruption and destruction of neighborhood public schools, and towards their preservation and support. Away from teacher turnover and towards stability and growth. Away from mayoral control and towards democracy. Away from segregation and economic isolation, and towards the sort of community-based integration that has yielded tremendous results in the past. Away from pursuing personalization through computerized devices, and towards personalization through smaller class sizes and teacher support.


If new teacher evaluation systems were really about growth and constructive feedback

Anthony Cody says:

while Gates and his employees constantly talk about growth and constructive feedback, they always seek to embed these systems in the evaluation process, where there will be huge consequences for those involved. 

I asked:

If I am wrong, and the new evaluation system described by Bill Gates really is all about feedback and collaboration, then why not remove the model from an evaluative framework? Make the sharing of videos voluntary and low-stakes. Provide teachers dedicated time for collaboration. Offer a variety of structures such as Lesson Study, Critical Friends, and Teacher Inquiry that have been proven effective at generating authentic reflection and growth.

If I turn out to be right, then smash those cameras, boycott those tests, opt out of the data systems, and refuse to be standardized and scripted.


Three central problems plague public education in the United States

Arthur Camins says:

The biggest problem with education is the U.S. is not test scores. Rather, three central problems plague public education in the United States. The most dramatic is inequity. There are vast inequities in educational resources and in the conditions of students’ lives, resulting in persistent race- and class-based disparities in educational outcomes.

Second, we are far too focused on a narrow range of outcomes – reading and math test scores – and not enough on a broader range of subject matter or essential domains, such as critical thinking, creativity and collaborative skills. Third, we gravitate toward partial quick solutions, rather than thinking systemically and having the patience to allow strategies time to develop, take hold, and be refined.


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