Anthony Cody said:
Here is the deeper problem with [Bill] Gates’ model for education reform. It is built on a vision for social change that asserts that in order for the needs of the poor to be met effectively, the drive for profit must be unleashed. Gates views this as the driving force for innovation.
All of [Gates’] ‘reforms’ undermine the democratic control of our public education system, and wherever possible, shift control into testing companies, private ventures, or individuals subject to corporate influence.
Market-based solutions have a major flaw. When profit is used as the motivator, the most needy students are not served well. The measurement systems that the Gates Foundation has promoted, such as VAM-based teacher evaluations, actually punish teachers who work with the neediest students. Charter schools have been found to consistently under enroll the neediest special ed students, leaving that burden to the public schools. Charter schools are increasing the level of segregation in many cities. Solutions based on technological innovations, so beloved by Gates, have yet to reduce inequities – and may even increase them, as this research suggests. The cities Gates lauded for imposing mayoral control of schools, and high pressure focused on test score accountability, actually performed worse than cities not under such regimes.
However, so long as profits are being made, the inadequacies of these ‘solutions’ can be masked, because the corporations making money can provide active financial support to lawmakers willing to give them support, and few in the media are willing to run the risk of incurring the epithets of the billionaires they might offend by uncovering the unsavory side of reform.
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.
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.
Dan M says:
[Is] there a country on earth with a successful education system that has ever operated the way [Michelle] Rhee insists this country’s education system should be run? Does Finland, the model for the world, have any of the following: Teach for Finland? KIPP Finland? the Finnish Parent Trigger? the Finnish merit pay system based on student test scores? union-busting organizations like Students First / Finland? No, it has none of this. No. The country that has a system closest to the one pushed by Rhee, Broad, Gates, Walton and others… is Chile… which has, thanks to a CIA coup and decades of ZERO democracy, instituted all of Rhee’s beloved practices. The result? The education system there is an unmitigated, free market disaster… with stratification, low academic achievement, zero democratic oversight of the privatized system… with the only folks benefiting being the “bosses” of these Walmart-ized chains of schools. Every other subgroup – students, parents, teachers, citizens – are worse off, and thus, the protests in that country are ramping up every year.
Seriously, IS THAT WHAT WE WANT FOR OUR STUDENTS AND FOR OUR SCHOOLS HERE?
Audrey Watters says:
Theres a line in a 2011 Wired Magazine article about Khan Academy where Bill Gates calls constructionism “bullshit.” It’s a line that’s stuck with me because it makes me so damn angry, no doubt, but also because it highlights Gates’ dismissal of established learning theories, his ego, his ignorance.
And it highlights too, I think, the huge gulf between those like Gates who have a vision of computers as simply efficient content delivery and assessment systems and those like Seymour [Papert] who have a vision of computers as powerful and discovery learning machines. The former does things to children; the latter empowers them to do things — to do things in the world, not just within a pre-defined curriculum.
I confess that I’m struggling with Diane Ravitch lately (and not for the reasons I struggled back in 2010). I think that she’s a valuable voice in the educational policy landscape and I greatly appreciate her passion and her ability to energize educators and citizens as she speaks up against political and pedagogical abuses of our public schooling system. Heck, I just quoted her three days ago. But, despite her usage and leverage of social media to enhance her own voice and visibility, she’s increasingly appearing very anti-technology:
- On July 18 she said, “The demand for virtual schools is a sure indicator of the dumbing down of the American public and the triumph of American capitalism at its greediest.” In a comment to that post, I asked, “Diane, do you not see any role for online learning in P-12 education?” She replied, “Yes, I see a role for virtual learning. I see no useful role for for-profit schools. I see a very limited role for home kind nonprofit virtual schools.”
- Also on July 18, she blogged that she is against Bill Gates’ statement that educational gaming can be “an adjunct to a serious curriculum.” In a comment to that post, I asked, “Diane, do you not see any role for gaming and simulations in P-12 education?” She replied, “A limited role. Gaming is fun and kids can learn from gaming. But kids need to learn to concentrate and to persist when they are not having fun. Gaming doesn’t teach that. Nor does gaming teach how to understand theory or philosophy or how to read critically or how to understand the reason for the game.” When Moses Wolfenstein pushed back quite thoughtfully on those statements, she said, “Actually an all-game school is perfect for the training of drones.”
- Today she blogged against online education again, stating that she is “old-fashioned.” She went on to say:
there is something having the eye-to-eye contact, the face-to-face contact that is really better for purposes of teaching and learning than sitting alone in front of a computer.
I am not saying this to put down technology. I understand how wonderful it is to see visualizations, dramatizations, to see famous people giving famous speeches instead of reading them, to see events rather than reading about them. All of that can be incorporated into lessons.
My gripe is with the very concept that you can learn just as much sitting alone as you can in a group with a live teacher. It may work with adults (although the author of this article doesn’t think so). But it strikes me as developmentally inappropriate for children.
So I’m struggling with her absolute, categorical refusal to recognize that SOME online learning options might be good for SOME public school children (who, after all, also have learning needs that sometimes would be better met by online courses, just like homeschooled children). Like Diane, I abhor the abuses of the online schools and companies that she so aptly describes on her blog. But there’s a difference between calling for better education / oversight and unilaterally denying the medium itself. Online learning is NEVER a good thing for public school children, under any circumstances? I disagree.
Since she’s willing to rail against educational gaming, I’m also struggling with her lack of understanding of the potential benefits of learning games (and maybe also simulations?). Her statement that educational games don’t teach children how “to concentrate and persist when they’re not having fun” shows an ignorance of children’s experiences in many of those games. Like Moses said in his comment, I’m sure that scholars like James Paul Gee, Kurt Squire, Chris Dede, Constance Steinkuehler, David Shaffer, and others would be glad to remedy her misunderstandings. And I’m guessing that they also might be able to teach her how learning games can do some of the things that she says they can’t.
Diane’s anti-technology rhetoric matters because she has a voice that people listen to and others look to her for guidance. As such, her language is quite dismaying because educational technologies will only proliferate, not diminish. Online learning is here to stay, learning games are here to stay, computer-adaptive learning systems are here to stay, and a whole host of other learning tools are as well. The issue is not – as she seems to believe – that they never have any value. The issues are 1) Under what circumstances do these new learning tools and spaces have value?, and 2) How do we create learning and policy environments in which that value is most likely to be realized? [side note: Larry Cuban, for all of his wonderfulness, also typically fails to make this distinction]
Perhaps Diane will blog her belief system(s) about learning technologies and clarify any misperceptions that I have about what she thinks. But right now her beliefs are not ones that I wish she was espousing…
[UPDATE: Further proof of my claim that she’s anti-technology: http://goo.gl/fxq77]
Image credit: Bigstock, Screaming at the computer [no, the image is NOT of Diane Ravitch!]