Monday, September 12, 2011


A new book by Steve Brill, Yale Law grad and founder of Court TV, Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools (Simon & Schuster), launches an aggressive attack on the teachers' unions, trumpeting wins of the national reform movement, ala Obama, Gates, et al., and test till they drop.  This review, however, paints a different picture of many of Brill's arguments and much of his data's bases for conclusions.  Worth a look, because while it doesn't explore new territory, it confirms many arguments appearing elsewhere and in edunationredux.

Two stories about cost control, one in NYC's Department of Education, and one in Syracuse, NY, ring some chimes about the potential to control public education costs by competent tough-minded management, and by exercising creativity.  In the case of NYC, the article cites a 3,478 percent return on investment (ROI), yes you read that correctly, 3,478%.  Realistically that means that there really wasn't much need for capital investment, and that the returns were to managerial creativity -- a message that should be carved over the thresholds of most of our local K-12 schools.

Iowa, the "corn and primary" place, but also historically the site of many of the innovations in measuring scholastic performance, has just announced a series of school reform options.  No major surprises in the topics, but their occurrence is a message.

Robert Lipsyte, recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the American Library Association, tackled boys and reading -- namely that they don't -- in this article.  Worth a look.

Charters are in, they will take over, or they are overrated, and the beat goes on. But a recent report from Houston, where there are 300 public schools competing with 105 charters, provides a nuanced message.  It is that they are not a silver bullet, but by escaping some of the bureaucratic constraints of public K-12, they have some messages for those public systems.  Notably: “…longer school days and years; more rigorous and selective hiring of principals and teachers; frequent quizzes whose results determine what needs to be retaught; ... ‘high-dosage tutoring;’ and a ‘no excuses’ culture.”

Another review of standardized test-based incentives, by a National Research Council expert panel, blasts that testing as a viable measure of educational progress.  A conclusion, the effects of incentives based on that testing are "small and ... effectively zero for a number" of impacted programs. Not new news, but from a source that should echo the findings where national policy appears oblivious to facts.

Reflecting the same rocket science mentality as those who see climate change as an orchestrated scam among thousands of qualified climate scientists -- where parenthetically most PhDs would rather share toothbrushes than mimic conclusions, to paraphrase an old academic joke about economists -- this item addresses the critics who are now lampooning or damning technology in K-12 because the hardware hasn't produced "...improvement in test scores."  Aside from the credibility of the criterion, the view reflects ignorance.  The use of the technology incorporating the latest devices/hardware, in proper epistemology, should be termed a "necessary but not sufficient" cause for learning changes.  The technology that supplies "sufficient" is going to be soft and based on creative changes in learning models.  Edunationredux will tackle that issue in a subsequent blog.

A tiny story from Wyoming has much larger potential ripples.  The story is about the disconnect between class size and how it is factored into Wyoming school building needs.  The larger ripples, the missing perspicacity in many systems seeking new school construction that has little to do with need, or fails to consider the K-12 learning strategies that will play out over the quarter century or more that construction will have to serve once dropped in place. Class size is a close-in variable, but more important is how the whole seat time model of K-12 along with other surfacing strategic learning developments may change over that asset life.  Proposed school construction that hasn't factored in those variables is flawed, and public school oversight that can't bring that kind of critical thought to bear shouldn't be school oversight.
Lastly, a just posted story from an education news journal reports the results of asking its educational professional readers for the five characteristics of "an effective 21st-century educator."  Because those readers tend to be tech-savvy, the answers are equivalently contemporary:  "Anticipates the future;" "is a lifelong learner;" "fosters peer relationships;" "can teach and assess all levels of learners;" and "is able to discern effective vs. non-effective technology."  Hard to argue with the list's contents though most experienced educators could likely add some things that are critical.  The most disconcerting aspect of the list is that is describes few of the K-12 public educational leadership in this neck of the woods.

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