Sunday, March 4, 2012

SQUINTS 3/5/2012: K-12 -- WHAT WILL IT TAKE?

Trolling for US K-12 news this week netted some junk catches and bottom feeders.

Penned a couple of days ago, today’s SQUINTS assumed it had caught the bottom of the week’s education barrel; “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride” (Scottish Proverbs, 1721).

Three late posts illuminated some critical topics in the quest to reform US K-12 systems:  Testing insanity, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina – 52 high-stakes standardized tests – and a superintendent corporate shill; US parenting dysfunction; and why US public K-12 woes have more to do with incompetent K-12 administration than its teachers; all linked, worth reading.  Even when the standards game is made rational, the results remain unclear.

Earlier NYC, irresponsibly, released the ratings of 18,000 K-12 teachers; ratings based primarily on questionable standardized test scores and so-called value-added modeling.  There was immediately evidence that the bases for those ratings ranged from marginal to false, unfair and dysfunctional branding of even highly qualified teachers as fodder for criticism and possible loss of positions.

A long time educator and author discovered in Florida's K-12 systems the possibility that corporately-vended reading standardized tests are being rigged to facilitate failure among students to maintain the corporate markets for that testing.  Coincidentally, Indiana's Department of Education (managed by Tony Bennett, who has been active nationally in promoting use of corporate standardized testing, and pushing charters to replace public systems judged or rendered failing by state-defined standards) is now requiring IREAD-3, a high stakes standardized reading test for third graders.  Is there a "red line" out there as a cutoff for testing absurdity; pre-K and K language measurement next?

Florida seems unable to crawl out of America’s intellectual sinkhole; its Legislature is preparing a bill that may well be unconstitutional, and many consider a ruse to get prayer back into our schools.  A small catch, it may permit satanic inclusions.  But for efficiency of legislative thinking, can Florida be faulted; gets both sides of the magic coin with the same bill.

Meanwhile, an Ohio local K-12 system is seeking to bully through a belated levy submitted to manipulate voting in the March 6 primary election, for a new K-8 school building that is either being over-funded or is attempted fraud to facilitate building something else without voter approval.  The proposed building plan, in turn, is last century's K-12 thinking and is obsolete before being constructed. Added to a decade of education deceit by this system, and administrative malfeasance, the case is a prime example of failed oversight by one of Ohio’s and America's “Mark Twain school boards” in action.

Rick Santorum is on the record declaring postsecondary education is "for snobs."  Perhaps we should not let this get out to the 3.5MM K-12 teachers in the US, lest even more abandon or bypass the profession, and you have to home school your offspring.  What makes that a bit dicey is that roughly 40 percent of US adults are now allegedly barely literate; not politically correct but that is, of course, one of the reasons public K-12 education is currently under heavy attack.  But Santorum's rant also contained hidden grains of truth; that not all work need be for a four-year degree, and that our especially 9-12 education is failing America.

As this is written, somewhere in the US, education’s Darth Vader, er, Arne Duncan, is spreading the hypocrisy that has been his trademark since becoming US Secretary of Education, giving lip service to genuine learning but using the disastrous and costly “Race to the Top” and alleged “NCLB Waivers” to push even more corporate standardized testing into public K-12 schools.

One nationally recognized educator finally came out and asserted it in print; the Obama administration has allegedly for political support sold out public education to the $600B+ corporate testing oligopoly, to corporate misoneist commitment to a retro production model of K-12 education, to charter corporations and operators, and to sundry other enemies of US public schools. So much for the present administration's concern with supporting public education and improving real K-12 learning -- the nation doesn’t even need a Republican presidential candidate.

With the wrong reform testing beast at the doors, too much of present K-12 public education – witness the  Ohio local system referenced above – is so encased in hubris and self-righteousness, and in the above case educational incompetence, that in denial the beast is being offered a place at the head of the table.

Florida -- sorry to have to revisit you -- is also pushing through the "parent trigger bill," that will allow parents with low performing systems, as designated by the state, to require they be taken over by privatized charters. Sounds like a reasonable enough option, until one recognizes that many US parents are in denial that there are corporate, right wing, and incredibly, US Department of Education assaults on public education.  Add that charter schools with some exceptions produce no gains over public systems, are in effect conscripting public assets and taxes for profit, can discriminate in accepting students, and are avoiding oversight once entrenched. 

In Ohio one out of three K-12 schools is now a stealth charter – out of sight being pushed by Ohio’s politicized department of education while piously pretending to support public schools – and with rare exceptions are at the bottom of the performance barrel.  Generally linked to Ohio’s charters are politically- or corporately-inspired sponsors, and a cadre of repetitively appearing alleged “consultants” who are also tapping public funding and appear to be permanent charter lobbyists.

Lastly, in researching the "learning space" options to what has been proposed by the above referenced Ohio local system, a revelation was that other nations are making the US appear an educational farce, pioneering and constructing learning facilities mirroring 21st century learning needs.

The questions on the table are:  What will it take to shock into retreat or at least stasis the political-corporate cabal pushing the punishment model of US K-12 reform; and what will it take to animate many present public K-12 systems that either “don’t get it,” or if the reform challenge is sensed, lack the smarts, and/or ethics, and/or courage to initiate change?  

An answer rooted in the recent history of US adaptation to its environments and challenges is that it will take a full scale learning disaster, major overshoot, accelerated departure of teachers from the profession because of the bullying, and a larger international education gap to trigger rethinking of the present trajectory. There are still excellent US public K-12 schools, but usually cases where competent administration has both coped with standardized testing, then set it aside and promoted creativity, technology use, and genuine learning.  

The obvious issue is, will the roots and shards of remaining US public education by that point be viable enough to rebuild a public system?  Add to the stew systems like the Ohio local above, that can't fathom the meaning of reform, in the specific case even spell learning much less ethics, and the outlook is one very dark cloud.  If there is a ray of light piercing the overcast, it may be in returning some common sense to K-12 education, harnessing technology, and maintaining balanced learning.  Revisit needed research on learning, its legitimate testing, and how both teachers and administrators need to be contemporarily educated to be effective.

No comments:

Post a Comment