In his recent thread on the outlines of what ed reform is pushing for, Charlie included this in a comment as another facet:
Standardized Curriculum - Reformers push the idea of standardized
curricula, not only across classrooms within a school, but across
schools within a district, across districts within a state, and, with
the Common Core, across all states in the country. Standardized
Curricula leads directly to standardized instruction - teachers
essentially working off a script and pacing guide and being judged on
their "fidelity of implementation". This boils down to every classroom
in the country being on page 56 on the same day. This includes the ideas
of vertical and horizontal articulation. Not only does this rob
teachers of their autonomy and thereby de-professionalize teaching, but
it is antithetical to differentiated instruction and therefore it
worsens education for students. This is the first step towards
delivering teaching through some process other than face-to-face contact
between a teacher and a student who have a relationship.
of Education Reform is focused on the idea of increasing productivity.
The productivity cap is created by the requirement of a student-teacher
relationship. The only way to increase productivity is to by-pass that
But that relationship is essential to learning.
Teaching is a creative, improvisational act that is driven by the
dynamic and unpredictable interaction between two real, live human
beings. The students respond to the teacher and the teacher then
responds to each student in an ongoing back-and-forth. This dialog can -
and does - follow a myriad of paths that cannot be predicted or
pre-programmed. It is like the universe of all possible chess games.
Teachers get better over time because they have more experience and
learn what moves to make in response to the students moves.
standardized curricula de-professionalizes teaching and is a step on
the path to replace teachers with machines. It worsens education but
End of Charlie's statement.
On the heels of that statement was this story about Rocketship, the highly touted charter school based in California from AlterNet. It's called, "Major Charter School Chain's Classrooms Look Like Cubicles for Telemarketers."
From Silicon Valley, the Rocketship chain of charter schools is
hoping to expand across the country. It’s backed by some of the biggest
names in the tech world and claims high test scores.
Rocketship leaders brag that they think outside the box. Teachers,
for instance—who needs them? The company says it saves half a million
dollars a year by using fewer teachers, replacing them with
non-certified instructors at $15 per hour.
These instructors monitor up to 130 kids at a time in cubicles in the
schools’ computer labs. Rocketeers, as students are called, sit looking
at computer screens up to two hours per day, supposedly learning by
Rocketship’s schools are in California, Wisconsin, and Tennessee with
plans to expand into Indianapolis, D.C., and New Orleans: 25,000
students by 2017.
And who ARE their teachers?
It’s no coincidence that Rocketship employs the same kind of
de-professionalized, non-union workforce it seems to be training. Half
its teachers have less than two years’ experience; 75 percent come from
Teach for America.
What about all that time in front of a screen?
Critics of the Rocketship model cite the American Association of
Pediatrics, which recommends less than two hours of screen time per
When you figure in that kids will be on computers and phones when
they aren’t in school, too—they spend on average seven hours a day on
various devices as it is—it raises a red flag.
Skeptics say the Rocketship test scores just demonstrate the schools
are focusing on test preparation at the expense of arts, languages, and
Who are their supporters?
Rocketship’s board and advisors represent the Gates, Walton, and
Broad Foundations—familiar faces in corporate “education reform.”
Benefactors include Facebook, Netflix, and Skype.
So who are they attracting in the classrooms?
Rocketship targets low-income students, making them the guinea pigs for the cubicle model of education.
In fact, the chain is already scrapping the 100-cubicle learning labs
for its older students, fourth and fifth graders. Students weren’t
always engaged, and sometimes were just staring at the screen and
To hear their enthusiasm, you might imagine the tech elites would be
dropping their kids off every day for these cutting-edge education
experiments. But instead, many Silicon Valley leaders send their kids to
private schools like Waldorf Peninsula—whose philosophy is to avoid
computers, arguing that they hurt children’s development and attention
Folks, no one is arguing that some teaching and learning can't be by computer. Indeed for students in isolated or rural areas, it will open doors. For students who want the ease of learning on their own time, it's access to time (and/or classes not available in their schools).
Common Core is based on computer-adaptive testing. So that means every single school must have the technology to give those assessments.
But two hours a day in front of screen at school? As the newest inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - Hall and Oates - would say, "I can't go for that, (no can do)."