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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

News Roundup

The White House announced that it has received about $118M in commitments from private companies to support public education.  From the AP story:

 Pledges announced at the meeting include a three-year, $50M committment from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation in support of efforts to close the achievement gap and connect underserved and unemployed individuals to workforce success.  As part of the commitment, the foundation announced a total of $.45M in grants to five non-profit organizations including:
  • $1 million to Citizen Schools to improve the academic performance and high-school readiness of low-income middle school students by expanding the learning day and providing academic support, leadership development, and hands-on learning projects; 
  • $1 million to Boston College's Lynch School of Education to support thirty Bank of America Leaders in Urban Education in the school's Masters of Ed Program; 
  • $1 million to City Year to fund middle school programs that support its Whole School, Whole Child strategy in high-need schools nationwide; 
  • $1 million to the GreenLight Fund to support high-impact education and youth development programs in Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area; and 
  • $500,000 to Achieving the Dream to help establish a learning community complete with asset-building tools and resources that can be disseminated nationally.
 U.S Students and Geography 


The latest results from NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) shows U.S. students not doing so well in geography.   The stats are only 23% of 4th graders, 30% of 8th graders and 21% of seniors knew enough to be considered "proficient" or "advanced" on the national exam that was given in Jan-March 2010. 

Fourth graders went up a bit from the last time (2001), eight graders scores remain unchanged and seniors have slipped since 1994.  One good bit of news is that African-American and Latino students have shown improvement in since both the 1994 and 2001 tests in the 4th and 8th grades.

From the Wall Street Journal article:

Geography "is losing out to the zero-sum game that results from high-stakes testing," said Roger Downs, a geography professor at Pennsylvania State University who spoke during a news conference at which the results were announced. "As the economic and cultural forces of globalization and the impacts of global environmental change are felt by everybody everywhere, the case for geography seems both obvious and inescapable."

But Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the exam, said the time 12th-graders spent in social-studies class and studying the subject had increased over the past decade. "There's not a lot there to tell me why," he said of the results.

Shannon Garrison, who sits on the National Assessment Governing Board, which develops the exam, said geography was an "unclaimed subject" in middle and high school. "In many districts and schools, the responsibility for teaching geography is unclear," she said.

The exam was given to a representative sample of 7,000 fourth-graders, 9,500 eighth-graders and 10,000 12th-graders in public and private schools. It is scored on a scale of 0 to 500 points. The scores are then broken into "below basic," "basic," "proficient" and "advanced."

In the "Not in My Neighborhood Category", the charter school question has come to the affluent suburbs (who apparently thought it was just an urban issue).  In New Jersey, a group of families had wanted foreign language immersion schools and another group feared the loss of money from their district if that happened.  From the NY Times article:

 Suburbs like Millburn, renowned for educational excellence, have become hotbeds in the nation’s charter school battles, raising fundamental questions about the goals of a movement that began 20 years ago in Minnesota.

Now, educators and entrepreneurs are trying to bring the same principles of choice to places where schools generally succeed, typically by creating programs, called “boutique charters” by detractors like Mr. Stewart, with intensive instruction in a particular area. 

Advocates say many proposed suburban charters have struggled because of a double standard that suggests charters are fine for poor urban areas, but are not needed in well-off neighborhoods.

“I think it has to do with comfort level and assumptions based on real estate and not reality,” said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform in Washington, which studies and supports charter schools. “The houses are nice, people have money, and therefore the schools must be good.”

Ashley Del Sole, a founding member of one of the rejected charters in Montgomery County, said that regardless of how well a district performed, children benefited from choice because not everyone learned the same way. She added that competitive pressure would invigorate schools that had grown complacent.

“There’s sort of this notion that if it’s not broken, why fix it,” Ms. Del Sole said. “But there are people who are not being served.”

Millburn’s superintendent, James Crisfield, said he was caught off guard by the plan for charters because “most of us thought of it as another idea to help students in districts where achievement is not what it should be.” He said the district could lose $270,000 — or $13,500 for each of 20 charter students — and that would most likely increase as the schools added a grade each year. 

“Public education is basically a social contract — we all pool our money, so I don’t think I should be able to custom-design it to my needs,” he said, noting that he pays $15,000 a year in property taxes. “With these charter schools, people are trying to say, ‘I want a custom-tailored education for my children, and I want you, as my neighbor, to pay for it.’ ”

Interesting, no?  For these middle-class people, it's a question of trying to tailor the education they want for their child with charter schools while for urban parents, it tends to be about getting away from poor-quality schools.  

American girls have swept Google's first science fair.  Let's look at the winner (from the NY Times article):

As a budding inventor and scientist, Shree Bose, in second grade, tried to make blue spinach. In fourth grade she built a remote-controlled garbage can. In eighth grade she invented a railroad tie made out of recycled plastic and granite dust, an achievement that got her to the top 30 in a national science competition for middle school students. 

In 11th grade Ms. Bose, a 17-year-old in Fort Worth, tackled ovarian cancer, and that research won her the grand prize and $50,000 in the Google Science Fair last week.  

What a girl!  She won $50k for college, a trip to the Galapagos Islands and a trip to a science lab in Switzerland.

There were more than 10,000 students from 91 countries in the competition which got down to 60 semi-finalists and then 15 finalists.  Nine of the 15 finalists were boys. 

Perhaps belying a bit the notion that American students are falling behind in science, the United States dominated the top slots. All three of the winners were American, as were nearly three-quarters of the finalists. About 60 percent of the entries came from Americans. 

Dr. Cerf said that a common thread among the finalists was that they had explored science enthusiastically for years with the encouragement of their parents.



Also from the Times, an article about a report about science curriculum for K-12.  

A new framework for improving American science education calls for paring the curriculum to focus on core ideas and teaching students more about how to approach and solve problems rather than just memorizing factual nuggets. 

“That is the failing of U.S. education today, that kids are expected to learn a lot of things but not expected to be able to use them,” said Helen Quinn, a retired physicist from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif., who led an 18-member committee that spent more than a year devising the framework. 

One of the big goals, the committee said in a 282-page report, is “to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science.” 

The report, released Tuesday by the National Research Council, also pushes for incorporating engineering into what is taught to students in elementary school through high school.


Lastly, forgive me a little schadenfreude but I always thought Tom Vander Ark was woefully unaccomplished for being the first head of the Gates Foundation's Education wing and this article seems to bear that out.  He started out being the superintendent in Federal Way schools (he was another business type who veered off towards education). 

Mr. Vander Ark, the foundation’s former executive director of education and a national leader in the online learning movement, was granted charters in 2010 to open a high school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and two others in Newark. The New York school, Brooklyn City Prep, also got space in a public school building — a precious and controversial commodity — hired a principal, and welcomed applications from 150 eighth graders this spring. 

But after spending more than $1.5 million of investors’ money on consultants and lawyers, Mr. Vander Ark, 52, has walked away from the project, and the schools will not open as planned this fall, leaving others involved stunned and frustrated. 

“He’s flying 30,000 feet on the air, but can’t do it on the ground,” said Joshua Morales, a former official with the New York City Education Department who was hired by Mr. Vander Ark to develop the schools.  


While many new charter schools are asked to take a year for planning, it is relatively rare to require two, and unusual for a founder — in this case, a well-known figure in education reform — to walk away. 

Mr. Vander Ark seems to bounce from place to place, full of ideas but none that seem to come to fruition and yet, he still keeps getting hired.   He also is a managing partner at a venture fund, Learn Capital.   One thing the group claims to have done made me laugh out loud:
  • Introduced 3D stealth learning to mainstream audiences
He also writes for EdReformer blog (which now that I have found it - well, that'll be food for fodder).    There was one interesting post about "disruptive innovation":

In 1989, Clay Christensen joined the faculty of the Harvard Business School and began studying why successful organizations fail.  He found the factors that had promoted success were often cause of the demise.  These organizations would add sustaining innovations—think computers and cars—that made models a little better and a little more expensive every year.  This cycle of product improvement leaves room for new competitors to fulfill similar needs for substantially less.


These “disruptive innovations” often replace non-consumption for under served consumers.  In education non-consumption includes credit recovery, dropout recovery, and home education.

The Disrupting Class authors prediction that more than 50% of high school education would be online by 2019 seemed aggressive four years ago, but it’s now clear that that the majority of all K-12 students will learn online or in schools that blend online and onsite learning by the end of the decade.

The real promise is to transform the monolithic system to one that customizes learning.  Michael is quick to point out that BL is not 1:1, not digital textbook, not white boards.  According to Horn, blended learning is “anytime a student learns in part in a supervised brick and mortar place away from home and at least in part through online delivery, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and place.”  He is sympathetic to my friendly amendment of a productivity seeking shift (learning and operating).

Michael closed by pointing out that online learning is disruptive because it is not beholden to old metrics, models, budgets, and boundaries.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Loved reading about the Science Fair and hopeful about improving our K-12 science education curriculum. Hopeful that science education is not just science appreciation. Looking at the Science Fair winners' background, you can see that they did science: read about it, thought about it, researched it, and then- did it, again and again. Wow!

Of course, that euphoria was short lived after reading about venture capitalist move to for profit on-line edcuation. Venture capitalist and public education.... wow, more masters of universe taking on public education. You know, that just got to mean lots of money to be made.

-6 more weeks before school starts

seattle citizen said...

"Bank of America Charitable Foundation...to invest $50 million ...toward education initiatives leading to economic self-sufficiency through employment....
This investment, to be announced as part of the White House convening on education this afternoon...[to help students] transition to higher education for workforce success...aimed at strengthening the economic and social health of communities by recognizing the need for knowledgeable and skilled workers to compete in the global economy.

'We are at a crossroads in the United States where the educational crisis has put the nation's growth and prosperity at risk and we are committed to being part of the solution,' said Anne Finucane, global strategy and marketing officer and chair of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. 'Providing opportunities to increase the educational and developmental outcomes of individuals leads to financial independence and personal growth, which in turn, increases a community's economic vitality.'"

So it's all about preparing a workforce. Who needs citizens when you've got well-trained workers? And the "educational crisis has put the nation's growth and prosperity at risk" Right. And I've got a bridge in Brooklyn for sale...Um, wasn't it banks, mortgage speculators, hedge-fund operators, short sellers and other financial players that crashed the economy?

The question I keep asking myself is this: If the corporations succeed in "training" (graduating) 100% of students, will it then promise to employ 100% of citizens at living wages?

No? So it knows that training five million STEM workers won't result in five million STEM jobs paying 100K?

Well, as long as they're well-trained workers, I'm sure they'll find lucrative jobs in the fast-food industry if there aren't enough STEM jobs for everybody...And since they know nothing about civics or history, but have been trained in market operating systems, they'll be ready to climb over each other for a scrap of meat.

I'm NOT glad BofA donated 50 million to education. That's money that citizens should have spent themselves (and, incidentally, that sum would build one new school in the whole country. It's spit in the wind, yet BofA gets to reap a tax deducation AND sound like Santa Claus because the media just eats this up. Meanwhile, the poverty caused by CEO's making hundreds of times the workers' wages (as compared to maybe just ten times, a couple of decades ago) just gets worse and worse. You don't see BofA looking at itself as a cause of poverty...

StopTFA said...

At least TFA didn't get another handout. What, $50M not enough?

seattle citizen said...

Just wait, StopTFA: BofA's Finucane and TFA's Kopp surely have spoken: Anne Finucane, BofA's global strategy and marketing officer and chair of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, who said, based on her deep knowledge of education, that "'We are at a crossroads in the United States where the educational crisis has put the nation's growth and prosperity at risk," surely met and talked with Wendy Kopp at the 2008 ServiceNation Summit. Here are some of the other speakers at this event, chosen by me for this condensed version because they represent both the do-gooded-ness of our people and the oppotunity for collusion between the political, economic, military and educational institutions of our nation:

2. Senator Barack Obama, D-IL - Presidential Candidates Forum
5. Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Foundation - Welcome to Summit
9. Richard Stengel, Editor, TIME - Welcome to Summit
11. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, I-NY – Opening: gives 5-7 minute welcome and sets tone for Summit
12. Joel Klein, Chancellor, NYC Public Schools - Panel Participant - Education
13. Wendy Kopp, President and Founder Teach for America – Panel Participant - Education
14. Richard Cizik, VP, National Association of Evangelicals - Panel Participant - Service and Our Environment
20. Michael Brown, Co-Founder, City Year - Panel Participant - Education
23. Walter Isaacson, President and CEO, Aspen Institute – Panel Participant: Disaster Relief
39. Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone - Panel Participant - Service, Fighting Poverty and Creating Opportunity
41. Laysha Ward, VP, Target Community Relations - Panel Participant - Service and the Private Sector
42. Usher, Usher’s New Look Foundation – Youth Chair - Lunch Panel Participant - Creating a ServiceNation: What Will it Take to Finally Breakthrough?
47. Sonia Perez, Senior Vice President, Affiliate Member Services, National Council of La Raza - Panel
Participant - Service, Fighting Poverty and Creating Opportunity
49. General Henry (Butch) Viccellio, (Ret.), US Air Force - Panel Participant – On Common Ground: Linking Military and Civilian Service
61. Audiel Nieto, Citizen Schools – Panel Participant: Education
77. Her Majesty Queen Noor – Panel Participant – International
85. Anne Finucane, Chief Marketing Officer, Bank of America – Morning Statement of Commitment
90. Judy Woodruff, Senior Correspondent and 2008 Political Editor for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer – CoModerator, Presidential Candidates Forum
91. Mike Cuthbert, Host of Prime Time Focus – Panel Moderator – 50+
92. Tim Shriver, Chairman, Special Olympics – Panel Participant – Service and Faith Based Institutions
94. Jeff Swartz, CEO Timberland – Panel Participant - Service, Fighting Poverty and Creating Opportunity
95. Colonel Rob Gordon, Senior Vice President, City Year – Panel Moderator - On Common Ground: Linking Military and Civilian Service
96. Captain Kent Park, US Army – Panel Participant - On Common Ground: Linking Military and Civilian Service – Rob Gordon Taking Lead
97. David Eisner, CEO, Corporation for Community and National Service – Panel Participant – Service and the Private Sector

Anonymous said...

12. Joel Klein, Chancellor, NYC Public Schools - Panel Participant - Education

Klein is a Murdoch buddy. He sat immediately behind Murdoch during Murdoch's "I'm not responsible amd I don't know anything anyway" testimony to the British parliment. Klein recently resigned from the WSJ/Dow Jones Board of Directors because of the phone hacking scandal. Great kid role model (not).

97. David Eisner, CEO, Corporation for Community and National Service – Panel Participant – Service and the Private Sector

Eisner ran Disney for years. Educating kids for Mickey Mouse jobs?

-JC.

Jan said...

seattle citizen: I look at this from a slightly different slant. I totally agree with you that reducing "education" to just job training for corporate America is a total travesty.

And yet -- the lifelong process of learning serves many masters. At best, it ennobles us as human beings, it makes us capable of being good participants in our process of representative government, it makes us wise, discerning consumers, and -- because educated minds offer more to employers (and some jobs, such as chemists, and doctors, require a skill set that takes years of education), it makes us more employable.

Corporations (particularly public ones answerable to shareholders, and on a tight quarterly "performance" schedule) are, in my opinion, all about maximizing shareholder value. IF they value their employees, they do so only because a stable, happy, productive set of employees advances that cause. It is fairly evident that, to the extent that a stable, well compensated group of employees does NOT advance that cause -- the employees lose.

I don't want Walmart, or GE, or Disney to weigh in on those aspects of education that are moral -- what it means to be a good person, the meaning of life, why my kids are on earth and what they "owe" the planet, or God, or whatever, for the blessings they have gotten by being born here, and not in Somalia. Those are MY jobs. I am the parent and the keeper of the "values" flame until my kids are old enough to tend their own.

But it does not seem to me unreasonable for business to "weigh in," with opinions, money, advice, etc. on the one issue where they have a legitimate stake in the game -- that of how we educate people so that we continue to produce the revenue that funds the purchase of groceries, payment of rent or mortgages, funds the dreamers, and pays the taxes.

I don't have to like or support everything they say (and I don't). But I think they have a place at the table.

What I object to, at this point, is that they seem to have ALL the seats at the table! There does not seem to be any recognition that "job training" is NOT the entire enchalada (and that even if it were, businessmen are not necessarily endowed with any special "knowledge" of how to help children learn -- much less what they should be taught.

I am happy to let the Corporations ride in the education car. But I am not willing to let them buy the right to be the driver.

seattle citizen said...

Jan, you write that "it does not seem to me unreasonable for business to "weigh in," with opinions, money, advice, etc. on the one issue where they have a legitimate stake in the game -- that of how we educate people so that we continue to produce the revenue that funds the purchase of groceries [etc]"

By all means: If business can lend something to help in the classroom, in addition to the business class resources paid for by taxpayers, yay! (As long as they are not part of necessary funding - I don't want their money being necessary, and therefore beholden the district to configure the use of the business money ONLY the way business wants that money spent - educators should be determining funding based on good practice, and based on what business wants.)

What I DON'T want to see, and I think you and I are in agreement, is business paying for gen-ed, basic functions. If, as they claim, there is an achievement gap, then public funders, i.e. taxpayers shouls be picking up the bill to fix that. The 50 million BofA is donating is going, ostensibly, to "cure" the achievement gap. THAT is not "business ed"; that is business paying for basic education, with all the temptation to steer it its way.

Here's how it appears to me, as a cynic and a suspicious person:

Nice people at BofA are convinced by edu-business "experts" that "the achievement gap" is caused by "teachers without quality." To cure the achievement gap, the nice people (such as Anne Finucane) are instructed by TFA's Wendy Kopp (and others) to give them money, so as to produce "quality teachers" that will go into the ghetto to fix things.
We all know that just Reading and Math do not an education make, but in order to "fix things" in the ghetto, education must be reduced to these basics in order to show "improvement." SO BofA is convinced that those crappy teachers (UNION teachers, no less!) are in the way, that the "achievement gap" in Reading and Math (only) is all those union teachers' fault, that by sending pseudo-teachers, test-prepers into classrooms they can Reform the whole system into Success For All.
Bonus for the nice people at BofA (and remember, they are not malicious, only misdirected) is that the unions, those "roadblocks to recovery," those anti-business (BofA makes its money off business) radical dinosaur agitators will be Reformed into docile and uneducated worker bees, malleable and easily convinced...or misdirected...into believing education is merely Reading and Math, business is merely Reading and Math, so what the NEXT generation should learn is merely Reading and Math.
The Reform teachers NEXT generation, knowing only Reading and Math and not knowing nor caring about civics or civil rights or history or freedom outside the capitalist paradigm...the dog-eat-dog competition for high scores or high grades or high salary absent leavening wisdom, those next Reform teachers, knowing these bare minumums, will teach only the bare minumums. Which works fine for data-processing and assembly lines, but bodes ill for humanity. And so it goes.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I am happy to let the Corporations ride in the education car. But I am not willing to let them buy the right to be the driver."

Great statement and I agree.

WenD said...

These dollar amounts are peanuts in the bigger picture of where the money should be going but increasingly isn't. Oh my, teachers cost too much, we don't want to pay taxes, so we'll call this a crisis and pretend we're going to be noble and fix it.

If the president threw as much into the pot as he's spending on his re-election, I might believe him.