Money-Making Machine - K-12 Schools

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A crisis in confidence. Bruised, battered by sex scandals, low test scores, reports of campuses (if not districts) cheating on high stakes tests, parent outrage that flows through our veins in righteous rage...yes, David Warlick isn't wrong when he says public schools are facing a crisis in confidence.
I can’t put my finger on any one statement or situation, but what came to mind several times is how much we, in K12 education, have lost our confidence. I remember, when I was teaching 25 to 35 years ago, a sense of educational entrepreneurship. I couldn’t have expressed it that way then, but I was free and felt encouraged to innovate in order to motivate learning — rather than applying teaching.

One of the professors said that when his daughter came home from her first day in sixth grade, she said that the principal had told the students that they will not be having fun. They will be learning. That is not innovation. It is blunt force education.

Source: David Warlick, 2 cents

Some would argue--such as Diane Ravitch as cited in this article--that our focus on transforming schools into 21st Century factories (a.k.a. businesses) is killing us. Seth Godin makes a great point that speaks to this issue...sort of like listening to a neighbor describe symptoms of what he's suffering and then you realize, "Hey, that's what's ailing me!"
Traditional corporations, particularly large-scale service and manufacturing businesses, are organized for efficiency. Or consistency. But not joy.

McDonalds, Hertz, Dell and others crank it out. They show up. They lower costs. They use a stopwatcsh to measure output....

These organizations have people who will try to patch problems over after the fact, instead of motivated people eager to delight on the spot.

Source: Seth Godin, Organizing for Joy

Crisis in confidence may very well be the result of remaking schools into testbeds for Jim Collins "Good to Great," getting folks to the boiling point, blah blah blah.

When I look at the efforts of teachers whom I know, I realize that they've either a) Checked out completely, along for the ride wherever it goes with the occasional roll of the eyes that signals that while they know schools are being screwed up, the infrastructure slowly dismantled and resources shifted to private charter schools; or b) Engaged, trying to do everything they can, the ant facing the tidal wave that will end life as he knows it, yet persisting in building the ant hill anyways. Of the two approaches, the second appeals to me the most.

For both groups, the following is true:

  1. A lack of trust. Teachers must adhere to a lock-step curriculum that denies them the opportunity for innovation and, yes, experimentation. Mistakes aren't allowed, encouraged, and as such, they cannot be used as stepping stones to new ideas and successful practices.
  2. A lack of time. With a strong focus on raising test scores, your average elementary teacher finds him/herself spending time preparing to teach, assessing progress against external measures designed for "everystudent" using a variety of high-tech technology gadgets, and tutoring after school and on Saturdays.
  3. A lack of funding for initiatives that matter at the classroom level and more focus on spending on programs that are "cooked up" by powerful special interests who are doing their own experimentation in schools.
  4. Teachers are "soldiers of reform," expendable because they are unremarkable, interchangeable because they are not trusted to know more than they must know to follow orders, forgettable because they are neither reform or reformer.

Given the choice between who I would want to see experiment with young learners, I'd rather have a classroom teacher than a business who wants to market their product to a Nation of legislators concerned with pushing their narrow agenda on public schools.

It's clear that schools that violate the truths above are in the wrong. Who keeps them this way? Who makes money when the findings below are implemented?

  • "New teacher candidates must be equipped with 21st-century knowledge and skills and learn how to integrate them into their classroom practice for our nation to realize its goal of successfully meeting the challenges of this century"
  • It is incredibly important for preparation programs to go beyond the ‘transmission method’ of teaching and instead offer educator candidates experiences that help them develop rich, applied learning opportunities that will ensure 21st-century readiness for all students"
  • "while a large majority of aspiring teachers (82 percent) said collaborative tools such as blogs and wikis are important instructional tools, only one in four are learning how to use these technologies in their courses on teaching methods." (Source)

How do these findings contrast with what is happening in schools and why do we persist? The real agenda is control of schools, making them a pass-through account for money oriented towards businesses, not students and learning. That's why we're facing a crisis in confidence...educators are waking up to the sad reality that they are cogs in a money-making machine.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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