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Friday, December 27, 2013

Best and worst education news of 2013



Here’s a brief look back at the best and worst education news of the past year.   
These are the six best, from my perspective of course; please put your nominations in the comment section below!
1. The nationwide revolt against excessive, hi-stakes and low-quality testing grew stronger, which will only further intensify as other states adopt the Common Core aligned exams, as occurred this year in New York – which has prompted huge parent protests and a growing opt out movement.  
2. The opposition to the rigid and developmentally inappropriate Common Core standards was increasingly evident among experts and educators left, right and center.  Critics have rightfully asked, where is the evidence for these standards, why weren’t they piloted before being imposed on the nation, and why were so few educators and parents involved in their development? 
3. Prompted by the behemoth of inBloom Inc., along with the NSA surveillance scandal, there was a  rising awareness among parents of how schools, districts and states have been sharing their children’s personal data with a wide array of vendors without their consent.  See this important report, just published by Joel Reidenberg of Fordham Law School, which surveyed district practices and found huge problems in the care with which they treated highly sensitive data. The widespread sharing of personal student data without consent was facilitated by the US Ed Department, which eviscerated the regulations pertaining to student privacy in 2008 and 2011 – but as this blog post argues, the federal law known as FERPA itself was inadequate given the technological developments of the 21st century.  Yet even as eight of nine states have now pulled out of inBloom, and with New York (hopefully) withdrawing under pressure in 2014 (be sure to sign the petition!), the myriad threats to student privacy through states and districts amassing huge amounts of personal student data and providing it to third parties for a variety of purposes is not going away – as our analysis of Code.org and the ALEC anti-privacy bills also suggests.
4. Candidates were elected from coast to coast – including Bill de Blasio as NYC’s mayor, Monica Ratliff and Sue Peters to the Los Angeles and Seattle school boards respectively, who appear to understand the damage done to our public schools by the current fad of free-market competition, unregulated privatization, and high-stakes testing.  They have pledged to fight for reforms proven to work, like expanding access to preK and smaller classes.  Their opponents may have outraised and outspent them, sometimes by more than ten to one – but the grassroots appeal of their independence from the corporate reform agenda propelled them to victory nonetheless.
5. Diane Ravitch’s new book, “Reign of Error” led the way in making an intellectually rigorous and convincing argument about the deep flaws in this agenda and a convincing case about the right reforms that would make a positive difference for schools.  At the same time, her new organization, Network for Public Education, (full disclosure: I’m on the board) launched, and is working to help support more candidates with the courage and the brains to work for the ability of all kids to attend quality public schools --rather than promoting the Darwinian universe represented by the school closing/teacher firing/ “no excuses” posture; or as Diane has called it, the “Donald Trump approach to school reform: You're fired!”
6.  The ed tech bubble burst; with revelations of huge MOOC dropout rates, iPAD disasters in LA, Amplify tablets dysfunction in North Carolina, and the report that the much-hyped Dreambox software that propelled Rocketship charters to the top of the privatizer charts was nothing more than a babysitting exercise to allow teachers to spend time with smaller groups of students while the rest of the bunch were engaged in rote online exercises.  Increasingly, the so-called “personalized” learning movement was unmasked as depersonalized learning –promoted by the same bunch of propagandists who inveigh against smaller classes – the only strategy that enables truly personalized learning to occur.

The four worst developments of 2013:   

  • Class sizes continue to grow nationally; and in NYC, are the largest in 15 years in the early grades, despite a state law passed in 2007 that required the city to be reducing class size in all grades.  This is what I think of as Michael Bloomberg’s and Joel Klein’s greatest crime against the city’s kids -- and one that won’t be easily reversed by our new mayor.  I write about this more in this month’s Indypendent, Grading the Education Mayor.  Here is a press release from the Education Law Center ,which places more of the blame on the state, but the two are actually complicit in denying NYC kids to their right to an adequate education.
  • We’re still fighting inBloom and a totally reckless and feckless State Education Dept. in New York.  Even as Michael Bloomberg’s devastating regime may be behind us, Commissioner King is attempting to replicate every one of Bloomberg’s misguided policies – including curriculum-narrowing high-stakes testing, an inherently unreliable and morale-busting teacher evaluation system, and dangerous and expensive data collection and sharing–all based upon an underlying false theory that children, teachers and schools can be defined, measured and motivated in terms of test score data.   
  • Foundations continue to meddle while using their wealth to subvert democratic governance and the media,  like the  Gates-funded Regents fellows making policies in New York– or the Gates-funded Ed Lab, working out of the Seattle Times, that will be provided with a wealth of personal student data  without appropriate safeguards or parental consent. 
  •  The NY Times continues to ignore the big education stories, or omits their critical relevance to what is happening here in NYC. The paper features a national story on class size and never mentions how the children in the NYC public schools are suffering from the largest classes in 15 years.  They publish a long story on inBloom while devoting only three sentences to New York’s participation – and omit any mention of the fact that Joel Klein and Rupert Murdoch are also intimately involved in the scheme.  The recent Times story about the Fordham report on student data sharing and cloud storage features an interview with Ken Mitchell, Superintendent of S. Orangetown NY schools, who became involved in the issue of student privacy and “data creep” by leading the Superintendent rebellion against inBloom.  And yet the reporter never mentions his opposition or the inBloom project at all. All in all, the NY Times seems determined to turn a blind eye to how various anti-education and anti-privacy policies are putting at risk the children in the paper’s own backyard – as well as ignoring how these policies benefit the private interests of New York’s well-connected plutocrats.

1 comment:

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