Wednesday, February 25, 2015

School Reform == Financialization of Government Services

Charlie Stross:

12. A side-effect of (7) is the financialization of government services (2). ...

14. The expansion of the security state is seen as desirable by the government not because of the terrorist threat (which is largely manufactured) but because of (11): the legitimacy of government (9) is becoming increasingly hard to assert in the context of (2), (12) is broadly unpopular with the electorate, but (3) means that the interests of the public (labour) are ignored by states increasingly dominated by capital (because of (1)) unless there's a threat of civil disorder. So states are tooling up for large-scale civil unrest.

Monday, February 23, 2015

My Take on Six Kindergarten ELA Standards

I've posted my first long-form Common Core piece in a while on Medium:

Much of the concern over the kindergarten standards revolves around the question of whether they are “developmentally appropriate.” I would argue that in addition to this issue, the kindergarten standards are fatally difficult to interpret due to the flawed design of Common Core ELA/Literacy standards as a whole. It is a fundamental premise of the Common Core that we can think of learning in kindergarten as part of a single continuum of skills and tasks stretching backward from college.

In fact, the standards and assessment paradigm designed for secondary school breaks down when applied to six year olds. This is why all high performing countries, the ones we are supposedly trying to compete with, have separate curricular documents for primary and secondary schools, reflecting the goals and demands of each level.

The DEY report cited six examples of kindergarten standards for which “there is no evidence that mastering these standards in kindergarten rather than in first grade brings lasting gains.” Gentry defends each one in turn, and I shall point out how this discussion illuminates flaws in the design of the standards as a whole.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wait, What's a Standard Again?

Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin:

We know that the CCSS has led to a shift in reading assessments that have been around for a long time. For example, reading experts Fountas and Pinnell used to suggest that ending kindergarten in the A-C of books range was okay. Now, with the CCSS-informed shift, if a student has not progressed past level B by the beginning of first grade, he is designated as requiring “Intensive Intervention.”

One reason even the most cold-blooded, cost/benefit analysis-driven, technocratic discussions of the Common Core are so ungrounded is that not enough attention is paid to the point McLaughlin makes at the end here: that failure to meet a standard should by definition be regarded as something that requires fairly specific, directed intervention. Or... perhaps not?

Recent standards tend to be aspirational in their drive for more "rigor." They delineate things which are demonstrably possible for some students, and perhaps desirable for all. But particularly at the early elementary level, what we don't know is if they are so necessary that a failure to meet the standard indicates a deficit with serious long-term implications. We don't know if we're investing untold millions in "remediating" students unnecessarily, particularly when considering the opportunity cost in not spending money on, say enrichment for the same children (without even getting into the web of related issues like the psychological effects of unnecessarily telling a student they are "behind").

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Think of FedWiki as Desktop Application

I'm doing the Thinking Machines FedWiki Happening, trying to wrap my head around the federated wiki concept. At this early point, the first breakthrough is to realize that my mental map of the thing makes more sense if I think of "FedWiki" as an application rather than a webpage. Like, if you want to do FedWiki stuff on other people's sites, you need to start by "launching" your own FedWiki (i.e., navigate to it). Sometimes it saves files locally, like a desktop application.

Basically, it is enough unlike "surfing the web" as we know it that you have to shift your perspective a bit. It is a shift from how regular wikis work but also a shift from how the web in general conventionally works.

It Depends On What You Mean By Accountable

Chad Alderman:

To see how a move away from annual testing would affect subgroup accountability in other cities, I pulled data from Providence, Rhode Island and Richmond, Virginia. The results confirm that a move away from annual testing would leave many subgroups and more than 1 million students functionally “invisible” to state accountability systems.

As a reminder, No Child Left Behind focuses attention on the progress of groups of students within schools. To be confident that the test results aren’t pulled up or down by a few students and to minimize year-to-year variability, states usually imposed minimum group sizes of 30 or 40 students.

Both Rhode Island and Virginia used relatively high group sizes under NCLB–Rhode Island used a group size of 45 and Virginia used 50. As part of the NCLB waiver process, which allowed states to use relative ranking school accountability systems as opposed to more of a relative ranking system and less of a formulaic trigger, both Rhode Island and Virginia lowered their group sizes. Rhode Island lowered its group size all the way down to 20, and Virginia dropped its group size to 30 students. After these changes, both Virginia and Rhode Island estimated that far more students and subgroups would “count” under their new rules. ...

To see the effects in Rhode Island, I applied Rhode Island’s group size of 20 students to the city of Providence. Providence is relatively poor and has a large number of Hispanic students, and even under a grade-span approach where schools were only accountable for the performance of, say, 5th graders, all schools in the district had enough low-income and Hispanic 5th grade students for the groups to count. But only six out of 22 schools would be accountable for black students, only eight would be accountable for English Learners, five for students with disabilities, and only one for white students.

Without annual test results and under Rhode Island’s old group size of 45, 0 Providence schools would have been accountable for black, white, or students with disabilities.

This all sounds pretty dire, unless you understand that by "invisible" Alderman means "not plugged into the algorithm that spits out a school rating." If you look at publicly reported NECAP scores, you'll see that RI reports groups sizes down to 10 and has for years. The data is not invisible, in fact, it has always been even more visible than the subgroup size Alderman recommends.

Alderman's argument only holds up or is even relevant insofar as you believe "accountability" must be an externally imposed, automated, algorithmic process, as opposed to, say, a system of periodic and ongoing review and inspection by stakeholders at the school, district and state level.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I Don't Even...

Karl Herchenroeder:

On education, Bloomberg said the U.S. should deliver the kind of schooling that will help people become self-sustainable and increase a sense of dignity. If a person has the option of going to Harvard or becoming a plumber, he said he would suggest thinking about the plumbing career.

“The Harvard graduate on average will never catch up to a plumber,” Bloomberg said. “Partially because the first four years — instead of spending $60,000, you make $60,000

Finally My Story Can Be Told

Grinders (2014) "TRAILER" from Nick Genova on Vimeo.

There Are No Parking Spaces in Providence

For years, Providence had an overnight street parking ban for most of the city. Basically every house and apartment had to have off street parking. This is, of course, insane and has been loosened up in recent years.

As a result, the parking situation after heavy snowfall is a little different than in other cities. In the neighborhoods, instead of having to dig your car out of its plowed in parking space and perhaps putting a chair on it to discourage someone from taking your cleared it immediately after you leave for work, everyone digs out their driveway/lot and then nobody touches any of the parking spaces.

Nor has the city plowed them out this year (I think they have occasionally in the past). I'm sure if they did, people would be pissed about having to dig their driveway and possibly sidewalk out again.

But in the meantime, in the vast majority of the city you can't park on the street without leaving your car at least a third of the way out in traffic.

And don't even get me started on the sidewalk situation. Residences around here have actually been doing a lot better, but there's barely any pretense of the city managing to even clear bottleneck sidewalks like overpasses and bridges, and seemingly no enforcement of businesses with very long frontages in key places (used car lots, etc). Is it a violation of the first amendment to fine churches for not shoveling? I mean, when a church across the street from a school only shovels up to their door and leaves 2/3rds unshoveled?

And aaaagh, I wish the parents at our school could appreciate that causing traffic to back up out into the left turn lane of a stroad so that you can watch your child walk all the way across the schoolyard and enter the building is not increasing your or anyone else's safety.

Monday, February 09, 2015

It is Worse than This, Actually

Robert Bruno:

First a clarification. The phrase “right to work” is a misnomer that has little to do with the right of a person to seek and accept gainful employment. Anti-union proponents use “right to work” to refer to an option under federal labor law that allows workers employed by a unionized employer to receive the full benefits of a labor contract without paying for any of the cost to gain those benefits. In fact, no employee anywhere in the country has to join a union and no employer has to sign a labor agreement.

As Tom Geoghegan explains clearly in his new book, it isn't just that workers not paying union dues work under the same contract, but that non-union workers in a "right to work" shop receive the same services from the union, including legal representation.

In Europe, if you decide you aren't going to join the union at a site where there is a union-negotiated contract, your employer will probably give you the same benefits as the union members, for a variety of practical reasons, and no dues go to the union. But the union has no obligation to non-union workers whatsoever. On the other hand, they do have a financial incentive to be responsive to and actively serve the membership. It is hard to deny that the European system results in a stronger labor movement.

Of course, this is mostly an abstract argument. Switching to the European model isn't exactly on the table as a political option in 2015.

Ed Reform's Other Achilles Heel

Without slack labor markets, particularly for those with bachelors degrees but no non-teaching professional training, the whole ed reform edifice falls apart. Everyone leaves teaching, and that's that! For the past, what, seven years, the idea that someone with a BA in English, History or education was generally employable has seemed increasingly fanciful. I'm not betting on a tight labor market, but it is at least conceivable now. TFA is the canary in the coal mine for this phenomenon.

The first Achilles heel of course is just kids, with parental support, refusing to take the damn tests. I'd note that the whole "opt-out" conversation is still quite moderate. Once you hear "strike" and "sabotage" (And let's be clear, sabotage is real easy here. Kick out the plugs. Tear the test, etc. Answer everything "A.") displacing "opt-out," things will be getting real.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

A Success Never Equalled by Educational Technology

Patrick Reusse:

And then the world changed in 1983, when the TRS-80 Model 100 portable was released for sale. TRS stood for Tandy Radio Shack … the developer and the outlets where you could buy one.

Everyone called it the “Trash 80.’’ They were so reasonably priced that we could buy them ourselves if the newspaper balked. They weighed 3.1 pounds and could run for hours with four AA batteries.

There was no longer a class structure in the press box. The Portabubbles were gone (except for a few holdouts such as Roe). The Silent Writers were sent crashing to a well-earned graveyard.

We all were carrying Trash 80s. The question among the former underclass in the press box went from, “Hey, do you have an extra roll of paper for this piece of bleep?’’ to “Hey, do you have any extra batteries for our little buddy here?’’

Somebody surely is working on a printable Raspberry Pi laptop for schools? Yes? I'm afraid to look, tbh.