Why race to the top when a student can be on top of knowledge now?


Posted on 11th September 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Obamaschool

, ,

My blogging here has slowed down because I am working on finishing an eBook about handschooling. Hopefully, I can make it available here before the end of September.

Today, though, I must respond to the inexcusable arrogance about bribing educators with tax money that Obama showed yesterday in his press conference. I cannot find the transcript online, but recall his bragging about over 40% of states are working on innovations for failing schools because the feds are dangling prize money for what they call Race to the Top.

Even on the most fortunate and accelerated schedule, any improvement from these innovations will be years away and will affect only a few students. Obama is not offering a solution to education failures. He is beginning the federal government take over of American education.

The working title of the book I am writing is: Taking schooling into your own hands: Tools and tips for kids caught in the education mess. So how can kids do that?

I think just one first step can do more in a few months than the specious Race to the Top could do in years. Here is what I wrote today for the eBook about that first step:

As a student who is entering the second decade of the 21st century, you can make a key move toward taking your schooling into your own hands by owning and using a mobile device that browses the internet. Doing so connects you into the open online network of the sum total of what is known by humankind. You can click into a webpage about mammals and follow links to study rodents or primates. You can connect to the Perseus Library to study classic literature. You can visit what humankind has thought about the cosmos and and what we are learning about the nano world. Whatever may be happening in your analog schooling, you will have a way to really learn anything you want to learn.

If you are too young to navigate the internet yet, you can use your mobile to practice skills with flashcards and other apps. Doing so will give you understanding and practice in writing with a keyboard.

The tipping factor that will transform failing schools and schooling may well be as simple as providing every individual student with personal mobile access to the internet. It is absurd instead to be pouring millions of dollars toward states to incentivize new ideas.

We do not need states racing to the top of a federal money pile. We should put each student on top of knowledge by putting a smartphone into his hands.

Does your daughter? granddaughter? have her own mobile internet browser? What about other people’s children in you area? The old saying tells us that we save one child at a time. Each kid who has what is known in his own hands is intellectually armed for the his 21st century future.

Obamaschool federal grab update from the New York Times


Posted on 5th April 2010 by Judy Breck in Obamaschool | Politics

, ,

“States Skeptical About ‘Race to Top’ School Aid Contest” is a New York Times front page headline today. The Times, which has been generally supportive of the Obama administration, captures the sense of federal power moves in this quote from Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. describing how his state lost in the contest for Race to the Top funds:  “It was like the Olympic Games, and we were an American skater with a Soviet judge from the 1980s,” Mr. Ritter said.

The Times article — which is worth reading in full — explains that Obama plans are far-reaching overhauls of American education that will take many years to achieved — but do include some political goodies for the administration coming in September:

Administration officials say they consider last week’s outcome a splendid success. By awarding only $100 million to Delaware and $500 million to Tennessee, Mr. Duncan retained $3.4 billion to dole out to up to 15 winning states in September, weeks before the midterm elections — a political bonus that officials insist is mere serendipity.

Mr. Duncan says the administration won victories months before the results were announced, when a dozen states rewrote education laws in ways the administration had recommended. Michigan, for instance, passed laws permitting state takeovers of failing schools and tying teacher evaluations to students’ test scores.

Such legislative changes laid only the groundwork for states to undertake more far-reaching overhauls of educator evaluation systems and low-performing schools that are the heart of the administration’s school reform strategy.

Frederick Hess, a director at the American Enterprise Institute, said that the changes would require years of work and that the administration would need broad cooperation from a majority of states.“This administration has had billions in stimulus dollars to buy support,” Mr. Hess said. “After that money is spent, further success with reform will depend on good working relationships with states. That is why all this grumbling matters.

Online course federal funding dropped in closed door sessions


Posted on 31st March 2010 by Judy Breck in Obamaschool | Politics

, , ,

The White House proposals called the American Graduation Initiative (AGI) were dropped from the package of education spending that was folded into the health reconciliation bill that has now been passed by Congress and signed by the President. The education legislation, which moved the student loan program into federal control, was not debated in Congress. The AGI was dropped from the legislation during cost-cutting closed-door sessions where Democrats and Obama picked and chose where federal taxpayer education dollars would go.

I am convinced that the stoppage here of federal management of online courses is a lucky break for long term open learning. Not having the feds doling out dollars to set up infrastructures they approve will let network laws and unrestricted innovation emerge the global knowledge commons.  — instead of messing it up big time as bureaucrats tend to do.

I realize there is disappointment in the open educational resources (OER) community over losing $500M for OER. Yet the excerpt below from the proposed AGI scares me about the future openness of online learning with the federal government doing what it describes. Won’t content be overseen in Washington? Who decides which community colleges distribute or use the courses? These are taxpayer dollars; would the courses be openly online? Why the departments of Labor and Defense?

Did the liberty of learning dodge a big “O”- shaped bullet here? What do you think?

Create New Online Skills Laboratory

. . . New open online courses will create new routes for students to gain knowledge, skills and credentials. They will be developed by teams of experts in content knowledge, pedagogy, and technology and made available for modification, adaptation and sharing. The Departments of Defense, Education, and Labor will work together to make the courses freely available through one or more community colleges and the Defense Department’s distributed learning network, explore ways to award academic credit based upon achievement rather than class hours, and rigorously evaluate the results.

Do you approve of Obama stepping into local school management?


Posted on 7th March 2010 by Judy Breck in Obamaschool | Politics | Schools we now have

, , ,

Your school superintendent directs restaffing of your child’s school; the President of the United States publicly approves of what the superintendent did. This week, exactly that happened, as this front page New York Times story reports: School’s Shake-Up Is Embraced by the President. The reaction was mixed, but not the way you might think. The article does not say there were objections from parents or voters, although an earlier story mentions students and former students who say the school had been like their family.

Today’s New York Times article reports these reactions:

The pro-charter school Thomas B. Fordham Institute cheered: “’I think it’s going to give some cover to other school boards and school superintendents around the country that want to do something similar,’ Mr. Petrilli said.” Obama has said there should be some charter schools, so it is not surprising the charter school people are happy.

The teachers unions howled: “’I ripped the Obama sticker off of my truck,’ said Zeph Capo, a midlevel official at the Houston Federation of Teachers . . . .” “’Teachers were taken aback — and profoundly disappointed,’ said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.” Why would Obama do something so loudly in public that angers the teachers unions that backed his election?

It is a wake-up call to realize that there is not a loud public outcry at Presidential intervention into the management of a local school. And to assume Obama’s intervention is just a supportive pat on the head for reform is to be sadly mistaken. It is part of something much bigger – - as if the President sees himself as judge of what local schools should and can do. He is setting an amazing precedent with little said by parents and local citizens.

An aspect now underway of Obama’s very large intervention into local schooling is mentioned in the article: “To get a share of the $3.5 billion in what are known as School Improvement Grants, school officials can choose to transform the learning environments in failing schools by extending instructional hours and making other changes, converting them to charter schools, closing them entirely or replacing the principal and at least half the staff.”

$3.5 billion is dangling in front of those responsible for local schools across America. The deal is: follow federal rules to get some of the money. Is this Constitutional? Do we want it? Do we really think it will only affect other people’s children in schools deemed failing by Barack Obama?

Obama’s Race to the Top locks in a diploma bell curve

1 comment

Posted on 7th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Equality | Schools we now have

, , , , , ,

The Race to the Top is granting $4 billion American taxpayer dollars to the states for “reforming” public schools. The program’s webpage at Ed.gov gives this bottom line explanation:

Race to the Top winners will help trail-blaze effective reforms and provide examples for States and local school districts throughout the country to follow as they too are hard at work on reforms that can transform our schools for decades to come.

For 21st century education reforming education around public schools locks in a bell curve for schooling that makes diplomas of unequal value. One of the four specific areas in Race for the Top is: Turning around our lowest-achieving schools. The illustration above shows why doing so traps the students in these schools at the lower end of a bell curve of diploma value. The school on the low end of the bell curve is Columbus High School in the Bronx, New York. Columbus is now scheduled to be closed because it is failing. Realistically, turning it around would move the value of its diploma up the downside of the bell curve. The Race to the Top sort of thinking will see such movement as a victory, yet the Columbus students will remain in a far inferior school by comparison to schools like Jefferson, ranked number one US high school for 2010. The Jefferson diploma will remain far more valuable to a student who earns it than the Columbus diploma. That system is unfair.

There is a better way: replace the bell curve with the long tail

The internet is a power law network where the long tail can replace the bell curve. We should not allow public education to persist in bell curve school-ranking methods that perpetuate an underclass. Handschooling a power law tool; more on that point here soon.

As explained in a recent handschooling.com post, online testing open to all would give a Columbus student a way to complete with Jefferson students. What is now coming out of ed.gov is a race a bit of the way up the downside of the public school bell curve — at a price tag of $4 billion. Has Congress approved this expenditure?

How we can keep Obama from creating underclass youth by taking over American education


Posted on 5th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Obamaschool | Politics | Schools we now have

, , , , ,

Reading the post today that I have written about in the comments that follow has changed my approach. The need to stop the further socialization of learning has become critical, with what Obama is pushing. In the face of that threat, Handschooling is a major way to get local nurture and individual teaching to the children of America and across the world.

This is this what I read today: an explanation of what Obama and Arne Duncan are up to in taking over education, by Susan Durand:

Indoctrination Disguised as Education Reform: How Arne Duncan’s well-funded Race to the Top program will inject (even more) propaganda into your child’s head.

As Durand points out, Texas Governor Rick Perry has said “no” — as have some local districts in various states. Still, I am horrified for what this means for the current generation now in schools.

But can these Obama/Duncan moves really be a ploy to make community organizers out of the already under-served class created by failing public schools? After some further investigation, I think the answer is: yeah, that’s right. As the article points out, by authorizing charter schools the folks who run those can teach 1) what they want to, and 2) what the fed tells them to. Scary.

When I read the parts in the article about indoctrinating kids, I thought: What is this woman saying? She must be a conspiracy theorist. I have had, for example, only the most positive thoughts about Wendy Kopp and Teach for America. Controlled by AmeriCorps? Who are they? So I did some digging.

This is AmeriCorps — our .gov taxpayer paid bureaucracy which is, self-proclaimed: “A program of the Corporation for National Community Service”

It took some real digging in the Teach for America website, but sure enough, as it says buried down in this page, “Teach For America is currently a member of AmeriCorps, the national service network.”

And there I found an example from the Teach for America website how AmeriCorps sets the rules for the their members who teach under TFA and AmeriCorps grants:

My guess is that learning itself is going through a phoenix-like collapse and rebirth. I have thought for a long time that the delivery of knowledge by the internet will inevitably liberate individual students from captive classrooms. It think it will also liberate teachers to become independent professionals. How funny it would be to see the system they are sending out tentacles to control withering in the paws of Arne and The One.

A major part of the ongoing mission of handschooling.com is to shed light on this crucial struggle between educational control and individual learning.