The Purpose of Education

In their annual poll of the public’s attitude toward public education, what prompted the well-respected PDK (Phi Delta Kappa) association’s new question about the purpose of education?

And how is it the question asks about the main goal of a public school education while the website and discussion shifts the conversation to the purpose of education?

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-3-46-47-pmJust semantics? Maybe. But, did you know that one definition of semantics is “a deliberate distortion or twisting of meaning, as in advertising, propaganda, etc.”?

Purpose is the reason for which something is done.

Goal is an aim or desired result.

And because struggles in the education reform war continually demonstrate that words are determining outcomes of our battles, we should pay close attention. Words have become the weapon of choice against an unsuspecting public.

The words of reform sold us a perceived need to reform a whole system. The reality is that we needed to only reform the schools in our country that needed re-forming — high-poverty, low-performing schools. We had already identified them before the 1980’s.

The truth? Test-based accountability methods changed nothing. And school choice only reshuffled the deck.

But let’s look at the question of the hour…screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-3-30-15-pm….and look at what one long-time. …long, long time… education-and-the-economy expert, Mr. Marc Tucker, had to say.

This would be a good guess since the marketing of the purpose of education seems to be increasing.

This would be a good guess since the marketing plan appears to be focusing on promoting the purpose of public education as a workforce pipeline. America’s choice?

Our expert is guessing? Let me guess; he knows something we don’t. After all, he is a long-time occupant of the D.C. inner circle, father of the Education/Labor Market System, and an international systems expert. He knows what is going down.

Tucker believes that parents should be choosing BOTH prepare students academically and for work…always beating his education-and-the-economy drum. But why not choose “to be good citizens”?

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This is one more topic where my opinion differs from Marc Tucker’s.

I confess, there is just something about Mr. Tucker’s narrow-mindedness (and his continuing position of power) that makes me want to write. So, here’s my view of this question….

Only 26 percent of respondents in this PDK poll think that preparing students to be good citizens is the most important goal of a public school education. Only!?! Yes, that should be alarming.

Let me ask you; what does it take to be a good citizen?

I thought we needed to learn to read so that we could inform ourselves. I thought we needed to be able to do the math, including understanding statistics, so that we would be less likely to be fooled.

I thought we needed to learn to gather our own facts and think critically because that’s what we need to do in order to be the ultimate authority (the check and balance) in maintaining a representative form of government.

I thought that the pursuit of happiness was a fundamental America value and it meant that our personal interests were important.

I thought that being a good citizen included not being a drag to society, which means being prepared to work and doing the best you can to support yourself.

Academics and work?

Yes, they are part of being a good citizen. But, there is much more to producing an educated electorate than what is being offered in the narrow curriculum of way too many disadvantaged districts —a situation worsened by our outcome-based reforms. Mr. Tucker created and pushed this test-based theory from the get-go.

Tucker has been and continues to be a go-to for The Education Oligarchy.

Yet, Tucker goes on to blame the United States for the damage done to vocational education. — But it’s the STANDARDS STUPID! — Look in the mirror, oh creator of the outcome-based system.

How many times has Mr. Tucker’s publications directed those in power to “start first with academic standards”? Have they ever faced the facts?

The focus on standards narrowed the curriculum.

The focus on standards was deadening to instruction.

The focus on standards almost killed the idea that students need to apply what they learn to real world experiences.

Wake up, America! It’s time to fight for a broad, balanced curriculum, not a narrow set of standards.

We are a nation at risk and the enemy is masked as an expert.

And since when has the purpose of our public education system been to produce already trained workers for private industry? Granted, one purpose is to ensure a solid educational foundation upon which to build. BUT,….

Since when is the goal of public schools to run kids through the workforce development pipeline and pour them directly into jobs? Of course we all need a job but test-and-sort is a recipe for unhappiness.

And, is it a coincidence that editorials are appearing in my local newspaper parroting the same “purpose of education” as the new PDK poll and Mr. Tucker?

“Accelerating talent pipelines is a deliberate effort to prepare our kids, and adults, faster than traditional education pathways, for high paying jobs we know exist today.

How do we build talent pipelines? We embrace three fundamental realities changing our world.

First, we acknowledge the purpose of education is to get a good job and improve our income.

Second, we recognize companies are rapidly shifting their focus to skills and not diplomas for hiring.

Third, we recognize industry is the primary customer of our education system.

Finally, the solution demands we empower industry to influence education outcomes.

NO! This is NOT the purpose of OUR free system of public schools as envisioned by our founding fathers. This is a takeover of our public education system by THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE WORLD (that includes information systems).

 Please don’t let the public schools become just another one of their information delivery systems and their publicly funded training services. Is this the expectation parents have for their children’s schools?

When those who run the show begin giving us the illusion that public opinion is driving education policy, we should be very, very concerned that the PDK annual poll has a new driver.  We — and our representatives — will hear what they say is public opinion. ….. Think about it.

For the first time since the inception of the PDK/Gallup poll on education in 1969, Langer Research Associates did the polling instead of Gallup. That in itself might not mean much. But, how much do we know about this relatively new firm other than they did work for ABC News and Bloomberg? And this particular question, about the purpose of education, is straight out of the standard-bearers playbook….?…

The Reality of the Education Reform War

They” control the language, develop the conversation, and convince the public that their way is the right way.

When you have high-powered marketing firms pushing your agenda, your message pops up everywhere. It’s no coincidence.

Thankfully, Gallup (on their own without PDK) continued their tradition of asking parents about their satisfaction with their own schools.screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-41-07-pmWith 76 percent of parents satisfied with their child’s education, isn’t it time we asked; what are we reforming? And how is it we are changing the whole system and not focusing on what needs fixing (23%)?

Ask Mr. Tucker. He was the go-to education expert back when the standards,testing, accountability movement took off and apparently he continues to be a power player. He’s one national driver who hasn’t changed.

Do you know who is driving education reform in your state?

If charters and “choice” are high on your state’s list of laws to pass (or have already been passed), good chance ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is involved. The wild west is certainly in their pocket and the conversation about the purpose of education has been going on for some time here.

In Idaho (2013), our Governor’s Task Force on Improving Education stated that …

“the higher purpose inherent in education is obvious.”

But it is not obvious in their plan. Their words mean nothing. Their focus continues to be on a narrowed, test-based curriculum with the same old outcome-based accountability that never held anyone accountable. This is state-led?

If this is called “state-led” under the dictates of the new federal education law (Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA), it is no different from the fed-led dictates of No Child Left Behind. The outcome is the same. The law is driving us towards the development of a corporate-controlled, labor development system dubbed public education.

Are we sure this is the direction we want public education to go?

Are we sold on the purpose of education as workforce development (and military recruitment)? Mission accomplished?index

What Teachers Need

The National Science Teachers Association understands that the cultural setting or environment where “accountability” is expected to take place (schools and classrooms) must be a place based on “mutual trust and support.” They laid down “the conditions under which accountability needs to take place.” Here is a summary of their declaration.

Teachers must be given:

  • The appropriate resources,
  • Access to quality educational opportunities,
  • The time necessary to develop skills,
  • The opportunity to participate in development of accountability measures,
  • Information about the plan and timeline for compliance,
  • And the opportunity to address accountability issues within a local network.

Let me use Idaho as an example. Voters – the People – rejected a “pay-for-performance” law. In the process, the Idaho legislature ordered a study looking at issues that affect our Idaho teachers and schools.  When they looked at teacher preparation (summary, pgs. ix-x), three requests for improvement stood out — all having to do with teacher’s opportunities to learn and resources, some of the same things the students need.

We don’t have to look far for solutions.

http://pdkintl.org/noindex/PDKGallupPoll_Oct2014.pdf

http://pdkintl.org/noindex/PDKGallupPoll_Oct2014.pdf

But Idaho ignored their own research to continue on the path of standards, testing, and teacher accountability tied to student outcomes (standards-“based” education, outcome-based “reform”). Our whole nation does not have to make that same mistake. We have an instrument for improvement – federal education law – that is currently called No Child Left Behind (ESEA). What must be known is that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was not intended to be an accountability law. It was to strengthen and improve the education of all those involved with educating children.

Better “public” education will make a better public school system. But before we go putting teacher preparation on center stage, let’s be fair. We need “opportunity to learn” indicators for teacher preparation and continuing education in place FIRST. Measurements matter, right?

Repeatedly, parents have voiced their support for their own child’s teachers and they trust them. Will lawmakers continue to ignore the People’s voice?

PDK/Gallup Poll

PDK/Gallup Poll

 

Fixing Our National Accountability System

Part 2: Propaganda With a Purpose?

Like all the official Marc Tucker position papers I’ve read, “Fixing Our National Accountability System” begins with testimonials.

This round of accolades begins with former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, David Driscoll, who is urging us to “stay the course” with Common Core without being clear about any good reason for the yearly testing associated with it. But there is no doubt that his opinion continues to be revered based on his former position even though Massachusetts winning standards were developed before his reign and he left that job before Common Core came into play there.

In endorsing Common Core, Driscoll seems to have changed his tune a bit from the time when he thought testing in 4th, 8th, and 10th grade was enough AND that it was important that everyone be able to see the tests (2001).

“We released the entire test so that everybody can see the test….And we think this is enormously important.

Why?

The Parents know what’s expected of kids. Teachers know. Schools know. There are no secrets. You can look at the questions. You can debate them.”

Driscoll clearly supports test-based accountability and supports Tucker’s positions. Is he unaware that teachers are not allowed to see the Common Core tests? Has he not thought about the “adaptive” nature of the online testing system limiting the ability for any adult to know for sure what the testing companies have decided to ask?

But Driscoll speaks in favor of Tucker’s plan by calling it a “fact-based way forward” on accountability. Jump aboard the bandwagon! Time for action!

The theme of “Fixing” is based on taking teachers from being treated like “blue-collar workers” to a “professional system of accountability.” But neither of Tucker’s analogies resonates with me. Actually, they struck a sour note.

I was raised in blue-collar country and I’m now a professional. Tucker missed the mark on understanding the essence of either of these groups of people but his words do have that certain “plain folks” appeal when read superficially.

For me, his words are condescending and insulting. My “blue-collar” friends are hard-working honest people that know what its like to put in a good days work. I’m glad I was brought up with those values. Tucker seems to think hard workers need to be “held accountable.” He seems to lack any comprehension of how productive American workers are in general. Rarely must they suffer “consequences” for their actions.

And to have Tucker go on to talk about how other countries “manage” their professionals? WOW! He has not deviated from his view that we are all just human capital ready to be molded to suit the needs of “the economy.” Oh Dear Hillary, some things never change!

It is repugnant to think that this country — this government — would follow the idea that “they” –  the government of the People – must “hold professionals accountable.”

Professionals hold themselves to a professional standard of practice. It is an internal human trait that the selection process, education and training, and continuing education of a profession are designed to identify, firmly establish, and foster. Rarely is government needed. The “bad apples” are the exceptions and the professions have their mechanisms in place to address those relatively rare issues.

Missing ?

Missing ?

Mr. Tucker obviously doesn’t understand good old fashion work ethics — blue-collar or “professional.”

And this Tucker paper did not start off looking like a “fact-based” plan. It reads like it was meant to give the impression that Tucker is against test-based accountability. The stage is set by bad-mouthing No Child Left Behind (not that it doesn’t deserve it). Tuckers’ words flow with the prevailing winds and if people don’t know any better, it reads as if Mr. Tucker himself had nothing to do with any of this. It is patronizing.

“It is particularly ironic that we are holding our teachers accountable, considering
 that it was not the teachers, but rather the public, school boards and the Congress that maintained for years a schools policy based on the use of cheap teachers, a policy that placed little value on teachers’ skills or mastery of subject matter, and deprived teachers of any hope of a real professional career in teaching and of any chance of gaining the kind of status enjoyed by high status professionals in the United States.

We got what we deserved.”

No! Children did not get what they deserved. Testing tests and taking tests limits their precious instructional time. Mr. Tucker pushed the outcome-based theory and pushes for “better” testing. So what is truly ironic is to see him now blame everyone else. Ironic, pathetic, or just a ploy?

This reeks of propaganda with a purpose. I hope people will see through the new soft sell PR for Common Core and test-based (outcome-based) accountability.

But to give Driscoll the benefit of the doubt about this being “fact-based,” I’ll dig further into the “facts” behind “Fixing Our National Accountability System”…. another day, soon.

 

At The Core

We ask for common sense to be used. We seek common ground. Most of us have a need to be part of a community; we search for commonality with someone.

The word “common” has a softly seductive appeal that brings to mind a sense of belonging as though we are sharing something of value.

Common Core National Standards?

Some of us can’t help but see patterns common to our still-fresh experience with state standards and No Child Left Behind. As standards were demanded as part of an accountability scheme, children were put in harms way in an unprecedented experiment in education reform.

If the child didn’t fit the standards and how they were being implemented, many parents and grandparents opted to teach the children how they knew better fit their needs. I know I did, as did others I know who hired tutors or entered their kids in “programs” to fill the gaps.

The standardized tests can never ferret out the effects of our actions giving the appearance that the standards “worked.”

There is no doubt that the practice of re-teaching or supplementing was done during the first thrusts of the test-based accountability experiment and it is being done again with The Core. As one anonymous parent put it, ” At times my son was very confused by what was going on – so I taught him myself. While the schools probably assume that his level of mastery is due to the teaching and books, the truth is far different. I am sure I am not the only case where parents supplement their kid’s education.” JRM (Huffington Post article Oct. 11)

How can we possible judge a system, a school, or a teacher based on this?

The sell job of outcome-based accountability was in the wording: want “better student outcomes,” “higher achievement,” to “leave no child behind,” like the idea of “accountability, flexibility, and choice”? …yes, yes, yes, yes.

Now, a return of some of what was taken away by Round One — critical thinking and writing through more project-based activities — is the commonsense carrot enticing us to swallow the whole Core National Curriculum.

Billed as “new” and “unique,” The Core is neither. Promising to bring “success” and make students “college and career ready,” it is more certain to sell new curriculum materials, new tests, and new remedial materials and programs when students “fail” the tests…and the pattern continues.

Parents, if you are “supplementing” your child’s education, your child in particular should be opted out of the testing. If this national experiment is to go forward, it should be based on an honest evaluation.

My own opinion — for what it is worth — at The Core of this issue is not our agreed need for some commonality of knowledge; at The Core is conformity.

Narrowing of the curriculum was no little glitch. Unintended in Round One; no doubt foreseeable in Round Two.

Narrowing of the curriculum was no little glitch. Unintended in Round One; no doubt foreseeable in Round Two.

“…conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” JFK