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 (NSTA) 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 NSTA Accountability declaration. (Best copy available. “Step 1” is wrong because the premise that setting standards and testing for them increases student achievement has been proven not to be true.)

Teachers must FIRST 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 was called No Child Left Behind (ESEA). It became the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015 without fixing what was wrong with NCLB.  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

 

Business Model of Education Reform: The Real One

Understand the real business model? You may not have heard the whole story.

“The best-run companies start with their people, trusting them as human beings and trusting their capability and their potential. In essence, ‘they are people sensitive.’ They understand the importance of training your people well and letting them do their jobs.”

To be “people sensitive” starts with individual attitudes.

The process of educational improvement begins in the minds of those that desire to do what is best for the nation’s children. It requires being open-minded and cooperative.

Has the business world applied what they know and become a good team player?

Has the business world applied what they know and become a good team player?

And there are some business model rules we might do well to follow. “We must learn not to tamper with success,” not in practice and not in policy.

We need to remember that most school districts in this country have settled the question of what to teach and how to best go about it. So in the 43rd Annual Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK)/Gallup poll on education, we shouldn’t be surprised that 71 percent of Americans say they…

“have trust and confidence in the men and women who are teaching in public schools.”

And that poll titled Betting on Teachers,” also found 73 percent of Americans preferred education policies that “give teachers flexibility to teach in ways they think best” over those that “require teachers to follow a prescribed curriculum so all students can learn the same content” (Bushaw).

For immediate impact in the schools that need our help, we need to look at “the people side of schooling.” And if we believe that “organizational management should be based on observing problems from the bottom up and not from the top down” then isn’t it the teacher in the classroom and the family at home that should be managing the education of public school children?

Can a business model serve us well?

In any given classroom, the teacher becomes their own manager. They plan the lesson, guide the students, and evaluate themselves and their students. And as the business model points out,

“The highest form of self-management is intrapreneurship” and “if teachers are to become intrapreneurs, “they must be given the freedom to act on their own.”

“To achieve excellence, one focuses not on the mission, but on the culture.”

And it is “freedom factors” that “are the foundation for enabling school people to satisfy their higher-level needs. Only when we are able to produce a school environment that meets these needs will we be able to achieve excellence.” This is not what we have created with a test-based, competitive culture. And parents that are out to “give their child every advantage” have added fuel to the fire of competition while modeling a culture of selfishness for their own children.

But now ask yourselves — if training of teachers and leaders is the key to success, who is doing the training? Who set the standards for professional development? What principles are they based on? Are those in charge following the will of the people? Did “they” move forward with “reforms” with our consent?

Excerpts taken from James Lewis, Jr., book Achieving Excellence in Our Schools…by Taking Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies published by J.L Wilkerson Publishing Company in 1986.