Education 2017

Written by  //  June 2, 2017  //  Education  //  No comments

See also Education 2015-16
Bald Piano Guy: “Public School Teacher vs. Betsy DeVos”

“People often confuse charters and vouchers, but they are very different,” wrote Parag Pathak of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the Louisiana authors. Vouchers are essentially coupons that allow parents to spend their tax money at private schools, while charters are public schools that operate outside of the normal bureaucracy. Voucher-financed schools often have little oversight or accountability, while many charters must demonstrate that their students are learning.
“The larger theme,” notes Douglas Harris, a Tulane professor who co-wrote the New Orleans paper [The Effects of the New Orleans Post-Katrina School Reforms on Student Academic Outcomes], “is that not all school reform is created equal. The charter system here has significant accountability: Low-performing schools are closed. Students are assigned by lottery, and system leaders limit mid year transfers and discipline policies to prevent schools from cherry-picking students.”The best charters combine flexibility and accountability — and have thrived. The record of vouchers is less impressive.
Unfortunately, DeVos has shown little appreciation for the difference and pushed for education reform regardless of results. It’s the mirror image of school boards and teachers’ unions that have cast all education reform as evil, regardless of results. Both stances end up hurting our schools. (NYT Opinion round-up 22 December 2016)
Researchers studied kindergarteners’ behavior and followed up 19 years later. Here are the findings.
Turns out, sharing really is caring. (August 2015)

2 June
Michael Ignatieff: Defending Academic Freedom in a Populist Age
(Project Syndicate) Universities nowadays often must fight for their independence on two fronts, against autocratic governments and private interests from without, and against the threat from within posed by fiefdoms of jargon and self-righteous coercion. But success ultimately depends on convincing fellow citizens that what may look like a battle for the privileged few is a battle for the benefit of all.
Those of us lucky enough to work in universities know how privileged we are, but there is a discomfort here. Our salaries are paid by citizens – through taxation, for example, or via tuition support for a son or daughter – who may never have finished secondary school, let alone attended university. We must be able to justify ourselves to them. Our doors must always be open to the public. We must communicate our research in an accessible fashion. And we must remove barriers that exclude our fellow citizens from the chance to learn with us. If we have privileges – and we do – they come with responsibilities, which we must discharge conscientiously.

13 May
How Google Took Over the Classroom
The tech giant is transforming public education with low-cost laptops and free apps. But schools may be giving Google more than they are getting.
(NYT) In the space of just five years, Google has helped upend the sales methods companies use to place their products in classrooms. It has enlisted teachers and administrators to promote Google’s products to other schools. It has directly reached out to educators to test its products — effectively bypassing senior district officials. And it has outmaneuvered Apple and Microsoft with a powerful combination of low-cost laptops, called Chromebooks, and free classroom apps. …
“Between the fall of 2012 and now, Google went from an interesting possibility to the dominant way that schools around the country” teach students to find information, create documents and turn them in, said Hal Friedlander, former chief information officer for the New York City Department of Education, the nation’s largest school district. “Google established itself as a fact in schools.”
Today, about 15 million primary- and secondary-school students in the United States use Classroom, Google said.
Google’s ability to test its products on such a monumental scale has stoked concerns about whether the tech giant is exploiting public-school teachers and students for free labor. “It’s a private company very creatively using public resources — in this instance, teachers’ time and expertise — to build new markets at low cost,” said Patricia Burch, an associate professor of education at the University of Southern California.
[Director of Google’s education apps group, Jonathan Rochelle], said that it was important for the company to have large, diverse sets of educational users giving feedback — otherwise it might develop products that worked for only a few of them.
“Our goal is to build products that help educators and students,” Mr. Rochelle said. “Teachers tell us they appreciate the opportunity to get involved early and help shape our products to meet their needs.”
[former director of technology change management for Chicago Public Schools, Margaret] Hahn agrees. She said that schools were getting something substantive in return from Google, something they had rarely received from other tech companies: quick product improvements that responded to teachers’ feedback.
After the Chicago schools tested Classroom, she said, members of Google’s education team started directly contacting her when they were seeking educators to try out the company’s innovations. “They no longer just turn stuff on,” she said. “They come to us first.”

29 March
After Potter: Media pool or knowledge institution? Universities can’t be both
By Éric Montpetit, professor in the department of political science at the Université de Montréal
(Globe & Mail) Most universities seek to increase their presence in the media, but doing so comes with a risk, as McGill found out last week. … Unlike hiring an academic who had followed a more conventional career path, hiring Prof. Potter came with the promise to make McGill visible in the country’s media. Visibility would, in turn, fend off criticism that the university hires only professors whose research have little social relevance, even in the humanities and social sciences. To my knowledge, few Canadian universities pushed this reasoning as far as McGill did, but most (including my own) took steps of one sort or another to ascertain their presence in the media.
After Prof. Potter published a controversial article last week on how the state of social capital in Quebec interfered in the management of a snow storm, McGill discovered that an increased media presence is not always a good thing. …
Universities […] often have to choose between ascertaining their presence in the media and protecting their status as knowledge institutions. If they do not make the former choice an absolute priority, Canadians may rightfully ask why their taxes fund universities, especially in the social sciences and humanities.
The content of Prof. Potter’s article might raise questions worth addressing in Quebec –although I doubt it – but the knowledge it presented was not validated in any way by university research. University professors should sign provocative articles only to the extent that research comes to provocative conclusions. Otherwise, prudence is warranted, even if it rarely makes for articles entertaining enough to increase the visibility of a university in the media.

And in a letter to the editor, Eric Savoy, Département de littératures et de langues du monde, Université de Montréal, writes:
Andrew Potter’s article in Maclean’s about the supposed “malaise” in Quebec is subjective, unbalanced and, to my mind, biased. “Freedom of speech” is not a credible defence against the propagation of prejudice and negative stereotype. This is especially true in the specific context of his position as director of McGill’s Institute for the Study of Canada, whose mission is to foster deeper understanding of this complex federation. Incendiary speech and intemperate opinion are harmful to this mission.
The larger context is McGill’s particular status: The university’s administration has worked hard to integrate this anglophone island into the broader academic culture of Quebec. Prof. Potter’s article, which demonstrates no real knowledge of Quebec but a great deal of hostility, undermines that effort.
Freedom of opinion is one thing; responsibility to the nation and respect for the institute’s mandate, are another. The institute has had better directors in the past, and it will in the future.
Prof. Potter was right to resign.

24 March
Susan Cain: Not Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers.
The glorification of leadership skills, especially in college admissions, has emptied leadership of its meaning.
(NYT op-ed) What if we said to college applicants that the qualities we’re looking for are not leadership skills, but excellence, passion and a desire to contribute beyond the self? This framework would encompass exceptional team captains and class presidents. But it wouldn’t make leadership the be-all and end-all.
What if we said to our would-be leaders, “Take this role only if you care desperately about the issue at hand”?
And what if we were honest with ourselves about what we value? If we’re looking for the students and citizens most likely to attain wealth and power, let’s admit it. Then we can have a frank debate about whether that is a good idea.
But if instead we seek a society of caring, creative and committed people, and leaders who feel called to service rather than to stature, then we need to do a better job of making that clear.

8 March
A Tale of Two Betsy DeVoses
The generous Grand Rapids resident and the tone-deaf Trump official
(The Atlantic) DeVos, as critics note, has generally opposed regulation and, her opponents argue, contributed to the decimation of public education in the process. Her opposition to regulation and broad support of vouchers even puts her at odds with some school-choice supporters, including people like the former education secretary and charter-school co-founder John King, who have called for some choice, but also strict monitoring.

23 February
Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins
Three consecutive reports, each studying one of the largest new state voucher programs, found that vouchers hurt student learning.
(NYT) The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education was a signal moment for the school choice movement. For the first time, the nation’s highest education official is someone fully committed to making school vouchers and other market-oriented policies the centerpiece of education reform.
But even as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them. The results are startling — the worst in the history of the field, researchers say.
While many policy ideas have murky origins, vouchers emerged fully formed from a single, brilliant essay published in 1955 by Milton Friedman, the free-market godfather later to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Economics. Because “a stable and democratic society is impossible without widespread acceptance of some common set of values and without a minimum degree of literacy and knowledge on the part of most citizens,” Mr. Friedman wrote, the government should pay for all children to go to school.
But, he argued, that doesn’t mean the government should run all the schools. Instead, it could give parents vouchers to pay for “approved educational services” provided by private schools, with the government’s role limited to “ensuring that the schools met certain minimum standards.”

2 January
Leave Your Laptops at the Door to My Classroom
starting with smaller classes, I banned laptops, and it improved the students’ engagement. With constant eye contact, I could see and feel when they understood me, and when they did not. Energized by the connection, we moved faster, further and deeper into the material.
By Darren Rosenblum, professor at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University
(NYT Opinion) When I started teaching, I assumed my “fun” class, sexuality and the law, full of contemporary controversy, would prove gripping to the students. One day, I provoked them with a point against marriage equality, and the response was a slew of laptops staring back. The screens seemed to block our classroom connection. Then, observing a senior colleague’s contracts class, I spied one student shopping for half the class. Another was surfing Facebook. Both took notes when my colleague spoke, but resumed the rest of their lives instead of listening to classmates.
Laptops at best reduce education to the clackety-clack of transcribing lectures on shiny screens and, at worst, provide students with a constant escape from whatever is hard, challenging or uncomfortable about learning. And yet, education requires constant interaction in which professor and students are fully present for an exchange.
Students need two skills to succeed as lawyers and as professionals: listening and communicating. We must listen with care, which requires patience, focus, eye contact and managing moments of ennui productively — perhaps by double-checking one’s notes instead of a friend’s latest Instagram. Multitasking and the mediation of screens kill empathy.
Likewise, we must communicate — in writing or in speech — with clarity and precision. The student who speaks in class learns to convey his or her points effectively because everyone else is listening.

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