GENIUS IS THE NEW NORMAL
by Luby Prytulak PhD
First posted on twelvebytwelve.net/genius/genius.html
21 Jan 2016
Last edited 01 May 2016 05:49pm Pacific Time
Send comments to:
For the reader in a hurry, skip everything but the blue-font chapters:
Why bother upgrading education?
For one thing, better education brings greater national wealth.
In the 2010 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report below, sponsored by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Professor Eric Hanushek of Stanford University's Hoover Institution estimates that the United States has 103 trillion dollars to gain merely from raising its student performance to the level of Finland's, which at that time happened to have ranked high on the PISA test.
A few words of elaboration from Professor Hanushek:
This relationship indicates that relatively small improvements in the skills of a nation’s labour force can have very large impacts on future well-being. [p. 6]
The underlying idea is that economies with more human capital (measured by cognitive skills) innovate at a higher rate than those with less human capital, implying that nations with larger human capital in their workers keep seeing more productivity gains. [p. 10]
The United States itself, [whose student performance] currently falls over 50 points behind Finland, would by historical growth patterns see a present value of improved GDP of over USD 100 trillion [...] — reflecting both the size of the country and its distance behind Finland. Germany would see a USD 16 trillion improvement, or more than five times current GDP. All of these calculations are in real, or inflation-adjusted, terms. [pp. 24-25]
There is one message from these calculations: past experiences suggest that there are enormous economic gains to be had by OECD countries that can improve the cognitive skills of their populations. [p. 27]
The high cost of low educational performance: The long-run economic impact of improving PISA outcomes. OECD, 2010
Similar conclusions abound, as for example in the
Brookings graph below showing the gain to per capita GDP that might result from American skill levels rising progressively to those of Germany, Canada, and Singapore:
On a personal level, with competition increasingly globalizing, what our descendants can expect is that any job they might apply for will be contested by a growing number of applicants all over the world, and that many of these applicants will work for lower pay, and with many of these applicants having received a better education, they will be more highly qualified as well.
At best, then, educational reform is sorely needed, and at worst it wouldn't hurt, so let's have some, and while we're at it, let's have as much as possible — but how is this reform to be achieved? The answer is less obvious than might be imagined. One might almost consider it a closely-guarded secret. Below, for example, is a quick look at ten outstanding failures to reform education. Each example almost invites the cynical conclusion that education is impossible to improve, and every attempt, no matter how generously funded and no matter how powerfully sponsored, is doomed to fail.
HABITUAL FAILURE   EXAMPLE 1
Walter Annenberg: CHICAGO ANNENBERG CHALLENGE (CAC)
More space is allocated here to describing the CAC than to the other nine education-reform projects because the CAC story supports conclusions so shocking that they would elicit incredulity were they to be stated in the absence of substantiating detail, specifically the conclusions that neither the prominence of the initiator of a reform, nor the lavishness of the reform's funding, are guarantees that the control of the reform will avoid falling under the control of people
- who know nothing about education,
- who are drawn to the perpetration of capital crimes such as terrorist bombings,
- whose goal is not to educate children but to brainwash them into sympathizing with subversive and wacko causes,
- who would have trouble passing a sanity test.
Very strong accusations, admittedly, so let's look at some of the substantiation.
Chicago Annenberg Challenge
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) was a Chicago public school reform project from 1995 to 2001 that worked with half of Chicago's public schools and was funded by a $49.2 million, 2-to-1 matching challenge grant over five years from the Annenberg Foundation. The grant was contingent on being matched by $49.2 million in private donations and $49.2 million in public money. [...]
The three individuals bearing strongest responsibility for the CAC are Walter Annenberg, Bill Ayers, and Barack Obama.
CAC PERSONALITY #1: WALTER ANNENBERG
"Everybody around the world wants to send their kids to our universities. South America, Asia, Europe, all of them. But nobody wants to send their kids here to public school. Who would, especially in a big city? Nobody. So we've got to do something. If we don't, our civilization will collapse."
CAC PERSONALITY #2: BILL AYERS
Obama and ’60s Bomber:
A Look Into Crossed Paths
SCOTT SHANE 03 Oct 2008
CHICAGO — At a tumultuous meeting of anti-Vietnam War militants at the Chicago Coliseum in 1969, Bill Ayers helped found the radical Weathermen, launching a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and United States Capitol.
Federal riot and bombing conspiracy charges against him were dropped in 1974 because of illegal wiretaps and other prosecutorial misconduct, and he was welcomed back after years in hiding by his large and prominent family. His father, Thomas G. Ayers, had served as chief executive of Commonwealth Edison, the local power company. [...]
In 1970, Bill Ayers summed up the Weatherman philosophy: "Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents, that’s where it’s really at."
Rebel Without a Pause
Ayers has written about his involvement with the Weather Underground’s bombings of the New York City Police headquarters in 1970, the Capitol in 1971 and the Pentagon in 1972.
"I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough," Ayers told the New York Times in an interview released — ironically — on Sept. 11, 2001.
"Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon," Ayers wrote in his memoirs, titled "Fugitive Days." He continued with a disclaimer that he didn’t personally set the bombs, but that his group set the explosives and planned the attack.
Radical Chicago Past
A passage consisting of three short sentences within the material quoted above is particularly revealing, and so deserves our particular attention. It is that the man who while in control of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge was entrusted with the education of American children, while earlier leading the terrorist Weather Underground had urged American youth to
"Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents, that’s where it’s really at."
Fire in the Night
The Weathermen tried to kill my family.
JOHN M. MURTAGH 30 Apr 2008
[...] In February 1970, my father, a New York State Supreme Court justice, was presiding over the trial of the so-called "Panther 21," members of the Black Panther Party indicted in a plot to bomb New York landmarks and department stores. Early on the morning of February 21, as my family slept, three gasoline-filled firebombs exploded at our home on the northern tip of Manhattan, two at the front door and the third tucked neatly under the gas tank of the family car. [...]
FREE THE PANTHER 21
Through the large windows overlooking the yard, all we could see was the bright glow of flames below. We didn’t leave our burning house for fear of who might be waiting outside. The same night, bombs were thrown at a police car in Manhattan and two military recruiting stations in Brooklyn. Sunlight, the next morning, revealed three sentences of blood-red graffiti on our sidewalk:
THE VIET CONG HAVE WON
KILL THE PIGS
[...] In many ways, the enormity of the attempt to kill my entire family didn’t fully hit me until years later, when, a father myself, I was tucking my own nine-year-old John Murtagh into bed.
Though no one was ever caught or tried for the attempt on my family’s life, there was never any doubt who was behind it. Only a few weeks after the attack, the New York contingent of the Weathermen blew themselves up making more bombs in a Greenwich Village townhouse. The same cell had bombed my house, writes Ron Jacobs in The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. And in late November that year, a letter to the Associated Press signed by Bernardine Dohrn, Ayers’s wife, promised more bombings. [...]
Among the several things the Weathermen blew up was themselves, almost taking Dustin Hoffman with them:
The History Of The Weathermen Town House (With Cameos By Dustin Hoffman, James Merrill, and Paddington Bear)
Michael Solomon This story appears in the September 8, 2014 issue of Forbes.
Dustin Hoffman stands outside 18 West 11th Street in New York, which was destroyed by explosion and next door to his own apartment, on March 6, 1970. (Credit: AP Photo)
The rubble from the explosion caused by the Weather Underground in the basement of 18 West 11th Street, March 6, 1970.
(Credit: Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images)
On March 6, 1970 James Wilkerson’s daughter Cathy [...] and four college friends, who along with her are part of the radical group Weather Underground, begin assembling a bomb in the building’s basement. When it accidentally explodes, the blast kills three Weathermen, reduces the town house to rubble and blows a hole in Dustin Hoffman’s living room. Cathy Wilkerson and her friend Kathy Boudin leave the scene of the crime and remain fugitives for years. (Wilkerson surrendered in 1980, and Boudin was arrested a year later.) [...]
CAC PERSONALITY #3: BARACK OBAMA:
Barack Obama 1995
Barack Obama served as Founding President and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Chicago Annenberg Challenge from 1995 to 1999, and remained on the Board Of Directors until 2002.
And putting it all together:
The Wreck of the Annenberg
by Andrew J. Coulson 27 Oct 2008
Obama's first effort at school reform was a total failure that he won't admit and can't explain.
Thanks to Bill Ayers, a great many people now know that Barack Obama chaired the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge from 1995 to 1999. Ayers, erstwhile member of the 60s’ terrorist group, the Weather Underground, was the driving force in bringing Annenberg’s millions of education reform dollars to Chicago, and he worked with Obama once the project was up and running. [...]
The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was a total failure. And to this day, Senator Obama remains committed to its failed approach.
But instead of being in a position to waste tens of millions of private dollars, as he was then, Obama is now asking voters for the power to waste hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. Before granting him that power, Americans should understand what went wrong.
The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was part of a nationwide effort launched by TV Guide mogul Walter H. Annenberg on a blustery December day in 1993. In a White House ceremony hosted by president Clinton, Annenberg pledged half a billion dollars to create model public schools and districts. He and the scholars he appointed to lead the project hoped their models of excellence would be replicated all over the country, transforming American education. Thanks to matching donations, the Challenge ultimately raised more than a billion dollars.
It failed not just in Chicago, but around the country. The first problem was that many of the "model" schools and districts lacked results worthy of replication. The final report of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, for instance, noted that, overall, students in its model schools had learned no more than students in regular public schools. Classroom behavior and other non-academic measures "were weaker in 2001 than before the Challenge." [...]
The National Review account above may be interpreted as saying that Ayers-Obama tried to reform education, but failed. The Wall Street Journal account below, however, depicts the Ayers-Obama goal as aiming less at education than at indoctrination, as for example aiming at "infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment" and "provoking resistance to American racism and oppression", and as distributing the Annenberg Challenge funds not to schools, but to "external partners" who could be counted on to promote the Ayers agenda:
Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism On Schools
By STANLEY KURTZ Updated Sept. 23, 2008
Bill Ayers. AP
Despite having authored two autobiographies, Barack Obama has never written about his most important executive experience. From 1995 to 1999, he led an education foundation called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), and remained on the board until 2001. The group poured more than $100 million into the hands of community organizers and radical education activists.
The CAC was the brainchild of Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground in the 1960s. Among other feats, Mr. Ayers and his cohorts bombed the Pentagon, and he has never expressed regret for his actions. Barack Obama's first run for the Illinois State Senate was launched at a 1995 gathering at Mr. Ayers's home.
The Obama campaign has struggled to downplay that association. Last April, Sen. Obama dismissed Mr. Ayers as just "a guy who lives in my neighborhood," and "not somebody who I exchange ideas with on a regular basis." Yet documents in the CAC archives make clear that Mr. Ayers and Mr. Obama were partners in the CAC. [...]
The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was created ostensibly to improve Chicago's public schools. The funding came from a national education initiative by Ambassador Walter Annenberg. In early 1995, Mr. Obama was appointed the first chairman of the board, which handled fiscal matters. Mr. Ayers co-chaired the foundation's other key body, the "Collaborative," which shaped education policy. [...] Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda. [...]
The CAC's agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers's educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. [...]
Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? "I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk's, "Sixties Radicals," at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.
CAC translated Mr. Ayers's radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with "external partners," which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn). [...]
CAC's in-house evaluators comprehensively studied the effects of its grants on the test scores of Chicago public-school students. They found no evidence of educational improvement. [...]
The Obama campaign has cried foul when Bill Ayers comes up, claiming "guilt by association." Yet the issue here isn't guilt by association; it's guilt by participation. As CAC chairman, Mr. Obama was lending moral and financial support to Mr. Ayers and his radical circle. That is a story even if Mr. Ayers had never planted a single bomb 40 years ago.
HABITUAL FAILURE   EXAMPLE 2
George W Bush: TEXAS EDUCATION MIRACLE
When George W Bush became Governor of Texas in 1994, he appointed Rod Paige Superintendent of Schools in the Houston Independent School District. (And when Bush later became US President in 2001, he appointed Paige as Secretary of Education, but that's a later story — the story of No Child Left Behind, featured as EXAMPLE 5 below, where the opening photo shows Paige hovering just above Bush.)
The "Texas miracle" was based on a very simple test. After George Bush became governor [in November 1994], the Texas Board of Education sharply lowered the number of correct answers required to pass the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills. A student could have worse reading skills than almost 95 percent of the students in the entire country and still be considered a Texas success story.
James Bovard, The Bush Betrayal, Macmillan, New York, 2004, p. 72.
If money talks, is it a miracle?
By Jim Trelease, © 2002-2005
[...] The first thing to understand is that a district's scores are immediately affected by the number of at-risk students who take the test. The more at-riskers, the lower the district's score. Therefore, [...] if a district is under pressure from local, state, or federal authorities to raise the scores quickly, the fastest way is to lower the number of at-risk students taking the test.
So when Southern states began boasting about the sudden rise in their NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] reading and math scores in 2002, only a few people were alert enough to look at the real reason behind the rise: most states had raised their "exclusion" rates — at-risk 4th- and 8th-grade students not taking the test — by as much as 400 percent and thus raised state scores. It looks good on paper but it's a mirage (call it an "Enron moment"); no overall improvement in learning actually has taken place. [...]
Which brings us to the "Texas Education Miracle," one of candidate George W. Bush's campaign slogans in 2000. Specifically — the "miracle" of Houston Independent School District, an urban district brimming with impoverished Latinos but cited again and again for its remarkable gains in everything from student scores to a dropout rate that was the envy of the nation. In fact, it was good enough for President Bush to make its superintendent, Dr. Rod Paige, his secretary of education. [...]
[T]he "miracle" went unchallenged until February of 2003 when an assistant principal at Houston's Sharpstown High School couldn't believe his eyes: a "zero" dropout rate for his school. Even though 1000 students had started as freshman and by senior year only 300 were still there, no dropouts. (Left unsaid is that many of the missing 700 were at-risk students who might have brought down the school's scores, a fact uncovered in a similar scandal in New York.) [...]
When Secretary Paige took over as Houston superintendent, only 26 percent of the city's 10th graders were passing the state math test; the year he departed for Washington, 99 percent were passing it. Miraculous? [...]
[U]nder Paige it became commonplace for at-risk 9th-graders to be retained in that grade, allowing only the competent to matriculate to 10th — the year when they would take the state math test. After two or more years in 9th grade, those at-risk students were moved up to 12th grade, in effect sidestepping the 10th-grade test. The result is that by 2001, there were 1,160 students in 9th grade and 281 in 10th grade. And 99 percent of those 281 passed the state math test. [...]
HABITUAL FAILURE   EXAMPLE 3
Walton Family: CHARTER SCHOOLS
Sam Walton's granddaughter, Carrie Walton Penner, with YES Prep North Central students.
Walton family spends big to make American education more like Walmart
By Laura Clawson 27 Jun 2015
[...] The [Walton Family F]oundation is the largest private funder of charter school start-ups, having spent more than $355 million since 1997 on charter launches. [...] [T]he foundation has kick-started more than 1,500 schools, approximately one out of four charters in the country. [...]
BROUGHT TO YOU BY WAL-MART?
How the Walton Family Foundation's Ideological Pursuit is Damaging Charter Schooling
[...] If, according to the CREDO [Center for Research on Education Outcomes] report, 17 out of 100 charter schools improve student outcomes, but 37 actually worsen outcomes, then the rapid expansion of the sector is creating more poorly performing schools than high-quality schools. [...]
Sam Walton's Granddaughter Has Plans To Fix Public Education In America
Luisa Kroll 01 Dec 2014
[...] While charter school growth has been explosive, the results are uneven. According to a major Stanford study, [...] overall 25% of students in public charters outperformed local school districts in reading and 29% outperformed in math — but 19% and 31% did worse respectively [...]. Thus, choice without improvement doesn’t achieve much. [...]
If absence of improvement were the sole defect of charter schools, this would be disappointing enough, but the fact of the matter may be much worse. The fact of the matter may be that charter schools have become cesspools of corruption, whose overriding motive is not to improve education, but to enrich thieves:
We’re onto the phony education reformers: Charter school charlatans and faux reformers take it on the chin
After years of attacks on teachers and public education, Americans are catching up to the real story in our schools
JEFF BRYANT 09 Jan 2016
Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan (Credit: AP/Ted S. Warren/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Andrew Harnik)
2015 will forever be remembered as the year the political establishment was shaken by the populist-driven presidential candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. But it should also be remembered as the year another established order was forever altered by change, dissent and revelations of its corruption. [...]
Early in the year, a report from the Center for Popular Democracy looked at charter school finances in Illinois and found "$13.1 million in fraud by charter school officials … Because of the lack of transparency and necessary oversight, total fraud is estimated at $27.7 million in 2014 alone."
One example the CPD report cited was of a charter operator in Chicago who used charter school funds amounting to more than $250,000 to purchase personal items from luxury department stores, including $2,000 on hair care and cosmetic products and $5,800 for jewelry.
In April, another report from the Center for Popular Democracy, along with the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), uncovered over $200 million in "alleged and confirmed financial fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement" committed by charter schools around the country.
Authors of the report called $200-plus million the "tip of the iceberg," because much of the fraud "will go undetected because the federal government, the states, and local charter authorizers lack the oversight necessary to detect the fraud."
Then, in October, the Center for Media and Democracy published a new report revealing that the federal government has spent over $3.7 billion in taxpayer money on charter schools with virtually no accountability for the funds. [...]
In Michigan, for instance, where four out of five charters are run by for-profit management companies, CMD found "ghost schools" that had received millions in federal funding but either never opened or were quickly closed with no account for the money. Some charter operators in the state have been accused, and convicted, of crimes, including felony fraud and tax evasion. But most often, no perpetrators of the malfeasance are brought to justice.
Interspersed among these massive reports are news stories from local press outlets, too numerous to count, about charter school frauds, financial and academic, that boggle the mind in their outrageousness.
In May, an Ohio paper began its news story about Ohio charter schools, "No sector — not local governments, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals — misspends tax dollars like charter schools in Ohio." Reporter Doug Livingston wrote, "State auditors have uncovered $27.3 million improperly spent by charter schools, many run by for-profit companies, enrolling thousands of children and producing academic results that rival the worst in the nation." [...]
More recently, Florida press outlets reported the state has given about $70 million to charter schools that later closed and returned virtually none of the money to taxpayers. [...]
Why Charter Schools Won’t Save Reform
Scandals will continue to dog charter schools because of the way they are organized and operated. As a recent policy brief from the National Education Policy Center explains, the very structure of the charter school business introduces new actors into public education who skim money from the system without returning any benefit to students and taxpayers.
In one of the more bizarre schemes the authors examine, charter operators use third-party corporations to purchase buildings and land from the public school district itself, so taxpayer dollars are used to purchase property from the public. Thus, the public ends up paying twice for the school, and the property becomes an asset of a private corporation.
In other examples, charter operators will set up leasing agreements and lucrative management fees between multiple entities that end up extracting resources that might otherwise be dedicated to direct services for children.
These arrangements, and many others documented in the brief, constitute a rapidly expanding parallel school system in America, populated with enterprises and individuals who work in secret to suck money out of public education. [...]
HABITUAL FAILURE   EXAMPLE 4
Bill Gates: ONE REFORM AFTER ANOTHER
Bill Gates has spent fifteen years and billions of dollars trying to improve education, but without success, and judging from the above poster, without unanimous gratitude for his efforts either.
Gates Foundation put millions of dollars into new education focus: Teacher preparation
By Valerie Strauss 23 Nov 2015
[...] In the early 2000s, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation put hundreds of millions of dollars into the creation of small schools on the theory that breaking up large high schools with high dropout rates would help increase the graduation rate. When things didn’t go as well as they wanted, they switched their education philanthropy focus to teacher quality by spending hundreds of millions of dollars to help some school districts develop teacher assessment systems that, among other things, incorporated the controversial method of using student standardized tests as one of the measures. That effort did not produce the hoped-for results. Hundreds of millions of more Gates dollars went into the creation, implementation and marketing of the Common Core State Standards. Now, the foundation has found a new focus in regard to teacher quality: how to train teachers. [...]
When the above summary alluded to "Common Core State Standards", it neglected to indicate that some view Common Core as not only having failed to help, but as having actually hurt:
The Common Core Monster
The people don't like the program, but this creature of the Left can't easily be killed
by Anna Arthurs
The popularity of the Common Core national standards is steadily plummeting.
A CBS News poll found that 59 percent of those familiar with Common Core oppose it, and for good reason. The 2015 SAT scores were the lowest in a decade. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tests fourth- and eighth-graders in math and reading, saw scores drop for the first time in more than two decades. And the teaching philosophies of Common Core seem, to many parents, simply bizarre. [...]
New Jersey governor Chris Christie summarizes the antipathy with which Common Core tends to be received: "I have three constituencies that hate Common Core — teachers, parents, and students."
HABITUAL FAILURE   EXAMPLE 5
George Bush: NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND (NCLB)
George Bush launches NCLB, with Rod Paige hovering above him, just right of Ted Kennedy
Exacerbating inequality: the failed promise of the No Child Left Behind Act
David Hursh, Race Ethnicity and Education, Vol. 10, No. 3, September 2007, pp. 295–308, p. 305
[...] A recent study by the Harvard Civil Rights Project examined reading and
math results by race on the NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] before and after the implementation of NCLB
(Lee, 2006). In the Foreword to the study, Orfield (2006) summarizes the study as
concluding that under NCLB: "neither a significant rise in achievement, nor closure of the racial achievement gaps is being
HABITUAL FAILURE   EXAMPLE 6
Michael Bloomberg: THE BLOOMBERG LEGACY
The Education of Michael Bloomberg
He claimed that he's narrowed the achievement gap, but his record indicates otherwise.
By Leonie Haimson and Diane Ravitch 17 Apr 2013
Mayor Michael Bloomberg observes fifth graders at Brooklyn's Public School 262. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)
In 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his schools chancellor at the time, Joel Klein, testified before Congress that their policies had led to a substantial narrowing of the racial achievement gap, meaning the gap in test scores between white students and those of color: "Over the past six years, we've done everything possible to narrow the achievement gap — and we have. In some cases, we've reduced it by half," said Bloomberg. He repeated that claim in 2012, saying, "We have closed the gap between black and Latino kids and white and Asian kids," he said. "We have cut it in half." [...]
Unfortunately, his claims of closing the achievement gap proved misleading. On the reliable national assessment known as the NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress], there had been no significant increase in scores or narrowing of the gap since 2003, when the mayor's policies were first imposed. In 2010, the state Education Department finally admitted what observers had long suspected: that the state exams had become overly predictable and that scoring well had grown easier over time. [...]
It's On: Thompson Slams Bloomberg on Education
Jennifer Millman 08 Jan 2014
Bill Thompson Jr, City Comptroller and mayoral candidate
Michael Bloomberg, New York City Mayor
[...] In the ads, Bloomberg says math and reading scores and high-school graduation rates have improved under his watch — a claim his Democratic opponent says his bogus, considering many of those who got their diplomas may not have deserved them.
Thompson's audit found that nearly a fifth of graduated students got credit for passing the same course twice or more, and that some students were allowed to do this in lieu of repeating a course they had previously failed. The comptroller's office also found grades got changed awfully close to graduation dates without going through the requisite approval process. [...]
HABITUAL FAILURE   EXAMPLE 7
Barack Obama: RACE TO THE TOP (RTTT)
Barack Obama launches Race To The Top (RTTT)
Race to the Top|
Race to the Top [...] is a $4.35 billion United States Department of Education competitive grant created to spur and reward innovation and reforms in state and local district K-12 education. It [...] was announced by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on July 25, 2009. [...]
The Dismal Failure of Arne Duncan's "Race to the Top" Program
Test scores have been an embarrassment to the Obama and Bush administrations.
Diane Ravitch 28 Oct 2015
[...] [T]he federal tests called the National Assessment of Educational Progress released its every-other-year report card in reading and math, and the results were dismal. There would be many excuses offered, many rationales, but the bottom line: the NAEP scores are an embarrassment to the Obama administration (and the George W. Bush administration that preceded it). [...]
But the 2015 NAEP scores released today by the National Assessment Governing Board (a federal agency) showed that Arne Duncan’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top program had flopped. It also showed that George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind was as phony as the "Texas education miracle" of 2000, which Bush touted as proof of his education credentials.
[...] NAEP measures the rise or fall of average scores for states in fourth grade and eighth grade in reading and math [...]. [...]
The 2015 NAEP scores showed no gains nationally in either grade in either subject. In mathematics, scores declined in both grades, compared to 2013. In reading, scores were flat in grade 4 and lower in grade 8. Usually the Secretary of Education presides at a press conference where he points with pride to increases in certain grades or in certain states. Two years ago, Arne Duncan boasted about the gains made in Tennessee, which had won $500 million in Duncan’s Race to the Top competition. This year, Duncan had nothing to boast about. [...]
HABITUAL FAILURE   EXAMPLE 8
Bill Gates: GATES FOUNDATION DOES MEMPHIS
How $90 million from Bill Gates spurred sweeping changes in one school district
An unprecedented investment takes on the culture of teaching in Memphis schools
By Ruma Kumar 16 March 2016
In 2009, a group of philanthropists and local educators set an ambitious goal: What if Memphis City Schools (now Shelby County Schools) could become a national model of great teaching for all children? Between the philanthropists — including up to $90 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — and a federal grant soon after from the Obama administration, the district poured $184 million into addressing the district’s chronic failure [...]. [...]
A student studies at Treadwell Elementary School. (Photo by Ruma Kumar/Chalkbeat)
In its proposal to the Gates Foundation, Memphis school leaders acknowledged that none of the work is worth it unless students do better.
By this time, the district had forecast that local high schools would graduate 75 percent of their seniors but also that the students would perform well enough on national standardized tests to succeed in college. It also said that at least 60 percent of elementary and middle schoolers would be proficient in reading, math and science.
That hasn’t happened: Elementary and middle school students average in the 30th and 40th percentile on state tests. And while the fluctuating graduation rate landed last year exactly at 75 percent, up from 67 percent in 2008, most high schoolers do not score high enough on standardized tests to suggest they’re ready for college. [...]
In 2013-14, students at Raleigh Egypt Middle scored low on state tests, with only 13 percent reading on grade level and 14 percent proficient in math. That improved last year under a dynamic new principal who pushed intensive coaching for struggling teachers and tutoring for students. Math proficiency increased by 8 percentage points to 22 percent. Still, the gains were not enough to ward off takeover by the state-run Achievement School District, another vehicle for improvement created under Tennessee’s Race to the Top plan. Raleigh Egypt will convert to a charter school this fall. [...]
HABITUAL FAILURE   EXAMPLE 9
Rupert Murdoch: AMPLIFY
Rupert Murdoch with Joel Klein
Chief Executive Officer of Amplify, Joel Klein, former Chancellor of the New York City Board of Education
Rupert Murdoch’s leap into education technology business ends badly
By Valerie Strauss 19 Sep 2015
It was only a few years ago when there were big headlines that Joel Klein, the former chancellor of New York City schools, was going to head up Amplify, the education division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. with the intention of making it a leader in education technology.
With a News Corp. investment of $1 billion and a partnership with AT&T, Amplify was set to sell 4G tablets to school districts and provide digital curriculum and instruction learning products to schools. With its website boldly saying, "Amplify is reimagining the way teachers teach and students learn," it promised to make big waves in the education technology world, and some well-known figures jumped on board. [...]
Amplify’s tablets turned out to be a bust, with those in its largest shipment (to the school district in Greensboro, N.C.) troubled by technical problems. Customers were not terribly interested in Amplify’s equipment or curriculum. Last month, News Corp. reported that it was writing off $371 million in Amplify losses [...].
HABITUAL FAILURE   EXAMPLE 10
Mark Zuckerberg: NEWARK NJ SCHOOL REFORM
Mark Zuckerberg's gift of $100 million to repair Newark education was matched by another $100 million from other benefactors, but disbursing this $200 million over five years turned out to be accompanied by declining performance.
Cory Booker Newark Mayor
Mark Zuckerberg Facebook CEO
Chris Christie New Jersey Governor
Cami Anderson appointed Superintendant of Newark Schools in order to implement Zuckerberg reforms
And Anderson's declaration of victory, based on less than complete presentation of data on student performance, only exacerbated unease. She announced a ten percent increase in the graduation rate — an accomplishment Christie touted in his State of the State address — but results from the ACT college admission test, taken by all juniors, showed that only two to five percent of students in nonmagnet high schools were prepared for college. Meanwhile, throughout the district, proficiency had declined in both literacy and math in every tested grade on the state standardized test since 2011, the year before Anderson arrived. The state had made the tests more difficuilt over those years [before Anderson's arrival], but students' results statewide hadn't suffered [until after Anderson arrived and implemented the Zuckerberg program].
Dale Russakoff, The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools? Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston and New York, 2015, p. 204.
Education commentators sometimes recommend that future reforms simply adopt the education practices of countries scoring high in international comparisons of student performance, as for example on examinations administered by TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) or by PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment).
WHENCE SALVATION?   EXAMPLE 1
Perhaps South Korea offers a model to emulate?
For example, in the most recent TIMSS results, South Korea commands attention by ranking first in Math (with the US ranking 9th), and by following that up with a respectable 3rd-place ranking in Science (with the US ranking 10th):
If the US wants its students to perform like Koreans, goes the thinking, it should run its schools the way Koreans run theirs. And so just what goes on in Korean schools that produces such admirable performance? Below are some of the observations of Eric, a Minnesota exchange student attending a Korean high school:
The teacher walked into the room and stood at the front of the class. She was tall compared to most Korean women, and wore glasses. She carried a delicate microphone in one hand and a stick with a stuffed frog on the end of it in the other hand. It looked like a backscratcher, something you might find in a gift shop at the mall. Eric stopped talking and sat up straight at his desk, wondering what to make of the frog.
Strangely, no one else seemed to react. The kids kept chatting with one another while the teacher stood there, waiting. It was painful to watch. Finally, the teacher tapped her frog stick on a desk to get everyone's attention, and the students slowly took their seats. As she lectured, a few of the kids talked over her in the back. Eric was surprised. He had seen worse behavior back in the States, but for some reason, he had expected Korean kids to be more deferential.
A few minutes later, he glanced backwards at the rows of students behind him. Then he looked again, eyes wide. A third of the class was asleep. Not nodding off, but flat-out, no-apology sleeping, with their heads down on the desks. One girl actually had her head on a special pillow that slipped over her forearm. This was pre-meditated napping.
How could this be? Eric had read all about the hard-working Koreans who trounced the Americans in math, reading, and science. He hadn't read anything about shamelessly sleeping through class. As if to compensate for his classmates, he sat up even straighter and waited to see what happened next.
The teacher lectured on, unfazed.
At the end of the class, the kids woke up. They had a ten-minute break and made every second count. Girls sat on top of their desks or on overturned trash cans, chatting with each other and texting on their phones. A few of the boys started drumming on their desks with their pencils. They were strangely comfortable in the classroom, as if they were in their own living rooms at home.
Next was science class. Once again, at least a third of the class went to sleep. It was almost farcical. How did Korean kids get those record-setting scores if they spent so much of their time asleep in class?
Soon he discovererd the purpose of the teacher's backscratcher. It was the Korean version of wake-up call. Certain teachers would lightly tap kids on the head when they fell asleep or talked in class. The kids called it a "love stick." [pp. 52-53]
At ten past two, Eric left school early. Since he was an exchange student, he was exempt from having to experience the full force of the Korean school day. He asked one of his classmates what would happen after he left.
"We keep going to school."
Eric looked at him blankly.
"Classes end at ten after four," he said.
Then he went on. After classes, the kids cleaned the school, mopping the floors, wiping the chalkboards, and emptying the garbage. The kids who had received demerits — for misbehaving or letting their hair grow too long — had to wear red pinnies and clean the bathrooms. Work, including the unpleasant kind, was at the center of Korean school culture, and no one was exempt.
At four-thirty, everyone settled back in their seats for test-prep classes, in anticipation of the college entrance exam. Then they ate dinner in the school cafeteria.
After dinner came Yaja, a two hour period of study loosely supervised by teachers. Most kids reviewed their notes from the day or watched online test-prep lectures, as the teachers roamed the hallways and confiscated the occasional illicit iPod.
Around nine in the evening, Eric's classmates finally left Namsan.
But the school day still wasn't over. At that point, most kids went to private tutoring academies known as hagwons. That's where they did most of their real learning, the boy said. They took more classes there until eleven, the city's hagwon curfew. Then — finally — they went home to sleep for a few hours before reporting back to school at eight the next morning.
Eric listened to this epic regimen with a mounting feeling of dread. How could teenagers do nothing — literally nothing — but study? Suddenly, he understood what he had seen in class that day. The kids had acted like they lived in the classroom because they essentially did. They spent more than twelve hours there every week-day — and they already went to school almost two months longer than kids back in Minnesota. His classmates slept in their classes for one primal reason: because they were exhausted.
Suddenly, Eric wanted very badly to leave early.
By quarter past two, he and the Canadian girl were walking across the dirt field, headed away from Namsan — seven hours before their classmates could leave. While the Korean kids worked, the exchange students went into a convenience store. [...]
Lying on his bed back at his host family's apartment, Eric thought more about what the boy had told him. Korean kids essentially went to school twice — every weekday. He had found one possible explanation for Korea's PISA scores, and it was depressing. Kids learned a lot, but they spent a ridiculous amount of time doing so. They had math classes at school — and math classes in hagwons. He was astounded by the inefficiency of it all. In Korea, school never stopped. [pp. 55-57]
Teenagers were in all kinds of closets, sometimes literally, locked into small, airless spaces, studying for the test. "The students I've talked to despise the system," he said, shaking his head. "They absolutely loathe it." [p. 66]
"Without hagwons, Korea would nosedive on PISA." [p. 172]
When Eric's friend Jenny had moved back to Korea from the United States, she'd enrolled in a hagwon, like all her friends in eighth grade. There, she'd repeated virtually everything she was supposedly learning in school during the day: Korean, math, science, and social studies. On most nights, she'd stay at the hagwon until ten; before tests, she'd stayed until midnight. [pp. 172-173]
Amanda Ripley, The smartest kids in the world and how they got that way, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, New York, 2013.
Anything happening in South Korean schools that Americans might want to copy? Doesn't look like it! Confining students for most of their waking hours, and wasting much of their time in confinement, offers a model that few will be rushing to imitate.
WHENCE SALVATION?   EXAMPLE 2
Perhaps Shanghai offers a model to emulate?
In the 2012 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) data below, the most recent available, it is Shanghai which ranks first, and not only in Mathematics, but in Science and in Reading as well.
The United States, in contrast, has slid alarmingly. It now ranks 36th in Math, 28th in Science, and 24th in Reading.
Surely Shanghai must be doing many things right that Americans do wrong, such that Americans have much to learn from the Shanghai example?
But having just seen how much of a student's time is demanded in South Korea (and how much of that is wasted), our first question of Shanghai education is how much of a student's time it takes up:
Lessons From the World's Best Public School
Grant Burningham 01 May 2014
Jinjing Liu, a 15-year-old ninth-grader at Meilong Intermediate in central Shanghai — and part of the best education system in the world's most populous country — is ticking off her normal class schedule: "Physics, chemistry, math, Chinese, English, Chinese literature, geography ... the usual stuff," she says in impeccable English.
That's not Jinjing's school day schedule; that's her workload each and every Sunday. The Lord may have rested on the seventh day, but Jinjing studies, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. She relates this over lunch on a Saturday afternoon, "the only day," she acknowledges, that she has "any free time to relax." And lest you think she is some whiz-bang academic geek on the fast track to Tsinghua, China's M.I.T., think again. Ask who else in her high school has that Sunday routine and she says, "Pretty much everyone." [...]
Jinjing gets up at 6 every morning, is in school by 7:30 and stays until 6 every evening. [...] She gets home and eats dinner at around 6:30, then does homework every weeknight until 11 p.m. — "and sometimes later," she says. Both her parents are government attorneys and work full time, but at least one — and sometimes both — is by her side as she does her homework. Checking it, correcting it, answering questions when possible. [...]
The typical Shanghai school day, then, seems to run from 07:30am to 6pm, which over five week days equals 52.5 hours per week. Homework from around 07:00pm to 11:00pm over five days equals 20 more hours per week. Sunday from 08:00am to 05:00pm equals 9 more hours per week. Adding the three together gives 81.5 hours of schooling per week, which rounded down to 80 hours per week allows us to summarize by saying that the average Shanghai high-school student spends twice the hours studying as the average American worker spends working.
Further information concerning Shanghai education has to do with parental participation, with student happiness, with physical health, and with passivity and creativity — on every topic adding fresh reason to avoid imitating Shanghai:
The Real Shanghai Secret
[...] While Mr. Friedman was applauding a deep involvement of parents in their children's learning, Chinese parents, in fact, feel kidnapped by it. Their own basic daily life is lost. Every afternoon, after school time, before dinner time, on a mother or father's mobile phone, a homework list is sent by the teachers who often are in charge of three major subjects: Chinese, math and English. At the same time, children at the first grade start writing down the list of homework in a special diary that is a checklist for parents to sign off on. Through these tools, teachers pass their duties to parents because it then becomes the parents' job to ensure that their children complete the homework. Without the parent's signature, or just by making a few mistakes in a notebook or on an exercise sheet, the child will be in serious trouble the following day. An "irresponsible" parent is often asked to the teacher's office, and blamed in front of their children. It is not uncommon to hear about a mother being shouted at in front of a classroom, then breaking down and crying because she is busily working day and night to provide the basic needs of her family. Moreover, teachers are allowed to use the most powerful psychologically hurtful weapon: that is to ostracize a "rebellious" (really just someone who doesn't fit the mould) student, thus forcing parents to see their children receive the ultimate kind of painful suffering until they agree to toe the line. [...]
The suicide rate among young students in China is the highest in the world and it is continuously rising. In Shanghai, 24.39% of students in primary and secondary schools admit they have had an intention to commit suicide, 15.23% considered the suicide methods, 5.85% seriously planned suicide, 1.71% committed suicide. [...]
The physical health of children and teenagers is continuously worse in the past 30 years. The rate of near-sighted students in China is also the highest in the world. Mr. Yang Rengui, the deputy chief inspector of the Ministry of Education of China, admitted in 2006 the anxious pursuit of performance and the lack of physical exercise time are the major contributors.
If a "successful" education system is based on shaping students as conformists and passive learners without any confidence in their own creativity, imagination or human potential, then the Chinese school system is, indeed, remarkably efficient. However, if the Americans want to emulate our model as a way of competing in the global marketplace, please beware. We Chinese know the real secret of our system that has been kept over 50 years, and it's absolutely not a pretty picture.
The parental participation demanded in Shanghai can be faulted not only for taking much parental time, but also for its teaching students to work with one, sometimes two, parents at hand ready to answer every question and remove every obstacle, which is the opposite of what is needed. What is needed is students who have learned to answer questions, and remove obstacles, for themselves, which they should be able to do by referring to their textbooks or exercise books. When later in life they encounter problems, they will be of little use to anyone if their impulse is to turn for help to somebody always at their elbow.
Two videos showing Chinese students committing suicide:
Watch boy on lower right
Watch street on the right
Our quick glance at Shanghai education, then, suggests that it resembles South Korea's in offering nothing worth imitating.
Even though our search for a foreign model worth imitating has been very brief, it has also been so crashingly unproductive that we will suspend it for the time being, and turn instead to an alternative line of thinking which seems more promising.
The goal of the above ten failed reforms, or at least the ostensible or putative goal, has been to get students to pass examinations on key subjects that they are expected to have learned something about.
Let us take a look at one such examination — the Grade 7 math exam in New York State in 2010, the first four questions of which can be seen in the LOWLY MATH table below. The only question that might give the average adult pause is the fourth, but whose answer demands less study than might be feared — a binomial has two terms, and so the correct answer is C because it has the two terms "3w" and "1". And the impression that the third question at least requires competence in subtraction may be mistaken, as New York students are often allowed to use calculators in exams.
And just how many of the sorts of problems appearing in the LOWLY MATH table above might a New York 12-year-old need to answer correctly to pass the exam? According to the New York Times below, it would seem that answering 44% of them correctly is enough to earn a pass.
Botched Most Answers on New York State Math Test? You Still Pass
Javier C. Hernandez 13 Sep 2009
For many students, bungling more than half the questions on a test would mean an F and all that comes with it — months of remedial work, irksome teachers and, perhaps, a skimpy allowance. But on New York State’s math exam this year, seventh graders who correctly answered just 44 percent of questions were rewarded with a passing grade.
Three years ago, the threshold for passing was 60 percent. In fact, students in every grade this year could slide by with fewer correct answers on the math test than in 2006. [...]
If the 44%-to-pass rule applies to multiple-choice exams like the above, and if there were no penalty for guessing wrong, then it would follow that a student who understands only one-quarter of the questions, and has no idea whatever of what to do with the other three-quarters of the questions, can nevertheless get 44% correct on the entire exam, and therefore pass, by correctly answering the one-out-of-four questions that he does understand, and also randomly guessing on the rest, and getting one-quarter of them right by chance (given that each question offers only four alternative answers). The proportion of the questions such an undistinguished student can be expected to answer correctly, then, is
(1/4) + (1/4)(3/4) = 7/16 = 44% rounded to the nearest percent.
To the degree that the New York math exam above typifies examinations in other subjects and throughout the United States, we may say that the ten education reform efforts struggled, and failed, to produce students able to understand at least one-quarter of the easy multiple-choice questions put to them.
And now to begin constructing a remedy for this educational shortcoming it is necessary to realize that there exists an entirely different kind of student from the ones massed around the 44% fail-pass line on that New York exam, as for example the entirely different Marko who at age 12 earned a grade of 95% on the University of British Columbia Calculus II course whose first four final-exam questions appear in the LOFTY MATH table below.
BUT A FEW OTHER 12-YEAR OLDS
WRITE UNIVERSITY EXAMS LIKE THIS:
UBC CALCULUS II EXAM
Comparison of the LOWLY and LOFTY math exams above only begins to reveal how vast the gulf is between regular and effective schooling. A more complete appreciation of the magnitude of this gulf would require its inspection in many other areas. For example, the Physics that New York is teaching its 13-year-olds (Grade 8), say on the subject of "electromagnetic energy", culminates in only a single question (correct answer is B):
By way of comparison, then, one-year-younger Marko — age 12 — wrote a Physics test in which the first two questions dealt with approximately the same subject, "electromagnetic energy":
WHILE SOME 12-YEAR-OLDS
ARE ANSWERING ELECTROMAGNETIC QUESTIONS LIKE THIS:
BEGINNING OF UBC PHYSICS 110 TEST
Of the many further comparisons that could be added to the above two, I will limit myself to mentioning only Chemistry. In my brief search through New York exams, the earliest Chemistry question that I could find was the following lone question on a Grade 8 (therefore age 13) science exam:
In the meantime, three-years-younger Marko — age 10 — writes a UBC Chemistry exam whose first two questions are as follows:
Now it may be conjectured that not a single one of the ten failed projects that we reviewed above was under the control of, or was influenced by, or even held the least consultation with, any teacher who had proven himself able to produce the performance reflected in the three LOFTY exams above. In other words, every last educator who was involved in the ten failed projects had been part of the system which huddles students around the 44% line of LOWLY exams, and tinkers — unsuccessfully — at the modest task of pushing a few more of them over the line, into 44%-and-higher territory. In other words, every last educator who had any say in the ten failed projects had been part of a system in which students who ace exams and are considered models of excellence, are in fact performing well on LOWLY tasks that they could — and should — have mastered at half their grade level. The truly-effective educator whose guidance is indispensible to educational success, but who was absent from the ten failed reform attempts above, is one who regards the exams which New York 8th-graders struggle to answer with 44% accuracy as exams that he would expect his own 4th-graders to answer perfectly.
And so there you have the chief reason that all ten reform efforts failed. Even when thousand-dollar-bills were heaped by the bushel on the table in front of them, educators who had spent their lives producing mediocrity knew nothing better than to continue producing mediocrity. They had never themselves produced excellence, they had never seen anybody else producing excellence, and so when called upon to take even one small step in the direction of excellence, they found themselves wanting.
Well, that is the lenient view, anyway. A less lenient view is that the educators had not just spent their careers failing to observe or to produce excellence, but rather had spent their careers suppressing excellence whenever they saw it rearing its unwelcome head.
Consider the following example. When Marko was in Grade 1 regular school, perhaps around late October, he and a classmate began to race each other through their Grade 1 math workbook. No one put them up to the idea — they did it spontaneously, just as they might have raced each other across the schoolyard spontaneously. It soon became apparent that they would finish the Grade 1 workbook before Christmas. Had they been allowed to continue in this track, they would most certainly have finished the Grade 2 workbook before the end of the school year, and possibly even the Grade 3 workbook as well. Had they started their race not in late October, but on the first day of class in early September, they could conceivably have raced through the Grade 4 workbook by the end of their Grade 1 year. They had spontaneously opted to follow the track to LOFTY achievement. Extrapolate their progress a few years down the road and you get the LOFTY performance illustrated above, and you get it not just in math, but in every subject taught, and in a broader range of subjects than is conventionally taught.
But the racing pair weren't allowed to continue on their self-chosen LOFTY path. They were ordered to stop work until the class caught up to them, and from then on allowed to proceed only at the prescribed snail's pace.
Theirs was an outbreak of excellence, and which outbreak was suppressed by education authorities with the same sense of righteousness that farmers feel when hoeing weeds, or that medical workers feel when quashing an ebola epidemic, or that firemen feel when dousing a blaze. What the educators did not feel is that it is children's love of rapid learning leading to excellence that is natural and needs to be protected, and that it is enforced passivity leading to mediocrity that is unnatural and needs to be eradicated. President Obama spoke tongue-in-cheek when he initiated his Race To The Top — in fact, no racing was going to be allowed, as academic racing is traditionally forbidden in regular school. And President Bush's No Child Left Behind was a truncated statement of his goal — the complete statement of his goal was No Child Left Behind And No Child Breaking Away. Breaking away is something that teachers are powerless to quash only outside the walls of the school.
Reviewing the cases of prodigious achievement that are incessantly springing up throughout the land reveals that in no instance can any school take credit for it. Rather, the prodigious achievement is usually engineered at home, usually by a parent. Usually, the parent is not a professional teacher, and does not consult with professional teachers as to how to proceed. The parent does what seems obvious, what comes naturally. In the rare case that the parent happens to be a professional teacher, he does not conduct himself as teachers do in regular school.
It is worth noting that this Grade 1 instance of racing toward the top required no materials beyond what were already available in the classroom. Had the race been allowed to continue, it would have required no materials beyond what the school would have eventually supplied had the students simply continued their studies at the standard pace. Also not required was any additional teacher time, as the workbook provided ample explanation of what was wanted on each page. Rather than costing more, the LOFTY path cost less — if the two competitors had completed the Grade 4 workbook by the end of their Grade 1 year, they would have cut the infrastructure and labor costs of mathematics learning down to a quarter.
But to return to the question asked in the title of this chapter — WHAT HAS, AND WHAT HAS NOT, BEEN THE GOAL OF THE TEN FAILED REFORMS? — the answer must be that the goal of the ten failed reforms was to get students to correctly answer some modest proportion of the easy questions put to them in LOWLY exams. And the goal was not to get students to write near-perfect answers to the advanced questions which might be put to them in LOFTY exams.
Anyone who recoils from blaming teachers for harboring an aversion to excellence is invited to refute this judgement by pointing to cases in which LOFTY achievement has sprouted and grown in regular school.
Perhaps our above disappointment with the education models of South Korea and Shanghai should not have stopped us from looking for still other models to emulate in other nations that at one time or another have ranked high in international assessments of student achievement, as for example in Finland or Singapore? Maybe such other examples would not be so burdened with inefficiences and side effects as to leave nothing worth imitating.
Let us begin addressing this issue by getting a still clearer picture than we got above of just what an unfettered progression through mathematics should look like by examining the first two questions on Marko final exams taken at different ages (blue underlined ages can be clicked to access the entire exam):
Age 12 (early)
Age 12 (late)
Singapore 96% South Korea 96% United States 83% Finland 69%
And now let us see what questions are being put to 13-year-olds taking international comparison tests, starting with the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) exam some of whose results we have already taken a look at above. In the interests of brevity, I limit myself to two TIMSS questions, and invite the reader who wishes to see many more like them to click on the blue Age 13 heading just above.
The first TIMSS question I reproduce here because it is stunningly easy, and yet look how poorly it is being answered! Even in Finland — at times held up as a model of excellence deserving admiration and emulation — almost one 13-year-old out of every three doesn't know that 3/5 equals 0.6.
And deserving of the fullest appreciation is the shocking discontinuity between what can be seen just above happening during ages 10 through 12 in the realm of LOFTY math, and what we now begin to see happening during Ages 13 through 16 in the realm of LOWLY math, which is the math taught in regular schools.
And when TIMSS asked 13-year-olds to multiply X times X+2, a disturbing one out of five Singapore students couldn't do it, and a staggering one out of three Korean students couldn't do it, and a mind-boggling two out of three Finnish students couldn't do it either:
Singapore 79% South Korea 67% United States 37% Finland 32%
Age late 15 through early 16
Shanghai 89% Singapore 80% South Korea 76% Finland 67% Canada 65% United States 48%
Leaping ahead two or three years in age, we look next at a couple of questions asked by PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), which is sponsored by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). The PISA questions are rated on their Difficulty Level which ranges from 1 (easiest) to 6 (hardest). The first question below has a Difficulty Level of 3, and — astoundingly — asks 15-16-year-olds to do nothing more challenging than to pick out the smallest of four numbers! Words cannot express my dismay at noting that one out of 10 couldn't do it in Shanghai, one out of 5 couldn't do it in Singapore, one out of 4 couldn't do it in South Korea, and one out of 3 couldn't do it in either Finland or Canada — and yet each of these countries has at one time or another been held up as a model of excellence which United States education should aspire to equal:
And the second of my two PISA examples (at Difficulty Level 6, the highest) requires the student to understand that to get the average speed during a journey, one simply sums the distances travelled during different legs of the journey (7km), and divides by the sum of the times taken to traverse those legs (15min), which gives the average speed 7km/15min, and which when multiplied by 4 gives 28km/60min, and which equals 28km/h, which is the correct answer expected. In the better world to come, such a problem will be given to 4th-graders (age 9), 99% of whom will solve it correctly. In today's not-so-great world, PISA gives the problem to 15-16 year olds scattered over the face of the earth, the vast majority of whom are stumped by it, with a meager 3% of students in OECD-member countries getting it right:
Shanghai 31% Singapore 19% South Korea 12% Canada 4% Finland 4% United States 2%
The conclusion relevant here is that international comparison of student performance, as measured by tests such as TIMSS or PISA, reflects ability to perform LOWLY tasks. Imitating the educational practices of countries which excel at LOWLY tasks can bring no better result than students who in Grade 8 can do spottily
what they should have been doing perfectly in Grade 4. The time to abandon seeking inspiration from Shanghai, Singapore, South Korea, Finland, Canada, or any other jurisdiction that from time to time may shine on LOWLY tests, is now. The time to adopt LOFTY education befitting the needs of the 21st century was at the beginning of the century, and right now would be better late than never.
Having hoped that South Korea or Shanghai would show us how to reform education, and being sorely disappointed, it is natural and proper to ask for a disclosure of the nature of LOFTY education, to see whether it is able to avoid the inefficient and unpalatable characteristics that we have read about in South Korea and Shanghai.
The leading question that needs to be asked is: If an 80-hour student workweek in South Korea or Shanghai seems to produce better performance only in the LOWLY range, then what workweek will be needed to produce errorless performance in the LOFTY range? And if South Korean or Shanghai students become disaffected and alienated, or even suicidal, on the path to pretty good performance within the LOWLY range, then what will be student reaction when forced to scale the cliffs of LOFTY performance?
To answer such questions, it is necessary to grasp the essence of LOFTY education, an essence which has two components: (1) MOTIVATION and (2) CONCENTRATED PRACTICE.
Let us consider an example that I recently came across in the Portuguese-language movie The Year My Parents Went On Vacation, which I cite not because it constitutes evidence of what is true, but only because I expect it to be evocative of memories of what everybody has seen throughout life to be true.
Essence Part I: MOTIVATION
The main plot of this movie does not concern us here — it is about a 1970 crackdown on leftist dissidents by an authoritarian regime in Brazil. A couple of dissident parents need to go into hiding, and intend to leave their twelve-year-old son, Mauro, in the care of a grandfather, but so as to leave the son with no incriminating information that he could spill to the police if interrogated, tell him nothing more than that they are going on vacation.
What does concern us here is the subplot of Mauro's fascination with soccer. Understandable fascination because the entire nation is addicted to soccer, with that addiction mounting to fever pitch in 1970 on the expectation that Brazil will win the FIFA World Cup, a not unreasonable expectation in view of Brazil having already won it twice before, and in view of Brazil now clearly having the best team in the world, a team which even today is recognized as the greatest-ever World Cup team. During FIFA 1970, they won all their qualifying games, and all six games in the finals. They had outstanding players galore, but most outstanding of all was Pele, the greatest soccer player of all time, a national hero, an officially-proclaimed national treasure, the highest-scoring soccer player in the world, and the highest-paid athlete in the world. Of all this Mauro is aware, and by all of it is he entranced.
Pele defying gravity with his bicycle kick
Enters the picture the bartending Irene, with whom Mauro is smitten. For a moment, he imagines that they are in love.
But when Edgar drives up on his motorcycle, Irene's eyes are only for Edgar:
She hops on behind him:
And away she drives with Edgar, as if Mauro doesn't exist, as if she hadn't been kissing him just a minute ago:
Irene isn't in love with him, Mauro realizes, she only mothers him. Irene is in love with Edgar:
Irene is in love with Edgar, and Edgar is a soccer goalkeeper, of neighborhood renown only, but still impressive. When he drives up on his motorcycle late for a game in which his team is faring poorly, everyone is overjoyed, and relieved — Edgar can be counted on to protect the goal and to rally the team and to save the day:
Look, it's Irene's boyfriend.
He's here. Now we'll win!
He's here. Now we'll win!
Edgar is credited with African ancestry, which strengthens his resemblance to Pele:
I think he's the grandson of an African.
And like Pele, Edgar knows how to fly. He is at his most impressive when he flies:
And the game being won, Edgar is swarmed by his adoring teammates, seeing which leads Mauro to his epiphany – that life offers no greater happiness than to become like Pele and like Edgar:
And suddenly, I knew what it was I wanted to be.
I wanted to be black and to fly!
And so here we have witnessed the creation of a motivation strong enough to propel LOFTY learning, in this case a motivation perhaps stronger than any other that can be imagined, and so now that Mauro is amply motivated, what next step do we expect him to take to advance his dream?
Essence Part II: DILUTED AND CONCENTRATED PRACTICE
To become a world-class goalkeeper Mauro has to acquire goalkeeping skills. And how does one acquire these skills? It is obvious how, obvious even to a child. One acquires the requisite skills through CONCENTRATED practice. There is no other way.
To understand CONCENTRATED practice, we need to appreciate what DILUTED practice is and why it is insufficient. In the case of goalkeeping, DILUTED practice would be, for example, playing goalkeeper through an entire game each day for five days a week. That sounds like a lot of practice, and which should lead to high goalkeeping skills, and so what would be wrong with that?
Well, actual play during a soccer game is scheduled to last 90 minutes, and if a goalkeeper averaged five saves per game, that would be a respectable average. (It can sometimes happen that an entire game is played with one of the goalkeepers realizing zero saves.)
If we regard a save as the key learning experience for a goalkeeper candidate, then over the course of 90 minutes, the budding young goalkeeper spends almost all his time deprived of this key learning experience, and only once every 18 minutes, on average, derives the benefit of a few seconds spent on one such experience. Here's Mauro during those very long waiting spells that typify goalkeeping:
So impatient is Mauro to set out on the path to realizing his dream that he begins CONCENTRATED practice even where circumstances are not optimal — in his bedroom. He bounces the ball off one wall, then off another, and each time flies up, so to speak, to grab it in mid-air, and then crashes to the ground (well, to his bed, anyway) clutching the ball to his chest, just as he has seen real goalkeepers do in real games. He does this over and over again, approximately at an average rate of one save every ten seconds, which is to say, six saves per minute, and so which qualifies as CONCENTRATED practice.
Five saves in 90 minutes is DILUTED practice, and won't take anybody very far beyond LOWLY performance; whereas six saves per minute is CONCENTRATED practice, and continued long enough lifts its practitioner into the realm of LOFTY performance. Without taking a single experimental-psychology course in human motor learning, without reading a single book on physical education, young Mauro instinctively grasps the difference between DILUTED and CONCENTRATED practice, and begins seizing every opportunity to engage in the latter.
Below can be seen the CONCENTRATED practice of having a friend kicking the ball at him. This is much closer to what a goalkeeper needs to be able to do — intercept a ball coming at him much faster than in his bedroom, and coming at him on a less predictable trajectory.
Let us now compute a CONCENTRATED:DILUTED ratio for the contrasting learning methods. We estimated above that goalkeeping a 90-minute game gives the goalkeeper an average of about 5 save experiences. In contrast, the video above shows Mauro performing saves at a rate of perhaps six saves per minute, which over 90 minutes gives 540 saves. The CONCENTRATED:DILUTED ratio for the two kinds of practice, then, is 540:5 which is 108:1, and which is convenient to round to 100:1.
The bottom line is that CONCENTRATED practice can provide an aspiring goalkeeper with 100 times the practice that he would get in DILUTED practice, and 100 times the practice is such a vast difference in learning opportunity as to open up a vast performance gap in goalkeeping skill, a gap of the magnitude that startled us when we saw it above in mathematics and physics and chemistry.
To prevent misunderstanding, it should be pointed out that owning a car that is capable of travelling at 150mph does not commit the owner either to drive 150m, or for 1 hour, or at the speed of 150mph. Rather, the driver is understood to drive whatever distance suits him, to take whatever time he wants, and of course to drive at whatever speed he chooses. In the same way, expressions of an available practice rate, say 540 saves per 90 minutes, is not a recommendation that anybody actually perform 540 saves, or in 90 minutes, or at the rate of 6 saves per minute. Just as different travel circumstances call for different driving patterns, so too will different educational circumstances always be calling for different practice spurts.
The CONCENTRATED practice that Mauro hit on, then, is a much better way than DILUTED practice of advancing his dream of becoming a goalkeeping phenomenon. The fact that today's outstanding goalkeepers regularly indulge in CONCENTRATED practice indicates that it is needed not only to acquire ascendancy, but also after that to prevent losing ascendancy. The 10:55 mm:ss video below showing Manuel Neuer in CONCENTRATED practice should, I think, be viewed by teachers and education scholars, and indeed by all students and their parents, while being recognized as the model to be followed in all education, at least in all education that strives for excellence, which is to say in all education that strives to replace LOWLY achievement with LOFTY.
Top goalkeeper Manuel Neuer
Manuel Neuer ● Best Goalkeeper Training (10:55 mm:ss)
Neuer's opening exercise shows 20 saves in the 39 seconds sandwiched between 00:00 and 00:39 mm:ss on the video, and which is a rate of 31 saves per minute, and it contains three kinds of save: thrown ball caught by right hand (Right), kicked ball caught by both hands (Both), thrown ball caught by left hand (Left), and continuing back and forth RightBothLeftBothRightBothLeft.... But the fastest rate of practice shown on the video might be the 24 saves in 25 seconds sandwiched between 05:39 and 06:04 mm:ss in the video, and therefore performed at the rate of 60 saves per minute. One moral of such detailed observations is that in professional hands, CONCENTRATED practice can become very concentrated indeed, so that the CONCENTRATED:DILUTED ratio is able to soar way above 100:1, which is the kind of ratio that is needed to produce the very high excellence that is sought. Comparing this last-mentioned rate of 60 saves per minute to the DILUTED rate of 5 saves per 90 minutes that we have been considering gives a CONCENTRATED:DILUTED ratio of 1080:1. Another moral is that professional CONCENTRATED practice carefully distinguishes different kinds of saves, and presumably offers most practice on the kinds that are most in need of maintenance or improvement.
And after watching Manuel Neuer's CONCENTRATED practice video above, see how that CONCENTRATED practice pays off in competition:
Manuel Neuer ● The Unbeatable (03:19 mm:ss)
Manuel Neuer ● Crazy Skills & Saves (06:10 mm:ss)
Concentrated practice plays a small but vitally-important role in academic learning as well, as for example in mathematics. Its justification is manifold. Tasks which performed slowly seem boring and tedious and painful, when performed rapidly are experienced as joyous and gratifying. The large volume of practice enables rapid progress through the curriculum for the purpose of locking in advanced mathematics during the pre-teen years, which are the golden years of learning. Achieving mastery at each level provides a solid foundation for work at the next level, such that feelings of inadequacy and helplesness and hopelessness which are so common and so demoralizing in LOWLY learning, disappear in LOFTY.
Having been sensitized to the difference between DILUTED and CONCENTRATED practice, we look back at the examples of education in South Korean and Shanghai, and characterize them as adhering unwaveringly to the ancient tradition of one teacher addressing a class of students, with the students getting little or no practice, but only doubling to 80 hours per week the duration that the same tradition is put to work in the West, which is approximately 40 hours per week. If an inefficient procedure gives disappointing results, goes this philosophy of teaching, get double the results by applying the inefficient procedure twice as long. Overlooked also by this philosophy is that doubling the hours of torture may double the loathing of school.
To wrap up, conventional schools fail to produce LOFTY performance because they fail to instill strong motivation, and because they rely on DILUTED practice. Once strong motivation is instilled, the nature of the CONCENTRATED practice that is needed often becomes obvious, even to a child.
Exactly how the motivation to study academic subjects is to be aroused and maintained, and exactly how the CONCENTRATED practice is to be implemented, are details of the utmost importance, and if the optimal methodology is unknown and merely guessed, reform failure is likely to be repeated.
Oh, and one more thing. There is to be expected the knee-jerk reaction of opponents of LOFTY learning that what is being passed off above as CONCENTRATED practice is nothing better than the antiquated and discredited practice of rote learning, among whose defects is said to be that it fails to nurture, but rather kills, student COSI, which is to say, kills student Creativity and Originality and Spontaneity and Insight.
However, such an objection invites the question of whether impartial observers have been called in to examine regular-school students from whose curriculum rote learning has been banished, and whether these impartial observers have found that the COSI scores of such regular-school students fall into, say, the 90th percentile, or are even above average?
We know that LOFTY education raises students to the 90th percentile after one year, and the 99th percentile after two years, on any dimension that is being today measured in any State in the United States, or in any Province in Canada, and we invite anyone who knows also how to measure Creativity or Originality or Spontaneity or Insight to test LOFTY students on these dimensions as well, with full confidence that they will maintain their high standing on COSI measures.
By the way, which of the two groups that we are comparing is it plausible to expect mathematical Creativity-Originality-Spontaneity-Insight from?
(A) rote-free students who have trouble telling which of four numbers is the smallest
(B) rote-immersed students who have no trouble evaluating the antiderivative
Faced with the prospect of 12-year-olds becoming fluent in "the language of SCIENCE" math shown below, many people will recoil in horror. These horrified observers understandably fear that the very few 12-year-olds on earth who can be said to be fluent in this language of SCIENCE, could have acquired that fluency only through prolonged deprivation and suffering. These horrified critics understandably fear also that the youngsters in their own families, or in their own classrooms, would be unable to master this so-called language of SCIENCE by age 12 without prolonged deprivation and suffering. Such critics want, therefore, nothing to do with this so-called LOFTY learning. Trying to cram stuff like that down children's throats strikes them not only as odious, but also as probably damaging.
The Languague of SCIENCE
However, I invite such critics to consider that becoming fluent in a natural language, any language, as for example any of the following six — Mandarin, German, Greek, Hindi, Japanese, Russian — is immensely more difficult than learning mathematics to the level illustrated above. And yet almost every last one of all the children on earth will by age twelve, and in fact well before 12, be fluent in whatever language he/she happens to be immersed. And whatever deprivation and suffering many of the world's children will endure, none of it will be caused by mastering his/her native tongue. Not a single one of the billion or so children who today are mastering their native tongue will complain that it contains too many words, or that its grammar is bafflingly complicated, or that they can't seem to pronounce it the way the adults around them do. All of these billion children will simply absorb the language in which they are immersed, and will acquire fluency, as painlessly as they breathe air or circulate blood or digest food.
A Language of CHINA (Mandarin)|
The Language of GERMANY
The Language of GREECE
A Language of INDIA (Hindi)
The Language of JAPAN
The Language of RUSSIA
The critic's misconception arises for four reasons:
(1) The critic gazing at the language of SCIENCE material above does not himself feel any motive to learn it, and so imagines that children would similarly be expected to learn it despite their own lack of motivation. The reality is, however, that the LOFTY curriculum would have started by awakening the requisite motivation.
(2) The critic having experienced nothing but LOWLY education all his life, expects that mastery of the language of SCIENCE can only be had at the price of an extended — probably doubled — workweek, which both stresses and alienates. The reality is, however, that by means of CONCENTRATED practice, learning is multiplied a hundredfold even while reducing the workweek by cancelling homework in the evenings and on weekends and on holidays.
(3) The critic having experienced nothing but LOWLY education all his life, expects that mastery of the language of SCIENCE can only be had at the price of alarm and distress at the difficulty of the material.
The LOFTY curriculum, however, increases the difficulty of the material in such small steps as to be incapable of causing alarm or distress.
(4) The critic estimates the difficulty of learning from his own perspective, which is the perspective of an adult. He realizes, in other words, how extremely difficult, probably impossible, it would be for him to attain fluency in either the language of SCIENCE or in the language of CHINA or GERMANY or GREECE, and so on, and expects the young student to experience the same difficulty, and even to run into the same wall of impossibility. The reality, however, is that the young have a much greater capacity for learning than do adults, and are able without exertion to achieve mastery where adults with great huffing and puffing can do no better than to stumble forever in apprenticeship.
I have earlier addressed the subject of youthful learning, and might add that I just came across a reference (The New Yorker 11 Jan 2016, p. 30) to the Japanese couple Tsuya and Poppo: "She and Poppo both struggle with English, despite having lived in New York City for nearly forty years." Immersed in English for almost forty years, and yet their English is bad enough to deserve comment — what's going on? What's going on is that Poppo arrived in New York at the age of 29, which is way too old to become fluent in English, and likely the same can be said of Tsuya. The ability to learn ebbs upon graduation to the teen years. It is between the ages of 4 and 12 that children need to master and lock in all their fundamental cognitive skills, because no matter how hard they might labor to acquire them later, any such later acquisition will always be inferior and incomplete and impermanent. What is learned in youth is chiselled in stone, what is learned after that is scrawled in sand.
Recollect, too, that Marko and his classmate didn't condemn themselves to suffering when they decided to race each other through their Grade 1 math workbook. Rather, they transformed an ordinarily-tedious, or at best mundane, task into a game, and became amused by it. If there was any suffering, it came when their teacher forbade them to play their game, forbade them to race to the top, commanded them to trudge the boring road of LOWLY achievement.
And neither was Mauro suffering when he implemented his program of CONCENTRATED goalkeeping practice — he was elated. Did you notice him imitating a sportscaster saying of his latest bedroom save, "Mauro in goal, currently the best keeper around"? It would be forbidding Mauro his CONCENTRATED practice that would make him suffer, because then his path to LOFTY achievement would be blocked.
And neither was Manuel Neuer suffering when we watched him in goalkeeper training. We would have to guess that he felt, rather, that he was maintaining his status as something like a Master of the Universe. It would be Manuel Neuer being forbidden to practice that would make him suffer, because this would cause his toppling from his position of world eminence.
In short, there are no psychological penalties attached to being driven by strong motivation to engage in CONCENTRATED practice on the path to LOFTY achievement. The psychological penalties are paid by those stripped of motivation who at the same time are coerced to snail-crawl through DILUTED practice toward LOWLY achievement.
There is no learning so joyful ...
... that bad teaching can't make painful:
Robert Crumb illustration of Franz Kafka being taught by his father
And there remains one more thing that needs to be said while the above samples from the language of SCIENCE, and from the six natural languages, of CHINA to RUSSIA, are still fresh in our minds, and that is that what LOFTY education offers is not merely children quickly and pleasurably learning the language of SCIENCE along with whatever natural language they happen to speak at home. LOFTY education offers considerably more than that.
In the first place, we have seen the preteen Marko acquiring university-level fluency in Mathematics and Physics and Chemistry, but in the interests of brevity, he was not shown above while still preteen also accquiring university-level fluency in Computer Science, Ukrainian, and French. And he participated in piano competitions, and he drew. He swam and he skated and he hiked and he skied and he studied judo and karate and fencing. That is far from all, but for present purposes it is enough.
And he could have done more had he not wasted several years in LOWLY education, as for example during that Grade 1 where we glimpsed him and his friend being stopped from beginning to race to the top in Math.
The conclusion we are approaching with the support of the above evidence can be reinforced by evidence from another direction — the evidence that comes from immigrant children. Visiting any family of non-Anglo immigrants, I had been able to notice through my ELHI years that although their English was indistinguishable from that of any Anglophone, as soon as they walked into their own homes, they switched to either Finnish or German or Hungarian or Italian or Japanese or Lithuanian or Polish or Russian or Ukrainian or Yiddish — and yet I never heard a sigh of weariness or word of complaint from them at having to carry double the language-learning load of students born in Anglophone homes.
A brief look at my own case supports what has been said above, and adds an interesting detail. When I was first taken to a regular school in Toronto, it was in the middle of the year, and I spoke not a word of English, and I received no remedial support — I was expected to pick up English by osmosis, and I did. When I try to recollect anything like stress, I have only a single memory. I am approaching the school and feeling uneasy at the anticipation of schoolyard boys addressing me in English, and me being unable to answer them. I would call my state concerned, perhaps even apprehensive, but I would not go so far as to call it stressed. In any case, whatever negative emotion there may have been, it resulted not from learning English, it resulted from the threat of being taunted for not knowing English. And as I walked, I did what came naturally, the thing that obviously needed to be done, the thing that would help remedy the situation — I imagined every conceivable statement that might be put to me, and invented a reply. Having several times rehearsed all the exchanges that I could imagine (which was not many), I felt somewhat reassured that I would fare well.
And what should the thing that I was doing be called? We should recognize that it is the CONCENTRATED practice that is the focus of our discussion. That is, the conversational exchanges that I was naturally encountering were frustratingly rare — there weren't any taking place as I approached the schoolyard, there might not be any as I crossed the schoolyard, there might not be a single one all day long. To accelerate learning, I needed CONCENTRATED practice, and like Mauro performing saves in his bedroom, I did not wait for the arrival of a perfect venue in which to practice, I squeezed the practice into whatever dead time lay at hand.
If a first-grader walking to school knows this most fundamental of all learning principles, then everybody knows it — the fundamental principle that learning is accelerated through CONCENTRATED practice. When education reformers fail, it is because they neglect to include in their curriculum the CONCENTRATED practice that everybody knows is essential to rising above LOWLY performance — that every child they are supposed to be educating, but in fact are failing to educate, knows is essential.
But it's not effortless bilingual fluency that we need to take note of at the moment, it's effortless multilingual fluency. Linguist Noam Chomsky proposes that a child immersed in five different languages will become fluent in all five without any sense of exertion.
To translate the accumulation of observations above into educational policy, a modest goal of LOFTY learning might be a student able to ace difficult first-year-university examinations in a dozen subjects by the age of 12. This can be done without expansion to the 80-hour week imposed in South Korea and Shanghai, but rather within a 40-hour week. And it can be done without narrowing the curriculum down to the subjects to be tested, but rather with an expansion of subjects far beyond what is conventionally taught.
The effortless learning of five languages is mentioned above only to illustrate what the young mind is capable of, but not as the number of languages recommended for a modern curriculum. But if the very image, whether recommended or not, of anyone learning five languages, or anyone studying twelve subjects, seems impossible and impracticable, it might be pointed out that in other times or in other places, such a curriculum has been accepted as standard. Below, for example, are the sixteen areas that a Ukrainian student in Innsbruck, Austria around 1948, was graded on, and that curriculum did happen to include five languages.
There is no learning so painful ...
Robert Crumb illustration of Franz Kafka being taught by his father
... that good teaching can't make joyful:
DON'T EXPECT GREAT-TEACHER AWARDS TO MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE
The hope might be that if outstanding teachers were to begin receiving high recognition, the entire profession might be inspired to follow their example, and their collective improved teaching might improve student performance everywhere.
But what should we be on the lookout for when searching for an outstanding teacher? Well, surely an outstanding teacher is one who starts with a LOWLY-performing class and transforms it into a LOFTY-performing class. A typical LOFTY-performing class is characterized by median 90th percentile performance on all subjects after one year, and 99th percentile after two years. What we look for in a great teacher, then, is someone who at least begins moving students in this direction, from LOWLY to LOFTY, and in view of the paucity of success being achieved in education, we are ready to be impressed even if the performance does not reach quite so high or does not come quite so fast.
Well, here's a typical example of what goes on in the world of great-teacher recognition. At the time the article was written, teacher Colin Hegarty hadn't yet been proclaimed the world's best teacher, but at least he had been rated as the best in the UK, and was ranked among the top ten contenders for the one-million dollar Global Teacher Prize:
London maths teacher in world's top 10
By Sean Coughlan Education correspondent 17 Feb 2016
A maths teacher from a London comprehensive has reached the top 10 finalists for a global teaching prize.
Colin Hegarty, from Preston Manor School in Wembley, has reached the final stages of a competition to find the world's most exceptional teachers.
The winner will receive a prize of a $1m (£690,000) at an awards ceremony in March.
Mr Hegarty said it was good to see a competition that "elevated the status of teachers".
The Global Teacher Prize, set up by the Varkey Foundation, the charitable arm of the Gems international education firm, is aimed at "unearthing thousands of stories of heroes that have transformed young people's lives".
The final top 10 shortlist has been published, after entries were received from teachers in 148 countries.
Mr Hegarty is the only UK finalist, alongside teachers from the United States, Australia, India, Finland and Kenya. [...]
Mr Hegarty describes maths as "quite addictive" and has set up a website with videos teaching how to solve maths problems.
The idea began when one of his pupils had to go overseas to care for his sick father — and Mr Hegarty put materials online so that he could keep up with his maths lessons.
Mr Hegarty, who rejects the idea that some people are inherently "good at maths", says that the subject lends itself to being taught through online videos, because pupils can benefit from looking at something repeatedly until they understand. [...]
[...] Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said he wanted the prize to "shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the UK and throughout the world every day". [...]
UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon backed the teachers' prize nominations, saying: "I count my teachers as among the most influential people in my life."
The sole reference to any improved methodology that Mr Hegarty may be using is on-line videos, which he values because his students can continue to study even while away from school, and can rewatch as often as they like.
But Mr Hegarty seems to be unaware that a student who takes his textbook with him can also continue his study even while away, and can re-read any section of it as often as he likes. Mr Hegarty seems to be unaware of the extreme awkwardness of winding a video back and forth trying to locate the exact spots in a proof or solution aimed at, as compared to the extreme ease of glancing back and forth to exact spots when they are on the page in front of you. He seems to be unaware, also, that a student is able to read a proof or solution at exactly the rate he pleases at every point, whereas watching a video of a lecture takes him through the material at the lecturer's speed, which for every student is bound at any particular point to be either too fast or too slow. Mr Hegarty's innovative methodology, then, is actually inferior to the methodology already available to every student absent from class — which is to learn it from his textbook. And it is more expensive to boot.
In any case, what about improved student performance? Are Mr Hegarty's students soaring into the realms of LOFTY performance or aren't they?
Why there is no mention whatever of student performance, of students being lifted from LOWLY realms to LOFTY, of 90th percentiles or 99th, which does not surprise me. Every great-teacher award I have ever read about shares the same defect — it is given for the teacher being a wonderful person, and for his students loving him, and for everybody, or nearly everybody, beaming with joy in group photos with him — but never for having lifted the average class performance from an abyss into the stratosphere, and not even for lifting it at all.
It does not seem plausible that awards handed out to teachers for being nice guys are going to play much of a role in the imminent revolution in education.
DON'T EXPECT CLASSROOM COMPUTERIZATION TO RAISE SCORES ANYTIME SOON
Computers "do not improve" pupil results, says OECD
By Sean Coughlan Education correspondent 15 Sep 2015
Investing heavily in school computers and classroom technology does not improve pupils' performance, says a global study from the OECD.
The think tank says frequent use of computers in schools is more likely to be associated with lower results.
The OECD's education director Andreas Schleicher says school technology had raised "too many false hopes".
Tom Bennett, the government's expert on pupil behaviour, said teachers had been "dazzled" by school computers.
The report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development examines the impact of school technology on international test results, such as the Pisa tests taken in more than 70 countries and tests measuring digital skills.
It says education systems which have invested heavily in information and communications technology have seen "no noticeable improvement" in Pisa test results for reading, mathematics or science.
"If you look at the best-performing education systems, such as those in East Asia, they've been very cautious about using technology in their classrooms," said Mr Schleicher.
"Those students who use tablets and computers very often tend to do worse than those who use them moderately."
Annual global spending on educational technology in schools has been valued at £17.5bn, by technology analysts Gartner. In the UK, the spending on technology in schools is £900m.
The British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) says schools have £619m in budgets for ICT, with £95m spent on software and digital content.
But Mr Schleicher says the "impact on student performance is mixed at best".
The report says:
- Students who use computers very frequently at school get worse results
- Students who use computers moderately at school, such as once or twice a week, have "somewhat better learning outcomes" than students who use computers rarely
- The results show "no appreciable improvements" in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in information technology
- High achieving school systems such as South Korea and Shanghai in China have lower levels of computer use in school
- Singapore, with only a moderate use of technology in school, is top for digital skills
Andreas Schleicher has warned about students copying their homework from the internet
[...] He warned classroom technology can be a distraction and result in pupils cutting and pasting "prefabricated" homework answers from the internet.
The study shows "there is no single country in which the internet is used frequently at school by a majority of students and where students' performance improved".
Among the seven countries with the highest level of internet use in school, it found three experienced "significant declines" in reading performance — Australia, New Zealand and Sweden — and three more had results that had "stagnated" — Spain, Norway and Denmark.
The countries and cities with the lowest use of the internet in school — South Korea, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Japan — are among the top performers in international tests. [...]
DON'T EXPECT ANY GAINS FROM ONLINE LEARNING
Well, if bringing more computers into the classroom doesn't work, then maybe bringing them into the home will — so let's try online learning.
Study on online charter schools: "It is literally as if the kid did not go to school for an entire year"
By Valerie Strauss 31 Oct 2015
A new study on the effectiveness of online charter schools is nothing short of damning — even though it was at least partly funded by a private pro-charter foundation. It effectively says that the average student who attends might as well not enroll. [...]
Here are some of the findings:
- Students in online charters lost an average of about 72 days of learning in reading.
- Students in online charters lost 180 days of learning in math during the course of a 180-day school year. Yes, you read that right. [...] [I]t’s as if the students did not attend school at all when it comes to math.
- The average student in an online charter had lower reading scores than students in traditional schools everywhere except Wisconsin and Georgia, and had lower math scores everywhere except in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. [...]
The online learning that we saw failing just above referred to K-12 online learning. Online learning at the post-secondary level today is inclined to call itself MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).
Massive Open Online Course
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A massive open online course is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as filmed lectures, readings, and problem sets, many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions among students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). MOOCs are a recent and widely researched development in distance education which were first introduced in 2008 and emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012.
[...] Robert Zemsky (2014) argues that they have passed their peak: "They came; they conquered very little; and now they face substantially diminished prospects." [...]
The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform
15 May 2013
[...] [T]aking something that lacks prestige and cultural capital — a mode of education that is not valuable, only expensive, not innovative or exciting — and placing the name "Harvard" around it makes it into something that suddenly is both valuable and worthwhile, as a function of Harvard’s symbolic role in American higher education, to define the new cutting edge. [...] Because it’s at Harvard, it’s "now" instead of being where the University of Phoenix already was the year the Berlin Wall fell, before our students were born.
If I have one overarching takeaway point in this talk, it’s this: there’s almost nothing new about the kind of online education that the word MOOC now describes. It’s been given a great deal of hype and publicity, but that aura of "innovation" poorly describes a technology [...] that is not that distinct from the longer story of online education [...].
[T]he pro-MOOC argument is always that it’s cheaper and almost never that it’s better; the most utopian MOOC-boosters will rarely claim that MOOCs are of equivalent educational value, and the most they’ll say is that someday they might be. This point is crucial to unpacking the hype: columnists, politicians, university administrators, educational entrepreneurs, and professors who are hoping to make their name by riding out this wave, they can all talk in such glowing terms about the onrushing future of higher education only because that future hasn’t actually happened yet: [...] we’re all speculating about what it will look like. This means that the MOOC can be all things to all people because it is, literally, a speculation about what it might someday become.
To put my cards on the table, the 2012 MOOC seems to me like a speculative bubble, a product which is being pumped up and overvalued by pro-business legislators, overzealous administrators, and by a lot of hot air in the media. But like all speculative bubbles — especially the ones that originate in Silicon Valley — it will eventually burst; [...]. [...]
MOOC boosters like to brag about the thousands of students — even hundreds of thousands — who sign on to learn from super-professors like Harvard University’s Michael Sandel or Sebastian Thrun. But completion rates for these courses consistently hover in the mid single-digits. A Software Engineering MOOC taught by UC Berkeley professor David Patterson in May 2012, for example, may have enrolled over 50,000 students, but less than 4,000 actually completed the course, and this is typical. What’s more, as Patterson himself was quick to observe, his MOOC was a "cheating-rich environment"; it is safe to assume that the number of students who actually completed the course is somewhat lower than even the 7% that received a completion certificate. [...] [A] MOOC is almost designed to make cheating even easier than ever before. [...]
Why Online Classes Won’t Replace the Classroom
MOOCs (massive open online courses) may not be the future of higher ed.
By RACHELLE DELONG Minding the Campus 09 Aug 2013
When Stanford president John Hennessey told the New Yorker in April 2012, "There's a tsunami coming," he wasn't forecasting the next undersea earthquake. [...] After David Brooks borrowed the metaphor for a New York Times op-ed, "tsunami" became synonymous with the rise of the MOOC (massive open online courses). These massive open online courses gained celebrity as hundreds of thousands of students joined and credibility as dozens of big name schools agreed to offer online adaptations of their classes free, though without credit.
So last fall, when Colorado State University's Global Campus became the first American university to announce plans to grant credit for MOOCs, the earthquake threatened to rumble and the tsunami looked set to roll. Students could take an introductory computer programming course hosted by the MOOC platform Udacity and pay for a proctored exam at one of Pearson VUE's testing centers.
In exchange, students would receive three college credits from Colorado State University-Global Campus [...] The price of the proctored test, $89, rang up as less than one-tenth of a regular CSU-Global Campus course. But almost a year after CSU's announcement, and with 200,000 students enrolled in Udacity's programming course, not a single student has claimed the CSU credit.
Everyone knew that the transition to a credit-granting MOOC would be tricky. How would schools verify a student's identity based on a thin online profile? How would the online homework, unmonitored and often untimed, protect against cheating when typing a few keywords into a Google search or snitching from a nearby friend might yield the answers? Who would grade student essays? And how would credit-granting schools guard their reputations and their rigor when accepting transfer credits on the basis of an outside company's course? [...]
What Will Happen to MOOCs Now that Udacity Is Leaving Higher Ed?
Sebastian Thrun threw a wrench in the MOOC model by declaring that massive open online courses don't work for higher education. What's next for the online learning trend?
By John K. Waterss 11 Dec 2013
It was about a year ago that the idea of using the Web to provide open-access, online learning at scale was thrust into the international spotlight. In November 2012, the New York Times christened "The Year of the MOOC," and a concept that had been percolating relatively quietly in academia quickly became The Next Big Thing.
Now a founder of one of the leading for-profit MOOC providers says massive open online courses aren't working in higher education. In a recently published Fast Company interview, Sebastian Thrun, co-founder of Udacity and one of the most-often quoted champions of the MOOC model, said that his company has "a lousy product" [...].
What does it say, then, about the future of the morphing MOOC when the man who has been called "The Godfather of MOOCs" seems to be throwing in the towel? [...]
Thrun [had gone] on the record early with rhapsodic predictions about the impact of MOOCs on higher education. "You can take the blue pill and go back to your lecture of 20 students," he told journalist Blake Graham shortly after his first MOOC experiment at Stanford. "But I've taken the red pill and seen wonderland." A few months later, he told Wired magazine that in 50 years, the proliferation of MOOCs would reduce the number of institutions delivering higher education worldwide to 10. [...]
Netflix Billionaire Reed Hastings' Crusade to Replace Public School Teachers With Computers
The mogul is ponying up $100 million for high-tech-dominated charter schools.
By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet March 3, 2016
When pondering the best way to transform and improve America’s K-12 public schools, do the ideas that first come to mind include: ditching locally elected school boards? Placing grade-school kids in overcrowded computer labs for hours at a time with unproven software and inexperienced teachers? Telling children from poor homes that test scores are the only results that matter? Or putting high-tech entrepreneurs who have financial stakes in the digital tools being road-tested on students on the private boards running those schools?
These are all cornerstones of the charter school movement that has grown out of Silicon Valley, supported by Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who has spent more than $400 million to promote technology-driven charter schools. And they’re being championed by Netflix founder-CEO Reed Hastings, who just launched a $100 million foundation where he is likely to become one of America’s highest-profile figures pushing this anti-democratic, tech-centric, corporate-inspired vision to recast America’s public schools. [...]
"At Rocketship, kids are three hours a day in a computer lab with 150 students in a room, two to three lab techs, and one 'teacher' that supervises the whole thing… They describe what they do as personalizing the learning experience." [...]
Rocketship’s high stakes testing pressure hurts kids, helps their business model
Editorial 27 Apr 2015
During the last California high stakes testing cycle in 2013, Rocketship’s Mateo Sheedy gave each student a yellow T-Shirt. The shirt read "Rocketeers will CRUSH the CST [California Standards Test]!" On the side of the shirt was the school’s test score goal — an API of 940. California’s API (Academic Performance Index) is a complex composite test score that includes each students’ Math and English proficiency [...]. The school had scored an impressive 924 API in 2012, and hoped to grow beyond that in 2013. Their result? A substantial drop down to 851. [...]
[...] Students are expected to attend school from 8-4pm, and then are given 4+ hours of homework a night, in the form of a giant packet. If students don’t complete their homework, the school requires the parents and students both to come to Saturday school — we don’t know of any other elementary schools that use Saturday school as homework punishment. You can imagine how sad it is to see a little elementary school student describing a stress migraine as they stay up late trying to finish their 4 hour homework packet. One parent recently told us that Rocketship required her student to do holiday break homework packets on Thanksgiving day and Christmas day! She was outraged, wondering why her 3rd grader couldn’t get a one day break for Christmas. [...]
The view that Rocketship investors are truly trying to improve education, and merely stumbling in what is universally acknowledged to be a difficult endeavor, is dangerously naive. The truth is that the Rocketship investors are hucksters out to make a buck by destroying the education of the children that they are able to lure into their clutches:
Scathing Report Finds Rocketship, School Privatization Hurt Poor Kids
Political Economist, Gordon Lafer
Ruth Conniff 24 Apr 2014
Gordon Lafer, a political economist and University of Oregon professor who has advised Congress, state legislatures, and the New York City mayor's office, landed at the airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, late last night bringing with him a briefing paper on school privatization and how it hurts poor kids. [...]
A popular chain of charter schools called Rocketship, which originated in California and has spread to Wisconsin, with the enthusiastic support of state legislators and the local chamber of commerce in Milwaukee, is "a low-budget operation that relies on young and inexperienced teachers rather than more veteran and expensive faculty, that reduces curriculum to a near-exclusive focus on reading and math, and that replaces teachers with online learning and digital applications for a significant portion of the day," Lafer writes.
Rocketship is a pioneer of the "blended learning" model of schools that rely heavily on computers to cut staff costs. The fastest growing, and most profitable, sector of the charter school industry is online or virtual schools, with the "blended learning" model, which combines online learning with a reduced and low-paid staff, a close second.
With no gym, art class, librarians, or significant science or social studies, Rocketship provides a stripped-down program of study with a heavy focus on standardized tests. [...]
That model, which is also on display in Milwaukee's low-performing voucher schools, is demonstrably harmful to kids. But it has generated big profits for wealthy investors.
From 2010 to 2013, Rocketship increased it assets from $2.2 million to $15.8 million. And while it posted impressive test scores at its first schools in California, over the last four years, test scores have fallen at every Rocketship school. All seven Rocketship schools failed to make adequate yearly progress according to federal standards for the last school year. [...]
While Rocketship is a nonprofit, its business model enriches its directors through a deal with a licensed software company called "DreamBox," supplied by for-profit vendors, who happen to also sit on Rocketship's board.
"The more Rocketship expands, the greater DreamBox's profits," Lafer writes.
According to a 2013 Department of Education evaluation, DreamBox has "no discernible effects on mathematics achievement for elementary school students."
Despite that failing grade, Rocketship continues to use DreamBox. [...]
A recent proposal in the Wisconsin legislature, expected to come up again next session, would mandate that 5 percent of all of the state's public schools receive "failing" grades, which lead to closure after the third "F." Schools deemed "failing" would be replaced by charter shools such as Rocketship. The charter schools, by contrast, a majority of whom failed to meet state expectations in 2012-2013, would get an eight-year grace period before they were judged to have failed, and could not be closed until their ninth year, no matter how many Fs they received. [...]
Lafer takes it a step further, pointing out in his report that the same chamber of commerce officials who promote Rocketship in Milwaukee send their own kids to enriching, well-funded schools with art, music, and small classes. [...]
"The idea that what [pro-charter-school] lobbyists lie awake at night thinking about is what will help poor kids ... I mean, we're adults, right?" Lafer commented by phone. [...]
If Mark Zuckerberg isn't able to deliver education reform, then who is? In the first place, his Newark Experience has shown him all the pitfalls lying on the path to education reform, and so now he understands better than anyone else how to avoid those pitfalls. And second, he can invest any amount of money to fund any new reform project — tens of millions of dollars, hundreds of millions, even billions. Mark Zuckerberg, therefore, has got to be the man who finally makes the big breakthrough, the one who turns his back forever on LOWLY education, the one who finally introduces the world to LOFTY education.
And that is pretty much what others expect of him too:
Mark Zuckerberg tried philanthropy before — and stumbled. Here’s what he learned.
His Newark donation didn't fix the schools. But he learned from his mistakes.
By Dale Russakoff 07 Dec 2015
[...] On "Oprah," Zuckerberg said he hoped Newark would become a national model for how to transform failing urban school districts. Today, multiple philanthropists use it as a case study in how not to relate to communities they seek to help.
Still, Zuckerberg emerged as one of the more serious students of the missteps, determined not to repeat them.
In a letter he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, wrote to their newborn daughter, Maxima, pledging to give away 99 percent of their Facebook stock in their lifetimes, they laid out six guiding principles for what they called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Principles Number 1 and 2 are clearly drawn from what went wrong in Newark. [...]
It is Principle Number 1 which concerns us here, and we are able to read it below, in Mark Zuckerberg's own words, and reproducing his own bold emphasis — the main thing that Mark Zuckerberg learned in Newark:
A letter to our daughter
Mark Zuckerberg 01 Dec 2015
[...] This mission — advancing human potential and promoting equality — will require a new approach for all working towards these goals.
We must make long term investments over 25, 50 or even 100 years. The greatest challenges require very long time horizons and cannot be solved by short term thinking. [...]
Expecting Mark Zuckerberg to have learned from Newark how to teach better, we see instead that he has learned from Newark to stop wanting to teach better. Mark Zuckerberg, speaking from Silicon Valley — the epicenter of disruptive change — plays the role of the most hidebound conservative imaginable, exhorting the nation to give up hope for any educational improvement within their lifetimes. Where LOFTY learning promises to uplift students to 90th and 99th percentile performance after one and two years, Mark Zuckerberg is content to foresee children huddling around the 50th percentile for the next hundred years.
Cartoonists, whose hyperbolization of reality makes us both laugh and think, are astounded to discover that Mark Zuckerberg's reality (wait 100 years) hyperbolizes their cartoons (wait 30 years):
The simple fact of the matter is that LOFTY education can only take place in an environment free of distraction, particularly of the distraction of cell phones and of Facebook. Wherever Zuckerberg makes his appearance, learning grinds to a halt.
LOFTY education is the wave of the future, and Mark Zuckerberg is not riding that wave:
Study: College Kids Spend A Fifth Of Class On Phones Instead Of Learning
28 Jan 2016
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — According to a new study, college students are spending one-fifth of their time in class on their cell phones or digital devices when they should be learning. [...]
Researchers say the main culprit is texting.
Almost nine out of 10 students reported that texting was their main diversion during class.
About three-quarters say they emailed or checked the time on their phones.
70-percent reported checking social media, such as Facebook.
Nearly half reported surfing the web, and one in 10 spent class time playing games. [...]
Schools may ban facebook as students spend hours on social networking sites during lesson time
Last updated at 12:01 17 March 2008
Schools could be forced to ban social networking sites to stop pupils wasting hours every day during lesson time.
A survey of 1,000 children aged between 13 and 17 has revealed 52 per cent of youngsters use Facebook during lessons for up to one hour in every ten that they spend in school.
Teachers have also raised concerns that children are spending so much time on the website at home they are turning up at school too tired to work.
Now council bosses are considering blacklisting Facebook and other networking sites such as MySpace and Bebo in order to force pupils to concentrate on their studies. [...]
More than a quarter of students who took part said they spent over half an hour every day during lessons talking to friends on Facebook.
Earlier this year it was revealed that the popularity of social networking sites was costing UK businesses almost £6.5 billion in lost productivity every year. [...]
Toby Mullins, the headteacher at Seaford College in West Sussex, said [...]: "There are two main issues. One is the safety of youngsters on the web and the second is the time that is frittered away.
"The time youngsters spend on the internet, and more specifically on social networking sites, is a huge challenge for parents and those of us in education.
"Youngsters are not only using lesson time but often quietly continue late into the night, leaving them short of sleep and irritable the next day."
West Sussex county councillor Gillian Joyce, a governor at St Wilfrid's school in Crawley, said: "It's outrageous really that they have access. They shouldn't be doing it, it's such a waste of time.
"It's not advantageous for the kids to be doing that during school time."
Andrew Barrett-Miles, who sits on West Sussex County Council's children and young people's services select committee, said he was surprised at the figures.
He said: "It just shows the lack of respect in schools and the teachers need to get a grip of it.
"The children ought not to be allowed to do it. We spend taxpayers' money to educate them, not for them to play on these websites. [...]
Eastbourne Tory MP Nigel Waterson said: "Any school worth its salt will block access to these sites during school hours. If they have not done so then they should.
"Call me old fashioned but I thought children went to school to learn, not to spend their time on these internet sites.
"I cannot see any good reason why any child should be allowed access to these sites during school hours and on school equipment.
"Anyone who has children knows that the use of social networking sites is reaching epidemic proportions and control is also needed in the home." [...]
School Ban Phones And Is Praised By Thousands Of Parents. Their Solution Is Spot On.
A hotel where cell phones will "rest" through the entire school day. At a school in Norway, that’s a reality. In every classroom, there are wooden boxes where students put their phones each and every morning.
Before, there were screens everywhere in between classes and it took all students attention. [...]
Cell phones are not allowed in classrooms, corridors, or at the school yard. Instead, students leave their phone in a "hotel" when they arrive in the morning and get them back when they go home. [...]
MARK ZUCKERBERG BACKS ALTSCHOOL
But if Mark Zuckerberg expects no education improvement in the next hundred years, then that can be had without spending a cent. Zero progress comes free. So does that mean he has backed out of funding education projects altogether?
Strangely, it does not. Mark Zuckerberg continues to invest in education projects. What's going on, then? Let's see if we can find out what Mark Zuckerberg is up to by looking at the main education startup that he's backing — Altschool — which is mentioned below, with my blue emphasis added:
The edtech start-up backed by Mark Zuckerberg
Harriet Taylor 11 Sep 2015 CNBC.com
This week, children across the country went back to school, and many are going into pilot programs started, sponsored or aided by Silicon Valley.
The goal is to better equip the next generation with the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills needed for the high tech jobs of the future.
Examples: Apple is handing out iPads and Macbooks as part of the White House ConnectEd initiative; IBM is pioneering a STEM school model called P-Tech, which it, Microsoft, SAP and others are implementing in public high schools; and last week Facebook said it would expand its partnership with Summit Public Schools, which runs K-12 schools in California and Washington state.
But one significant initiative stands out by being, among other things, a for-profit start-up. Altschool is backed by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, as well as VC firms Andreessen Horowitz and Founders Fund. (John Doerr and Pierre Omidyar have also invested.)
The start-up provides pre-kindergarten through 8th grade education in small schools it calls micro-schools. When a child joins, the school creates a profile of the child's interests, strengths and weaknesses, which is then used to create a personalized learning plan. The child is then given a weekly list of individual and group activities and exercises to complete in order to meet their goals.
Cameras in classrooms monitor lessons, and teachers can review the videos to keep tabs on progress. An app lets teachers and parents keep in touch.
If LOFTY education expects 90th percentile performance at the end of the first year, and 99th percentile performance at the end of the second year, then at the end of three years, it would expect many of its students to be demonstrating prodigy-level performance over a broad range of activities. As Max Ventilla founded AltSchool in 2013, he has had two years, going on three, in which to build up a performance record for AltSchool — and so where is that performance record?
The answer is that there seems to be none. On the AltSchool web site, I can find no figures on improved performance, either observed in the past or expected in the future.
And so, Mark Zuckerberg is at least being true to his word. He swore off attempting to improve education, and the AltSchool which he supports does seem to adhere to the Zuckerberg committment to zero improvement. Parents who enroll their children in AltSchool expecting them to perform around the 50th percentile in the LOWLY range maybe have no cause for anxiety — perhaps that does lie within the range of what Mark Zuckerberg is able to deliver.
In order to make sure we're not missing something, though, we'd better take a closer look. Here, for example, is an AltSchool video featuring the ten AltSchool teachers shown below singing an AltSchool pep song (the guitarist having been squeezed out of the video's group shot, is accorded separate recognition by means of a frame from a different shot):
What the above AltSchool teachers sing is shown in the left-hand column below. For the time being, ignore the right-hand column, it will be explained later. As the children in the audience were forced to listen to every word of the AltSchool song, you will be able to approach understanding what they might have been thinking and feeling during the performance if you read every word of the AltSchool song. Better still, though, clicking on either of the images immediatly above will take you to AltSchool, then scrolling about 2/3 of the way down the page will take you to the video itself where you will be able to watch and hear the performance. What you will be looking for 2/3 down the page is the image opposite, clicking which will play the AltSchool pep song.
We Teach Grit and Growth Mindset at AltSchool
AltSchool teachers create a fun way to inspire their students to develop growth mindset, grit and singing along with "failure."
As a student
trying new things
sparking big thoughts
like how a single word
unlocks a mind open
I might only be one soul
but I can make a difference
And all those things I didn't try
because fear trapped me inside
I will risk much more this year
Can you help me drive my goals?
This is my alt song
I love my life song
make it my day song
my power's turned on
starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my alt song
and it doesn't really matter if I fail this time it's okay
I've still got a lot of tries left in me
Excited but I'm still unsure
how this project will take off
I'm so confused
it's been five hours
I miss my home
but there's a fire burning in my bones
yeah, I still believe
And all those things I didn't try
because fear trapped me inside
I will risk much more this year
can you help me drive my goals?
This is my alt song
I love my life song
make it my day song
my power's turned on
starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my alt song
and it doesn't really matter if I fail this time it's okay
I've still got a lot of tries left in me
a lot of tries in me
As a student
trying new things
sparking big thoughts
like how a single word
unlocks a mind open
I might only be one soul
but I can make a difference
This is my alt song
I love my life song
make it my day song
my power's turned on
starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my alt song
and it doesn't really matter if I fail this time it's okay
I've still got a lot of tries left in me
and I've still got a lot of grit in me
LOFTY Lifts Verbal Skills Into The Stratosphere|
Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)
The Duke's Children, Chapter 25
"As far as my experience goes, the happiest man is he who, being above the troubles which money brings, has his hands the fullest of work. If I were to name the class of men whose lives are spent with the most thorough enjoyment, I think I should name that of barristers who are in large practice and also in Parliament."
"Isn't it a great grind, sir?" asked Silverbridge.
"A very great grind, as you call it. And there may be the grind and not the success. But [...] it is the grind that makes the happiness. To feel that your hours are filled to overflowing, that you can barely steal minutes enough for sleep, that the welfare of many is entrusted to you, that the world looks on and approves, that some good is always being done to others — above all things some good to your country — that is happiness. For myself I can conceive none other."
Click image to watch a seven-year-old declaim As Far As My Experience Goes.
John Cunningham (1729-1773)
The FOX and the CAT: A FABLE
THE Fox and the Cat, as they travelled one day,
With moral discourses cut shorter the way:
'Tis great, says the Fox, to make justice our guide!
How godlike is mercy, Grimalkin replied.
Whilst thus they proceeded, a Wolf from the wood,
Impatient of hunger, and thirsting for blood,
Rushed forth, as he saw the dull shepherd asleep,
And seized for his supper an innocent sheep.
In vain, wretched victim, for mercy you bleat,
When mutton's at hand, says the Wolf, I must eat.
Grimalkin's astonished, the Fox stood aghast,
To see the fell beast at his bloody repast.
What a wretch, says the Cat, 'tis the vilest of brutes:
Does he feed upon flesh, when there's herbage, and roots?
Cries the Fox — while our oaks give us acorns so good,
What a tyrant is this, to spill innocent blood?
Well, onward they marched, and they moralized still,
'Till they came where some poultry picked chaff by a mill:
Sly Reynard surveyed them with gluttonous eyes,
And made (spite of morals) a pullet his prize.
A mouse too, that chanced from her covert to stray,
The greedy Grimalkin secured as her prey.
A Spider that sat in her web on the wall,
Perceived the poor victims, and pitied their fall;
She cried — of such murders how guiltless am I!
So ran to regale on a new taken fly.
The faults of our neighbors with freedom we blame,
But tax not ourselves, though we practice the same.
Click image to watch a seven-year-old declaim The Fox and the Cat.
The AltSchool performance shown in the left column above falls short chiefly in two respects.
First, a school is to be judged not by what its teachers can do, but by what its students can do. To make the teachers the focus of the performance is to confess that there is little the students can do that is worth seeing. In a LOFTY school, the students have learned to do impressive things, and it is the students who do all the performing. In AltSchool, children do what children regularly do in regular school when passivity is demanded of them — they squirm, longing to escape from their enforced passivity:
As this is a most important indicator of school quality, I will linger over it for just a moment longer. In an open house at a Bela Karolyi gymnastics camp, it would not be Karolyi who performs while Nadia Komaneci and her fellow-students sit off to the side, bored and fidgeting. The fantastic sight of a gymnastics coach putting on a pathetic performance on the parallel bars while his students sit and watch would tell you all you needed to know about the quality of teaching at his gymnastics school.
World-class gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi, who would laugh at the idea of himself performing gymnastics.
World-class gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who would find incomprehensible the idea of not being asked to perform during an open house.
Second, the AltSchool performance that we are discussing would have been sad if it had been performed by the students, but performed by the teachers, it is shameful. The melody is leaden and repetitive, and shows not the slightest sign of musical ability or sensitivity. And not one of the ten teachers, apparently, knows enough music to harmonize.
And the lyrics! — Incoherent, infantile, rendered in fractured English, painful to listen to, and torturously repetitive!
Let us turn now to the right-hand column in the table above, which shows a LOFTY alternative to the LOWLY AltSchool performance that we have been witnessing. First, the right-hand column shows what the students — NOT THE TEACHERS, BUT THE STUDENTS! — might recite during a LOFTY open house. Recite from memory, and recite with intelligence and feeling, as can be seen being done by a seven-year-old upon clicking the Marko portrait at the bottom of each section. Second, the material is not gibberish written by California hippies, it is magnificent English written by masters of the English tongue. In each case there is an important moral being vividly and memorably illustrated: in the case of Anthony Trollope, that work can be more fun than fun; in the case of John Cunningham, that the definition of good and evil shifts with the viewer's self-interest.
In a LOFTY open house, every single student would be able to recite upon request, not just one such quotation or poem, but any from a large pool which over the years would number in the hundreds. Yes, the gulf separating LOWLY education from LOFTY is as shockingly vast in the area of language mastery as we have seen it being in the areas of Mathematics and Physics and Chemistry.
Memorization is only a small part of a LOFTY student's language training, but a very important part. The rationale for memorization is that the words in the memorized text become available in the student's own writing and speech, as do the grammatical structures, as do the rhythms and the rhymes, as do the techniques of advancing the argument or unfolding the story.
AltSchool Founder and CEO Max Ventilla is fond of saying that he is reinventing education from the ground up, which may sound like a fine thing to young ears, but to those who believe that the past holds much hidden wisdom from which we may learn might notice that a century-and-a-half ago schools used to stage Exhibition Days, and that Declamation and Recitation — by the students, not the teachers — were formal requirements of Exhibition Day, and that books were published containing choice passages that were suitable for Declamation and Recitation on Exhibition Day (and that a favorite among these passages has often been The Fox And The Cat):
But it is not the rationale that matters, as both proponents and opponents of memorization are able to come up with a rationale for their opposite views, and the two rationales laid side by side may appear to the uninformed gaze as indistinguishably appealing. And if it is the case that slothaholics in contemporary culture outnumber workaholics, it is the anti-memorization rationale that may have wider appeal by demanding less exertion.
And it is not historical precedent that matters either, as the past holds as much foolishness as it does wisdom.
What does matter, and it is the only thing that matters, is a comparison of student verbal performance that results from the alternative traditions — that is, from the recently-introduced memorization-phobia which shuns memorization, as compared to the centuries-old tradition of memorization-philia which embraces memorization. We know what the verbal capability is of LOWLY-school students whose curriculum is memorization-phobic — no matter what test of verbal skills you give them, they cluster around the 50th-percentile, the clustering occurring by definition, and therefore being logically inescapable. In contrast, a LOFTY-school student like Marko whose curriculum we have seen above includes reciting Anthony Trollope and John Cunningham, and whose education may be considered to be memorization-philic, scores around the 99th percentile on the five verbal subtests of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale:
As Marko made absolutely no preparation for that Stanford-Binet test, and indeed had never been informed that a Stanford-Binet or any other intelligence test was going to be administered, it may be concluded that his language training had prepared him to score in the vicinity of the 99th percentile on any conceivable test of verbal proficiency, whether he was given an opportunity to prepare for that test or not, and whether that test of verbal proficiency styled itself as a test of Ability or Aptitude or Achievement or Intelligence or whatever.
Before we take anyone's education recommendation (such as "Eschew memorization!") seriously, then, we should ask what performance the advice-giver's students have demonstrated in the past, and if the answer is performance clustering around the 50th percentile, we may be justified in feeling relieved of much obligation to take that recommendation seriously. Anyone producing 50th percentile performance — we may go so far as to say — is not an educator but a saboteur of education, and striving for results opposite to a saboteur's might require procedures opposite to the ones he recommends.
Oh, and one more thing! What's with AltSchool forcing its students to sit on the sidewalk? And it is evident that they have been forced, is it not? — If they have been merely offered the option of sitting on the sidewalk, I would expect to see a few of them declining. That sidewalk is hard, it is cold, and it is filthy, characteristics which some children would be expected to have noticed, even when their teachers had not.
This sitting on the sidewalk reminds me of John Keating having his students walk across his desk in the movie Dead Poets Society. I take such teacher impulses to arise from a childish mentality which does not recognize microbes and which also equates (1) transgressing social conventions with (2) creativity.
Reflecting on AltSchool sidewalk-sitting leads me to wonder if AltSchool teachers have somehow failed over their lifetimes to notice that dogs defecate on sidewalks, and urinate on poles along sidewalks, and that people spit on sidewalks. Are AltSchool teachers too young and unobservant to have noticed that pigeons and other birds are incessantly searching sidewalks for edibles, all the while leaving a trail of evidence that they have never been toilet trained? Have AltSchool teachers never noticed that cars parked on streets acquire a layer of gritty dust thrown up by the traffic, and never inferred that a similar layer coats the sidewalk as well? And AltSchool teachers seem unaware of how likely it is that anything on children's hands will end up in their mouths. It's OK to force the children to sully their pants with sidewalk crud because children are dirty by nature, and so making them even dirtier is no great crime — seems to be the AltSchool mentality.
I wonder if I may be allowed to suggest a rule that might give children a modicum of protection against disease-promoting teachers? The rule is that before seating children on any surface, as for example a sidewalk or a lawn, teachers demonstrate their own conviction that that sidewalk or lawn is sanitary by lying supine on it with their head and hair resting on its surface, then rolling over the surface a few times. If the teachers in the sidewalk scene above had been asked to perform this demonstration, perhaps they would have refused, thus signalling that they were happy to force the children in their care to wallow in a filth that they themselves recoiled from.
And for that matter, what's the idea behind sitting on floors? If it's a good idea to seat children on floors at school, then why isn't it a good idea to seat university students on floors too, or opera-goers, or members of parliament?
If all the students and teachers were in their socks, then at least this might be considered a shoes-off area, but 7/12 of the people in the photo below are wearing shoes, 3/12 are wearing only socks, and 2/12 can't tell. At the same time, three of the boys look like they might have both hands resting on the floor, and one of the girls seems about to pick something up off the floor. And three of the girls have at least one of their hands on their faces either close to, or right on, their mouths.
These are observations of unhygienic events, and my experience with regular schools leads me to expect further such unhygienic events, such as that snacks or lunch will be eaten also on the floor, and with no requirement, or even recommendation, to wash hands before digging in.
And below shows further deterioration on the hygiene front — whereas doggie-doo and nose drool and chocolate milk and mayonaise can be swabbed off hard, smooth surfaces, there is no practical way to clean them off rugs or fabric-covered sofas, and so where they will remain as food for cockroaches and silverfish. Cockroach and silverfish infestation invites spraying with pesticides, and which leaves a toxic film over everything in the room. What I would have taken to be the unbreakable rule of rugs and fabric upholstering being banned from classrooms is a rule that AltSchool staff seems blissfully unaware of:
Given the AltSchool teachers' belief in a microbe-free world, it can be predicted that every epidemic that comes around will sweep through the entire AltSchool without pause and without exception, and after that will be carried home as well. With a microbe-aware staff it is possible to maintain a near-perfect record of no disease being transmitted from one child to another, but the starting point for such success is having teachers educated enough to believe in microbes, which hiring prerequisite AltSchool seems not to enforce.
Come to think of it, the two examples of LOFTY memorization that were presented above fail to convey the range of topics covered on memorization cards, as for example that the range may even include the topic of hygiene, as is exemplified below in a quotation from A House Divided, the last novel in Pearl Buck's House of Earth trilogy, and which serves to sensitize students who memorize it against the sort of unhygienic lapses to which AltSchool teachers seem to be attracted:
Pearl Buck (1892-1973)
On the back of the card, the notation that is relevant here lies on the upper-left where on 31 Dec 1987 — at the age of 09:03 (yy:mm), as it happens — the student can be seen to have accumulated his twentieth perfect recitation (over twenty different days, as only one perfect recitation can be credited on any given day), and where twenty perfect recitations defines the card as completed and results in its withdrawal from the currently-active memorization deck, to be brought back only occasionally after long intervals and worked on for additional perfect recitations, as can be seen beginning to happen a year and a half later, on 06 Jun 1989.
But once I begin rummaging through old memorization cards, I realize that I have not done justice to the proposition that even on the very narrow subject of girding students with tenacity and staying power, the AltSchool pep song is an anemic, LOWLY-school effort in comparison to what is done under a LOFTY curriculum. The LOFTY delivery of the tenacity exhortation contains many elements working in synchrony, of which the Anthony Trollope "it is the grind that makes the happiness" quotation above is but one instance.
The "willing to work indefinitely in order to reach a given goal" quotation from Kenneth Roberts's Northwest Passage is another such element working in synchrony, which Marko can be watched reciting
here, and which he can be seen practicing penmanship on
Kenneth Roberts (1885-1957)
Twenty perfect recitations credited at age 07:02 yy:mm
Any memorization passage embedded in history brings the benefit of teaching history along with teaching language skills, as was the case in the Northwest Passage quote above, and which can also be said of the Robert Caro "still one more task that should be done" description below of Lyndon Baines Johnson's fantastic perseverance, and which can be inferred to be teaching students who memorize it not only about the tenacity of purpose that is needed to attain a difficult goal, but also about American history and politics and government.
Robert Caro (b1935)
Completed at age 12:04 yy:mm
And the elaboration of the LBJ career-chronicle below teaches, further, that the victory of one sometimes depends on the labor of many, as in the case of LBJ's career success depending not only on his own labor, but also on the labor of his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, who pitches in with a bulldog relentlessness of her own:
Completed at age 12:08 yy:mm
And who, more convincingly than Charles Mackay, delivers the moral to cherish good deeds — our own and those of others — however inconsiderable those good deeds might seem to be because each carries within it a "small beginning", which is its hidden power of percolating?
Scottish author Charles Mackay (1814-1889)
Completed at age 13:07 yy:mm
And who has advised steadfastness of career more persuasively than Robert Service in his identification of "the men that don't fit in"?
Robert Service (1874-1958)
Completed at age 08:07 yy:mm
And on it goes in LOFTY school, with still other wordsmiths of the English language giving voice, from slightly different perspectives, to the single theme that will serve youth well to learn and to believe — that the price of triumph is dedicated labor. In a LOWLY education program like the one offered by Mark Zuckerberg's AltSchool, this message is delivered in a talentless "this is my alt song" ditty, which impacts the children only slightly, primarily because it is vacuous, but also because the children are not required to memorize it. In a LOFTY program, the message is driven home in numerous nuanced and information-rich passages penned by the world's best writers, and which passages impact the children strongly because of the power and beauty of their language, and because the students recite each variation perfectly from memory at least a score of times. To achieve the LOFTY memorization feats illustrated above (and a hundred more like them spread over the years) takes twenty minutes a day, and which the LOFTY teacher knows how to make among the most relaxed and stress-free activities of the day. On the other hand, any teacher trying to achieve the same result without knowing how is sure to cause trauma.
But the most important thing of all — remember? — the absolutely most essential ingredient of efficient learning is that the students engage in CONCENTRATED practice! And looking up at the four photos of AltSchool children, what do we see? We see passivity, we see boredom, and we see no CONCENTRATED practice. And in the fourth photo, the one with the round rug, we infer from the "Yoga & Meditation" display on the back wall that passivity is no longer being taught only incidentally and implicitly, but has now been promoted to the status of a subject of explicit inculcation!
The idea that Yoga or Meditation can boost education is as zany as the idea expressed in the cartoon below that BIOLINGUA can. A change that would make this cartoon more applicable to Zuckerberg's AltSchool would be to draw the two education theorists as teen-age programmers sitting at computer terminals.
As Zuckerberg students aren't reported to be trending in the direction of LOFTY academic performance, then whatever Zuckerberg has them doing on computers and telecommunication devices might be suspected of resembling the playing of video games more than it resembles education, because video games don't lift children toward LOFTY academic performance either:
Descriptions of Altschool give us not the slightest reason to believe that AltSchool children are receiving anything but a run-of-the-mill LOWLY education, that they are being deprived of the opportunity to develop their talents, and that the staff running AltSchools are themselves graduates of LOWLY schools who know no better than to brighten up the dullness of regular schooling with sidewalk sitting and floor sitting, with crud-encrusted rugs and couches, and with feedings of the opiate of Eastern mysticism.
And of course the most damning proof of AltSchool failure is that it offers no evidence of having improved students' performance (above what prevails in the world's LOWLY schools) in the past, nor offers any timetable of when such evidence might be forthcoming in the future. We can be fairly confident that no surprise delivery of above-average performance will break Mark Zuckerberg's promise of zero improvement over LOWLY performance. But as he seems committed to putting his students online, and on getting them addicted to frittering away their hours on FaceBook, let's wish him the best of luck — he'll need it! — in being able at the same time to avoid a surprise delivery of below-average performance.
And there remains one more thing to be said about Mark Zuckerberg's foray into education.
It has been said that to a warden, utopia is an escape-proof jail.
Mark Zuckerberg's vision of utopia is not very different from the warden's. It envisions the view from the back row of a Harvard University graduation ceremony looking like the scene below — with every graduate not only locked securely within the Zuckerberg mental prison, but also being unceasingly eyed by the warden:
Mark Zuckerberg does not want smart people graduating from our schools, because smart people are unresponsive to advertising, and because smart people know that every hour spent on FaceBook is another shovelfull of dirt thrown on the coffin of their careers.
Given a choice between
Zuckerberg could hear his cash register ka-chinging in the second scenario but not in the first.
- students lacking cell phones who pass their exams, and
- students equipped with cell phones who fail their exams,
One of the most important steps a school must take before it can start producing excellence is to remove distraction, which includes banning FaceBook and all social media, and discouraging their use out of school.
To all this, Zuckerberg has a facile response — that all children should be given unrestricted access to all social media, and that when they are, and not a moment sooner, he will begin to figure out a way to make that experience educational for them:
Zuckerberg: Kids under 13 should be allowed on Facebook
by Michal Lev-Rams 20 May 2011
Facebook’s founder sees the social networking site as a tool with educational potential. That of course means getting kids Facebooking at an early age.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
FORTUNE — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may be a college drop-out, but the billionaire 27-year-old is passionate about education reform. That’s why he took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the heated topic (and why he thinks young people can benefit from social networking sites) at a recent summit on innovation in education. [...]
"In the future, software and technology will enable people to learn a lot from their fellow students," he said. For example, students could see each other studying online in the hopes it would encourage more of them to study for tests.
Zuckerberg said he wants younger kids to be allowed on social networking sites like Facebook. Currently, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) mandates that websites that collect information about users (like Facebook does) aren’t allowed to sign on anyone under the age of 13. But Zuckerberg is determined to change this.
"That will be a fight we take on at some point," he said. "My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age."
But just how would Facebook’s social features be used by younger children?
"Because of the restrictions we haven’t even begun this learning process," Zuckerberg said. "If they’re lifted then we’d start to learn what works. We’d take a lot of precautions to make sure that they [younger kids] are safe."
Mark Zuckerberg wants children on Facebook, but he doesn't want to comply with legal requirements aimed at protecting children — so what does he do? No problem! Mark Zuckerberg lets children on Facebook so long as they lie about their age:
Mark Zuckerberg Is Wrong About Kids Under 13 Not Being Allowed on Facebook
Kashmir Hill 20 May 2011
Mark Zuckerberg is not an expert on federal laws about child privacy
Mark Zuckerberg wants kids younger than 13 using Facebook but the mean government won’t let him, reports Fortune. That is incorrect.
Currently, Facebook itself prohibits people under the age of 13 from creating accounts, keeping them out by asking their age before allowing them to register. Why is that? It’s not because Zuck doesn’t think your eight-year-old cousin shouldn’t be looking at your party pics. It’s because Facebook doesn’t want to have to comply with the rigorous requirements of COPPA — the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act — that kick in if you have kids 12 and under using your site.
That, of course, doesn’t stop kids from lying about their age and signing up anyway. According to Consumer Reports, Facebook has about 7.5 million little kiddies on the site. And Zuckerberg would like even more:
Zuckerberg said he wants younger kids to be allowed on social networking sites like Facebook. Currently, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) mandates that websites that collect information about users (like Facebook does) aren’t allowed to sign on anyone under the age of 13. But Zuckerberg is determined to change this.
"That will be a fight we take on at some point," he said. "My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age."
Correction: Younger kids are allowed on social networking sites like Facebook, but it requires the site to go through a process of obtaining parental consent [...].
"COPPA doesn’t restrict users under 13 from being on social networking sites, but it does require operators of sites to fully inform parents on the site’s information collection, use, and disclosure practices, and get verifiable parental consent BEFORE children under 13 register," says a Federal Trade Commission spokesperson. Dear Mark Zuckerberg, here’s the FTC’s "How to comply with COPPA" worksheet.
Since the Fortune writer summarized Zuck’s remarks above, it may be that the writer misinterpreted what Zuck said. But the statement that COPPA "mandates that websites that collect information about users (like Facebook does) aren’t allowed to sign on anyone under the age of 13″ is flat out wrong. (Zuck doesn’t have a J.D., or even a college degree. The federal law is complicated and he’s a busy CEO, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t have a firm grasp of the law here.) The real fight for Zuckerberg to start legally recruiting youngsters is with his own legal and engineering department to institute onerous mechanisms to obtain "verifiable parental consent." In order to get parents to signal that they’re on board with their kids living the self-exposed life, the FTC would require Facebook to have parents give their consent "through use of a credit card in connection with a transaction, a toll-free call answered by trained operators, a print and send form, or another consent mechanism that provides reasonable assurance that the person providing consent is the parent of the child."
In the meantime, Facebook can just ignore the fact that it has millions of underage kids on the site, as long as the kids keep lying about their ages and as long as Facebook does deactivate any account when it’s notified about a minor’s profile. That keeps them in compliance with the law, says Proskauer Rose privacy attorney Natalie Newman, allowing them to avoid the $3 million fine Disney got hit with for pubbing kiddies’ info without parental consent or the $1 million fine Xanga paid a few years back for prohibiting kids under the age of 13 from having accounts, but then letting them sign up even if they indicated they were too young.
But there could be trouble ahead for Facebook, especially with Zuckerberg making statements like [the above]. "I think it’s going to become harder for sites like Facebook to argue that their users are not teens and children," says Newman. Part of what makes COPPA kick in is if a site is "directed" at kids. [...]
The children who misrepresent their age, being the youngest participants on Facebook, are particularly vulnerable to the misrepresentations of others:
And below begins to be laid bare why Mark Zuckerberg wants to amass data on everyone — he expects that the more he knows about everyone, the more accurately will he be able to target advertising at them. And why Mark Zuckerberg wants particularly to amass data on children — because they are particularly susceptible to being hoodwinked by advertising:
FIVE REASONS WHY FACEBOOK IS NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN UNDER 13
A survey in 2011 by Consumer Reports found that more than 5 million children were on Facebook. Though the company’s official policy does not allow children under 13 to set up profiles, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Facebook may be planning to open its service to them. Child advocacy, health, and consumer groups have raised serious objections to these plans. Many people are concerned about children's risky behaviors if allowed on the site, as well as possible exposure to harmful content, bullying and predators. In addition to these serious issues, Facebook has a business model that makes it particularly problematic for children. As the popular social networking platform has grown — amassing more than one billion users worldwide — it has developed a growing set of marketing and data collection practices, that, by their very nature, exploit young people's well-documented vulnerabilities.|
Below are five reasons why Facebook is not suitable for children under 13:
1. Children would become part of one of the Internet’s most expansive personal data collection and profiling platforms.
Data collection, data analysis, profiling, tracking, and monitoring of social interactions
are intrinsic operating features of Facebook. While many people are aware of how
users voluntarily provide personal profile information, status updates, "likes," etc., they
may not realize that much of the data collection on Facebook takes place without direct
user involvement or control. Through its partnerships with data broker companies such as Datalogix, Acxiom, and Epsilon, Facebook enables advertisers to engage in precise targeted marketing based on detailed information about its users. This can include not only what they say and do on Facebook, but also their movements and behaviors across the web and offline. Most people are focused on their social experiences on Facebook and do not understand how Facebook’s business relationships are designed to use their digital profiles and personal relationships for commercial surveillance and marketing purposes.
2. Children would be exposed to a new generation of highly persuasive and manipulative digital marketing practices.
While on the surface Facebook presents itself as a place where people can develop and maintain their social relationships, it is also a commercial and heavily branded space. Facebook has recently hit the milestone number of 1 million advertisers actively using the platform to market to its growing user base. It offers companies a variety of sophisticated marketing techniques for taking full advantage of the platform to reach and influence users. The most innovative campaigns are highlighted on its Facebook Studio.
Many of the techniques used by marketers on Facebook are part of a broader set of evolving practices in the digital marketplace. However, Facebook holds a particularly prominent and influential position as the leader in social media marketing, developing an expanding arsenal of innovative advertising "tools," and offering brands a variety of ways to interact with its users. Facebook’s platform is designed to support a continuous marketing process through brand-related "experiences" in games, multi-media, and mobile apps. The following is a snapshot of some of Facebook’s marketing and advertising techniques that raise concerns for children:
- Tapping into users’ online social relationships to orchestrate peer-to-peer brand promotion among friends and acquaintances; this includes targeting key "influencers" and enlisting them to become "brand ambassadors."
- Blurring the lines between marketing and content by enabling marketers to insert their branding messages into the "News Feeds" that appear on individual profiles.
- Offering prizes, sweepstakes, and other incentives to "activate" users to engage in behaviors that support marketer goals — such as "liking" a product, joining a branded community, or sharing a promotional message with others.
- Tracking and measuring user responses to marketing messages in real time in order to perfect the persuasive techniques.
3. Facebook’s marketing practices would take advantage of children’s cognitive, social, and emotional vulnerabilities.
Children are still developing — psychologically, biologically, and socially. We know from decades of research that they are vulnerable to a range of advertising and
marketing practices. The younger ones cannot always tell the difference between fantasy and reality, or recognize advertising. For example, children under 8 have difficulty understanding persuasive intent, making it hard for them to realize that advertising and marketing techniques are tools marketers use to persuade them to buy something as opposed to simply delivering factual information. Even older children can be confused, especially by digital marketing techniques that are disguised as entertainment, embedded in an online game, or presented to them through a friend. For preteens (8-12) the research shows that they are in a unique stage in their development when their peer relationships are beginning to have a profound influence on their choices and preferences. They are inclined to behave impulsively and often do not think about the consequences of their actions before taking them. As they begin to explore their identities, they are particularly drawn to social media, posting photos and other personal information about themselves, and not always using good judgment about what they share.
Children under 13 are impressionable and vulnerable to the influence of social media marketing, and are less equipped than adults to make distinctions among all the myriad, sophisticated, subtle, and largely invisible ways in which marketing engages users on Facebook.
4. Children would be subjected to an onslaught of unhealthy food marketing — precisely at a time when childhood obesity has become
a major crisis.
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years, with more than one-third of young people either overweight or obese. These trends have sparked an alarming rise in serious diseases, including Type 2 diabetes. Marketing of unhealthy food and beverage products — fast food, snacks, sugar-sweetened beverages — is a major contributor to this public health problem. Food and beverage marketers have moved aggressively into social media. Being on Facebook gives these companies unprecedented access to young consumers, where brands can create new "fans" and promote sharing of viral content. Among the top brands on Facebook are: Coca-Cola (70+ million fans), Oreo (34+ million fans), McDonald's (29+ million fans), and Skittles (25+ million fans). This marketing raises serious health threats for children and youth.
5. There are no safeguards in place that can adequately protect children from Facebook’s aggressive and harmful marketing and data collection practices.
Neither Facebook’s own privacy settings nor the recently updated Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) offer sufficient protection from the range of manipulative and harmful marketing practices described above. Facebook’s privacy settings are designed primarily to allow its users to choose the people with whom they want to share information. It is very difficult, and practically impossible, for users to "opt out" of targeted marketing. Most adult Facebook users would find the procedures difficult to navigate; children are even less equipped to manage them.
The FTC’s newly revised COPPA rules now cover many new practices in the children’s digital marketplace, giving parents additional tools for protecting their children from online data collection on mobile phones, Internet-enabled games, and other digital devices. However, the rules cannot address all of the concerns that Facebook raises for children. Its rapidly expanding marketing and data collection enterprise is so extensive, complex, and opaque, that parents cannot be expected to understand the full range of its techniques, nor how its business operations take advantage of children’s vulnerabilities.
While Facebook’s popularity and visibility may make it enticing to children, there are multiple reasons why it is not an appropriate platform for them. These include not only the critical concerns about their online safety, cyber bullying, and harmful content, but also major threats to their privacy, health, and well being. Simply obtaining parental permission for children to set up a Facebook profile would not address these problems. In the absence of systemic changes to Facebook’s digital marketing and data collection operations, it would be highly irresponsible for the company to open its network to young people under 13.
[Extremely valuable footnotes and links that are in the original article have not been included here. As always, the original article can be easily accessed by clicking the logo at the head of each article.]
Mark Zuckerberg says he’s learned from his school reform mistakes. Has he really?
By Leonie Haimsons 09 Dec 2015
It’s been a startling time for parents concerned about children’s data privacy and the outsourcing of instruction to education technology companies. First was the recent news that the V-tech breach had exposed the personal data of more than 6.3 million children — rather than the 200,000 that was first described. The Hill reported:
The information exposed for children includes names, gender and birthdates. Security experts who have reviewed the data say that it is possible to link children’s information with their parents’ data, thereby revealing the kids’ full addresses and other information.
Stolen data for the parents includes mailing and email addresses, security questions used for password resets, IP addresses, passwords and download histories… Chat logs between parents and children were also inappropriately accessed, as well as photos of children.
Then the Electronic Frontier Federation filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Google for violating the student privacy pledge the company signed the year before. The complaint alleges that Google is collecting and data-mining the information of students while logged into their Google Apps for Education accounts at school:
While Google does not use student data for targeted advertising within a subset of Google sites, EFF found that Google’s "Sync" feature for the Chrome browser is enabled by default on Chromebooks sold to schools. This allows Google to track, store on its servers, and data mine for non-advertising purposes, records of every Internet site students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they look for and watch on YouTube, and their saved passwords.
Google, it is alleged, is using children’s browsing history to improve their products, and not for any educational purposes, as the privacy pledge specifies. A day later EFF added:
Google has promised not to build profiles on students or serve them ads only within Google Apps for Education services. When a student goes to a different Google service, however, and they’re still logged in under their educational account, Google associates their activity on that service with their educational account, and then serves them ads on at least some of those non-GAFE services based on that activity.
Finally, came the news that Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan would invest 99 percent of their stock in Facebook — worth potentially as much as $45 billion — in a new LLC to be spent on "personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities." [...]
In the open letter on (where else) Facebook, Zuckerberg and his wife explained that their version of "personalized learning" is really instruction through computers and pre-packaged software:
"We’re starting to build this technology now, and the results are already promising. Not only do students perform better on tests, but they gain the skills and confidence to learn anything they want. And this journey is just beginning. The technology and teaching will rapidly improve every year you’re in school."
To explore a little further what this means, witness Zuckerberg’s current investments, including in a $100 million fund to create a for-profit chain of private schools called the AltSchools, located in the Bay Area and New York City. Here is a description of the Brooklyn school:
Every pupil gets their own tablet or Chromebook; wall-mounted video cameras called "superpowers" record children’s learning moments and kiddie confessionals for teachers to review…kids sign in via an app on an iPad at the entry. It’s connected to an online platform called My.AltSchool that tracks everything from a child’s Personalized Learning Plan to allergies.
The schedule changes daily, but midmorning on a recent Wednesday, some 6- to 8-year-olds studied Rembrandt’s "The Night Watch" on their Chromebooks in one corner, while others engaged in writing lessons. … AltSchool, which costs $27,500 a year, operates on the traditional school calendar, but parents are encouraged to take family vacations when it’s convenient for them — perfect for a jaunt to Kyota[sic], Japan, in time for cherry-blossom season or a family trip to Austin for South by Southwest.
Yet schools that operate through online or virtual learning have a very controversial track record. The AltSchool model most closely resembles the technology-focused Kunskapsskolan charter school, later renamed Innovate Manhattan, that was established with much fanfare in New York City in the fall 2011, by a Swedish for-profit chain. Rupert Murdoch was so enthralled by this model of education that he featured it in a speech to the G8 in May 2011, while rhapsodizing on its profit potential:
"In Sweden, I visited an innovative school known as the "IKEA school." Learning is supported by a "knowledge portal" that contains the entire syllabus. In this school, learning fits the individual student’s pace and interests — and the teachers give students plenty of individual attention. This school is possible because of a system that encourages competition by letting parents use public money to choose what schools they think work best for their children. That includes schools that are privately-run and for-profit."
There was so much positive buzz about this school that Joel Klein, then chancellor of the New York City public school system who later went to work for Murdoch, offered it space in the city’s Department of Education headquarters so his staff could "learn" from it. By September of 2012 Innovate Manhattan had relocated to Delancey Street on the Lower East Side. By March 2015, a decision had been made to close the school, because of mediocre results, financial problems and difficulty recruiting students.
Indeed, many tech-focused schools initially promoted as having found the "secret sauce" to revolutionize education, have been followed by disappointment. First, the Rocketship charter schools using the Dreambox Learning system were immensely praised, before the software and learning lab model were exposed as ineffective. Amplify tablets were publicized aggressively by Joel Klein and Rupert Murdoch until they turned out to be a failure; in September, Murdoch sold the company to a group of private investors, at a huge loss. Summit charters were highly regarded by Bill Gates and portrayed as transformational; only now these schools are introducing a whole new suite of software products designed with the help of Facebook engineers, because as it turns out, the previous "blended" technology did not work so well. Not to mention the iPAD disaster in Los Angeles, that led to Superintendent John Deasy’s downfall last year.
More and more teachers are saying, as this one has, "I gave my students iPads — then wished I could take them back." [...]
Even the U.S. Department of Education, a vigorous supporter of online learning, had to conclude this in its meta-analysis: "Few rigorous research studies of the effectiveness of online learning for K-12 students have been published." A study released in September by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development concluded, "Students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes, even after accounting for social background and student demographics."
The truth is there are NO good studies that show that online or blended instruction helps kids learn, and the whole notion of "personalized" learning is a misnomer, as what it usually signifies is depersonalized machine-based learning. All software can do is ask series of multiple choice questions and then wait for the right or the wrong answer. It cannot read an essay or give feedback on how to improve an argument, or help extricate a child from a knotty math problem. It cannot encourage students to confront all the various angles in a controversy, as happens through debate and discussion with teachers and classmates. In fact, learning through computers reduces contextualization and conceptualization to stale pre-determined ideas, the opposite of the creative and critical thinking that we are supposed to be aiming for in the 21st century. [...]
Perhaps an image that best captures Mark Zuckerberg's infiltration of education is this one inspired by George Orwell's 1984:
LOFTY learning produces median 90th percentile performance at the end of the first year, and 99th percentile at the end of the second year. No other reform package makes such a claim. No other reform package offers data supporting such a claim. No other reform package describes a teaching methodology capable of inspiring credibility for such a claim.
Such high performance can be achieved within a forty-hour work week, with no homework assigned either on evenings or weekends or holidays. Absence of student stress — and indeed student joy — is demonstrated by students always having the option of returning to regular school, and overwhelmingly choosing not to.
And such high performance is achieved even while broadening the curriculum. Every LOFTY student plays Toronto Conservatory piano daily. Every student writes daily. Every student delivers a public address daily. Every student studies chess daily. Every student adds to his portfolio of drawings daily. Every student studies anatomy and physiology daily. Every student participates in athletics daily.
LOFTY-school sympathies are entirely on the side of the SOUNDS GOOD TO ME! student in the David Horsey cartoon below:
Washinton Assessment of Student Learning
The inaugural GENIUS IS THE NEW NORMAL school will open its doors on September 2016 with the goal of delivering 90th percentile performance by 30 June 2017, and 99th percentile performance by 30 June 2018.