PISA Envy

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Tests confirm…ed reformers are suffering from impaired judgement and diminished critical thinking skills due to an acute case of PISA envy.

Ed reformers should reconsider their admiration for education systems that prepare young people to live and work in closed societies that don’t value creativity, freedom of expression, and independent thinking.

In a free and open democratic society education should serve the needs and interests of students, rather than data miners, corporations, or the state.

Common Core may “promise” deeper learning and critical thinking but the sterilized and standardized curriculum of scripted modules, discipline of thought, and continuous test prep would be more appropriate for classrooms in nations that expect conformity and require obedience from their citizens and workers.

In their quest for higher PISA scores, other nations will cultivate compliance and competition in the classroom rather than creativity and collaboration so that students willingly attend after-hours tutoring, Saturday classes, and even hook themselves up to amino acid IV drips to boost energy levels during long study sessions.

iv-drips-2The significant differences between a vast and geographically diverse continental nation like the United States and smaller land-locked or island nations like Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore etc. will most certainly account for a dramatic difference in the career paths available to students.

Career readiness in America should be about preparing students for the wide array of vocational opportunities our country has to offer including the arts, science, health care, manual trades, conservation, forestry, culinary, military, public service, hospitality, ranching, dairy farming, equestrian, criminal justice, human services, engineering etc.

Trying to model our school programs based on the rigid education systems in countries that do not have such a variety of career choices and vocational paths is foolish and not in the best interest of our students or our nation.

Education programs in smaller nations that are not as geographically and culturally diverse and with more restrictive governments will naturally focus on standardized curriculum and much narrower academic skill sets and job skills because students in these nations have more limited social, political, and vocational options.

As far as the ed reformers love affair with data, rather than comparing the Reading and Math PISA scores of say Singapore or China to the United States, why not compare their Human Rights Watch “scores” to the United States?…

“Chinese people had no say in the selection of their new leaders, highlighting that despite the country’s three decades of rapid modernization, the government remains an authoritarian one-party system that places arbitrary curbs on freedom of expression, association, religion, prohibits independent labor unions and human rights organizations, and maintains party control over all judicial institutions. The government also censors the press, internet, and publishing industry, and enforces highly repressive policies in ethnic minority areas in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia.”

Human Rights Watch World Report 2013: China

“The Singapore government in 2012 continued to sharply restrict basic rights to free expression, peaceful assembly, and association. However, there were small signs of progress in other areas, including changes in mandatory death penalty laws, and limited improvements in protecting the rights of migrant workers and combating human trafficking.”

Human Rights Watch World Report 2013: Singapore

If ed reformers insist on comparing the academic performance of American students to young people in other nations, then they should be careful not to include those education systems that primarily serve the math, reading, and science needs of restrictive governments in nations with more limited career opportunities.

Preparing American students for the wide variety of career opportunities in our nation requires a customized and vigorous curriculum focused on student interests and designed to increase academic, emotional, social, and vocational skills rather than a standardized and common curriculum focused on a narrow set of Math and ELA Standards and intended to increase PISA scores.

People learn through experimentation and experience. They acquire knowledge and skills by taking risks and testing things, not taking tests.

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Passion and Purpose

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David Coleman has made it perfectly clear there is no “room” in the Common Core for such trivial matters as students’ thoughts, feelings, and personal reflections.

Coleman may claim his emotionless Common Core will improve the career readiness of students but there is ample evidence that what employees think and feel has a direct impact on worker engagement and job satisfaction.

“Best places to work” companies don’t just have ping pong tables and free lunch, they have a “ soul” which makes work exciting and energizing.

They invest in great management and leadership. They train and develop people so they can grow. And they define their business in a way that brings meaning and purpose to the organization…

Now is the time to think holistically about your company’s work environment and consider what you can do to create passion, engagement, and commitment. It may be “the issue” we face in business over the next few years.”

Josh Bersin, “Why Companies Fail To Engage Today’s Workforce: The Overwhelmed Employee” Forbes, 3/15/14

Hard to understand how a passionless set of standards will improve the career readiness of students at a time when record numbers of employees are reporting feeling disengaged and dispassionate about their jobs…

Gallup’s data shows 30% of employees Engaged, 52% Disengaged, 18% Actively Disengaged.  “These latest findings indicate that 70% of American workers are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ and are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive,” states the report.

“Gallup estimates that these actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity.  They are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away…

Though higher education generally leads to higher earnings, it by no means guarantees higher engagement.  Consider the data: College graduates in the survey were 28% Engaged, 55% Not Engaged, 17% Actively Disengaged.  High school graduates were 32% Engaged, 49% Not Engaged, 19% Actively Disengaged.”

Victor Lipman, “Surprising, Disturbing Facts From The Mother Of All Employee Engagement Surveys” Forbes 9/23/13

K-12 education programs that claim to prepare students for college and careers should be focused more on cultivating a wide array of social and emotional competencies that are transferable workforce skills rather than continually testing a narrow set of measurable Math and ELA skills.

Learning should be a self-directed journey of discovery. Students should be “free to learn” as they explore their interests and pursue their passions rather than simply following a curriculum map and standardized pathway to each Common Core learning standard.

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“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test and don’t ask why
It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time

It’s something unpredictable but in the end is right
I hope you had the time of your life”

Learning should be passion-driven rather than data-driven and focus on the needs of students rather than the needs of the tests. Classroom activities should provide numerous opportunities for students to connect with their dreams, feelings, interests, and other people rather than demand students read closely and stay connected to text.

Data-driven programs focus primarily on testing and measuring student knowledge while passion-driven programs provide numerous learning experiences that interest students and cultivate student wisdom.

The following excerpt from a 2010 valedictory speech reveals the consequences of standardized and test-centric education programs, unfortunately David Coleman is not interested in students thoughts and feelings…

“…While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. 

While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost?

I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning.

And quite frankly, now I’m scared…”

Erica Goldson, “Here I Stand” 6/25/10 Valedictory Speech

Many education reformers do not understand  that being “ready” for college and careers is not just about the subjects learned in school, but did you learn how to live?

In 2014 Jim Carrey gave the commencement speech at Maharishi University of Management that challenged students to overcome their fears and follow their hearts…

“Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying, I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it — please!…

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love

You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world and after you walk through those doors today, you will only ever have two choices: love or fear. Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.”

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What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge,

and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.

~ George Bernard Shaw

Follow Your Heart

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Excerpts from Jim Carrey’s 2014 Commencement Speech at M.U.

“Fear is going to be a player in life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about the pathway to the future, but all it will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions that we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear. 

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the Universe for it.

I can tell you from experience, the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is. My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. 

Instead he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job, and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which, was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

That peace that we are after lies somewhere beyond personality. Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory.

You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world, and as you walk through those doors today, you will only have two choices: love or fear. Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.”

Barriers To Learning

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Inside the classroom, the teacher has the greatest impact on student performance. It is also true that parents are the most influential teacher in a child’s life, and learning that doesn’t occur outside the classroom can have a much greater impact on student achievement, than what transpires inside the classroom…

“Decades of research have shown the staggering societal costs of children in poverty. They grow up with less education and lower earning power. They are more likely to have drug addiction, psychological trauma and disease, or wind up in prison… 

Dasani’s circumstances are largely the outcome of parental dysfunction. While nearly one-third of New York’s homeless children are supported by a working adult, her mother and father are unemployed, have a history of arrests and are battling drug addiction….

For children like Dasani, school is not just a place to cultivate a hungry mind. It is a refuge. The right school can provide routine, nourishment and the guiding hand of responsible adults…

To eat, the children sit on the cracked linoleum floor, which never feels clean no matter how much they mop. Homework is a challenge. The shelter’s one recreation room can hardly accommodate Auburn’s hundreds of children, leaving Dasani and her siblings to study, hunched over, on their mattresses… 

The projects may represent all kinds of inertia. But to live at Auburn is to admit the ultimate failure: the inability of one’s parents to meet that most basic need… 

For all of McKinney’s pluck, its burdens are great. In the last six years, the city has cut the school’s budget by a quarter as its population declined. Fewer teachers share a greater load. After-school resources have thinned, but not the needs of students whose families are torn apart by gun violence and drug use. McKinney’s staff psychologist shuttles between three schools like a firefighter. 

And now, a charter school is angling to move in. If successful, it will eventually claim McKinney’s treasured top floor, home to its theater class, dance studio and art lab. Teachers and parents are bracing for battle, announced by fliers warning against the “apartheid” effects of a charter co-location. 

Dasani knows about charter schools. Her former school, P.S. 67, shared space with one. She never spoke to those children, whose classrooms were stocked with new computers. Dasani’s own school was failing by the time she left… 

Miss Holmes has seen plenty of distressed children, but few have both the depth of Dasani’s troubles and the height of her promise. There is not much Miss Holmes can do about life outside school. She knows this is a child who needs a sponsor, who “needs to see ‘The Nutcracker,’” who needs her own computer. There are many such children.

Here at school, Miss Holmes must work with what she has…”

Andrea Elliott, “Invisible Child – Girl in the Shadows: Dasani’s Homeless Life” NY Times, 12/9/13

Poorer communities and schools would see a much greater academic return on their “investments” if instead of purchasing new computers, software solutions, and standardized tests, they properly funded programs such as; prenatal care, child care, adult ed, parenting classes, job coaching, drug counseling, health services, morning programs, and after school programs that provide meals, tutoring, arts and crafts, physical activity, and a quiet place to study.

It is naive to expect that students who have weaker academic skills, greater social and emotional needs, and attend chronically underfunded schools will start to achieve more in the classroom, simply because their state has adopted the Common Core State Standards, their schools have purchased computers to administer mandated standardized tests, and their teachers have received high quality Common Core professional development.

There is more likely to be an increase in the achievement gap and school drop out rates, rather than an increase in college and career readiness, if we continue to place greater academic demands on students with greater needs, without providing sufficient school funding to support essential wrap around services.

 

Reading fiction improves college and career readiness

From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot before the other. But when books are opened you discover that you have wings.

~ Helen Hayes 

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Common Core enthusiasts CLAIM that K-12 students need to read much more nonfiction and informational text if they are to be ready for college and careers.

These reformers must not have read the following informational texts that cite research and DATA suggesting a healthy “diet” of fiction provides plenty of “nourishment” and perhaps, better prepares our students for the cognitive, social, and emotional challenges of college and careers.

While comprehension of informational text is an essential skill for employees, it is the lack of soft skills and emotional intelligence that employers more often cite as, “The Real Reason New College Graduates Can’t Get Hired”.

“The imperative to try to understand others’ points of view — to be empathetic — is essential in any collaborative enterprise…

To bring the subject home, think about how many different people you interact with during the course of a given day — coworkers, clients, passing strangers, store clerks. Then think about how much effort you devoted to thinking about their emotional state or the emotional quality of your interaction.

It’s when we read fiction that we have the time and opportunity to think deeply about the feelings of others, really imagining the shape and flavor of alternate worlds of experience…”

~ Anne Kreamer, “The Business Case for Reading Novels” 1/11/12

“I’ve noticed for many years that executives I coach who only read non-fiction tend to be somewhat more two-dimensional in their perceptions of others and of situations; they seem to have fewer options to call upon when making decisions or solving problems…

The research Anne cites resolves my chicken-and-egg quandary: it seems that reading fiction improves your sensitivity to and appreciation of complex human situations; it provides a richer ‘toolkit’ of understanding from which to pull when making decisions and building relationships.

And as our business lives get more complex, faster-paced, less hierarchical and more dependent upon our ability to build support with those around us – that kind of toolkit becomes ever more critical to our success...”

~ Erika Andersen, “If You Want to Succeed in Business, Read More Novels” 5/31/12

“I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.

Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different…”

Neil Gaiman“Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming” 10/15/13

Can’t help but wonder if ed reformers penchant for doublethink, unsubstantiated claims, standardized education, and nonfiction, along with David Coleman’s infamous statement, “As you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a s%@# about what you feel or what you think.” are all inspired by fictional text?

Talk about your irony…in futuristic fictional literature, reading a book is portrayed as dangerous to society because it promotes creativity, dissent, feelings, individuality, and independent thought.

Fast forward to 2015 and the Common Core State Standards are used to closely monitor and regulate reading in the classroom in order to discipline student thoughts, (stay connected to text), limit choice, and discourage personal feelings and reflections.


“We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the constitution says, but everyone made equal . . . A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind.”

~ Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.”

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

~ 1984, George Orwell

“We really have to protect people from wrong choices.”

~The Giver, Lois Lowry

fiction

Don’t Stop Believin’

An arts education helps build academic skills and increase academic performance, while also providing alternative opportunities to reward the skills of children who learn differently. ~ Gavin Newsom

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There is a dramatic “shift” underway with respect to longstanding beliefs in our nation regarding the role and purpose of a public education.

During the BC ( Before Core / Before Coleman) era of public education, parents and teachers believed in the power of individual curiosity and creativity to unleash each child’s unique gifts and abilities.

In the BC era of public education many learning activities were vigorous rather than rigorous, they were passion driven rather than data driven, and they focused on the diverse needs of the students rather than the standardized “needs” of the test.

The Common Core discourages and dispirits many of our students as a belief in the ability of all learners to succeed has been replaced with a belief in the ability of the Common Core standards to “ensure” that every student graduates from high school “ready” for college and careers.

An education system that had previously honored the individual, and endeavored to fulfill the academic, artistic, athletic, and vocational desires along with the social and emotional needs of every student, is being replaced with a standardized system of learning that strives to fulfill the desires of employers and the demands of the learning standards.

Thankfully, growing numbers of parents, teachers, school leaders and defenders of public education are speaking out and teaching out in support of a properly funded public education system that raises up every child and helps each student to discover his or her purpose and passion.

Despite the “sky is falling” rhetoric of education reformers our students will be ready for adulthood and employment as long as we “Don’t Stop Believin” in our public schools and the special talents and abilities of every child.

Build Your Dream

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The lessons the Common Core teaches our students about achieving success in school, work, and life are misleading, and the empty rhetoric about college and career readiness is misguided.

The Common Core evaluates student competency and proficiency in regards to a very narrow and shallow set of learning standards.

This test-centric and data-driven approach to learning is more about repeatedly measuring student skills than actually cultivating them.

While competent and proficient workers are often retained and maintained by employers, it is imaginative and courageous risk-takers who will advance and succeed by creating their own opportunities to learn and lead.

“Now today, I’m going to give you the six rules of success. But before I start, I just wanted to say these are my rules. I think that they can apply to anyone, but that is for you to decide, because not everyone is the same. There are some people that just like to kick back and coast through life and others want to be very intense and want to be number one and want to be successful. And that’s like me…”

~ Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Six Rules for Success” University of Southern California, May 15, 2009

What Does It Mean To Be Well Educated?

My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors. 

~ Maya Angelou

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Education should provide countless opportunities for students to discover their talents and pursue their passions, instead of being an obligation and competition to be “ready” for college and careers.

Schooling should be about students learning to love, being loved, and cultivating a love of learning, rather than students learning primarily for assessment.

It is far more important that students are free to learn in school and well educated, than subjecting them to continuous testing to determine if they have been educated well.

We always find time for what we truly love, one way or another.

Suppose further that love, being an inclusive spirit, refused to choose between Shakespeare and Toni Morrison (or Tony Bennett, for that matter), and we located our bliss in the unstable relationship between the two, rattling from book to book, looking for connections and grandly unconcerned about whether we’ve read “enough,” as long as we read what we read with love…

The whole world’s a classroom, and to really make it one, the first thing is to believe it is.

We need to take seriously the proposition that reflection and knowledge born out of contact with the real world, an education carpentered out of the best combination we can make of school, salon, reading, online exploration, walking the streets, hiking in the woods, museums, poetry classes at the Y, and friendship, may be the best education of all—not a makeshift substitute that must apologize for itself in the shadow of academe…

You get the idea. The American tradition, in learning as well as jazz and activism, is improvisatory.There are as many ways to become an educated American as there are Americans.

To fall short of your highest goals—mastering that imaginary “complete” reading list, say—is OK as long as you stuck to the struggle. And the joy.

~ Jon Spayde, “Learning in the Key of Life”, Utne Reader, 1998

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. 

~ John Lennon

Today many schools are eliminating vigorous extracurricular experiences that help students discover the ways they are “smart”, so they can devote more time to preparing students for rigorous standardized tests so the state can measure and compare how “smart” they are.
Ed reformers clearly fail to understand that for many people, success in life was less about how much they had learned in school, and more about whether they had learned how to live…

“Hope that you spend your days, but they all add up
And when that sun goes down, hope you raise your cup
Oh, I wish that I could witness all your joy and all your pain

Hope when the moment comes, you’ll say…

I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places, the things that I did
With every broken bone, I swear I lived…”

The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.

~ Tom Bodett

Leaders in Tech Industry; Computers and Schools Don’t Mix

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“The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.

Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.

This is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.

The Waldorf method is nearly a century old, but its foothold here among the digerati puts into sharp relief an intensifying debate about the role of computers in education.

“I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” said Alan Eagle, 50, whose daughter, Andie, is one of the 196 children at the Waldorf elementary school; his son William, 13, is at the nearby middle school. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”

Mr. Eagle knows a bit about technology. He holds a computer science degree from Dartmouth and works in executive communications at Google, where he has written speeches for the chairman, Eric E. Schmidt. He uses an iPad and a smartphone. But he says his daughter, a fifth grader, “doesn’t know how to use Google,” and his son is just learning. (Starting in eighth grade, the school endorses the limited use of gadgets.)

Three-quarters of the students here have parents with a strong high-tech connection. Mr. Eagle, like other parents, sees no contradiction. Technology, he says, has its time and place: “If I worked at Miramax and made good, artsy, rated R movies, I wouldn’t want my kids to see them until they were 17.”

~By MATT RICHTEL, A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute” NY Times, October 2011