Survival of the Fittest in New York City?

Who succeeds at New York’s Success Academy charter schools? The New Yorker provides some clues. The first high school graduating class at New York City’s Success Academies has made it through years of strict discipline and mind control. There is even a correct placement for your pencil when it sits on your desk. Suspension is ‘one tool in the toolkit’ and is used often, not to punish but to increase awareness of expectations. Only seventeen students made it to graduation, but their accomplishments are notable. Even the teachers tend not to last; an average of twenty-five percent leave every year.

The environment for learning attracts parents. Success charters receive large donations from the business community. There are well equipped classrooms and field trips. Instruction is both very directed toward skill mastery and somewhat more progressive. Teachers, however, do not develop their own lesson plans. They teach what the ‘network’ demands. Teachers and students alike operate within tightly controlled boundaries and frequent assessment, according to the authors.

The recipe for Success Academy is high expectations, strict and intense behavioral control, and formulaic teaching strategies. Test scores for those who last are excellent. Most do not last, and after second grade, new students are not added. By high school, enrollments are small.

College enrollment for graduates is high, but then something happens. Students do not complete college.

John Dewey’s educational philosophy gives a hint to what could be happening at Success Academy schools i.e. “The society for which a child is being prepared…should be replicated in a simplified form within the structure and culture of the school itself’. In other words, if a school prepares students in an authoritarian manner, then the students will expect to function in an authoritarian world as adults. They may well have problems, as students at a Success Academy high school experienced, when they were given the opportunity to structure their own time and academic activities. They simply did not know how.

We all have to ask ourselves what is important about education. Is it measured by test scores or is there something more fundamental? These are not simply philosophical questions. There is a constitutional amendment proposed in Florida to define the purpose of education the development of the intellect and preparation for the workforce. What’s missing in this definition?

Massive Last Minute Education Bill Emerges

A new mega bill HB 7069 for education was released last night–278 pages long.   It combined provisions from other bills.  The funding is dismal; for most districts there will be less money next year.  Local district capital outlay funds do not increase and must be shared with charters which seriously harms districts.

Other provisions impact teacher bonuses and scholarships and expansion of charter schools by taking over schools in low income areas without requiring district oversight.

Testing and accountability have minor changes–Algebra II EOC is no longer required and the testing window is pushed back by allowing paper and pencil test for grades 3-6.  Districts may determine data for teacher evaluations.

Schools of Excellence and Schools of Hope are created.  It seems as though current state regulations now apply only to schools earning a grade of ‘B’ or ‘C’.  The others are granted flexibility.   The logic is flawed there.  The needs for the middle (or most students) are ignored.

For more detail, continue reading.

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Common Core Botched or Needed for Jobs?

electrician-1080554_1280Was the Common Core movement simply botched or just renamed?  We know that most states have adapted their state standards to align with but not mirror Common Core standards.  We also know that there is substantive reasons for concerns over the suitability of the standards especially for primary school age children.

Yes, the tests are also not perfect.  Even worse, the test and punish mentality is worse than the problems that Common Core is supposed to correct.  You cannot use the ‘drill and test’ instructional method to teach critical thinking and problem solving.  The tests themselves, moreover, are a work in progress.  Questions are complex and testing is time consuming.  If the end of year assessment paradigm were scrapped for a periodic diagnostic testing program, everyone would benefit.

The deeper question that has to be addressed is:  Why the Common Core in the first place?  Politicians and educational policy analysts are grappling with a genuine concern for the future opportunities for our children.  They clearly are–too often–using strongman techniques to get their message across.  What message is it?  It is one we need to hear.

The World Economic Forum just published its report on The Future of Jobs.  We know that traditional middle and lower middle class jobs are disappearing.  New jobs are being created that require different skill sets–and those skill sets tend to change rapidly.

How must the educational sector adapt to meet these new conditions?  This is a vitally important issue.  Our local district’s advisory council has been charged with evaluating its career and vocational programs.  What would the World Economic Forum advise us to do?

  • Evaluate job skills programs.  They may be short sighted if those skills will change in a few years time.
  • Research work force talent trends and skills gaps.
  • Evaluate programs for their impact on diverse groups in order to improve workforce parity.
  • Reduce the dichotomy between Humanities and Sciences and applied and pure training.
  • Encourage alignment of programs with life long learning and skills retraining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HR

workforce parity

dichotomy between Humanities and Sciences and  applied and pure training

life long learning and reskilling