Connecticut Superintendents Association says children should get more instruction from computers

No, it’s not a headline from the satirical Internet website known as “The Onion.”

It is an approach to public education that is being pushed by the Corporate Education Reform Industry and those that believe that one of the best ways to improve “educational achievement” is to have the nation’s public school children spend less time learning with teachers and more time receiving “personalized instruction” from computer programs.

Among the benefits, they claim, is that school districts could reduce the high cost of teachers.

Their proposal will also provide computer companies, software companies, testing companies and educational consulting companies with an even greater share of the taxpayer funds being spent on public education.

Perhaps they call it a “win-win” scenario.

Rather than recognize that real teachers, with the appropriate support, have always been and always will be the best equipped to help and support each and every child in their classroom, the proponents of “personalized learning” claim that computers can complete the task of personalizing “learning” more efficiently and effectively than a teacher ever can.

Not satisfied with turning public schools into little more than Common Core testing factories, those who would profit from the so-called “personalized learning” approach, and those who support their absurd initiative are now pushing to bring this concept to Connecticut’s schools.

A Wait, What? article explored the issue earlier this year in an article entitled, When THEY say “personalized learning” it is time to be afraid, very afraid.

Now, in her latest commentary piece in the Stamford Advocate entitled, Removing humans from education, Connecticut public education advocate and Hearst Media columnist Wendy Lecker focuses on the extremely troubling “education philosophy” that is being advocated by the Connecticut Association of School Superintendents and its Executive Director, Joseph Cirasuolo,

The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) is an organization that is supposed to be representing local public school superintendents and other key administrators.  Responsible for advocating on behalf of school superintendents, and assisting with their professional development needs, the organization’s primary source of funding comes from the dues that local school districts pay so that their superintendents, assistant superintendents and other “central office administrative personnel” can be part of CAPSS.

For those concerned about the future of public education in Connecticut, Wendy Lecker’s latest is a “MUST READ” article.  As you read it, remember that it is your local tax dollars that are helping to fund CAPSS’ lobbying effort for this nightmare of a concept.

Removing humans from education (By Wendy Lecker)

The late education commentator Gerald Bracey once observed that technology “permits us now to do in nanoseconds things we shouldn’t be doing at all.” Nowhere is this observation more true than in the agenda of Connecticut’s superintendents’ association, CAPSS; specifically its promotion of a concept called “personalized learning.”

“Personalized learning” is an ill-defined term popular in the education reform world meaning different things to different advocates. The common thread is a heavy reliance on computers to teach children.

In CAPSS’ incoherent version, schools will no longer be age-graded, students will design their own curricula and progress when they develop “competencies” rather than completing a school year. Rather than being grouped according to age, students will be grouped according to “mastery.” In order to progress to the next level, children will have to undergo four standardized tests a year.

Of course, any system that depends on standardized tests for advancement cannot be “personalized.” In addition, the CAPSS plan institutionalizes tracking; a harmful educational practice rejected by the Connecticut State Board of Education. Worse still, CAPSS’ version of tracking, where there is no age-grading, would humiliate a student who fares poorly on standardized tests by grouping her with children years younger than she.

The CAPSS muddled vision also proposes students not necessarily learn in school, meaning that much learning will be conducted online; a method with little evidence of success.

This reliance on online learning is also troubling in light of research showing that reading online may negatively affect brain development. Online reading promotes superficial, non-linear reading which discourages sustained attention and intellectual effort. By contrast deep reading, a skill developed by reading paper text, promotes more profound thought and analysis. Tufts reading and child development expert Maryanne Wolf is among those who raise concerns about emphasizing learning on a computer before rigorous research tells us how online learning may change brain circuitry. Studies already demonstrate that heavy use of technology in school worsens academic outcomes.

CAPSS’ bizarre proposal for schools raises an important question: What should “personalized learning” mean?

If we are concerned with our children’s development into healthy responsible citizens, then personalization should mean that schools should focus on relationships — with humans, not computers. Relationships with teachers and other students are the key to keeping students engaged and in school. A longitudinal study of diverse California high schools confirmed previous research that students who feel connected to their teachers improve academically, engage in less risky behavior, and are more likely to complete high school.

Another recent study comparing “personalized learning” to a control group in traditional schools found that students in the control group “reported greater enjoyment and comfort in school, and felt their out-of-school work was more useful and connected to their in-school learning.” As Harvard economics professor N. Gregory Mankiw recently observed in the New York Times, “after 30 years as an educator, I am convinced that the ideal experience for a student is a small class that fosters personal interaction with a dedicated instructor.”

The need for human interaction to promote effective learning is rooted in brain development. As neuroscience expert Adele Diamond has written, the brain does not recognize a sharp division between cognitive, motor and emotional functioning. Thus, research has shown that feelings of social isolation impair reasoning, decision-making, selective attention in the face of distraction and decreases persistence on difficult problems.

The goal of public education, to develop responsible and productive citizens, also demands a focus on human interaction. If we want to develop into adults who cooperate with others in civilized society, they must practice as children in a classroom with peers. If a child spends his time progressing on isolated tasks in a “self-designed curriculum,” how will he fare with a lab partner in college, in a class discussion, or when he tries to navigate the workplace?

A truly “personalized” education would ensure small classes with supports for every need; and a variety of subjects to develop students’ interests as well as their cognitive, motor and social capabilities.

Dr. Diamond recounted the remark by a prominent psychologist to those with a one-sided view of development. He inquired, “which contributes more to the area of a rectangle, its length or its width?”

Our children are complex, multi-dimensional beings who need deep and rich experiences to develop properly. They are not characters in a video game who just need enough points to jump to the next level. Anyone who cares about healthy child development should reject CAPSS’ narrow and de-personalized vision of learning.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s column where it was first published at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Removing-humans-from-education-6842720.php

  • Guest
  • Charlie Puffers

    It’s awfully scary that CAPSS is so clueless. These are the people telling teachers to just shut up and do what they are told.

  • visuallearner

    Sheila Resseger
    4 mins ·

    “‘The goal of public education, to develop responsible and productive [and self-actualized] citizens, also demands a focus on human interaction.'”
    Can we all agree that this is the goal of public education, and not to provide a low-wage, insecure workforce for multi-national corporations? The human species developed over millennia in social groups–children depend on stable, caring relationships with other humans to develop and thrive. Leaving their schooling to computer algorithms with bells and whistles that track them and mine their data is an intolerable dystopian view of human society. Say NO to robotic education via computer programs that suck the joy out of learning.

  • GloriaB

    I work part-time as a math tutor in a middle school. Recently I noticed one of my students was having a hard time focusing on what she was doing. I simply asked, “Are you OK?” She started crying and told me her friend from her last school had died the night before- a 14 yr.old- of a seizure. I comforted her and let her talk to me about her friend and how she was feeling. I thought that was more important than the math lesson we had been working on. I wonder how a computer would have handled the situation?