When THEY say “personalized learning” it is time to be afraid, very afraid

The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), and the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) are among the most vocal Connecticut champions of the Common Core and the unfair, discriminatory and expensive Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Although the three organizations are funded primarily from local taxpayer funds and are supposed to be advocating for local public schools, all three have spent the last three years lobbying for Governor Malloy’s restrictive, centralized and top-down Corporate Education Reform Industry agenda… An agenda that undermines local control of education, seeks to limit the rights of parents, denigrates teachers and turns Connecticut’s public schools into little more than Common Core testing factories.

In fact, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), perhaps more than any other entity in Connecticut other than the Malloy administration itself, has been promoting the “big lie” that parents cannot opt their children out of the absurd Common Core SBAC tests.

But yesterday, in a moment of supreme – (ah) – irony – representatives of these three entities held a press conference at the Legislative Office Building to announce that the solution to Connecticut’s educational achievement gap is “personalized learning.”

And what pray-tell is “personalized learning?’

Thanks to an article in CTNewsJunkie entitled, “Education Organizations Tout ‘Personalized’ Learning,” we learn that according to the representative of the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), personalized learning is,

“recognizing that all children learn differently and it’s about helping them learn the way they learn best. For example, if a grade schooler is interested in dinosaurs, it’s giving him an assignment related to dinosaurs that allows him to demonstrate his abilities.”

Now who would have ever thought of that idea?????

And the director of the Superintendent’s organization added, “Everybody wants to have the time they need to learn something and everybody wants to be taught in the way that they learn.”

Truer words have never been spoken, but the concept of true personalized learning is about as far from the Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing system as one can get.

And as if to prove the hypocrisy of their commitment to true personalized learning, the “White Paper” the group of Common Core advocates released reiterated their support for Governor Malloy’s inappropriate Teacher Evaluation System, a system that relies on the test results of the unfair and discriminatory Common Core SBAC Test.

Out of one side of their mouths the education reformers claimed they were holding their press conference to promote a more individualized approach to learning, while out of the other side of their mouths they were re-dedicating themselves to a teacher evaluation system that seeks to rank order teachers based on a Common Core SBAC test program that is purposely designed to make sure that 6 in 10 children are deemed failures.

So what exactly is this concept of “personalized learning” that these education reformers are talking about?

Interestingly, not one of the spokespeople at the press conference explained what “personalized learning” really means in today’s world of education reform.

The harsh reality is that “personalized learning” has become a buzzword of the corporate education reformer industry.

About four years ago media mogul Rupert Murdoch announced that he was splitting his massive multi-national corporation into two pieces.

One company would seek to continue to buy up and dominate the world’s mainstream media outlets and the other would focus on what Murdoch famously described as the $500 billion untapped market called America’s Public Education System.

To head the new operation, Murdoch hired Joel Klein, the former NYC Education Chancellor who had done so much damage to New York City’s public schools.

They named their new company Amplify and claimed that it would serve as the foundation for a new education system based on “personalized learning.”

As reported at the time, the new company was developed around the concept of the Amplify tablet, a mini-computer that would provide students from kindergarten through the 12th grade with “personalized learning.”

According to the company’s marketing propaganda Amplify would serve as a “student’s centralized education hub.”

Amplify and its products would not only take the place of textbooks but it would also provide games, simulations, “and even a curated library tailored to each student.”

In an interview with WiredAcademic.com in 2013, Joel Klein laid out the fundamental concepts behind Amplify and their strategy of promoting “personalized learning.”

As the article explained,

“These tablets come pre-loaded with curriculum from Amplify, the education company Klein leads. The company wants every student in every K-12 school to use a tablet. It also provides data services to schools to help them track student progress in coursework.

Many school districts that have the money and will to buy tablets for students are currently buying iPads from Apple or Android devices, which they customize for their students. Amplify says it has created a more education-focused tablet than tech rivals such as Apple or Google are currently offering.

“We work with special development people who work with teachers hand in glove,” Klein said, noting that his company sold 20,000 devices to schools in Guilford County, NC, rolling out a system there this Fall. Amplify has also piloted the tablets with a dozen school districts. “It’s about the software we are putting on there that makes this a really optimal learning platform.”

[…]

At the same time, Murdoch hopes Amplify buoys News Corp.’s journalistic holdings such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post by creating a hybrid news and education business model on par with Pearson PLC, which owns The Financial Times, and The Washington Post Co., which owns education company Kaplan (but recently sold the namesake Washington Post to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos).

Klein says Amplify’s strategy fits in well with the newly launched Common Core education standards that are going into use in more than 40 states. They “enable you to align your curriculum across the country,” he said. “Because we don’t have a legacy publishing business, we can align our curriculum right away with the Common Core. It gives us an advantage.”

We asked him his views on some states such as Indiana that are bucking against the Common Core and whether that could potentially set back his business. “I don’t think it is consequential. Some states might come off the Common Core… There were never 100% that were part of the Common Core (there were 45 state to begin with). Most states that aren’t on the Common Core may still require the curriculum we are building,” he said. “You make some differences for Texas. But the students in Texas will want the good curriculum we are developing.”

Klein’s impact on education reform in New York had ripple effects around the country. He’s helped mold and select several new superintendents in other cities ranging from Baltimore to New Orleans. He’s involved with the Broad Center, funded by L.A. billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, which aims (among its other projects) to train and place reform-minded superintendents in the education sector.

[…]

Amplify acquired its way into the education business, buying up Brooklyn-based education data systems Wireless Generation for $360 million in 2010. It also provided professional development training to teachers. Klein hopes to sell news content and educational curriculum on the tablets and to disrupt the textbook market at the same time, posing a huge risk to other large textbook publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, and Pearson, which together have $2.6 billion in annual revenue. “I think the printed textbook should be given a respectful and decent burial,” Klein said, during a recent interview with THE Journal. “I think it should be gone.”

[…]

“It’s not about tech for tech sake,” Klein says, about putting tablets into the hands of every student at every school. “It is about facilitating the learning process. If it doesn’t do that, it is not succeeding. I’ve had teachers in many places who say kids who were not engaged are now engaged and writing on the tablet. It gives them a feeling of responsibility.”

All of this brings us back to The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) and the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS).

When they say “personalized learning,” do they mean the “personalized learning” that is being forced upon our children by companies like Amplify, Pearson and the other corporations and corporate executives behind the Corporate Education Reform Industry?

If that is what they are saying, then they need to stand down and back off before they do any more damage to Connecticut’s public schools.

You can read the CTNewsjunkie article about yesterday’s press conference at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/education_organizations_tout_personalized_learning/

New State Reading Test for Teachers vs. Steve Perry and the Testourkids.com Reading Centers

According to the Corporate Education Reform Industry, the way to improve educational outcomes in the United States is to dramatically increase the amount of testing for students and teachers.

As proof, thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform legislation of 2012, Connecticut teacher in Grades K, 1, 2, and 3 will be required to take the Foundations of Reading Test this year and biennially going forward.  The new test is produced by the standardized testing conglomerate Pearson Education Incorporated.

Teachers who have already passed the Foundations of Reading test for certification eligibility are only exempt from completing the “survey” on reading instruction this year.  They will be required to take it next time.

According to the Connecticut State Department of Education, “The results of the survey shall identify strengths and weaknesses in knowledge of reading instruction based on the reading objectives surveyed, and will provide disaggregate and aggregate data at the individual educator, school and district level. The results shall be used to develop student learning objectives (SLOs) and teacher practice goals and will inform professional learning…”

And Connecticut teachers – you need to note – that despite what teachers were told by their union, the Foundation of Reading Tests results WILL NOT BE confidential although they are exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

By comparison, one need only go to Steve Perry’s corporate website to see how the corporate education reformers deal with pesky things like determining the “strengths and weaknesses in knowledge of reading instruction.”

Steve Perry, who now calls himself, “one of the greatest influential figures in education today,” is very busy these days.

Not only is Perry a full-time employee of the Hartford Board of Education where he holds the position of principal of Capital Prep Magnet School, but he is preparing to open two new charter schools (Bridgeport and Harlem) and is crisscrossing the nation on the “Steve Perry Education Truth Tour.”   Apparently Perry’s mantra on his Education Truth Tour is that, “Teaching is the Greatest Act of Defiance.”

Meanwhile, on a visit to http://www.drsteveperry.org/ you’ll discover an announcement that you have the opportunity to open up your own “Reading Center” via www.testourkids.com.  The announcement even states, “We Finance All Individuals & Organizations.”

And better yet, by heading over to www.TestOurKids.com will reveal the news that you don’t even need to be a teacher to own your own reading center.

Filled with pictures and videos of Steve Perry, the TestOurKids.com website, which is registered to Perry’s publicist, proclaims that the business is dedicated to opening reading centers across the nation!

In fact, for only $25 per month per child and a one-time startup fee of $99.99 you can open up a reading center and you don’t even need to be a teacher!

Not only does TestOurKids.com provide ONLINE READING LESSONS, but ”Hundreds Of Fun – interactive animated leveled books,” a “Diagnostic Online Reading – Assessment,” PLUS, “A Proven Content – a safe environment of your home or office, For Each Student – Comprehensive, supplemental reading instruction, Fun Digital Learning Environment – makes connections possible.”

You can even – Schedule An Online Assessment

If the incredible opportunity via their website isn’t enough to persuade you, check out their Facebook page at:  https://www.facebook.com/TestOurKids1

Scroll down for posts like;

  • Let’s call our public schools what they really are – ‘government’ schools’ 
  • Who’s side are the teacher’s union on, anyway? 
  • Where is the outrage for our children? Black children are being robbed @TestOurKids wants to help; Open Your Own Reading Center —> 
  • Invite Dr. Steve Perry to your area CALL 860.997.6802 
  • Steve Perry can come to your location/church or school CALL 860.997.6802 
  • Enough is Enough; Teach Our Black Children how to Read! Visit testourkids.com 
  • Steve Perry in Buffalo NY talking about education reform for our children! 
  • And a special post at the same time, attacking Buffalo teachers, and observing, “Do people deserve a raise when they’re not doing the job right? Buffalo Kids reading proficiency only 13%… When will it be about the Kids First!” 
  • Education is a BIG WORD…Let’s start FIRST by teaching our kids how to read, getting their education will follow! @TestOurKidscom can help with this first step! 
  • When you have a system that doesn’t focus on learning how to read at an early age then our children will never get a full education! @TestOurKidscom reading centers can help

And while Steve Perry’s face is plastered across all the marketing materials, Perry’s publicist explains that he is actually the leading force behind the effort.

Yusuf Salaam explains that he is,

“Currently a successful and highly sought after publicist representing 5 of the top Educators in the country, I recently closed negotiation deals with my client Dr. Steve Perry and Bishop TD Jakes to promote furthering education in our minority areas. Have coordinated visits to the White House personally from First Lady Michelle Obama to have my client Dr. Marco Clark come celebrate his educational success and student achievement.”

Salaam adds that he,

“[M]anages brand awareness and promotion for an innovative online company TestOurKids.com, which operates as an online reading assessment software and reading lessons for children K-12th grade and assists organizations plus schools open and operate their own reading learning centers all over the US. After reaching a monumentally 300,000 evaluations reading assessments, we expanded our ambitions further and started assisting individuals also build their dreams in helping children in their communities. My management teams has opened facilities in 8 major cities and in conjunction with professionals has begun the process of teaching our children how to READ! “

And to fully appreciate the level of success these private reading centers are having, one need only look as far as Middletown Connecticut where both the Middletown Press and the Middletown Patch reported on testourkids.com early last summer.

For example, in an article entitled, Helping Middletown’s Littlest Readers Achieve, the Middletown Patch reported that, “The students’ reading scores have improved dramatically after participating in the six-month program.”

According to the Patch,

Last year, the Middlesex County Branch of the NAACP and the President Rosa Browne identified an epidemic within the town’s public school literacy scores.

More than half of the Hispanic and African American fourth-graders were reading below the goal level, and the scores only worsened as children got older. With cooperation from Superintendent Dr. Patricia Charles, a group of low performing children in grades Kindergarten through third were taken from MacDonough and Bielefield Middletown Public Schools and were provided an effective pilot program to help eradicate this problem.

[…]

Children were bused to Brain Wiz Reading Center, operated by Yusuf Salaam, a nationally recognized publicist to some of the top educators in the country, in order to increase their reading abilities at the most vulnerable time in their lives. The program is powered by TestOurKids.com, a computerized system that evaluates children’s reading skills, and it is utilized throughout the country, primarily for reading centers and schools that require the extra help

The children 5- to 8-years-old were tested prior to the start of the program and then retested on their last day and the results were overwhelming. All children who completed the course improved sufficiently, and some scored 2 to 3 grade levels higher in their overall reading. These gains were achieved in spite of extreme winter conditions and multiple holiday vacations from December to May. The program ran for an hour-and-a-half each day, Tuesday through Thursday.

 So teachers of Connecticut…

Rather than waste your time taking the Pearson Foundation of Learning Test this year, just follow Steve Perry’s website to the opportunity of opening your own reading center…. no certification or testing needed and apparently some local school districts will even bus their little ones to your location every day….