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

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/