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Marc Tucker and the declension myth in American education debates
"It is a tempting story, because it is easier to argue that we have declined from some better point in the past than to explain consistently middling results. But it is the consistency of middling results that is the true history, and there never was a golden age of education in the United States. Tucker’s purported history is pulled from thin air and is wrong on several key points:

• Child poverty and family decline: Child poverty rates declined in the years when divorce was becoming more common (look at the 1960s and 1970s in the poverty-by-age chart from this source). Teen birth rates have declined dramatically in the past quarter-century, and there is pretty good survey evidence that there are other improving trends in risky behaviors for teenagers.3 We should be ashamed at the level of child poverty that exists, but that is a continuing issue rather than something that has dramatically increased in the past 50 years.4

• Grade inflation in high school from parental pressures: There is relatively little peer-reviewed research on high school grade inflation. One 2013 article used transcript data from several national longitudinal studies. Based on transcripts, the authors argue that there has been grade inflation at the secondary level since the early 1970s but that there has not been a huge change in the inferred meaning of grade differences–i.e., if there has been grade inflation, we may not need to be worried about it as a motivator or signal of achievement.

• Grade inflation and lowered standards in college: Tucker’s chronology is all wrong here: if there has been grade inflation in college (see a 2012 article in Teachers College Record), the bulk of the decline in C and D grades happened between the early 1960s and the mid-1970s, with more stable grading patterns for the following 15 years and then a different pattern of inflation since 1990. This does not fit with Tucker’s story: the end of the baby boom hit colleges in the grade-inflation lull, and grade inflation continued during the baby-boom echo’s “traditional age” college years, when the incentives should have reversed.5 Caveat: the 2013 article linked above claims that there is much less evidence of grade inflation in colleges than in high schools.6

• No Child Left Behind pushed states to lower standards for high school students and diverted energy from the standards movement: The mandated test grades in NCLB were 3-8, with one grade in high school (selected by the state). I may be wrong, but my strong impression is that in the years after NCLB’s enactment, most states were obsessed with elementary and middle school accountability much more than in high schools. While many states may have set the proficiency thresholds low because of NCLB, it is hard to argue that most states had accountability systems with higher expectations before NCLB and suddenly dropped those expectations. More to Tucker’s claim about diversion, it is hard to find a proponent of what he calls the standards movement in the late 1990s who was not in favor of NCLB in 2001. Many self-identified reformers have since backed away from NCLB, and we are seeing further backpedaling from Race to the Top with this spring’s test fiascoes. But as Paul Manna and others have written, at the time NCLB was a consensual policy change for those who called themselves as education reformers. If high-stakes testing is a diversion from standards, it was one fully endorsed by the bulk of those in the 1990s standards movement.

• A decline in the status of teachers: In every era, American teachers have been the target of criticism. See Dana Goldstein‘s The Teacher Wars for a recent book on the topic.

• Declining quality of teachers and enrollments in colleges of education: It is hard to parse out the relationship between greater job opportunities for college-educated women and college grads of color, which shrank the pool of potential teachers, and the greater numbers of college attendees with the baby boom, which expanded the pool of potential teachers. The decline in teacher education programs is very recent, essentially since the Great Recession, and is hard to put into a story of declining standards across decades.

• Declining vocational education: The late W. Norton Grubb was brutally honest about the historical failures of vocational education, from its uses in discriminatory tracking to the weak evidence of effectiveness in recent decades. Grubb and Marvin Lazerson’s The Education Gospel (2007) is the right source for this topic. The point is not that one has to agree with Grubb and Lazerson’s policy prescriptions, but that even in a narrow area such as vocational education, there has never been a golden age.

In the past few years, my morale about education policy has been boosted moderately by more recognition of history in education policy discussions, especially in Washington, DC. I thought the major inside-the-Beltway players understood that Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars was mandatory reading, and also possibly Rick Hess’s The Same Thing Over and Over. So let me just put it out there more generally, as the object lesson from Tucker’s columns this month: if you are tempted to argue that there was a golden age of education, you have not read enough education history."
shermandorn  2015  education  history  policy  reform  edreform  nclb  danagoldstein  teaching  teachers  poverty  grades  grading  assessment  gradeinflation  divorce  pedagogy  curriculum  narrative  vocationaleducation  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  schools  publicschools  learning  us  rickhess  marctucker 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Invented History of 'The Factory Model of Education'
[Follow-up notes here: http://www.aud.life/2015/notes-on-the-invented-history-of-the-factory-model-of ]

"Sal Khan is hardly the only one who tells a story of “the factory of model of education” that posits the United States adopted Prussia’s school system in order to create a compliant populace. It’s a story cited by homeschoolers and by libertarians. It’s a story told by John Taylor Gatto in his 2009 book Weapons of Mass Instruction. It’s a story echoed by The New York Times’ David Brooks. Here he is in 2012: “The American education model…was actually copied from the 18th-century Prussian model designed to create docile subjects and factory workers.”

For what it’s worth, Prussia was not highly industrialized when Frederick the Great formalized its education system in the late 1700s. (Very few places in the world were back then.) Training future factory workers, docile or not, was not really the point.

Nevertheless industrialization is often touted as both the model and the rationale for the public education system past and present. And by extension, it’s part of a narrative that now contends that schools are no longer equipped to address the needs of a post-industrial world."



"Despite these accounts offered by Toffler, Brooks, Khan, Gatto, and others, the history of schools doesn’t map so neatly onto the history of factories (and visa versa). As education historian Sherman Dorn has argued, “it makes no sense to talk about either ‘the industrial era’ or the development of public school systems as a single, coherent phase of national history.”"



"As Dorn notes, phrases like “the industrial model of education,” “the factory model of education,” and “the Prussian model of education” are used as a “rhetorical foil” in order make a particular political point – not so much to explain the history of education, as to try to shape its future."



"Many education reformers today denounce the “factory model of education” with an appeal to new machinery and new practices that will supposedly modernize the system. That argument is now and has been for a century the rationale for education technology. As Sidney Pressey, one of the inventors of the earliest “teaching machines” wrote in 1932 predicting "The Coming Industrial Revolution in Education,"
Education is the one major activity in this country which is still in a crude handicraft stage. But the economic depression may here work beneficially, in that it may force the consideration of efficiency and the need for laborsaving devices in education. Education is a large-scale industry; it should use quantity production methods. This does not mean, in any unfortunate sense, the mechanization of education. It does mean freeing the teacher from the drudgeries of her work so that she may do more real teaching, giving the pupil more adequate guidance in his learning. There may well be an “industrial revolution” in education. The ultimate results should be highly beneficial. Perhaps only by such means can universal education be made effective.

Pressey, much like Sal Khan and other education technologists today, believed that teaching machines could personalize and “revolutionize” education by allowing students to move at their own pace through the curriculum. The automation of the menial tasks of instruction would enable education to scale, Pressey – presaging MOOC proponents – asserted.

We tend to not see automation today as mechanization as much as algorithmization – the promise and potential in artificial intelligence and virtualization, as if this magically makes these new systems of standardization and control lighter and liberatory.

And so too we’ve invented a history of “the factory model of education” in order to justify an “upgrade” – to new software and hardware that will do much of the same thing schools have done for generations now, just (supposedly) more efficiently, with control moved out of the hands of labor (teachers) and into the hands of a new class of engineers, out of the realm of the government and into the realm of the market."
factoryschools  education  history  2015  audreywatters  edtech  edreform  mechanization  automation  algorithms  personalization  labor  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  mooc  moocs  salkhan  sidneypressey  1932  prussia  horacemann  lancastersystem  frederickjohngladman  mikecaulfield  jamescordiner  prussianmodel  frederickengels  shermandorn  alvintoffler  johntaylorgatto  davidbrooksm  monitorialsystem  khanacademy  stevedenning  rickhess  us  policy  change  urgency  futureshock  1970  bellsystem  madrassystem  davidstow  victorcousin  salmankhan 
april 2015 by robertogreco
The Original Factory Education Was a Personalized Learning Experiment | Hapgood
"But if you’re looking for the first model of education truly derived from factory structure and informed by its values, my guess is it would be the Madras System (and its variant in the Lancaster System).

Developed in England by Andrew Bell in the last years of the 1700s, the Madras System used better performing students to teach poorer performing students. It did this by applying a factory model of division of labor and rigid mechanical instruction in a facility that was patterned directly on the factories of the day.

Unlike our schoolrooms today (which, perhaps you’ve noticed, look very little like factories?) both the Madras system and the Lancaster system took place in large warehouse or barn-like spaces where small groups of students gathered around work stations divided by ability.

At each work station, an older student tutored the younger ones. As the students practiced skill application repeatedly they could move up into more challenging groups. Students who had progressed through all the stages could then be employed as leaders of the groups. A school of 500 students could be served with one schoolmaster in this way, with all the students receiving personal tutoring from the monitors, who were trained in the system themselves. (This is why the Lancaster and Bell systems are sometimes referred to as “monitorial systems”.)



I’m not here to criticize the Madras System. In fact, there’s aspects of the system which I believe in pretty strongly. Bell’s insight that students learn best when they teach each other remains as true today as then, and his focus on “doing” rather than simply listening was admirable at a time when lecture was overvalued. At the same time, Gladman’s remarks regarding the rigidity of such systems strike me as an accurate summary of the issues that have plagued such systems since then.

Similarly, I know my history in this area is limited. It’s almost wholly gained from years of watching videos of people making claims that seem odd and then executing some Google searches to see if primary materials support the claims made by smug TED lecturers.

And so I could be wrong here. But after years and years of looking up this stuff I’ve found the more I know, the more it drifts away from this Ron Paul-John Taylor Gatto history of education. And the further I get into this area, the weirder it gets. The personalizers in history are the firm believers in applying factory principles to education. The Prussians are in fact the softies, arguing for teachers as trained craftsmen who can inspire students to think for themselves.

The point Salman Khan fingers as the date factory education began is in fact the date it began to die.

I’m not arguing for the current system, or that the system as constructed isn’t overly authoritarian and geared toward compliance over creativity and inspiration.

I’m not arguing against various forms of personalization, even. I think we ought to be doing more to bring out the unique gifts of our students.

But if my history holds up (and I’ve been looking at this for enough years to think it will) the idea that the history of education is an ages long struggle between the Mannian “factories” and the proponents of “personalization for empowerment” is odd at best, and backwards at worst.

I think history does have lessons for us. But in order to learn them, we have to engage with history in all it’s messiness, not the history of think tanks and TED talkers. If you’d like *that* sort of conversation, feel free to school me in the comments.
madrassystem  andrewbell  factoryschools  prussia  education  history  2014  mikecaufield  shermandorn  johntaylorgatto  horacemann  salmankhan  personalization  monotorialschooling  schooling  schools  teaching  learning  salkhan 
july 2014 by robertogreco

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