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robertogreco : toddrose   3

We’re Having the Wrong Conversation About the Future Of Schools
"Despite the rhetoric, modern movements to reform schools have had a devastating effect on education"



"As a full-time teacher, I don’t have a lot of time to look up from the dailiness of the job to consider something as nebulous as the “future” of education. When I do, I feel a vague unease that too many non-teachers seem to have a lot of time to do this kind of thinking.

One thing in my favor is that education reform seems to take the same basic forms, year after year. There’s the standards and accountability movement and the ongoing attempts to give it “teeth.” Then there are the tech giants peddling autonomy and self-direction in lieu of soul-crushing activities like reading The Outsiders and using protractors. And though the latter reformers are often critics of the former, the two have a lot in common.

Both represent billion-dollar industries. Both frequently co-opt a rhetoric of liberation, autonomy, and empowerment. Both can barely disguise a deep disdain for teachers and schools, especially of the “sage on the stage” variety. And both are almost exclusively headed up by white men.

These are the kind of people setting a bold agenda for the future of education.

Admittedly, us unruly American educators would have a hard time coming up with anything coherent enough to compete with the brave visions set forth by the leaders of these two industries. The very fact that such an all-encompassing solution is needed testifies to their dominance in framing the narrative around American schools. Mired in the day-to-day challenges and complexities of actually caring for and educating children, many teachers exhibit a complete failure of imagination when it comes to sweeping monolithic initiatives with pithy acronyms, eye-catching logos, and font pairings that are straight fire.

But we do need to change. Beyond the usual Alice Cooper-type critiques, we teachers have been especially complicit in the widespread marginalizing, neuroticizing, and criminalizing of our most vulnerable students. Yes, we need to stop boring future white rockstars and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. This is already well known. But, more importantly, we also need to stop harming children of color with our whitewashed curriculum, inequitable funding systems, and disparate use of punitive disciplinary measures.

Can today’s reformers help us make progress toward these goals? Or do they exacerbate, perpetuate, and contribute to the very problems we face?

Trying to pin deception, manipulation, and violence on this rag-tag bunch leaves me feeling petty and mean-spirited. After all, they’re often so upbeat and sincere, their rhetoric so humanistic and progressive. Ted Dintersmith, former venture capitalist and billionaire author of the book What School Could Be, recently teamed up with Prince Ea, who has made not one but two viral videos echoing the same message: schools must change. And on the standards and accountability side, David Coleman, “architect” of the Common Core and now CEO of the College Board, has boldly laid out a “beautiful vision” for American schools. In a field plagued by widespread mediocrity and entrenched inequities, shouldn’t we applaud any moves toward a more inspiring, inclusive future?

The problem is that, despite all the rhetoric and good intentions, both these movements have had a devastating effect on education, all while continually escaping blame for their outsized impact. Any negative outcomes are used to justify further expansion and dominance. Poor test scores and persistent achievement gaps aren’t seen as issues with the tests, but as misalignment and implicit bias on the part of teachers. Student attention deficit and boredom aren’t seen as a function of technology addiction, but rather an occasion to blast schools for their inability to fully capitalize on the promise of the digital age.

Not surprisingly, this seeming unassailable innocence reveals close links to the logics of white supremacy culture, especially the values of individualism, objectivity, and so-called meritocracy. They additionally amplify neoliberal beliefs in the absolute goods of privacy and consumer choice, thus shifting the blame away from dominant elites under the guise of “empowerment.” To borrow the central metaphor from Todd Rose’s The End of Average, they ultimately seek to style us as fighter pilots in the “cockpits of our economy,” where we must summon limitless initiative, grit, and resourcefulness just to survive.

Ultimately, their ideas are rooted in America’s original “solutions” to the problems of pluralism, wherein subtle self-effacement and silencing became stratagems for consolidating power. All of this is part of a long tradition in the United States, one that dates back to colonial times, guiding both the “Strange Compromise” of 1789 and the founding of the Common School. Although these roots may be less obvious in our day, they are arguably more powerful and moneyed than ever before."



"Ultimately, the several silences of education reform have proven a powerful gambit for privatization and profit. These industries implicitly offer themselves as neutral alternatives to our fraught political climate, much as Horace Mann’s enjoinder to “read without comment” secularized schools in a sectarian age. They also shift the onus of agency and ownership from themselves onto the student, who assumes full responsibility for finding and following their own educational path.

Whereas Mann, perhaps unconsciously, hoped to indoctrinate students into his supposedly doctrineless Unitarianism, these reformers peddle the so-called empty doctrines of individualism, personalization, objectivity, entrepreneurialism, and meritocracy—all while exacerbating inequities and deprofessionalizing teachers.

Resisting these trends starts by seeing them as two sides of the same coin. Anything that counsels and valorizes silence—before the text, the test, or even the individual student—may partake in this phenomenon. The primary effect is always to atomize: content into itemized bits, classrooms into individualized projects and timelines, and each of us into solitary individuals pursuing personalized pathways.

Among the many omissions implicit in this vision is the notion that each student has equal access to a pathway of choice. Once that false premise is established, you are truly on your own. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps, find your own personal road less traveled, dive headfirst into the entrepreneurial shark tank. Unfortunately, far too many smaller-scale reform movements espouse a similar ethos, often flooding Twitter with a toxic positivity that ignores intransigent inequities and injustices."



"None of this is intended to romanticize the educational mainstays of the past: lectures, textbooks, worksheets. But we should note how these more modern trends themselves often devolve into regressive, behaviorist, sit-and-get pedagogy.

Confronted by daunting challenges like widespread budget shortfalls, inequitable funding, increasing school segregation, whitewashed curriculum, and racial injustice, it’s no wonder we would reach for solutions that appear easy, inexpensive, and ideologically empty. At a time when we most need to engage in serious deliberations about the purposes and future of schools, we instead equivocate and efface ourselves before tests and technology, leaving students to suffer or succeed within their own educational echo chamber.

As appealing as these options may seem, they are not without content or consequences. Ironically, today’s progressive educators find themselves in the strange position of having to fight reform, resisting those who would render everything—including their own intentions and impact—invisible."
arthurchiaravalli  education  edreform  reform  history  invisibility  progressive  siliconvalley  infividualism  horacemann  2018  collegeboard  individualism  personalization  commonschool  us  inequality  justice  socialjustice  injustice  race  racism  whitesupremacy  reading  hilarymoss  thomasjefferson  commoncore  davidcoleman  politics  policy  closereading  howweread  ela  johnstuartmill  louiserosenblatt  sat  standardizedtesting  standardization  tedtalks  teddintersmith  democracy  kenrobinson  willrichardson  entrepreneurship  toddrose  mikecrowley  summitschools  religion  secularism  silence  privatization  objectivity  meritocracy  capitalism  teaching  howweteach  schools  publicschools  learning  children  ideology  behaviorism  edtech  technology  society  neoliberalism 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Standards, Grades And Tests Are Wildly Outdated, Argues 'End Of Average' : NPR Ed : NPR
"Todd Rose dropped out of high school with D- grades. At 21, he was trying to support a wife and two sons on welfare and minimum wage jobs.

Today he teaches educational neuroscience at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He's also the co-founder of The Center for Individual Opportunity, a new organization devoted to "the science of the individual and its implications for education, the workforce, and society."

In other words, Todd Rose is not your average guy. But neither are you.

In fact, he argues, absolutely no one is precisely average. And that's a big problem, he tells NPR Ed: "We've come to embrace a way of thinking about ourselves as people that was intentionally designed to ignore all individuality and force everything in reference to an average person."

Admissions offices, HR departments, banks and doctors make life-changing decisions based on averages. Rose says that "works really well to understand the system or the group, but it fails miserably when you need to understand the individual, which is what we need to do."

Rose talked with us about his new book: The End Of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness.

Q: The opening example you use in the book is that in the 1940s, when the Air Force designed cockpits based on the average measurements of the pilots, there were an unacceptable number of crashes. But when they went back and measured thousands of pilots, across 10 body dimensions, they found that zero of them even came close to the "average" on all 10. So they concluded that they had to redesign the seats and so forth to be adjustable to each person.

A: Body size is a very concrete example of what I call jaggedness. There is no average pilot. No medium-sized people. When you think of someone's size you think of large, medium, small. Our mass-produced approach to clothing reinforces that. But if that were true you wouldn't need dressing rooms.

Q: So dimensions like height and weight and arm length and waist circumference ...

A: Yes, they're not nearly as correlated as you would think. Height is one-dimensional, but size isn't. People are jagged in size, in intelligence, everything we measure shows the same thing.

Q: I'm going to quote a line from the book, said to psychologist Paul Molenaar, who is arguing for a greater focus on individual difference: "What you are proposing is anarchy!" How do you make decisions about people if you can't use statistics and cutoff scores and compare them to averages?

A: People feel like if you focus on individuality, everyone's a snowflake, and you can't build a science on snowflakes. But the opposite has been true.

It's not that you can't use statistics, it's just that you don't use group statistics. If I want to know something about my daily spending habits, one straightforward way would be to collect records of what I spend every day. To take an average for myself would be perfectly fine.

Q: So you can generalize across time, but not across people?

A: We've got to let go of putting a group into a study and taking an average and thinking that's going to be close enough to universal insight.

Now we have something better. We have a natural science of individuality that gives us a surer foundation. We've gotten breakthrough insights in a whole range of research, from cancer to child development.

Q: How does what you term "Averagerianism" impact our school system both historically and today?

A: It's so ubiquitous that it's hard to see.

We design textbooks to be age-appropriate, but that means, what does the average kid of this age know and can do? Textbooks that are designed for the average will be a pretty bad fit for most kids.

Then you think of things like the lockstep, grade-based organization of kids, and you end up sitting in a class for a fixed amount of time and get a one-dimensional rating in the form of a grade, and a one-dimensional standardized assessment. It's everything about the way we test and move kids forward.

Q: With standardized tests, I often hear teachers talking about students being two months behind or ahead, as if there's a very fixed timeline for progress that all human beings should fit.

A: It feels comforting. But if you take the basic idea of jaggedness, if all kids are multidimensional in their talent, their aptitude, you can't reduce them to a single score. It gives us a false sense of precision and gives up on pretending to know anything about these kids.

Q: So alongside jaggedness, two other principles of individual variation you look at are "context-dependence" and "pathways." Talk about those.

A: It's meaningless to talk about behavior and performance without context. Let's take assessment. Carnegie Mellon [University] had this work showing that changing the way a question is asked can fundamentally alter how a kid performs. So if the [math] problem is about football players instead of ballerinas, you can't standardize on the item. That systematically affects the kids' ability to demonstrate what they know.

But at a macro level, I think [context] introduces an attention to things like the impact of stress and trauma.

Q: And what about pathways? This sounds a lot like the talk around personalizing learning using technology and allowing each student to learn at his or her own pace.

A: I think people who care about personalized learning talk about it as: If we just collect more data, we're going to have this personalization. And that's not clear to me at all.

I think when you look at the idea of pace, we are so convinced that slow means dumb and fast means smart. We feel justified in pegging the time to how fast the average person takes to finish.

But this is where, with a better understanding of this and realizing, "Oh, pace really has nothing to do with ability, people are fast at some things and slow with others," you would build a very different system than the one we have.

Q: Do you think the school system acknowledges the need to treat students as individuals?

A: Two years ago I would have said no. But my colleague Paul Reville, who used to be secretary of education in Massachusetts, he's rethinking the architecture of school systems. In most states, people have put on the books goals about meeting every kid where they're at. Even the "Every Student Succeeds" [ESSA, the new federal law] approach is based on the assumption that we're meeting each kid where they're at, to give them what they need to be successful.

But we haven't thought through the system design that needs to be in place to do that.

We're trying to have a system to do what it was never designed to do.

Q: What about in higher education?

A: In higher ed we have a brutally standardized system. It doesn't matter what your interests are, what job you want, everyone takes the same courses in roughly the same time and at the end of the course you get ranked.

This is personal for me. I have two kids in college. The idea that someone is going to click a stopwatch, compare you to other kids in your class, and the kids with the best grades can get the best jobs, that's not a good deal. I want my two boys to figure out what they love and what they're good at and be exposed to things and be able to turn that into a job.

Q: You talk about innovations that are starting to catch on, like competency-based education and credentialing — basically, accommodating different pathways and different balances of strengths and weakness.

A: There's plenty of ways we're making smaller units of learning to combine in ways that are useful to you. To me, competency based education is nonnegotiable. I don't think you can have fixed-time, grade-based learning anymore. I don't see how you justify diplomas.

It doesn't mean students can take forever, but allowing some flexibility in pace and only caring whether they master the material or not is a sound foundation for a higher ed system.

There are so many examples of a lot of really interesting universities trying these things.

Q: Yes, reading this book it struck me that in some quarters, it seems like we've already moved forward to a focus on individuality, innovation, creativity. You talk about how companies like Google are finding that GPA or school prestige or even ranking employees against each other is not useful, and instead they need to create, essentially, performance-based assessments for doing tasks in context.

A: There are bright spots where you can see the principles of individuality at work.

So for me it comes back to, well, wait a minute. So why is that not the mainstream?

What I think my contribution is, is to say: Our institutions are based on assumptions about human beings. Our education system is based on a 19th century idea of an average person and using 20th century statistics.

As long as people think you can understand people based on averages, or how they deviate from averages, it seems reasonable. It looks like accountability and fairness rather than absurdity.

Q: And you're trying to show that there's an alternative?

A: If we don't get rid of this way of thinking about ourselves and the people around us, it's hard to get the public demand to create sustainable change. That's the role that I and my organization want to play. We're making a really big bet."
anyakamenetz  toddrose  standards  grades  grading  averages  education  howweteach  schools  admissions  tests  testing  standardization  standardizedtesting  sameness  paulmolenaar  textbooks  behavior  performance  individuality 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Why do we trust exam results? | Education | The Guardian
"When I was in high school I took the ACT, a college aptitude exam used as an admissions criterion by most American universities. My score was in the lowest third of all students. That was painful enough but, adding insult to injury, the ACT score report informed me that, based on my score, my expected probability of succeeding at my hometown college, the University of Utah, was around 15%. As I remember it, my chance of success at my dream school of Harvard University was less than 3%.

I felt pretty hopeless about my future. After all, these stark percentages were endowed with the sober authority of mathematics. Before I took the exam, I had thought that one day I might become a scientist or neurologist, but no – what a silly fantasy that was.

Standardised tests of aptitude, talent and intelligence have become more widespread than ever. Key Stage tests, GCSEs and A levels size up whether someone has what it takes to succeed in school, university or work. Though we might feel intuitively that something is wrong with using our results on a single day of testing to measure our potential, we reluctantly endure it because exams have the imprimatur of objective fact. After all, testing has been endorsed by more than a century’s worth of psychologists and psychometricians. But what if the mathematics serving for aptitude tests was profoundly flawed?

It is, and we know this because of a burgeoning new interdisciplinary science. “The science of the individual” is revolutionising the methods of many fields including medicine, biology, neuroscience, genetics and the social sciences. For example, oncologists have switched their emphasis from standardised treatments to personalised ones that target individual cancers. Neuroscientists have begun to abandon their reliance on measuring how individual brains deviate from average brain maps. Nutritionists are moving from universal dietary recommendations to personal diets.

Two principles explain why it is never permissible to use a single test result to judge someone’s potential. The jaggedness principle holds that all mental qualities we care about – intelligence, character, talent, performance – are multi-dimensional. Whenever we try to reduce the true complexity of someone’s abilities into a simple number, we lose everything important about the individual.

Secondly, the context principle asserts that performance always depends on the interaction of a specific individual and situation; it is meaningless to evaluate any performance without reference to the particular environment in which the individual performs. Multiple-choice tests will not evaluate someone’s ability to drive a car on the road.

Decisions made from a single test result are questionable or even meaningless. This is not an article of faith, but a mathematical fact. It is a conclusion of 21st-century mathematics, rather than outmoded 19th-century statistics. That’s why major companies such as Google and Deloitte have abandoned them.

Nevertheless, far too many schools, universities and businesses continue to apply obsolete tests. This prevents the institutions from getting a clear portrait of individual talent. It compels students to accept a false notion of their own promise.

Even though I was crushed by my own embarrassing exam result and spent years feeling inferior, eventually I decided there was more to me than a percentile. I pursued my dreams of a science career – and today I teach at Harvard."
education  testing  standardizedtesting  2016  toddrose  highered  highereducation  act  sat  interdisciplinary 
february 2016 by robertogreco

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