2012 for K-12: Outsourcing and a Rhee-turn?

[Note: Snagged spotlights some of the latest and most stimulating articles on educational technology. This article by Larry Ferlazzo was emailed to me by ETCJ associate editor Bonnie Bracey Sutton. Please send your catch of the day to me, jamess@hawaii.edu, for possible snagging. -Editor]

Valerie Strauss, in The Answer Sheet (Washington Post, 12.30.11), features Larry Ferlazzo’s “Ten Education Predictions for 2012.” The ninth concerns technology in K-12:

9. Strategies to use technology as a transformative tool in education will take a backseat as for-profit online learning charlatans and the Khan Academy take up the tech money and the media space.

What are your thoughts on this prediction? Are K-12 educators going to increasingly rely on outside sources for leadership in technology? Or are they going to take more personal responsibility for the technology that enters their classroom? Or is there a third or even fourth scenario?

Bonnie’s comment on number 8 is “See, I was right on Rhee.” She’s referring to her January 5, 2009, article, Michelle Rhee Has a Broom: Should She Use It to Sweep Out Experienced Teachers?

8. Former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee will continue her decline in public credibility and relevance. Her work with some of the most conservative, and anti-teacher, Republicans has made her highly unpopular among many Democrats. And, as her Republican allies falter in their own success and popularity across the country, she is, incredibly and unsuccessfully, trying to build a base here in California.

Can Rheeism rise from the ashes in 2012? Is it morphing into other isms?

Please share your thoughts with us as a comment to this article. If you encounter problems posting, email your comment to me and I’ll post it for you. -Jim (jamess@hawaii.edu)

7 Responses

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  2. […] article by Larry Ferlazzo was emailed to me by ETCJ associate editor Bonnie Bracey Sutton….Via etcjournal.com GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  3. I’ll remind you all that I see the education world through the prism of a scientist, an education entrepreneur, a technologist, and now a recognized science education expert — so that you know some of my biases.

    The first part of this comment basically says that “…for-profit online learning charlatans and the Khan Academy…” will suck all of the oxygen from the educational technology space.

    Two interesting parts of the quote are calling any for-profit educational endeavor a charlatan and lumping Khan Academy with them.

    Bonnie’s comment on this quote asks if educators are ceding their responsibility to outside sources.

    We all must be aware of for-profit organizations that exploit students. For example, some such colleges help students get student loans they cannot afford, promise them jobs on graduation, and then fail to meet that promise. The educational experience of such organizations is likely to be non-challenging and inferior. Of course, this sort of thing spills over into online learning, but that doesn’t mean that all for-profit online educational efforts are confidence rackets. Some, and I include myself, are genuinely interested in benefiting students, teachers, administrators, and schools. Others attempt to play both sides by spending lots on innovative curricula and still short-changing students by delivering a very high student-to-teacher ratio. It’s not black and white. It’s both with many shades of gray.

    I’ve seen many criticisms of Khan Academy, and I even joined in some of them. Imperfection does not imply badness. The KA experience has created some opportunities to move online education forward by clearing away some previous obstacles. While I’d hate to see the KA model become the future of education, I give credit to making a difference. Salman Khan may be right or wrong or partially both, but he’s not a charlatan.

    Regarding Bonnie’s comment, let’s be very clear. Educators are trained and paid to educate, not to be technology gurus. All right, educators must evaluate other learning tools, such as textbooks, wall posters, project-based learning ideas, and so on. However, until they experience a new technology, how can they reasonably evaluate it?

    Others can specialize in evaluating technology without first placing in the classroom. Why put this burden on already overburdened teachers? Seeing a demonstration or trying out some software yourself will not suffice unless you’re both an expert in the technology and in the application of technology to education. Such people need not be educators. I go, therefore, for the third or fourth possibility.

    You must realize that teachers make two types of errors in evaluating technology. They accept the unacceptable, and they reject the acceptable. I have seen teachers reject technology because “It’s too hard for my students” when the truth is that the teacher is just too timid in the face of technology and her students are quite comfortable with it. No amount of professional development will remove these problems. New generations of teachers who are very familiar with technology will eventually make a difference, but they still should not be tasked with evaluation of a given technology for pedagogical purposes. It’s not fair to them; it’s not fair to the students, and it’s not fair to vendors who try so hard to make the best pedagogy with the most available technologies. (That’s what I do anyway.)

    With respect to Michelle Rhee, I find her a very mixed bag. I applaud anyone who proactively attempts to make a difference. The concepts behind some of her actions make sense even if her actions do not. My opinion is that she overreached and overreacted just as the teacher unions against which she worked have. Full discussion of this topic won’t fit here.

    • Hi, Harry. My apologies for the confusion. In this article, the only comment from Bonnie is in quotes: “See, I was right on Rhee.” The others are mine.

      • Bonnie does not mind. Technology is an ever moving target and this article shows how handicapped those who have decided to pass it up, or use it , once in a while become.
        http://www.businessinsider.com/incredible-things-that-happen-every-60-seconds-on-the-internet-2011-12

        The vendors have to back off a little bit and there is good in some of what they do. Who creates the learning landscape for the CIO, CEO in technology? Some are hands on. A friend of mine told me , I have people who do the technology, Many people in educational leadership
        do not participate in the active use of technology.. Each technology group has its participants. This is one to think about. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/02/education/inquiry-into-school-
        officials-travels-paid-for-by-pearson.html?_r=1&ref=education

        How influential are the vendors? I don’t know surely there are groups trying to create a path of learning, There is the Council of Chief State School Officers., The National School Boards Association, there is ISTE which seems to have gone international, and CoSN, then there is ETAN , I have been going to various workshops, conferences and
        attending initiatives for decades. Sometimes I only know what is presented to me, sometimes I am a follower, and sometimes
        I wish for a federal learning technology initiative that works to
        at least evaulate.. but technology is market run.

        The market has not decided to give everyone broadband. The techonology people lie and use exxagerated statistics to show that
        most of the people in the us have broadband . But, sigh, it is not true unless you can afford Hughesnet, or some exotic methodology so
        most of the unconnected cannot begin to do th incredible things that happen every 60 seconds on the Internet. They are stuck at a beginning point, if in fact they have begun to use the tools, technology and the ways of the Internet.

        Don’t worry about Michelle Rhee, she is probably laughing all the way to the next speaking engagement. Read, here
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/what-michelle-rhee-has-been-up-to/2011/06/07/AGh95HLH_blog.html

        and there here to see what saps we are since we don’t ge the royal treatment ….

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/guess-what-michelle-rhee-charged-a-school-to-speak/2011/10/24/gIQAen6GJM_blog.html

        In these tough economic times, when education budgets are being slashed, Rhee signed a contract with Kent State University at Stark to be paid $35,000 to speak to about 600 people, plus expenses of not more than $5,000 that the school was to provide, including:

        — first-class airfare

        — a VIP hotel suite

        — meals and “all reasonable incidentals”

        — town car and driver for ride from Rhee’s home to the airport, airport to the hotel, hotel to the engagement “or any combination thereof”

        Because the venue was a school, the event was tax-exempt and therefore the part of the contractor labeled “RESPONSIBILITY for EVENT-RELATED TAXES” was crossed out.

        The contract was first published by a website in Ohio called StateImpact (and then on the Web site At the Chalk Face, written by Shaun Johnson, assistant professor of elementary education at Towson University in Baltimore). State Impact also reported that some faculty members at Kent State Stark were not thrilled that she was speaking and planned a separate event to offer a different view of education reform.

        Johnson wrote that Rhee had actually discounted her usual speaking fee of $50,000 because Kent State is, after all, a school.

        The contract was actually between Rhee Enterprises LLC and the school, and Rhee signed for the LLC, while Tina L. Biasella, director of external affairs at Kent State Stark, signed for the school. The letterhead on the contract is the Creative Artists Agency, a literary and talent agency at 2000 Avenue of the Stars in Los Angeles.

        Biasella said that Rhee was part of the school’s 21st annual Featured Speaker Series when she spoke Oct. 10.

        So don’t cry for Rhee.. I am sure she is smiling all the way to the bank.

        Bonnie Bracey Sutton

  4. Teachers as Victims! That has been the recent news story and several days ago we were treated to the story of one teacher who was making big bucks for her good teaching. The story tells us how much money she made. I posted it, holding my breath. Why? Education is as changeable as the world of fashion, depending on the politics of Washington. Education has become a business, a big business since testing. So the questions I would love to have answered will never surface.except on my Facebook page where interested teachers wonder why I posted the story. We know that unless politically motivated most school systems are trying to cut their losses and it does not matter how briliant a teacher is , the bottom line is younger teacher who make less money. And don’t speak STEM to me, there is this ranting and raving about oh the teachers did not get qualified.
    In the NCLB era, you know that was a death of your career move to even TEACH science, Get real people.

    From Diane Ravitch
    Ravitch: Whose Children Are Left Behind?
    I thought testing would help diagnose the problem and help teachers identify kids’ needs and that charters would serve the underserved ‘and collaborate with public schools. I was wrong on all accounts, said Diane Ravitch in her Friday keynote speech at the Opportunity to Learn Summit, in Washington, D.C.

    Ravitch, an education historian and former advocate for charters and standardized testing, examined some of the outcomes of a system that holds up testing and charters as holy grails and allows both to spread indiscriminately:

    80 percent of charters in Michigan are for-profit.
    In Ohio, cyber charters get full funding with no facilities and 100:1 student-teacher ratios.
    In Colorado, virtual schools have a 25 percent graduation rate.
    Florida pumps billions of dollars into vouchers that support deregulated schools with terrible conditions.
    After 21 years of vouchers and competition, black students in Milwaukee have the lowest scores across nation.
    Under mayoral control since 2002, market reforms and choice have left the achievement gap virtually unchanged in New York City public schools.
    In Washington, D.C., Hispanic, black, and low-income students have the largest achievement gap (a 65-point difference) of any city in the nation.
    Chicago closed 100 neighborhood schools but is still one of the lowest districts in the nation. There have been no gains for black students since 2002 and none for Hispanics since 2005.
    By 2014, all public schools could be labeled failures.
    Profits and punishment seem to be the point of current education policies, Ravitch concluded. Although NCLB documents gaps, it does nothing to address the conditions causing these gaps, she added. “Congress is still patting itself on the back for identifying a problem (that we already knew) but doing nothing meaningful to solve it,” she said.

    Ravitch attempted to inject some common sense into the education reform agenda:

    NCLB is based on a phony claim: the “Texas miracle.” In reality, dropouts soared and Texas was in the middle of the pack on assessments.
    Tests should only be used for diagnostic purposes, such as determining whether a student can read.
    No achievement gap was ever closed by closing schools.
    In high-achieving countries like Finland, testing takes a backseat to creativity, innovation, and whole child education.
    http://ascd.typepad.com/blog/2011/12/ravitch.html#.TuwDMDJzQZg.twitter

    This is not Finland folks.. we are different than that nation.
    Also the first charter schools were the religious schools.
    At least most of them worked.

    Bonnie

  5. I have been asked by teachers I know who read this to reply to this.

    Regarding Bonnie’s comment, let’s be very clear. Educators are trained and paid to educate, not to be technology gurus. All right, educators must evaluate other learning tools, such as textbooks, wall posters, project-based learning ideas, and so on. However, until they experience a new technology, how can they reasonably evaluate it?
    Others can specialize in evaluating technology without first placing in the classroom. Why put this burden on already overburdened teachers? Seeing a demonstration or trying out some software yourself will not suffice unless you’re both an expert in the technology and in the application of technology to education. Such people need not be educators. I go, therefore, for the third or fourth possibility.”

    I don’t think I understand the point about teachers being trained and paid to educate. I am something of an “expert” too in some ways on the use of technology, The technology was invented before the courses and the PHD opinions on it and I was right there in the mix. I was trained by Seymour Papert, Chris Dede, NASA, the National Geographic and NSTA in many workshops. The most extensive trial I had and I am grateful to the National Geographic for a summer of
    integrated use of technology.

    I would like to think that because a person has a particular training, ie PHD or whatever that he or she has the ideational scaffolding to understand the classroom, but the variables in the classroom are many and the outcomes often depend on things that technologists do not know or care about, I belong to ISTE and in fact work with the Social Justice and Digital Equity bit. So do we let people who don’t know the student populations, time schedules, local control and time
    evaluate what is best for their use? Or do we let a company decide
    and pick the web sites and places, portals , resources, and 2.0 applications.

    Teachers are overburdened, but that can be relieved if we look at education in a new way. Not the Rhee way, pick teachers who were already under educated based on history, the site ( WashingtonDC) and the ones who conformed to keep their job then pushed
    out of a job for being what they were asked to be, until she wanted
    transformational teachers. Her way was to insert new Ivy league
    trained professionals and to throw out any who had been there for a time. When I inquired with her, not to get a job , but to
    see if there was something we could do to tamp down the discussions,
    I was told that I was too old, , funny …. so I think some of you experts would also be “too old” . Breaking down the traditional isolated role of teachers is critical in the process of providing a professionally rewarding career for all teachers. That means building career paths that give teachers the satisfactions of a rewarding career, from induction to accomplished teaching. Tom Carroll talks about a kind of artisanal teaching in which a teacher achieves on his or her own. We want more than that , which is what I was doing.
    So here are some ideas from NCTAF. ( Experts)
    Breaking down the traditional isolated role of teachers is critical in the process of providing a professionally rewarding career for all teachers. That means building career paths that give teachers the satisfactions of a rewarding career, from induction to accomplished teaching. The presentation here Teaching for Equity and Excellence: What it Will Really Take to Leave No Child Behind (2003)
    By Linda Darling-Hammond, Presented at 2003 Annual NCTAF Commissioners and Partner States’ Symposium

    When you look through this powerpoint be mindful of those in the profession, of all kinds and colors who need real professional development that gives them a part of, a piece of decision making and
    some say in what goes on in their classrooms.
    Breaking down the traditional isolated role of teachers is critical in the process of providing a professionally rewarding career for all teachers. That means building career paths that give teachers the satisfactions of a rewarding career, from induction to accomplished teaching.

    btw
    My state has an economy that depends now on incarceration, not tobacco.
    http://www.infographicsshowcase.com/combating-mass-incarceration-infographic/

    Thos who can, do, those who understand, teach. Others go into a different line of work. But don’t throw out people without giving them a chance to do better, see what they need to do to improve or leave, and offer REAL professional development. Not the vendor driven solution to using their stuff.

    My brother went to Georgetown Medical School, here in DC. I wanted to go to some wonderful university too , but I was the first so I got podunk U. The college that I went to was busy creating high school awareness for those who wanted to be teachers.I am sure that there are lots of people who had the same experience.
    I already knew that stuff, but because they were teaching to the mainstream I was caught up in minimalism. But I was inspired to make change.We used to not care that much about what teachers learned. I helped with the NCATE program that described that problem.

    One of the most interesting jobs I had was to work with the Clark County as they did their evaluation of the Gates Foundation Funding to make for better schools . That group involved teachers.

    They just did not involve the community as much as they should have, based on experts. I talk to , learn from and attend workshops often here in DC where there is an expert for every subject even though we never go back and talk about the ones who were wrong.
    I frequently like to ask questions of the experts.

    Diane Ravitz says she was wrong.http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2011/10/what_can_we_learn_from_finland.html
    Heard anything from M. Spellings? What was the name of the original man who introduced
    the Texas Miracle. I can’t remember his name.
    I just remember that he too was an expert.
    Bonnie

    NCATE
    The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has released a report on technology that should drive change in NCATE’s accreditation standards and raise the bar for teacher candidate and faculty use of technology in schools of education. Bonnie was one of two K-12 teachers involved in crafting this report.

    Technology and the New Professional Teacher:

    Preparing for the 21st Century Classroom (1997)

    http://www.ncate.org/accred/projects/tech/tech-21.htm

    It is no longer on line. but you get the drift.

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