Repost: CURMUDGUCATION – ICYMI: Some Sunday Edureads


ICYMI: Some Sunday Edureads

Posted: 29 Nov 2015 09:30 AM PST

It will be a quickie this week– I have both of my children home and a grandson’s birthday party to attend!

Eva Moskowitz Cannot Help Herself

Daniel Katz provides one of the best overviews of Moskowitz’s ongoing meltdown. A study in how privilege, money and power can make you blind to how you’re behavior is playing in the real world.

How Twisted Early Childhood Education Has Become

Early childhood ed has arguably been more badly damaged by reformsters than any other segment of the education biz. Sometimes it helps to have someone take a step back, show how far off track we have gotten, and help you realize you’re not crazy for thinking we’re getting early childhood ed completely wrong at this point.

Competency Based Ed: The Culmination of the Common Core Agenda

A good collection of the many pieces and points of view springing up as CBE becomes the newest topic of the education debates.

Five Perspectives on Student Fragility

At Psychology Today, Peter Gray has been running a series about the increasing fragile nature of our students, including theories about the source. This latest installment is interesting because it includes the many, many reactions from various stakeholders in that discussion.

Are You Being Served?

Nobody combines humor and actual journalism better than Jennifer Berkshire at Edushyster. Here’s a look at the facts of which students Boston charter schools are actually serving.

Remember Outcome Based Education?

Posted: 29 Nov 2015 09:34 AM PST

Because of massive technological, economic and social changes, we are challenged to boost standards of student performance substantially, especially among those who in the past were least successful. The educational sector apparently will not have more money, so we cannot expect salaries to be more attractive or other resources more plentiful. The alternative, say thoughtful observers, is to restructure. 

That quote comes from Ron Brandt, the Executive Editor for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. In 1994. It comes from Brandt’s introduction to the book Outcome Based Education: Critical Issues and Answers, by William Spady. More about him in a moment.

If you are a teacher of a Certain Age, you remember Outcome Based Education. OBE started popping up in the US in the early 90s. While one of its features was a certain vagueness (Brandt wrote in an ASCD overview that “OBE is more of a philosophy than a uniform set of practices”). But now that Competency Based Education is auditioning for Educational Thing Du Jour, pulling out the OBE notebook seems apropos.

OBE attracted my attention when it first appeared because it sounded suspiciously like Management By Objectives, a management technique developed by Peter Drucker. Watching old insights from MBO appear in OBE was first led to my theory that when management consultants have finally saturated the business market, they go through their materials, cross out the biz buzz words, and pencil in education jargon and voila!– they are back in business.

But if OBE was transmogrified from the business world, so what? Was it any good?

The central philosophical shift was to move from time-based schooling to objective based. in other words, the traditional constant in school is time, and the variable is learning. We only have 180 days– how much can we get done in those days? OBE said, “Let’s list what learning objectives we want the students to achieve, and time will be the variable.”

The self-proclaimed father of OBE is the above-mentioned Bill Spady, a sociologist who started pioneering OBE in the mid-eighties. He became the director of the International Center on Outcome-Based Restructuring, and continues to work in education today. If you really want to know all about Spady, a John Anthony Hader wrote his dissertation about Spady and his work.

Spady was notoriously unwilling to give exact instructions for setting up OBE, insisting that objectives had to be locally developed. But he did lay down some guiding principles, some of which are listed here by his colleague Brandt. 

* Clarity of focus. Your outcome has to be focused and specific.
* Design down, deliver up. Work backwards from your objective to design programs, but work toward the objective from wherever the students are.
* High expectations. Specifically (if we heard this once, we heard it a million times) believe that all students can learn all.
* Expanded opportunities. Provide students many chances and many ways to show they have achieved the objective.

Additionally, OBE acquired various corollaries, implications, and add-ons. If we were going to insist that all students can learn all, then we had better settle on objectives that all students can learn (let the dumbing down begin). For some reason, cooperative learning became closely tied to OBE in many regions. And the prospect of wreaking havoc with the school year– headaches! If Chris can meet all objectives by Christmas, can Chris then go home? Or does Chris just start the next “grade”? And what if Chris is still not getting it in July– does Chris’s school year continue until the last objective is met? Logistically, how does that even work? And how do you write a teacher contract that says, “Depending on how well you do, you are hired for something between 100 and 300 days.” Or do you just pay teachers for piecework ($100 per every student objective met)?

Objectives themselves were problematic. This was the dawn of TSWBAT (the student will be able to…) which meant that every single objective had to be paired with some observable student behavior. This has eternally been an educational challenge (did Chris learn to understand the Iliad, or did Chris figure out how to act like Chris understands). But OBE threw its weight on the side of observable behavior, encouraging teachers to require student performance rather than teacher inquiry to assess.

OBE caught on big time, until– and I say this with both pride and shame– Pennsylvania broke it.

Pennsylvania was poised to weave OBE into the warp and woof of state education regulation. Many of us went to professional development sessions to prepare us for the Big Shift. But instead, this time, shift never happened.

Some of it was not Pennsylvania’s fault. The OBE fans had missed one of the implications of their own work, which was the the objectives would need to be clearly measurable. Instead, various versions of OBE were peppered with what we now call non-cognitive objectives. And not just non-cognitive, but politically charged as well. Here are some contributions to the genre:

All students understand and appreciate their worth as unique and capable individuals, and exhibit self-esteem.

All students apply the fundamentals of consumer behavior to managing available resources to provide for personal and family needs.

All students make environmentally sound decisions in their personal and civic lives.

OBE programs has a variety of objectives like these, and conservatives freaked. Rush Limbaugh, Bill Bennett, Pat Robertson and most especially Phyllis Schafly were sure that OBE was here to socially engineer your child into some bleeding heart gay-loving liberal twinkie.  

OBE was also vulnerable because there wasn’t a lick of evidence or research to indicate that it actually worked. And because it was focused on locally-selected objectives that could be met in a variety of ways, there wasn’t even any way to tell if it was working at all.

Opponents were also taken aback by the electronic portfolio. OBE demanded a portfolio system in which the many and varied objective-meeting projects of students could be gathered, but then some computer-enamored mook decided that an electronic portfolio, that could be stored in perpetuity and could follow the students anywhere– that would be cool! Is any of this starting to sound vaguely familiar?

And because Spady and his brethren refused to give specific instructions, OBE looked like a thousand different things, some of which seemed directly contradictory. In Pennsylvania, the initial version of OBE state education regs included roughly 550 objectives.According to Hader’s oral history, Spady told them they were about 540 off; the education department rapidly backpedaled while begging Spady to come write the objectives for them. Then Peg Luksik activiated her formidable army or conservatives to attack OBE, and the whole business started to collapse. Pennsylvania broke OBE, and it never quite recovered.

When I started to hear about Performance/Competency Based Education, I initially thought that it would be the reheated leftovers of OBE. I cringed, because I remember the training and the insistence that all students can learn everything and the crazy barrage of ever-shifting state directives. Pennsylvania’s OBE initiative came at the end of my first decade in the classroom, and it marked the point at which I suddenly realized that the policy leaders and educational bureaucrats on the state level might not know what the hell they were talking about. But I also remembered OBE’s complete and utter collapse and thought, “Well, this will die quickly.”

But CBE turns out to be a different sort of OBE, an OBE with its holes plugged by sweet, sweet technology and its foundation shored up with Common Core college and career ready standards. Where OBE was all loosey goosey with whatever standards and objectives the locals wanted, CBE will help you get a list of standards/objectives already in place– and some vendors will throw in the assessments and performance tasks and the software to measure them as well as recording the results as well as using those results to decide which pre-packaged lesson your student should do next.

Technology also aids in the variable-time logistics problem. Now, instead of puzzling over whether behind-on-objective Chris must stay in school through July, we can just get Chris to use internet connections to make the school day fourteen hours long. Of course, we still have the puzzle of what to do if Chris completes an entire grade level’s worth of objectives over the weekend.

Technology also ups the ante on that electronic portfolio, the data backpack that will follow your student throughout life. Of course, in some schools that currently means that a teacher’s primary function is endless data entry. But since the performance tasks are on the computer, the teacher will be spending far less time teaching anyway.

Most of all, technology underlines the classic problem with OBE– the notion that education is just learning to perform a series of designated tasks, like a team on the Amazing Race. Education is just working your way down a checklist, and once everything on the list is checked off– congratulations! You’re an educated person! That’s all it there is to it! Of course, that also takes us back to the problem that killed OBE the last time– exactly who gets to decide which tasks go on that checklist?

As I’ve said, I have my doubts about CBE’s chance to take over the education world. Its resemblance to OBE doesn’t improve my estimation of its odds.

NY Times Editorial Board: Bernie Sanders Gets Immigration Policy Right

Senator Bernie Sanders released his immigration plan on Tuesday. To read it — and every citizen should — is to be yanked back in time, to an America that not so long ago was having a reasonable immigration discussion and a time when major reform had strong bipartisan support and a shot at becoming law.
But since the immigration reform bill was killed, in 2013, the party that killed it — the Republicans — has dragged the immigration debate to grotesque depths that go well beyond the usual nativist bigotry. Republican presidential candidates are arguing, in all seriousness, about sealing the border with fantastical 2,000-mile fences and weaponized drones; merging state, local and federal authorities and private prisons into one all-seeing immigration police state; forcibly registering American Muslims; mass-deporting 11 million Mexicans and others in a 21st century Trail of Tears; and turning away thousands of refugees fleeing war and terrorism in the Middle East.
Mr. Sanders, the Vermont senator seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, turns away from the insanity. His plan starts with the right premise: that immigrants should be welcomed and assimilated, not criminalized and exploited. His proposals seek to …

Continue reading NY Times Editorial Board: Bernie Sanders Gets Immigration Policy Right

Thankful… today and everyday

Grateful for lots of things today and everyday… family and friends present and past… but today especially, for my most famous relative… my 11th great-grandfather Elder William Brewster, the spiritual leader of the Mayflower Pilgrims for it was his patience, persistence and perseverance which allowed him to endure great hardships before and after leaving England and without whom I would not be sitting her today, almost 400 years later contemplating my own sense of personal and family thanks-giving. Today thanks to the efforts of my wife, Penny Bain-Salisbury — whose 10th great uncle George Soule, though not a Pilgrim, also made the same arduous crossing with Elder Brewster and his congregation and who survived to earn his freedom from indentured servanthood to free citizen and who then successfully encouraged his other siblings to come to the Americas in ships that soon followed the Mayflower we are also indebted to as well — we will host our immediate family – Mike Salisbury & Jill Buchanan Salisbury and grandchildren Mitchell and Sarah… Shelly Salisbury Whitley and Aaron Whitley and grandchildren Auston Whitleyand Maddie Whitley as well as Aaron’s parents Terry and Nancy Reed Whitley. One day perhaps we will see Plimoth Plantation and visit both the Brewster and Soule homes there and pay our everlasting respects and thanks-giving to those two families along with all the ancestral families as well as those of the noble Native Americans whose kindnesses and generosity to the families of our ancestors seeking refuge in their lands made and makes our very existence possible. Blessings to all those who came and went before us and to the generations that will follow us all. I hope we can all strive to do right by them each and all and leave a lasting legacy of humble gratitude. – Jeff

Massachusetts: How To Gut a School District


MA: How To Gut a School District

Posted: 24 Nov 2015 07:26 AM PST

Back in April of 2014, Jim Peyser was managing director of the New Schools Venture Fund, a group set up to support “venture philanthropy

” in the charter school world with grant-funneling, consulting, lobbying, etc. Think of them as bag men and enforcers for hedge funders interested in making a charter school buck or two.

That would make Jim Peyser and ordinary charter-pushing well-connected money man, but that was Peyser in April of 2014. But two days before Christmas of 2014, Santa brought Peyser a gift of the job of Secretary of Education

for the state of Massachusetts. Not since the fox was hired to stand guard over the henhouse has a job been so cleverly filled, but Governor Charlie Baker loves him some charters and has thrown open the gate to every kind of charter shilling under the sun.

But the case of Peyser is unique, because as NewSchools Venture Honcho, Peyser laid out his ideas about how the path forward forgutting redesigning school districts. Take for instance the piece he published in that long-ago April, “Redesigning School Districts: The Way Forward.”

He opens by quoting an imaginary friend who bemoans the fact that although charters are swell, they only serve a few students, and in order to “close the achievement gap at scale,” the “real work” of fixing school districts must be done… follow link below…

Continue reading Massachusetts: How To Gut a School District

Eclectablog: ‘It’s time for a “People’s Budget” that ensures prosperity for all with everyone contributing their fair share’

Eclectablog has posted a new item, ‘It’s time for a “People’s Budget” that
ensures prosperity for all with everyone contributing their fair share’, at

You may view the latest post at

“The OP-ED Rep. Tim Kelly should have written”

“The OP-ED Rep. Tim Kelly should have written”

By Jeff Salisbury

Although it’s a distant second in potential price tag, the situation involving a possible financial bailout of the Michigan Department of Treasury’s Schools of Detroit (MTSD) is no less important than the road funding package for our state’s future.

It’s awful to make that comparison, but the fact that MTSD is seeking $715 million to resolve its financial issues – on the heels of the recent $1.2 billion road funding proposal – shows that there are many important issues left to resolve in the state Legislature. My question when considering the situation with MTSD is:

When does throwing money at the problems clearly created by the 1999 takeover of the Detroit Public Schools end, with no true changes being made?

Recently, I took my position as chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid and listened to the troubling financial details from the state Department of Treasury and the current MTSD emergency manager. I guess it would be disingenuous of me to say so, since I was there at the beginning back in 1999, but honestly I was kind of stunned and disappointed to hear so many concerns involving our State takeover of the state’s largest school district.

One of the most significant details shared by state treasurer Nick Kouri was that pretty much for all these years the Michigan Department of Treasury has not been, on behalf of the MTSD, properly funding the pension system for its employees, resuming it only recently to prevent interruption of state money going to MTSD. Worse yet, there’s still an estimated $157 million dollars in promised pensions that is unfunded by the MTSD.

There’s also approximately $47 million in vendor payments over 90 days past-due, contributing to even more penalties and debt. Piled on to that it seems the MTSD’s current financial year is operating at a $45 million deficit and that despite cutting staff and closing many schools since 1999 by the State of Michigan’s Emergency Management.

Khouri estimated $515 million will be needed to retire the district’s current debt, with current MTSD emergency manager Darnell Earley seeking an additional $200 million for system start-up, facilities and other infrastructure to start a new district, continuing the education of approximately 47,000 students in the MTSD.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, the state has less than a year to act – maybe as little as six months – before the MTSD runs out of cash.

So there were many questions that came to mind during the 90-minute subcommittee meeting and here’s perhaps the most significant – what does this money do to change or improve things? Specifically, if MTSD gets its needed $715 million, what does that change at DPS? What does that do to improve education in the MTSD?

Recent history, at least since 1999 when I came to work for then-Governor John Engler as his education policy adviser, tells us it changes little, if anything.

Last week’s open and public presentation on the MTSD mess we all made was merely the initial discussion on this current financial situation. This is, however, a problem of our own making has been ongoing for parts of three decades and through numerous emergency managers who may have merely kept MTSD going, but can no longer delay the inevitable.

What I won’t do is insult your intelligence by asking you readers a series of silly rhetorical questions because it’s time for answers and not more questions.

What we’ve done since 1999 extends to education across the state, which will likely suffer to help offset MTSD’s issues.

Clearly this money should be allocated, since the revenue will improve the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System for all schools.

So long as the money does not come from the School Aid Fund, doing so should not negatively impact the educational opportunity for all Michigan students because it will not increase the number of school districts in financial debt.

Nor should the repayment negatively impact the core competencies for our younger students because in fact it very well could mean the start of an educational turnaround in the MTSD.

It’s been said, that throwing money at a problem rarely resolves the issue. However we all know that’s ridiculous. All we need consider is that’s precisely what we do when an Act of God or other so-called natural or even man-made disaster occurs. The State and/or Federal government declares a state and/or national disaster.

That is what we have to stop, the 16-year, man-made un-natural disaster that’s been perpetrated by the State of Michigan when it involves continually needy MTSD and affects all of our students and their parents and the citizens of the City of Detroit since 1999. That all has to stop.

NOTE: Rep. Tim Kelly is the chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid and a member of the House Committee on Education and his original op-ed first appeared at this link –


New Michigan Science Standards adopted

Michigan – a leader in developing the Next Generation Science Standards – adopts new Michigan Science Standards.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Granthave been actively engaged in science education for decades through programs such as the 4-H & Great Lakes Natural Resources Camp and the Great Lakes Education Program. On November 10, 2015, the Michigan State Board of Educationapproved the new Michigan Science Standards, which are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.

According to the Michigan Department of Education, “The effort to revise science standards comes from a vision for science education that is based on over thirty years of research on how students best learn science, as well as the ever changing needs in our workplaces and communities for scientific understanding.”  This vision for learning science and engineering was presented by the National Research Council in A Framework for K-12 Science Education, which was used to develop the Next Generation Science Standards.

The view of science in these new standards has three dimensions: Practices (research suggests that students need to be engaged in doing science), Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts (which link the different domains and disciplines of science).

Michigan actively participated in the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as a Lead State Partner.

Continue reading New Michigan Science Standards adopted

‘Rick Snyder disgraced Michigan for no good reason’, at Eclectablog

‘Rick Snyder disgraced Michigan for no good reason’, at Eclectablog

You know that earlier this week Michigan’s governor Rick Snyder helped lead the shameful charge against accepting Syrian refugees that Republicans have cravenly engineered in order to stoke fears in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Paris last week.

Now we know that he called for a pause in the program for no clear reason.

In an interview on NPR Thursday, the governor was asked what about the vetting process for the refugees concerned him.

“I wouldn’t single out any specific problem I have with it,” he said.

He added, “When you have these events, doesn’t it make sense you should pause and simply say, let’s continue looking at these events?”

But Snyder made it clear he’s not actually looking at “these events” in Paris to assess the situation.

“Most of the Paris attackers, including the alleged planner of the attacks, were either Belgian or French,” The Huffington Post‘s Elise Foley pointed out. Both Belgium and France are among the 38 countries whose residents can visit the United States with no visa at all. Snyder does not think this program should be paused.

Constitutionally he likely does not have the power to stop either program, which highlights the political nature of his “protest.”
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