Sunday, December 18, 2016

Betting On Public Education - Part 2

We don’t need more schools. We need the ones we have to have teachers with the skills and expertise necessary for today.

In my recent Twitter exchange with Stacey Childress , CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, I said their publication, Reimagining Learning: A Big Bet on the Future of American Education  didn’t even mention #OER & was mostly about finance & governance of schools, not teaching and learning. Stacey said she disagreed but didn’t offer anything else beyond her best wishes on our efforts to improve teaching and learning. I appreciate her best wishes.

I think their proposal, or big bet, as they call it, is more focused on finance and governance than on teaching and learning because the word, teaching, is only used once in the entire document. It’s used in the sentence: “Most of our current K-12 schools were designed for a different time and purpose: teaching basic knowledge and skills to the vast majority of students destined for work in the early-to mid-20th century economy, with an elite few moving on to higher education.”

They talk about teaching only once when they propose a definition of the current system as being something that only works for an elite few moving on to higher education.”  Few teachers working in current schools think they’re teaching students who will be working in a early-to mid-20th century economy, with an elite few moving on to higher education.  Childress and Amrofell’s statement is an insult to all of the teachers who are working as hard as they can in today’s classrooms.

Childress and Amrofell are minimizing the work being done by today’s teachers in an effort to maximize their proposal for the 7% who go along with their view of how education should be.

They also make the outrageous claim that “Ed-tech is no silver bullet and will never be the primary mode of learning for most young people.” It most definitely is not a silver bullet, but technology is already the primary mode of learning for almost all people - both young and old. The issue is simply which technology and how effectively it’s used for teaching and learning.

We don’t need to spend $3 Billion to create new charter schools, or ‘redesign’ existing schools, or strengthen the ecosystem for innovation, or mobilize a diverse and effective coalition for change. Let’s just spend that $3 Billion to show our existing teachers how to use free digital OER curriculum on modern learning management systems with students who have wifi devices of their choice. Most schools already have the LMSs and students already have wifi devices.  We can use some of that $3 Billion for those students who don’t already have the devices, but most of the money should go to developing the skills and open pedagogical practice of the teachers who are already teaching in our classrooms.

Ubiquitous wifi, very affordable wifi devices, and digital OER are all very new. Using them in conjunction with any of the learning management systems that are getting better and better daily is the way to maximize the teaching corps and schools that we already have. Here’s a set of videos recently released by The Council of Chief State School Officers that explain what OER is and why it’s a good idea. The R & D portion of Childress and Amrofell proposal is not a bad idea but focusing more of it specifically on something that we already know has a good chance of returning positive results, OER, will strengthen the investment. I wouldn’t even call it a bet.

Betting On Public Education - Part 1

In a recent Twittter exchange  Stacey Childress, ‏@NextGenStacey CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, asked how I would frame OER "as bet w growth & learning outcome assumptions leading 2 an ROI forecast." I directed her to a post of mine from about a year ago.

I had suggested in a previous tweet that leaving OER completely out of the publication she'd coauthored, Reimagining Learning - A Big Bet on the Future of American Education, would cause them to lose big on a big bet by not even apparently knowing about #OER. Childress claims to know a lot about OER, but I don't see any evidence of that knowledge anywhere in their publication.

And, I don't understand the concept of betting on education. In their publication, Childress and Amrofell say talking about big bets is something that's currently common in the world of philanthropy. I've always understood that betting was about winners and losers, so I don't think it makes sense to use gambling as a model for education. Don't we have enough resources for all of our children to have a quality education?

It seems to me that Childress and the NewSchools Venture Fund are OK with not all schools being quality schools. In their paper about betting on education they say: 
"Twenty-five years from now, it’s possible for all students to have at least one school in their neighborhood that is designed to meet them where they are, help them figure out where they want to go and how they might get there. Today’s schools weren’t designed to accomplish this, so families and educators are tasked with squeezing as much as they can out of schools designed for a very different time and purpose."

What exactly does  "at least one school in their neighborhood that is designed to meet them where they are" actually mean? What about the other schools. Elsewhere in the paper, Childress and Amrofell talk about "with a total investment of $4 billion in philanthropy over 10 years, approximately 7% of U.S. schools could effectively make the shift to innovative models through investments in three key areas:"

The crap-shoot that Childress and Amrofell are pushing is about winners and losers, and that sounds to me like the other 93% of the students in the U.S. are losing the bet. I don't like those odds.