Month: June 2014

Tom Scarice: The Greatest Crime Against Education, Educators, and Students Is….

Diane Ravitch's blog

Tom Scarice, superintendent of schools in Madison, Connecticut, here speaks out and names the criminal corruption of education into a test-taking industry that has no goal other than test scores. He knows that as the stakes go higher, people succumb to the pressure to teach to the test or even to cheat. Campbell’s Law is relentless. The same things happen in other fields, when the goal of profit becomes more important than the endeavor itself.

Scarice compares present practices to those that destroyed Enron. He writes:

“Without question, measures, qualitative and quantitative, representing a variety of indicators that mark the values of an organization, are necessary fuel for the engine of continuous improvement. High-quality tests, specifically used for the purposes for which they were designed, can and should play a productive role in this process. But, measures are not goals. Regrettably, just as Lay and Skilling did in bringing a…

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Christensen’s Disruptive Innovation after the Lepore Critique


The following piece by Christopher Newfield, Professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, first appeared on the blog, “Remaking the University,” which he runs with UCLA Professor Michael Meranze.  It is reposted by permission. 

Must innovation disrupt everything so that society might have new and better things? Widespread fatigue with this idea inspired a number of headlines last week.  “The Emperor of “Disruption Theory” is Wearing No Clothes,” exclaimed one response.  Paul Krugman described a “careful takedown,” suggesting that the whole era of innovation might collapse from its own overhype (“Creative Destruction Yada Yada.”)  Jonathan Rees referenced an “absolutely devastating takedown.”  All three were talking about Jill Lepore’s much-discussed New Yorker critique of prominent business consultant Clayton Christensen’s theory of “disruptive innovation.” Prof. Rees concluded, “Like MacArthur at Inchon, [Prof. Lepore] has landed behind enemy lines and will hopefully force…

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Collateral Damage: The Problem With Proposed Institutional Performance Standards for Federal Financial Aid


It is easy to teach good students. The “star teachers” at Harvard or Stanford can assume a certain knowledge base as starting points in their classes and can set expectations that the majority of their students can reasonably meet. They have a narrow range of students, all of whom have been carefully selected through an extensive admissions process.

It’s quite different, teaching at a campus that has something close to open admissions. Nothing, in terms of student knowledge, can be assumed, especially if the student population includes a large number of “international” students. Expectations change in each class each semester based on an evaluation of each student group. The range of students is extensive, and it is never possible to tell what it will be in any particular section. Generally, one or two students would probably be able to compete in an elite classroom and one or two are in the…

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Mobile Phones, Classrooms and Culture


It is incredibly disingenuous for conference experts to make claims about mobile phone benefits in classrooms. I know this is a popular verse, however what they fail to explain is — what cultural contexts are they talking about?

Firstly, phones are computers. They therefore have a potential to access and process information. Making this observation is facile in todays society, yet time and again I hear it used simply to drive their deterministic argument based mostly on their opinion rather than research or recent classroom experience. Throw shoes at the next person who trots this out as a crowd pleaser.

Secondly, mobile phones in many schools are simply a social-menace. Signs adorn classroom doors which children ignore, unable to stop fiddling with the magic portal to their more interesting (so they think) social life and right to communicate with whomever and whenever they want. Parents often fund these devices on…

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A Law Professor Grades the Vergara Decision: It Gets a B-


It should be crystal clear from my two previous posts (here and here)  on the topic that not only do I oppose the recent California Superior Court decision in Vergara v. California, which overturned California statutes guaranteeing “teacher tenure” and layoff by seniority for the state’s K-12 teachers, I have also questioned its legal rationale.  But I’m not an attorney, much less a legal authority.  Now, however, comes UCLA law professor Jonathan Zasloff who, in an interview with the online journal Salon, called the decision “a B- student’s opinion.”  The entire interview is well worth reading, but here’s the “money quote,” so to speak:

I was surprised by the ruling in one major way, which is that, for such a significant decision, it is really poorly reasoned. I can’t put it any other way. Whatever you happen to think of the outcome, either on a policy…

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How Millennials Feel About Unpaid Internships


WASHINGTON, DC - July 25: Jackets hang over windows as Nick Reck talks to other interns in the 'intern room' at the Russell Senate Office Building. He receives a grant from the College of William & Mary to pay part of his expenses. Administrators have begun to address the financial burden many students have to take on when they accept an internship, especially an unpaid one. (Photo by Dayna Smith/for the Washington Post) | The Washington Post via Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC – July 25: Jackets hang over windows as Nick Reck talks to other interns in the ‘intern room’ at the Russell Senate Office Building. He receives a grant from the College of William & Mary to pay part of his expenses. Administrators have begun to address the financial burden many students have to take on when they accept an internship, especially an unpaid one. (Photo by Dayna Smith/for the Washington Post) | The Washington Post via Getty Images

A resounding majority of millennials object to the use of unpaid internships, a poll by finds

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David Sirota: When Philanthropy Replaces and Controls the Public Sector

Diane Ravitch's blog

David Sirota explains in the journal “In These Times” that there is a conflict between big-time philanthropy and democracy. He describes recent conference where the tech industry wrung its collective hands about inequality without acknowledging that it is a source of frowing inequality.

“Indeed, there seems to be a trend of billionaires and tech firms making private donations to public institutions ostensibly with the goal of improving public services. Yet, many of these billionaires are absent from efforts to raise public resources for those same institutions. Zuckerberg is only one example.

“For instance, hedge funders make big donations to charter schools. Yet, the hedge fund industry lobbies against higher taxes that would generate new revenue for education.

“Meanwhile, Microsoft boasts about making donations to schools, while the company has opposed proposals to increase taxes to fund those schools.

“To understand the conflict between democracy and this kind of philanthropy, remember…

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An OB/GYN writes to George Will about college rape

A truly amazing response. I hope this is widely read.

Dr. Jen Gunter

Dear Mr. Will,

I read your recent column on the “supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. sexual assault” and am somewhat taken aback by your claim that forcing colleges to take a tougher stand on sexual assault somehow translates into a modern version of The Crucible that replaces witchcraft with rape hysteria.

I was specifically moved to write to you because the rape scenario that you describe somewhat incredulously is not unfamiliar to me. Not because I’ve heard it in many different iterations (I have sadly done many rape kits), but because it was not unlike my own rape. The lead up was slightly different, but I too was raped by someone I knew and did not emerge with any obvious physical evidence that a crime had been committed. I tried to push him away, I said “No!” and “Get off” multiple times,” but he was much stronger and suddenly…

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Scrapping the Lecture OR Slapping me in the face over and over again because I love my job too much

Just like me!!



There’s increasing debate these days about the viability of the lecture as a viable pedagogic technique.  The Guardian published the following…

Now I’m a completely biased and unreliable commentator because giving lectures is the most fun thing I do, professionally speaking.  Any defence of the traditional lecture that I chose to offer would be irretrievably contaminated by the fact were lectures abolished I would be a considerably more miserable human being.

Now we’re told that there are lecturers who just read their notes out loud, oblivious to the people in the room.  If so, I’m sorry for it.  I don’t know any lecturers like  that.  We’re also told that lectures could be recorded and distributed electronically.  Oh, for sure they could.  But if I’m any good at all at my job it’s because I’ve learned how to react to students, because I can see their faces and assess their…

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