Carruolo II: Pensive Philosophy or Excuse Making?

To follow up on last night’s post, the full ProJo story provides more insight into the “What, me worry?” philosophy of George Carruolo. For instance:

For his part, Caruolo emphasizes cooperation among all groups — teachers, parents, students and the community — as the critical ingredient for school improvement.
“Everyone will have to make compromises on everything but this: having a system we are all proud of, and a system that works for children,” he said.
“I’ve never seen a turnaround in anything with an alienated work force,” Caruolo said. “And from my viewpoint, I don’t see a lot of talk about poverty and homelessness and family disruptions in the education dialogue, right now.”

Carruolo is correct: for a variety of reasons (often related to the effects of government social policy), families are different than they were 20 years ago. Single-parent families or two working parents are far more prevalent and parental involvement in schools has declined. This affects all the kids in a classroom as teachers have to spend more time catching up. However, I don’t know of any education reformer who discounts the role that poverty and family play in education. For example, as Commissioner Gist has traveled the state, she’s explained the components that comprise the new school funding formula:

Ms. Gist said that [the new funding formula has a] built in…“core instructional amount,” which creates a per-pupil spending base of $8,333. Another 40 percent ($3,333) is funded for each student receiving free or reduced lunch, an indication of additional funding needs since it costs more to teach a student living in poverty.

Sure sounds like someone who recognizes that poverty affects education, doesn’t it?
As for the alienated workforce? Reform skeptics are very good at pointing at all of these outside reasons–excuses–for why reform can’t work or is just too hard, too unrealistic, to implement. Yet, instead of looking at new ways to deal with these changing external dynamics, they double-down on the same, old industrial model of schooling. Why? Because even if it has proven inadequate to the task of educating today’s kids–especially the poor and disadvantaged–the old system has turned out pretty beneficial for the adults who operate in it. The “alienation” they feel–stoked by hyperbole spouting union leaders–stems directly from the fact that they view reform as an “attack” on themselves and, too often, their own bottom line.

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Dan
Dan
10 years ago

More death by discussion, more feel-goodism, etc.
Round up the usual experts, discuss the problem, reach no consensus, reassemble next year, etc.

Russ
Russ
10 years ago

Reform skeptics are very good at pointing at all of these outside reasons–excuses–for why reform can’t work or is just too hard, too unrealistic, to implement. Yet, instead of looking at new ways to deal with these changing external dynamics, they double-down on the same, old industrial model of schooling.

Bulls***! It’s a strawman argument. No different than me saying all pro-“reform” folks are really just anti-union. However the comment does provide a pretty good idea of exactly how you view teachers (disinterested slackers in need of what you call a “hammer”).
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alfie-kohn/how-to-sell-conservatism-_b_767040.html

Seymour Papert, known for his work on artificial intelligence, began one of his books by inviting us to imagine a group of surgeons and a group of teachers, both from a century ago, who are magically transported to the present day. The surgeons visit a modern operating room and struggle to understand what’s going on, but the teachers feel right at home in today’s schools. Kids, they discover, are still segregated by age in rows of classrooms; are still made to sit passively and listen (or practice skills) most of the time; are still tested and graded, rewarded or punished; still set against one another in contests and deprived of any real say about what they’re doing.

Focus on standardized testing is hardly some radical departure from the status quo (as I commented on your previous post).
Want real reform? Step one, read Deming.
books.google.com/books?id=RnsCXffehcEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+new+economics&hl=en&ei=iiltTYDHIYSKlwf6o73tBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Hey Russ, I noticed you’ve been commenting here a lot more often. What happened, did your kubaya drum circle disband over there?
I guess I was right last week when I told Evan that the site had gone way downhill. So far, that even they hated it, I guess.

BobN
BobN
10 years ago

Russ, instead of whining via other’s writings about the present situation, do you have any ideas for solutions? Or are you just trying to be a community organizer and stir up antagonism?

Marc
Marc
10 years ago

Russ, Talk about strawmen. It is sophistry to claim that my lack of a qualifier before “reform skeptics” negates the point because I didn’t clearly state that there are obviously exceptions. You also conflate re: anti-unionism and that I don’t like teachers, etc. What I don’t like are teacher UNIONS that seem to prioritize the extraction of several pounds of flesh from the system over improving education. More conflation: the “hammer” was in reference to student incentive, not “whacking” teachers.
Finally, to scratch your pet itch, I’m familiar with Deming and his theories (I’m an engineer & my job involves process feedback loops, etc.). I’ve also read up on a few school districts that have implemented “whole school” reform, which is based on similar concepts. The thing is, the key to implementing and succeeding with that reform in a school is trust and teamwork and flexibility. Not something that the current industrial/union-type system (at least in RI) supports. Finally, I certainly don’t think testing is the panacea–just a piece of the puzzle.

Russ
Russ
10 years ago

More conflation: the “hammer” was in reference to student incentive, not “whacking” teachers.

Yes, but essentially the same thing, an attempt to improve quality with external motivation (in this case threats).

The thing is, the key to implementing and succeeding with that reform in a school is trust and teamwork and flexibility. Not something that the current industrial/union-type system (at least in RI) supports.

So why is that? What needs to change? At least you’d be talking about something concrete. I don’t of anything inherent to unions that prevent cooperation (now merit pay on the other hand), and I think we can agree that the adversarial atmosphere promoted on blogs like this one can’t be helping matters.
I’m still waiting for any evidence that standardized testing improves quality. Absent that, no they aren’t a piece of the puzzle; they’re a distraction, making quality worse by focusing attention on all the wrong things (what did Deming say about using inspection to acheive quality)?

Russ
Russ
10 years ago

Russ, instead of whining via other’s writings about the present situation, do you have any ideas for solutions? Or are you just trying to be a community organizer and stir up antagonism?

I don’t see any problem with referencing the work of others who work in the field and have well documented ideas (plus you know that if I forwarded an opinion, I’d be met with a chorus of “prove it!”). As for my personal opinion, I know what choice I made for my own kids, who don’t worry at all about taking standardized tests or what letter grade they might be assigned.
Kohn explains what progressive education looks like:
http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/progressive.htm

For most people, the fundamental reason to choose, or offer, a progressive education is a function of their basic values: “a rock-bottom commitment to democracy,” as Joseph Featherstone put it; a belief that meeting children’s needs should take precedence over preparing future employees; and a desire to nourish curiosity, creativity, compassion, skepticism, and other virtues.
Fortunately, what may have begun with values (for any of us as individuals, and also for education itself, historically speaking) has turned out to be supported by solid data. A truly impressive collection of research has demonstrated that when students are able to spend more time thinking about ideas than memorizing facts and practicing skills — and when they are invited to help direct their own learning — they are not only more likely to enjoy what they’re doing but to do it better. Progressive education isn’t just more appealing; it’s also more productive.

I encourage folks to read the link above and this one…
“What to Look for in a Classroom”
http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/wtlfiacchart.htm

BobN
BobN
10 years ago

I’ve followed the links. Kohn is full of the same abstract, airy BS as most “Progressive” theorists. His “facts” are not supported.
I’m a teacher. I have tested all the theories. Children learn by doing. People learn by doing. We, and especially children, don’t learn by “thinking about ideas”. Kohn writes about a world where we ride unicorns to the ends of rainbows and pink glitter wafts gently from our butts.
For every Alfie Kohn bullblank you offer I’ll raise you a Jaime Escalante.
Want to teach kids hand-eye coordination, 3D spacial visualization, measurements, math, careful attention to detail, using a logical process, and persistence, and end up with them enjoying an earned sense of pride in their work? Start first-graders with paper Sloyd and integrate that and its more advanced levels into their K-6 education.

Russ
Russ
10 years ago

Hey, you’re entitled to your opinion on Kohn. I’ve read some of his books, which are extensively footnoted with references to research, not to mention the extensive support for that type of approach from the process improvement discipline.
I think you just don’t like anything that might be considered “progressive.” Fair enough.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

My significant other, after teaching for several years, now develops education curriculum. She has shown me the latest wave of “progressive” education curriculum infecting many of our public and private schools today a la Alfie Kohn.
Numbers aren’t subtracted or added, they are “integrated” with blocks. Instead of memorizing multiplication tables, they are encouraged to think about “why” 3×5=15 over several months. Spelling is “sounded out,” resulting in most words being grossly misspelled, e.g., table -> tabul. Children learn reading at their own pace. Discipline consists of taking the child aside until they repeat certain progressive keywords indicative of remorse, like “making bad choices.”
The result is nothing short of horrifying – children who can’t write, read, or do basic math by 3rd grade, and who are given free reign to misbehave as long as they parrot keywords to their progressively-minded educators that trigger release back onto the playground.

BobN
BobN
10 years ago

Dan, thanks for putting out the facts that Russ is trying to hide.
The quality of K-12 education, as well as higher education, has been on a steadily declining path since radical Progressives took over the college education departments in the late 1970s. It will not turn around until these fraudsters are replaced.
The real word is where Progressive theories go to die. Because the Progressive concepts of how the world works and what human nature is are completely wrong. And because Progressive policies violate the individual human rights that arise from human nature, Progressivism is as evil as Islam.
Show me a single “progressive” idea since 1960 that has improved the world.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
10 years ago

Hey Russ-what division of government do you leach from?
You’re “arguments” are as transparent as a fox’s presence at the henhouse.
Guess we’ll have to deal with you here for a while now that hypocrite Jerzyk pulled the plug on his blog.
You’re not convincing ANYONE here, be sure of that.

GVK
GVK
10 years ago

Our elected officials can no longer be trusted to protect our economy and our states sovereignty..their deliberate actions have weakened our strengths and empowered those who seek to take that which thay have not earned and unravel our way of life. We are being pushed into an economic and social abyss that we may never recover from.

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