Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bloomberg and Klein Get Desperate

graphic by DB

All it takes are a few messages from some rappers on a cell phone to motivate kids turned off by school. Jeez! Why didn't think of that when I was teaching? Oh, I forgot. In those days we used waxed string and milk containers to communicate. (Is there a way to send text messages that way?)

That DOE consultant Roland Fryer jumps from the fryer pan into the fire.

I was taken by these quotes in today's NY Times article:

“How do you get people to think about achievement in communities where, for historical or other reasons, there isn’t necessarily demand for that,” Mr. Klein said yesterday in an interview. “We want to create an environment where kids know education is something you should want. Some people come to school with an enormous appetite for learning and others do not — that’s the reality.”

"Mr. Klein said the effort was spurred in part by the results from focus groups performed by market research firms for the Education Department. That
research found that black and Latino students from some of the city’s most hard-pressed neighborhoods had a difficult time understanding that doing well in school can provide tangible long-term benefits."

Duhhhhh!
They needed a focus group to tell them something teachers find out in their first 10 minutes of teaching?


You see, we have been telling Klein this all along and his response is that we are making excuses. Many of us actually know how to fix this problem. Engaging, exciting curricula, not test prep. And smaller class sizes so kids who do not come with an appetite for learning have more of an opportunity to be engaged. Hell, I do not remember my friends and I having that enormous appetite for learning - we were more afraid of our mothers' daily nag.


Now let's review, kiddies:


You have non-motivated students who are often struggling with academics. I have an idea. turn on the screws by threatening them with being held over on the basis of high stakes tests and then tell them they will get a cell phone and a text message from JB Cool if they can withstand the pressure. Pure Genius!


Leonie Haimson took care of the rest of what I wanted to say on her listserve:


See today’s Times – the latest experiment dreamed up by Roland Fryer, and “focus groups performed by market research firms for the Education Department.” Cell phones, mentors, messages, free tickets to Knick games and more – all to “convince” students that staying in school is worthwhile.

Excerpt: Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said the project was the city’s first attempt to bring about change in the culture and behavior of low-performing students after years of efforts focusing on school structure and teaching.


“How do you get people to think about achievement in communities where, for historical or other reasons, there isn’t necessarily demand for that,” Mr. Klein said yesterday in an interview. “We want to create an environment where kids know education is something you should want. Some people come to school with an enormous appetite for learning and others do not — that’s the reality.”…. Dr. Fryer said he viewed the project in economic terms, arguing that while the administration’s previous efforts have focused on changing the “supply” at schools, this one is proposing to change the “demand” for education by making students want to seek learning.


“You can have the best product in the world, but if nobody wants it, it doesn’t matter,” Dr. Fryer said. What school systems have done so far, he added, “isn’t working well enough.”…. Details about how much will be spent and where the money will come from are still to be worked out, Education Department officials said.


If Fryer thinks that NYC schools are the “best product in the world,” he must be blind. Klein says there have been “years of efforts focusing on school structure and teaching”!!! How out of touch can they possibly be? This is an administration that is clearly clueless, and appears to be drowning in loose change.


It’s kind of startling, the amount of effort, time and money going into this “rebranding” PR campaign – but I guess when you’ve given up actually trying to improve schools, as they seem to have done at Tweed, what’s left?


If you run Tweed via PR, you think that’s PR is all that exists; it’s like the Bush administration and Karl Rove, who said: ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out.”


So what students at which schools are going to get the “thousands” of new mentors, the tickets, the cell phones and the rest? Those attending KIPP charter schools, and those run by New Visions. I thought those schools were already so expert at motivating students…but I guess not. If nothing else, this will probably lead to a surge of applicants to those schools, so they can even more effectively skim off the top.


And I guess we’ll let all those hundreds of thousands of students, left attending the large, overcrowded high schools with classes of 30 or more, to continue to drop out, be discharged or pushed out, or in other ways actively encouraged to disengage.


http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/13/education/13schools.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1194931294-Rw4bHvFh4o/V/jTqo4F0Cw&pagewanted=print

4 comments:

  1. Some people come to school with an enormous appetite for learning and others do not — that’s the reality.

    That's an odd comment from someone who hired Alonso, who claimed the only variable in the classroom is the quality of the teacher. This seemed to jibe pretty well with Tweed policy.

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  2. Where do I begin....

    Teachers, of course, HAVE been attempting "to bring about change in the culture and behavior of low-performing students" their entire careers. It is Klein who has not understood how this is done in the classroom, and it is Klein who has diddled with school restructuring and the rigid application of various methodologies under the guise of bettering the teaching, not to mention the widespread assault on senior teachers who know what they are doing.

    How utterly despicable of him to insinuate that "communities" don't think about achievement! Every parent who comes into open school night is VERY concerned their kids achieve. They show a range of emotion, from tears, to frustration, to satisfaction, to joy, all depending on how well their child is doing. Klein is wiping out whole communities with the back of his hand, and he should be called out on this. The kids know that education is something they need and that they should want. Some have trouble getting past the things that hold them back, which range from overstuffed classes (primarily!), to the large number of inexperienced teachers in the classrooms, to a difficult home environment, to personal emotional instabities, to lack of food and medicine, and to many other factors.

    Why am I not surprised that this plan is overseen by an economist and not an educator. Why am I not suprised the effort was the result of focus groups & market research firms.

    Medina says that Klein said that research "found that black and Latino students from some of the city’s most hard-pressed neighborhoods had a difficult time understanding that doing well in school can provide tangible long-term benefits."

    If Klein actually made this extremely RACIST statement, he should be fired on the spot. I know plenty of kids that are not black or Latino that also have difficulty in this pop culture relating school to tangible long-term benefits. WE ARE DEALING WITH INDIVIDUAL CHILDREN HERE, Mr. Klein. NOT POPULATIONS.

    The report continues: "Dr. Fryer is enthusiastic about one that tries to make poor teenagers aware that academic success can lead to jobs that pay enough to support a middle- or upper-middle-class way of life." What can these people thinking? Giving a kid a cellphone means he gets a cellphone. It does not mean he understands any more than he did before that if he does well in school, he can support a middle- or upper-middle-class way of life.

    The kids who understand THAT particular paradigm don't need cellphones to entice them to do better. They have what it takes already to do well in life.

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  3. i agree with woodlass the kids will see right through yet another pile o' b.s. - as it is the reason they don't "buy into" education as they see it is because from DAY ONE they are treated like retards who have to be controlled at all costs...and dumbed down as well...they know it, and we know it too...and what do we as teachers do about it? most teachers are too afraid of losing their jobs to stand up, and so the vicious cycle continues...

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  4. Here's a novel idea ... promise the kids JOBS. Start a half-day of school + half-day of work release into some sort of modern-day, city-sponsored WPA. Get them into good habits: showing up daily and on time, work = money to spend. At school, teach them stuff they need to know for the job. Freebies do nothing except reinforce the something-for-nothing mentality. If they don't show up for either school or job, jail 'em. The students need a crash course in personal responsibility. Let's give it to them.

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