I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, April 7, 2013

NY Ed Commish: King of the Hypocrites

Is there a bigger reformy hypocrite than New York's Commissioner of Education, John King? I doubt it:

The Gates Foundation spent $100 million along with the Carnegie Corporation to create a massive database consisting of confidential information about students. The database will be created by Rupert Murdoch’s subsidiary Wireless Generation. It will go onto a “cloud” managed by amazon.com.

Several states and districts have agreed to turn over their student data. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education quietly changed the FERPA regulations so that the data could be released. According to this article, the data will be available to entrepreneurs to market stuff to children’s.

Here is one New York parent’s view:
I have emailed and called [State Commissioner] John King’s office over 40 times the past month refusing to consent to allow the DOE to transfer my children’s personal information into InBloom to be bought and sold around the world so vendors get rich. King’s office refuses to allow parents to opt-out. [emphasis mine]
Is this true? Is NYSED telling parents they can't opt out of sharing data about their children with corporations? According to Stephanie Simon at Reuters:
Federal officials say the database project complies with privacy laws. Schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any "school official" who has a "legitimate educational interest," according to the Department of Education. The department defines "school official" to include private companies hired by the school, so long as they use the data only for the purposes spelled out in their contracts. [emphasis mine]
Oh, that's such a relief. I mean, it's not like private companies have a history of data leaking or anything...

So John King refuses to allow parents to control data about their own children. And he threatens schools with "an accountability consequence" if its parents decide en masse to opt out of standardized testing. And he bullies school districts that don't do things on his timetable, no matter how unreasonable it may be. And he insists on full implementation of the Common Core, a set of standards written by a foul-mouthed lawyer, and backed by corporate interests, that has never been field tested:
Teachers will have to de-emphasize some math units like patterns, King said, in order to spend more time on units like fractions, which are linked to higher concepts.
And his evidence that this is a good thing is...

[Chirp, chirp, chirp...]

So Commissioner King is telling parents, teachers, and school districts it's his way or the highway. But as for his own kids...
He now lives in Slingerlands, outside of Albany, with his wife, Melissa, a researcher for Scholastic Inc., whom he met on a blind date while both were teachers in Boston. Their two children, Amina, 7, and Mareya, 4, attend a Montessori school. [emphasis mine]
Wha, huh, wha?

Benefits of Montessori

Sandpaper Numbers

Montessori education offers our children opportunities to develop their potential as they step out into the world as engaged, competent, responsible, and respectful citizens with an understanding and appreciation that learning is for life.
  • Each child is valued as a unique individual.Montessori education recognizes that children learn in different ways, and accommodates all learning styles. Students are also free to learn at their own pace, each advancing through the curriculum as he is ready, guided by the teacher and an individualized learning plan.
  • Beginning at an early age, Montessori students develop order, coordination, concentration, and independence. Classroom design, materials, and daily routines support the individual’s emerging “self-regulation” (ability to educate one’s self, and to think about what one is learning), toddlers through adolescents.
  • Working with waterStudents are part of a close, caring community.The multi-age classroom—typically spanning 3 years—re-creates a family structure. Older students enjoy stature as mentors and role models; younger children feel supported and gain confidence about the challenges ahead. Teachers model respect, loving kindness, and a belief in peaceful conflict resolution.
  • Montessori students enjoy freedom within limits.Working within parameters set by their teachers, students are active participants in deciding what their focus of learning will be. Montessorians understand that internal satisfaction drives the child’s curiosity and interest and results in joyous learning that is sustainable over a lifetime.
  • Students are supported in becoming active seekers of knowledge. Teachers provide environments where students have the freedom and the tools to pursue answers to their own questions.
  • Classroom workSelf-correction and self-assessment are an integral part of the Montessori classroom approach. As they mature, students learn to look critically at their work, and become adept at recognizing, correcting, and learning from their errors.
Given the freedom and support to question, to probe deeply, and to make connections, Montessori students become confident, enthusiastic, self-directed learners. They are able to think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly—a skill set for the 21st century. 
Now, keep in mind that John King started the Uncommon Schools charter chain in New York City. What sort of learning environment did Uncommon promote?
At the Relay Graduate School of Education (RGSE), teacher education that balances research, theory and practice has been replaced by ‘filling the pail’ training. Designed to serve the needs of three charter school chains — KIPP, Achievement First and Uncommon Schools— RGSE has no university affiliation, yet awards masters degrees in New York State.
I invite readers to watch the Relay Graduate School of Education video entitled “Rigorous Classroom Discussion,” which you can find here. Go to the link and look for the title. In the video, the teacher barks commands and questions, often with the affect and speed of a drill sergeant. The questions concern the concept of a “character trait” but are low-level, often in a ‘fill in the blank’ format. The teacher cuts the student off as he attempts to answer the question. Students engage in the bizarre behavior of wiggling their fingers to send ‘energy’ to a young man, Omari, put on the spot by the teacher. Students’ fingers point to their temple and they wiggle hands in the air to send signals. Hands shoot up before the question is asked, and think time is never given to formulate thoughtful answers. When Omari confuses the word ‘ambition’ with ‘anxious’ (an error that is repeated by a classmate), you know that is how he is feeling at the moment. As the video closes with the command, “hands down, star position, continue reading” there is not the warmth of a teacher smile, nor the utterance of ‘please’. The original question is forgotten and you are left to wonder if anyone understands what a character trait is. The pail was filled with ‘something’ and the teacher moves on. [emphasis mine]
Maria Monterssori famously said: "No one can be free unless he is independent."

John King isn't just a bully; he's the biggest hypocrite on two feet. His own children are allowed to be in an environment of "respect and loving kindness," free to explore the world "at their own pace" without being encumbered by an untested set of standards that has no research basis.

But your kids? Yeah, not so much...

One more thing: I get a lot of tips these days from all sorts of people. I wrote this post after someone sent me the name of King's kids' school. I looked up its website, and then I looked at it on Google Maps, and it's beautiful. Any parent would want this sort of school, and this sort of experience, for his or her child.

But I won't publish the name of this school. I'm going to extend a courtesy to John King that he won't extend to the parents he is supposedly serving. His children are entitled to their privacy, as are all children - even if their father is a screaming hypocrite.

ADDING: Some more about Uncommon Schools:
As I read the Match manual, Pedro Noguera’s speech at Morningside’s Courageous School conference came to mind. Speaking of his visit to an Uncommon Charter School (Uncommon School leaders are on the Match and Relay ‘faculty’) he said:
I've visited this school, and I noticed that children are not allowed to talk in the hall, and they get punished for the most minor infraction. And when I talked with John King afterwards, I said, "I've never seen a school that serves affluent children where they're not allowed to talk in the hall." And he said, "Well, that might be true, but this is the model that works for us, we've found that this is the model that our kids need."
So I asked him, "Are you preparing these kids to be leaders or followers? Because leaders get to talk in the hall. They get to talk over lunch, they get to go to the bathroom, and people can trust them. They don't need surveillance and police officers in the bathroom." And he looked at me like I was talking Latin, because his mindset is that these children couldn't do that.” [emphasis mine]
Maria Montessori would be spinning in her grave if she ever found out what was going on in King's old schools.

"No one can be free unless he is independent." 
-- Maria Montessori

"Some animals are more independent than others."
-- George Orwell (eh, close enough...)


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

his information is super scary - particularly coupled with that other nut's statement that children don't belong to their parents but to the great society.

There is no reason why names of students with various school information should be collected like this. If data collection is needed, it can be done without student identification. What are they really doing with this data? There will be a lot more than just marketing.

Hopefully something will be done before NJ gets its data collection system altogether.

1984 is here.

alm said...

I am glad that data privacy stories make the news, and that people care -- the stuff that ProPublica has been doing on consumer data brokers is frankly pretty scary:

The inBloom story is really a different breed, though -- and with respect, I think that the way that you are talking about this is really overheated.

What districts are doing with inBloom is basically just a smarter, more up to date way to do what they've already been doing for years - getting basic roster info into learning platforms/products.

If your district subsidizes SAT Prep via the college board, uses NWEA MAP, or any Scholastic product -- or even library software! -- there's a lot of administrative headache and overhead involved in generating student accounts in a bunch of separate systems. That's what inBloom solves - nothing more, nothing less.

If you read their 'about' page

and their privacy page:

they make this pretty clear.

Having skeptical voices who ask questions is healthy, but I don't think your characterization of 'sharing data about their children with corporations' is fair particularly enlightening.

Mrs. King's music students said...

alm, if what you're saying about student data is correct, I have a story to tell about how intelligent use of student id cards righted a wrong for our school librarian. This year all Camden students were finally assigned id cards which they slide thru various machines that keep account of their activities NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES THEY SWITCH SCHOOLS and puts this info into the hands of staff members who need to know. Well, well, well. Now some students may come to the library to read any book they want, but will never again walk out of the building with them and do whatever they did before that resulted in loss of $$$$ and materials. I immediately ran to admin to ask "can we do this with instruments too?" Unfortunately, I'll probably be retired long before the RIGHT person asks the same question. And all of you band types in non-Camden schools, don't even think about telling me how you've been doing this for years.

Mrs. King's music students said...

My mistake. After I wrote that I remembered that parents in other districts have access to credit cards, etc enabling them to rent or buy materials their children need in school. This also makes it possible for teachers in those districts to just teach and not have to worry if instruments/supplies lent out to one student will come back for the next.

alm said...

Mrs. King -- those are the problems that inBloom and others (Clever, LearnSprout) are trying to solve - automating the connections between different services (SIS, personalized learning, library/food service management, etc).

As a teacher it's a constant source of frustration if these systems aren't in sync.