Raise test Scores – win a prize

I was horrified by recent news referring to U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s education platform. The newsflash reported that if elected president, Kerry would reward teachers for increased student achievement. The news media may have over-simplified a more comprehensive policy statement or the Kerry campaign may have distributed this bumper sticker slogan for its own purposes. Either hypothesis is plausible since there is so little thoughtful discourse on the status or future of public education.

In his book, Political Leadership and Educational Failure, Seymour Sarason reminds us that although we expect that our elected officials will be briefed by the best and brightest experts when concerned with issues of taxation, highway resurfacing or sewage, no such expectation exists for discussions of education policy. Members of both parties seem to increase in ignorance proportionate to their proximity to schooling decisions. After all, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy cosponsored No Child Left Behind.

Taken at face value, reports of the Kerry proposal could suggest either a generous desire to increase teacher pay or a cynical scheme to pander to the electorate. While I’m supportive of dramatic increases in teacher compensation, merit pay is a mischievous idea that continues to plague public education.

Is the key to educational quality a tip jar for teachers?

In a Harvard Business Review article, Alfie Kohn states, “… at least two dozen studies over the last three decades have conclusively shown that people who expect to receive a reward for completing a task … simply do not perform as well as those who expect no reward at all. … Incentives [or bribes] simply can’t work in the workplace.” You don’t have to agree with fuzzy teacher lovers like Kohn. The week of the Kerry announcement I read articles in Business Week and Business 2.0 stating unequivocally that incentive pay does not work in the workplace. W. Edward Demings opposes the destructive effects of merit pay as do Peopleware authors Lister and DeMarco. They detail how extrinsic rewards and performance reviews contribute to teamicide, the unintentional destruction of well-jelled teams. Most people believe they do the best job possible and reviews that merely reflect this fact lead to disappointment, lower morale and drive a wedge between colleagues. Even seemingly innocuous schemes like “employee of the month” do little to motivate excellent employees, but can increase resentment.

Countless psychologists have demonstrated how extrinsic rewards are unsustainable since the bribe must be continuously increased in order to maintain the same level of performance.

Making Enemies

Perhaps teachers are different. Could it be that they are more mercenary than Enron employees or waiters jockeying for tips? If it doesn’t work in industry, why is it constantly touted asthe cure for all educational ills? Merit pay is a ridiculous idea for improving teacher quality for a number of reasons. Let me share a few:

Teachers are not in it for the money. Remuneration is low on the list of reasons why people become and remain educators. While all teachers would prefer to earn more money, it is not a high priority.

Merit pay shifts all responsibility to teachers. Teachers would like to be treated more professionally and have their judgment trusted. Merit pay denies teachers autonomy through a top-down manipulation, yet holds them responsible for student performance.

Student performance is based on multiple factors. A good teacher can make a huge impact on the life and development of a student. However, human development is complex and learning is not merely the result of being taught.

Merit pay makes students the enemy. Linking teacher pay to test score increases invariably leads to teacher resentment of the very kids they are employed to serve.

Will Teach for Bonuses

The message implicit in political demands for pay linked to accountability is that teachers are failing to assist students until they get an extra food pellet. Demonizing teachers is so much easier than assuming responsibility for meaningful education policy.

According to his campaign Web site, Senator Kerry appears to offer a more comprehensive, less punitive vision for public education. Regardless of this November’s election results, I hope public policy will lead a serious national effort to benefit children without scapegoating teachers.

Gary Stager, gary@stager.org, is editorat- large and an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University.

This weekend, my nephew could not fully attend to visiting his grandmother in the hospital because he had very important homework to finish. That’s right, this fourteen year-old high-achieving student needed to color a worksheet of an Aztec God for Social Studies class. Grandma would just have to wait! Coloring is apparently one of those “21st Century Skills” you hear so much about.

Although the positive effects of homework are largely mythical, there is plenty of evidence that is detrimental in countless ways. One under-discussed issue surrounding homework policies is just how much homework is time-wasting crap designed, as John Taylor-Gatto reminds us, to extend the surveillance powers of the school into the personal time and space of children.

Teenagers being asked to spend their non-school hours coloring know that the assignment is ridiculous and may feel the same way about you.

So teachers, why do you do it?

Is the moronic consumption of kids’ time based on a lack of imagination and slavish adherence to someone else’s curriculum or because “the devil made me do it?” The “Flip Wilson defense” is as inexcusable and unconscionable as the “Nuremberg Defense.”

If children cannot count on you to insulate them from the madness of the world, who can they trust?


Read more:

I also wrote about coloring in high school in the 2003 article, “A Whole Lotta Coloring Going On.

  1. The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn
  2. The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning by Etta Kralovek and John Buell
  3. The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish

Homework articles by Alfie Kohn:

I created Constructing Modern Knowledge (CMK) four years ago as a labor of love. I was  growing increasingly concerned that educators lacked the time necessary to develop fluency with the software environments they embrace for students and may not have a deep enough understanding of learning theory or progressive educational practices to situate classroom computer use in a meaningful context. I also wanted to help leaders in the progressive education community recognize that computers are not the enemy of creativity and intellectual development.

It is enormously gratifying to see CMK become more successful each year. It is equally mind-blowing to think that Jonathan Kozol, Deborah Meier, Alfie Kohn, Lella Gandini, Derrick Pitts, Bob Tinker, James Loewen, Mitchel Resnick, Peter Reynolds and Marvin Minsky would agree to participate in my intimate summer institute. The greatest joy of my life is creating opportunities for educators to meet and spend time with their heroes. CMK does just that.

The CMK faculty of Cynthia Solomon, Brian Silverman, Sylvia Martinez & John Stetson are the best in the world. Cynthia and Brian are responsible for many of the open-ended software tools and pedagogical approaches constructivist educators employ when they teach with computers. Sylvia is an expert software developer, curriculum designer and student empowerment advocate. John Stetson is quite simply the best teacher I have ever met. They work together and with CMK participants like a well-oiled machine.

There is still room for additional registrants at this year’s Constructing Modern Knowledge institute! Register today!

Great news!

Registrations for CMK 2011 – July 11-14, 2011 are terrific!. In order to maintain the quality of educational experience I demand, I have expanded the real estate for our learning environment and added an additional expert educator to serve on our faculty.

I met Jeff Richardson for the first time twenty-one years ago, minutes after landing in Australia for the first time. I came to Sydney with Seymour Papert and Brian Silverman to speak at the 1990 World Conference on Computers in Education. Jeff was already teaching online graduate courses and had taught countless educators across Australia how to teach with computers in a constructionist fashion. Jeff had a cellular telephone back then when they were the size of a lunchbox, but still prefers PINE as his email program 🙂

We became great friends and have worked together in numerous capacities ever since. Jeff’s breadth and depth of knowledge is remarkable – bordering on maddening. He is a briilliant educator, lifelong learner and raconteur. The skills he has developed over thirty years on Australian public radio will make an important contribution to CMK participants’ interactions with our amazing guest speakers.

The following is a little more biographical information on Jeff Richardson, just one more reason why you should register for Constructing Modern Knowledge 2011!

Jeff Richardson

Jeff Richardson is the Director of Student Services for Trinity College at the University of Melbourne. For decades, Jeff was a senior lecturer in education at Monash University where he was a pioneer in online learning, even before the graphical Web. As a result, Mr. Richardson taught a generation of educators across Australia to use computers in a constructionist fashion. Jeff was also a primary teacher and taught at RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) as well. He was the Australian editor for The Logo Exchange.

When not teaching or supporting students, Jeff Richardson is one of Australia’s most enduring and popular radio personalities. Jeff is host and a founder of The Coodabeen Champions, a comedy troupe with multiple shows on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), now celebrating its 30th anniversary – the same number of years Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show. Jeff is also the substitute co-host for ABC Breakfast Radio in Melbourne. He also sang the Coodabeens’ hit song, That’s the Thing About Football, before more than 100,000 at an Aussie Rules Football Grand Final (think Superbowl).

The Coodabeens have enjoyed best-selling books, songs and albums. Their motto (below) oddly captures the spirit of Constructing Modern Knowledge.

“You’re only young once, but anyone can be immature”

On October 4, 2010, I had the great privilege of participating in a webinar sponsored by Edutopia and featuring a stunning panel of experts charged with addressing alternative visions of school reform.

It is this freedom of the teacher to decide and, indeed, the freedom of the children to decide, that is most horrifying to the bureaucrats who stand at the head of current education systems. They are worried about how to verify that the teachers are really doing their job properly, how to enforce accountability and maintain quality control. They prefer the kind of curriculum that will lay down, from day to day, from hour to hour, what the teacher should be doing, so that they can keep tabs on it. Of course, every teacher knows this is an illusion. It’s not an effective method of insuring quality. It is only a way to cover ass. Everybody can say, “I did my bit, I did my lesson plan today, I wrote it down in the book.” Nobody can be accused of not doing the job. But this really doesn’t work. What the bureaucrat can verify and measure for quality has nothing to do with getting educational results–those teachers who do good work, who get good results, do it by exercising judgment and doing things in a personal way, often undercover, sometimes even without acknowledging to themselves that they are violating the rules of the system. Of course one must grant that some people employed as teachers do not do a good job. But forcing everyone to teach by the rules does not improve the “bad teachers”–it only hobbles the good ones. (Seymour Papert – Perestroika & Epistemological Pluralism, 1990)

Please subscribe to my free newsletter

Here are some resources related to my presentation:

Mark your calendars!

A few days ago, Edutopia asked me to write another piece voicing my objections to NBC’s Education Nation coverage and the deeply flawed documentary, “Waiting for Superman.” I suggested that they host a webinar instead. I had already tweeted, blogged and Facebooked so much that I inexplicably lost my voice.

Edutopia took the suggestion and enlisted boy wonder, Steve Hargaddon, to organize and host the event entitled, Elevating the Education Reform Debate. This two hour webinar will feature some of the voices silenced by NBC, Oprah and director Davis Guggenheim. They include my heroes and colleagues, Deborah Meier and Alfie Kohn; friends, Chris Lehmann and Will Richardson; YouTube sensation, Sir Ken Robinson; and Julie Evans. I cannot wait to hear what they (or I) will say on Monday.

Wake the kids and call your neighbors! This is an event you won’t want to miss!

This Elluminate webinar is FREE and open to the entire World Wide Web.

Date: Monday, October 4, 2010
Time: 2pm Pacific / 5pm Eastern / 9pm GMT (international times here)
Duration: 2 hours
Location
: Log in at http://tr.im/futureofed
Recordings: Posted after the event at http://www.learncentral.org/event/106358
Note: Conference organizers have a nasty tendency to book me last on the program, this webinar may be no exception. Therefore, stick around for Sir Ken and hangout for me to bring up the rear. I promise not to disappoint!

alfie reading smallCross-posted from the Constructing Modern Knowledge site. Web2.0pians should pay special attention to his mention of  “personal learning communities.”

Educators fortunate enough to attend Constructing Modern Knowledge 2010 got to withness an amazing conversation between two of America’s most provocative and accomplished educators, Alfie Kohn and Deborah Meier (watch this site for video in the near future). Mark your calendars for a mind-blowing Constructing Modern Knowledge 2011, to be held July 11-14, 2011. Registration details will be posted here in early September.


Sign-up for news from Constructing Modern Knowledge and the Constructivist Consortium


Alfie began his CMK 2010 remarks by reading the draft of a stunning editorial he was preparing for publication in Education Week. The article, Turning Children Into Data: A Skeptic’s Guide to Assessment Programs, is a must read for any educator, parent or policy-maker who cares about children. Ken Bernstein also blogged about this article in The Daily Kos.

Kohn’s article begins with:

Programs with generic-sounding names that offer techniques for measuring (and raising) student achievement have been sprouting like fungi in a rainforest: “Learning-Focused Schools,” “Curriculum-Based Measurements,” “Professional Learning Communities,” and many others whose names include “data,” “progress,” or “RTI.” Perhaps you’ve seen their ads in periodicals like this one. Perhaps you’ve pondered the fact that they can afford these ads, presumably because of how much money they’ve already collected from struggling school districts

and then continues to list six questions that need to be asked…

  1. What is its basic conception of assessment?
  2. What is its goal?
  3. Does it reduce everything to numbers?
  4. Is it about “doing to” or “working with”?
  5. Is its priority to support kids’ interest?
  6. Does it avoid excessive assessment?

As always, Alfie supports his arguments with research-based evidence and common sense. Given the load of horse manure recently published by John Merrow and echoed by Grant Wiggins in a shocking display of contempt for teachers, Alfie Kohn’s column could not have come at a better time. Please share it widely.

Perhaps you’d like to leave a few copies around at Back-to-School Night along with his small book, The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools.

Share your comments below!

Alfie Kohn & Deborah Meier at CMK 2010

Alfie Kohn & Deborah Meier at CMK 2010

summer-readingSummer Reading Suggestions

Here is a list of suggested reading by written by CMK 2010 faculty or recommended by them.

Whether you can join us July 12-15th or not, learning is a lifelong pursuit fueled by the powerful ideas and joy contained within the pages of the following books!

James Loewen

Constructing Modern Knowledge attempts to bring math, science, engineering and the arts to life through creative computing, authentic inquiry and project-based learning. This year, Dr. James Loewen, author of the bestselling books, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong and Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong will help participants learn history by learning to be historians!

His most recent book, Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing History, is a critically important addition to any professional library and teacher bag of tricks!

Alfie Kohn

Alfie Kohn has written some of the most popular, provocative and acclaimed books about education in the past quarter century. Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The latest of his eleven books are The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (2006) and Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason (2005). Of his earlier titles, the best known are Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes (1993), No Contest: The Case Against Competition (1986), and The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and “Tougher Standards” (1999).

Perhaps most exciting of all, two riveting hour-long presentations by Alfie are now available on one low-cost DVD. No Grades + No Homework = Better Learning allows you take Alfie Kohn home with you after CMK 2010 and share him with your colleagues!

Check out all of Alfie Kohn’s books in the Constructivist Consortium Bookstore!

Deborah Meier

Legendary school teacher, principal, reformer, activist and blogger, MacArthur Genius Deborah Meier had a new book just released, Playing for Keeps: Life and Learning on a Public School Playground. This book should be on your shelf next to her classics, The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem and In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization.

The rest of her books may be found here.

Peter Reynolds

Peter Reynolds has written or illustrated popular children’s books that have sold millions of copies and are beloved around the world. He will also host us at his fabled FableVision Studio!

Pete loves chilren’s books so much, he owns his own children’s bookstore, The Blue Bunny.

Check some of Peter’s books here!

Dr. Cynthia Solomon

In addition to being a veteran educator, researcher and one of the three inventors of the Logo programming language, she has written two important books on computers and learning! Cynthia’s doctoral research at Harvard led to the publication of the critical book, Computer Environments for Children: A Reflection on Theories of Learning and Education. Cynthia Solomon is also the co-author of Designing Multimedia Environments for Children, with Allison Drum.

I can’t imagine Constructing Modern Knowledge without Cynthia’s generosity of spirit!

Read all about the Constructing Modern Knowledge 2010 faculty here


While not all of the CMK 2010 faculty have books in-print, they all love to read. They were asked to recommend books to enjoy before, during and long after CMK 2010!

Brian Silverman

Brian recommended the following ecclectic collection of books.

The Mind’s I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self & Soul by Douglas R. Hofstadter & Daniel C. Dennett
A collection of essays about the philosophy of mind. Some are amusing, others profound, several are both.

He, She, and It by Marge Piercy
An artificial intelligence robot love story told from a Jewish feminist perspective. Amazingly it works. It reads like something that could have been co-authored by Marvin Minsky and Margaret Atwood.

The Recursive Universe: Cosmic Complexity and the Limits of Scientific Knowledge by William Poundstone
The book starts by describing Conway’s Game of Life. Then uses the game as a metaphor to explore a collection of interesting topics in math, physics, and information theory.

Machinery of Life by David Goodsell
A molecular biology picture book. It gives a gentle but thorough introduction to the molecules that are the construction kit that living things are made of.

On Education by Betrand Russell
Bertrand Russell’s riff on Mindstorms. It was written a couple of years before Seymour Papert was born and foreshadows many of his ideas.

John Stetson

John said, “The first two have been favorites for some time; the rest of the list is current reading.”

Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sachs
Oliver’s mother gave him a cadaver for his birthday. The Wright Brothers visited his home when they were in London. Oliver tried to relive the joy of discovery by reproducing the experiments of Humphrey Davey. The book is filled with chemicals that when mixed explode.

The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroski
The history of how the pencil came to be and the history of engineering in the U.S., i.e., the Erie Canal, the first engineering schools in the 1850’s, etc.

Infinite Ascent: A Short History of Mathematics by David Belinski
A history of mathematics, Euclid, Euler, all the greats …

Astronomical Sketching: A Step-by-Step Introduction by Erika Rix
Some of my students have followed the guidelines in this book and published their sketches at the Astronomy Sketch of the Day website

The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance by Ron Chernow
Yes, Louisiana and Florida defaulted on bonds (issued in London) during the 1840’s. One of Morgan’s board members advocated for socialism. How did we get into the current banking mess? Read this book.

Sylvia Martinez

Painting Chinese: A Lifelong Teacher Gains the Wisdom of Youth by Herb Kohl
A gorgeous meditation on learning, teaching and life by one of the world’s great educators and education writers!

The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School In The Age Of The Computer & The Connected Family: Bridging the Digital Generation Gap by Seymour Papert
You can’t think about thinking with computers without being well-versed in the wisdom of Seymour Papert!

The Book of Learning and Forgetting by Frank Smith
One of the best books ever written about learning…

Teaching as Story Telling: : An Alternative Approach to Teaching and Curriculum in the Elementary School by Kieran Egan
An overlooked classic that should be part of any creative teacher’s library

Dr. Gary Stager

Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education by David Perkins
A critically important book for curriculum planners and teachers – a much more thoughtful alternative to the much more pedestrian and coercive Understanding by Design

Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities by Jason Shiga
An absolutely gorgeous, fascinating and fun choose-your-own adventure book in the form of a graphic novel

A Schoolmaster of the Great City: A Progressive Education Pioneer’s Vision for Urban Schools by Angelo Patri
This book identifies and SOLVES every problem facing public education today. Oh yeah, Patri published this book in 1917! An amazing read!

To Teach: The Journey in Comics by Bill Ayers
Bill Ayer’s classic tale of teaching republished as a graphic novel

HowToons: The Possibilties are Endless by Saul Griffith
Wicked cool science experiments and engineering projects for kids presented in cartoon form.

In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, Researching and Learning by Carlina Rinaldi (President of Reggio Children and Director of the Loris Malaguzzi International Center in Reggio Emilia, Italy)
There are many fabulous books that help you learn from the innovations of the educators in Reggio Emilia, Italy. (list here) This book is so heavy, you can read and re-read it for years to come!

Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World by Mark Frauenfelder
The Editor of Make Magazine shares his DIY adventures, the values of tinkering and learning to learn.

Number Freak: From 1 to 200- The Hidden Language of Numbers Revealed by Derrick Niederman
You might think of this as an exciting biography of numbers!

Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share by Ken Denmead
Cool modern high and low-tech projects you can do with your kids

Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) by Gever Tulley
‘Nuff said

The Society of Mind by Marvin Minsky
Dr. Marvin Minsky’s seminal book

The Emotion Machine by Marvin Minsky
Dr. Marvin Minsky’s most recent book on artificial intelligence

Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope by Jonathan Kozol
Kozol has published countless gems, but this book moves me in incalcuable ways. This may be his most beautiful book.

El Sistema: Music to Changes Life (DVD)
Theere be no more exciting youth movement in the world than Venezuela’s El Sistema. This film will remind you of the potential in each child and make you want to sing, dance and change the world.

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) by Richard Feynman
This may be the only great ROTFL “beach read” by a Nobel Laureate for Physics you’ll ever read. I have given countless copies away as gifts to teenagers, colleagues and even grandparents!

Landon Carter’s Uneasy Kingdom: Revolution and Rebellion on a Virginia Plantation by Rhys Isaac
My Aussie friend, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History, recreates life in Colonial America through the diaries and artifacts of a Virginia plantation owner.

The Next Fifty Years: Science in the First Half of the Twenty-First Century by John Brockman
Provocative thinkers and great scientists speculate about how life and science may change by 2050

History in the Making: An Absorbing Look at How American History Has Changed in the Telling Over the Last 200 Years by Kyle Roy Ward
What we may not know or understand incorrectly about US History.

Not Written in Stone: Learning and Unlearning American History Through 200 Years of Textbooks by Kyle Roy Ward
A classroom edition of “History in the Making”

American History Revised: 200 Startling Facts That Never Made It into the Textbooks by Seymour Morris Jr.
Another book about the wonders of history

Read all about the Constructing Modern Knowledge 2010 faculty here


Be sure to explore many more recommended books and resources for creative educators at Thc Constructivist Consortium Bookstore!


Subscribe to Gary Stager’s blog, Stager-to-Go or peruse his articles and papers.


Learn more about The Constructivist Consortium!


New CokeWell, it’s 2:11 AM and I’m here in Denver for a week of ISTE (or are we supposed to call it the ISTE Conference?) Believe it or not, I am one of the signatories to the original ISTE Charter from back in ‘ye olden days when “computer” was removed from the titles of organizations and magazines! I still can’t help, but think that changing NECC to ISTE is akin to New Coke.

That said, I look forward to catching-up with friends, leading the Constructivist Celebration and making two new presentations at the 23rd or 24th NECC/ISTE I’ve spoken at since 1987.

This year marks my 20th anniversary working in 1:1 environments since I led the first professional development at the world’s first two “laptop schools” and it’s my 28th year working with children, teachers and computers.

Here are the program links to the sessions I’ll be presenting at ISTE 2010

Creativity 2.0: The Quest for Meaning, Beauty, and Excellence Add to Planner Add to Planner
[Formal Session: Spotlight]
Monday, 6/28/2010, 11:00am–12:00pm, CCC Four Seasons Ballroom 2/3
Gary Stager, Pepperdine University
Digital-Age Teaching & Learning : Project, Challenge, & Problem-Based Curricula

Authors and pundits stress the importance of creativity, but what does it look like in classrooms? How do we get there? What needs to change?  Recommended by ISTE’s SIG1to1

20 Lessons from 20 Years of 1-to-1 Teaching Add to Planner Add to Planner
[Formal Session: Lecture]
Monday, 6/28/2010, 3:30pm–4:30pm, CCC 205/207
Gary Stager, Pepperdine University
School Improvement : One-to-One Initiatives

The lessons learned over 20 years around the world are invaluable for schools contemplating 1-to-1 computing and those seeking greater educational returns on their investment.  Recommended by ISTE’s SIG1to1

I’ve also been invited to yuck it up with my old (geologically old) friends on Tuesday at one of ISTE’s most popular sessions!

LOL @ ISTE: Bring Popcorn and an Open Mind Add to Planner Add to Planner
[Formal Session: Spotlight]
Tuesday, 6/29/2010, 12:30pm–1:30pm, CCC 505/506
Saul Rockman, Rockman Et Al Inc with Michael Jay, Heidi Rogers, Ferdi Serim, Gary Stager and Elliot Soloway
Professional Learning : Student, Teacher, and/or Administrator Leader Preparation

The usual collection of punsters, jokesters, storytellers, and really terrible singers strive to explain why technology is so important in education.

Plans are shaping up brilliantly for Constructing Modern Knowledge 2010. I wish every single educator on earth could spend four days with us building, creating, collaborating, messing-about and discussing matters of learning, teaching and school reform with some of the leading educational thinkers of our time. I’ve been speaking with Deborah Meier, Alfie Kohn and James Loewen this week and can assure you that CMK 2010 will be historic!

One of the best pieces of news I received this week was that Chris Lehmann, Principal of Science Leadership Academy is coming to CMK as a participant. It takes a mighty great educational leader to dedicate four days to learning in public!

There are still spots available and time to register. Don’t miss out!

Now, it’s 2:50 AM!

Some of the best minds and accomplished innovators in education are gathering at Constructing Modern Knowledge 2010, July 12-15, 2010 in Manchester, NH. Popular author, researcher and fearless provocateur Alfie Kohn, was a guest speaker at the inaugural event in 2008 and will be with us again.

To help spread the word, we have posted several compelling clips from Alfie’s last conversation at Constructing Modern Knowledge.

There is still plenty of time to register for the best professional learning event of the year. Where else can you engage in conversations with the likes of Alfie Kohn, Deborah Meier, James Loewen or Peter Reynolds and design exciting creative high-tech projects with support from Sylvia Martinez, Brian Silverman, Gary Stager and John Stetson? Exciting social events are planned as well!

Don’t miss out!

Register

New Ravitch bookEducation historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education for the first President Bush, Diane Ravitch has just published an extraordinary book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. The book should be required reading for every policy-maker, citizen and educator.

The extraordinary reporting found in the book can not help but convince Americans that their public education system is endangered by the politicians, billionaire mischief-makers, foundations and business groups professing to “fix” the “broken” system.

Similar accusations have been leveled before in books by Alfie Kohn, Susan Ohanian, Gerald Bracey, Herb Kohl, Jonathan Kozol, Deborah Meier, Linda Darling-Hammond and others. What makes this book so extraordinary is that it was written by a proponent of many of the reforms Ravitch herself now admits are destroying public education.

That’s right, Dr. Ravitch is the rare scholar/leader who when confronted by the actual application of theory is capable of rethinking her assumptions. Ravitch has also severed ties to many of the conservative think-tanks with whom she no longer shares similar views and has had the courage to expose her change-of-heart and mind publicly in this book and in the spectacular blog, Bridging Differences, she writes with (CMK 2010 guest speaker) Deborah Meier.

Ravitch challenges the current fetishes of merit pay, mayoral control, charter schools, vouchers and standardized testing while also questioning the statistical plausibility of the test score miracles being touted by politicians like Arne Duncan and NYC Mayor Bloomberg. At the same time, Ravitch advocates a national curriculum (albeit a richer one than proposed), an idea I find extremely troublesome. Without sentimentality, Ravitch’s new book is a love letter to public education and the democratic ideals it fosters.

The story of personal transformation late in life is generating an unprecedented level of publicity for a book about education. I am most grateful to Dr. Ravitch for placing these issues at the center of mainstream media debate for the first time. I intend to write something substantive about the book once I have an adequate chance to digest it. In the meantime, I recommend you read the following reviews of the book.

  1. Little Dead Schoolhouse – Boston Globe 2/28/10
  2. “Teacher Ken’s” comprehensive review of the book for the Daily Kos – 2/28/10 (highly recommended)
  3. Business principles won’t work for school reform,  former supporter Ravitch says – Washington Post – 2/26/10
  4. Los Angeles Times review – 2/28/10
  5. Why You Should Read Diane Ravitch’s New Book – Washington Post – 2/26/10

You might also find these resources useful: