Friday, November 16, 2007

Radical transformation of high schools flying under the radar

Going largely unnoticed by major media, Gates billions are rapidly and radically transforming high schools and turning them into a homogenized monolith reminiscent of the Gleichschaltung of yore. This extraordinary transformation is driven by a nebulous creed called The 3Rs Solution that "education experts" see as a panacea to real, imagined and misdiagnosed problems:

The good news is we know how to fix our broken high schools. We must base them on a brand new set of 3Rs, identified by education experts as the key ingredients of an effective education:

Rigor: all students need the chance to succeed at challenging classes, such as algebra, writing, and chemistry

Relevance: courses and projects must spark student interest and relate clearly to their lives in today’s rapidly changing world

Relationships: all students need adult mentors who know them, look out for them, and push them to achieve
It's unclear what rigor refers to since schools are forced to choose from 2-3 packages heavy on constructivism (inquiry), the antithesis of rigor. Most likely, "rigor" is thrown in because it sounds good. Just like "excellence". Even the crappiest schools sing the praises of "excellence". It's also unclear what is relevant to today's students. Academic content apparently is not.

What is clear is that choice and content are radically reduced. For example here in Chicago (a major target of the Gates assault), the packages high schools are forced to choose do not contain Earth science, a subject an educated person should know something about. Electives are also flying out the window.

Investment to Transform 50 Chicago High Schools to Ensure Students are Prepared for Success

$21 Million Investment by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will Strengthen High School College Prep Curriculum and Instruction

When Gates says jump, our clueless mayor, who is running the schools, asks: How high? An astonishing feat considering the mayor's constitution.


Anonymous said...

It's amazing to me that gates would push this kind of education agenda; has he been poisoned by the educrats? Or is he so myopic nieve to believe that all children are driven to learn as he might have been? It's really puzzling.

Rigor and relevance - makes me want to sell used cars. Jeanne Chall was right.

Andrew Ordover said...

There's nothing wrong with rigor or relevance per se. It's all a matter of how they're defined, and many people doing the defining are...well, shall we just say they're not the brighest lights?

You have to remember that those words are used in opposition to what is happening in too many schools: textbook-driven, rote work, assigned with little or no thought, with little or no thought demanded in return. Asking teachers to engage in more thoughtful practice and truly challenge their children not only to memorize, but to understand and use what they learn--there's nothing wrong with that. The problem is that every teacher is left alone to interpret what that means...which too often leads to cute but content-free projects.

Instructivist said...

"There's nothing wrong with rigor or relevance per se. It's all a matter of how they're defined, and many people doing the defining are...well, shall we just say they're not the brighest lights?"

The problem I am having with this new inquiry regime is that it deprives students of foundational knowledge. Students are asked to solve all kinds of real-world problems without having the requisite tools provided by foundational knowledge. First they were deprived of foundational knowledge in elementary schools where the inquiry regime is entrenched. Now the inquiry cult is grinding up their next chance in high school.

NYC Educator said...

Sorry for being so NY-centric, but your description fit Mayor Mike so well. Anyway, I apologize for misrepresenting you in the carnival and I've corrected it.

Catherine Johnson said...

good lord

Catherine Johnson said...

I love lines like this one:

The good news is we know how to fix our broken high schools.

There are a few people out there who actually do know how to do whole-school reform. (Engelmann & Slavin, I think - right?)

Neither of them has mentioned replacing reading, writing, and arithmetic with rigor, relevance, and relationships.

Anonymous said...

At my igh-schoool we have moved away from the 45 min period to the 84 minute block. No more basic level either, nowwe have college- prep mixed with kids who will never go to college, otr if they do they will not last. But with differentiated instruction and student-centered learning these kids will magically move on to college ready to go, as the more advanced kids will have brought them up to speed, because, of course students learn better from each other doing hands-on work, than they can from a teacher, even if its history or English. I am really about to leave teaching after 13 years. And it seems that this new blather about the 21st century classroom is the latest rationale for progressive piffle. Can we somehow band together and stop this nonsense?