Tuesday, April 18, 2006
THE MONEY AND POWER
BEHIND THE 'LEARNING COMMUNITY' CONCEPT
THIS WEEK: SPECIAL REPORT
ON THE CRISIS INVOLVING
THE FUTURE OF THE OMAHA PUBLIC SCHOOLS
AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF NEBRASKA EDUCATION
INTO “LEARNING COMMUNITIES”
Hats off to gubernatorial candidate
who has said he would have vetoed LB 1024.
Hats off, too, to gubernatorial candidate
whose plan to share responsibility for Omaha’s failing schools
among the surrounding metro school districts
would have prevented this whole mess,
threats of lawsuits,
and set up much-needed, healthy competition
and individual district autonomy
instead of a massive consolidation as with LB 1024.
THE MONEY AND POWER
BEHIND THE 'LEARNING COMMUNITY' CONCEPT
Second in a series.
The “learning community” that would be established unifying all Omaha metro-area schools in Douglas and Sarpy Counties is the logical next step in the consolidation of schools within Nebraska into what essentially will be one statewide school district with local public schools reduced to local branches of government services.
What will make it a “community” is that all curriculum, assessment, personnel data, student data, and other information will be on computer – linked – grouped – consolidated – sharing funding and rendering moot any existing individual district management and decision-making power.
Rather than teachers and books holding center stage, the emphasis will be on centrally-derived, computer-assisted and data-driven instruction and assessment. All will be tightly focused on workplace development, rather than academic development. Not only parents, but teachers, will basically be “out of the loop” when it comes to shaping and influencing what’s being learned.
If the law isn’t stopped, get used to some strange new terminology coming out of the “local education agencies” we used to call “schools” that will be part of this massive new “learning community.” They include:
Certificate of Initial Mastery – schools will “certify” students as being workforce-ready; this replacement of the traditional “diploma” is intended to satisfy those who yearn for educational “equity” because it presents the deceit that physical labor and intellectual labor are the same.
Individual Career Plans (or Individual Learning Plans) – career exploration will begin in kindergarten and “pigeonhole” kids into rigid college prep or voc/ed tracks based on future labor-force needs assessments by central committees, with further specialization within those tracks, by the middle-school years.
Apprenticeships – these will be part of the redesigned secondary education for more than 80% of the students, moving a significant portion of some students’ educations away from school and into the workplace; these are a key reason why the educrats are fighting so hard to reorganize the school day into “block schedules” to “free up” sufficient time for job training and reduce time for traditional academics.
Applied Learning – Classic subjects such as English composition, chemistry and calculus are already in the process of being dumbed-down into concentrating on basic skills, so that a person taking a dumbed-down version of applied chemistry can score an “A” and feel good about himself, while the same knowledge base probably wouldn’t even garner a “D” in classic chemistry.
What’s gone on in Nebraska in recent days offers a rare peek behind the veil of the purpose of all the educational “restructuring” that’s been going on for the past several years – which the vast majority of the voters and taxpayers have no idea is happening.
The change merges preschool education with traditional K-12 schooling, on up to what’s euphemistically called “Grade 16” – post-high school studies in university or voc-tech settings – and through linkages to employers, the system will continue throughout each person’s life with continuing education and retraining in the workforce.
It’s no accident that the money for this enormous change in the philosophy, purpose and governance of public education has basically come from big companies that sell computers and software, including Intel, IBM, Microsoft and Apple. They’re joined by many left-leaning foundations and non-government organizations from far outside Nebraska which seek to replace local control of public schools with a nationalized system easier to sell to and deal with.
Nebraska is ahead of other states in setting in place the dumbed-down minimum “standards” that have been “benchmarked” to the needs of entry-level employers, so it is ripe for another giant step into the school-to-work system, and this is it.
And it didn’t just come out of nowhere. It’s been part of a plan for years. That’s why a 158-page amendment that rewrote LB 1024 suddenly materialized at 8 p.m. during the high-stress debating in the Legislature’s waning hours – almost literally the last minute – that set this new law in place with such mind-boggling complexity.
And the change is so mind-boggling, it’s obvious that it has little or nothing to do with zeroing in on the original problem, how to meet the needs of low-income and non-English speaking pupils within the Omaha Public Schools.
Note p. 38:
“Reorganization of school districts means the formation of new school districts that will become members of a learning community . . . the alteration of boundaries of established school districts that are members of a learning community (ed. note: all metro districts in Douglas/Sarpy are in the "learning community") . . . the dissolution or disorganization of established school districts that are members of the learning community through or by means of any one or combination of the methods set out in section 31 of this act, and any other alteration of school district boundaries involving a school district that is a member of a learning community."
Rather than assume that the “learning community” concept was originated by State Sen. Ron Raikes of Lincoln, author of LB 1024, it should be noted that “learning communities” are being set up all across the country with computer linkage between the worlds of education and employment. The term “learning community” originated in the computer industry and in fact, Nebraska is behind most other states in the infrastructure, though not behind in all areas.
The process began about 20 years ago with the forcing of Outcome-Based Education into Nebraska’s public schools over the objections of parents and educators alike. To their dismay, content-based academic standards that centered on knowledge were replaced with “performance” standards that centered on attitudes and skills. Objective, standardized tests were replaced with “criterion-referenced assessments” prepared in-house by the same educators the tests are supposedly holding accountable.
A pupil’s grades became worthless as an accountability tool as schooling changed to a “mastery” or “non-mastery” evaluation system, the hallmark of Outcome-Based Education. Instead of individual teachers and districts selecting from a wide range of curricula, choices were sharply-narrowed and aligned with the state standards, which in turn drive the curriculum and assessments today.
Traditional, teacher-led, content-based curriculum and instruction was gradually replaced with “wholistic,” “progressive” philosophies such as whole language, whole math, cooperative group learning, grades based on subjective criteria instead of objective tests and scores, and computer-assisted instruction.
The “outcomes” developed for key subject areas such as English and math were renamed as “standards” when many Nebraskans squawked about the sea change in methodologies and philosophies. Around the country, almost every state “developed” standards that are nearly identical to each other’s, boilerplated by non-governing organizations such as:
The National Center for Education and the Economy, whose chief, Marc Tucker, is a colleague of Hillary Rodham Clinton, www.ncee.org
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, www.carnegiefoundation.org
The New Standards Project, run by Lauren Resnick, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, http://www.lrdc.pitt.edu/
ACHIEVE, dedicated to make state standards merge into one set of national standards, www.achieve.org; note board members and contributors including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Microsoft), the Hewlett Foundation, Intel, IBM, etc.; visit this subpage, http://www.achieve.org/achieve.nsf/StateProfiles-50Results?OpenForm, to see how Nebraska compares to other states on the road to restructuring schools as workforce development centers.
Pew Charitable Trust, www.pewtrusts.org
Annenberg Foundation, www.whannenberg.org
New American Schools Development Corporation, www.naschools.org
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, www.nctm.org
National Council of Teachers of English, www.ncte.org
National Academy of Sciences, www.nasonline.org
. . . and many more.
For a thorough review of what’s going on and how it shook out in the State of Ohio a few years ago, see this report prepared by Diane Fessler, former member of the Ohio State Board of Education and now an Ohio state senator:
“A Report on the Work Toward National Standards, Assessments and Certificates”
Wednesday: the role of the Nebraska Department of Education and others.
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