Friday, November 27, 2015

On Cuomo and Incompetency Based Education

Like sweet soma in Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel Brave New World, a dose of "competency based" education has arrived to pacify the public.

Rather than with super-sized standardized tests taken once a year—tests which are less popular than purgatory—the profiteers of public education now seek to lure schools into oblivion via the sirens of software.

If the plutocrats get their way—and they usually do—steaming piles of tests will be served even more frequently, albeit sealed in smaller, digital packages. The fates of schools will ride on kids' keyboards, as each log-in will at long last expose the incompetency of their principals and teachers. 

With No. 2 pencils soon going the way of pay phones and mix tapes, politicians will call for even more computers inside (and out of) the classroom. Besides, it's the 21st century, and technology is finally smarter than people. Tying teacher evaluations to computer-based tests will make sense to many, at least at first. Kids will enthusiastically complete tasks formerly known as high-stakes tests and be cajoled by computers into achieving proficiency.

Over time, however, this will become a fool's errand; the "bar will rise" just enough to placate parents and turn effective teachers ineffective. Educators will also ironically have no choice but to embrace this software since their careers will depend on it. Computers will spew forth weekly ratings of teachers and schools that will make Bill Gates swoon. Meanwhile, companies like Pearson, Questar and Google will collect pearls of data on our kids, for sale on the open market.  

Though the opt-out movement has apparently burrowed deep enough beneath the skin of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that the Lobbyist for the Students is reportedly considering amending his test-centric teacher evaluation law (APPR), it remains to be seen what, if anything, will actually change. All signs point to Cuomo once again including education "reforms" in the state budget—a cynical and selfish ploy which leaves schools in the hands of the infamous three men in a room.

If Cuomo was serious about improving education, he would compel the legislature to take up changes to his APPR immediately instead of five minutes before the budget's due.

Embedding education in the budget has forced heavy-hearted legislators to either forsake funding or vote for ludicrous laws they don't even read. And though Cuomo has hinted that he now wants nothing to do with high-stakes tests, don't be surprised if the words "technology" and "competency" are peppered throughout his proposals. Cuomo may indeed offer to remove traditional tests in exchange for competency based benchmarks, technology touchstones or pathways to proficiency; he's still searching for the right euphemism. As usual, all of this will come at a cost, with districts who agree to these deforms promised increased bandwidths and refurbished iPads. Sleazy budgetary bribes are how Cuomo "gets things done", after all.

It was just ten days ago that Cuomo expressed a desire to replace teachers with computers.  
Parents and teachers must therefore verify but not trust his overtures on education, be they from anonymous "administration officials" (i.e. Cuomo) or Cuomo himself.

And if Cuomo thinks computers are the answer, he should first try replacing himself with one. 

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