Sunday, November 3, 2013

State Senator Bob Huff: Education Wolf by Jesse Bluma


State Senator Bob Huff: Education Wolf (Page 1:4)




“I defy teachers”, that from State Senator Bob Huff.  I recently asked Huff a series of questions related to education, Common Core, and political gamesmanship.    

Let us begin with class size.  Imagine yourself as a student or teacher in a California classroom.  A mass of forty desks, one teacher, a whiteboard, bulletin boards, and a sea of students.  That is what prompted me to ask State Senator Huff about the impact of class sizes.   

His response.  Class size does not matter once you go over 13.  Let us ignore the manner of his response, the lack of his evidence, and lack of humanity.  Perhaps Huff needs to hear from the 40+ students in classrooms across the state if class size does not matter.  

Sally in row six needs a teacher to assist her in answering a challenging question about the fall of Rome, while Marcus in row one needs assistance simply understanding the word “fall” in the historical context.  Tell us class size does not matter to the teachers, those in private schools or universities with 100 assignments to assess each day and the teachers in the public schools with 200 to assess each day.  

A study by Professor Alan Kruger of Princeton University found a direct relation to class size and student learning.  State Senator Huff claims class sizes need to be between between “12 to 13” for this to occur.  If Huff considers this unattainable or a luxury out of reach, then he should have considered that prior to supporting Common Core (an over $30 billion initiative).  Students in a classroom of 12 to 13 get more individual attention and tutoring, those in classes 13 to 20 as well, and those 20 to 30.  

I was also curious to hear his response to the differences between students learning and patients getting care by doctors. Mr. Huff purported it is an apples to oranges argument, “Docs work with individuals, not groups”.  While Mr. Huff sees students as masses, as groups, as silent independent shells, I see Tawny, Lorena, Hannah, Ted, Brandon, Jonathan, Jeremy, Aimee, and so on.  While State Senator Huff sees what he wants to see, I see the individual needs of each student, the hopes and dreams of each parent that drops of their child each morning at school, I see the hard work of each student studying for tests, struggling to read, creating, and doing great things with the knowledge and skills they learn in school each day.  No, Mr. Huff.  I do not see apples and oranges.  I see individual students.  

Stubbornly holding to illogical conclusions, such as teachers teach groups and class sizes do not matter, reveals a lot about State Senator Huff.  His mentality is not shared by the peoples of Finland or Japan, the same educational systems Huff and other “education reformers” desire we copy.  We do not need a billion dollar government study to understand doubling or tripling the patient work load of a doctor has a direct affect on the doctor’s time with each patient, the mere energy and stress of the doctor, and the overall health care system.  It is rather odd State Senator Huff does not have the imagination to understand tripling the workload of someone has a large rippling affect.  I imagine if we triple Huff’s constituency, he will not complain, not be over worked, and will still provide excellent service to each person in his district.  

Contrary to Huff’s misinformed stance, class size has a larger impact on student learning than teacher qualifications at every grade level.  Analysis by the United States Department of Education linked achievement to lower and upper grades, as well as a study by Professors James Monks and Roberts Schmidt found the same link in college courses.  Maybe Huff would respond to this analysis by stating class size reduction is too expensive, as it would require hiring more teachers, building more schools, more administrators, etc.  

Again, when considering all the corporate reforms over the decades, all the solutions attempted by edu-celebrities, such as Michelle Rhee, the expense of Common Core, class size reduction was and is possible.  I will concede to State Senator Huff, reducing class sizes in California is a challenge, as state politicians love to spend money on such things as raising their own salaries, a bundled Court Case Management System, and the multi-billion dollar monorail.  

“I don’t like everything about Common Core, but I do believe we need uniform standards that we can better test how students and teachers are doing across state and international lines.  Very difficult to compare what works with so many different standards.”  This is Huff’s stance on Common Core, the federal standards and testing developed by the Pearson Corporation (who holds the copyright on Common Core and who now holds a monopoly on teacher credentialing in many states) and David Coleman.  If we toss aside the incongruity between Huff’s Republican principles and that of federalization, there remains a huge mountain to overcome.  Despite the State of California developing their own educational standards during the 1990s, spending billions of dollars on implementation of those standards, and the true rigor and world class quality of those standards, Huff supported the adoption of Common Core.  Importantly, the adoption of Common Core came with strings attached to receive Race to the Top funds via the federal government.

The costs of Common Core to states, districts, federal government, thus all taxpayers is over $30 billion.  Not to mention the grants from Microsoft, err Gates Foundation, another key player and money maker off Common Core.  State Senator Huff did not address the Common Core (CCSS) testing expense, requiring computers, updating electronic infrastructure, and unknown privacy, hacking, and student data sharing issues.  

Nor did Huff address the test itself.  The CCSS test actually tests student intelligence (I.Q.) and reading comprehension, including in the mathematics section.   If we recall the outrage of politicians with the results of the California State Tests (CSTs) 
each year, a rigorous test for students, how can simply creating an even more rigorous test be better.  This confusing illogic is a mess:  the students of California are not doing as well as we like on the CST, so let’s make a more challenging test...that will fix education!  

The previously administered CST asked students questions related to English-language arts and mathematics skills and content.  The shift in testing to asking students long winded questions, with multiple steps, and multiple answers is a shift to assessing student intelligence quotients.  The reading ability needed on the CST was a challenge for most California students, especially California’s large immigrant population.  The Common Core test will be a larger struggle.    

The Common Core test by the Smarter Balance corporation also requires strong reading skills.  Not only in English-language arts, also in mathematics.  This shift is part of the mission of Common Core to prepare “students for college and career”.  After reading the Common Core standards, materials, and attending their workshops, we see a bias within the standards and the proponents of Common Core.  American education is now poised to funnel students into colleges (what kind is unstated) and careers (explicitly technological and business).  Gone is education for education sake, gone is education for pleasure and discovery, gone is the value of fields requiring craftsmanship, artistry, and those related to trades or factories.  Gone is the developmentally appropriate standards and activities for students kindergarten through grade 12.   

Also neglected by Huff and other Common Core proponents is the lack of teachers on the committee that wrote the standards, no piloting of the initiative, data mining of student and family information, $147 million used by Bill Gates and $100 million by the database company inBloom to promote Common Core, and a $1 billion in taxes through CA proposition 30 to implement Common Core.  

What we get for those billions of dollars.  More tests, tests with advertising in them for IMB and Lego, recycled teaching methods such as Think-Write-Pair-Share, Socratic Discussions, Literacy Circles, Annotating Texts, Cornell Notes, Academic Vocabulary, and emphasis on Non-fiction literature.  Were these the secret, magical ideas not known to teachers prior to Common Core?  Beyond being a blueprint, beyond being a standard, Common Core has created set of prescribed pedagogy that was known and already in use by teachers for thousands of years.  See Socrates.  

Mr. Huff explained his concern that it is “Very difficult to compare what works with so many different standards”.  Thus, we need a common, uniform blueprint for all students and teachers.  Let us pause and read closely his concern.  Each state had their own set of standards, standards they chose, standards they developed, standards they spent billions of dollars on developing, implementing, and actively revising, improving, and continuing.  For 20 years states had their own standards, some 














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