Preparing the future worker bees of America

Preparing the future worker bees of America

There's a test at the end of this, so read, click, and watch carefully.

Penny Pritzker is just off the Chicago Board of Ed now, purportedly heading to DC to become Commerce Secretary.

She served for the last two years but has long been connected with corporate education reform. She's a huge charter supporter, ushering Stand for Children here and lending her family name to Noble Street's Pritzker College Prep (just like Rauner!). Pritzker herself used her role on the board to energetically support the mayor's efforts to lengthen school day and year, shut down schools, and expand charters, and was instrumental in bringing Barbara Byrd Bennett to town.

A wonderful youtube video featuring Matt Farmer skewers Pritzker and the mayor for hypocrisy in their draconian administration of public schools while sending their children to a private school which in no way conforms to their ideal of public education. Incidentally, a private school which disavows every reform initiative the mayor aims for.

There is an insightful interview available on WBEZ, on which Farmer bases his remarks. Linda Lutton speaks with Pritzker about her views on education and why she's done what she's done in her role on the Board of Ed.

In Pritzker's view the purpose of school has less to do with granting children broad opportunities for creative and intellectual development, and more to do with developing workers.

Children should “get the skills in math, in reading, and in science so that they can be productive members of today’s workforce,” she says.

The public schools she envisions for the future workers have neither art nor music and have benchmarks that are rather, um, different than those used by the schools she chose for her children. Her idea of a well-oiled machine of a school features children sitting at computer screens for an hour and a half. After school. That hum you're hearing is the sound of happy future worker bees.

Public schools, as we all know by now, need lots of testing. We need to know if they are failing our students. And if they are, they must be shut down. Public schools must be constantly assessed and evaluated, and so they must constantly assess and evaluate. Are they trapping our children, dooming them to an unproductive future?  Are they promoting the status quo of failure? And how low is the bar the teachers' unions wish to set?  How can we make sure the worker bees are being adequately prepared for their labors to come?

Susan Ohanion writes an elegaic introduction to the Matt Farmer video referenced above. (If you didn't watch that video, do it before you click away from Chicago Public Fools! I am mandating this! There will be a test! With an incentive!)

She ponders the differing manners in which kindergarteners might be educated, first discussing what happens in the University of Chicago Lab School's kindergarten classes. She then turns to the goals laid out for public school kindergarteners using DIBELS assessment and curricular materials. DIBELS is a short test given several times throughout the year for primary grades starting in kindergarten; it measures indicators of future literacy success using assessments in phonemes, nonsense words, letter sounds, and letter naming, etc. Its use is well laid out (not to say "clearly") on the Boston Public Schools website.

Here's a snippet of Susan Ohanion's mournful analysis of differing private and public kindergarten curriculum standards:

I just reread The Girl with the Brown Crayon by Vivian Gussin Paley, and it broke my heart. This is a remarkable account of a teacher embarking with her kindergartners at the University of Chicago Lab School on a remarkable journey--a year-long study of the works of one student’s kindred spirit, Leo Lionni. Here is Paley, who won a MacArthur "genius" award for her classroom work, describing the project: “Is it possible for a kindergarten class to pursue such an intensely literary and, yes, long-term intellectual activity, one that demands powers of analysis and introspection expected of much older students? Why not? I have seen five- and six-year-olds debate their concerns with as much fervor and insight as could any group of adults. Leo Lionni will make the existing intellectual life of the classroom more accessible because he offers us a clear and consistent frame of reference for our feelings and observations.”

This is what private school kindergartners do. But answering Bill Gates and Barack Obama’s call to prepare children to become global workers, here’s what kindergartners in public school across the country get: The Benchmark K-3: DIBELS Nonsense Word Fluency Assessment

hoj rij ad bol em buv haj en wof loj tuc rul vab fum han hol mun yud dav dub paj jav lak diz nom vif kon juf miz vuv zep yac dac jom rej zuz vum zus tej zub wob jec oc rit def neb kif wab ov ruj

Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills 6th edition Kindergarten Scoring Booklet DIBELS Benchmark Assessment

Put DIBELS into a search at the University of Chicago Lab School and you get this notice: “No results.”

I guess what Ohanion is trying to show is this: corporate education reformers know global worker bees don't need to debate creatively and imaginatively about life using Leo Lionni as a springboard. Good lord, they need to demonstrate success starting in kindergarten. And that only happens with assessments, assessments, assessments. It's enough for them to master phonemes, letter sounds, and, for some reason, nonsense syllables, and be assessed on these things over and over.

And now, dear reader, for your test.

T or F: the Director of the University of Chicago Lab Schools "shudder[s] to think" what kind of teachers the profession would attract without unions.

Bubble in the correct response with a #2 pencil, and illustrate your answer using nonsense phonemes. The best response will win a Network for Public Education t-shirt from me, the fool for CPS. Submit answers in the comments or on twitter @foolforcps.

Sign up for your daily dose of education from the fool for CPS. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Leave a comment