Community Schools, Inc.

As if it weren’t difficult enough to make sense of the world of next-gen edu-double-speak and the corporate co-optation of sensible ideas, Alison McDowell – Philadelphia parent, member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, and public education advocate – has discovered that a powerful arm of the current “community schools” movement is pushing us toward the proliferation of capital-C Community Schools –  outsourced, data-mined, and workforce aligned, of course.

Below, Alison describes the hidden agenda of this deceptive corporate-driven initiative.  Read the full article here.

And be sure to hold onto your hats.

…..

“There are an increasing number of people who are involved with community school initiatives on the local level. They see community schools as neighborhood anchors. The problem is that they have absolutely no knowledge that there is another powerful group, the corporate education reformers, including Tom Vander Ark, working to undermine all they are doing.

Meanwhile, the corporate education reformers have set up the legislation so that once a network of non-profit and technological partnerships are in place, human teachers will no longer be necessary for their 21st century version of education. The federal government and partners like Citizen Schools move things along by putting resources behind this “transformation.”

It won’t happen immediately. The timeline is probably 10-20 years. So the corporate education reformers can just sit back and wait for the first group, people like us, to do the work of acclimatizing the public to the concept that community=school and school=community. Which will be fine, until one day the neighborhood schools close their doors in favor of an online and outsourced community model and we’ve reached the end game.

If you’ve ever sat through a Philadelphia School Reform meeting, you know that they are not going to give Philadelphia parents a “community school” in the sense of true community participation. We are on our third Broad Academy superintendent, and community engagement generally only qualifies as “theater” …

And where is the money going to come from to bring in those services? If they use social impact bonds, the accountability metrics will skyrocket because those partners will be accountable to the venture capitalists and if the rate of return varies based on success metrics, you can imagine there will need to be lots and lots of data gathered…

Outsourcing school functions means having children end up with data driven education and data-driven lives.

It’s also clear that the push is towards workforce development. Labor wants data they can use for their projections. They have the academic data, but they need the other stuff to make it work. They need that non-cognitive behavioral piece, because we all recognize that it’s important. How are they going to get that data?

Do you think parents are comfortable with the idea that partners may be monitoring Johnny’s “grit” level? Maybe they’ll want to know does Sally show proficiency in teamwork? Creative problem solving? Conformity?

The other piece you need to be aware of is ELOs, also know as Extended or Expanded Learning Opportunities. The folks behind ELOs include the National Governor’s Association and the Chief Council of State School Officers who brought us Common Core State Standards. In their view, education can just be broken down into bits, and in the future kids will collect them like digital badges through demonstrations of mastery that will eventually be done primarily online.

Of course most parents are not digital natives and would chafe against this vision of education as essentially cyber school.

So instead, certain competencies (also I think this is where the non-cognitive ones come in) are developed with partners through “real world” “community-based” problem solving. The sales pitch will be for THIS part of the blended learning model. They will sell parents on all these great projects combined with the most innovative technology, but what most students will get is a bunch of Rocketship Academies with vans that take kids to the local hospital for an internship (and maybe the hospital gets some volunteer labor). Maybe I’m jaded, but in my heart I feel that the innovative schools they have been set up in Philadelphia cannot be scaled to serve a majority of students.

I believe they are part of a bait and switch plan.

…In many ways, I fear the issue of high stakes testing was perhaps a straw man so they could make their profit on the tests, knowing that the plan was always to walk away from them and move into stealth testing.

For all the talking points we have, CBE offers an answer. Hate having a kid’s evaluation riding on one test? OK, we’ll gather their data all the time through stealth testing. Hate standardization? We’ll offer you “personalization.” Have we driven out thousands of experienced teachers through our emphasis on testing, test prep, and data-driven instruction? Oh, we can fix that. We’ll just raise class sizes using a blended learning model where the kids are online most of the time and out in the community the rest of the time.

We really don’t need so many teachers, and the ones we want around are the ones who can tolerate spending their days in front of data dashboards.

It was all so very clever, and it will be hard to tell folks the emperor has no clothes.

In all of these plans for “community schools” are the partners who will be providing the services and ELOs going to be big “C” community members or little “c” community members?

Many of these initiatives seem to be linked to major players like the United Way and local universities and outposts of national non-profits and city agencies. I mean it’s not like your neighbors are actually going to be running the programs.

If that is the case, why not just put the money directly back into the schools, so they can build the community there?

 

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Author: Emily Talmage

My name is Emily Talmage and I teach fourth grade at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine. In addition to teaching in Lewiston, I have also taught special education and general education in New York City, including one year at a “high-performing” charter school in Brooklyn. I also have two master’s degrees; one in Urban Education from Mercy College, and another in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. I have also worked as a research analyst and assistant at the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia and Oldham Innovative Research in Portland.

6 thoughts on “Community Schools, Inc.”

  1. I have also written about the Community Schools, there are so many ties! You can find my articles, if you like, on my blog. Thank you for helping spread the message!
    Commoncorediva.wordpress.com

    Like

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