Keynote from David Berliner: Myths (and Lies) That Deceive the Public and Harm American Public Education

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Notes from David Berliner’s talk here at Central Michigan University with many ideas from his book 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education.

  • What is the greatest invention of America: public schools
  • Value added models built on standardized testing are not endorsed by major professional organizations, yet state legislatures still adopt them
  • Most of the elements related to achievement related to out-of-school factors
  • Every Student Succeeds Act — we cannot guarantee that every child will succeed; this is a way to shift blame to teachers and administrators
  • ESSA is an admission of failure — by returning education back to the states
  • 60% of most state budgets are for education
  • Many states are under Republican control, and more cuts are likely
  • In writing the book, they took certain ideas to guide it
    • “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.” – Thomas Jefferson
    • “You are entitled, sir, to your own opinions, but not your own facts.” – Daniel Patrick Moynihan
    • “Educational reform is a euphemism for the destruction of public education.” – Noam Chomsky
  • Why is ed funding going up?
    • Special education costs are going up because the population of special needs kids is going up; we should be proud of this, not upset
  • What is happening with NAEP long term trends?
    • In every single case, the test scores are up
  • Since the great recession, we have more and more students facing even more challenges at home and in their communities
    • Additional challenge — the high performing students are moving out of the public schools
  • STEM: there have been calls for more science, math, and tech for decades
    • But, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that we have 277,000 STEM vacancies per year — but we have plenty of graduates and H-1B visa holders to fill the jobs
    • Plus we have 11.4 million STEM degree holders in the workforce, working outside of their field
    • 28% of engineers are unemployed or holding jobs not congruent with their training
    • Tells the story about the “migrant engineer” who works for five years for one company, then for another, and another… “indentured professionalisms”
  • Referring to many additional education systems around the world
    • How good are regular schools if students have to go to “cram schools” after the regular school day?
    • Report cards on 40 different aspects of behavior; standards-based report card for kindergarten
    • Not against asking kids to learn these things; but against rating kids on them
    • This is the “child’s garden” — we seem to have forgotten this
  • Quote from Arne Duncan (via Diane Ravitch)… ““We should be able to look every second grader in the eye and say, ‘You’re on track, you’re going to be able to go to a good college, or you’re not.’”
  • The argument that the USA will perish because the schools are failing our kids:
    • Russia will beat us, Japan will beat us…
    • Our military is suffering because our schools are so bad…
    • Constant criticism of school
    • Old people typically complain about youth
    • The Grand Myth: our kids don’t do well in international competition
      • Need to disaggregate the data — the kids who are in schools with lower poverty rates are doing better than the OECD average; kids in poverty are doing worse than OECD average
      • We are living in “apartheid lite”
      • 2/3 of our teachers are in schools who have the majority of children in poverty
  • Where you live and who you go to school with matters
    • As middle income kids go to schools that serve wealthier kids, their scores improve; family wealth matters, school population matters
    • Pre-school matters, too. The more you support kids in early life, the better they do on the tests.
    • Michigan had a great record for public education for 100 years, but it is being eroded in modern times
  • If we don’t do work to save America’s public schools, we will be in danger of losing them

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Author: Troy Hicks

Dr. Troy Hicks is a professor of English and education at Central Michigan University. He directs both the Chippewa River Writing Project and the Master of Arts in Educational Technology degree program. A former middle school teacher, Dr. Hicks has authored numerous books, articles, chapters, blog posts, and other resources broadly related to the teaching of literacy in our digital age. Follow him on Twitter: @hickstro

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