Tech Thursday: The Latest Faux Pas in Education, Workforce

One big selling point to the Workforce CCSS aligned agenda: internships, apprenticeships, and similar programs.
One big selling point to the Workforce CCSS aligned agenda: internships, apprenticeships, and similar programs.

At the last NC Academic Standards Review Commission meeting;

the topic of Common Core Standards was ripe in the air;

the members were gathered, each with much care.

When one member, much to his own delight

says, “We need to do this right–

consult those who work, who own businesses;

Without them, we face an incorrect fate–

kids who can’t work, when they graduate.”

“So, let us all, turn to the Chamber of Commerce–

They will know we must be immersed;

Common Core Workforce alignment

will build the kids education, while filling the businesses purse!”

Reality check:

 I’d like us to take a short look at the supporting groups behind the man who expressed how we (as the citizens of NC) NEED to involve more businesses in education (aka: P3s; public private partnerships). I’m sure, in your state, you have people just like this. Considering how the U. S. Chamber of Commerce was given so much Gates Foundation money to pass on to the state level Chambers (the express purpose of promoting Common Core), you may in fact, know several supporters who share this man’s perspective.

I, however, do not. I’ve done too much research into CCSS to buy the ‘skills gap’ argument; the dire need for businesses weighing into how the schools should align classes to fill their jobs. Do these people NOT remember that for thousands of years all that was needed is a strong base and ANY job can be attained. No, they are too busy spouting off the ‘best practices’ line or the ever popular ‘skills for a 21st Century.’ How many of them have stopped to think back to those folks who ALSO were in changing times of old? Did they always align education to fit future? No, yet somehow, we’ve been able to NOT only survive as a nation, but THRIVE.

So, what groups am I referring to? For starters, The NC Assoc. of Middle Schools. This state-wide group is sponsored by Glencoe/McGraw Hill for starters (duh..no CCSS here, right?! GMH not only supports CCSS, it aligns its PreK to Adult educational materials to the Standards). To learn more about GMH, http://www.mheducation.com/about/investors. The NCAMS is also sponsored by Thinking Maps, which is based here in NC, but used globally. They love CCSS very much, as well. From their website, you’ll see visual patterns used to align children’s thinking skills. Wanna see it for yourself? http://thinkingmaps.com/thinking_maps_common_core.php Another sponsor? The College Fund of NC. Yep, this group was given to the state by the NC Legislature back in 1999. Their tie to CCSS? Funds used at every single community college (in previous posts I’ve featured how all the NC community colleges are CCSS aligned already.) AND the 4 year institutions. Yep, most of them are CCSS aligned, supportive, or both already. Another sponsor of the NC Middle School Association which is also CCSS aligned from secondary school to those Career Clusters/Pathways?! Why, 4-H, of course. Here’s an excerpt from an on-line farm game, “farm safety activities that align with Common Core Standards and National Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Career Cluster Standards.” (to see the rest of the game: http://www.extension.org/pages/71192/play-it-farm-safe:-an-online-educational-game#.VJD6OSvF-hR)
Now, knowing our Review Commission has an active sitting member supported by a main group so rich in CCSS, it’s no wonder his view was ‘let’s listen to, involve, and align with the business world.’

More rhetoric on ‘workforce’:

On Tuesday, just one day after the Review Commission meeting, was a “Future Forum” meeting. None other than the NC Chamber of Commerce was the ‘proud parent’ of this soiree. I don’t know about your state’s Chamber of Commerce, but NC’s has been extremely vocal about not only its support, but its love and devotion to not only the Common Core, but the Career Pathways. Why, they use wonderfully embracing phrases to describe your students (‘talent supply’, “human capital”, ‘talent pipeline’, etc.). Why I mention the Chamber is their report from 2012 was brought up during the Review Commission meeting.

The Workforce Report mentioned during the meeting, is available on the NC Chamber of Commerce’s website. http://ncchamber.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/North_Carolina_Workforce_System_Review_and_Options_for_Reform_2014-Final….pdf  *Note: the 2012 one is actually an appendix item in this updated report. One of the reform items? Continuing to use the community college system as a means to an end. Then, there’s how all the funding can help NC become even more aligned. So, if the community college is a means to an end, what does that make the student?

From the NC Chamber of Commerce document joining workforce and education reform.
From the NC Chamber of Commerce document joining workforce and education reform.

As far as that Forum:
 Go take a look at the featured speakers for the Forum. http://ncchamber.net/chamber-events/future-forum/ Even though the event is past, If you want to find the Twitter feed from the meeting, #FutureofNC (yes, even if you don’t live here, you need to see this. Why? I can bet your state has similar efforts going on..especially with your state level Chambers of Commerce involved). Okay, I’m assuming you’ve looked. You may be saying  “So??” Dr. Tony Wagner of Harvard was a celebrated speaker at this event. Harvard..as in the University. The same university which partnered with Pearson Publishing to create the ‘Career Pathways’ movement that (now) is an integral part of Common Core (in previous Tech Thursdays posts this has not only been shared, but backed with documents and links).

So, after seeing some of the tweets and adding it to what I already know about the love affair between Harvard, CCSS, Chambers of Commerce, I decided to take a bit of a closer look at Dr. Wagner’s stance. I think you’ll find it interesting too.

A look behind the man:

Here’s a short video the doctor is featured in that’s all about 21st century preparedness in the classroom. http://vimeo.com/88923503 (you can copy the address and open in a new window)

Listen to his message. Yes, you may be dazzled by the gadgets. C’mon, who doesn’t love a good gadget?! However, listen to the vernacular being given by, not just the doctor, but the others. All about the collective. Gee, where have we heard that in CCSS? Want more views from him about why we all should innovate education? http://www.tonywagner.com/1016

I’ll assume you’ve just read his commentary from the above link. No, you didn’t see Workforce or Common Core per se, but did you get the overall drift of the CCSS agenda?

On to the “High Tech High School” he mentioned. Yes, it’s based in CA. Yes, it’s the brain child of the Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs Investments, along with many other public/private partners. BUT it’s also the product of the Gates Foundation as well. Back in 2005, High Tech High received $3 million dollars, then in 2012, $100,000 for innovation in the 10 schools that belong to the High Tech High School network. (see: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database#q/k=high%20tech%20high%20school)

Projects at the High Tech High School are funded by the Public Charter School Dissemination Grant Program. How do I know, when I was investigating the website, an embedded logo at the bottom right hand of the page told me so. (see: http://www.hightechhigh.org/projects/)

‘Common Core’ at High Tech High? You betcha! Here’s an excerpt from a press release, “

Teachers are working hard to prepare their students for Common Core, with limited access to updated resources,” said Michele Hansen, president and CEO of the Girard Education Foundation, whose philanthropic support enables teachers, parents and students to access the website at no cost. “Activate Instruction facilitates teacher collaboration and makes it easy for teachers to access quality content from high-performing schools for free.”

“Teachers on Activate – who number nearly 4,000 – can now search for, and follow, sets of more than 18,000 resources (including nearly 2,000 playlists). Many of these resources have been uploaded by high-performing schools that have voluntarily shared their content. Those schools include: Summit Public Schools in the Bay Area, High Tech High in San Diego, and Da Vinci Schools and KIPP LA Schools in Los Angeles. Teachers can even follow other teachers’ specific playlists, creating the opportunity for teachers’ work to be recognized nationally.” (get the rest of the press release: http://www.activateinstruction.org/about/press-kit/)

So, what does all this mean for Workforce, Adult CC, and my student?

It means we need to be ahead of those in charge by connecting the dots between Common Core in the secondary level and the post secondary level. We need to continue to expose the overreach of federal, and now, state government programs which continue not only support P3 involvement in education, but seek to purposefully seek it out, encourage it, and reward it. As others, including myself, have shared..Workforce tied to CCSS is NOT going away. It is gaining momentum. If we wish to stop a CCSS aligned work skilled nation, WE must gain momentum, too!

Now, back to the Review Committee:

One of the charges to carry out the Committee has is to have the best for NC students. I’m not sure how seeking to incorporate the Chamber of Commerce will be best for NC as long as it continues to support CCSS AND bring in those who are also supportive to whip up support from the business end. It creates a false positive environment. It’s employing the appeal to fear fallacy (we must bring in the business owners or we won’t have a skilled workforce), the bandwagon fallacy (you can’t have 20th century teaching in a 21st century world; kids won’t be employable), and the argument from ignorance fallacy (we’re dancing all around CCSS and what it’s doing to NC, but we’re not really willing to be objective about it either).

What can your state learn from NC?

Plenty! We’ve got to get the P3s out of the education bed. We’ve got to stop allowing the false argument that 21st skills are more important than any other century. We’re not the first group of people finding ourselves in a state of change. Every generation has had change to face! Every century has had folks face the unknown. Do you think it the times gone by that everyone had a answer for every future job? No, BUT they did the best they could. If you look close enough, you’ll see that their best has served you and I for many years EXTREMELY well. Just because the CCSS Machine is grinding out the message of Workforce alignment, doesn’t mean we have to accept it. If NC wants the best for the students, I’d have to say how things are being handled isn’t the answer. The clock is ticking, folks..how will the BEST happen as long as mediocre mockery is in play?

Every second wasted in mediocrity is another supportive move for CCSS aligned workers.
Every second wasted in mediocrity is another supportive move for CCSS aligned workers.

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