Radical Transformation of education: presented at Port Hueneme Chamber of Commerce

Common Core in context with "Linked Learning," academy high school collaborative model

By George Miller

Dr. Gabe SoumakianOxnard Union High School District Superintendent, keynoted this interesting presentation on “Linked Learning” to the Port Hueneme Chamber of Commerce on January 28. He said that Linked Learning is not just to prepare students for college, but a gateway to careers, too. He said: “If I ask myself: ‘when am I ever gonna use algebra, when am I ever gonna use chemistry, when am I ever gonna use earth science, right?’ … We wanna make the teaching relevant. We wanna take the learning in the classroom and link it to real world applications…. How do we apply it in predictable as well as unpredictable settings?….. Critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, problem solving, really understanding how to make decisions.”  (see more in event video near bottom of this article). His approach consists of Common Core State Standards -what we teach- the content, curriculum- WHAT you need to learn), 21st Century learning (HOW we teach, HOW we learn) and Smart Balanced Assessments (HOW we measure it)– see chart below ….

linkedlearningsummary

CSCC= Common Core State Standards

He said that there are no more local or state assessment tests (all will be national level Common Core Assessments). Folks, this effectively means federal control of curricula. What you test is what you much teach (at a minimum)– and is also what is rewarded. They are using “adaptive testing,” meaning, he said, that the answer to the first question will help drive what subsequent questions will be. That would seem to imply that not everyone takes the same test. I wasn’t there to ask “adaptive” questions about the implications of that and how meaningful comparative scores and benchmarks would be.

“We’re really doing things radically different”

He said “we’re at that tipping point where we’re really doing things radically different” and that teachers are not going to be using textbooks as we know them. All the content is going to be placed on-line. “There is no such thing as a textbook anymore. The world is a textbook.” How they will decide what in the world is valid and what will be taught was not explained. They will be using tablets and laptops, connected to their network, inside or outside school, to the teacher and materials. It’s called “blended learning,” which is a combination of face-to-face (with teacher) and on-line instruction. He doesn’t believe in 100% on-line learning. He feels “their” kids lack the discipline to do that and that colleges have a “dismal” completion rate of this type of learning. “We have to get our teachers trained, we have to get them to understand how to use the learning system.”

Note that this methodology has never been properly tested, piloted and validated on a large scale. Yet it is being rapidly rolled out almost nationwide (45 states in public schools and most private schools, although quite a few are trying now to eliminate it) very rapidly in its immature state. Also note that Congress has continually voted against a national curriculum and federal control of education, although “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” do give the federal government some levers of control. Some say that such things exceed the constitutional powers of federal government. Speaking of constitutional powers, many object to the privacy (4th amendment) intrusion of so-called “data mining” used by Common Core to amass a huge data base of information about both teachers and students. 

Dr. Soumakian said: “we don’t like to call them Common Core Standards. We call them ‘The New State Standards.'” He mentioned that the new school board is all educators. “Linked learning is about having kids explore and understand ‘content curriculum’ and really make sense about what they’re learning.” Content curriculum is a buzzword which could encompass anything from manuals, regulations, to biographies, and more. It has been used to help de-emphasize use of textbooks and “classics.” He said the outcome is to produce entrepreneurs. It wasn’t at clear from his presentation how that might occur, although use of industry collaborative partners was used to explain how more real-world teaching might be injected into the district’s offerings. How many teachers and educators are entrepreneurs? If not, how will they know how to impart those skills? He said the “old model was to go to school, get an education, then find a job,”  He said the new model is “to create a job.”  This assessment is in stark contrast to expert critics who claim that Common Core is “dumbed down” and is designed to create “worker bees” for community college entrance or blue collar jobs, many of which require further training/apprenticeship. The first-ever known California public debate on Common Core to cover such issues was held in June 2013.

 

Blended/Linked Learning

Soumakian pronouncements on “blended learning” of on-line and teacher/mentor instruction have proven to have a lot of merit, however.

Jim Rose, OUHSD Director of Career Pathways, who, he said, works “at the high school at the nuts and bolts level” spoke next.

LinkedLearningWhatisit

“In contrast with critics,” he said, “they cover academics,…  to get them ready for the UC” (University of California- 4 year university)… “nothing compromised.” However, critics say that some math and science are moved out, classics removed and other changes which make it less academic. Rose said it will also prepare students for the workplace and that “failure is not an option,” although he doesn’t explain how. With social promotion already in place, this is already virtually guaranteed.

He told the assembly that seven district high schools contain 22 “academies,” more than any other in California. We have heard good things about the academy approach, but do not have statistics on success of this approach. He claimed a 96% graduation rate and 92% college bound, per Mike Henson, Regional Director, National Academy Foundation.  The academy approach has been highly successful in New York City Schools for many decades, although on a fairly small scale. For example, Bronx H.S. of Science and Brooklyn Tech. are top-flight, even legendary.  Oxnard Unified High School District is moving toward smaller academy-oriented facilities and no more 2000+ student schools will be built, it was claimed. That would seem to pose some transportation issues for students to get  to the academies of their choice.

Mr. Rose says that “project-based” learning will occur, which coordinates the different subjects to help ensure that they support each other. We don’t understand how yet, since only 15% departure (addition, no subtraction) is permitted to CCSS.. So, will the district add material? He said that OUHSD has received $6MM in grants to help achieve this and other things.

OUHSDAcademies

 

Dr. Soumakian, who has weighed in publicly on discipline issues in the past, mentioned that last year, the expulsion rate dropped about 38% and suspension rate 42%. He did not mention that state policies now highly discourage such actions, nor did he describe any changes in classroom management as a result, but said they seek “alternative means of correction.” Rose later mentioned counseling and student apologies as means.

Soumakian also stressed imparting of “transferrable skills” which can be used outside of the “academy” focus, since many students end up in areas different from their originally intended focus.

Mary Ann Rooney, Project Director, Career Pathways Ventura County (she is also a Oxnard/Port Hueneme Harbor Commissioner) then weighed in and said that they would try to identify work-based learning opportunities for students.

LinkedLearning Collaboration

These span awareness, exploration and preparation and include guest speakers, mentoring, field trips, company tours, “job shadowing,” interviews and mock interviews, paid internships, virtual enterprises and student presentations. It is unknown what the state of development/maturity of these is. Chambers of Commerce, St Johns Hospital, Alcoa, Haas Automation and other companies are collaborating. She also presented the network map shown above.

 

The report above written by CitizensJournal.us, not KADYTV, which produced the video. We enhanced likenesses of charts seen in the video as much as possible, above.

KADYTV offers local personalities, issues and events- Hyper-local news, in the KADY TV tradition!   Past shows archived on the web site and via Citizensjournal.us.  Executive Producer: Bob Allen.

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Event video:

AllianceLinkedLearning

 

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George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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