Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Access Costs $500 Cheap!

Teach Plus, yet another arm of the Gates-funded reformy octopus, is a fan of several fictions. They believe that test scores measure teacher effectiveness, yet they fail to understand how that model of evaluation guarantees that students in high-poverty schools will always be taught be "ineffective" teachers (I explain it many places, but this one works pretty well).

Teach Plus also wants to be out there helping the feds with their initiative to somehow get great teachers to volunteer to have their test-based ratings gutted by moving to high-poverty schools. They are creating special teams of "turnaround" specialists (because some schools are just determined to drive the bus into the weeds, so they require wiser teachers to re-steer them? The term "turnaround" always puzzles me, suggesting as it does that some schools are actually doing every single thing wrong, which in turn suggests that some administrators must be stunningly incompetent, in which case how will it make a whit of difference to change the teachers?) Teach Plus is also one of many reformster groups to resolutely ignore that special cognitive dissonance involved in saying 1) teachers don't really start to get good till three years in and 2) TFA is just swell.

At any rate, as we enter the holiday season, Teach Plus wants your money.

Your donation will support our leadership programs, helping to ensure that every student gets the education he deserves.

Super! Like any good money-soliciting not-actually-a-charity, they offer levels of giving. $5K helps support one of their turnaround specialists. $2.5K sponsors a teaching fellow for 18 months of stuff. $1.5K helps train a teacher to indoctrinate his fellow teachers in Common Core whiz-bangery. And $500-- well, this is special.

$500 enables a teacher to meet with state or federal policymakers.

What? That's it. Access is that cheap? All of the millions of teachers who have been ignored by policymakers, and all we need was $500 for admission to an Important Office.

Now, at first I was offended that I needed to spend money to meet with one of my elected representatives, but then I realized that's not what it says. Policymakers are not necessarily actual elected officials. So maybe, I don't know, the money gets me a seat in the gallery at the next ALEC convocation? A meeting with David Coleman? Or maybe it really will give some lucky teacher a chance to meet with an actual elected official, which would be exciting since those are two sorts of people who almost never meet. The possibilities are endless.

Now, I caution against premature exuberance. It's possible that Teach Plus got some sort of deal by buying bulk, and $500 will not get access for ordinary civilian teacher persons. But if $500 is even ballpark, we could finally get teachers in some meetings with people who, you know, actually get listened to when laws are passed.

Let's all ask Teach Plus how this works. Is the admission fee handled by the policymaker's office, or is this something you buy at, like, Ticketron or Expedia? Do we have to book way in advance (like Price Is Right) or can we make an impulse buy when we have a chance to take a trip?

I realize it isn't a Seat at the Table, but we already know it takes a cool millions of dollars to buy in at that game. But still. Meeting with a policymaker-- it could be a start. My biggest question is this-- $500 is great to meet with a policymaker, but how much more do I have to pay to get him to actually listen to me?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

More on Rochester Charter Wunderkind (Or: How Hard Is It To Do Your Job, Anyway?)

It has only been a day since the story of Ted Morris, Jr., Rochester's 22-year-old charter school phenom and new holder of a NY State charter school authorization, began to unravel.

I did some quick research and wrote about it. Mercedes Schneider turned her research mojo loose. Leonie Haimson turned up some inconsistencies in his CV. And Diane Ravitch covered the story as well, drawing out a note from his alleged former principal shooting more holes in his story.

The Democrat & Chronicle has... well, "updated" would be an understatement and "finally did the legwork they should have done the first time" might be too mean. At any rate, a whole new version of the story appears here.

Turns out that young "Dr." Morris might have overstated his resume a bit.

Elaine Comarella, the [Hickock] center's CEO, said his title was actually administrative assistant, and that the responsibilities he listed in the resume were "a little overshot."

His high school administrators remember him as someone who was a great talker and very sociable, but not real big on attending classes. Morris allows as he just wasn't challenged enough. And at this point it's not really clear where he did or did not get his college degrees. It does seem that none of his diplomas involved interacting directly with humans.

My favorite new detail may be that he found his board of trustees mostly through LinkedIn, Craigslist and a website for nonprofits.

You can find even more here at Mercedes Schneider's update from today. The information just keeps rolling in. 

Justin Murphy, the reporter covering the story, clearly did some real legwork and talked to many of the parties involved (though some have yet to return his calls), and it's great that he did. But here's what I want to underline.

Twenty four hours.

It took a handful of bloggers and one reporter twenty-four hours to find the holes from which the fishlike smell emanates from this story. I don't know how much time Mercedes, Leonie and Diane spent following up on this, but I used the twenty-five minutes left over after I finished my cafeteria sub on Monday. A computer, some search terms, google, and twenty-five minutes.

The New York Board of Regents has had considerably more than that. The guy has been sending in letters of intent for this charter since January of 2010! Did nobody at the Board of Regents do even a cursory background check? If I take care of filling out the paperwork carefully for him, can my dog get authorization to run a charter school in New York?!!

I mean, I want to do a small tsk tsk to reporter Murphy, but I know that sometimes a nice press release lands on your desk and a quick seemingly harmless feel-good story writes itself without you having to exert much effort, and that's kind of irresistible. Also, it's becoming clear that Morris got a PhD in shmoozing from somewhere. But Murphy at least went back, did his job, and made things right.

Will the New York Board of Regents do the same?

[Update-- because this story just never stops-- My hat is off to Murphy-- I was hard on him above but he has been on this story like a boos all day--





What will that mean in terms of his total involvement with "his" school? Stay tuned, campers!

Still unrolling-- Dr. Kozik apparently has a specialty in adapting CCSS for students with disabilities. Here's his presentation-- from EngageNY.

And here's his LinkedIn recommendation for Dr. Ted

Ted has done an outstanding job as the Executive Director of the Greater Works Charter School where I serve on the Founding Board of Directors. He listens exceptionally well, is extremely detail oriented, and has balanced many complex tasks in developing an application for the charter school successfully. He is bright, gracious, and works well beyond what's required to ensure the success of the group. He is a talented team builder as well as a "team player." I recommend him unequivocally for any position for which he is qualified.

So the whole thing should be in great hands now. Holy smokes-- is this any way to run a school??

Is US ED Tightening Noose on Sp Ed ?

The local control and special needs wings of the Resistance are freaking out over this.

It's a proposed rule change for Title I, and I can copy the entirety of it for you right here

The Secretary will amend the regulations governing title I, part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA), to phase out the authority of States to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments based on those modified academic achievement standards in order to satisfy ESEA accountability requirements. These amendments will permit, as a transitional measure, States that meet certain criteria to continue to administer alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards and include the results in accountability determinations, subject to limitations on the number of proficient scores that may be counted, for a limited period of time.  

Emphasis mine.

 This is not a new proposal. It's been around for over a year, first surfacing in the summer of 2013. Its stated purpose was "to ensure that States can conduct a smooth and thoughtful transition from the alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards to the general assessments for certain students with disabilities."

There was even a comment period. You can read the 156 comments that were lodged between August 2013 and January 2014 over here. They are a mixed bag, wit varying degrees of support and opposition combined with varying degrees of Sounding Like Real People Wrote Them. Here's a sample.

To whom it may concern, As an advocate of Children with Special needs children from K-12 education, I am in full support of the changes. I already support inclusion education practices for students with disabilities. I have personally read many studies on its effectiveness in raising students learning skills through modeling, immersion and exposure. I think the premise is correct within the statute, that high expectations combined with appropriate support services can raise academic achievement. Of course this is assuming that every student is receiving adequate support, which I know varies on an individual schools budget and inclusion resources. I do not fully understand how it affects AYP scores, but I hope it is implemented in an equitable fashion that promotes schools to adequately support the individual students and not hide or move around students as to not negatively impact their overall AYP scores. My children are 3 and 4 years old with Autism and need support services through and IEP. I would support him being assessed at the same level as other students so that I may have a clear and accurate account of her development and be able to support her growth and development. Thank you.

Sounds totally legit, right?

At any rate, neither the proposal, nor the philosophy behind it are new, but it's listed for Final Action in January of 2015, so hang on, boys and girls.

The philosophy is one we have discussed before. Arne Duncan is pretty sure that special ed programs are used to drag children down, and that with proper expectations, testing, grit socked in rigor, and teachers who don't suck, disabilities will simply have no effect on anybody. DC has been pushing it, and most recently Washington state has done the same. Florida was a pioneer, insisting that even students with little brain function and busy dying from disease should take the FCATs just like everyone else.

Why do this? Why continue to make the insane assertion that students experience with no problems with disabilities except for the problems created by their teachers? Why take us down a road that can only end with cutting any kind of special education programs?

It can't be something as simple as a bizarrely over-inflated belief in the Power of Expectations. I believe in the Power of Expectations-- I have used it in my classroom for thirty-some years. There is no question that students do their best work when you expect they will because you believe they can. But these policy changes approach the level of cruelty involved in dumping a child out of a wheelchair and demanding that they run laps just like everyone else.

I'm afraid the explanation is more pedestrian. The reformster movement is all about standardization, about one size fits all, about stripping autonomy and maximizing cost control. Since day one, folks have complained that the Big Tests lack accommodations for students with special needs. Well, heck-- let's just write into policy that no accommodations other than grit and high expectations are necessary! Problem solved. Specifically, the big expensive problem of having to create costly specialized versions of The Test is solved! And if in the process it's necessary to strip a little more autonomy from states, that's perfectly okay, too. Not to mention, this helps fix that problem where so many charters cannot provide proper support for students with special needs. If we redefine "proper support" as "high expectations" well, hell, any school can do that. Another problem solved.

On this particular regulation, the sad fact is that there was a period of comment, and lots of us just missed it. But there's always time to write letters, email congresspersons, and just generally raise a stink. Be aware (read those 156 comments) that some parents of students with special needs like this idea just fine-- not everybody sees a problem here.  But go ahead and make some noise. Expose your representative to some high expectations of your own.



Shutting Up

On the day after the Ferguson grand jury brought back the expected but still gut-punching decision not to indict, followed by a wide range of reactions across the country, some of which were given press coverage and some of which were not, there is a tremendous temptation to pontificate-- particularly among those of us who are in the pontification business.

White folks feel various self-imposed combinations of guilt, pressure to show they're on the right side, pressure not to yield to that pressure. At the same time a million fault lines in our culture open up in sharp relief, from our uneasy relationship with our own justice system to our racial issues to the question of how well we can trust the media (and is that trust enough to conduct a trial in it of anyone) all the way to observations like this one


There's an impulse that people sometimes have in moments of trouble, an impulse to Say Something that will Make Things Better. At times, this impulse does not serve them well, particularly if they don't really know what they're talking about. At times like that, it's best to just shut up. At times like that, it's best to pay attention, to watch, and to listen.

There are a million ugly things crawling out from under the rock that is Ferguson right now, and while shooting from the hip is my usual stock in trade, now is not the time. The truth is I'm a white teacher in a rural school where the population holds at a pretty steady 98% white. For me to understand Ferguson and the places like it, I need to look and listen and shut up long enough to really hear what is happening.

On the topic of Ferguson, I have kept my mouth mostly shut and will continue to do so. I am sure that I'll shoot it off at some point, when I have been able to process enough to have something useful to say. I know the broad strokes-- when policing in a community is so effed up that a jay-walking stop turns into a shooting, there's something terribly wrong with how power is being exercised, and when you are telling people who have been punched repeatedly in the face that they should complain more politely, you're not getting it. This is not how policing is supposed to work. This is not how a community is supposed to work. But to learn more through the filter of highly selective reporting is a fool's errand, and social media at the moment simply makes me cringe with the number of people shooting off their mouths as if the tiny bits of information that has made it to them filtered through mainstream news is a full picture.

So invite other under-informed folks in far away places to join me in shutting up. Not forever. But long enough to watch and listen and learn and understand. Nobody else has a responsibility to explain things to us, but we do have a responsibility to try to understand before we make noise. As for blogging-- what's called for are conversations, and this is not the format for that. We'll have conversations in my classes today, I'm sure, but it won't be me providing The Answers. So, on this topic, for the moment, I am shutting up. I invite other under-informed people to do the same.

Monday, November 24, 2014

America's Sexiest Teacher

People, in a move designed to broaden their appeal, decided that this year they would expand the Sexiest Man title to include men who did things for a living other than work at being sexy. It's a noble effort, and in the sexy teacher department, it brought us this guy

2014-11-24-johnarsenault_8617.jpg
Photo credit: John Arsenault

Meet Nicholas Ferroni. Actually, you may already know him. He has over 22,000 twitter followers, no doubt influenced by the Rays of Hunkness that he is able to transmit over the internet. Ferroni has also done some acting and has won some other notables (one of the Most Influential People and Fittest Men in the World). He has a degree from Rutgers, and he also writes. In fact HuffPo, which carries his stuff from time to time, invited him to ruminate of the State of Being Most Sexy, but he's too self-effacing to do it. He invited me to write about the honor for him, which tells you that on top of everything else, he has a sense of humor.

You can watch him charm all the ladies here with Meredith Viera



But now that you've seen that, let me invite you to watch this



Is it cringeworthy that Viera's audience applauds Ferroni as if he's a big sexy object? Maybe, but he's a big boy and says that as a performer, he's been there, done that: "It is always surreal, and, to be honest, once they heard 'sexiest,' they would have cheered for anyone who walked out that door."

No, I find it much more cringeworthy that in his brave and direct challenge to major sports figures, he says, more than once, that he is "just a teacher." But I get it. All too often teachers feel the urge to softpeddle our work. And the culture reinforces that reluctance to speak out. Particularly in these days of big-time teacher blaming, we aren't supposed to act like we're anything special.

Ferroni knows better. I asked him for his How I Became a Teacher story:

As a child, I wanted to be an adventurer, superhero, actor, comedian, philanthropist, philosopher and psychologist... So I became a teacher.


He teaches high school history, and if you work in a high school you know that there almost nothing that students like less. To be able to sell history to teenagers is a huge gift. But he does more than that. Ferroni is a voice for healthy lifestyles. He is an active voice for the rights of LGBT students, believing that it's important their teachers, particularly their straight teachers, stand up for them. He's been in front of the camera many times to speak out for these issues, and he has been in his classroom day after day trying to bridge history and modern media to educate his students (I want to see his lesson on the Declaration of Independence as one of history's great breakup letters.)

And what gets him national attention? Being freakishly well-built and handsome.

I've only had a couple of exchanges with him on this subject and he seems, well, a little embarrassed. This is not uncommon in teachers who have been given some sort of award, and I'm pretty sure that's because as a teacher you know many other teachers who are working just as hard (if not harder) and teaching just as well (if not better) as you are. It's reverse survivor's guilt. It could have happened to anyone-- why me?

But what can you do? If you believe (as most of us do) that teachers ought to get to be famous and recognized and nationally known as well as guys who chase bags of air across fields of plastic grass, and if it turns out you're being given the chance to be a Famous Teacher, even for fifteen minutes, then for all the rest of us, you have to say yes.

And then, while you have the spotlight, you use it. Ferroni's done that, saying repeatedly that "a thousand other educators are far more deserving" and using his small soapbox to advocate for the arts in education and to speak out against toxic testing.

It's a sad commentary on the culture that because Nicholas Ferroni has washboard abs and smoldering soap opera eyes, he gets the audience that some deserving schlubby middle-aged teacher does not. It's a further irony that if Ferroni were that schlubby guy, he would still deserve an audience, and he wouldn't get one. It is frankly frustrating that in the ongoing debate over the future of public education, teacher voices are so rarely allowed to join. In the last ten months, cable news booked 185 guests to talk about education-- only 17 of them were teachers.

But we live in a country where fame is one odd roll of the dice away, and if you win the jackpot you need to spend it wisely. If you're famous you can try to fix world hunger or you can bare your shiny butt.

So God bless you, Nicholas Ferroni, and your impossibly bright smile and your sculpted abs and your just-messy-enough hair. If you are willing to use the national platform to talk about things that actually matter in the teaching world, then I'm not that concerned about how you got there. America needs more famous teachers. I wish they could be famous for being good teachers, but if a good teacher can become famous for being America's sexiest, I guess that will have to be a start.

cross-posted from Huffington Post

Rochester Charter Proposal; More Than Meets the 22-Yr-Old Eye

This jolly PR release in the Democrat and Chronicle announces that Ted Morris, Jr., is one of the new proud owners of a charter school authorization in New York, specifically in Rochester. What everyone has been agog at today is the applicant's age-- he's twenty-two years old. After some poking around, I'm not entirely sure that's the entire real story of Greater Works Charter Schools.

Morris was apparently born and raised in Rochester and attended Schools Without Walls, a very respectable example of what a good magnet school can be. Upon graduating, [Update: This just gets better and better. Here's Diane Ravitch passing along a note from the principal of Schools Without Walls during the time period in question. Seems Dr. Morris only spent a year there before switching to home schooling]  he entered into a rigorous on-line bachelor's program. He snapped up a Masters and Doctorate from Concordia-- the piece says Concordia "near Chicago." There are several Concordia Universities about, ranging from a private Christian college to an on-line university.

Additionally FWIW, there's a Ted Morris of Rochester listed as an ordained minister at the Universal Life Church (on-line) who specializes in Youth Revivals and Conferences, Church Admin Consulting and Grant Writing. His favorite quote is "For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world, for this is the Victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" I John 5:4 So maybe while getting cyber degrees, he decided to get cyber-ordained, too.
  
Morris has already been running consulting firms, apparently, and takes credit (according to the article) for helping to start three non-profits, including the advocacy group associated with his new school. That group-- Greater Works Charter Network-- has only a ghost footprint on line, but another-- Victoty Living Christian Life Center-- appears to be a large, thriving organization. It also, however, appears to have been founded at least ten years ago, which makes Morris's work as a twelve-year-old consultant fairly impressive.

I don't mean to pick on Morris for his age. Michael Jackson, Mozart, Jackie Cooper-- all tremendous prodigies with great early success. So maybe Morris is simply that amazing.

But if I were the New York Regents, I'd want to be super-impressed by a guy who had no actual experience running, working in, or even being a student in a public-- oh, no, wait. If I were the New York Regents none of that would bother me at all, would it.

You can actually read Morris's letter of intent from last summer right here. But it seems that this prodigy found nine solid Rochester citizens to go in on the charter with him. They are

Ursula Burke; parent with 12 years at Child Care Council
Andrea Clarke; Community Health Advocate at Rochester Medical Center
Roberta Favitta; 30+ years experience in sales, branding, marketing and operations management
Dr. Peter L. Kozik; Ass. Prof of EDucation at Keuka College
Dr. Norman Meres; molecular environmental scientist who has taught a lot
Ted Morris himself
Emily Robbins; insurance agent, previous event coordinator, studied el and spec ed at SUNY 2000-2005
Asfa Sill; Ass. Director at Action for Better Community
Bonnier Thousand; Administrator at U of Rochester
Christie Weidenhamer; Counselor with credentials out the whazoo

All but Clarke will be on initial Board of Trustees. There are also several other individuals interested in serving on that board.

But here's the thing-- this is not their first rodeo. The letter notes that "the founding group has previously applied to the NYSED Charter School Office in the January 2010 Charter School Application Cycle." In fact, they've sent in a letter of intent in every cycle since 2010, but were not asked to submit an application in most cases. In two cases they did submit a full application, but withdrew it to strengthen it. They have since "worked with a number of consultants, strengthened our application, continued to develop our founding group/board of trustees and conducted additional community outreach."

They have clearly done their homework-- the target population to be served is "all the students in the City of Rochester (including students with disabilities, English language learners, and students who qualify for the free and reduced price lunch program)"

They've been doing their community outreach for years, including eleven public meetings, and they have a hefty list of community parents, stakeholders, and organizations that they have talked to. Their general website has received over 5,5090 visits and their facebook page has 184 followers.

That was last summer when they were looking forward to submitting a full application, which obviously happened.

But the big question is obviously this-- is Ted Morris such a prodigy that he started trying to launch his charter school at age 18, right after he got his online bachelor's degree? Is he a young man of incredible drive, or a budding young huckster? Is he on a mission from God? Or is he being used as a handy front man for this organization? And did the New York Board of Regents actually take a look at any of this before okaying this virgin charter? It will take someone more versed in Rochester ins and outs to unlock the next chapter of this amazing tale.

Update: Okay-- one question is answered, sort of. Here's a piece from December of 2010, complete with video clip (that you can't watch unless you have Time-Warner cable), about young Ted Morris, Jr., and his plan to start a charter high school in Rochester. The piece is coverage of his presentation to the community

"We don't have enough innovated schools that have a strategic plan in place, specifically high schools," said Morris.

Right now Morris is in the beginning stages of planning and applying for approval for the school but already has a detailed mission statement, and layout for how the school will be run.

"Greater Works Charter School will be a blended learning charter school, which will be integrated, hands on learning and teaching," said Morris.
- See more at: http://rochester.twcnews.com/content/526295/local-man-unveils-plans-to-start-a-high-school-charter-school/#sthash.lfzuCTKQ.dpuf

So-- not a front? Just.... very precocious? This is what the Board of Regents thinks is an improvement over public schools?

[Update: It was just one thing after another for the young Dr. So much so that a follow-up post was called for.]

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Core Ready Schools, Aspen and Achieve


So you want to know how your district is doing on the implementation of the Common Core? Well, the folks at Achieve and the Aspen Institute have a tool for you. It's Core Ready Schools, 
a handy tool for evaluating your school's progress in implementation that only misses one huge, gigantic, Uranus-sized indicator. But let me work up to it.

There is a whole 90-minute rollout presentation on video right here and I know I usually watch these things for you, but I couldn't quite get through all of it. But let me tell you about what I did get through, and if you actually want to watch the whole thing, drop me a note in the comments and let me know how it was. Because who knows-- it might not have been quite as mind-numbing as I began to fear it was.

The video opens with a nice lady from Aspen who covers a bunch of specs and screenshots about the-- well, she keeps calling it an app, but it appears to be a website. Also big thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, and their Program Officier, which I infer is a person from the foundation who comes and works with you on your program so that you don't have to do that nasty application process, and for some reason I'm thinking of the Roman system of local governors, but maybe we should leave this for another day. What's this thing actually for? Well, it's not an accountability tool (I know because she said so). Let's bring up Mike Cohen from Achieve to talk.

Mike from Achieve talks about Achieve's Core cred and says "I feel like the Home Depot of the Common Core" Nobody laughed and he took that to mean that nobody got that joke at all."It's a tough crowd this morning"

Anyway, Achieve was concerned about a lack of data and tools to monitor implementation. They needed a way to get data on how implementation was going on state level. First tries they gave up as too hard. But then somehow we all realized that Aspen had already kind of done the work, with their handy transition guide for school leaders and so the Core Ready Schools app-site-tool covers similar ground.

Core Ready Schools ia aimed at things you would want to monitor, and that chiefs at CCSSO would commit to using. Something lightweight, but with depth. Balance of common across states but flexible enough for individual states. Here are the seven factors Mike says (the site calls them "levers") the tool is designed to consider.

1) Is leadership focusing on CCSS as part of school improvement
2) Is instruction being aligned with it
3) Is ongoing professional development supporting CCSS
4) Do you have an aligned assessment system?
5) Do you have aligned instruction resources and curriculum in school
6) Do you have mechanisms for engaging families and communities (because you're going to have to get them to buy into this, so by "engage" we seem to mean "talk to" and not "listen to.")
7) And are there sufficient resources and staffing (technology)

The tool is supposed to allow for different states' emphasis and ways to collect data. Mike tells a story about how one school chief was just going to ask superintendents how things were going and not dig any deeper. "Don't you think there will be inflation" "Yes, but then they'll have a harder time explaining results on assessments." So, give a principal enough rope? With this not-an-accountability tool?

Mike also says, "They desperately need it to know what's going on-- there's no debate about that." I would be happy to debate him. Also, though this started as Common Core thing, but they've been flexing it to handle states other CACR standards. Because we'd hate to get left behind when the Core is dumped.

Do you know what we haven't talked about?

I said there was a glaring omission. So far it appears that when we're assessing the success of our Common Core implication, we are not going to ask if the students in the schools seem to be getting a better education. That seems to be primarily because we assume that if Common Core is well-implemented, it will automatically lead to better test scores (what? is there some other way to measure how well children are being educated?) But no-- at no point in this entire process do we actually look at the affect of Core implementation on student learning.

Who is this for again?

This tool fits the whole reformster style because it assumes that superintendents simply can't know what is going on in their own districts, presumably because of some combination of stupidity and lying subordinates. Also, of course, information is far more informationny when it's in number form.

The big selling point here is that this tool will be useful inside of districts, helping leaders tell how well the implementation is going on inside the district. This skips over the question of whether we should implement CCSS in the first place, plus it skips over another question-- when school leaders are implementing a program because it has been mandated and they had no say in it, how much time to they spend worrying about implementing it well? Or, on the deeper philosophical level, how much commitment to doing a bad thing well is a good amount of commitment to doing a bad thing well. Or, if you prefer classic filmic references, exactly whom should we be rooting for in Bridge on the River Kwai?

Never mind that for a moment, because I'd like to offer for your consideration the user agreement from the Core Ready Schools website:

By clicking the button below, you agree to have your anonymized survey results recorded by Anabliss Design + Brand Strategy and shared with the Aspen Institute. The Aspen Institute reserves the right to utilize the data in research, analysis, and reporting on the implementation of the CCSS and other education-related trends; however, the Aspen Institute agrees that any data disclosed will be anonymized data that is not tied to specific users and is not released in any manner that could identify an individual, school, or school district.

So, NOT just collecting data for your district. You're also collecting data for Aspen and their friends. You are volunteering for a walk-on roll for the next production of "How the Implementation of Common Core Is Going in Our Schools." Yes, it's one more great chance to do free grunt work for our Data Overlords.

More fun with websites

One cool things about Core Ready Schools? Anybody can log in and create an account. You could, for instance, sign in and start the account for your school or district; I did that, and I'm sure my superintendent will be calling to thank me if she ever hears about it. I suppose you could log in and start an account for any school-- even fake ones-- although if a lot of people did that, it might make Aspen's aggregated numbers less accurate, and that would be a shame, I imagine.

You're allowed to take the survey ten times over five years. I found the questions simple and the interface easy to navigate. There are just a handful of self-assessment questions for each "lever," and most of them are unexceptional. The program occasionally reveals its blind spots. One of the questions about instruction asks about how well teachers understand and use the Core, and it does not allow for the possibility that teachers are familiar with the Core but don't use it because they don't want to. Everything in the survey assumes that we all want to welcome the Core into our home and make it happy here and that its success will naturally flow into educational awesomeness and joy for all. There is no "You're not my real mom" option.

The whole effect is very Borgian, and it reveals an extremely specific view of exactly how a school should be assimilated into the Core universe. This is no surprise. Since the Core is a one-size-fits-all prescription for students, why would it not come with a one-size-fits-all school districts to implement it? Yes, Aspen is promising customizable versions of this tool (for a price), but this is customizable in the same manner as a fast food burger-- you can change the balance of the elements a bit, but you'll be choosing how to tweak the ingredients that the restaurant has chosen for you. So, not very customizable at all (kind of like that "personalized" education we keep hearing about).

So if your school district decides to sign on to this handy tool, God bless you and have fun. Thank you for making a contribution to the giant holding cells of our Data Overlords.And remember-- student learning is irrelevant to the process.