At the request of a Pittsfield and Winnesquam resident, I attended two community sessions hosted by “Pittsfield Listens and NH Listens”.
Pittsfield Listens asked members of the community to attend a meeting a couple of months ago. They wanted members of the community to discuss some of the changes happening in the local schools. I attended the small meeting with the knowledge of what the Delphi Technique was and how it’s used to manipulate attendees. (http://www.vlrc.org/articles/110.html Delphi explained)
I arrived a little late for the meeting but when I walked in I noticed there was a small number of people in attendance. I’d say roughly 10 people were there to participate. I also noticed that there were a number of people who were there as either members of Pittsfield Listens or from The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. The head facilitator was Keith Catone: http://annenberginstitute.org/
As the facilitators began the meeting, I noticed a phrase that was used in the presentation called “student centered learning”. Knowing exactly what this meant, I figured it should be defined so the other people in the room would understand. I raised my hand and asked for a definition. The facilitator asked for help from a Pittsfield teacher who was attending the meeting and she gave the audience her version of “student centered learning”.
She explained how student centered learning expected more from the students. This meant that teachers became facilitators instead of instructors. Students inquired or discovered learning and teachers were there as guides.
One astute attendee commented on how this would NOT work in a class like Algebra. She is right. This approach to learning has had its share of problems and complaints in the past.
This is nothing new. This is shifting from a teacher centered classroom to a student centered classroom. While this is “sold” as innovative and a way to improve learning, there are plenty of examples where this has failed students in the past. (Please see links at the bottom of this article to see for yourself)
A couple of other attendees, including myself, began to challenge this learning method being used in the Pittsfield schools. How can this benefit students? Especially since the teacher acknowledged that the reason for reforming the classes, was based on the low test scores in mathematics.
I brought up the problem of using programs like Everyday Math in the district. Since there is a problem with the math scores, why would the district administrators ignore the very program that has left many students in need of a math tutor? Why would they implement a learning method that has also contributed to illiteracy in mathematics? Constructivism. (please read links provided below)
The facilitators listened to the thoughtful arguments against student centered learning. They listened to how Everyday math is the prime contributor to the low math scores in Pittsfield. They continued to facilitate the meeting without arguments for or against this reform effort in the school. However they did mention how THEY were leading discussions with the teachers in the school district.
Yes, the district is now consulting with an organization that is not offering expertise in math instruction, but engaged in “social justice”.
The Anneberg Institute is a “Community Organizing” organization with a focus on political issues such as “Social Justice”. For instance, Keith Catone facilitated the Pittsfield Listens meeting. What many did not realize is, he is a strong supporter of La Raza studies in AZ as you can read and see here: http://annenberginstitute.org/commentary/2012/03/emulate-dont-eliminate-tucsons-mexican-american-studies-program
The La Raza studies has faced sharp criticism in AZ for: it’s pro-Marxist political ideology, pushing racial warfare and promoting the overthrow of the U.S. Government. All of this is considered “social justice” as you can read here: http://www.examiner.com/article/tusd-la-raza-studies-are-lessons-marxism
The meeting came to an end with an obvious emphasis that those who attended were not buying into this reform effort called: Student Centered Learning. From an academic perspective, those who attended could see a real problem with a teacher no longer instructing students in the core academic subjects.
- How do they learn grammar?
- How do they learn mathematics?
- How do students discover this knowledge on their own? Wouldn’t this require an enormous amount of extra time?
- With limited school days in each year, how can students be expected to discover knowledge on their own with little guidance?
- How does this improve math scores in the district?
Student centered learning was being sold but I don’t believe anyone was really buying it.
What does Pittsfield Listens do to address the concerns raised? Well as far as I can tell, they will be having more meetings in the community to let attendees know why this is good for their district and their children. While they “listen” of course.
There is NOTHING about listening when it comes to “Pittsfield Listens”. This is an attempt to sway public opinion to support their efforts to reform the district from one that seeks to educate students to one that seeks to socially engineer students.
Social justice is the recipe for Pittsfield students and parents better wake up. This is not an effort to make children smarter or improve academic outcomes. This is an effort to change the values in students. But are these values from the parents and the community? NO. These values will most likely be brought to you by The Annenberg Institute as they are now in the school instructing the teachers.
Who allowed this organization into the schools? Who is paying for this? Where are the mathematicians that can identify the many problems with Everyday math and offer a better alternative program so students master basic math?
Where are the independent studies that show student centered learning has any real impact on literacy?
One thing was clear, the facilitators were trained well in the Delphi Technique. They tried to manipulate the discussion. When faced with attendees who had the ability to analyze what was being presented, the meeting ended up resulting in no gains for “Pittsfield Listens”.
What will they do from this point forward? I suppose they will continue to try to sell their reform efforts to the community in hopes that others will be less informed and buy into the social justice solution. Hopefully with his critique, Pittsfield parents will become more involved and put a stop to the social engineering and seek meaningful ways that will focus on academic excellence in their school district.