10.17.2015 Letter to the Editor – Constructivism – PRINT & SEND TO P.O. BOX 183 IRVINGTON


To the Editor:

During the fields vote last year, parents who opposed artificial turf were afraid to express their views. I know this is true because I have emails from parents saying so.

The same one-sided process is set to unfold again this fall, as the District hosts a new set of forums to discuss a strategic plan. Now, as then, the superintendent knows what he wants, and parents who disagree will do so at a cost.

This week a friend came up with a way for residents to speak freely.

I’ll write a series of letters explaining the kind of schools my family and friends value.

Everyone who shares our educational values—parents, empty nesters, people who’ve never had children in the schools—should cut out the letters and mail them to SOS – Save Our Schools, PO Box 183, Irvington, NY 10533. The envelopes will be hand-delivered unopened to the school board at a public meeting.

It’s important to weigh in because the superintendent has hired a specialist in “constructivism” (peer editing, flipped classrooms, learning stations, etc.) to oversee the strategic planning process—before finding out whether the community wants constructivist schools.

In constructivist classrooms, students teach themselves and each other. They choose their own books to read, and work in groups to “discover” and “construct” their own knowledge while the teacher circulates the classroom working one-on-one with students having difficulty.

Is this what parents want?

Is it what taxpayers want?


Several years ago, Main Street School created a constructivist class. All subjects were to be taught as projects, with math, English, science, and social studies rolled into one.

We parents were given the choice to enroll our children. So few of us did that the principal was forced to call parents personally to sell the class, which filled only because parents of friends enrolled their children in tandem. Overwhelmingly, parents preferred the structure and coherence of a teacher-led classroom.

Our schools are public schools. By law and custom, the community sets the vision, the board sets the mission, the superintendent executes the mission.

Yet for far too long our central administrators have done what they wanted to do, not what we want them to do.

If you agree, send a copy of this letter to SOS – Save Our Schools – PO Box 183, Irvington, NY.

For the price of a 49-cent stamp, your voice can be heard.

And see:
Teachers “taking risks”
Project Follow-Through
We are a Tony Wager district, whether we like it or not
Super’s plan: replace college prep with “workplace prep”
Do we want to be a constructivist district?
“Fast trends”
Teacher-centered v. learner-centered classrooms 

Workplace skills Irvington_Vision_and_Current_Reality10_2015_2-GMK_pdf - BEST

What do we know about the future? Irvington_Vision_and_Current_Reality10_2015_2-GMK_Strategic plan

A slide from the Strategic Planning forum.

College preparation is not included. Nor does the facilitator see knowledge as important to the workplace.

This is constructivism.

Constructivists believe the world is changing so fast that the knowledge students learn today will go extinct by the time they graduate high school or college.

Therefore you should replace knowledge with empty skills that can be transferred to all the new jobs yet to be invented. 

That’s the constructivist position.

Cognitive science tells us that the constructivist position is wrong: empty cognitive skills do not exist.

Instead, skill and knowledge are flip sides of a coin: no knowledge, no skill. This is turning out to be true with athletics, too. Athletic skill draws upon knowledge stored inside long-term memory.

For the record, constructivism is a very old philosophy, dating back as far as 1900.

In one of the earliest manifestations of constructivism, progressive educators argued that working class students should be taught useful skills like sewing instead of Latin and Greek. Working class parents disagreed. They wanted their children to be taught the same elite curriculum wealthy children were taught.

Today progressive educators argue that no one should be taught traditional knowledge — rich, poor, or in-between.

They’ve updated the “skills” they believe children should be taught to a fuzzy array of workplace skills: leadership, “strategic planning skills,” etc. 

Constructivists believe public schools should become pretend b-schools, and that is what our central administrators, supported by a board majority, are doing.


Kris Harrison’s plan for the district


Definitions of Success 3.5.2013 – Superintendent definition & response

Tony Wagner – Rigor Redefined – Harrison vision – 9.24.2013replaces college preparation with “workplace” preparation

Rigor Redefined by Tony Wagner – October 2008

Creating IUFSD Vision for Technology – 1.28.2014 (annotated) 

Creating the Vision for Technology – 1.28.2014 (original)

Response to superintendent technology memo – 2.8.2014

Flipped classrooms in Irvington – Irvington Insight – 1.2014



District Technology Plan – Adopted 6.15.2015no mention of college preparation; no mention of Common Core

9-29_-_strategic_plan_presentation_FINAL “Framework for Strategic Planning”

STRATEGIC PLANNING FORUM: Irvington Vision and Current Reality 10.14.2015.2 – Strategic planing forum – GMKno mention of college preparation; no mention of Common Core

Super’s plan: replace college prep with “workplace” prep
Teacher-centered v. learner-centered classrooms 
“Fast trends”
Teachers “taking risks”

Note: the school board tells me 19.3% is wrong, so I have to figure that out. The figures in the table are all drawn from the superintendent’s Powerpoint of 4/19/2016.

In the past 6 years, with the economy stagnant and inflation extremely low (this year’s inflation cap was 0.12%), IUFSD taxes have risen 19.3%.

For a 19.3% increase to be sustainable, we need taxpayers whose incomes are also rising at that rate.

That’s the issue: not the salaries and benefits we pay, but the rate of increase in those salaries. 

2011-12 $50,324,892 0.91% $592.19 3.54%
2012-13 $51,156,000 1.65% $613.84 3.66%
2013-14 $54,070,000 5.70% $645.81 5.21%
2014-15 $56,294,000 4.11% $665.35 3.03%
2015-16 $57,664,000 2.43% $690.14 3.73%
2016-17 $58,688,325 1.15% $698.78 1.25%

SOURCE: 04 19 16 2016-17 Budget Development Presentation Budget Adoption v4 final

AND SEE: Schools’ property-tax cap for coming year: 0.12% by Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief 5:09 p.m. EST January 20, 2016

Percent increase in spending across the years 

ela-9.3.1-3 – NYS Common Core – Animals in Translation

A friend asked me to put together a bibliography of research on writing. This is a start.

Comparison of Pen & Keyboard Transcription Modes in Children with & without Learning Disabilities – Berninger – 2009

BERNINGER – PUBLICATIONS – Voa English Learning – Which Makes the Better Writer: the Hand or the Keyboard

Virginia Berninger is an educational psychology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. She tells us about a study which found that children sometimes do a better job as writers when they compose the words by hand than when they type them on a keyboard.

VIRGINIA BERNINGER: “And this was a chance to follow over two hundred children — it was about two hundred forty — longitudinally, once a year for five years. And I looked comprehensively at writing development. And what we found, which was very surprising to us, is that they wrote longer essays, they wrote the words faster. And, in the paper just published, they wrote more complete sentences in fourth and sixth grade when they were writing in handwriting by pen than when writing on keyboard.

Handwriting: what do we know and what do we need to know by Jane Medwell and David Wray:

A major programme of research undertaken over the last 10–15 years (e.g. Berninger, 1994; Berninger and Graham, 1998; Berninger et al., 2006) has investigated the role of handwriting in writing and its findings are extremely interesting. Firstly, it has been established that handwriting is far from a purely motor act. Berninger and Graham (1998) stress that it is ‘‘language by hand’’ and point out that their research suggests that orthographic and memory processes (the ability to recall letter shapes) contribute more to handwriting than do motor skills (Berninger and Amtmann, 2004).

BERNINGER Writing First – LLW2008

Want to Improve Children’s Writing? Don’t Neglect Their Handwriting by Steve Graham – American Educator – Winter 2009-2010

Berninger – Evidence-Based, Developmentally Appropriate Writing Skills K to 5: Teaching the Orthographic Loop of Working Memory to Write Letters So Developing Writers Can Spell Words, and Express Ideas

Berninger – Teaching Spelling & Writing Alone & Together

Writing as a Means of Learning – Legal Writing

Writing To Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading

Write to read: The brain’s universal reading & writing network – Perfetti & Tan – TRENDS IN COGNITIVE SCIENCES

How Handwriting Boosts the Brain – WSJ.com

Cursive Handwriting – Hempenstall (Word doc)

Word processing may be good for children with disabilities: The Power of Word Processing for the Student Writer by Steve Graham

Letter published in the WSJ on the subject of cursive handwriting and dyslexia:

Cursive longhand helps some people in a way few would think about. I am dyslectic to the point that I had to depend on others to read to me for many years. Over 50 years ago I received an engineering degree, and went on to a successful career supervising the design and construction of several big-ticket projects.

With my dyslexia pattern I would never print “dog” as “god” but I could, even today, print “dog” as “bog” and not know the difference, even if someone pointed it out to me. I do not make these mistakes when writing in longhand. I hope the schools continue to teach this method of writing to the dyslectic students.

Robert O. Watkins, PE
Ridgefield, Wash.

Jean Piaget
Born: 1896
Died: 1980

Lev Vygotsky
Born: 1896
Died: 1934

2 kinds of constructivism

Educational Technology and Learning Theories

The Science of Learning – Deans for Impact – Annotated

Math Curriculum Report – 12/2/2003

See page 15, which lists criteria for adoption of a math curriculum in IUFSD.

“Constructivist approach with modeling”

This was 2003, 12 years and 3 superintendents ago. “Constructivist” was a requirement for every math curriculum the district considered. Nobody even looked at Singapore Math. Or Saxon Math, or any of the other “instructivist” math curricula available on the market. 

Constructivism isn’t new.

It’s old.

The word “constructivism” has replaced “progressive education,” but it’s the same thing, only worse.

Constructivism is worse because after the 1960s, progressive education merged with postmodernism to produce radical constructivism

The progressive education movement, which began in the 1890s, was always anti-intellectual. But after the 1960s, progressive education became anti-“truth” as well. From the standpoint of radical constructivism, everything is relative, and there are no right answers. (And the right answer can be wrong.)

What’s different about what Kris and Raina are doing is that most administrators give lip service to constructivism while continuing to tolerate teacher-centered classrooms in practice. 

Kris and Raina intend to make classroom reality conform to ideology.

That’s what’s so dangerous.

Right answer is wrong - 10533__Standardized_Testing
Source: Facebook

I’m told a video of Tony Wagner was shown at last night’s Community Forum.

Tony Wagner’s ideology is antithetical to liberal education (which Wagner seeks to “redefine”) and to the findings of cognitive science (see: The Science of Learning). 

Ironically, given how difficult the district’s transition to Common Core has been, Wagner’s work is also incompatible with CC. 

The Common Core has its problems, but one problem it does not have is Tony Wagner. Nowhere in Common Core documents will you find a reference to “21st century skills.” The phrase “21st century skills” is a marketing slogan invented by the “Partnership for 21st Century Skills,” an advocacy group created by technology companies and the NEA.

The Common Core is attempting to improve the level of academic rigor in public schools. CC has gone about this task wrongly, at least in the case of English literature, and the testing regimen is a mess. But the goal is right.

Tony Wagner’s goal is to eliminate rigor altogether. To be fair, his stated goal is to “redefine” rigor. But he is not qualified to redefine rigor in the disciplines, and his attempt to do so eliminates rigor altogether. .


This is the Wagner article Kris Harrison and Raina Kor are using to transform the district:

Rigor Redefined by Tony Wagner


And this is a letter to the Enterprise re: Kris Harrison’s adoption of Wagner the consent of the people:

To the Editor:

At the September 23, 2014 meeting of the Board of Education, Superintendent Kris Harrison briefed the board on his plan for the district.

His plan is drawn from Tony Wagner’s 2008 opinion piece, “Rigor Redefined,” available here: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct08/vol66/num02/Rigor-Redefined.aspx

Wagner believes the world is changing so rapidly that by the time today’s children reach adulthood, most of the knowledge they learned in school will be obsolete.

Thus the school’s traditional mission of imparting knowledge to a new generation should be subordinated to a new mission: helping students master seven “21st century skills” Wagner claims to have identified. (Wagner spends the second half of his essay denigrating Advanced Placement classes and their teachers.)

Two years later, the superintendent has acted on at least five of the seven “skills.” This has had the effect of actually increasing the need for tutors, because teaching knowledge is not the district’s priority. Teaching “21st century skills” is. That’s why we now have flipped classrooms, learning stations in 6th-grade math, children sitting in pods peering at iPads and Chromebooks, guidance counselors ordered not to help students draw up lists of colleges, and a Shark Tank project in the middle school. (The last two innovations fall under skill number 4: “Initiative and Entrepreneurialism.”)

What unifies Wagner’s list of seven “skills” is the absence of knowledge, and that’s the first problem. Cognitive scientists have spent years trying to explain that knowledge stored inside long-term memory is different from knowledge stored on Google. To think critically, you need the former. When you think without knowledge, all you’re doing is taking your clichés for a walk.

A second problem: Wagner’s piece was published before the crash. It was wrong then (as a few minutes on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website reveals), but it’s even further off base today. The 21st century Wagner imagined, with its happy, humming global society and its ever-increasing “abundance,” is not the 21st century we got. Our children got world recession and Charlie Hebdo.

But the most important problem is the fact that all of these changes are being made without the consent of the people. No member of the board has expressed enthusiasm for changing the mission of the school to the teaching of 21st century skills, yet three members of the board have allowed the superintendent to proceed.

I hope the next board will have the strength to change course.


How Kris Harrison has interpreted Tony Wagner’s 21st century skills so far: 

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: flipped classrooms; stations in math class

Collaboration and Leadership: students are seated in pods; teachers “facilitate”

Agility and Adaptability ( ? )

Initiative and Entrepreneurialism: teachers “are encouraged to take risks”; Innovation Fund; Shark Tank project; “leadership coaching”; guidance counselors forbidden to help students draw up lists of colleges because students need to take ownership of the process

Effective Oral and Written Communication: writing taught outside subject-matter courses in violation of what we know about effective practice

Accessing and Analyzing Information: Chromebooks, iPads, Google replaces textbooks

Curiosity and Imagination (“we want kids to make mistakes”… )

Super’s plan: replace college prep with “workplace” prep
Teacher-centered v. learner-centered classrooms 
“Fast trends”
Teachers “taking risks”

Today, IUFSD teachers are encouraged to “take risks.” 

Neither the student nor the parent must be informed that a risk is being taken; no plans to evaluate the results of teacher risk-taking are required; nor is the board informed. And, of course, it’s not the teacher taking the risk. It’s the student. Teachers have tenure and a union.

There is no realm apart from public schools in which taking risks with other people’s children is acceptable. At the university level, all research involving human subjects, including projects as benign as interviewing people about their experiences, must be vetted and approved by an Institutional Review Board. Even teaching autistic children grammar using a software program must undergo thorough review prior to implementation.

Yet here in IUFSD, teachers are expected to “take risks.” 

Below are Siegfried Engelmann’s principles for making changes to curriculum and teaching:

Principles for school boards to follow when authorizing changes to curriculum and teaching practices

1. Don’t adopt any teaching method or curriculum unless you have substantial reason to believe that it will result in improvement of student performance;
2. Don’t adopt any approach without making projections about student learning;
3. Don’t adopt any practice without monitoring it and comparing performance in the classroom with projections;
4. Don’t adopt an approach without having a back-up plan;
5. Don’t maintain practices that are obviously not working as planned;
6. Don’t blame parents, students, or other extraneous factors if the plan fails.


Don’t adopt any teaching method or curriculum unless you have substantial reason to believe that it will result in improvement of student performance.

A good plan is to require the administration to show that the plan works on a small scale before using it across the board.

Even though failure in a small-scale tryout is more humane than failure in an entire school district, children should not be guinea pigs for mindless experiments that have little hope of working. The small-scale tryout is not to be a learning experience for the administration as it discovers facts that it should already know. Therefore, the board should limit the number of tryout programs that are permitted, and should establish contingencies for failure.

The board, however, should require the administration to contact successful teachers within the district and solicit their advice and guidance before installing any approach. (These are teachers who consistently produce results that are above the demographically predicted level.)

Don’t adopt any approach without making projections about student learning.

Unless the benefits of the approach can be readily measured in terms of student outcomes, and unless they are outcomes we are concerned with, the administration should not be permitted to adopt the approach.

Don’t adopt any practice without monitoring it and comparing performance in the classroom with projections.

Monitoring is necessary for the administration that wants the program to succeed. . . Weekly evaluations indicate whether the projected material is presented on schedule, whether the teachers need significant help, and whether they are faithfully following the program.

Don’t maintain practices that are obviously not working as planned, and don’t stick with failed plan.

Part of the initial plan should have a “pull-the-plug” criterion and a back-up plan. The criterion should be expressed in a way that permits some flexibility, but that requires an empathic response to kid problems. . . . What we don’t want the administrators to do is to leave students in the approach all year long and then at the end of the yea conclude that it was a bomb.

Don’t blame parents, kids, or other extraneous factors if the plan fails.

The only factor that affects the plan is whether the kids and the teacher are in attendance on a regular basis. Aside from the unusual situations, this is the only consideration that should be used to demur the results of the implementation. If the teaching failed, it was because the teaching failed, not because the parents didn’t get involved.

Adapted from: War Against the Schools’ Academic Child Abuse by Siegfried Engelmann | Halcyon House | Portland, Oregon 1992

Super’s plan: replace college prep with “workplace” prep
Teacher-centered v. learner-centered classrooms 
“Fast trends”
Teachers “taking risks”
Project Follow-Through

Our Failure To Follow Through by Billy Tashman

Reprinted from New York Newsday, November 15, 1994, with permission

Project Follow Through, America’s longest, costliest and perhaps, most significant study of public school teaching methods quietly concluded this year. The good news is that after 26 years, nearly a billion dollars, and mountains of data, we now know which are the most effective instructional tools. The bad news is that the education world couldn’t care less.

Started in 1968, Follow Through was intended to help kids, from kindergarten through the third grade, continue the progress they had made in Head Start. But the Feds also wanted to find out which instructional methods delivered the most bang for the bucks. So they funded 22 vastly different educational programs in 51 school districts with a disproportionate number of poor children. Standardized test results were collected from almost 10,000 Follow Through children, as well as from kids not in the Follow Through program.

Abt Associates in Cambridge, Mass., analyzed the numbers, then issued the verdict. When it came to academic performance, children who participated in the Direct Instruction method blew their peers out of the classroom. More important, later evaluations of 1,000 Direct Instruction graduates showed that they were still ahead of their cohorts in their senior year of high school.

If something works this well, why aren’t public schools using it? One reason is that Direct Instruction, at first glance, looks dated. Indeed, teachers who treat their jobs as a cross between stand-up comedy and the Superbowl halftime show might, after peeking into a Direct Instruction classroom, disappear faster than a spare textbook at the Board of Ed.

To make matters worse, these methods owe a lot to the late B. F. Skinner, the Harvard behaviorist some recklessly called a fascist. That’s unfortunate and unfair, because Skinner demanded a scientific approach to classroom instruction, which is lacking from almost every hot reform idea du jour.

Direct Instruction stresses basic skills, breaking them down into mini-components. Children learn to read, for example, by learning the sounds of the letters before the letter names. They master each skill before moving onto the next one. Teachers track each student’s progress on daily charts. They also track behavior, encouraging good conduct with praise, while ignoring bad behavior for the most part. In short, if you can’t measure it, you probably shouldn’t teach it. This kind of micro-management is almost unheard of in most classrooms.

But Direct Instruction’s most controversial feature is a script from which teachers conduct lessons. Picture this: A first-grade teacher, reading from her script, makes the “m” sound. The pupils respond in unison. After a word of praise, the teacher, prompted by her script, tells them to repeat the sound.

This may sound a bit like a “Road to Wellville” approach to education, but Direct Instruction has had stunning success at scores of schools. One of the original sites in the early ’70s was P.S. 77 in the South Bronx. After five years, DI “significantly raised the reading, writing and arithmetic performance and scores of the participating children,” said one report. Federal budget cuts eventually gutted the program but, interestingly, P.S 77 old-timers still cling lovingly to the teaching methods.

It may come as a shock to the layperson, but school policymakers haven’t adopted Direct Instruction because they have an aversion to scientific research. Educators throw their weight behind the latest fad, then refuse to abandon it when it doesn’t work. In fact, the federal oversight panel for Follow Through cut the Direct Instruction program even as it continued other models that were spectacular flops. Eschewing basic skills, the failed programs tried to teach kids how to learn on their own, or tried to raise students’ self-esteem (both categories, by the way, in which Direct Instruction students excelled). In these failed programs, students had even lower reading and math scores than the control groups that had no Follow Through program. Yet these failed programs have spread through America like fire through dry corn.

Follow Through demonstrated that scientific research and the classroom are still strangers to one another. Until they join forces, American schoolchildren will continue to receive a second-class education.

Super’s plan: replace college prep with “workplace” prep
Teacher-centered v. learner-centered classrooms 
“Fast trends”
Teachers “taking risks”
Project Follow-Through

From a former board member re: the legal use of executive session:

Allow me a quick comment based on my school board experience here in Columbia County and many conversations over the years with legal counsel at the NYS School Boards Association and with Robert Freeman of the State’s Committee on Open Government.

For starter’s most people don’t know — or care to know — that an Executive Session meeting protects only those matters which are confidential; to wit,

a. matters which will imperil the public safety if disclosed;

b. any matter which may disclose the identity of a law enforcement agent or informer;

c. information relating to current or future investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense which would imperil effective law enforcement if disclosed;

d. discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation;

e. collective negotiations pursuant to article fourteen of the civil service law;

f. the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation;

g. the preparation, grading or administration of examinations; and

h. the proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property or the proposed acquisition of securities, or sale or exchange of securities held by such public body, but only when publicity would substantially affect the value thereof.

ref: §105. Conduct of executive sessions.

I doubt very much an audit would be covered by any ES confidentiality privilege, much less be allowed to be withheld from the public until the Board approves it. Here is a good primer on the Open Meetings law.

It surprises a lot of people.

Good luck.

Agenda for 9/29/2015 BOE:
Meeting Sep 29, 2015 – Audit Committee of the Irvington Union Free School District Subject 2014-15 Audit Report Type Discussion

The Board will meet in Executive Session with the District’s External Auditors to review the 2014-15 Report and findings. The Report will be formally presented at the public meeting which begins at 7:30pm.

N.Y. EDN. LAW § 2116-c : NY Code – Section 2116-C: Audit committees

Requirements set forth by the Smart Schools Bond Act Guidance 04.27.15:

…the district must certify in its Smart Schools Investment Plan submission that the following required steps have taken place:

  • A Preliminary Plan has been posted on the district website for at least 30 days. The district must include an address to which any written comments on the Plan should be sent. [No….The link to the plan takes you to a meeting notification with no further information.]
  • Board has conducted a hearing that will enable stakeholders to respond to the Preliminary Plan. This hearing may occur as part of a normal Board meeting, but adequate notice of the event must be provided through local media and the district website for at least two weeks prior to the meeting. [Adequate notice via local media has not been provided.]
  • The district included an address to which any written comments on the plan should be sent. [No: since the plan was not available on the website, no public comments could be made.]
  • Review will examine evidence provided in the Smart Schools Investment Plan that the devices/platforms chosen will be linked to a coherent instructional plan and will enhance teaching and learning on a sustainable basis. [No mention of academic or learning goals in IUFSD Smart Schools Investment Plan]

An additional issue: the state requires that district technology purchases be “sustainable.”

To date, mobile devices have been donated, but the existence of these donated devices is cited by IUFSD as the rationale for installing wireless connectivity in Dows Lane and Main Street School.

Have the donating organizations contracted to fund all purchases of mobile devices going forward? (see: Why Hoboken is Throwing Away All of Its Laptops)

Irvington UFSD Preliminary Smart Schools Investment Plan

Currently, we have several types of mobile access devices in our district including Chromebooks, iPads, and laptops. Once Wifi access is put into place at our elementary buildings, we will have the opportunity to collect information on what types of mobile devices work best for our teachers and students. Based on those findings, we will be able to use Smart Schools funds to acquire additional devices for our students to use.

Wireless in Dows Lane and the Main Street School will be used to replace traditional textbooks and programs with materials students find on Google the the process of “exploring” and “pondering” “essential questions.” 

Materials found on Google are the opposite of a coherent, sequenced curriculum, which is what children need to understand content and store it in long-term memory.

Installing wireless facilitates the move to “thinking” and away from learning that is the hallmark of Kris & Raina’s many changes.

Irvington UFSD Preliminary Smart Schools Investment Plan 2015

This student (video: Flipped classrooms aren’t teaching) makes an important point about the damage flipped classrooms do to the teacher-student relationship.

Progressive educators believe in “horizontal” classes as opposed to “vertical,” hierarchical classes. Inside a horizontal class, everyone is a “learner,” and the teacher is just a guide on the side. As a result, the teacher-student relationship is weakened while the peer relationship is strengthened.

It’s ironic because districts like ours spend a small fortune to reduce class size, but our administrators, aided and abetted by parents on the board, use reduced class size to grow the distance between teacher & student instead of shrinking it.

The smaller the class, the easier it is to put all students in groups. Inside larger classes, the noise level alone makes small-group work untenable.

So we pay for small class size, but we get peer editing, learning stations, & flipped classrooms.

Flipped classrooms are especially beloved by progressive educators/constructivists because they move the teacher to video, and you can’t form a relationship with a video. Inside a flipped classroom, eye contact happens primarily between students, not between teacher & students. 

And see:
Teachers singing about becoming guides on the side
The choice

BEGIN: 1:50
“One method that is used in Common Core teaching is called the flipped classroom, where the students are given work that they don’t know how to do and given blanks or other worksheets and told to come back with the work done. I’ve experienced this more this year and it is incredibly confusing and a monotonous way to learn what I’m supposed to bring to the table. We’re expected to teach ourselves using a video. That’s not teaching. I’ve said this before in other speeches and I’ll say it again because it’s imperative to the survival of education. Teachers are irreplaceable. Irreplaceable. The bond they create, the knowledge they have, the opportunities a student has to ask questions and see multiple examples from a caring, knowledgeable person and not a computer screen is so valuable. One thing I’ve enjoyed most about school as I’ve gotten older is the bond I’ve been able to form with almost all of my teachers, past and present. This is what has let me enjoy school so fully until now. Take this away and you will have a irreparably damaged education forever.”
END: 2:55

Flipped classrooms aren’t teaching

10.10.2015 Teacher-centered v. learner-centered

In a learner-centered classroom, 7th graders “focus” on adjectives.


In a teacher-centered classroom, 7th graders learn the grammar of English composition:

7 CORE KNOWLEDGE – Gr7 – CKFSequence_Rev-4

And see:
6th grade English at Brearley
Teacher-centered v. student-centered

7th grade in a learner-centered school.

This is what constructivism looks like. Students study themselves, in groups; the teacher is a guide on the side.


Compare to 6th grade at Brearley, where students grapple with an “intellectually rigorous and coherent literature curriculum”:

Grade 6

  • Folk Tales (summer reading continued into the fall): A large number are read and a few are selected for class discussion. They include: “The Valiant Chattee-Maker” (Indian), “The Young Head of the Family” (Chinese), and “The Wonderful Tar-Baby” (African-American).
  • Ballads: Five Scottish ballads—“Sir Patrick Spens,” “Edward, Edward,” “Mary Hamilton,” “The Twa Corbies,” and “Barbra Allen,” the last two having available English counterparts.
  • Book of Genesis, King James Version, with some abridgement.
  • Greek mythology, based on selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, The Iliad, and The Homeric Hymns.
  • The Odyssey

Or compare our 7th-grade classrooms to 7th grade in Core Knowledge.

If administrators and board members listened to parents and taxpayers, this is the education IUFSD children could have: CORE KNOWLEDGE – Gr7 – CKFSequence_Rev-4

And see:
6th grade English at Brearley
Teacher-centered v. learner-centered

Technology in Classrooms Doesn’t Always Boost Education Results, OECD Says

. . . students who spend an above-average amount of time in front of a computer at school performed worse than other students, including those who might not use them at all.

In mathematics tests, the survey found that almost any time spent on the computer led to poorer performance on both written and digital tests.

Researchers found much the same results when students used computers for homework. They also found that students who used computers excessively were more likely to feel isolated or alone.

9-7-2015 KMH Employment agreement

14-15 Code of Conduct

What we have:

3/5/2013 – Definitions of Success  
9/24/2013 – “Focus and success”
9/24/2013 – “Rigor Redefined” by Tony Wagner  
1/28/2014 – Creating an IUFSD Vision for Technology 
1/2014 – “I am a child-centered professional” (Flipped classrooms)
6/15/2015 – Adopted – District Technology Plan 2014 – 2018

Teacher-centered v. learner-centered 10.10.2015

What we don’t have:

Core Knowledge: A liberal education for K-8

School board:

Whitney, President
(914) 591-9175

Catherine Palmieri, Vice President
914) 693-6896

John Montgomery
(914) 591-9352

Bob Grados
(914) 231-6365

Michael Hanna
(917) 750-8790


A Game-Changing Education Book from England
by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.
July 2nd, 2013

Order Seven Myths about Education

And see:
Do we want to be a constructivist district?
Curriculum and property values

The Board renewed the Code of Conduct on July 7, as one item in a consent agenda.

The entire board has now ratified:

  • Contacting police for all “electronic media crime”
  • Failing to inform students or parents what an “electronic media crime” is and how severely it will be punished by our current superintendent
  • Requiring students to apprise themselves of due process
  • Questioning students concerning infractions that will result in severe punishment without informing parents
  • Questioning students concerning infractions that will result in severe punishment without an advocate present

The entire board has opted to set no limits on:

  • The number of hours a student can be held for questioning (nearly 3 hours for one middle-school student in ‘computergate’)
  • The leveling of threats of permanent expulsion during questioning in order to obtain confessions or evidence against other students

Board of Education

Phil Whitney, President
(914) 591-9175

Catherine Palmieri, Vice President
914) 693-6896

John Montgomery
(914) 591-9352

Bob Grados
(914) 231-6365

Michael Hanna
(917) 750-8790

Irvington Parents Forum at Yahoo Groups
Irvington Parents Forum on Facebook
Irvington Union Free School District
Irvington USFD Board Meetings – YouTube

From a blog written in 2005-2006 by an “old-school” teaching candidate attending Columbia Teachers College. Education Departments believe in teaching “skills” (“21st century skills,” “Habits of Mind,” etc.), not knowledge, and that’s the theme of her struggles in the program:

So I am at a graduate school of education, home of teaching people how to give urban kids a crappy education. I am currently using all my powers to ward off the incessant doctrinal attacks on being oldschool. An argument I had with my instructor yesterday should serve as an excellent starting point.

The class is a “methods class” on teaching social studies. We were practicing writing a lesson plan, as a class. The lesson was about Hurricane Katrina and its effects on New Orleans. So we dutifully planned the lesson, and then came to the part about what homework we were going to assign. After deliberation, the class decided that, as homework, our high school students would have to design a Hurricane Survival Kit.

I meekly raised my hand and said, “well, this is a very creative lesson, but I think maybe it’s a little too lite, especially the homework.” My instructor replied, “well, actually, I think it’s quite difficult. They have to use all this information from class and synthesize it and even maybe look up an evacuation plan for their city.” Right. Here would be the Hurricane Survival Kit from most of the kids: , where the blank space represents how they didn’t do the assignment because it was stupid.

I responded that, at my old school, god bless its hard heart, my ninth graders had 20 pages of reading a night for one class. And sometimes they didn’t do it, but when they didn’t, they failed quizzes. And eventually they would have to read it, or they would fail essays, tests, and the class. And failing a class meant summer school, or repeating the year. So a lot of them just did the damn reading. The rest of our conversation went like this:

Instructor (who is, sadly, very smart): Well, does reading 20 pages a night give you all the skills you need?

Me: Well, it sure does improve your reading.

Instructor: But what about life skills that are so important today?

Me: Those are great too, but there’s not really a lot of time for that, what with needing to read.

Instructor: See, that’s the thing: I don’t consider these other skills “extra.”

Me: But basically, reading and writing [we don’t talk about math] skills are really what you are going to need in college. They are the limiting factor here. Even if you have the other skills, if you don’t have reading and writing, you’re just not going to college.

Instructor: Well not everyone wants to go to college.

At that point, I sat back in my chair, crossed my arms, and looked resigned. Let me paraphrase the underlying thinking here. Basically, we must produce project-based edu-tainment to occupy the kids who couldn’t care less about school, meanwhile dooming the other kids (and there are more than you would think) to failure in ever attaining any kind of dreams of accomplishment. She argued that traditional education is a turn-off to urban kids and that trying to force them to do it will cause them to drop out of school. Hello. They already are, in huge droves. The schools that do what I’m talking about–the oldschools–are actually successful. I don’t think it’s easy to work with urban kids–they have a lot of really difficult things to deal with at a young age. But some of them can make it, IF we let them.

After class, in an email, she suggested we start a message board discussion of these ideas so they won’t take up so much class time. Excellent.
Welcome to School | 9/29/2005 | by newoldschoolteacher

From School Law, 35th Edition:

52. Student Discipline

Codes of Conduct

52:5. Is there a process school districts must follow to adopt or revise their code of conduct?

Yes. The code must be developed in collaboration with student, teacher, administrator, and parent organizations; and school safety and other school personnel (§ 2801(3); 8 NYCRR §§ 100.2(l)(2)(i)). In addition, the code must be reviewed annually and updated if necessary, taking into consideration the effectiveness of code provisions and the fairness and consistency of its administration (§ 2801(5); 8 NYCRR §§ 100.2(l)(2)(iii)(a)). Districts may establish a committee comprised of similar individuals to facilitate review of the code (§ 2801(5)(a); 8 NYCRR §§ 100.2(l)(2)(iii)(a)).

School boards and boards of cooperative educational services (BOCES) may adopt the code or revisions to the code of conduct only after at least one public hearing that provides for the participation of school personnel, parents, students, and other interested parties (§ 2801(3), (5); 8 NYCRR §§ 100.2(l)(2)(i), (iii)(a)). Districts must file their code of conduct and any revisions thereto with the commissioner of education within 30 days of adoption (§ 2801(5)(a); 8 NYCRR §§ 100.2(l)(2)(iii)(a)).

Police involvement for “electronic media crime” originated with Superintendent of Schools Kris Harrison:

Police involvement was not discussed by BOE or parents (minutes):

Parents weren’t meaningfully consulted, and it’s impossible to tell whether board members knew that the police line had been inserted when they voted to approve the Code. Unless they sat down and read all 38 pages of the revised Code, they wouldn’t have known, because Kris wouldn’t have pointed it out to them.

Board of Education

Bob Grados
(914) 231-6365

Michael Hanna
(917) 750-8790

Catherine Palmieri
914) 693-6896

Phil Whitney
(914) 591-9175

John Montgomery
(914) 591-9352

Irvington Parents Forum at Yahoo Groups
Irvington Parents Forum on Facebook
Irvington Union Free School District
Irvington USFD Board Meetings – YouTube

IUFSD Code of Discipline and related documents

Cross-posted at the Irvington Parents Form

The school board has posted its “District Technology Plan 2014-2018.”

College preparation isn’t on it.

The only goal of “technology,” here in IUFSD, is the propagation of “21st century skills.”

That is a grave mistake, not least because 21st century skills don’t exist.

The phrase “21st century skills” is a marketing slogan developed by the “Partnership for 21st Century Skills,” a lobbying outfit created by the NEA and tech companies that sell to schools.

“21st century skills” are win-win for unions and tech companies.

The union wins because no teacher can be held accountable for teaching 21st century skills.

Tech companies win because schools buy more devices.

You don’t need Chromebooks and iPads to prepare students for college (or law school, or business school, or medical school).

Change the mission to “21st century skills,” and every student needs a mobile device.

Bob Grados, Maria Kashkin, and Phil Whitney have decided that this is our path.

Three people have the power to make this decision for all district children.

Theory of Action

If we provide students with rigorous, authentic learning experiences rooted in a comprehensive curriculum, then they will acquire the knowledge, skills and dispositions of successful 21st Century learners that will prepare them to thrive in a rapidly evolving global society.”

That’s another thing: we don’t live in a “rapidly evolving global society.”

“Rapidly evolving global society” is a slogan created by unions and tech companies.

When you look at the actual data, or live in the actual world, you know that: a) we don’t live in an exciting, fast-paced “global society” (not unless you think Charlie Hebdo and ISIS offer our kids fabulous opportunities for advancement; and b) to the extent that we do live in a “global society,” it’s not “rapidly evolving.” 

The quote-unquote global society is no different today than it was 20 years ago, except that it’s worse in every respect. More financial trauma, more terror.

The simple truth is that our central administrators are completely unmoored from reality, and they are supported by 3 people who know it’s all nonsense but have chosen to impose the will of the central administrators they’ve hired and tenured on the rest of us.

Since the words “comprehensive curriculum” are plugged into the “theory of action” above, I will concede that, yes, of course, the district will continue to “offer” state-required college preparatory courses.

But our central administrators have zero interest in college preparation or in liberal education.

When that is the case, when you’re “offering” liberal education only because the state requires it, you’re not going to do it well.

Time to opt out.


All of this ties in directly with the hours-long interrogation of middle school children who accessed the teacher’s portion of the district website.

Kris, Raina, and Jesse fetishize technology.

They light up when they talk about technology; the delivery of PowerPoint talks and “Think Tank” manifestos on the subject of technology is the only time you hear real excitement in their voices, and see real excitement in their faces. For our central administrators, technology is magic.

If the three (five?) middle school boys who have been treated so harshly had done what they did without touching a computer, they would have been given lunchtime detention and that would have been the end of it.

But these boys broke a rule that involved a computer.

Breaking a rule involving a computer triggers automatic notification of the police. The Code of Conduct says so.


Even worse: reading through the Code, I learned that the punishment for bringing a gun to school is a one-year suspension.

Not expulsion. Suspension. For bringing a real gun in school.

One of the boys was threatened with permanent expulsion for a first computer infraction.

That tells you everything you need to know about our plight.


Do we want to be a constructivist district?
21st-century skills, the document Kris & Raina are using to transform the district

Excerpt from “Constructivism versus Students” by Siegfried Engelmann, creator of Direct Instruction curricula

Constructivism has captured the imagination of many educators, but it is not a strong theory….If we look at examples of first-grade children “learning” in a constructivist classroom, we may observe very few teacher-initiated activities;…it’s clear that the teacher’s role is not to teach, but to facilitate. Children make decisions about their learning or at least the experiences that are designed to promote learning.


[Using Direct Instruction curricula], we do not assume that all children learn at the same rate or make the same mistakes. The two main ways we address these differences is to (1) vary the rate at which program content is introduced and (2) design the material so it preempts major misconceptions that some students will otherwise learn.

We can identify students who require more practice to learn things. We can provide appropriate instruction for them by slowing the rate at which new material is introduced. The students [in Direct Instruction classrooms] are grouped homogenously, placed in instructional programs according to their skill level, and taught at a rate that assures they perform at about 70% correct on any new material introduced in the lesson and nearly 100% correct at the end of each daily lesson. Applying this formula assures that all groups will remain properly placed.

The program we use to teach the specified content must reflect awareness of the mistakes some students will make unless the program is designed to obviate these problems. For example, some beginning students make mistakes in identifying the letters b and d. These are perfectly reasonable errors, because the letters are the same shape in different positions. Students have never encountered objects that have one name when they face left and another name when they face right. So b-d confusion is probably not a result of students having “perceptual problems.” Their perception may be impeccable, but they don’t know when to call that object “dee” and when to call it “bee.”

The simplest way to address this problem is to introduce the letters at different times. For example, introduce d first. Then provide writing and reading practice for several weeks before introducing b. In most cases, b-d confusion is not a problem of students’ learning mechanisms or “perception”; it’s a problem of the program designers and teachers being unable to identify the problem that some naïve learners have in conceptualizing b and d as characters that change their name when they are flipped.

Note that classroom discussions in a typical constructivist classroom never identify the real problem some children have or the fact that their “perception” of b and d being the same are perfectly consistent with their mental schema and experiences.


[T]he first question that must be answered by constructivists is: Do you accept standards as indicators of specific content and relationships students are to learn? If their answer is no, they reveal themselves as radicals whose objectives are inconsistent with agreed-upon skills and information that students are to learn. If they say yes, they must next face what is the most fundamental question about their approach: How successful is your version of the constructivist approach? This question is not answered by how much the teachers or students enjoy their school experiences, but by data on how well students met specific standards. Did they do comparatively as well as students in a highly structured approach?


Mislearning as a Form of Constructivism

I worked with sixth grade “gifted” students who had been in a discovery-math program since kindergarten. The gulf between their verbal skills and their math performance was profound. They thought that the daily discussions about their math experiences were required steps in learning math. In other words, students didn’t simply work math problems; they discussed them and other things that seemed related to the problem or the students’ math history. Possibly the most telling incident of how handicapped they were occurred after I had been working with them for three days. I presented them with a set of word problems that paralleled the problems we had worked in the preceding lesson.

One of the highest performers in the classroom was making no progress on the first problem. He drew some ilk of Venn diagrams and was doing a lot of erasing.

I asked him to read the problem aloud.

Then I asked, “Have you worked any other problems like this one?”

He responded, “What do you mean?”

I said, “Do you remember the problem you worked yesterday about the birds in the barn?”


“Isn’t that problem like this one?”

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t both of them tell about each part and ask about the whole group?”


“You worked that problem correctly. Why aren’t you working this problem the same way?”

The student didn’t understand this relationship because he had never worked two word problems that were the same and had precious few experiences of solving any problem before the teacher went over the problems and led the discussion of various ways students could have solved them.

At the time this student struggled with the fundamental assumption of word problems, we were working with a class of disadvantaged third graders who were at the same place as the gifted students. By the end of the school year they were more than 40 lessons ahead of the gifted students. They progressed much faster because they didn’t have the misconceptions that prevented them from learning. The learning of the gifted students continued to be painful unlearning and relearning. The disadvantaged students had long since discovered that what they learned next built on what they had already mastered. Other discoveries they made included: I am smart; I learn fast and do well in math; I know how to use what I learn; I like math.

The chaotic experiences and failures of the gifted students preempted them from making these discoveries. Their discoveries were consistent with their experiences. Their responses on a questionnaire we gave them indicated serious misconceptions: they thought working a word problem required a preamble that contained many random observations and much discussion; they had learned key word strategies that sometimes helped them figure out how to work some problems; they gave up trying to learn something from the ensuing discussion; more than half indicated that they hated math.


Who Is the Teacher?

The theme of constructivism is that children formulate their awareness of the world from their experiences. In the typical classroom students share their perceptions. Why? Does this provision benefit the student who is sharing or those who are supposed to be attending? If the input is supposed to benefit the listeners, what makes the input better than that of a knowledgeable teacher who has information about both what students are to learn and the students’ current performance? If the input is supposed to benefit the speaker, only about 1/20th of the total time benefits a given student. Compounding the problem is the fact that this discussion robs time from the period, leaving less time for possible productive instruction.

In summary, the “learners” in a constructivist classroom are very strange creatures. They learn from their experiences; they supposedly benefit from the often-inarticulate observations of other children; however, they are prohibited from learning from a knowledgeable teacher who understands what students are trying to learn and who has information about the various mistakes students make. Not surprisingly, those who promote this orientation don’t have one shred of empirical data to support their prejudices. In other words, constructivism is philosophically impoverished and empirically sterile.

Constructivism Versus Students by Siegfried Engelmann | 2015

This paper aims to discuss epistemological and philosophical foundation of meaningful learning and teaching mathematics and science from the perspective of radical and social constructivism. I have reflected on my experiences of radical and social constructivism through dilemma, dialogue, and defense of my personal epistemology of learning. I went through articles of different authors which immensely put me into a dilemma as I tried to make connections to my experiences of learning and teaching mathematics and science. While doing this, I found myself in a great crevice of philosophical tensions between radical and social constructivism that lead into further dialogue between two selves, one as radical and other as social constructivist, and defended each epistemological/philosophical identities in terms of learning and teaching mathematics and science.
Radical versus Social Constructivism: Dilemma, Dialogue, and Defense
Shashidhar Belbase
Graduate Student of Mathematics Education College of Education
University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming sbelbase@uwyo.edu
October 19, 2011

May 19, 2015 Election Results

Budget Vote:
Yes: 835 No: 373

Proposition to Introduce a Capital Reserve Fund:
Yes: 625 No: 313

BOE Trustee Election: (2 open seats)
Michael Hanna: 816
Catherine Palmieri: 809
Robyn Kerner: 626

Congratulations to Mike & Catherine!

And very sorry to see Robyn go——

Candidates Debate | 2015

Irvington Parents Forum at Yahoo Groups
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Irvington Union Free School District
Irvington USFD Board Meetings – YouTube

What teachers are taught in education school

Teachers as facilitators

Teachers can facilitate a student’s self imposed learning by using techniques like; peer to peer learning which is when students are left to their own means of discovering the answers to their exercises. After a lesson is introduced students can attempt to learn together and try to help one another solve the problems. Another useful tool for community learning in the classroom is reading or literacy circles. Students are given guidelines and challenged to find the answers as a group. Working together takes the pressure off of an individual and encourages shared learning. The teacher’s job is to introduce concepts, ask questions about the subject and show them what route to take but the students get to the answers by themselves.
SOURCE: Voices in Education | website written by 3 students working on Bachelors degrees in education at the University of Windsor

What the research says


Recent studies conclude that teachers are important for student learning but it remains uncertain what actually determines effective teaching. This study directly peers into the black box of educational production by investigating the relationship between lecture style teaching and student achievement. Based on matched student-teacher data for the US, the estimation strategy exploits between-subject variation to control for unobserved student traits. Results indicate that traditional lecture style teaching is associated with significantly higher student achievement. No support for detrimental effects of lecture style teaching can be found even when evaluating possible selection biases due to unobservable teacher characteristics.
SOURCE: Is traditional teaching really all that bad? A Within-Student Between-Subject Approach BY Guido Schwerdt and Amelie C. Wupperman | CESifo Working Paper No. 2634
And see: Harvard Study Shows that Lecture-Style Presentations Lead to Higher Student Achievement

You can find scattered studies showing success with student-centered learning in some settings.

You can find many studies showing success with teacher-centered learning.

What you absolutely cannot find is a large and respected body of scientific research establishing constructivism as superior to direct instruction.

Yet education schools teach student-centered methods as dogma.

Irvington Parents Forum at Yahoo Groups
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Irvington Union Free School District
Irvington USFD Board Meetings – YouTube

From a UK teacher:

“It wasn’t until I had been teaching 11- to 18-year-olds for four years that I realized I had been consistently misled. Up until that point I had trusted my teacher training to provide the best of what had been discovered in the discipline of teaching and learning. If I had been shown a method or theory by which I could perform my job more efficiently, I assumed it would have been forged in the crucible of experience and evidence. I assumed that what we knew about teaching, say, chemistry, for example, progressed in a linear, accumulative way. But I found the opposite.

As a philosophy and religious studies high school teacher in the United Kingdom, I discovered that a good deal of what was considered orthodoxy in my profession was unsubstantiated. I believe many of my teacher colleagues in the United States have made similar discoveries.

In 2004, I had just emerged from the U.K. Department for Education’s Fast Track recruitment program into teaching, where I had spent weekends learning about Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a program called Brain Gym, and how to sort my students according to their learning styles. I was told that my students possessed multiple intelligences, and it was strongly hinted to me that the more technology I could accommodate into my lessons, the better their needs as digital natives would be met. My initial classroom design of rows and columns was frowned upon, and tables and horseshoes were recommended. And all because, I was told, the research confirmed each avenue.”
Group Work for the Good
Unpacking the Research behind One Popular Classroom Strategy
By Tom Bennett

And see:
Do we want to become a 21st-century skills district?

Irvington Parents Forum at Yahoo Groups
Irvington Parents Forum on Facebook
Irvington Union Free School District
Irvington USFD Board Meetings – YouTube

American schools have been largely constructivist for the past 15 years.

Constructivism means:

Every education school in the country teaches constructivism, and all public schools are required to hire only teachers who have attended education schools (or taken a required number of courses in education, which they take from education departments). This means that every teacher below the age of 45 or so graduated from education school taking it as a given that students should spend their days constructing meaning and conducting inquiries in groups. (Every teacher except for the handful who searched out other views on their own, that is.)

So here we are, 15 years after education schools stopped training future teachers in the techniques of moving knowledge from their own minds into their students’ long-term memories. From America’s Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future:

  • In literacy, U.S. millennials scored lower than 15 of the 22 participating countries. Only millennials in Spain and Italy had lower scores.
  • In numeracy, U.S. millennials ranked last, along with Italy and Spain.
  • In PS-TRE, U.S. millennials also ranked last, along with the Slovak Republic, Ireland, and Poland.
  • The youngest segment of the U.S. millennial cohort (16- to 24-year-olds), who could be in the labor force for the next 50 years, ranked last in numeracy along with Italy and among the bottom countries in PS-TRE. In literacy, they scored higher than their peers in Italy and Spain.

This isn’t just a problem of urban schools:

  • Top-scoring U.S. millennials (those at the 90th percentile) scored lower than top-scoring millennials in 15 of the 22 participating countries, and only scored higher than their peers in Spain.

America’s Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future | ETS | 2015
And see: Education schools don’t teach teachers how to teach

This year 6th-grade math students have been given only one day of whole-class direct instruction per week.

They spend the other four days engaging in math activities or watching videos at a “learning station,” which they choose.

Many parents have hired tutors to provide the missing instruction at home.

None of our administrators takes responsibility for this state of affairs.

Details at the Parents Forum listserv.

The idea that a new generation of students is entering the education system has excited recent attention among educators and education commentators. Termed ‘digital natives’ or the ‘Net generation’, these young people are said to have been immersed in technology all their lives, imbuing them with sophisticated technical skills and learning preferences for which traditional education is unprepared. Grand claims are being made about the nature of this generational change and about the urgent necessity for educational reform in response.Asense of impending crisis pervades this debate. However, the actual situation is far from clear. In this paper, the authors draw on the fields of education and sociology to analyse the digital natives debate. The paper presents and questions the main claims made about digital natives and analyses the nature of the debate itself. We argue that rather than being empirically and theoretically informed, the debate can be likened to an academic form of a ‘moral panic’. We propose that a more measured and disinterested approach is now required to investigate ‘digital natives’ and their implications for education.

The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence by Sue Bennett, Karl Maton, and Lisa Kervin | British Journal of Educational Technology | Volume 39 Number 5 | 2008 | 775-786

Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right. By Michael S. Rosenwald February 22, 2015 | WAPO

Answer: yes

More technology in the classroom has long been a policy-making panacea. But mounting evidence shows that showering students, especially those from struggling families, with networked devices will not shrink the class divide in education. If anything, it will widen it.

In the early 2000s, the Duke University economists Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd tracked the academic progress of nearly one million disadvantaged middle-school students against the dates they were given networked computers. The researchers assessed the students’ math and reading skills annually for five years, and recorded how they spent their time. The news was not good.

“Students who gain access to a home computer between the 5th and 8th grades tend to witness a persistent decline in reading and math scores,” the economists wrote, adding that license to surf the Internet was also linked to lower grades in younger children.

In fact, the students’ academic scores dropped and remained depressed for as long as the researchers kept tabs on them. What’s worse, the weaker students (boys, African-Americans) were more adversely affected than the rest. When their computers arrived, their reading scores fell off a cliff.


An unquestioned belief in the power of gadgetry has already led to educational snafus. Beginning in 2006, the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child project envisioned a digital utopia in which all students over 6 years old, worldwide, would own their own laptops. Impoverished children would thus have the power to go online and educate themselves — no school or teacher required. With laptops for poor children initially priced at $400, donations poured in.

But the program didn’t live up to the ballyhoo. For one thing, the machines were buggy and often broke down. And when they did work, the impoverished students who received free laptops spent more time on games and chat rooms and less time on their homework than before, according to the education researchers Mark Warschauer and Morgan Ames.

Can Students Have Too Much Tech? By SUSAN PINKER JAN. 30, 2015


The district’s new technology policies could be a model for schools across the country. Serious, intelligent, careful, real.


The district’s starting point:

While perhaps not all members of the community will prefer the first pair of documents to the second, if you put the question to a vote, a large majority would choose Door Number #1.

School boards often face a conflict between what administrators want and what the people want. I think this is the first time (or one of the few times) I personally have seen a school board — any school board — make a decisive choice in favor of the citizens they represent.

Our board has done a brilliant job.

From Patrick Gilmartin’s analysis of retiree health benefits:

At July 1, 2012, the Irvington School District had 255 active employees. There were then 162 retirees receiving District-provided health benefits, plus 80 spouses, for a total of 242 persons entitled to such benefits for life. Just under half of the retired employees were under age 70. Of the spouses, 49 were under 70.

A District employee can retire at age 55. Of the 255 active employees, 39 were 55 or older with vested rights to receive lifetime health benefits. Another 32 were in the 50-54 age bracket, 10 of whom had 15 or more years of service.

For a person 70 years of age, the average life expectancy is 14.2 years for a male and 16.5 years for a female. For 55 year olds, the average life expectancies are 25.3 and 28.7 years.

The 2012 Actuarial Report calculated the annual net cost to the District of providing health care to a retired employee and spouse to be $15,534.40 for each year they are both under 65, and $12,120.95 for each year they are both 65 or over.

2010 – 2014

2010: 135 retirees
2014: 157 retirees

L.A. Unified survey finds little use of iPads’ curriculum

The iPad experiment in LA Unified has been a saga.

From the story:

The review, conducted by a nine-member team from the Washington, D.C.-based American Institutes for Research, offers a sharp contrast to early pronouncements from the school district on the $1.3-billion effort. In particular, Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy labeled the project “an astonishing success” and officials faulted media reports for suggesting otherwise.

Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students’ capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. [emphasis added] We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.
The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking Pam A. Mueller1 Daniel M. Oppenheimer2 Published online before print April 23, 2014, doi: 10.1177/0956797614524581 Psychological Science

This study was done at Princeton.

Here’s the Science Daily summary:

Dust off those Bic ballpoints and college-ruled notebooks: research shows that taking notes by hand is better than taking notes on a laptop for remembering conceptual information over the long term.

Take notes by hand for better long-term comprehension

UPDATE of a post from 5/29/2013 The “fund balance” is the budget surplus, sometimes called a “rainy day” fund. By definition, it is money listed in the budget that is not designated to pay for programs. Districts have been advised to use the fund balance to stay within the tax cap, and in the May 2013 election 97% of NY districts did so. IUFSD chose to break the cap in order to keep its fund balance at the maximum allowable under the law — while borrowing $3.5 million to pay tax certs.

Year Fund  balance (budget surplus) Percent of budget
2008-2009 $1,949,375 3.85%
2009-2010 $2,040,362 4%
2010-2011 $1,994,787 4%
2011-2012 $2,012,995 4%
2012-2013 $2,046,240 4%
2013-2014 $2,162,800 4%
2014-2015 $2,251,761 4%
Amount by which 2013-2014 budget overrode tax cap $1,277,756


AND SEE: Singapore math explains the budget

Paul Horton: History Matters: The C3 Social Studies Standards are Fool’s Gold

A Brief History of Social Studied by Diane Ravitch – 5 pages & wonderful
Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong? Fordham Foundation

Towards a Rational Historiography – Lionel Gossman

New York Social Studies Framework
NY Social Studies Framework K-12 – Introduction (pdf file)
NY Social Studies Framework K-8
NY Social Studies Framework 9-12

From a constructivist perspective knowledge is not acquired through “memorization” but constructed by assimilating information based on our perceptions and agreed conventions (Bates & Poole, 2003).

An authentic learning framework for integrating one-to-one laptop usage in Hong Kong Schools by Kathryn Reed and Matt Bower

This is completely wrong.

“Constructing” knowledge has almost nothing to do with, later on, actually remembering the knowledge you’ve constructed.

That’s why writers keep notebooks. If you don’t write down the knowledge you’ve just constructed, you won’t remember it the next day.

The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.

Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.


“I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” said Alan Eagle, 50, whose daughter, Andie, is one of the 196 children at the Waldorf elementary school; his son William, 13, is at the nearby middle school. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”

Mr. Eagle knows a bit about technology. He holds a computer science degree from Dartmouth and works in executive communications at Google, where he has written speeches for the chairman, Eric E. Schmidt. He uses an iPad and a smartphone. But he says his daughter, a fifth grader, “doesn’t know how to use Google,” and his son is just learning. (Starting in eighth grade, the school endorses the limited use of gadgets.)

Three-quarters of the students here have parents with a strong high-tech connection. Mr. Eagle, like other parents, sees no contradiction. Technology, he says, has its time and place: “If I worked at Miramax and made good, artsy, rated R movies, I wouldn’t want my kids to see them until they were 17.”

While other schools in the region brag about their wired classrooms, the Waldorf school embraces a simple, retro look — blackboards with colorful chalk, bookshelves with encyclopedias, wooden desks filled with workbooks and No. 2 pencils.
A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute By Matt Richtel  | October 22, 2011 | New York Times

Speaking of “fast trends,” the superintendent hopes to establish a new “BYOD” policy this fall.

UPDATE 7/8/2014: I gather that the idea isn’t for parents to purchase devices, but for taxpayers to do so.

Laptops in the classroom have been shown actually to reduce learning, but public school administrators have rejected peer-reviewed research for many years.

Recently, a debate has begun over whether in-class laptops aid or hinder learning. While some research demonstrates that laptops can be an important learning tool, anecdotal evidence suggests more and more faculty are banning laptops from their classrooms because of perceptions that they distract students and detract from learning. The current research examines the nature of in-class laptop use in a large lecture course and how that use is related to student learning. Students completed weekly surveys of attendance, laptop use, and aspects of the classroom environment. Results showed that stu- dents who used laptops in class spent considerable time multitasking and that the laptop use posed a signiWcant distraction to both users and fellow students. Most importantly, the level of laptop use was negatively related to several measures of student learning, including self-reported understanding of course material and overall course performance. The practical implications of these findings are discussed.
In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning by Carrie B. Fried | Computers and Education | 2007

There is tremendous pressure, inside the ed world, to transform public schools into make-believe start-ups.

Inside the”student-centered” class of the 21st century, students move purposefully about the room, poking their devices and working in teams to…innovate.

From a typical report in Education Week:

The fast trends:

Schools are rethinking the roles of teachers, as pressure increases for digital-learning integration in classrooms, including a shift to “student-centered” learning and flipped classrooms. The report states that in ideal class settings, the teacher will function as the mentor, guiding groups and individual learners through technology-based lessons.


Trends expected in five years or more:

Overall changes in the structure of schools are aimed to create innovative school designs and restructuring school schedules to allow more flexibility and cultivate student creativity. The report notes that the multi-disciplinary nature of project-based learning and other models requires subjects to be linked to one another, without the restriction of bell schedules and classrooms. Students at Venture Academy in Minneapolis go to school in a repurposed printing plant without structured classrooms and at High Tech High in San Diego students work freely throughout the school building, designing structures and producing multimedia.

This is where IUFSD is headed.

SUPERINTENDENT: Curriculum should be infused with technology
CURRICULUM: I am a child-centered professional
TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR: Jesse Lubinsky, Technology Director,
..Twitter feed
|  NY Tech Ed blog

“…the chief barriers to effective school reform are not the usual accused: bad teacher unions, low teacher quality, burdensome government dictates. Many a charter school in the US has been able to bypass those barriers without being able to produce better results than the regular public schools they were meant to replace. No wonder. Many of these failed charter schools were conceived under the very myths that Ms. Christodoulou exposes [in her book Seven Myths About Education]. It wasn’t the teacher unions after all! Ms. Christodoulou argues convincingly that what has chiefly held back school achievement and equity in the English-speaking world for the past half century is a set of seductive but mistaken ideas.”

A Game-Changing Education Book from England
by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.
July 2nd, 2013

From Daisy Christodoulou’s Seven Myths about Education

My central argument is that much of what teachers are taught about education is wrong, and that they are encouraged to teach in ineffective ways. After I had been teaching for 3 years, I took a year out to do further study. I was shocked to stumble across an entire field of educational and scientific research which completely disproved so many of the theories I had been taught when training and teaching. I was not just shocked; I was angry. I felt as though I had been misled. I had been working furiously for 3 years, teaching hundreds of lessons, and much information that would have made my life a whole lot easier and would have helped my pupils immeasurably had just never been introduced to me. Worse, ideas that had absolutely no evidence backing them up had been presented to me as unquestionable axioms. One of the writers I most enjoyed reading was Herbert Simon. His research into decision-making won him a Nobel Prize. Together with two other cognitive scientists, wrote a paper criticizing many of the ideas that are popular in US education:

New ‘theories’ of education are introduced into schools every day (without labeling them as experiments) on the basis otheir philosophical or common-sense plausibility but without genuine empirical support.

Simon’s observation appeared in a paper published in 2000: “Applications and Misapplications of Cognitive Psychology to Mathematics Education” by John R. Anderson, Lynne M. Reder, & Herbert A. Simon | Texas Education Review, v1 n2 p29-49 Sum 2000.

In the years since 2000, common-sense plausibility has taken a back seat to theory. A “hot! hot! hot!” practice like the flipped classroom not only defies common sense but is actively promoted in counterintuitive terms (“turning the traditional classroom on its head,” “learning from YouTube is as natural as it gets,” etc.)

As E.D. Hirsch tells us, the thoughtworld of education schools has insulated them from science — and, today, from common sense as well.


Imagine “Hot, hot, hot” as a headline in a medical journal.

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
By Catherine Gewertz on September 30, 2011 10:39 AM

Do we want to be a constructivist district, part 1

Constructivism in Practical & Historical Context by Brent G. Wilson | February 2010 | Draft chapter for inclusion in Bob Reiser & Jack Dempsey (Editors), Current Trends in Instructional Design and Technology (third edition). Upper Saddle River NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011.


If you spend time with professional educators – K12 teachers, education professors, or even corporate trainers – you will run into the term constructivism. As its name suggests, constructivism sees learning as a process of constructing or making something. Constructivism says that people learn by making sense out of the world – they make meaning out of what they encounter.


Constructivism is a theory or philosophy of learning “based on the idea that knowledge is constructed by the knower based on mental activity” (Skaalid, no date). It can be defined as “meaning making… rooted in the context of the situation… whereby individuals construct their knowledge of, and give meaning to, the external world” (Babb et al., no date). As an educational philosophy it came to prominence in the early 1990s.Based on writing of that time (Dunlap & Grabinger, 1996; Merrill, 1991; Savery & Duffy, 1996; and Wilson, Teslow & Jouchoux, 1993), the basic precepts are:

  • Learning is an active process of meaning-making gained in and through our experience and interactions with the world
  • Learning opportunities arise as people encounter cognitive conflict, challenge, or puzzlement, and through naturally occurring as well as planned problem solving activities
  • Learning is a social activity involving collaboration, negotiation, and participation in authentic practices of communities
  • Where possible, reflection, assessment, and feedback should be embedded “naturally” within learning activities
  • Learners should take primary responsibility for their learning and “own” the process as far as possible

Our superintendent is a constructivist who is pursuing constructivist reforms.

His predecessor was also a constructivist who was pursuing constructivist reforms (e.g.: “the high school vanishes“), but while she brought in balanced literacy and doubled down on Math Trailblazers, she was never able to transform the high school, possibly because the then-principal was a long-tenured veteran who publicly embraced the various directives but ignored them in practice.

He is gone now, and we are seeing constructivist reforms — flipped classrooms being the most obvious — in the high school.

“Constructivism” is the current term for “progressive education.” Another term: “student-centered.” Constructivist classrooms are student-centered. Traditional classrooms, the kind you would see at an elite college, are teacher-centered.

“Student-centered classroom” sounds like a good thing, but what it actually means is that students teach themselves in pods and pairs. The teacher is a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage. Nor does the curriculum hold authority over students, who choose their own books to read. (The middle school Reading Workshop is a student-centered class.)

So that’s where we are. Our current curriculum director is a “child-centered professional.” The superintendent is hiring a new curriculum director, and that person will also be “student-centered.”

The question: is this what taxpayers want?

Here is a definition of constructivist teaching from the article “Ubiquitous laptop usage in higher education: Effects on student achievement, student satisfaction, and constructivist measures in honors and traditional classrooms” | Christian Wurst a, Claudia Smarkola b,*, Mary Anne Gaffney a:

3. Constructivist teaching
Constructivism is a learning theory where individuals construct meaning from their own current knowledge. It is a way of attending to teaching that allows for a multiplicity of alternatives; it is a concept that is broad enough to allow for a great deal of variation but specific enough to provide guidance to practitioners. Many educational psychologists and curricular specialists have created lists of the traits that they expect to find in a constructivist classroom (Brooks & Brooks, 1993; Jonassen, 1991; Jonassen, 1994; Murphy, 1997; Partlow & Gibbs, 2003; Savery & Duffy, 1995; Wilson & Cole, 1991) A comparative analysis of these traits revealed ten general patterns that seem to be common to constructivist classrooms. They are:

1. Learning is collaborative and cooperative. Students work in groups or task-based ad hoc teams. These types of groups help students recognize the role of social contracts in the learning process.

2. Students have control and responsibility for their learning. Self-regulation strategies are encouraged. The teachers are more interactive and act as mediators, coaches or translators.

3. There is an acceptance of multiple perceptions of reality and students’ opinions are valued and actively sought by the teacher. Students are asked how they feel about a topic; they are not told what to feel about any topic.

4. Students’ learning is embedded in authentic, real world scenarios and problems are posed as actual situations. When possible, original data are provided to the students.

5. Instructional goals are negotiated not imposed. Students’ questions are valued and sought, and they control the pace and direction of much of the classroom activity. Instructors allow ample time, after posing questions, for students to frame answers. While these goals are often disparate, the solution is negotiated.

6. Assessment is both formative and summative. Grades are based (either in whole or in part) on portfolios, presentations and other forms of knowledge display. Formal examinations are not eliminated; however, their use is heavily supplemented by these other assessment media.

7. Learning is active. Teachers stress understanding rather than rote memorization. There is an emphasis on the integration of learning and life; students are urged to discover the interrelatedness of concepts and their application to the real world. Students are implored to explore alternative understandings and applications of the classroom concepts.

8. Classes are not highly structured. Topics emerge and meaningful digressions are permitted. Students are pushed to derive alternative outcomes for problems and to see conflicting points of view.

9. Teachers are the guides on the side; this often gives rise to the notion that the teacher is a co-learner. They pose problems and engage students in dialogue; they often give advice on how to find an answer to a problem but never directly provide a solution for the problem at hand. Their role is to help the students understand the task, not provide the solution.

10. The students are urged to become self-reflective and to aid their student colleagues in their self-reflection.

Constructivism has altered the roles of professors and students. However, the roles of professors and their students have been slowly changing over time. A key catalyst for this change began in the 1960s when rebellious students on college campuses challenged existing social traditions (Oldenquist, 1983). Students found themselves being treated as peers and participants in many college-governing activities (Joughin, 1968). In 1968, the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges issued a Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students. This document stated that students should be consulted on all educational matters and defined them as the immediate consumers of college educations (Joughin, 1968).

Do we want to be a constructivist district, part 2