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. .

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

Rigor Redefined by Tony Wagner

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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.

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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”… )

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