Silicon Valley Hacks Education

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Must read Wired article on Silicon Valley techies going big into homeschooling. Money quote:

“There is a way of thinking within the tech and startup community where you look at the world and go, ‘Is the way we do things now really the best way to do it?’” de Pedro says. “If you look at schools with this mentality, really the only possible conclusion is ‘Heck, I could do this better myself out of my garage!’”

Disintermediation comes to education.

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6 Responses to Silicon Valley Hacks Education

  1. Just a mom says:

    Dear God, save us from the feral children raised by the techie homeschoolers profiled in Wired magazine. And send the parents of these lost boys a Seton Home Study curriculum (or other faiths’ equivalent) so that Western civilization survives.

  2. Steve K says:

    I read the article and found it interesting. I understand that it goes far beyond this statement but from the article:

    “And yet, as I talked to more of these homeschoolers, I found it harder to dismiss what they were saying. My son is in kindergarten, and I fear that his natural curiosity won’t withstand 12 years of standardized tests, underfunded and overcrowded classrooms, and constant performance anxiety.”

    So the very conditions, largely created by policymakers that many of the writers here support, is now used as a cudgel to beat public schools?

    Clever strategy.

    • matthewladner says:

      Steve-

      Nice try but no cigar. American public schools are very generously funded whether you place them in a global context (comparing American schools to those around the world) or historical context (comparing current American schools to past American schools). To the extent that classrooms are underfunded (again- compared to what?) the finger of accusation must point towards the vast increase in non-teacher hiring in the public schools- which lies beyond the control of any of your humble blog authors.

      On testing, I’m not entirely sure the writers here would agree but if we did agreement would likely settle on the use of NNR tests like Stanford 10 and ITBS for transparency purposes.

      • Steve K says:

        Mr. Ladner,
        I’m not sure why you told me “nice try.” I quoted the article. That was the impression of the author of the article. And I certainly would agree with you regarding non-classroom / administrative spending being disproportionate. (Of course, standardized tests costs quite a bit and are non-classroom expenses, too. I’d add that charter schools in my state of Michigan spend way more money, proportionally, on administration than traditional public schools.)

        I’d add that non-teacher spending goes far beyond the teachers’ control and their unions who are regularly vilified by the reform crowd.

        I think we can agree on problems with where the money goes.

        But the standardized tests are now being used as a reason not to send kids to public schools. There many who degrade public school value who initially supported these tests and are now using these tests as a reason to avoid public school. (I’m not saying that you are among them.) The truth is, we in the public schools are no fan of these tests either. To be honest, it is among the least useful things that we participate in. But it certainly is high-stakes for our district.

        I agree with some of the ideas in this blog. I enjoy reading it. I’m curious about the tests you mention and I’ll look into them. Thanks for your response.

      • matthewladner says:

        Steve-

        I have had the opportunity to talk to a number of educators here in Arizona over the last few years on the subject of testing. If there is a mistake to be made on standardized testing, we have enthusiastically embraced it out here in the cactus patch- vastly over-exposed test items that go a decade at a time without rotation, dummied down cut scores, etc. The unmistakable impression that I gained was that far too many AZ schools were focused on drilling to a set of known test items rather than teaching standards. The scores on our state test improved substantially, while our NAEP score progress was much more modest. Getting rid of the AIMS test was a mercy killing for a system that had utterly failed to deliver. I have no idea whether the new standards and tests will be any better or how long they will last but it is hard to imagine how they could get any worse.

        Having said all of that, I have no desire to return to the era of zero campus level transparency (aka the 1980s) when real estate agents told people where the “good” schools were based on hearsay and/or the % of pale kids they saw running around on the playground. Striking the right balance between providing transparency and avoiding unintended consequences represents a big conversation that we will be fumbling through for many years. Yes some home schooling parents are opting out of public ed because they don’t like testing, but the institution of public education faces far bigger challenges.

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