Friday, April 21, 2017

Is Your Job Robot-Proof?

It doesn’t take much observation of the typical high school curriculum to see that most of what is being taught is a vestige of a long past era. Geometry was essential to the ancient Egyptians, but not to modern Americans. Spelling, handwriting, and even writing itself have little to do with contemporary communication. My wife can’t understand why I still type instant messages instead of speak them into my smart phone.

The future is robots and artificial intelligence. Profit-seeking individuals and corporations demand it. Ford motor company recently ear-marked $1 billion for R&D on robotics, in an industry in which humans are already disappearing from the assembly line.

My father left school at age 14 and started work as an apprentice printer in 1923. He worked as a dues-paying member of the International Typographical Union for nearly 40 years. In the mid-1960s, his union struck against the introduction of computers into the composing room. He never worked another day as a printer. When he retired, the ITU’s pension fund was broke. "Printer" was the first occupation to be wiped out by computers. But it was hardly the last.

Recently, David Brancaccio and Katy Long undertook to catalogue various occupations as either 100% robot-proof (i.e., unlikely to be replaced by computers and AI) or 0% robot-proof. My father’s job was 0%, and it happened so long ago that Brancaccio and Long didn’t even bother to mention it. Here are their two lists:

    0% Automatable (Most Robot-Proof)
  • Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians
  • Animal Scientists
  • Animal Trainers
  • Astronomers
  • Athletes and Sports Competitors
  • Clergy
  • Dancers
  • Directors, Religious Activities and Education
  • Historians
  • Mathematical Technicians
  • Models
  • Music Directors and Composers
  • Religious Workers, All Other
  • Roof Bolters, Mining
    100% Automatable (Least Robot-Proof)
  • Aircraft Cargo Handling Supervisors
  • Dredge Operators
  • Foundry Mold and Coremakers
  • Graders and Sorters, Agricultural Products
  • Logging Equipment Operators
  • Machine Feeders and Offbearers
  • Medical Appliance Technicians
  • Motion Picture Projectionists
  • Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians
  • Packaging and Filling Machine Operators and Tenders
  • Plasterers and Stucco Masons
  • Slaughterers and Meat Packers
We can conclude a couple of things from these lists.

1) The robot-proof jobs have to do with the arts, sports, entertainment, and – shall we say – spiritual pursuits.

2) The jobs replaceable by computers, AI, and robots are the mid-level trades that employ the bulk of the nation’s workforce.

Going beyond the lists to the question of what is the role of public education in job training for the future, one can only conclude that our schools are in big trouble – and not in the way that most people think of trouble. Most of what is being taught is worthless, either for personal development or for life as a wage earner after schooling is done. Virtually all of what is tested for in the current madness of high-stakes paper-and-pencil achievement testing is irrelevant. It won’t prepare you for a job, and it won’t enrich your life for all those hours, days, weeks and years ahead when you are not working.

The transformation of work that is going on all around us is of utmost importance. It will have major implications for a topic that that absolutely paralyzing the thinking of political conservatives everywhere: entitlements. What will become of tens of millions of people who have no way to contribute to the nation’s economy? Will that tiny fraction of the population who can create real value support them, or will they look down their noses at them and ignore them? Few are willing to face the implications of a future of no work without moralizing or yearning for an atavistic era that will never return.

Is your job robot-proof? The answer for the vast majority of the U.S. workforce is regrettably, "No."

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
~            
University of Colorado Boulder
National Education Policy Center
~            
San José State University

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, University of Colorado Boulder, nor San José State University.

Friday, April 14, 2017

What Goes Around Comes Around: Voucher Scammers Get Scammed

Republicans in the Arizona legislature recently passed a significant expansion of the "Empowerment Scholarship" program -- a thinly disguised voucher program adopted years ago and slightly expanded in each subsequent year.

Originally intended only for special needs students, it was broadened to include children of military serving in Iraq & Afghanistan, and then children living on Indian reservations. The cynical intent is obvious.

The latest incarnation of the program will expand the program by 5,000 students per year until a cap of 30,000 is reached.

Even Republicans were reluctant to support the expansion, probably because of persistent non-support of vouchers among the voting public. The latest PDK Gallup poll continues to show more than 60% of parents opposed.

Big lobby pressure to expand the program came from the local Goldwater Institute. When a compromise on the 5,000 per year expansion was reached, the reluctant Republicans fell in line.

But as soon as the bill was signed by AZ governor Ducey, Goldwater CEO Darcy Olsen sent emails to the Institute's donors and friends stating that soon they would achieve a lifting of all limits. Republicans in the legislature felt betrayed, as they obviously were.

So deception, mendacity, and treachery are the order of the day in the nation's #1 legislature for school choice.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
~            
University of Colorado Boulder
National Education Policy Center
~            
San José State University

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, University of Colorado Boulder, nor San José State University.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Arizona's Neo-Vouchers: The Camel is in the Tent

NEPC's Kevin Welner called them "neo-vouchers": tax credits and "scholarships" that attempt to hide their intent behind deceitful labels.

On Thursday night, April 6, 2017, a Republican dominated Arizona Legislature passed a significant expansion of a voucher program that has been in effect since 2011. Governor Ducey, founder of the ice cream parlor chain Cold Stone Creamery, promised to sign the bill into law.

The Empowerment Scholarships -- vouchers by another name -- were originally available only to a highly limited number of students: those with special needs; children of military personnel stationed in areas of conflict, and a few others. But in classic camel's-nose-under-the-tent fashion, each year the Legislature pushed the limits a little broader: students on Indian reservations, for example. The "scholarships" may be redeemed at private schools, religious or otherwise. Recent research has established that the vouchers are going primarily to upper-middle class families.

The bill that will soon become Arizona law will gradually expand the program to all sorts of students until a cap of 30,000 is reached in a few years. But expect the boundaries to expand further as an emboldened Legislature introduces future bills.

With a sizable portion of its students being Hispanic and a sizable portion of its taxpayers being White retirees, look to Arizona to be the leader in the destruction of the public school system.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
~            
University of Colorado Boulder
National Education Policy Center
~            
San José State University

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, University of Colorado Boulder, nor San José State University.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Fed's "Gold Standard" Produces Fool's Gold

As a new administration moves into the US Department of Education, the opportunity arises to review and assess the Department's past practices. A recent publication goes to the heart of how US DOE has been attempting to influence public education. Unfortunately, in an effort to justify millions of dollars spent on research and development, bureaucrats pushed a favorite instructional program that teachers flatly rejected.

The Gold Standard

There is a widespread belief that the best way to improve education is to get practitioners to adopt practices that "scientific" methods have proven to be effective. These increasingly sophisticated methods are required by top research journals and for federal government improvement initiatives such as Investing in Innovation (i3) Initiative to fund further research or dissemination efforts. The US DOE established the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) to identify the scientific gold-standards and apply them to certify for practitioners which programs "work." The Fed's "gold standard" is the Randomized Comparative Trial (RCT). In addition, there have been periodic implementations of US DOE policies that require practitioners to use government funds only for practices that the US DOE has certified to be effective.

However, an important new article published by Education Policy Analysis Archives, concludes that these gold-standard methods misrepresent the actual effectiveness of interventions and thereby mislead practitioners by advocating or requiring their use. The article is entitled “The Failure of the U.S. Education Research Establishment to Identify Effective Practices: Beware Effective Practices Policies.”

The Fool's Gold

Earlier published work by the author, Professor Stanley Pogrow of San Francisco State University, found that the most research validated program, Success for All, was not actually effective. Quite the contrary! Pogrow goes further and analyzes why these gold-standard methods can not be relied on to guide educators to more effective practice.

The Need For a New Standard

Key problems with the Randomized Comparative Trial include (1) the RCT almost never tells you how the experimental students actually performed, (2) that the difference between groups that researchers use to consider a program to be effective is typically so small that it is “difficult to detect” in the real world, and (3) statistically manipulating the data to the point that the numbers that are being compared are mathematical abstractions that have no real world meaning—and then trying to make them intelligible with hypothetical extrapolations such the difference favoring the experimental students is the equivalent of increasing results from the 50th to the 58th percentile, or an additional month of learning. The problem is that we do not know if the experimental students actually scored at the 58th or 28th percentile. So in the end, we end up not knowing how students in the intervention actually performed, and any benefits that are found are highly exaggerated.

Pogrow also shows that the notion that science requires the use of RCTs is wrong. Even the medical profession, which does use gold-standard experimental techniques to test the effectiveness of medicines, uses much simpler scientific methods without controlled experiments in other areas of clinical practice such as obstetrics and improving health care delivery in complex organizations such as hospitals. The latter methods, called “improvement science,” appear more relevant to identifying scalable effective practices in the complex settings of schools.

The “rigorous” gold-standard WWC-type method derived from the traditions of the psychology lab are also creating misleading results for clinical practice in psychology and psychiatry. There is increasing criticism of the practicality and applicability of the RCT for guiding professional practice in all complex organizations.

Dr. Pogrow concludes that current federal initiatives to disseminate programs “proven to be effective” are of little value, and that a recent call to establish a new round of expanded “Effective Practices Policies” is a dangerous and unwarranted intrusions into local decision-making. He urges the profession to resist seductive calls and bureaucratic pressure from the US DOE to adopt such policies. His message for the Feds and his colleagues in the professoriate is to (1) suspend the activities of the What Works Clearinghouse and i3 dissemination efforts, and to (2) develop methods that can certify which interventions consistently produce clearly observable benefits in real world context. The latter requires an expanded conception of what science is and how we teach applied research methods.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
~            
University of Colorado Boulder
National Education Policy Center
~            
San José State University

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, University of Colorado Boulder, nor San José State University.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Arizona Republicans Want to Prohibit Teaching Social Justice

Just like freedom of speech, everybody thinks there should be academic freedom until a teacher does something they don’t agree with. Such is the case with Representatives Thorpe and Finchem of the Arizona State House of Representatives.

Thorpe and Finchem have introduced HB 2120 that prohibits schools and colleges receiving state monies from teaching “social justice” or any other thing that would lead to “division” among the races or ethnic groups. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction or the State Board of Education would be given the power to determine if a school was in violation of the bill’s prohibitions. Schools found in violation of the law – if the bill were to win support – may be fined 10% of their state allocation. In the case of a large school district, community college, or any of the three state universities, that would amount to a lot of money – like, millions.

It’s hard to see such bills as anything other than raw meat thrown to the base; but in the case of Arizona, stupider things than passing such bills have happened.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
~            
University of Colorado Boulder
National Education Policy Center
~            
San José State University

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, University of Colorado Boulder, nor San José State University.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Conflicts of Interest in Arizona -- They Don't Exist

Greg Miller, until recently, was Chairman of the Arizona State Board of Education. The fact that Miller also owns a charter school in Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix, from which he, his wife and his daughter draw more than $400,000 in salary annually is nothing special in the state of Arizona. You see, Arizona really doesn't believe in conflicts of interest. By state law, all that one must do is publicly record one's conflicts -- nothing else. No blind trusts, no selling or handing over assets to trustees, none of that. Just say that you own a dairy and that your state office buys a million dollars of milk from your dairy every year, and you are clean.

Last fall the Arizona Governor decided he wanted to remove Miller from the State Board. Miller apparently could read the handwriting on the wall and he agreed to leave. As he walked out the door, Miller told the press that he agreed to quit if he could control the wording of the press release, the timing of the announcement and got some assurances that the charter school he runs would get "political protections that I no longer could provide."

So there you have it, straight from the horse's mouth. Miller used his position as Chair of the State Board of Education not just to promote privatization of the public school system, but also to protect his own stake in the privatization campaign, his family's Challenge Charter School.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
~            
University of Colorado Boulder
National Education Policy Center
~            
San José State University

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, University of Colorado Boulder, nor San José State University.