Update: So you know those visits to the classrooms that Mr. Robbins took today? He visited Columbia, Weatherly, and Davis Hills to see the digital curriculum in action. Well in case you were wondering, I’m hearing from parents that those visits were planned for and staged. Parents were told to make sure the laptops were charged and ready to use. The laptops that were relegated to occasional usage in favor of [shudder] textbooks were trotted out for the visiting dignitary. I’m sure that will come as no surprise. The rooms that Mr. Robbins visited today were all informed of his visit, and like nearly every other classroom in this district, those classrooms haven’t made active and regular use of the computers for the past two weeks.
Again, if Mr. Robbins wanted a realistic assessment of the digital initiative, he should have been willing to open tonight’s closed meeting. He should have asked someone other than the Huntsville Council of PTAs to organize his visit.
Tonight, Mr. Michael Robbins “a senior advisor for the U.S. Department of Education” is meeting with a group of “parents” to hear real, honest, and heartfelt opinions about the digital transition. Didn’t hear about this? Of course not. The Huntsville Council of PTAs decided that the only way to get these real, honest, and heartfelt opinions about the digital transition is to have the meeting behind closed doors, out of the sight of the public and that the only parents who are deemed worthy of having a real, honest, and heartfelt opinion about the computers in this town are PTA Presidents. So tonight from 6-8pm at Grissom High, Mr. Robbins will meet with the PTA Presidents and whomever else the Huntsville Council of PTAs deems worthy of attending so that he can hear from people who are not likely to rock the boat by telling him the truth.
PTA Presidents who have spoken their minds about the reality of the digital initiative have been told that if they want their schools to remain open that they had better get on board and stop making waves.
Care to take any bets about how many PTA Presidents will be speaking the truth to power tonight?
The only reason that the digital transition is “working” at this point is because the computers have been replaced with textbooks in the classroom.
But that goes against the sound bite that the Secretary of Education wants to hear. Arne Duncan has long since decided that whatever the education “reformers” like Eli Broad wants is good for American students. Regardless of what research shows. Regardless of what parents have to say.
In fact, they are so afraid of what parents might tell them that they believe that they will hear the truth by meeting with only those parents who are not allowed, either by propriety or under threat of closure of schools, to actually speak the truth.
Mr. Robbins is a native of Huntsville. He was educated at Grissom High, but now he is afraid to hear from parents–who have no agenda other than the health of their children’s education–concerning the intentional ineptitude of transitioning an entire district to computers even though they knew that the network couldn’t handle the load.
The only reason that this year hasn’t been a complete waste of time for our students is because our teachers, despite being beaten down by this administration, have refused to allow the digital transition to destroy their kids’ education. They have stopped using the computers and returned to reliable pedagogical methods.
But that doesn’t fit Mr. Robbins’ plans. And so the meeting remains closed to the people who pay his salary, who paid for his trip, who paid for the very school they are meeting in.
And once again the Huntsville Council of PTAs is doing their best to silence any voice that might point out that the latest pot of gold at the end of the “reform” rainbow is a myth. Unless of course you’re Pearson, HP, Microsoft, or Eli Broad.
For a century we have bounced from one miracle cure to another. And not once have we stopped to ask parents and teacher what they think we should be doing.
As Diane Ravitch said in The Death and Life of the Great American School System:
We will continue to chase rainbows unless we recognize that they are rainbows and there is no pot of gold at the end of them. We certainly cannot address our problems unless we are willing to examine the evidence about proposed solutions, without fear, favor, or preconceptions.
The district, the Department of Education, doesn’t care if there is nothing at the end of the rainbow for students. All they care about is themselves. And that’s wrong.
And the Huntsville Council of PTAs is once again demonstrating that their motto, “Every Child . . . One Voice,” is meant to be taken literally. And that one voice will be used to silence even the very people that the P(arents) T(eachers) Association are supposed to represent.
One voice indeed. All the other voices are not invited.