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Nancy Bailey: Beware of Laurene Powell Jobs’s Bad Advice About “Reinventing” High Schools

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Nancy Bailey, experienced teachers, knows what make high schools successful. She posts a to-do list here.

She also knows that Steve Jobs’ billionaire widow Laurene Powell Jobs is peddling snake oil. Her goal is to eliminate the American high school and replace it with online learning, despite the lack of evidence for it–and the plethora of evidence that says it is a dramatic flop.

She writes:

“It’s especially ironic that Powell-Jobs uses a school bus to hype her venture philanthropic program. You won’t need school buses for what she’s proposing. That is unless they take students to places other than brick-and-mortar schools–like museums.

“Her “remake the American high school” mantra is really about replacing high schools with technology—learning anytime, anyplace. Here are titles and phrases from the website that hint of that.

Going to School in a Museum: Does Learning Have to Happen in a School?

Imagine a Super School

America Needs a New Way of Learning

High School Will Never Be the Same Again

The Next Generation Must Learn to Adapt to a Changing World

When Your School is a Museum

“Laurene Powell Jobs and the quest to change high schools are not new. If you want to blame someone for difficulties in public schools, blame politicians and corporate CEOs who have irresponsibly been attempting this feat on their own for years.

“Remember Bill Gates and the small school initiative? They tried to break up Manuel High School in Denver using more than $2 million. It was a failure.

“The Gates Foundation also failed at the first Philadelphia School of the Future—an all-tech high school.

“Go back even further.

“In 1995, the RJR Nabisco Foundation launched Reinventing Education: Entrepreneurship in America’s Public School, by the Chairman and CEO of IBM Lou V. Gerstner, Jr.

“Gerstner talked of New Century Schools—“clearing away restrictions” at the same time pushing for the standards that would eventually hamstring teachers into a standardization box when it came to teaching….

“Schools highlighted on the XQ website advertised as innovative are all driven by technology. Teachers might be mentioned, but it’s not clear if their use of the word teacher means a qualified teacher with an actual degree in teaching.

“It isn’t clear whether students have access to a well-rounded curriculum. Some of their innovative schools seem to specialize in a narrow area.

“One question to ask, did Powell-Jobs attend a public high school herself? Do her children attend public schools?”

Please, Laurene, stop reinventing the schools. You know nothing about it, and you are surrounded by people who know even less.

Turn your considerable wealth and energies to helping solve the problem of poverty.

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