Finland, Hacktivism, and "Magic Mike"?
November 30, 2012

Five links that made us think this week:

Finland does it again. According to a new global report by Pearson,  Finland and South Korea are the leaders in education among developed countries. The U.S. ranked 17th, which doesn’t come as a surprise to education researchers, who claim “the study's findings echo years of rankings that show foreign students outpacing their American peers academically.” According to the report, countries like Chile, Latvia, Portugal and Germany are improving their education systems twice and three times faster than the U.S. 

Photo by Estormiz via WikiCommons

NY Times Op-Ed columnist Thomas Friedman recently nominated Arne Duncan to be the future Secretary of State, as he believes “improving educational outcomes for more young people is now the most important lever for increasing economic growth and narrowing income inequality.” Duncan didn’t seem to be flattered by Friedman’s suggestion, saying "Last week 'The Onion' said I was going to become a male stripper. ... 'The Onion' is probably more accurate than Tom Friedman." It's somehow hard for me to picture Secretary Duncan as a "Magic Mike."

Ever wonder how much money online charter schools pay in advertising? A lot. An analysis by USA TODAY found that “10 of the largest for-profit operators have spent an estimated $94.4 million on ads since 2007. The largest, Virginia-based K12 Inc., has spent about $21.5 million in just the first eight months of 2012.” These for-profit K12 virtual charter schools operate on local taxpayer support, “even as brick-and-mortar public schools in the districts they serve face budget crunches.” 

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding a recent photo posted on Facebook of an isolation booth at Mint Valley Elementary School in Longwood, WA. At Mint Valley, isolation booths are meant to be used only with parental consent to “de-escalate aggressive behaviors for special-ed students.”  One parent defended the school’s use of the isolation booth, claiming it helped transform her adoptive daughter from a “violent child to a happy little girl.” Critics are concerned with the booth potentially being used as a punishment tool citing controversy surrounding a report that a child not classified as a special ed student was placed in the isolation booth. I wonder, what psychological effects these isolation booths have on students?

Controversy surrounding student discipline doesn’t seem to stay away from Texas, either. Two schools in San Antonio implemented a policy this Fall “requiring students to wear microchip-embedded cards tracking their every move on campus.” Several students have refused to wear the tracking device, and last weekend a student was able to hack into the school’s website and shut it down in protest. The student was reportedly able to hack into the website with the help of the world renowned hacker group Anonymous. My question is: how does a San Antonio teenager end up partnering with the largest global hacktivist network? At least we know the school does a great job of teaching computer science.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, everyone! Pura Vida.

I’d love to hear your Friday thoughts. Email me at carolina.cromeyer@teachforamerica.org

Category: The Friday Five

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