Hornbeck’s Horrors

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Charlotte Thomson IserbytDay 29: Skin­ner Hor­ror Files

Part 2: Trick or Treat?
Hornbeck1As men­tioned in yes­ter­day’s post, David Horn­beck­’s “draft” plan for Iowa’s edu­ca­tion trans­for­ma­tion ini­tia­tive, leaked to the press and dat­ed Sep­tem­ber 19, 1990, told the whole sto­ry. It was a most com­pre­hen­sive expla­na­tion of the Skin­ner­ian total­i­tar­i­an sys­tem applied to society.

For the next 25 years Horn­beck would go on to become a change agent in key places of school lead­er­ship, leav­ing dev­as­ta­tion in his wake wher­ev­er he went. A sim­ple “google” search of his name will reveal the sweep­ing con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing this man as he stage-man­aged his intru­sive and oner­ous Skin­ner­ian trans­for­ma­tion system.

Below are some key excerpts from Iowa’s reveal­ing “Draft” that told too much about the over­all plan for school trans­for­ma­tion. Read it and weep:

TO: The Iowa Busi­ness-Edu­ca­tion Round­table Task Force
FROM: David W. Hornbeck
RE: First Draft of Rec­om­men­da­tions on the Iowa Ini­tia­tive for World Class Schools

Vir­tu­al­ly all stu­dents can learn at high levels.…

1. …The suc­cess of schools in the new sys­tem should be judged on how well stu­dents mas­ter a clear­ly defined, mea­sur­able core of learn­ing that sets high expec­ta­tions of all students.…

2. Stu­dent per­for­mance should be mea­sured with a vari­ety of tools that reflect the com­plex­i­ty of what stu­dents are expect­ed to learn.…

3. Suc­cess­ful schools, judged on stu­dent achieve­ment, should be reward­ed, unsuc­cess­ful schools should be helped to improve, and con­sis­tent­ly infe­ri­or schools should be penal­ized. [bold in orig­i­nal, col­or added]

There you have it. The first two points have to do with mea­sur­able per­for­mance required of stu­dents under the Skin­ner­ian method. The third one spells out that any schools that don’t per­form up to par will be penal­ized. Here is the shift — Skin­ner­ian oper­ant con­di­tion­ing would be applied to entire insti­tu­tions in soci­ety, which includes the pun­ish­ments of local school dis­tricts. This was 1990. We are now in the year 2014 and many, many schools have now been penal­ized. Read on and notice who is held respon­si­ble for stu­dents per­form­ing up to par:Operant6

4. Staff in indi­vid­ual schools must have the author­i­ty to make deci­sions affect­ing stu­dent achieve­ment and must be account­able for results.…

7. Schools in the new sys­tem must be respon­si­ble for ensur­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with health and human ser­vices agen­cies to reduce bar­ri­ers to stu­dent learning.…

8. Schools must assist par­ents in assum­ing their full role as part­ners in edu­cat­ing their chil­dren.… [bold in orig­i­nal, under­lin­ing and col­or added] 

Next Horn­beck spelled out the out­comes — a term that would go on to become well-known across Amer­i­ca as Out­come-Based Edu­ca­tion, now known as Com­mon Core. Skin­ner­ian out­comes were defined by Horn­beck as

results which schools are expect­ed to pro­duce with their stu­dents.… Results… used to mea­sure suc­cess.… [bold, col­or added] 

Note that word “suc­cess.” The elite edu­crats would define this neb­u­lous “suc­cess,” not par­ents, not class­room teach­ers, not local dis­tricts. There was a lot of hoopla over the “out­ra­geous out­comes” of OBE in the 1990s because they did­n’t have much to do with sol­id aca­d­e­mics, but were obvi­ous­ly polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect out­comes and mind-bend­ing junk science.

Horn­beck said of “ASSESSMENT” thatrat psychology

An out­come or result which can­not be mea­sured may be a use­ful goal but it is rel­e­vant as a result for which a school or school dis­trict can be held account­able.” [bold, col­or added] 

The term “account­abil­i­ty” became a code word asso­ci­at­ed with mea­sur­able out­comes — not only in edu­ca­tion reform but in oth­er areas of soci­ety as well. These results in Horn­beck­’s report includ­ed such intru­sive pri­va­cy-invad­ing things as

per­son­al qual­i­ties relat­ed to self-esteem, good health habits and eth­i­cal deci­sion-mak­ing.” [bold, col­or added] 

So the State, accord­ing to Horn­beck, would be pre­scrib­ing and pre-deter­min­ing the accept­able mea­sur­able “result” in these high­ly per­son­al areas of a child’s think­ing and feeling.

Horn­beck was disin­gen­u­ous. He insist­ed that “the state assess­ment pro­gram’s objec­tive is to deter­mine school and school dis­trict per­for­mance, not indi­vid­ual stu­dent per­for­mance.” But this is not true, and lit­tle John­ny and Susie sit­ting at their desk on big bad SCARY ASSESSMENT DAY knew full well that if they don’t per­form well on the test, they would face stiff penal­ties. This is why teach­ers across the nation have had to learn how to teach to the test. It pre­serves their own job. Plus they care about their stu­dents and wor­ry about them failing.

RobotThe worst part of Horn­beck­’s “Draft” is this fright­ful sce­nario he out­lines for those school dis­tricts that don’t per­form up to par. There is a series of inter­ven­tions, lead­ing to a total takeover of the dis­trict. This was unfath­omable back in 1990, but now we’ve all seen it hap­pen in cities across the coun­try. The real­ly sad thing about Horn­beck­’s pro­pos­al was that those schools already strug­gling would be fur­ther penal­ized, often via so-called “reme­di­a­tion” which was intru­sive and punitive.

Horn­beck wrote: “On the penal­ty side, I envi­sion the fol­low­ing con­se­quences for schools and their staff.…” He went on to describe in elab­o­rate detail the hor­rors that teach­ers would be fac­ing. These penal­ties includ­ed loss of the fol­low­ing things: teacher longevi­ty pay, local con­trol, admin­is­tra­tive deci­sion-mak­ing author­i­ty, state and local financ­ing, and even stu­dents. Admin­is­tra­tors could be put on pro­ba­tion, staff could suf­fer finan­cial penal­ties, and good (and wealthy) stu­dents could flee the dis­trict as it was sink­ing like the Titan­ic. And some­how Horn­beck envi­sioned that by impos­ing such extreme­ly neg­a­tive penal­ties this would help stu­dents feel good about them­selves?! And teach­ers teach bet­ter?! And dis­tricts be proud?! Horn­beck­’s penal­ties were sti­fling, killing true free­dom and the spir­it of joy in learning.

RobotsAnoth­er whole sec­tion of the Horn­beck report includ­ed detailed instruc­tions about how to insti­tute site-based deci­sion mak­ing that would sup­plant the duly-elect­ed school boards and wrest con­trol away from local par­ents and cit­i­zens. A token par­ent or two would be per­mit­ted on this con­trolled coun­cil. He was already using this for­mu­la. Note that his “Draft” was pre­pared for the “Iowa Busi­ness-Edu­ca­tion Round­table Task Force,” an unelect­ed board of Who’s Who lead­ers, some of whom admit­ted they signed onto the dot­ted line with­out even read­ing the report! In this way, the site-based coun­cils became a clever form of man­aged change in which they rub­ber-stamped any new inno­va­tion towards imple­ment­ing the Skin­ner­ian oper­ant con­di­tion­ing meth­ods on their schools, teach­ers and students.

The fol­low­ing ulte­ri­or motives to trans­form ALL OF SOCIETY were divulged by Hornbeck:

This report sets a course in which schools are expect­ed to pro­duce results at unprece­dent­ed high lev­els. They will be expect­ed to pro­duce them with a broad­er group of stu­dents — and even­tu­al­ly with all stu­dents.…

…If we are to have a high expec­ta­tion, out­come based, con­se­quences-dri­ven, school-based shared deci­sion mak­ing sys­tem that is eval­u­at­ed with sub­stan­tial­ly dif­fer­ent assess­ment strate­gies, it will require dif­fer­ent capac­i­ties, skills and pat­terns of renew­al for staff than present­ly exist. Lit­er­al­ly every­one will need retrain­ing at least to some degree.

The col­lec­tion and analy­sis of school per­for­mance data will be done more quick­ly, more pow­er­ful­ly and with greater accu­ra­cy through tech­nol­o­gy. Tech­nol­o­gy is crit­i­cal to a strong data base at many levels.

Tech­nol­o­gy will reduce reliance on sin­gle sources of instruc­tion­al mate­r­i­al (such as text­books).…[bold and col­or added]

Par­ent, Advo­cate, Health, and Social Ser­vice Sup­port — Chil­dren need far more than aca­d­e­m­ic instruc­tion if they are to suc­ceed in school.… They requires [sic] con­nect­ing edu­ca­tion, health and social ser­vices in unprece­dent­ed ways.… [bold and under­line in orig­i­nal, col­or added]

…One illus­tra­tive approach to accom­plish­ing that objec­tive would be to abol­ish the present State Board of Edu­ca­tion and local boards of edu­ca­tion and replace them with Boards of Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies at the state and local lev­els. One could then estab­lish results for chil­dren we wish to achieve that cut across edu­ca­tion, health and social ser­vices.…[bold and col­or added]

HornbeckHorn­beck then went on to pro­pose the for­ma­tion of a “Fam­i­ly Resource Cen­ter in or near each ele­men­tary school” that would offer preschool, child care, home vis­its, par­ent edu­ca­tion, fam­i­ly sup­port ser­vices, health ser­vices, social ser­vices, employ­ment coun­sel­ing, job devel­op­ment, drug and alco­hol abuse coun­sel­ing, fam­i­ly cri­sis coun­sel­ing, and teenage preg­nan­cy pre­ven­tion ser­vices. This last one was con­nect­ed with Planned Par­ent­hood’s school-based clin­ic initiative!

In con­clu­sion, David Horn­beck put wheels on Skin­ner’s oper­ant con­di­tion­ing machin­ery and 25 years ago he trav­eled the coun­try with his word-proces­sor, equip­ping well over 30 states with his mas­sive plan for the trans­for­ma­tion and over­haul of our nation’s schools. His grandiose plan became part of Amer­i­ca 2000, Goals 2000, and No Child Left Behind. Horn­beck would almost sin­gle-hand­ed­ly put Skin­ner­ian meth­ods into Amer­i­can mainstream.

Many in the field of edu­ca­tion adopt­ed a cult-like con­for­mance to pre­de­ter­mined “out­comes” and “results” man­dat­ed from on high. Teach­ers did­n’t dare ask the ques­tions — after all, there were penal­ties for their non-com­pli­ance! And admin­is­tra­tors were hooked in, forced into the mold, or they retired. And poor lit­tle John­ny and Susie sit­ting at their desks, still feel the HORRORS of the pres­sure to per­form mea­sur­able results and out­comes every sin­gle day.Carlin Quote