In a letter to Jeff Wulfson, acting commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the MTA has expressed its opposition to the department’s new effort to reshape public education by scaling up computer-based “personalized learning” practices through an initiative called MAPLE/LearnLaunch.
“The MTA has long supported differentiated instruction and addressing students’ social, emotional and academic needs,” the kind of personalized learning “by which educators guide students as they ask questions, pursue projects, explore subjects they are passionate about, and work alone or in groups on self-designed initiatives,” wrote MTA President Barbara Madeloni and Vice President Erik J. Champy in the letter, dated Tuesday, August 8. “We understand that students learn differently and at different paces — and that good educators will find ways to engage all of their students and build a learning community while addressing individual needs.”
“The fox is guarding the henhouse. This is wrong.”
What educators object to, they added, “is a kind of ‘personalized learning’ that actually depersonalizes the classroom by reducing interactions among students and between students and educators, replacing them with computer-based instruction based upon algorithms and what is ultimately a narrow conception of knowledge. Further, this movement deprofessionalizes teaching, seeking to substitute the judgment of distant ‘content producers’ for the expertise and insights of well-trained professionals.”
In May, the MTA Annual Meeting of Delegates adopted a New Business Item on the MAPLE/LearnLaunch initiative that directed the association to inform the DESE of its opposition.
In the letter, Madeloni and Champy added that members of the association are “deeply troubled” that the DESE selected LearnLaunch as a partner “when the organization is so involved in promoting the sale of educational products.”
They continued, “Putting LearnLaunch in the driver’s seat of this initiative would be akin to the Department of Public Health putting a consortium of pharmaceutical companies in charge of prescribing regulations. The fox is guarding the henhouse. This is wrong.”
The letter concluded, “Educators should be the ones making education policy and exploring new, innovative practices. These decisions should be driven by what’s best for students, not by profit.”