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« Reply #50 on: January 13, 2010, 06:38:18 PM »

Head Start’s Impact Evanescent — HHS Study

Posted by Andrew J. Coulson

HHS has finally released the second installment of its series of studies on the persistence of Head Start effects. Its finding (see page xiv): virtually all academic effects disappear by the end of 1st grade. There is only one positive statistically significant finding out of eleven academic outcomes measured, the size of that effect is minuscule by recognized standards (it’s half way between zero and what most social scientists consider “small”), and the confidence in the finding is low by recognized standards. (Many authors would categorize it as “insignificant” rather than “significant” — it’s only significant at a 90% confidence interval, not the more common 95% confidence interval).

We have spent more than $100 billion on the program to date (ballpark estimate from Table 375 here) and HHS’s own research shows that its results diminish to essentially nothing by the end of the first grade.

There are other government education programs whose effects actually grow substantially over time, and that are comparatively economical. Consider the federal DC voucher program. Just a year or two after switching from public to private schools, the effect of the private schooling was not big enough to rise to the level of statistical significance. But by their third year in private schools, the evidence was clear that voucher-receiving students were reading more than two grade levels above a randomized control group that stayed in public schools.  This program, as I’ve previously documented, costs 1/4 as much per pupil as DC spends on public education: about $6,600 vs. $28,000.

But Congress, and particularly Democrats, have defunded the DC voucher program while raising spending on Head Start. President Obama is at the forefront of this travesty. If you weren’t already jaded and disgusted by education politics and its domination by employee unions opposed to educational choice, start now.
« Reply #51 on: February 17, 2010, 11:42:38 AM »

LAUSD's Dance of the Lemons
Why firing the desk-sleepers, burnouts, hotheads and other failed teachers is all but impossible
By Beth Barrett
published: February 11, 2010

Editor's note: After this article went to press, LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines announced that the district plans to substantially cut back on granting lifelong tenure to inexperienced teachers.
Several years ago, a 74-year-old Dominguez Elementary School fourth-grade teacher was having trouble controlling her students as her abilities deteriorated amid signs of "burnout." Shirley Loftis was told by Los Angeles Unified School District administrators to retire or be fired, and she did retire, but hardly under the school district's terms.

The principal at Dominguez, Irene Hinojosa, recalls how she spent three years documenting Loftis' poor teaching skills and inability to control 10-year-olds. "From the minute I observed her, she basically didn't seem to have the knowledge of the standards and how to deliver them," Hinojosa tells L.A. Weekly. "I had her do lessons on the same standard over and over again, and children did not get it. On simple math concepts [such as determining perimeters and area] — over and over, she didn't know how to deliver."

Each September, a new crop of children quickly caught on to the fact that Loftis had lost control. Full-on classroom fights flared up. One child beat another with a backpack, and others threw objects — even a chair, Hinojosa says. Teachers at Dominguez Elementary began reporting incidents to Hinojosa, who moved Loftis' class from a bungalow to a room across from her office. That way, the principal reasoned, she could intervene in the chaos a bit faster.

When parents in the Carson neighborhoods around Dominguez Park got wind of the troubles, some sought to transfer their children. A handful succeeded, but Hinojosa says every child "righteously deserved to be moved out. ... The kids totally disrespected [Loftis] by the end. It was a lost year for them."

But Loftis won a ruling in her favor by the state Commission on Professional Competence, a powerful arbitration panel of two educators and an administrative-law judge who can prevent California schools from firing teachers. The panel agreed in 2002 that the district had "grounds for dismissal" of Loftis. But, panel members essentially argued, Loftis had taught at the school for 23 years, and administrators had shown bias in pursuing her while not taking enough steps to do something about her burnout. District officials embarked on a long Superior Court appeals process, but the judge agreed with the arbitration panel that Loftis could perform another LAUSD job — like training teachers.

After five years, district lawyers decided to stop their costly fight and agreed to settle, paying Loftis' attorneys' fees of $195,000 on top of $300,000 that Loftis earned during the dispute to work away from children — in a job in the administration.

"We chased that case forever," says LAUSD Associate General Counsel Kathleen Collins, a young and effervescent lawyer who is something of an anomaly inside LAUSD's toe-the-line executive offices downtown. "It was my first case, and I felt like, 'This can't be the way things work.'"

Loftis, now 83, could not be reached for comment, and a United Teachers Los Angeles representatives declined to comment. But her associates described her as an articulate, highly energetic woman who seems far younger than her years. Of the epic battle she lost to Loftis, Collins says, "You can only have passion for so long" before the obstacles force you to give up.

Principal Hinojosa thought that because she is younger than the previous principal, she had the energy required to oust a tenured educator. Instead, she learned, "It is so difficult to dismiss or discipline veteran teachers."

Los Angeles Unified School District, with its 885 schools and 617,000 students, educates one in every 10 children in California. It also mirrors a troubled national system of teacher evaluations and job security that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says must change. Recent articles in the Los Angeles Times have described teachers who draw full pay for years while they sit at home fighting allegations of sexual or physical misconduct.

But the far larger problem in L.A. is one of "performance cases" — the teachers who cannot teach, yet cannot be fired. Their ranks are believed to be sizable — perhaps 1,000 teachers, responsible for 30,000 children. But in reality, nobody knows how many of LAUSD's vast system of teachers fail to perform. Superintendent Ramon Cortines tells the Weekly he has a "solid" figure, but he won't release it. In fact, almost all information about these teachers is kept secret.

But the Weekly has found, in a five-month investigation, that principals and school district leaders have all but given up dismissing such teachers. In the past decade, LAUSD officials spent $3.5 million trying to fire just seven of the district's 33,000 teachers for poor classroom performance — and only four were fired, during legal struggles that wore on, on average, for five years each. Two of the three others were paid large settlements, and one was reinstated. The average cost of each battle is $500,000.

During our investigation, in which we obtained hundreds of documents using the California Public Records Act, we also discovered that 32 underperforming teachers were initially recommended for firing, but then secretly paid $50,000 by the district, on average, to leave without a fight. Moreover, 66 unnamed teachers are being continually recycled through a costly mentoring and retraining program but failing to improve, and another 400 anonymous teachers have been ordered to attend the retraining.

The Weekly was able to obtain the names of all seven teachers targeted for firing, and the names of the 32 who received big settlements of $40,000 to $195,000, and the data showing the size of the group forced into retraining — 466 teachers during the past three years — only after extensive efforts. Nor is the public allowed to see student test scores by classroom — closely guarded and potentially explosive data. Education experts say the secret classroom data shows how bad teachers significantly harm children, producing students with markedly lower test scores as compared to other classrooms on the same hallway.

In the rare instances — fewer than once a year — where the district tries to dismiss a teacher because of performance, each battle wends through a tangled arbitration and court system.

In pursuing a firing, school officials rely on a teacher's formal classroom evaluations and, sometimes, disciplinary write-ups, to file an "accusation and statement of charges," which lays out an educator's teaching problems. The teacher can then ask for a decision on his or her case from the Commission on Professional Competence, a panel convened by the state Office of Administrative Hearings. Either side can appeal the outcome of that hearing in California Superior Court, and, ultimately, in higher courts.

It cost the district roughly $3.5 million to try to fire seven teachers because of the cost of hiring outside lawyers with special expertise, administrative overhead, paying ongoing salaries for each teacher during the lengthy legal battles, and other expenses. Documents show only one instance in the past 10 years in which an LAUSD teacher accepted his firing and left without a fight or big payment.

Just a few blocks from LAUSD's skyscraper headquarters, Los Angeles City Hall's approach to firing public employees provides a stark contrast to protections enjoyed by teachers, also public employees. Despite civil-service protections, City Hall fires from its 48,000-plus workforce of garbage, parks, street-services, engineering, utilities and other employees more than 80 tenured workers annually. During the past decade, in which LAUSD fired four failing teachers, 800 to 1,000 underperforming civil service–protected workers were fired at City Hall. City Personnel Department General Manager Margaret Whelan says nobody is paid to leave. She was dumbfounded that LAUSD is paying to dislodge teachers, saying, "That's ridiculous. I can't believe that. Golly, it makes no sense. Some are not even mediocre, they're horrible."

Caprice Young, founder of the nonprofit California Charter Schools Association, was LAUSD school board president until 2003. She saw, behind closed doors, what the public can't: the "dance of the lemons," a term that broadly describes controversial tactics LAUSD utilizes to cope with tenured teachers who can't teach but, under the current system, cannot be fired. Those tactics include not only paying them to leave, but quietly transferring bad teachers to other, unsuspecting schools or repeatedly and fruitlessly "retraining" them while they continue to teach, sometimes harming the educations of thousands of children.

Young believes the inability of the schools to oust poor L.A. teachers is playing a key role in L.A.'s emergence as an epicenter of the charter-school movement. "One year with a bad teacher puts a kid a year, or two, behind the other kids," Young says. "If a parent sees their child has a lemon teacher, if they can get them into another school, they will."

A. J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, has a view of the situation that might startle some. The belief that it's hard to oust underperforming LAUSD teachers is nothing more than an "urban legend," Duffy claims. "There is a mechanism to ask for the removal of teachers ... they have chosen not to do it. Part of it is the bureaucratic nonsense that goes on in the district."

According to confidential settlement agreements obtained by the Weekly under the California Public Records Act, the school district goes to great lengths to avoid the formal steps for firing teachers. Not only has LAUSD paid 32 tenured teachers more than $1.5 million to leave, but the LAUSD school board, which says it is reform-minded, allows these teachers to leave with clean records, and with no hint that they took a payout under pressure. The deals are so hush-hush, in fact, that the Weekly has discovered that one teacher, Que Mars, who taught math at Chester W. Nimitz Middle School, is still listed in LAUSD's substitute-teacher pool after taking a $40,000 check — to stop teaching in L.A.

The bottom line, attorney Collins says, is that "in other professions, if it's not working out, it's easy to get rid of employees." But in the LAUSD, "if you have a poor-performing teacher in the classroom with 30 kids year after year, that's a lot of kids impacted. You can't get fourth-grade back."

Dan Basalone, an enthusiastic father of five with a boyish face, retains a boundless interest in education despite 48 years with LAUSD. He blames Superintendent Ramon Cortines and LAUSD's elected school board for the fact that Los Angeles is markedly behind other major cities in education reform, but he believes Cortines and the board can change. It all depends, he says, on "how strong they are."

A retired official with the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, a union representing school principals, Basalone wants to see tenured teachers evaluated with public, transparent and clearer standards. Teacher "evaluations should be publicly discussed," he says. "If you have to negotiate [with UTLA], so what? Doing nothing and saying it's a bad system just means you're not willing to bite the bullet. Until you put some ideas out there, you don't know what the possibilities are."

Duffy, the union's pugnacious president, a speed-talker with a talk-radio temperament who enjoys publicly sparring with Cortines and the administrators, is a key reason why UTLA is one of the nation's most steadfast teachers-union holdouts, resisting reforms that are gaining acceptance by teachers unions in places like New York City and, more locally, Long Beach.

Duffy has put as much time in the system as Basalone. He sees things very differently. He blames the difficulties in identifying and getting rid of poor L.A. teachers on bureaucratic "nonsense," such as administrators who are improperly trained, bogged down by paperwork and don't have time to conduct meaningful teacher evaluations. Duffy deplores the "witch hunt" against teachers by a "rotten, corrupt system" in which, he says, principals can give teachers bad evaluations merely because they speak up during meetings on such issues as whether to buy teaching materials instead of new furniture. However, Duffy did not provide evidence of that claim to the Weekly.

Basalone says, "These people are rewarded for bad teaching. The bottom line is money and politics." Yet Duffy says most teachers do a solid job, and that if he had a child who was stuck with a failing teacher, he'd be down at that school "demanding change."

But it is extremely difficult to find out whether a teacher is failing. The Weekly was only able to gain access to extensive details about all seven rare "performance cases" in which the district tried to fire teachers because those disputes ended up in court. Critics say these seven cases are the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of other L.A. teachers hand out busy-work, show movies during most class periods, sleep, don't show up on Fridays, or consistently churn out kids who score well below the rest of the school in core subjects like math, science, reading and English.

California Charter Schools Association's Young and other education analysts say the obstacles to identifying and ousting these teachers stem from the 1970s, when popular but not particularly competent teachers were named as principals while top teachers with deep academic backgrounds got fired for failing to toe the line. In the backlash that followed, critics say, new laws and regulations made it increasingly hard to fire a California teacher.

Today, an L.A. teacher who gets a below-standard classroom evaluation can, and often does, file a grievance through UTLA. In many cases, an initial negative evaluation by a principal is then heavily rewritten, or even withdrawn, by district officials. Nothing happens to teachers who have at least two "below-standard" evaluations upheld after the grievance process is completed. Asked why this is the case, Duffy changes the subject, choosing instead to talk about insufficient school funding.

Diane Pappas, LAUSD associate general counsel, says her office's five attorneys only work part-time on efforts to oust bad teachers. She also questions whether California's Office of Administrative Hearings, which has the power to resolve firing cases that public school teachers decide to contest, could handle the workload if the LAUSD school board bit the bullet and decided to target dozens of the worst teachers.

Currently, although LAUSD is the nation's second-largest school district, just two LAUSD "teacher-performance cases" are before the state's Office of Administrative Hearings, a quasijudicial tribunal that adjudicates or mediates 14,000 public-sector disputes annually involving 1,400 state-, county- and city-government entities.

"We'd [pursue more firings] if we had more resources," Pappas says. But the state OAH "can only handle so many with their staffing issues, too. They have a time line to follow. You couldn't, even if you wanted to do 100 [firings] at a time. The system can't adjust."

Not true, says Jeffrey Young, spokesman for OAH, noting the sheer size of OAH. He says the agency could easily ramp up if LAUSD sent it significantly more teacher-firing cases to adjudicate. In fact, says Young, "I believe we could handle anything."

Cortines likes to point to California state law as one of his big hurdles, saying he talked to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in late January about crafting a law that makes it easier to oust subpar tenured teachers. Cortines says "competence" rather than seniority should be the chief criterion in keeping teachers, complaining that, "The [California] laws are not on the side of the school systems. No one is the advocate for the children and family. All [the laws] are written to protect adults" — tenured teachers.

But at the same time, Cortines, along with former LAUSD superintendents Roy Romer and David Brewer, has not tried to create a well-funded legal unit within LAUSD dedicated to moving out bad teachers.

When principals do make a very rare effort to fire an underperforming teacher, examples such as that of former teacher Roque Burio serve as vivid reminders of the severe problems they will face.

Burio had taught at two schools before becoming a science teacher at San Pedro High School in 2001. But after he arrived, documents show, school administrators began to notice his shortcomings. Burio got five "below-standard" teaching evaluations — an exceedingly high number — in just four years.

The district alleges that Burio frequently told students that because his class was inquiry-based, "teachers do not teach." That theory became "his mantra," recalls San Pedro Assistant Principal Jan Murata. "He was unable to adapt or to change."

Principals and administrators said he failed to engage his students, lectured without apparent objectives and did not ensure that the children had textbooks. In one lab assignment, he told his pupils to record the behavior of live animals, but purportedly failed to bring animals to class. Students could look at pictures of animals in books instead, and "figure it out," Burio allegedly told them. When students complained, Burio allegedly taunted them, saying he'd "buy a fish" and dig in his backyard for earthworms. Only four of his 29 students tried to write up his odd assignment. (Burio, who disputes many of the claims, could not be reached for comment despite the Weekly's repeated efforts to contact him both directly and through UTLA.)

Murata launched what became a disheartening six-year process of repeated evaluations, weekly observations, regular parent meetings and costly re-training undertaken by personal mentors, with the aim of improving Burio's skills. When the district decided to fire him, many parents, though angry, did not want to complain in writing. "Parents believe the teacher should know what [he's] doing. It's very difficult," Murata says.

Jackie Bebich, a science program booster president at San Pedro High School, says parents often feel helpless to intervene, even as the damage to children mounts: "There are 200 kids per year" in just one high school teacher's classes, "so over five years, that's 1,000 kids affected."

« Reply #52 on: February 17, 2010, 11:42:55 AM »

Last year, LAUSD gave up trying to fire him, and paid Burio $50,000 to quietly leave, one of 32 such cases in the past several years. The district agreed to include no finding of wrongdoing if he agreed never to work for LAUSD again. Then, last fall, Murata says, Burio contacted her — requesting a letter of recommendation for a job. She declined.

Angry principals and administrators, like the retired Basalone, say there is "no excuse" for LAUSD's practice of waiting for teachers to fail five evaluations, as with Buria, before trying to fire them. Robert Bilovsky, principal at Berendo Middle School, says it's "ridiculous. ... Why have an evaluation system if you're not going to use it?" Duffy says the district is at fault if a teacher with five below-standard evaluations is allowed to remain in the classroom.

Clearly feeling the sting of recent criticism for failing to fire teachers accused of sexual and physical misconduct, Cortines, in an interview with the Weekly, says that he recently ordered principals to begin dismissal proceedings against tenured teachers after just two consecutive below-standard evaluations.

"I've cut that out," Cortines says. But when asked for a copy of the new policy, district officials referred the Weekly to a December press release stating Cortines' concerns that 175 permanent and certificated teachers got a below-standard "Stull" rating last year, while 48 others failed two evaluations. The vague press release does not lay out a new policy, such as identifiable steps Cortines is taking to oust teachers who fail more than two evaluations.

When a teacher gets a below-standard Stull evaluation — named after a lawmaker who in 1971 authored California legislation requiring checks of educators' work — that teacher participates in a rehab program called Peer Assistance and Review, as did Burio and Loftin. The program, engineered by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when he was a state assemblyman in 2000, is supposed to improve schools by pairing failing teachers with mentors — often retired teachers with many years of experience.

By some accounts, PAR is a miserable failure. Under the confidential program — a secrecy feature that teachers unions insisted on — not even school principals can find out if their subpar teachers are improving. District officials admit to the Weekly that only about one-third of teachers pass the training.

Moreover, as happened with Burio at San Pedro High, principals must keep these substandard teachers in the classroom during the retraining. There are no particular consequences if a teacher does not improve.

"The intent of the law is to help an ineffective person become better," Basalone says. "It doesn't mean I can stay ineffective."

According to previously undisclosed data obtained by the Weekly, three anonymous LAUSD teachers have taken the retraining five times in the past three years, 18 have taken it four times, and 45 three times. Parents do not know, and cannot find out, the names of these 66 teachers who are repeatedly recycled through the PAR program. Another 400 teachers were required to enter the program once or twice during the past four years. The state program costs $1.4 million per year, mostly to pay for 50 personal mentors in LAUSD.

Marsha Oh-Bilodeau, the district's PAR coordinator, says the names are kept confidential to encourage teachers to participate without embarrassment. But the secrecy appears to go well beyond protecting feelings. LAUSD lawyers refused to release to the Weekly the names of any of the 466 teachers in question — without a court order.

Duffy sees a possible conspiracy afoot in the data obtained by the Weekly. He says many of the 466 teachers who have gotten retraining and mentoring could have been pushed into the program by "vindictive" principals out to inflate the numbers to make it seem as if the LAUSD has big teaching problems. Duffy could provide no documents or data to back up his claim.

But Judith Perez, president of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, which represents 2,300 school principals, administrators and retirees, says the district is allowing "frequent fliers" and this repetitive retraining is "a disservice to children." She wants to see consequences. "Many of the people who go through the process do improve, but the problem is the frequent fliers," Perez says. "There should be something that happens next."

John Bowes, head of the Office of Staff Relations under Cortines, and part of an internal task force charged by the school board with improving teacher performance, concedes that LAUSD has no hard rule for when to initiate firing procedures — in part because it prefers a "supportive" rather than a "gotcha" mentality. Bowes, a buttoned-down rising star under Cortines, says, "It really reflects the idea that teaching is a craft to be developed and it's an art that's refined by teachers over time."

There's a good reason why downtown administrators seem squeamish about evaluating underperforming L.A. teachers. Gail Hughes, Bowes' predecessor, says that during the 2008 school year, UTLA filed 650 formal grievances on behalf of teachers alleging contract violations. Roughly 300 of those grievances were filed by teachers who got negative classroom-teaching evaluations.

School principals, Hughes says, know that if they negatively review an L.A. teacher's abilities, "just about everyone who gets a below-standard Stull grieves it" — and the principal gets caught in a lengthy, often bitter process. Records show that of 16,235 LAUSD teachers evaluated in 2008, 1,321 were considered below standard in classroom ability. Only a small fraction of those 1,321 received a formal, negative Stull rating. In some cases, the principals simply did not want to get in a nasty fight.

If science teacher Burio represents educators who are repeatedly retrained and then paid large sums to leave, math teacher Mars represents what former administrator Basalone calls the "classic" dance of the lemons.

Mars taught at six schools, but at Nimitz Middle School — his fifth — administrators accused him of deficiencies that could have led to his dismissal. Among those allegations, in 2002 Mars retaught "the same lesson" to students eight times — right in front of Nimitz Principal Frank Vasquez, who was conducting classroom observations. The principal recalls, "He just didn't teach. He did the same thing every day. He confronted kids and pushed them out of the classroom. We wrote him up, and wrote him up, until one day he pushed a kid out of the class" and down some steps.

Vasquez said Mars was "placed" at Nimitz by LAUSD and there was nothing the principal could do. Vasquez says, "We tried everything. We had coaches go in and help him out. PAR tried to help him out." The fallout hit children who were struggling to learn math from Mars. "The kids didn't learn anything, and they didn't respect him."

Mars says his last two positions, at Nimitz and, before that, Gage Middle School, were forced on him, and represented "the biggest hell" of his life. "I didn't even know what was happening to me," says Mars, whose voice trembles as he refers to the school district as "worse than the Mafia."

Mars adds, "You don't know how tough it is. The kids will eat you alive." But he says he's afraid that if he tells his side of the story, his retirement and benefits could be in jeopardy when he turns 53, in two years. (Collins, the attorney, says his claim is absurd, and that LAUSD would not target protected speech — a sure way to lose a major lawsuit.)

Rather than fighting a probable five-year, $500,000 effort to fire Mars, after transferring him repeatedly, LAUSD paid him $40,000 to quit in March 2005.

Little wonder, then, that Vasquez was stunned to hear from the Weekly that despite all this, Mars remains in the school district's substitute-teacher pool. "Oh, wow!" Vasquez blurted out. In fact, when the Weekly spoke to Mars (a phone interview), the children in his substitute-teaching class could be heard in the background.

Superintendent Cortines says he recently banned the repetitive transfer of "lemons." But there is no way to verify if Cortines' ban is working, or if it was even implemented, because the practice unfolds entirely in secret. Nobody, including parents, can currently find out if a newly arrived teacher was sent to a school under a forced transfer.

Of the 34 teachers paid sizable settlements by LAUSD to quit teaching — the 32 such as Mars and Burio who took secret payouts rather than fight, plus two others who fought their firings for years — the Weekly tracked down employment records for 22. Those 22 accounted for more than 70 transfers between schools. It is not known how many of those were forced transfers.

One of those transfers was Howard Schonberger, a teacher who got repeated below-standard evaluations before being paid $90,000 to leave his job at Berendo Middle School, near Olympic Boulevard.

Schonberger benefited from the fact that the small legal unit at LAUSD was already busy juggling a firing case the district badly wanted to win — that of Pinewood Elementary School teacher Colleen Kolter. According to district documents, between May 2003 and October 2005, while teaching at the Pinewood grade school, in Tujunga, Kolter racked up four notices of unsatisfactory service and three below-standard Stull evaluations from a newly reassigned but veteran principal, Ada Munoz-Yslas.

Munoz-Yslas says that Kolter, a thin woman in her mid-50s, went for days without teaching anything and resisted advice from the pricey math and literary coaches sent in to retrain her. "When I started there, almost immediately, people came up to me to complain about the things that had been happening: parents, students, teachers," says Munoz-Yslas, now the principal at Van Nuys Elementary School. "Lack of classroom management, safety issues, not meeting the education needs of students. ... There was a lack of following and implementing the curriculum. A lack of planning."

Teaching assistants and others tried to salvage the children's wasted year. Yet the mystery is that during the eight years prior to Munoz-Yslas' arrival, LAUSD never put Kolter on the dismissal track — even when furious and fed-up parents took their children out of Pinewood altogether.

The state Commission on Professional Competence found that Kolter sometimes had "an unsteady gait and was using slurred speech," once requiring a small child to support her. Records show that Kolter argued that LAUSD failed to force her to take sick leave to deal with her "bipolar disorder and depression." But the competence panel said she was fired because "at bottom, it appears she cannot teach." Kolter could not be reached for comment, and her attorney, Lawrence Trygstad, whose firm is used by UTLA to represent teachers facing dismissal, declined to comment.

Kolter's firing is one of LAUSD's exceedingly rare and clear-cut dismissal victories in the past 10 years. Yet by the end of that struggle, LAUSD had spent a staggering $305,576 on private attorneys who helped the district's legal staff in the fight to get rid of her.

LAUSD is not as aggressive as New York City, whose school district employs eight attorneys solely to remove bad teachers, and places underperforming teachers in the district's infamous "rubber rooms" — offices away from children, where they earn full salary to do nothing during their job disputes.

But in Los Angeles, under Romer, Brewer and now Cortines, because LAUSD pays just a handful of attorneys to work only part-time on such cases, the small legal unit was nearly overwhelmed by pursuing Kolter at Pinewood Elementary while handling Schonberger's dismissal. As attorney Collins explains, because of Kolter's decision to wage an extensive battle to keep her job, and LAUSD's equally passionate determination to prevent that, "we were completely swamped. We would have had [to pay] outside counsel, our fees, [Schonberger's] salary — and then there was our normal caseload."

Records obtained by the Weekly describe how, in 2004, Schonberger received a below-standard Stull evaluation and low marks for his teaching skills, inability to engage students in problem-solving and failure to establish rigorous learning goals at Fairfax High School.

Parent Orly Beyder recalls how her daughter, Michelle, now a photography major at San Francisco State University, came home upset about how little her class was learning. "He was ... not interested in the kids. He didn't seem to enjoy teaching," Beyder recalls. Beyder met with Schonberger, worried that her daughter's education was at risk. But he was not willing to talk it through with Beyder. "He was just a snotty teacher in our meeting," she says.

Beyder instructed her daughter to keep her head down, reminding her, "He's the teacher."

Beyder adds, "I know it's very hard to be a teacher and to teach high school, but I don't think teachers like that should teach."

Two years later, after Schonberger was reassigned to Berendo Middle School, distict officials say 104 eighth-grade students protested his teaching by signing a petition accusing him of directing insults and sexually charged remarks at them.

Schonberger has a markedly different view. In an odd phone interview with the Weekly, he identified himself and insisted he had been railroaded. The following day, he called the Weekly back, claiming that a person familiar with his story had impersonated him during the first interview. He then essentially repeated the claims from the previous day, that he was scapegoated by administrators, who sided with parents rather than supporting a tough teacher keen on delivering a good education and discipline to unruly kids.

Schonberger also claimed that as an untenured, green teacher at Fairfax High, he was targeted by administrators. But the record shows the opposite: that they granted him lifelong tenure after just two years of classroom experience, as LAUSD does with the vast majority of teachers.

He also painted the 104-signature petition against him as having been orchestrated by a small group of Berendo Middle School students, scoffing, "Kids will do anything to mitigate their own failure and behavior." Schonberger only accepted the $90,000 settlement, he says, because "I felt I was done being Don Quixote, I was fighting windmills, a monolithic administrative hierarchical entity at odds with its stated purposes to educate and socialize students."

Berendo Principal Bilovsky leaves no room for doubt as to how he views Schonberger, saying, "There's always the question, 'Would you want your child in someone's classroom?' I wouldn't have felt comfortable with that."

In a culture like LAUSD's, where getting fired is virtually impossible, the small group of teachers who were fired or took large payments to leave appear to share a strong belief that each of theirs was the one special case driven by biased principals or unfair rules. Among those is Raye Shibasaki, a former first-grade teacher at Miles Avenue Elementary School in Huntington Park, who received three notices of unsatisfactory services. She ultimately settled for an $80,000 payment to leave.

Leticia Ortega, a parent as well as a middle-school teacher for LAUSD, recalls how she took her own son, Arturo, out of Shibasaki's class after he was repeatedly bullied and she could not get Shibasaki to step in. Ortega says veteran teacher Shibasaki was disorganized and overwhelmed, yet Shibasaki complained she wasn't getting help from the district.

In fact, documents show, Shibasaki was given plenty of help — a literary coach and access to a paid mentor. "Obviously it was not the right career for her," Ortega says.

District officials say 15 parents demanded to have their children taken out of her class. Allegations include that she failed to teach first-grade fundamentals like the difference between levers and wheels, couldn't control 6-year-olds and lost track of a small boy who vanished on her watch and made his way home on foot, unsupervised.

Shibasaki describes almost the opposite experience. She tells the Weekly the allegations were "idiotic" and driven by administrators who disliked her as a person and evaluated her "subjectively." She says administrators gave her the toughest first-graders and insufficient support, yet she concedes that expensive, paid teaching coaches repeatedly tried to help her.

She quotes a sentiment that Duffy and UTLA officials have made into something of a motto: "It's so subjective, and getting rid of teachers should never be subjective."

Perez, the Associated Administrators president, says principals need more specific training to deal with tenured teachers who should not be in the classroom, and more clout in recommending which of the new ones should not get tenure at the two-year mark.

Los Angeles' situation is in stark contrast to nearby Long Beach, where Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser has long required extensive vetting before granting lifelong tenure to teachers. Long Beach is substantially ahead of Los Angeles in such teacher-quality reforms — and in student achievement. "If they're not great teachers, we work to release them," says Steinhauser. "That's really important."

In Los Angeles, as reported recently in the Los Angeles Times, new teachers get tenure virtually automatically unless their principal objects. Yet the Times report showed that few principals are actively engaged in reviewing green teachers before giving them the nod for lifelong tenure — a failing Cortines says he is out to change.

President Barack Obama has begun pushing for tougher evaluations of teachers, tied to their classroom test scores, and for direct comparison of teachers with their colleagues along the same hallway. As those and other reforms aimed at teacher quality begin to find acceptance in other parts of the nation, however, it seems a stretch to imagine LAUSD, the district so big it educates one in 10 California children, joining in.

"The power of the union [and] the California Teachers Association in this state has definitely tipped the balance in favor of protecting the incompetent teacher," says Collins. Somehow, she says, "Parents and students need to know they have a voice."

Duffy disagrees with her assessment, saying, "The vast majority of teachers are doing a good job. I can't begin to tell you how many vindictive principals there are."

Retired Principal Dan Basalone would like to see one reform above all: an end to the secret negotiations between UTLA and the school district, closed to parents and the public, through which the current system for firing underperforming teachers has been crafted over the years. He points to the practice known as the dance of the lemons, the secret payouts to persuade teachers to go away, and the anonymity granted to teachers who repeatedly fail PAR retraining and mentoring.

A vastly different way to evaluate and make teachers accountable is required, he says, and it "should be negotiated publicly. All of it should be in the sunshine."
« Reply #53 on: March 02, 2010, 08:32:03 AM »

The 77 Percent Effect
Is the ‘Race to the Top’ program really working as intended?
Cynics have argued that the Department of Education’s “Race to the Top” (RTT) program has distracted attention from the need to address unsustainable state budgets. Such cynicism has been deemed unfashionable by Obama-administration allies, cash-starved state and local officials keen to stay in the administration’s good graces, and editorial writers eager to say nice things about our earnest education secretary, Arne Duncan. The Kumbaya chorus has even been swelled by conservative voices, including those of David Brooks and the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

Much of this pro-RTT enthusiasm has been driven by the fact that the program has (in theory) changed the way the federal government and the states do business. We are shifting from a model driven by aid formulas toward one focused on transformation and performance — or so I’ve been told. I’ve been assured that this shift is already affecting the thinking of state governments, as evidenced by their RTT applications.

The administration has not been shy about its claims on this count. It has celebrated its self-proclaimed effort to “take on business as usual” and revolutionize the shape of federal education funding. The president has declared it his aim that “instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform.”

As a longtime advocate of using federal education dollars to support state and local reformers and not just subsidize the status quo, I have been eager to verify these happy reports. Have states indeed ditched the usual calculations based on bodies and budgetary health and begun letting reform policies determine their funding requests? After gorging on $100 billion in formula-driven stimulus aid last year — aid that yielded no reform but aimed expressly to subsidize the status quo — did states succeed at crafting reform-centric budgets?

Well, my colleague Daniel Lautzenheiser and I ran some numbers. It turns out we can figure out almost everything we need to know about how much RTT funding a state asked for if we look at only two things, neither of them related to the state’s RTT application. The first is state student enrollment, and the second is the size of a state’s reported 2010 budget shortfall. Those two figures allow us to predict with 77 percent accuracy how much money a given state requested in its RTT application.

The simple correlation between student enrollment and the size of the RTT request was an eye-popping .83 (a 1.0 would mean the numbers marched in perfect lockstep). This suggests that, whatever the ins and outs of their actual proposed reforms, states’ requests were largely a product of headcounts. Even more interesting, the correlation between the 2010 budget shortfall and the (seemingly unrelated) RTT request was a cool .63.

Missouri, looking at a $770 million budget shortfall, happened to request $743 million. Nebraska, trying to make up a $150 million shortfall, put together a proposal that seeks $123 million. Then there are the big states, which, bleeding cash, wildly disregarded the Department of Education’s guidelines for budget requests. California, eyeballing a staggering shortfall in the tens of billions, asked for $1 billion. New York, wrestling with a shortfall of more than $15 billion, asked for $831 million.

These results should lead us to question what all the hefty consultant fees and late-night grant-writing really amounted to. Moving forward, the Obama administration’s claims about the impact of RTT and the intentions of winning states ought to be met with sensible scrutiny.

— Frederick M. Hess is director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
Power User
Posts: 42556

« Reply #54 on: March 18, 2010, 10:30:44 PM »

March 12) -- Widely regarded as one of the most important of all the founding fathers of the United States, Thomas Jefferson received a demotion of sorts Friday thanks to the Texas Board of Education.

The board voted to enact new teaching standards for history and social studies that will alter which material gets included in school textbooks. It decided to drop Jefferson from a world history section devoted to great political thinkers.

According to Texas Freedom Network, a group that opposes many of the changes put in place by the Board of Education, the original curriculum asked students to "explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson on political revolutions from 1750 to the present."

The Texas Board of Education is dropping President Thomas Jefferson from a world history section devoted to great political thinkers.
That emphasis did not sit well with board member Cynthia Dunbar, who, during Friday's meeting, explained the rationale for changing it. "The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based," Dunbar said.

The new standard, passed at the meeting in a 10-5 vote, now reads, "Explain the impact of the writings of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and Sir William Blackstone."

By dropping mention of revolution, and substituting figures such as Aquinas and Calvin for Jefferson, Texas Freedom Network argues, the board had chosen to embrace religious teachings over those of Jefferson, the man who coined the phrase "separation between church and state."

According to USA Today, the board also voted to strike the word "democratic" from references to the U.S. form of government, replacing it with the term "constitutional republic." Texas textbooks will contain references to "laws of nature and nature's God" in passages that discuss major political ideas.

The board decided to use the words "free enterprise" when describing the U.S. economic system rather than words such as "capitalism," "capitalist" and "free market," which it deemed to have a negative connotation.

Serving 4.7 million students, Texas accounts for a large percentage of the textbook market, and the new standards may influence what is taught in the rest of the country.
Power User
Posts: 42556

« Reply #55 on: May 05, 2010, 06:28:36 AM »

THE latest evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the oldest and most extensive system of vouchers and charter schools in America, came out last month, and most advocates of school choice were disheartened by the results.

The evaluation by the School Choice Demonstration Project, a national research group that matched more than 3,000 students from the choice program and from regular public schools, found that pupils in the choice program generally had “achievement growth rates that are comparable” to similar Milwaukee public-school students. This is just one of several evaluations of school choice programs that have failed to show major improvements in test scores, but the size and age of the Milwaukee program, combined with the rigor of the study, make these results hard to explain away.

So let’s not try to explain them away. Why not instead finally acknowledge that standardized test scores are a terrible way to decide whether one school is better than another? This is true whether the reform in question is vouchers, charter schools, increased school accountability, smaller class sizes, better pay for all teachers, bonuses for good teachers, firing of bad teachers — measured by changes in test scores, each has failed to live up to its hype.

It should come as no surprise. We’ve known since the landmark Coleman Report of 1966, which was based on a study of more than 570,000 American students, that the measurable differences in schools explain little about differences in test scores. The reason for the perpetual disappointment is simple: Schools control only a small part of what goes into test scores.

Cognitive ability, personality and motivation come mostly from home. What happens in the classroom can have some effect, but smart and motivated children will tend to learn to read and do math even with poor instruction, while not-so-smart or unmotivated children will often have trouble with those subjects despite excellent instruction. If test scores in reading and math are the measure, a good school just doesn’t have that much room to prove it is better than a lesser school.

As an advocate of school choice, all I can say is thank heavens for the Milwaukee results. Here’s why: If my fellow supporters of charter schools and vouchers can finally be pushed off their obsession with test scores, maybe we can focus on the real reason that school choice is a good idea. Schools differ in what they teach and how they teach it, and parents care deeply about both, regardless of whether test scores rise.

Here’s an illustration. The day after the Milwaukee results were released, I learned that parents in the Maryland county where I live are trying to start a charter school that will offer a highly traditional curriculum long on history, science, foreign languages, classic literature, mathematics and English composition, taught with structure and discipline. This would give parents a choice radically different from the progressive curriculum used in the county’s other public schools.

I suppose that test scores might prove that such a charter school is “better” than ordinary public schools, if the test were filled with questions about things like gerunds and subjunctive clauses, the three most important events of 1776, and what Occam’s razor means. But those subjects aren’t covered by standardized reading and math tests. For this reason, I fully expect that students at such a charter school would do little better on Maryland’s standardized tests than comparably smart students in the ordinary public schools.

And yet, knowing that, I would still send my own children to that charter school in a heartbeat. They would be taught the content that I think they need to learn, in a manner that I consider appropriate.

This personal calculation is familiar to just about every parent reading these words. Our children’s education is extremely important to us, and the greater good doesn’t much enter into it — hence all the politicians who oppose vouchers but send their own children to private schools. The supporters of school choice need to make their case on the basis of that shared parental calculation, not on the red herring of test scores.

There are millions of parents out there who don’t have enough money for private school but who have thought just as sensibly and care just as much about their children’s education as affluent people do. Let’s use the money we are already spending on education in a way that gives those parents the same kind of choice that wealthy people, liberal and conservative alike, exercise right now. That should be the beginning and the end of the argument for school choice.

Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of “Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality.”
« Reply #56 on: June 17, 2010, 10:15:52 AM »

Lotta signs pointing to Illinois being the next California where budget commitments will overwhelm income streams. Here's a scary little table that shows IL's top 100 retired school admins likely have close to a billion dollars in retirement pay coming their way:
« Reply #57 on: July 20, 2010, 10:54:20 AM »
Reason Magazine

Teachers Unions vs. Online Education

Kids live on the Internet. Why aren’t they learning online too?

Katherine Mangu-Ward from the August-September 2010 issue

I know a 3-year-old who’s a master of online multitasking. Give him an iPhone, and he’ll cheerfully chat you up while watching YouTube cartoons or playing an alphabet game. In 2010, toddlers start consuming digital information not long after they’ve started consuming solid food.

Now take that kid, tack on a handful of years, and drop him into a classroom. A child who was perfectly content with a video stream, an MP3, and a chat flowing past him is suddenly ordered to sit still, shut up, and listen while a grown-up scrawls on a blackboard and delivers a monologue. And school is even worse for the older girls down the hall. The center of their universe is on social networking and chat sites, so spending six hours a day marooned in a building with no WiFi is akin to water torture. The same pre-teen who will happily while away hours playing Scrabble with her friends on Facebook dreads each Thursday afternoon, when she will be forced to laboriously write out a list of spelling words in silence alongside two dozen peers.

During the last 30 years, the per-student cost of K-12 education has more than doubled in real dollars, with no academic improvement to show for it. Meanwhile, everything the Internet touches gets better: listening to music on iTunes, shopping for shoes at Zappos, exchanging photos on Flickr.

Even with school hours offline, kids are logging plenty of computer time. A January study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen. The knee-jerk response is to lament those lost hours and hatch schemes to pry the kids’ hands from their keyboards. But that’s the wrong approach. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em: Let kids stare at a computer screen until their eyeballs fall out, but add more educational material to the mix.

A growing number of kids and their parents are figuring out ways to sneak schoolwork online. More than 1 million public school students are enrolled in online classes, up from about 50,000 a decade ago. In Florida, nearly 80,000 kids take classes in the state-sponsored Florida Virtual School. Virtual charter school companies such as K12 Inc. provide full-time online education to 70,000 students in 25 states. Hundreds of small, innovative companies are springing up, vying to combine learning with the power of the Internet. Nationwide, 17 percent of high school students report having taken an online course for school in the last year; another 12 percent say they took a class on their own time. Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, co-author of Disrupting Class, a seminal 2008 book about online education, estimates that half of all high school courses in the United States will be consumed over the Internet by 2019.

But the commercial Internet has already been around for a decade and a half. As the 3-year-old with the iPhone might whine from the back seat of the minivan: Why aren’t we there yet?

School in the Sunshine State

Online education’s biggest success to date is the Florida Virtual School (FLVS). Founded in 1997, FLVS was the first public statewide online education program in the country. Founder Julie Young had snagged a $200,000 “Break the Mold” grant from the state of Florida to experiment with online learning. In the early days, as she traveled the state selling the idea to local districts, the reception was muted. “People were sitting there with arms folded and saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” recalls the friendly, carefully manicured Young, who had previously worked as a teacher and technology adviser in the state’s public schools.

With the election of Jeb Bush in 1998, Young found herself working under a governor with a serious interest in education reform. With Bush’s support, legislation expanding the virtual school gave the program a unique advantage: Rather than allowing school officials to be the arbiters of who gets to go online and how, the law said any Florida student who wants to take an FLVS course online must be allowed to do so. The students themselves—not preoccupied guidance counselors, budget-conscious principals, or any other gatekeepers—decided whether to give the virtual school a try.

As the Harvard education scholar Paul Peterson put it in his 2010 book Saving Schools, “Much like an Everglades alligator, Young took a quiet, underwater approach.” At a time when Gov. Bush and his cadre of education reformers were regularly butting heads with the educational establishment, Young went out of her way not to antagonize teachers unions or disparage traditional schools. “From day one, what we tried to do was design FLVS so that it was not competitive with the schools, but complementary,” she says. Her pedagogical philosophy is noncontroversial—with a few exceptions, the curriculum is typical of the stuff Florida students would get in a traditional classroom—and she is studiedly nonpolitical. The courses offered by FLVS are supplemental; the virtual school cannot grant degrees on its own. Nearly every student remains enrolled in a full-time program at a physical school. The funding formula adopted by the state takes only a fraction of the annual per-student cost from their local school, and FLVS gets paid only when students successfully complete the course.

Young doesn’t use the language of reform or revolution. Instead she talks about “doing what’s right for kids.” Yet Florida Virtual School’s model is, in its own way, revolutionary. The school employs 1,200 accredited, nonunion teachers, who are available by phone or email from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. Kids take what they want, when they want. The academic results are more than respectable. FLVS boasts that kids in advanced placement courses—39 percent of whom are minority students—score an average of 3.05 out of 5, compared with a state average of 2.49 for students in offline public school classes. FLVS students also beat state averages in reading and math at all grade levels, with 87 percent of eighth-graders receiving at least a passing score on the state standardized test in math, compared with 60 percent statewide. Even critical studies of educational achievement in Florida’s online courses find that the results are as good as or better than state averages on virtually every measure.

Picking Fights

Not all of the major players in online education have opted for the stealthy alligator approach. K12 Inc., one of the largest private providers nationwide, doesn’t mind picking political fights. One of its founders is Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett, an outspoken conservative. (He resigned from the school’s leadership in 2005 after some intemperate remarks about the alleged links between abortion, race, and crime.) While FLVS was sneaking up on the Sunshine State’s educational establishment, K12 Inc. started showing up all over the country in 2000 with a bullhorn.

Unlike FLVS, K12 provides full-time instruction. That means students from kindergarten through 12th grade can do their entire school year online. While the curriculum isn’t particularly innovative, the model is potentially far more disruptive than a program like FLVS. K12 takes children and teenagers out of school and away from traditional teacher-student relationships. The company has some partnerships with traditional public schools, but K12 primarily works by helping charter schools in states with lenient laws go virtual, accepting kids (and the money they bring with them) from all over the state.

In the zero-sum world of education dollars, that approach means that state education bureaucrats generally don’t show up at K12’s virtual door with welcoming tater tot casseroles. In 2003 Wisconsin’s Northern Ozaukee School District was experiencing declining enrollment and hoped that bringing in a virtual charter might attract students (and their per-pupil spending allocations) from around the state. This worked brilliantly, with 500 students signing up for the virtual charter school from all over the state in the program’s first year. The district and K12 split the $5,000 that came with each kid, and everyone was happy. Well, everyone except the administrators and teachers in the districts losing enrollment dollars to the experiment in online learning. The conflict exploded in January 2004 with a lawsuit brought by the teachers union and the elected state superintendent. State Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine), who heads his chamber’s education committee, accused private education companies of “profiteering off of kids.”

The result was a compromise that neutered virtual education in Wisconsin. K12 could continue to operate, but it could enroll students only from the physical district where the charter school was located—essentially stopping the Internet at the county line. And enrollment was capped at 5,250 students. For good measure, Wisconsin announced plans to create an FLVS-like state-sponsored virtual academy, which will compete with K12 on lopsided terms and, unlike in Florida, be firmly under the control of the education bureaucracy.

Unions Fight Back

The National Education Association, the country’s main teachers union, takes a hard line on virtual charters such as K12. “There also should be an absolute prohibition against the granting of charters for the purpose of home-schooling, including online charter schools that seek to provide home-schooling over the Internet,” says the organization’s official policy statement on charter schools. “Charter schools whose students are in fact home schoolers, and who may rarely if ever convene in an actual school building, disregard the important socialization aspect of public education, do not serve the public purpose of promoting a sense of community, and lend themselves too easily to the misuse of public funds and the abuse of public trust.” But analog unions can’t stave off online education for digital natives forever, and state-run virtual academies like FLVS—rather than virtual charters like K12—make it easier to control the pace of change.

Similar battles have been fought in Oregon, where the state teachers union declared last year that resisting another full-time virtual charter company, the Baltimore-based Connections Academy, would be its top priority. “You’d think among all the kids in Oregon there are some other pressing issues,” says Barbara Dreyer, CEO of Connections, which runs one Oregon school and dozens of others across the country. When 2009 began, the state legislature had already obliged the union by capping enrollment for virtual schools and mandating that kids do work under the eyes of physically present teachers. Yet union support for funding and expanding the state’s Oregon Virtual School District (which has been slow to attract enrollment) remained strong, with union members citing the existence of the government-run academy as sufficient to meet online education needs in the state.

Says Dreyer: “Many states say, ‘We hate the whole thing with these for-profit providers. We should just do it ourselves.’ But with the exception of FLVS, nobody has been able to do it. It’s complicated; it takes capital. It’s tough to do it from scratch. They don’t have expertise. It’s particularly tough in these times when there is no money.”

« Reply #58 on: July 20, 2010, 10:54:47 AM »

Something analogous happened four years ago in Indiana, where the charter school law seemed to authorize the creation of full-time online schools. K12 launched a program and started recruiting students. Even though the legislative session was over for the year, when opponents of online education got wind of the new venture they executed some special maneuvers to insert language into the budget bill to kill the virtual charters. While a hybrid model did get up and running, it was on a far smaller scale than originally intended, leaving most of the interested parents and kids out in the cold. This year, with the demand for online education still growing, the union supported the creation of a 200-person pilot program for the state education department to run its own virtual academy.

In its 2010 legislative program, the Indiana State Teachers Association claims to support virtual schools. That is, as long as the programs adhere to nearly all of the criteria that define traditional schools, including class size, seat time, teacher licensing, grading mechanisms, and the physical location and conditions for testing. They can’t open their programs to homeschooled kids, and they can’t spend more than 5 percent of their budgets on administrative costs.

Teachers unions, consistently among the biggest donors to U.S. election campaigns, are incredibly powerful. The National Education Association can buy and sell elections, but a continuous flow of membership dues will be tougher to come by if online education blooms.

Make New Friends

Politics aren’t the only reason online education is coming to the masses at the speed of a 14k modem. Cultural resistance is strong as well. Parents and politicians fret about the consequences of creating a nation of lonely nerds with Google tans.

Socialization looms large in discussions of online education, but the worriers may be missing the point. For one thing, kids are already doing much of their socializing on their screens. That hasn’t brought sports, clubs, summer camp, or neighborhood activities to an end, and neither will online education.

More important, it’s not clear that the kind of socialization we’re currently offering kids in schools is doing them any favors. Even in schools where the quality of education is decent, enthusiastically partaking in it can make you a mockable nerd, even a target for daily brutalization. The problem is worse among minority populations at large urban schools. Smart black kids across America are choosing not to speak up in class every day, even when they know the right answer, because it’s not worth the social suicide. A large body of social scientific literature investigates this problem, beginning with Signithia Forham’s seminal 1986 paper “Black Students’ School Success: Coping With the ‘Burden of “Acting White.” ’ ” The reasons for the problem remain a topic of heated debate, but the problem itself is well-established: Surveys consistently show that black students worry more than white students that their peers will criticize their academic success.

While the smartest kids face one set of troubles, the slower kids in the same classes have problems of their own, mutely letting lessons roll by because they’re afraid of asking a question and being called stupid. Learning online in the morning and then heading out to play in the park in the afternoons could be a much better alternative for both kinds of kids.

The real issue here isn’t socialization but something else. If there is one thing that nearly all American parents have in common, it is the paralyzing fear that they might have to figure out what to do with their children all day, every day, for 12 long years. Michael Horn, one of the co-authors of Disrupting Class, estimates that the number of kids who might learn full time at home tops out at 5 million, a figure based on how many live in family structures that allow for all-day adult supervision. That leaves more than 90 percent of the nation’s 55 million school-age children in need of someplace to go during the day.

The Future of Online Education

One promising idea is a hybrid approach, where kids get the socialization and adult supervision of a shared physical space but consume much of their actual instruction online. Of the million kids already taking classes online, some are just logging in from their bedrooms, but others are taking courses on computers in community centers or gyms or heading out to the strip-mall outposts of private tutoring companies.

Such hybrids are springing up around the country. Rocketship Education in San Jose, California, brings at-risk elementary students together in a safe, colorful, trailer-like modular space, with a small staff to keep an eye on the kids while they do lessons online. Dropout recovery programs such as AdvancePath Academics catch kids who have fallen out of the system. Some of these programs, in which the content is administered primarily online, give kids physical spaces to learn in shopping malls. Kids in mentoring programs such as Group Excellence are offered a choice: they can opt for after-school tutoring in a physical space with free pizza, or take advantage of 24-hour support to do the same work on an iPhone, netbook, desktop, or even a Nintendo, whenever they want.

State governments spend between $10,000 and $15,000 annually on each of the nation’s 55 million school kids, making primary and secondary education a $1 trillion market. Under ordinary circumstances, that kind of money attracts entrepreneurs. But the uncertainties of politics, the powerful opposition of the teachers unions, and the astonishing technological backwardness of the education establishment discourage would-be entrepreneurs and, perhaps more importantly, potential investors.

In the 2010 annual letter from his charitable foundation—the biggest in the United States, with a $33 billion endowment—Bill Gates listed online education as one of his top priorities. “Online learning can be more than lectures,” he wrote. “Another element involves presenting information in an interactive form, which can be used to find out what a student knows and doesn’t know.” Hundreds of smaller contenders are proliferating, trying to figure out ways to exploit the new medium and answer concerns about what a nation of online learners might look like. Carnegie Learning uses artificial intelligence techniques to customize math learning to the individual. The Online School for Girls creates and administers advanced courses geared to female learning styles. The list is as large and diverse as the iPhone app store and growing every day.

Internet access isn’t a barrier anymore. The digital divide has essentially closed. A 2009 Pew Research Center report found that 93 percent of Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 are online. Computers are cheap, and they’re getting cheaper every day. Textbooks are expensive, and they always have been. There’s a point not too far off where the price of a decent laptop and the price of a single hardback biology textbook will converge. Books full of nonhyperlinked text already must seem like a cruel joke to the congenitally connected. The virtual charter school company Connections Academy supplies its 20,000 full-time students with computers as part of the package.

Adults who weren’t weaned on broadband find the beeps and boops of their computers distracting, but distractions from the computers aren’t a problem for kids. Slow brain death from data deficit while they sit still, eyes forward, listening to a one-dimensional lecture that’s going too slowly, too quickly, or in the wrong direction altogether is a much more serious threat.

Failing for Success

From the perspective of education reformers and policy wonks, beaten down by a decades-long war of attrition, online education has swept onto the scene with astonishing speed. Paul Peterson, the Harvard education scholar, calls the rate at which the online education sector has grown “breathtaking.” But his private-sector counterpart Tom Vander Ark—who helped found the country’s first K–12 online school in 1995, served as the executive director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and now runs a private equity fund focused on education—has a different view. “Coming from the business world, I thought this would all happen fast,” he says. “It’s frustrating that 15 years later online learning is just beginning to mature.”

Until recently, virtual schools have been funded by state education budgets. Now states are increasingly fishing for federal dollars. Sixteen states included an online education component this year when requesting funds from Race to the Top, a federal grant program launched under George W. Bush and expanded under Barack Obama that was designed to bribe states to push toward greater teacher accountability and competition. The first round of funding was awarded in April, and while the inclusion of online education in several of the winning proposals is encouraging, the grants heavily favor top-down, state-run online academies over virtual charters and other bottom-up options.

Vander Ark calls the online component of the Race to the Top finalists’ plans “lame.” On his blog, he explains: “Given less than optimal policy environments, state v-schools can and do play an important role in supporting blended environments and online options.” But “we’re a generation behind where we should be in terms of online tools, platforms and options—a state government caused market failure. Where competition is welcomed, we’ll see innovation.”

The existing offerings are making life better for hundreds of thousands of kids. But we’re a long way from widespread access to genuinely innovative educational practices. Only 28 states allow full-time online programs right now. If you’re a kid who lives in New York, you don’t have access to any public online programs. In Virginia you have online A.P. courses, but nothing full time. If you’re in California, you have access to full-time programs but not supplemental ones, unless you happen to live in a district that made an independent investment in online learning.

We can’t let state legislatures and federal grant programs pick winners. We can’t let teachers unions allow only one version of online education to squeak by. But if online learning keeps growing, when that 3-year-old with the iPhone graduates from high school in 2025, education will be virtually unrecognizable, and thank goodness for that.

Katherine Mangu-Ward ( is a senior editor at reason.
« Reply #59 on: August 05, 2010, 02:34:26 PM »

Grigori Rasputin Bailout

Posted by Neal McCluskey

Sending billions of federal taxpayer dollars to teachers and other public school employees is the bailout that just won’t die. It’s been sliced, shot up in a firefight between Democrats, and even had a battle with food stamps, but it just can’t be killed!

Now, let’s be clear: This is not some wonderful crusade all about helping ”the children.” It is pure political evil, a naked ploy to appease teachers’ unions and other public school employees that Democrats need motivated for the mid-term elections. It has to be, because the data are crystal clear: We’ve been adding staff by the truckload for decades without improving achievement one bit. Since 1970 (see the charts below) public school employment has increased 10 times faster than enrollment, while test scores have stagnated.

But suppose there were some rational reason to believe that we need to keep staffing levels sky-high despite getting no value for it. Lots of teachers’ jobs could be saved without a bailout if unions would just accept pay concessions like millions of the Americans who fund their salaries. But all too often, they won’t.

Sadly, this is all just part of the one education race that Washington is always running, and it absolutely isn’t to the top. It is the incessant race to buy votes. And guess what? Despite its reputation even among some conservatives, the Obama administration, just like Congress, is running this race at record speeds.
« Reply #60 on: August 06, 2010, 04:55:31 PM »

What Part of “Nonrepresentative” Don’t Profit-Haters Get?

Posted by Neal McCluskey

For the last few days, for-profit colleges and universities have been suffering an even worse hammering than usual, both in the media and their pocketbooks. The proximate cause: a GAO report released Wednesday that has been portrayed as revealing “systemic” and “pervasive” fraud — and otherwise just seamy behavior — by the for-profit sector.

No doubt there is some bad stuff going on in proprietary postsecondary education. But the assault on for-profits reeks of political bullying of the unpopular kid — the kid who’s just different — as well as the never-ending Washington demonization of anyone who honestly pursues a profit. The waving of the bloody GAO report is case-in-point, and one need look no further than the following statement contained on the report’s very first page:

Results of the undercover tests and tuition comparisons cannot be projected to all for-profit colleges.

You mean, GAO investigators went to 15 non-randomly selected schools in six states and Washington, DC, and the results cannot be construed to be representative of the whole sector? And the GAO also, apparently, meant it when it wrote on page two of the report that “we investigated a nonrepresentative selection” of schools? But, then, how could Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, have stated in a show-trial hearing that “GAO’s findings make it disturbingly clear that abuses in for-profit recruiting are not limited to a few rogue recruiters or even a few schools with lax oversight”?

Oh, right: Truth doesn’t matter to Harkin — only scoring political points. That not only explains how Harkin could say such a thing, but why he has targeted for-profits rather than seeking truth and purity in all sectors of higher education, including the coolest of the cool kids, public colleges. With dismal program completion rates of their own, and their imposition of huge burdens on taxpayers, you’d think they’d be worth some investigating, too.

I encourage you to read the GAO report, and you’ll see that it in no way supports a blanket condemnation of for-profit higher ed. And it’s not just because its findings can in no reasonable way be extrapolated to the whole of proprietary schooling. It’s also because many of the supposedly terrible things it discovers, while perhaps distasteful, are hardly abhorent, such as telling prospective students that they ”can” — not “will” — earn a lot of money in a profession even if that amount is well above the average. And then there’s the report’s worthless comparisons of tuition at for-profit and nearby public instituions. Once again: public colleges are heavily subsidized by taxpayers, so of course their tuition is lower. And these comparisons were also not randomly selected.

After you’ve read the GAO report, you should take in a new paper from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, For-Profit Higher Education: Growth, Innovation and Regulation. It might be a bit too fond of the for-profit sector, which like all of higher education lives far too much off the sweat of taxpayers, but it furnishes lots of terrific data and insights about proprietary higher ed to balance out the ongoing truth-eschewing assaults the sector keeps on suffering.
« Reply #61 on: August 16, 2010, 05:04:26 PM »

The Los Angeles Times crunched a bunch of numbers on standardized test performance over the last seven years to gauge the relative effectiveness of various teachers in the city. Then it published a summary of the results, noting that there is a huge gap between the gains shown by kids in classrooms with a good teacher and those right down the hall suffering under a bad teacher. Obvious, as far as it goes. Interestingly, they also found that the variation between teachers was more important than the variation between schools.

But the Los Angeles Times also promised to publish a bunch more stories based on the teacher quality data, and they say they're going to make their database public. Naturally, the union is now calling for a boycott of the paper by its 40,000 members. But here's the part that really kills:

The district has had the ability to analyze the differences among teachers for years but opted not to do so, in large part because of anticipated union resistance, The Times found.

Lots more on teachers unions here.
« Reply #62 on: September 18, 2010, 11:26:02 AM »

Long piece with lots of tables and formatting examining Florida's success in improving the education for underachievers.

Closing the Racial Achievement Gap: Learning from Florida’s Reforms
Published on September 17, 2010 by Matthew Ladner, Ph.D. and Lindsey Burke BACKGROUNDER #2468

Abstract: An education gap between white students and their black and Hispanic peers is something to which most Americans have become accustomed. But this racial division of education—and hence of prospects for the future— is nothing less than tragic. The good news is that the racial divide in learning is a problem that can be fixed. Of course, it can only be fixed if education reform is approached in a common sense and innovative way. Continuing to repeat the largely failed national policies and ever-increasing spending of the past decades is surely not commonsense. One state, Florida, has demonstrated that meaningful academic improvement—for students of all races and economic backgrounds—is possible. In 1999, Florida enacted far-reaching K–12 education reform that includes public and private school choice, charter schools, virtual education, performance-based pay for teachers, grading of schools and districts, annual tests, curbing social promotion, and alternative teacher certification. As a result of parental choice, higher standards, accountability, and flexibility, Florida’s Hispanic students are now outperforming or tied with the overall average for all students in 31 states. It is vital that national and state policymakers take the lessons of Florida’s success to heart. The future of millions of American children depends on it.
Power User
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« Reply #63 on: November 12, 2010, 08:12:19 AM »

For those of us lacking a spare hour and for those of us needing a bit more of a tease to invest an hour, would you be so kind as to provide a bit more of a summary?  smiley
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« Reply #64 on: December 28, 2010, 05:47:03 PM »

Thursday, December 23, 2010
Shut Out

In the past, we're written at length about the looming recruiting crisis facing the U.S. military. Simply stated, too many of those in the prime demographic group targeted for enlistment (18-25 year-olds) don't quality for military service, for reasons ranging from obesity and other medical issues, to academic problems and past run-ins with the law. By some estimates, only 28% of young Americans in the prime enlistment cohort actually qualify for military service (emphasis ours).

The cognitive short-comings of potential enlistees represent a particular concern. In a high-tech military, you simply can't train someone on high tech weapons or information systems when they lack basic academic skills. And the problem seems to be growing worse, according to a new report by the Education Trust. Entitled Shut Out of the Military, the study analyzes five years of test scores from the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, and the Armed Forces Qualification Test. Pouring over reams of data, researcher Christina Theokas discovered that one in five candidates who took the ASVAB failed to achieve the minimum score required to enter the U.S. Army.

At this point, some clarification is in order. The ASVAB, as its name implies, measures aptitude in a variety of areas, helping the military determine which recruits have skills that might be useful in specific jobs. Scores from the four academic sections of the ASVAB generate the AFQT score, which provides an overall measure of cognitive ability. It's the AFQT score that determines if a recruit gets in, and the type of technical training he or she qualifies for in their respective branch of service.

In terms of qualifying scores on the AFQT, each branch of the military has its own standards (listed below). The Army has the lowest; the Coast Guard has the highest.

Minimum Required AFQT Score by Service Branch

Army 31
Marine Corps 32
Navy 35
Air Force 40
Coast Guard 45

We should also note that the AFQT is based on a 100-point scale. So, a prospective recruit can score below 50% and still meet cognitive standards for enlistment in any branch of the military--assuming they don't have other disqualifying issues. Indeed, none of the 350,000 young people in the study sample had those problems, so these young men (and women) were viewed as prime enlistment candidates--until some of them took the ASVAB.

It's a damning indictment of America's education system when 23% of those taking the ASVAB couldn't achieve a passing score for any branch of the military. And, as you dig into Ms. Theokas's work, the news grows steadily worse. Among her findings:

-- Everyone in the sample group had a high school diploma, and all graduated within three years of the time they sat for the ASVAB. So, the notion that these young people had been out of school for an extended period (and lost much of what they learned) really doesn't apply.

-- Failure rates for Hispanic and African-American youngsters were significantly higher than their white peers. Nationally, twenty-nine percent of Hispanics who took the test could not meet Army standards, while 39% of African-Americans failed to achieve the minimum score.

-- Ineligibility rates vary greatly from state-to-state. In Hawaii and Mississippi, the number of test-takers who couldn't meet minimum standards approaches 40%, and it's over 30% in Washington, D.C. and Louisiana. Figures for those southern states are hardly surprising, given long-standing problems with the education systems in Louisiana and Mississippi. But Hawaii ranks 28th in per-pupil spending ($7253 per year) and Washington D.C. spends more per child ($13,187) than any other state, federal district or territory. So the dismal AFQT scores for graduates of the D.C. system are not the result of under-funded schools. You could make a similar case for Hawaii, though many educators in that state would disagree.
-- High-school grads who can't pass the AFQT are equally unprepared for the civilian job market.

Another fact worth remembering: these are not the ASVAB takers of decades past, when local schools (in cooperation with military recruiters) would administer the test to the entire senior class. Under that approach, some students earned rock-bottom scores, because they had no interest in joining the military and didn't care about the results.

But all of the participants in this study took the exam at an armed forces recruiting station. In other words, these individuals were already disposed towards military service by their prior meeting(s) with recruiters and willingness to sit for the ASVAB.

So, their difficulties on the entrance exam represents a serious loss, both for the armed forces and society as a whole. The military impact is disturbing, even if you only consider the recruiting process. Based on the study results, we lost upwards of 80,000 potential recruits because they couldn't achieve minimum scores on the AFQT. That represents the Army's active-duty recruiting quota for one year, plus 10,000 additional recruits.

And because of high failure rates on the ASVAB/AFQT, the Army (along with the rest of the military) must spend more effort to find qualified volunteers in the 18-25 cohort, with additional costs for recruiting, marketing, advertising, evaluation and related functions. In an era of decreased resources for defense, that money might be better spent on new weapon systems, or higher bonuses for recruits who have already demonstrated their value to the military.

From a societal perspective, it means that the military is no longer a potential gateway to the middle class for thousands of lower-income youngsters. To be fair, social advancement has never been--nor should it ever be--a primary function for the armed forces. But it is also irrefutable that hundreds of thousands of lower-income whites, Hispanics and African-Americans have used their military training (and service) to acquire skills and expertise that led to a higher standard of living, more education and other opportunities. Without the required AFQT score, that option is effectively closed.

To its credit, the education trust doesn't suggest any dilution of the ASVAB. The test (and the AFQT score) are proven indicators of applicant skills and their cognitive abilities--crucial measurements in determining who should serve, and in what capacity. Clearly, the problem isn't with the test.

Additionally, the study's authors do not call for the military to lower its standards. Talk to any battalion, squadron or brigade commander (and their senior enlisted members) and they'll tell you: the armed forces simply can't train and inculcate soldiers, Marines, sailors or airmen who score below 30 on the AFQT. As commanders and senior NCOs, they need more junior troops who can master complex tasks quickly and act with initiative. From experience, they know that young enlisted members with lower AFQT scores will need more remedial training and supervision, placing another strain on the unit and its resources.

The real solution--obviously--lies with improving our educational system. But beyond suggestions for more spending, you won't find many politicians proposing serious reform programs. That's because it's much easier to promise more money, instead of tackling the tough issues like poor teachers, inadequate curricula, out-of-control students, timid administrators and too-powerful education unions, to name a few. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is one of the few trying to buck the education establishment, in order to save money and improve student performance. Unfortunately, Governor Christie's campaign is the exception and not the rule.

We also find it rather curious that first lady Michelle Obama has failed to weigh in on this matter. Earlier this year, she (correctly) described the nation's childhood obesity epidemic as a threat to national security, since young people who are grossly overweight are ineligible for military service. But we lose far more recruits to the AFQT issue and (so far) the White House has been silent. Wouldn't want to offend all those NEA members who write checks for Democratic politicians and vote in lock-step for the party's candidates.
Additionally, this recruiting issue may also be affected by the recent repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." A landmark Heritage Foundation Study (conducted five years ago), found that 29 states, mostly in the south, Midwest and west, were over-represented among military recruits. At that time, the states with the highest proportional enlistment rates (compared to the general population) were: Montana, Texas, Wyoming, Alaska and Oklahoma.

All are deeply red, located in flyover country (a.k.a. "Jesusland"), more closely identified with traditional American values, including opposition to homosexuality. With DADT now gone, will young people from those states (and other rural regions) still be willing to sign up in required numbers to sustain current force levels? Or should the recruiters expand their efforts in places like San Francisco and New York City, which have, in recent years, supplied small numbers of recruits in relation to their overall population. Call it another, unintended consequence of repealing DADT.
Power User
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« Reply #65 on: December 29, 2010, 10:23:19 AM »

Well how is it ILLEGAL aliens are serving in out military?

Isn't that one of the scams of the DREAM law?

"Well if they are good enough to risk their lives for this country than don't they deserve citizenship?"

First question I have yet to hear one talking head ask is, what in the hell are people who are in this country illegally doing serving in our military?

The foreign invaders keep coming with no control in sight. 

Mark my words:

Bamster if push comes to shove will grant amnesty.  I don't know when but he will.

If far as I am concerned Kalifornia, you are on your own.  You made your bed now lie in it.

Power User
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« Reply #66 on: December 29, 2010, 11:19:50 AM »

To enlist in the military, one must either be a US citizen, a permanent resident alien, or under a program for needed foreign language skills, a legal non resident alien. Normally, an illegal alien cannot lawfully enlist in the military.
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« Reply #67 on: December 30, 2010, 07:09:40 AM »

Education Rediscovered

The reasons why public education is suddenly an issue despite years of neglect by politicians and the media are straightforward. In this depressed economy credentials seem to have lost their advantage. Many parents and politicians claim schools have failed to deliver what students need. There is a widespread perception that illiteracy is rising, meaning, for one, that fewer people can read complex texts. And the results of No Child Left Behind with its draconian high-stakes standardized testing have been disappointing, to say the least.

Mainstream educators and commentators warn that the United States, once a leader among advanced capitalist societies in graduation rates, has fallen to 12th place and is still tumbling. Many are concerned that education has become a national security issue. Others point out that the engines of the global economy are math and science and this country is turning out fewer trained physicists, chemists, biologists, mathematicians and computer scientists.

Some trumpet as solutions the usual neoliberal bromides — charter schools and for-profit private schools at all education levels. But, according to numerous studies, these schools rarely live up to the hype. Others have rejected the long American experiment with progressive education, in which students are the subjects of schooling, not just its object. In the 1980s, school authorities decided that kids needed more discipline, more time in school and more homework. The latest brilliant policy concept is to reward or punish teachers for their students’ performance.

Teachers unions have soundly rejected this particular “solution,” calling it a blatant attack on teacher professionalism and living standards. In a time of severe cuts in school funding, however, many locals of both major national teacher unions have meekly accepted layoffs, increased class sizes and performance criteria. Above all, neither the unions nor educational authorities have offered serious alternatives to the conservative-led drive toward neoliberal privatization. And the left seems content to roll out the usual proposals: more money for schools, wider access for poor and working-class students of color to higher education and an end to privatization.

While these reforms are necessary, they are hardly sufficient. The right wants to keep kids’ noses to the grindstone by testing them into submission, hand off schools to the for-profit sector and throw unworthy, disruptive kids out of school or at least relegate them to “special education,” the only thriving sector in K–12.

Most liberals lack a similarly direct and powerful program. They may praise the centrality of critical thinking, a legacy of the progressive era, but they mainly offer band-aids. That’s because liberals have accepted the dominant framework that education, or more accurately, schooling should serve the economy by training students to take their respective places in the world of work.

Not true. What radicals should offer handwringing liberals is what radicals do best: go to the root of things. Education should be a preparation for life, especially helping kids become active in determining the conditions that most affect them.

........ (there is more in the link)
Power User
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« Reply #68 on: December 30, 2010, 08:20:24 AM »


Why is it Obama sends his kids to an expensive private school, rather than DC's public schools? Why do other NEA funded politicians choose to do the same?
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« Reply #69 on: December 30, 2010, 09:13:23 AM »

GM, I am not sure why you are asking me that question based on the article I posted. 
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« Reply #70 on: December 30, 2010, 09:28:45 AM »

"Some trumpet as solutions the usual neoliberal bromides — charter schools and for-profit private schools at all education levels. But, according to numerous studies, these schools rarely live up to the hype."

**Do you agree with this?
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« Reply #71 on: December 30, 2010, 10:28:25 AM »

Big Dog:

Glad to have you with us again.

I read the article in its entirety and if I understand it correctly it says , , , I'm not sure what.  Is the idea that we start children too soon and are too rigorous for them?  Is it that not enough Marxist class consciousness and deconstructionism is taught?  Or is it, as GM laconically queries, that there is too much private sector competition for the public sector?

FWIW, my sense of things is that:
a) a large % of the problem is due to the decline of the American family.  Much of this is due in my opinion, to feminist ideology that women whould leave their children to be raised by others as they work.  Most of the declines we see today in the family track strongly with the movement of women into the workforce;
b) a large % of the problem is due to the progressive claptrap being taught;
c) in a related  vein, teacher unions also play a strong role in all this.

Anyway, I happened to come to this thread at the moment to post the following POTH article on Chinese education, which may be tangentially relevant to what you post.

Published: December 29, 2010
SHANGHAI — In Li Zhen’s ninth-grade mathematics class here last week, the morning drill was geometry. Students at the middle school affiliated with Jing’An Teachers’ College were asked to explain the relative size of geometric shapes by using Euclid’s theorem of parallelograms.

Enlarge This Image
Ryan Pyle for The New York Times
A teacher instructed students in class at the middle school associated with Jing’An Teachers’ College in central Shanghai.

“Who in this class can tell me how to demonstrate two lines are parallel without using a proportional segment?” Ms. Li called out to about 40 students seated in a cramped classroom.

One by one, a series of students at this medium-size public school raised their hands. When Ms. Li called on them, they each stood politely by their desks and usually answered correctly. They returned to their seats only when she told them to sit down.

Educators say this disciplined approach helps explain the announcement this month that 5,100 15-year-olds in Shanghai outperformed students from about 65 countries on an international standardized test that measured math, science and reading competency.

American students came in between 15th and 31st place in the three categories. France and Britain also fared poorly.

Experts said comparing scores from countries and cities of different sizes is complicated. They also said that the Shanghai scores were not representative of China, since this fast-growing city of 20 million is relatively affluent. Still, they were impressed by the high scores from students in Shanghai.

The results were seen as another sign of China’s growing competitiveness. The United States rankings are a “wake-up call,” said Arne Duncan, the secretary of education.

Although it was the first time China had taken part in the test, which was administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, based in Paris, the results bolstered this country’s reputation for producing students with strong math and science skills.

Many educators were also surprised by the city’s strong reading scores, which measured students’ proficiency in their native Chinese.

The Shanghai students performed well, experts say, for the same reason students from other parts of Asia — including South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong — do: Their education systems are steeped in discipline, rote learning and obsessive test preparation.

Public school students in Shanghai often remain at school until 4 p.m., watch very little television and are restricted by Chinese law from working before the age of 16.

“Very rarely do children in other countries receive academic training as intensive as our children do,” said Sun Baohong, an authority on education at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. “So if the test is on math and science, there’s no doubt Chinese students will win the competition.”

But many educators say China’s strength in education is also a weakness. The nation’s education system is too test-oriented, schools here stifle creativity and parental pressures often deprive children of the joys of childhood, they say.

“These are two sides of the same coin: Chinese schools are very good at preparing their students for standardized tests,” Jiang Xueqin, a deputy principal at Peking University High School in Beijing, wrote in an opinion article published in The Wall Street Journal shortly after the test results were announced. “For that reason, they fail to prepare them for higher education and the knowledge economy.”

In an interview, Mr. Jiang said Chinese schools emphasized testing too much, and produced students who lacked curiosity and the ability to think critically or independently.

“It creates very narrow-minded students,” he said. “But what China needs now is entrepreneurs and innovators.”

This is a common complaint in China. Educators say an emphasis on standardized tests is partly to blame for the shortage of innovative start-ups in China. And executives at global companies operating here say they have difficulty finding middle managers who can think creatively and solve problems.

In many ways, the system is a reflection of China’s Confucianist past. Children are expected to honor and respect their parents and teachers.

“Discipline is rarely a problem,” said Ding Yi, vice principal at the middle school affiliated with Jing’An Teachers’ College. “The biggest challenge is a student who chronically fails to do his homework.”

While the quality of schools varies greatly in China (rural schools often lack sufficient money, and dropout rates can be high), schools in major cities typically produce students with strong math and science skills.

Shanghai is believed to have the nation’s best school system, and many students here gain admission to America’s most selective colleges and universities.


Page 2 of 2)

In Shanghai, teachers are required to have a teaching certificate and to undergo a minimum of 240 hours of training; higher-level teachers can be required to have up to 540 hours of training. There is a system of incentives and merit pay, just like the systems in some parts of the United States.

“Within a teacher’s salary package, 70 percent is basic salary,” said Xiong Bingqi, a professor of education at Shanghai Jiaotong University. “The other 30 percent is called performance salary.”

Still, teacher salaries are modest, about $750 a month before bonuses and allowances — far less than what accountants, lawyers or other professionals earn.

While Shanghai schools are renowned for their test preparation skills, administrators here are trying to broaden the curriculums and extend more freedom to local districts. The Jing’An school, one of about 150 schools in Shanghai that took part in the international test, was created 12 years ago to raise standards in an area known for failing schools.

The principal, Zhang Renli, created an experimental school that put less emphasis on math and allows children more free time to play and experiment. The school holds a weekly talent show, for example.

The five-story school building, which houses Grades eight and nine in a central district of Shanghai, is rather nondescript. Students wear rumpled school uniforms, classrooms are crowded and lunch is bused in every afternoon. But the school, which operates from 8:20 a.m. to 4 p.m. on most days, is considered one of the city’s best middle schools.

In Shanghai, most students begin studying English in first grade. Many middle school students attend extra-credit courses after school or on Saturdays. A student at Jing’An, Zhou Han, 14, said she entered writing and speech-making competitions and studied the erhu, a Chinese classical instrument. She also has a math tutor.

“I’m not really good at math,” she said. “At first, my parents wanted me to take it, but now I want to do it.”
prentice crawford
« Reply #72 on: December 30, 2010, 10:52:49 AM »

 All I can say on early childhood education is that when my wife and I put our daughter on the big yellow bus for the first time, she looked incredibly tiny climbing those steps to get in. cry
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« Reply #73 on: December 30, 2010, 11:11:48 AM »

"Some trumpet as solutions the usual neoliberal bromides — charter schools and for-profit private schools at all education levels. But, according to numerous studies, these schools rarely live up to the hype."

**Do you agree with this?

Very few things live up to the hype. 
Power User
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« Reply #74 on: December 30, 2010, 11:24:33 AM »

I thought the crux of the article was the lack of philosophy in the class room.  In particular, the lack of teaching critical thinking, according to the author, has led to a perilous situation in the American educational system. 

GM (and others), I post articles that I think are interesting, thought provoking, worthwhile reading, or worthy of discussion.  I don't necessarily agree with any, or all, of the author's contentions, ideas, or viewpoints.  Not everything is a personal attack, an attack, personal, or worth getting bent of shape about
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« Reply #75 on: December 30, 2010, 12:05:43 PM »

I'm not bent out of shape. Just trying to clarify your position relative to the article you posted.
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« Reply #76 on: December 30, 2010, 01:24:24 PM »

May I interject that in my experience it is often helpful to preface a post, particularly one with which one may disagree in part or whole, with some sort of comments as to why one is posting it.  Answering posts with articles without attendant explanation/context/commentary is often easily misunderstood as well.
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« Reply #77 on: December 31, 2010, 10:54:47 AM »

**When we look at global competition in the 21st century, I think it's crucial we examine our educational system, from pre-K to higher ed. I think what we are doing now isn't up to the task for creating a competitive American population.

On the same page of the Times as Dr. Cohen’s op-ed, columnist Nicholas Kristof calls for cuts in American military spending. At one point in his argument he cites the since-abandoned expensive military bases the U.S. kept in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War. He tries to drive the lesson home with a rhetorical question, “Wouldn’t our money have been better spent helping American kids get a college education?” I have nothing to say here one way or the other about military bases or defense spending, but I don’t think Kristof’s invocation of educational spending as the wholesome alternative works anymore—at least to the degree he seems to suppose.

The indubitable virtue of increased public spending on higher education has become another theory, like global warming, that has a divided life. As the general public grows more and more skeptical about it, the people society pays to be skeptical—professors and journalists—by and large continue to see nothing amiss.

Over the last year, numerous observers have been calling attention to an emerging higher education “bubble,” likened to the real estate bubble, in which the public awakens to find that it has been paying way too much for something on the mistaken assumption that the high prices would be covered by an even higher return. Housing prices, however, peaked and then rapidly descended, leaving many people with mortgages higher than the resale values of their homes. As for higher education, it has been clear for a while that many students pay tuition and pile on debt far in excess of what their college degrees are likely to bring them by way of augmented lifetime earnings. The situation has been dramatized by a few extreme cases, such as Kelli Space, the sociology major who graduated from Northeastern University in 2009 with $200,000 in debt in the form of student loans. Recently, my fellow Innovations blogger Richard Vedder has unearthed Department of Labor statistics that are dispositive: 60 percent of the growth in college graduates from 1992 to 2008 ended up working in low-skill jobs, the kind of jobs for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics regards a college degree as irrelevant.

Like global warming, the topic is intrinsically complex, though probably nowhere near as imponderable as the dynamics of heat transfer in the atmosphere. Clearly having a degree from the right college in the right field can translate (on average) into a larger premium in lifetime earnings. For many students, however, a college experience can end in no degree and a substantial debt burden. And many others graduate having learned little, possessed of a credential that carries little weight in the job market and yet still saddled with student loans that will take decades to pay off. These days, in any given week one can find half a dozen articles decrying this situation. (This week, for example, I’d include in the count Neal McCluskey from the Cato Institute, “Hurrah for ‘Draconian’ Education Cuts!”; Hans Bader from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “Time for Big Cuts in Education Spending;” and Katherine Mangu-Ward  writing in Reason, “Easy Money For College Can Really Mess You Up, Man.”)

Higher education’s response? Generally, if the topic is acknowledged at all, it is done so in scorn for the philistines who would reduce the “value” of a college degree to the job prospects and earnings of graduates. Never mind that higher education has been busy selling itself to the public in precisely those terms for the last fifty years and that the official position of the Obama administration is that our “national competitiveness” depends on a huge expansion in the number of young people who earn college degrees.

But I’m ready to concede the point. Higher education should be about more than gaining a credential that gives one a leg up in the marketplace. But if we are going to re-focus the debate on the non-utilitarian substance of higher learning—on the transmission of disciplined intellectual inquiry, on developing civilized discernment, on aspiration for genuinely higher knowledge—we had better be prepared to rethink our national preoccupation with mass higher education.  Judged by those standards, contemporary American undergraduate education as a whole is a colossal failure.

Which is it? Do we want to run a mass credentialing service that the public increasingly views as an expensive con? Or do we want to engage in rigorous higher education as something that has intrinsic value, but which our current system is ill-suited to provide?

There may be clear-cut answers to these questions, deflected in the winds high over the Tien Shan and Altai Mountains, reflected in the glare of Siberian snowfields, and twisted in the vacillations of the jet stream. But I’m not sure. I do know that when I encounter the offhand assurance of those who simply assume that more and more college degrees at greater and greater and greater public expense are unquestionably a good thing, I get a chill.
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« Reply #78 on: January 01, 2011, 05:54:59 PM »

Time for Big Cuts in Education Spending?

**I say yes!
Power User
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« Reply #79 on: January 01, 2011, 08:09:16 PM »

College Censors, Get Ready to Open Your Wallets
If you can't appeal to a public official's sense of responsibility towards the Constitution, appealing to their self-interest is the next best option.
December 28, 2010 - by Robert Shibley

There are 296 American public officials at grave risk of being personally sued for civil rights violations. The names of those who may soon be paying out of pocket for civil damages include some of America’s most respected citizens, who every day manage multi-million dollar budgets and massive numbers of government employees with little oversight and even less accountability. Can you guess who they are?

They are the presidents of many of America’s largest and most prestigious public colleges and universities.

It may not occur to many Americans that the president of a public university is, in many ways, a government employee like any other. Granted, they tend to wear fancy suits, live in mansions, and sometimes even have what amount to private jets for their own personal use, but when it comes to the Constitution, they are legally bound to respect it just as much as your local sewer district commissioner.

Unfortunately, too many of them don’t seem to have gotten the memo about their obligations under the Bill of Rights. So over Christmas week, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), where I work, sent it to them.

In a letter to 296 public college and university presidents and general counsel, FIRE warned that the law is increasingly clear that speech codes at public universities are unconstitutional and that they risk being held personally liable for violating the free speech rights of their students if they continue to maintain policies censoring speech. That goes for all of their administrative employees as well, from deans and provosts to lower-level student affairs officials.

The 296 college administrations that received the letter consist of all of the schools deemed to have “red-light” and “yellow-light” speech codes by FIRE’s latest report on campus speech restrictions: Spotlight on Speech Codes 2011. This fifth edition of the annual report reveals that speech codes on public campuses are slowly declining in number. Three years ago, 79 percent of public colleges had red-light speech codes, compared to “only” 67 percent today. However, it also revealed that new threats to free speech are on the horizon thanks to proposed “anti-bullying” laws like that introduced in Congress by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).

The problem is easily fixable if administrators have the will to respect the law. Earlier this year, the University of Virginia eliminated all of its speech codes in a matter of months. But UVa is, unfortunately, the honorable exception to the rule. At this rate, our taxpayer-funded colleges and universities will have manged to get on the right side of the Constitution (sort of; yellow-light schools still have significant speech problems) by the year 2027. Perhaps whatever university starts up on the Mars colony will actually respect the Bill of Rights!

Thankfully, there is a way to speed up this process. It’s called “piercing qualified immunity,” and it’s what FIRE’s letter to public university administrators is mainly about. Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that protects government officials from personal liability for monetary damages for violating constitutional rights if their actions do not violate “clearly established law” of which a reasonable person in their position would have known. And it’s more clearly established than ever, especially in light of a recent decision from the Third Circuit in McCauley v. University of the Virgin Islands, that campus speech codes that ban speech for being “offensive,” for example, are not legal.

Nevertheless, courts are pretty generous about granting qualified immunity, even when universities do something clearly insane — like punishing a student for quietly reading a book. Most people don’t even consider trying to get administrative malefactors to pay out of their own pockets for their blatant censorship.

But this is changing. This year, for the first time in FIRE’s memory, a (former) university president has been held personally liable for violating the constitutional rights of a student. Ronald Zaccari, then president of Valdosta State University in Georgia, summarily expelled student Hayden Barnes after he posted a collage on Facebook making fun of the president’s project to build two parking garages on campus. For this heinous crime, he woke up one morning to a letter under his dorm room door telling him to get out. Barnes took Zaccari to court, where, in what will be a landmark precedent if upheld on appeal, Zaccari was determined to have ignored “clearly established” law in punishing Barnes and therefore did not enjoy qualified immunity for his offense against the First Amendment.

This has the potential to fundamentally change the incentive structure that leads to campus censorship. Instead of indulging the natural tendency to silence one’s opponents or capitulating to censor-happy pressure groups on campus, public university presidents and other administrators will have to consider, “Is silencing my critics or placating these people really worth the possibility that I will be paying thousands of dollars of my own money?”

FIRE is willing to bet that while censorship might be tempting, it’s going to look a lot less inviting when it it means you might have to buy a Ford rather than that Mercedes you had your eye on. (Or, if you’re that low-level student affairs staffer, maybe a Pinto instead of a new Fiesta.) If you can’t appeal to a public official’s sense of responsibility towards the Constitution, I suppose appealing to their self-interest is the next best option.

Robert Shibley is the vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in Philadelphia, PA.
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« Reply #80 on: January 02, 2011, 06:35:29 AM »

FIRE is, in my opinion, a very good organization.  In my adult life, I have dealt with public and private colleges and universities in several states and in varying capacities.  I can tell you first hand that many are becoming more controlling of speech than they were even 10-12 years ago (and even then there were control issues).  I can also tell you from first hand experience that several have begun to relinquish some of that control.  There has been some backlash from faculty and students that have led to this.  Organization such as FIRE are also an intrical part of this movement, again in my opinion. 

There are some good media reactions to speech control on campuses as well.  Two of my favorite:

1.  PCU, a very funny, low budget film from the mid-1990's starring Jeremy Piven, Jon Favreau, and David Spade.  See below for a trailer that fails to fully illustrate or even hint at the depth at the attack on PC. 

2.  "Free Speech for me but not for Thee" by Nat Hentoff (who has written several books on the subject of free speech).  This book includes several examples of censorship on campuses.
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« Reply #81 on: January 21, 2011, 10:35:33 AM »

Nearly half of the nation's undergraduates show almost no gains in learning in their first two years of college, in large part because colleges don't make academics a priority, a new report shows.
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« Reply #82 on: January 21, 2011, 12:34:59 PM »

Are Chinese Mothers Superior?
Maybe American parents could use some tiger in their tanks.
January 19, 2011 - by Barbara Curtis

Last week saw the rise of a new contender for most reviled woman in America. A Chinese-American Yale professor, author, and mom proved once again that Americans have little patience with self-confident, achievement-oriented mothers, especially those that express themselves with authenticity, humor, and conviction.

Amy Chua proved also that multiculturalism and diversity were never intended to help us set the bar higher, but only to validate underachievers.

For decades now, we’ve stood by in denial as affirmative action programs have dumbed down our university/college system and work environments. We’ve been vaguely aware that the drive to include more blacks and Hispanics has been at the sacrifice of better-qualified Asians (see “Do colleges redline Asian-Americans?”).

Most of us have worked alongside, gone to school with, or lived next door to Asians. We know their grades, SAT scores, and need to succeed are typically higher. There truly is something about Asians — as an adoptive mother of a Taiwanese son, I see it every day.

Consider the spine-tingling 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony and the incredible self-discipline required of each individual to produce such unity and precision. This is incomprehensible to Americans, whose religious devotion to individualism — and the modern Have It Your Way mentality — is producing signs of strain on our social fabric, transforming our universities into places where many undisciplined girls and boys party hearty on their parents’ dime.

These were not my first reflections on reading Chua’s now-infamous piece — at least the piece presented/misrepresented in the Wall Street Journal. Book sales aside, the Journal certainly did the author no favors when they wove together segments from her memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother to present a skewed and provocative essay with Chua’s byline and the Journal’s heavy-handed title: “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.”

Unlike many of those in the nearly 7000 comments to date, I was not threatened or deeply disturbed by Chua’s well-written and humorous narrative. First of all, much of it rang true. As a San Francisco Montessori teacher, my class was 50% Asian. And for seven years our family was neighbors with a wonderful Chinese family in Marin. So I’ve seen strict and bossy up close and personal. I’ve seen the drills, the Kumon classes, the piano practice, the push for perfection.

It might not have been my style of parenting, but I felt comfortable living alongside it. In fact, I felt like my kids would probably be a little better off if a little of that Chinese mother stuff would rub off on me.

I never felt the need to judge or condemn my dear friend (and her mother-in-law) because their tone of voice was harsher than mine. Isn’t that what multiculturalism and diversity are all about?

In the immediate aftermath of the Journal‘s piece — as every mother with a keyboard registered her alarm — my first thought was that this was yet another media-created MommyWar. After all, as a blogger who happens to be a mom, I’ve seen several of those in the past six years.

But when the backlash and tone grew worse, beyond any MommyWar to date — to vicious personal attacks, mockery, and even death threats — I knew that there was more afoot.

You see, someone can write a book or make a movie about a girl named Precious and we don’t attack the indigent, neglectful, and monstrously selfish mother because we accept she just can’t do any better. Since she makes a normal mother look like Mother Teresa, she actually is useful. She poses no threat.

But a mother determined to produce exceptional children with a skill level developed only with discipline — why, how dare she share how she encourages her children to meet their potential? What an outrage that she chose a path different than we American moms!

Lost in all the noise was Chua’s quiet assertion that though her parents were strict and harsh — and yes, her dad once called her garbage and she once reflexively called her daughter that — she never doubted her parents’ love for her. And obviously she is pleased enough with her own outcome to follow in their steps. This is actually a culturally appropriate thing for her to do.

Alas for Chua, the American mantra of multiculturalism and diversity must not extend to Asians — particularly as we find ourselves in the midst of almost incomprehensible global changes, with a president seemingly determined to hand over the reins of world leadership and finance to China.

This is all by way of saying that, with 290,00 Google results for amy+chua+chinese+mothers, there’s surely a lot more going on in the American psyche than meets the eye. And note, since Chua’s 18-year-old daughter published a defense of her mother on January 17th, she too has been mocked and ridiculed.

As in the case of Palin Hatin’, only fear can evoke this kind of response. And that fear may be well warranted. Tom Wilkinson commented at the WSJ:

    This is a wake up call. The Chinese are eating our lunch by ignoring the feel good fake social science that US/Western academics have been manufacturing for years. For years we sloughed off the superior performance of the Chinese by saying that they were stifling creativity and later in life they burn out, fail to achieve because they only know how to work [...].

    Tough love and hard work works. Get over it. Our thinking only works in Walt Disney animated movies. The Chinese are preparing themselves to win in the real world — where there is another Chinese kid around every corner trying to outwork you. But I am sure Yale would prefer a more creative and flexible person on staff to teach their kids — oops, maybe not.

For Chua, the misogynistic backlash is, I believe, mixed with subconscious but growing fear that maybe our relaxed parenting standards, academic expectations, and work protocols have placed us in a position where we may well have not only become inferior, but are stupidly and stubbornly determined to celebrate our inferiority.

Whatever you do, don’t make us have to rethink our positions and parenting/education styles. You see, the real secret of what sets Amy Chua apart is something every parent knows deep inside: it’s easier to be nice, and much more difficult to be a demanding but loving parent. Chua’s high sense of purpose and her own self-discipline in pushing her kids towards a brighter future show a kind of love lost several decades ago when parents decided it was more fun to be cool.

Barbara Curtis is a wife, mother of 12, and author of nine books, including Reaching the Left from the Right: Talking About Social Issues with People Who Don't Think Like You. Visit her at or at her blog Her fourth son will begin Marines OCS in January.
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« Reply #83 on: January 21, 2011, 01:41:01 PM »

I posted the Chua story, but didn't read the backlash. It was a little extreme, in the early part I thought she was joking.  I agree with this part of the previous post, we could all learn 'a little' from her.  Intensity to a point makes sense, but not that extreme.  No sleepovers? maybe.  No play dates ever? No sports allowed.  All parent determined. That sounds sick to me.  Allowing positive friendships to foster was important part of parenting IMO.

I grudgingly read Andre Agassi's autobiography where he expresses his hatred for the game that his readers and fans love.  His father was Iranian and driven to make his kid the best in the world at any and all costs including keeping out of school, hitting balls at all hours, tweaking the home ball machine to shoot at him at 140mph and sending him away at a young age.  With all the promos to the book I thought he was just an ungrateful kid.  Reading the book I just got more and more squeamish about the level of abuse he experienced and the childhood he missed.  As I wrote about CEO level obsessions, I don't think being number one at the expense of all other aspects and balances in life is the sweet spot.  

All of that said, 'a little' or even quite a bit more discipline like those Chinese mothers have would be very helpful for most kids floundering in American education.  Inner city schools have 50% dropout rates and we are not talking about college.  I would say that like successful management styles, as the parent, the coach or the educator, you want to get the kid moving in the right direction without always making them feel like it is being forced on them by someone else.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2011, 01:47:33 PM by DougMacG » Logged
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« Reply #84 on: February 10, 2011, 04:49:03 AM »

This is a trailer of a forthcoming documentary of the rise of homeschooling.  It looks like it may be interesting.
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« Reply #85 on: February 10, 2011, 06:48:00 AM »

More on the Political Bias in Academia
February 9, 2011 10:37 A.M.
By Veronique de Rugy 

As I have reported in these pages before, George Mason University’s Dan Klein has done a lot of work on the political bias against conservatives or free-marketeers in academia. Yesterday, over at Freakonomics, Stephen Dudner added to the conversation by commenting on a piece by John Tierney in the New York Times about the bias that “some of the world’s pre-eminent experts on bias discovered an unexpected form of it at their annual meeting.”

Tierney’s note about the bias:

    It was identified by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who studies the intuitive foundations of morality and ideology. He polled his audience at the San Antonio Convention Center, starting by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.

    “This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal.

This part is really interesting:

    “Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation,” said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. “But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations.”

Dubner makes a good point which is that under representation isn’t hard to understand in a self-selecting group. In fact, it is the point of the selection.

    The lack of diversity isn’t actually “statistically impossible” in a self-selecting group. But that of course is the point. How can it be that an academic field is so politically homogeneous? What kind of biases does such homogeneity produce? What sort of ideas get crowded out? And how homogeneous are other disciplines?

    I have to say that I was surprised at the overt political (leftward) bias exhibited by several prominent economists at the recent American Economics Association meetings, although my sample set was quite small.

Tierney concludes:

    In the old version, the society announced that special funds to pay for travel to the annual meeting were available to students belonging to “underrepresented groups (i.e., ethnic or racial minorities, first-generation college students, individuals with a physical disability, and/or lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered students).”

    As Dr. Haidt noted in his speech, the “i.e.” implied that this was the exclusive, sacred list of “underrepresented groups.” The society took his suggestion to substitute “e.g.” — a change that leaves it open to other groups, too. Maybe, someday, even to conservatives.

Finally, a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a new analysis that shows the left-leaning bias in Harvard University Press:

    Harvard University Press’s output during the last decade has leaned heavily to the left, according to an analysis published this week in Econ Journal Watch. The press’s slant embodies and reinforces ideological disparities in academe, the paper argues, because faculty members are rewarded for publishing with prestigious presses like Harvard.

The analysis is here.

It would be interesting to understand why such bias exists (especially in economics where my bias tells me that it doesn’t make sense!). Also, does evidence of bias make it go away?

Thanks to Jason Fitchner for the pointer.
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« Reply #86 on: February 10, 2011, 12:21:40 PM »

Home school works like this for us:  My daughter loves school so I just threaten home school with Dad all day and any problem is solved.  smiley

My nephew began home school this year.  Bright kid with some learning 'differences' was being left behind by a big public school and testing below grade level.  We will see how that goes.  He hated school so has to get his work done or he goes back.  Choice, competition, alternatives.

The name home schooling understates the resources, curricula and networking that these highly organized moms have in place, as I'm sure the documentary will show.

The education dollar here is about 10k per kid per year, 30 to a classroom and the teacher supposedly makes on average 52k - an almost negligible part of that 300k. If the dollar followed the kid with school choice, two things would happen, marvelous alternatives get funded and the public school sees real incentive to improve.

I remember Jesse Jackson arguing with George Will on 'This Week' against vouchers and how bad that would be for the already failing DC public schools.  Will closed with: we will just have to agree to disagree - see you tomorrow at school.  Their kids were in the same elite Washington private school, same as Sasha and Malia now, as their parents fight against opening up parent choice.

Innovation in the public sector, government or education, will begin IMHO the day that public unions are disbanded.
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« Reply #87 on: February 20, 2011, 08:19:25 AM »

DougMacG: My family homeschools, and I think it is a wonderful choice for us.  We have two extremely bright, kind children who also have peculiar learning styles.  So, they get, at worst (when at home), 2 "students" for one teacher.  It is often 1-1.  We also have field trips consistently.  It helps that we live close to major zoos, art and other museums, a large university and in a small town with two liberal arts colleges.  There are often events in and around our home town.  
« Last Edit: February 20, 2011, 08:24:10 AM by bigdog » Logged
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« Reply #88 on: February 20, 2011, 08:22:04 AM »

This is a talk on creativity killing schools.  For those of you who don't know, TED talks are consistently interesting and thought provoking, and the talks cover a wide range of material.  You might want to spend some time poking around.
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« Reply #89 on: March 07, 2011, 08:01:45 AM »

This source is unknown to me.“oral-sex-masturbation-and-orgasms-need-to-be-taught-in-education”/

 NEA To UN: “Oral Sex, Masturbation, And Orgasms Need To Be Taught In Education”
  (Read WP posts from Duane Lester) | (Read MT posts from Duane Lester) | rss
The United Nations was busy recently, deciding what every country in the world needs to be teaching their wards.  Not wanting to be left out of any meeting that involves the programming of children's minds, the National Education Association had a seat at the table.

The brought their sexualization of children packet and made the case for teaching, well, middle school kids:

“Oral sex, masturbation, and orgasms need to be taught in education,” Diane Schneider told the audience at a panel on combating homophobia and transphobia.  Schneider, representing the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union in the US, advocated for more “inclusive” sex education in US schools, with curricula based on liberal hetero and homosexual expression.  She claimed that the idea of sex education remains an oxymoron if it is abstinence-based, or if students are still able to opt-out.

Two things to note here.  One, the NEA thinks sex education in America needs to be "more 'inclusive,'" because kids just aren't being indoctrinated enough, and two, choice is for abortion.  These kids need to be forced to sit in this class.

Now, maybe I have always been more of a self starter than others, but I don't remember needing a class on masturbation.  I think this is one lesson that makes everyone a bit autodidactic.

Seriously though, this is stuff the NEA thinks students in grades 6-9 need to be forced to attend.  Apparently, learning about oral sex will help them be less homophobic, or something:

“Gender identity expression and sexual orientation are a spectrum,” she explained, and said that those opposed to homosexuality “are stuck in a binary box that religion and family create.”

Read it again.

Yeah, you are reading that right.  The NEA went to the UN and said this curriculum was needed, and every student needed to be forced to attend, in order to reprogram them out of the teachings they had learned from their religion and their family.

The parents of the child are of no consequence.  The collective is supreme.

And you might not believe this, but the UN agreed:

A Belgian panelist at the same event explained how necessary it was to have government support when educating about anti-discrimination issues.  He claimed that the “positive, pro-LGBT policies in Belgian schools are a direct consequence of liberal and open-minded legislation in Belgium,” and went on to stress the importance of states in providing relevant materials for students and schoolteachers. He also held up Belgium’s “gender in the blender” programs, which are discussion-based programs for Belgian teachers who want to discuss gender and transgender issues in their courses, as a model for other nations who wished to encourage their teachers to address these topics.

You know what this reminds me of?  "Brave New World," by Aldus Huxley.

Here's what I am talking about:

One of the things that makes the society in Brave New World so different from ours is the lack of spirituality. The pleasure-seeking society pursues no spiritual experiences or joys, preferring carnal ones. The lack of a religion that seeks a true transcendental understanding helps ensure that the masses of people, upper and lower classes, have no reason to rebel. What religious ritual they have begins as an attempt to reach a higher level of understanding as a community but quickly turns into a chance to please the carnal nature of man through orgiastic ritual. This denies the human soul, which is usually searching for a pleasure not experienced in the flesh but in the mind, and preserves the society based on happiness which they have established.

The novel addresses the importance of family values and the family structure as an integral part of our society. A new way to be born and raised has done away with the family and brought in a dehumanizing strict class structure and psychological messages to replace it. There are five rigid classes in this world, each with its own characteristics ranging from jobs to clothing to intelligence level. These classes are enforced from birth through experience and suggestion. A dislike of roses and books, for example, is enforced through electric shock while the children are still babies. The knowledge of the different classes in the world and why it is best to be in the class you are in is implanted in the child's mind through hypnopaedia, a series of hypnotic suggestions played while the child is asleep. Through the suggestions that make up the childhood of the adults in this society, the adults are "raised" by the leaders of the State to think and act as they are told. Rather than individual parents instilling their own values into their children, the State chooses how and what each child will learn. The parental relationship of a father and mother to a child has become a dirty and improper idea. Feelings have become obsolete. It is this lack of family that helps keep the different classes in their place. They are conditioned to think and act only as a member of their class, rather than as an individual. Things that create problems in society's class structure, such as the desire of parents to want something better for their children, or people striving for something better for themselves, have been eliminated with the family.

So, in the Brave New World, religion and family were destroyed.  Sound familiar?

One of the more bizarre things in Brave New World is the child sex.  Oh, you may find it abhorrent, but in the book, it's promoted.  Here's an excerpt from Chapter Three:

OUTSIDE, in the garden, it was playtime. Naked in the warm June sunshine, six or seven hundred little boys and girls were running with shrill yells over the lawns, or playing ball games, or squatting silently in twos and threes among the flowering shrubs. The roses were in bloom, two nightingales soliloquized in the boskage, a cuckoo was just going out of tune among the lime trees. The air was drowsy with the murmur of bees and helicopters.

..."That's a charming little group," he said, pointing.

In a little grassy bay between tall clumps of Mediterranean heather, two children, a little boy of about seven and a little girl who might have been a year older, were playing, very gravely and with all the focussed attention of scientists intent on a labour of discovery, a rudimentary sexual game.

"Charming, charming!" the D.H.C. repeated sentimentally.

"Charming," the boys politely agreed. But their smile was rather patronizing. They had put aside similar childish amusements too recently to be able to watch them now without a touch of contempt. Charming? but it was just a pair of kids fooling about; that was all. Just kids.

"I always think," the Director was continuing in the same rather maudlin tone, when he was interrupted by a loud boo-hooing.

From a neighbouring shrubbery emerged a nurse, leading by the hand a small boy, who howled as he went. An anxious-looking little girl trotted at her heels.

"What's the matter?" asked the Director.

The nurse shrugged her shoulders. "Nothing much," she answered. "It's just that this little boy seems rather reluctant to join in the ordinary erotic play. I'd noticed it once or twice before. And now again to-day. He started yelling just now …"

"Honestly," put in the anxious-looking little girl, "I didn't mean to hurt him or anything. Honestly."

"Of course you didn't, dear," said the nurse reassuringly. "And so," she went on, turning back to the Director, "I'm taking him in to see the Assistant Superintendent of Psychology. Just to see if anything's at all abnormal."

"Quite right," said the Director. "Take him in. You stay here, little girl," he added, as the nurse moved away with her still howling charge. "What's your name?"

"Polly Trotsky."

"And a very good name too," said the Director. "Run away now and see if you can find some other little boy to play with."

The child scampered off into the bushes and was lost to sight.

"Exquisite little creature!" said the Director, looking after her. Then, turning to his students, "What I'm going to tell you now," he said, "may sound incredible. But then, when you're not accustomed to history, most facts about the past do sound incredible."

He let out the amazing truth. For a very long period before the time of Our Ford, and even for some generations afterwards, erotic play between children had been regarded as abnormal (there was a roar of laughter); and not only abnormal, actually immoral (no!): and had therefore been rigorously suppressed.

A look of astonished incredulity appeared on the faces of his listeners. Poor little kids not allowed to amuse themselves? They could not believe it.

"Even adolescents," the D.H.C. was saying, "even adolescents like yourselves …"

"Not possible!"

"Barring a little surreptitious auto-erotism and homosexuality - absolutely nothing."


"In most cases, till they were over twenty years old."

"Twenty years old?" echoed the students in a chorus of loud disbelief.

"Twenty," the Director repeated. "I told you that you'd find it incredible."

"But what happened?" they asked. "What were the results?"

"The results were terrible." A deep resonant voice broke startlingly into the dialogue.

Yes, I imagine to the Director, and the hierarchy of the NEA and UN, they were terrible. Good thing actions were taken so that children could be removed from the "binary box that religion and family create.”

Cross posted at All American Blogger.
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« Reply #90 on: March 15, 2011, 12:11:13 AM »

One of the most amazing resources available on the internet. MIT is free. I'm amazed at how few people know about this.

Hundreds of courses, No cost, no credit. Available for about 10 years now and the course list keeps growing.
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« Reply #91 on: June 08, 2011, 11:08:08 AM »

No sooner do parents proudly watch their children graduate high school than they must begin paying for college. As they write checks for upwards of $40,000 a year, they'll no doubt find themselves complaining loudly about rising college costs—even asking: "Is it worth it?"

It's a legitimate question. As college costs have risen wildly, the benefits of the degree seem less and less clear. Larger numbers of college graduates are taking relatively low-paying and low-skilled jobs.

The good news? There are ways to greatly ease the burden and make college more affordable, according to new data from the University of Texas at Austin.

 Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of "The Faculty Lounges," explains how colleges are spending your money.
.In a study for the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, Christopher Matgouranis, Jonathan Robe and I concluded that tuition fees at the flagship campus of the University of Texas could be cut by as much as half simply by asking the 80% of faculty with the lowest teaching loads to teach about half as much as the 20% of faculty with the highest loads. The top 20% currently handle 57% of all teaching.

Such a move would require the bulk of the faculty to teach, on average, about 150-160 students a year. For example, a professor might teach one undergraduate survey class for 100 students, two classes for advanced undergraduate students or beginning graduate students with 20-25 students, and an advanced graduate seminar for 10. That would require the professor to be in the classroom for fewer than 200 hours a year—hardly an arduous requirement.

Faculty will likely argue that this would imperil the university's research mission. Nonsense. First of all, at UT Austin, a mere 20% of the faculty garner 99.8% of the external research funding. Second, faculty who follow the work habits of other professional workers—go to work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and work five days a week for 48 or 49 weeks a year—can handle teaching 200 hours a year while publishing considerable amounts of research. I have done just this for decades as a professor.

Third, much research consists of obscure articles published in even more obscure journals on topics of trivial importance. Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University, once estimated that 21,000 articles have been written on Shakespeare since 1980. Wouldn't 5,000 have been enough? Canadian scholar Jeffrey Litwin, looking at 70 leading U.S. universities, concluded the typical cost of writing a journal article is about $72,000. If we professors published somewhat fewer journal articles and did more teaching, we could make college more affordable.

There are other things colleges could do to reduce costs, such as slashing bureaucracies or using buildings more efficiently. But by not extending the contracts of nontenured faculty or by phasing out tenured positions over time, universities could seriously cut labor costs.

The bottom line is that colleges typically spread knowledge about everything under the sun except themselves. It's time to change that. There's no better place to start than by closely examining the work load of those who absorb the lion's share of university budgets.

Mr. Vedder is a professor of economics at Ohio University and directs the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

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« Reply #92 on: June 10, 2011, 07:10:29 AM »

This is, for the most part, a good article.  Some small things I would add, however.  First, in my mind, teaching goes far beyond the classroom.  Professors spend a damn lot of time on emails, lunches, study sessions, office hours, and the like.  Professors also do a great deal of counseling, whether life questions or class/academic/career advice.  The author, I think, sorely underestimates the total number of hours that many professors tend to spend teaching.

Also, he used skewed evidence: "a mere 20% of the faculty garner 99.8% of the external research funding."  So what?  The sciences garner the vast majority of research funding.  It costs a damn lot more for a nuclear physicist to experiment than a sociologist.  And philosophers can research damn near for free.  That doesn't mean that the contributions aren't important, it means they are cost effective. 

I'm not sure why the author wouldn't want professors at large, research institutions to focus on research.  That is the mission of the university.  There many, many professors who teach, teach, and teach some more.  They are at liberal arts colleges, where the focus is on teaching.

All of that said, I think the position of the article that college needs to be more affordable, that colleges/universities need to help that with efficient staffing and use of buildings, etc. is important. 
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« Reply #93 on: June 10, 2011, 11:35:36 AM »

University Administrators Will Outnumber College Faculty by 2014
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« Reply #94 on: June 23, 2011, 01:04:04 PM »

A sample of "interesting" answers given by students on exams:
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« Reply #95 on: June 23, 2011, 01:09:55 PM »

A sample of "interesting" answers given by students on exams:

Funny, and scary.
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« Reply #96 on: August 09, 2011, 01:13:19 PM »

We write frequently about the charter-school wars in New York City because the battle touches so many aspects of the effort to give children from poor families the education necessary to escape their circumstances.

Today's report has good news: Results released yesterday of test scores in the New York State Assessment Program showed that the most relentlessly attacked charter schools—Eva Moskowitz's Harlem Success academies—have outperformed their public-school peers, often by a wide margin.

At all New York City's public schools, 60% of third, fourth and fifth graders passed the math exam; at Harlem Success, 94% passed. In the state language arts exam, 49% from the city schools passed compared to 78% at the charters. The 94% pass rate for the academies' black and Hispanic students surpassed the 73% pass rate for white students taking the exam in New York state.

Other New York City charters—such as Geoffrey Canada's Promise Academies or the Democracy Prep charter schools—generally produce similar results, even compared to the state's best public schools. In a 2009 study of New York City charter schools, Caroline Hoxby of Stanford concluded, "On average, a student who attended a charter school for all of the grades kindergarten through eight would close about 86% of the 'Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap' in math and 66% of the achievement gap in English."

Meanwhile, the battle to stop the movement continues. Ms. Moskowitz's effort to open another school on Manhattan's Upper West Side has met massive resistance. Actor Matt Damon is now throwing his celebrity against charters. Their students, meanwhile, continue upward.

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« Reply #97 on: August 09, 2011, 01:47:15 PM »

See, children just need to form unions that pay off dems, then they'll have a chance at getting decent educations.
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« Reply #98 on: August 15, 2011, 01:51:07 PM »

 No Child Left Behind
Testing times
Deadlock over standards in schools
Aug 13th 2011 | NEW YORK | from the print edition
SEVENTEEN months ago Barack Obama sent Congress a proposal to revamp the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), one of George Bush junior’s cherished policies. In March Mr Obama said he wanted to see a new version of the act in place before the new school year began. Even though “Back to School” sales signs are already in shop windows, there has been little movement on Capitol Hill. Fed up with waiting, Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, said this week that he will start releasing states from the need to comply with NCLB.

When Mr Bush signed NCLB a decade ago, with support from both sides of the aisle, it decreed that 100% of students should be reading and doing mathematics at the appropriate level for their ages by 2014. Sadly 82% of America’s public schools are at risk of failing to meet those targets. States are now worried that they will lose vital federal funding because the NCLB connects aid with test results.

The main reason why American schools do badly is poor teaching. NCLB has helped point this out. But it also produces distortions. Nobody can excuse school districts that have resorted to cheating to pass the tests. But others found that when they raised their standards, they saw test scores fall. In Tennessee, for example, results showed 91% of students were proficient in maths; after the state raised its standards, scores fell to 34%. Instead of recognising the improvements, the current law penalises Tennessee for the poor scores. NCLB has in fact long been criticised for its reliance on tests and not enough on progress. One study examined the first five years of NCLB and found that while more time was devoted for tested subjects, other subjects such as science and art were cut, on average by 30 minutes a day.

In this section
Looking for someone to blame
End of a fantasy
»Testing times
Unexpected consequences
Some justice at last
Lock and load
Who isn’t coming for dinner
ReprintsMr Duncan has already spoken to more than 30 governors about issuing waivers from NCLB. Most want them. The waivers will still demand accountability, but allow much more flexibility. Where there’s a high bar, Mr Duncan says he wants to “get out of their way and let them hit that higher bar”. Specifics will be released in September, but the waivers will probably reflect reforms already rewarded in the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” programme for educational grants. These include evaluating teachers.

The White House sees the waivers as merely being a bridge to congressional action. But John Kline, the chairman of the House education committee, is worried that they may instead undermine his committee’s efforts to rewrite the original bill. Jamie Gass of the Centre for School Reform at Boston’s Pioneer Institute concedes that Mr Duncan has the power to grant waivers from NCLB, but reckons that he cannot tie the waivers to conditions that have not yet been sanctioned by Congress.

Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Institute in Washington, DC, says there is no question that the states need relief from the original NCLB, but thinks that Mr Duncan is being politically tone-deaf. The row, Mr Petrilli reckons, could jeopardise other education programmes backed by the administration. That is overstating it. There will be opposition, particularly from conservatives, but Mr Duncan was right not to wait for Congress to act. Otherwise, he would have been kept waiting a long time.

from the print edition | United States
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« Reply #99 on: August 19, 2011, 01:38:39 PM »
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