Thursday, April 07, 2005


And of course regulation wouldn't do more harm than good. Look at the wonderful job the regulation of drugs does!

"Propelled by the No Child Left Behind law, the federally financed tutoring industry has doubled in size in each of the last two years, with the potential to become a $2 billion-a-year enterprise, market analysts say.

Tutors are paid as much as $1,997 per child, and companies eager to get a piece of the lucrative business have offered parents computers and gift certificates as inducements to sign up, provided tutors that in some cases are still in high school, and at times made promises they cannot deliver. This new brand of tutoring is offered to parents by private companies and other groups at no charge if their children attend a failing school. But it is virtually without regulation or oversight, causing concern among school districts, elected officials and some industry executives. Some in Congress are calling for regulations or quality standards to ensure that tutors are qualified and that the companies provide services that meet students' needs. "The potential here is unbelievable, and it's not being regulated by the states or the Education Department," said Patty Sullivan, the director of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington-based research group that released a study in late March examining the tutoring programs. "We're pouring a lot of money into it, and we're not sure it works. To the extent that it is going to grow, we've got to get a handle on it."

Critics are particularly concerned about aggressive marketing tactics, like the offers of computers, gift certificates and basketball tickets, though they acknowledge that such practices do not violate the law. Students are not required to enroll in a tutoring program. The option is merely offered at poor schools that have been deemed "failing" for two years in a row. But because families can choose from a list of state-approved providers, some tutoring groups have reacted by engaging in aggressive solicitations.

School officials in Clark County, Nev., the district that includes Las Vegas, had to call security to remove tutoring providers from a school where they were soliciting families too aggressively, the Center on Education Policy found in its report. The parents, many of whom did not speak English, said they felt that they were being pressured to sign things against their will, according to the official who called the school police. In New York City, where more than 81,700 students are being tutored, complaints about inappropriate incentives led officials to start an inquiry into all the providers about six months ago. It is expected to be completed by the summer.

The law's silence on such issues is not an oversight. "We want as little regulation as possible so the market can be as vibrant as possible," Michael Petrilli, an official with the federal Education Department, told tutoring company officials at a recent business meeting organized by the education industry. In fact, hundreds of new companies and community groups have been established to take advantage of the law, joining more established names in test preparation and tutoring like the Princeton Review, Kaplan and the Huntington Learning Center. Across the country, there are more than 1,800 "supplemental educational services providers," as they are called in the law."

More here

California HS Purges Non-Resident Students

(Post lifted from Interested Participant)

(Fremont, California) Today, the 9,500-student Fremont Union High School District will order approximately 300 students to immediately pack their bags and leave if they are unable to prove residency in the district. Parents were informed of the action weeks ago by telephone and mail.
"We're taking a gentle course," said Polly Bove, deputy superintendent. "We'll call them in between classes and call home to let parents know what's going on."

[ ... ]

Still, she said, "We expect to hear from people who will say they didn't think we meant it."
The Cupertino-based school district administration is making the change to cut costs.

Well, my, my, my! In California, no less! They are not going to spend money on kids that don't live in their district. Holy moly! Is this a grassroots message with momentum?

Can we expect the school district to next require that a student be a legal resident?

Let's hope.


It sounds like "Summerhill" all over again to me -- dependent on one charismatic and hard-working leader. Let's see what happens to his ideas when lazy NEA members get their fangs into it. I myself once taught in a "progressive" school and the founder there worked very hard in his own way

Three decades ago school teacher Dennis Littky took himself off to a cabin in the forests of New Hampshire in the US north-east. There, he chopped wood and pondered his great passion: the future of education. As far as Littky was concerned, secondary education was in a state of meltdown. High schools were outmoded sausage factories turning out generation after generation of bored, disaffected students who failed to reach anything like their true potential. The big question, of course, was what could be done about it? Littky had some ideas about this, and the more he pondered, the stranger his ideas became. When he emerged from the woods two years later, he became headmaster of a run-down high school in a nearby town and set about putting his theories into practice.

The school he'd taken over had a terrible academic record and a history of disciplinary problems. Littky cut class sizes, abandoned the syllabus, threw away textbooks and asked the students to write their set of rules. Parents and the community were appalled, and banded together to try to get him fired. Littky, however, hung on to his job - and a year later his critics were confronted by some unforeseen results. The drop-out rate at his high school had fallen from 10 per cent to 1 per cent. The number of students applying for university had shot from 10 per cent to 55 per cent. Littky, universally known as "Doc", was voted School Principal of the Year. This, though, was only the start.

Ten years ago, Littky was approached to become the director of a new state-funded school for 14- to 18-year-olds in Rhode Island. The school was to be built in a rough, mixed-race, inner-city neighbourhood. Littky agreed to take on the job - on certain conditions. There would be no classrooms, no formal lessons, no bells, no grades, no uniforms, no detentions - and no teachers, at least not in the accepted sense of the word.

The students who enrolled at the Met School had sunk to the bottom of the pile; on average, they were three years behind the norm in literacy skills. However, according to last year's figures, all of the Met School students were accepted into university, with 75 per cent of them being the first in their families to go on to higher education.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, was so impressed that he donated $US40 million ($52 million) to help set up 70 more Met Schools across the US by the end of 2007. Gates says: "America's high schools are obsolete. Until we design them to meet the needs of the 21st century, we will keep limiting - even ruining - the lives of millions of Americans every year."

The first thing you notice about the Met School is how clean it is. There's no graffiti or rubbish, none of the casual detritus that defiles most school premises. The students are pretty spotless, too. They are friendly, courteous and apparently at ease with themselves and with each other. They also look fit and healthy - the result of a nutritious, junk-food-free diet, which they help to cook.

The sceptical visitor may conclude the reason everyone looks so happy is because they're barely doing any work. But as one of the students, 18-year-old Chayanna Santana, says: "I came here from a school that had eight classes a day and 30 students in each class. To be honest, I didn't learn anything; mainly because I was bored. Here, though, they make it really fun to learn, as well as challenging. My friends at home can't get over that I actually like coming to school."

At the Met, students are divided into groups of 15, each of which is supervised by an "adviser". The adviser acts as a teacher, tutor and mentor, first identifying what each child is interested in, then using that as the basis of his or her studies. Instead of formal lessons, students sit at an oval table, discussing such subjects of general interest as ethics or current affairs. Then, two days a week, they all do work experience; the idea being that practical learning is far more useful than studying textbooks. "Textbooks!" snorts Littky contemptuously. "I think textbooks are the most boring things in the world. I would much rather my students read a historical novel than some dreary list of facts and figures. "Or better still, went out and discovered things for themselves." If he had his way Littky would get rid of all exams. "I just don't think they show much. By the same token, I also think grades are meaningless. "But when you say you want to get rid of grades, some people think you want to get rid of standards altogether. In fact, it's the exact opposite."

At the Met every child is evaluated at the end of each term by a two-page "narrative" written by his or her adviser. These narratives aren't used to rank students. They're simply to help a student understand how to meet his or her goals.

The school costs the same amount to run as any other high school in the area, a result of cutting administration costs and employing dedicated teachers prepared to teach more subjects, and take on far more tasks, than they would be called upon to do elsewhere. "I honestly believe that we could take any high school in the United States and get the same ratio of staff to pupils for the same amount of money," Chris Hempel, Littky's second-in-command, says.

What, however, remains to be seen is whether the Met Schools can succeed without the charismatic figure of Littky to supervise them. Twenty-six of the proposed 70 are running, and although they seem to be working well there's always the danger that by franchising the format, they'll end up like any other school - albeit producing different-shaped sausages.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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