Sunday, June 21, 2009

The NEA's Latest Trick

Trying to deny military families

Public school teachers are supposed to teach kids to read, so it would be nice if their unions could master the same skill. In a recent letter to Senators, the National Education Association claims Washington, D.C.'s Opportunity Scholarships aren't working, ignoring a recent evaluation showing the opposite. "The DC voucher pilot program, which is set to expire this year, has been a failure," the NEA's letter fibs. "Over its five year span, the pilot program has yielded no evidence of positive impact on student achievement."

That must be news to the voucher students who are reading almost a half-grade level ahead of their peers. Or to the study's earliest participants, who are 19 months ahead after three years. Parents were also more satisfied with their children's schools and more confident about their safety. Those were among the findings of the Department of Education's own Institute of Education Sciences, which used rigorous standards to measure statistically significant improvement.

If you call that "failure," no wonder the program has been swimming in several times as many applications as it can accept. They come from parents desperate to give their kids a chance to get the kind of education D.C.'s notorious public schools do not provide. That's the same chance the Obamas have made by opting for private schools and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has taken by choosing to live in a Virginia suburb with better public schools.

Contrary to the NEA's letter, the D.C. voucher program isn't magically expiring of its own accord. In March, Congress voted to eliminate the vouchers after the 2009-2010 school year unless it is re-approved by the D.C. City Council and . . . Congress. The program, which helps send 1,700 kids to school with $7,500 vouchers, was excised even as the stimulus is throwing billions to the nation's school districts.

The NEA's letter was a pre-emptive strike against the possibility that 750,000 students in military families would benefit from vouchers. That idea was raised in a Senate hearing this month, when military families explained that frequent moves and inconsistent schooling was harmful to their children. "The creation of a school voucher program should be considered," Air Force wife Patricia Davis dared to say.

President Obama pledged to support whatever works in schools, ideology notwithstanding. But neither he nor Mr. Duncan have dared to speak truth to the power of the NEA. Military families can join urban parents on the list of those who matter less to the NEA than does maintaining the failed status quo.


Education and politics: Like oil and water

By Jennifer Buckingham, a Research Fellow at CIS -- speaking of bureaucratic waste of Australian "stimulus" spending

If ever there was evidence that politics and education don’t mix, the fiasco of the Building the Education Revolution program is it. How did this policy, which should have been a political slam-dunk, go so spectacularly wrong?

First, it was never about education. According to a 14 June media release from the Minister Gillard’s office, ‘The Guidelines for the Building the Education Revolution are clear and were developed to ensure that this investment supported as many jobs, in as many communities and as quickly as possible, to cushion the effects of the global recession on the Australian economy.’ Nothing there about teaching, learning, student achievement, or anything even remotely scholastic.

To meet the economic stimulus objective, the time frame has been extremely short, and schools have had to accept what would normally be unacceptable in nature and in cost, or risk missing out altogether. But just to confuse matters, in a bid to make the program sound education-friendly, all building works must be mainly for student use, which presents schools with a fairly narrow range of options and not necessarily the most useful ones.

For example, a school in my area already has a new hall/gymnasium and library, so it is using its BER funding to build more new classrooms when it already has several unused ones. What this school really needs is better staff facilities and a building that could be used both in and out-of-school hours to increase parental and community involvement in the school, which is sorely lacking. This does not meet the criteria, however.

On top of all that, the cost of the buildings for public schools is being inflated by the use of state government contractors, substantial project-management costs extracted by state governments, and the price premiums caused by urgency.

Second, by maintaining a sector-neutral approach and offering funding to all schools, the size of the building grants are dependent only on school size. This means that schools that already have every kind of building they could possibly need have been given millions of dollars to build more. Yes, there have been some stuff-ups, with a number of terminal schools being given money for new buildings, but rushing out a funding program of this scope will inevitably get it wrong in some cases. However, the broader issue of school need is fundamental and should have been foreseen.

It is hard not to see this as a missed opportunity for education. Granted, it wasn’t really about schools, it was about creating jobs. In this program, schools were just a politically safe place to dump some money. Nonetheless, a better program could have served both purposes with a much smaller price tag.

The above is a press release from the "Centre for Independent Studies" dated June 19th.

School bullying: Qld. Education Dept. trying to shoot the messenger

Australia: Because effective discipline has been outlawed, many schools are now unsafe for weaker children but only an ideological backflip could cure that so the Dept. just averts its eyes from the problem. The NSW Education Dept. recently had to fork out $468,000 as a result of a lawsuit by a victim of school bullying so the Qld. mob might find that their victory is a very Pyrrhic one if they successfully prosecute this guy

A BRISBANE dad who took his daughter out of school because she was being bullied has been charged with failing to ensure she participates in full-time education. Vanessa McKenna, 10, has not returned to Sunnybank State Primary School on Brisbane's southside since March 24 2008, after suffering multiple physical attacks.

Her father John McKenna told The Courier-Mail the school had failed to adequately address his concerns about his daughter's safety, despite his numerous calls and letters. "It's been going on for several years," said Mr McKenna. "Her glasses got broken, three boys ran her into a pole chasing her into the toilet and one boy pulled his pants down in front of her in the classroom. "Instead of taking action against the boy responsible, the teacher made Vanessa sit next to him."

Mr McKenna said he had been told the school had no record of the assaults against his daughter. "The teachers have developed a code of silence and cover-ups and it makes parents believe their children are liars," he said. "I don't believe my child is a liar. I've seen the marks on her body. What's got to happen? Does a child have to die?"

Although Vanessa has not attended Sunnybank State School since last March, Mr McKenna said he did not hear from Education Queensland until September. An official from the district office contacted the family to try to get Vanessa into other schools in the area, but Mr McKenna said one "just didn't seem good enough" and the other couldn't promise his daughter would be safe from bullies. "The bloke up there was a very decent gentleman, he was very honest. He said he had five boys who were worse than the boy who assaulted Vanessa and he couldn't guarantee her safety."

Police charged Mr McKenna last Friday with failing to ensure a child in his care was participating in full-time education. He is due to appear in Richlands Magistrate's Court on July 3 and, if convicted, faces a maximum fine of $450. An Education Queensland spokesman said the department was unable to comment on the case because it was now before court. But the spokesman stressed that prosecution of parents over a student's attendance at school was a "last resort".


1 comment:

allie buxton said...

I actually went to school with Vanessa Mckenna and was in her class for several years, Vanessa and her mother both have a condition called Mental retardation (MR). John Mckenna (her father) refused to put his daughter into a special school regardless of how much she was struggling. Another student did not pull down their pants to her in class, in-fact she like to try and pull her own pants down in the middle of class. She was not run into a pole like the article says, i was with her that day, she actually tripped over her own feet and landed onto the ground crying and saying 'My daddy is gonna be very mad at me, my glasses are broken again'. Vanessa's truly a lovely girl, her father should put her back into schooling it's been almost 7 years since she was in school.