Thursday, October 29, 2009

America's government schools

I went to Catholic primary and secondary schools and then six years of Catholic college. My son also attended parochial schools. The same with my working-class parents, both of whom attended parochial grade schools and high schools that would be considered college prep schools today on par with Brophy Prep. Their poor immigrant parents (my grandparents) could afford Catholic tuition at the time on a waiter's pay and a barkeep's pay because taxes were a third of today's confiscatory levels, due in part to public school taxes being much lower.

Higher taxes are one of the reasons that so few working-class and poor parents can now afford both private tuition and public school taxes. It's also part of the reason why Catholic schools have had to close in inner cities, thus leaving blacks and Hispanics in those cities trapped in lousy public schools, where the dropout rate is nearly 50% and where crime and drugs are rampant.

The original goal of compulsory public education was universal education. With those dropout rates, and with a national graduation rate of only 70%, compulsory public ed has been a failure, as measured by the original goal. I believe that the reason for this is that a quality public education has become an entitlement for mostly middle- and upper-class whites in suburbia.

The latest book I've read on education supports that belief: The Street Stops Here. I encourage you to read it. It's about a Catholic high school in the Bronx. The school is the last hope for the students' parents, who know that if their kids fail to make the grade at the school, the'll end up at a public school and have bleak futures.

I'm very versed in the history and facts of public education, and at one time was active in public education reform, until I realized that public education is a political system first, and an education system, second. As such, it will always operate as a political system; that is, inefficiently, irrationally, and beholden to special interests, especially teacher unions.

A case in point: Nationally, productivity has fallen by over 70% in public schools over the last 40 years, as measured by stagnant test scores and skyrocketing per-pupil spending in inflation-adjusted dollars.

A related note: Years ago for one of my Arizona Republic columns, I researched how the overhead compared at the Scottsdale Unified School District to the Phoenix Diocese school system. This is from memory, so the numbers might not be totally accurate, but SUSD had something like one administrator at HQ for every 400 students. The Diocese, on the other hand, had one for every 4,000 students. Other researchers have found similar disparities between public and parochial systems in other cities.

As you can tell by my preceding comments, I disagree that more public ed spending will help lower-income children.

What would help is to end the government education monopoly and make public schools compete with private ones, as in Europe, where most of the leading countries in education don't discriminate against private schools in funding. Yeah, I know the constitutional problems with that here and the history of the anti-Catholic Blaine amendments, but there are no legitimate constitutional prohibitions against giving at least education tax refunds or credits to parents who send their kids to private schools.

Besides, the current system of funding public education violates parents' freedom of religion. It does this indirectly, by making parents who want their kids taught in religious schools to pay twice for education, once in public school taxes and once in private tuition. As I've said, most can't afford to pay twice, so the system is a de facto infringement of freedom of religion. To draw an analogy, it would be akin to the government forcing parents to contribute huge sums of money to a Church of the United States and then saying that they are free to also support the church of their choice.

Can you imagine a class of 35 1st graders and 1 teacher? How can this one teacher possibly devote any individual attention to each child making sure they learn how to read and write. I can't only imagine it, but I've experienced it firsthand. That was the class size of my parents' classes, my classes, and my son's classes. There are even larger classes in countries that far surpass the U.S. in education. Granted, discipline and family problems have permeated American schools, due, I belive, to misguided and wrongheaded government policies for the last 45 years. It's a case of hope trumping experience to expect the same government that caused classroom problems and learning difficulties to fix the problems.

More here

Leftist bigots in one-fifth of British primary schools 'refusing to lay on help for brightest children'

One in five primary schools are rejecting Government demands to identify their brightest pupils because teachers have "philosophical issues" with giving extra support to the most able children, a senior civil servant said. Teachers have been warned that they are breaking the law by refusing to nominate pupils for the so-called Gifted and Talented scheme.

The programme obliges schools to put on extra activities to stretch the top five to 10 per cent of their students. It was introduced in 1999 to encourage the parents of the most intelligent children to remain in the state sector. But a fifth of schools are still refusing to register suitable pupils because of ideological objections, according to Tim Dracup, who the runs the scheme at the Department for Children, Schools and Families. "It seems many have philosophical issues with the label 'gifted and talented', but the census is statutory and if they are not filling it in, then they are acting illegally."

"The guidance doesn't give anyone the opportunity to say, 'There's nobody we can identify here,' because it's relative to their group of children. We want all schools to put down a marker and give extra challenge and support."

In January a Government report found deep-rooted objections to the Gifted and Talented scheme at a significant number of schools, despite previous warnings from ministers that teachers are legally obliged to co-operate.

Nominated pupils should be given access to after-school classes and weekend tuition, to ensure they are challenged. Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said it was "absolutely scandalous" that some primary school teachers were damaging the prospects of intelligent children by refusing to lay on additional help. "It is vital to the young people themselves and to the future of the country that the brightest children are given the best possible support," he said. "Too many teachers think high achievement is elitist and they have ideological objections to any kind of education that isn't egalitarian."

He warned that the reluctance of teachers in the state sector to go out of their way to help able pupils would increase support for grammar schools and lead to the most talented pupils being moved into private education.

The Gifted and Talented scheme has a higher uptake at secondary level, with around 95 per cent of schools nominating pupils.


British teacher's relief after child cruelty case thrown out

A teacher has described the “horrible” ordeal after she was accused of banging a six-year-old pupil's hand on a desk in a temper and taken to court.

Halina Glebocki, 26, said she had been through a traumatic four months and had “not had a night’s sleep in four months”. She said: "It's been the worst experience of my life. I've barely slept since it all started. When I found out I was being prosecuted, I was just in a total state of shock and disbelief. "When everyone around you knows your character and your level of professionalism, for it to have been taken so far is beyond comprehension."

Miss Glebocki was arrested in June after a “spurious allegation” was made that she had banged a child’s hand against a desk, causing bruising, while supervising an extra reading lesson for a small group of children at St Thomas of Canterbury RC Primary School in Walsall, West Mids.

She denied an allegation of child cruelty and at her first appearance before magistrates in the town requested the case ben sent to Crown Court. However, when the case called again at Walsall magistrates for committal on Wednesday, the bench ruled that lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service had taken too long to gather their evidence. Refusing a request from them for more time, they discharged the case.

Miss Glebocki, from Hednesford, West Mids, has since left the school while the charge was hanging over her. A teacher for three years, she said she had an unblemished record, but said that the ongoing court case had cost her a job abroad. She said: "I was due to take a teaching job in Thailand, but this whole thing has stopped me pursuing my career and living my life. "I just can't understand how one person's spurious allegation can lead to something like this. It's just been horrible. "I've always had it at the back of my mind. “I had to attend the police station every week and every week they just told me to go away and come back again the following week. “I have never been so tired in my life due to the lack of sleep.”

However, she added that her experience had not put her off the profession. "I just want to get back to teaching," she said. "It's a real relief and I just want to put it all behind me."


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