Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Voucher schools undergo natural selection

Which is exactly what is supposed to happen

Michelle Lukacs grew up in Mequon and worked as a teacher in Milwaukee. Then she was a teacher and guidance counselor in Jefferson. She got a school principal's license through a program at Edgewood College in Madison.

She moved back to Milwaukee and decided to open a school as part of the publicly funded private school voucher program. She called it Atlas Preparatory Academy because she liked the image of Atlas holding the whole world up and because it was the name of a refrigeration company her husband owns.

On the first day of classes in September 2001, Atlas had 23 students in leased space in an old school building at 2911 S. 32nd St.

This September, Atlas had 814 students, a growth of 3,439% over eight years. It now uses three buildings on the south side and has grown, grade by grade, to be a full kindergarten through 12th-grade program.

Atlas' growth is explosive, even within the continually growing, nationally significant voucher program. Voucher enrollment over the same period has roughly doubled from 10,882 in September 2001 to 21,062 this fall.

The Atlas story underscores an interesting trend: The number of voucher schools in recent years has leveled off, and this year, fell significantly. But the total number of students using vouchers to attend private schools in the city has gone up, and a few schools have become particular powerhouses, at least when it comes to enrollment.

This year, there are four voucher schools with more than 750 students, which puts them among the largest schools in Milwaukee. St. Anthony School, in three buildings on the near south side, added a ninth grade this year and reported 1,277 voucher students. Messmer High School and Messmer Preparatory on the north side had 979 voucher students. And Greater Holy Temple Christian Academy on the northwest side had 751 (it had 78 six years ago).

There are 111 schools receiving up to $6,442 per student from the state this year as part of the voucher program. That is down from 127 a year ago (and the payments are down from $6,607). Only two new schools, with 21 voucher students between them, joined the program this year, as a result of creation of a new board that played a stern role as gatekeeper to allowing start-up schools to get voucher money.

And 18 schools that were on the voucher roster a year ago were not there. It's hard to get sentimental looking at the list. Most were small or weak. Some could not meet the tightened requirements of state law, including rules being applied full force now that voucher schools get accredited by independent organizations.

What's going on in the voucher movement may well be a case of addition by subtraction - a lot of the schools from several years ago that were weak, poorly run or just plain bad have disappeared. Tightened laws, tightened regulations and more public scrutiny have clearly had positive effects.

Frankly, there are still a few schools on the list that can leave you wondering. But overall, based on visits to many schools over the years and close attention to trends, I can see more positives now, and some of the schools are or are moving toward becoming significant educational assets to the city.

More here

Safe schools chief touts child porn for classrooms

A new report is raising alarms that the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, a homosexual advocacy organization founded by Kevin Jennings, now head of the U.S. Office of Safe Schools for the Obama administration, is recommending XXX-rated sex writings for children as young as preschoolers.

"We were unprepared for what we encountered. Book after book after book contained stories and anecdotes that weren't merely X-rated and pornographic, but which featured explicit descriptions of sex acts between preschoolers; stories that seemed to promote and recommend child-adult sexual relationships; stories of public masturbation, anal sex in restrooms, affairs between students and teachers, five-year-olds playing sex games, semen flying through the air," said the report.

"One memoir even praised becoming a prostitute as a way to increase one's self-esteem. Above all, the books seemed to have less to do with promoting tolerance than with an unabashed attempt to indoctrinate students into a hyper-sexualized worldview," it advised.

The report was posted online by Jim Hoft at the Gatetway Pundit blog after it was obtained from Breitbart.tv co-founder Scott Baker, who said the recommended children's reading assignments need attention.

The team whose members assembled the report said a handful of books from the more than 100 titles on GLSEN's recommended reading list for school children were picked randomly. Writings were reviewed with titles such as "Queer 13," "Being Different," "The Full Spectrum," "Revolutionary Voices," "Reflections of a Rock Lobster," "Passages of Pride," "Growing Up Gay/Growing Up Lesbian," "The Order of the Poison Oak," "In Your Face," "Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son" and "Love & Sex: Ten Stories of Truth."

"What we discovered shocked us. We were flabbergasted. Rendered speechless," the report said. "Read the passages … and judge for yourself … The language is explicit, the intent is clear," the report said.

WND has reported previously on Jennings' background and agenda, including when it was revealed a publisher of "gay erotica" sought him out to write a book aimed at encouraging homosexuality in high schools and colleges. The result was "Becoming Visible," which opens with, "Why teach gay and lesbian history? … Indeed, as lesbian and gay studies has emerged as a discipline over the last two decades, its dramatic discoveries have shown it to be one of the most exciting fields in contemporary historical scholarship." Researchers at Mass Resistance reported Sasha Alyson of Alyson Publications sought out Jennings to do the book.

In Jennings' acknowledgments for the book, he writes, "Writing this part of the book has caused me more anxiety than any other. It simply is not possible to express my gratitude to the many people who have helped make this book possible. ... With apologies to anyone omitted, here we go! The obvious place to begin is with Alyson Publications. First, Sasha Alyson had the vision to conceive of this project, and I had the good luck to be the person he sought out to complete it. I am deeply appreciative of being afforded this opportunity."

WND also has reported concerns by Mission America over subject material in books recommended by GLSEN for school children. The group's Linda Harvey warned, "GLSEN believes the early sexualization of children can be beneficial. This means that virtually any sexual activity as well as exposure to graphic sexual images and material, is not just permissible but good for children, as part of the process of discovering their sexuality." Her report cited one passage from a book recommended for students in grades 7-12: "I released his arms. They glided around my neck, pulling my head down to his. I stretched full length on top of him, our heads touching. Our heavy breathing from the struggle gradually subsided. I felt …"

What follows in "Growing Up Gay/Growing Up Lesbian" by Malcolm Boyd is a "graphic description" of a homosexual encounter.

More here

British teachers trying to shoot the messenger

Head teachers are threatening to block the publication of primary school league tables next year after branding them “demoralising”. The National Association of Head Teachers said it was “determined” that 2009's rankings would the last of their kind. The union, which represents the majority of primary school leaders, warned that members would boycott Sats tests in 2010 unless they were scrapped – making them effectively impossible to proceed. The proposed action is being backed by the National Union of Teachers. It comes despite the announcement of an overhaul of league tables by Labour.

Mick Brookes, general secretary, said: “NAHT is determined that this is the last time that this system will be used to unfairly compare schools in vastly different contexts. "League tables of pupil performance are misleading to parents. They are also demoralising for schools and school leaders, particularly those working tirelessly in tough communities, and they add nothing to the impetus for school improvement."

Unions claim Sats narrow the curriculum and promote a culture of "teaching to the test" as school attempt to climb league tables. Some schools cut subjects such as history, art and PE in the final year of primary school to drill pupils to pass, it is claimed. Under the proposed industrial action, teachers would refuse to administer, invigilate and mark Sats in English and maths next year. It would affect most exams taken by almost 600,000 pupils in England in May.

Last week, Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, signalled a softening of his opposition to the scrapping of Sats. He said teacher assessments - when staff analyse pupils' work over the course of the final year without a formal test - would would be included alongside raw Sats results in league tables from 2010. He suggested the alternative system could eventually replace tests altogether. But unions have refused to call off the proposed boycott.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Every year teachers ask themselves why their schools have to go through this charade. There is only one answer to the annual, traditional hunt for ‘the worst school in the country’. Governments now and in the future have to drop their deeply engrained habit of naming and shaming schools as their principle method of school improvement."

Diana Johnson, the Schools Minister, said: "Figures demonstrate exactly why it’s important that we have a strong school accountability system, based on externally validated results. "Tests in English and maths play a key role in giving parents the information they need on their child's level of attainment and progress after seven years of publically funded education.”

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, which opposes the industrial action, said: "I have no doubt that the results will once again show the steady and sustained year-on-year improvement schools consistently produce. "However, the tables will no doubt once again provoke the mind-numbing debate on Sats which will serve only to undermine the hard work and achievement of pupils and teachers."

Sats tests in science were scrapped earlier this year following a recommendation from the Government's expert group on testing.


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