Thursday, March 10, 2011

GAO: Teacher training an education on government waste

By federal standards, comparatively little money is spent on training teachers, but the excessive duplication and overlapping programs in this sliver of the budget stands out in a new report on government waste as a testament to bureaucratic inefficiencies.

In fiscal year 2009, the federal government spent $4 billion on professional development for teachers. But a report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says the money was divided among 82 different programs spread through 10 different government agencies.

Within the Department of Education itself, eight different offices administer 60 programs for teacher retraining. The GAO report suggested that evaluating the success of each is nearly impossible, because of a myriad of different criteria and manpower required to examine them would be prohibitively expensive.

Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, a frequent critic of intransigent bureaucracies, said these duplicative and fragmented programs are proof that the money devoted to such programs would be better funneled to individual states, and even school boards.

"There are hundreds of millions of Americans that grew up without a Department of Education. And certainly, an argument can be made that they're better educated than people that have been around since 1977, when that department was created," Schatz told Fox News.

The Department of Education is working to reduce the redundancy of these programs. In the agency's annual reauthorization proposal to Congress, the Obama administration has proposed combining 38 programs for training current teachers into 11. Critics admit that's a start, but that Congress must take the lead in reigning in such profligate overlap and confusion.

A central problem in seeking efficiencies in these programs for educators is that the effectiveness of teacher retraining programs is almost impossible to measure. Each of the scores of programs has different criteria for success. To measure it, would require yet a new layer of bureaucracy.

As the GAO report says, "It is more costly to administer many separate authorized federal programs, because each program has it’s own policies, applications, award competitions , reporting requirements and in some cases, federal evaluations."


Public Education: Progressive Indoctrination Camps

Why should liberals want to change the public educational system when it is turning out the product they have been striving for years to produce?

Check out these real news headlines from the past several weeks and months about the state of public education across the country:

--"U.S. teachers tell U.N. sex is a 'spectrum' -- advocate mandatory classes to free students from 'religion'"

--"Principal orders (Ten Commandments) yanked from school lockers"

--"Teens ask for more sex ed, greater condom availability"

--"University defines Christians as 'oppressors'"

--"Why Catholic Schools Score Better Than Public Schools"

--"Teachers take charge to save ailing public schools"

--"Texas Schools' Mandatory Arabic Classes Create Firestorm"

--"District taking money, but censoring Christians?"

--"No opting out of pro-gay school propaganda"

--"District pays up for slamming student's rosary"

--"Judge cites homeschoolers for violating U.N. mandate -- Police interrogate parents, confiscate their curriculum"

--"Some say schools giving Muslims special treatment"

On Dec. 27, 1820, Thomas Jefferson wrote about his vision for the University of Virginia (chartered in 1819): "This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."

But what should happen 200 years later when our public schools and universities avoid the testing of truths? Or suppress alternative opinions because they are unpopular or politically incorrect? Or no longer tolerate opinions now considered errors or obsolete by the elite? What happens when socio-political agendas or scientific paradigms dominate academic views to the exclusion of a minority's even being mentioned?

What happens when the political and public educational pendulum swings from concern for the tyranny of sectarianism in Jefferson's day to secularism in ours? What happens when U.S. public schools become progressive indoctrination camps?

Dr. Jim Nelson Black, founder and senior analyst of Sentinel Research Associates, wrote "Freefall of the American University," which is an excellent book. In it, he documents the clear biases pervading our public academic settings. Among that lopsidedness is the intentional training of students to disdain America, freely experiment sexually, forcefully defend issues such as abortion and homosexuality, and become cultural advocates for political correctness, relativism, globalization, green agendas and tolerance for all.

One of the primary ways these educative platforms are spread is by recruiting and retaining faculty members who reflect and teach them. For example, citing the polling firm Luntz Research, Black notes that 57 percent of faculty members in our most esteemed universities are Democrats (only 3 percent are Republican), and 64 percent identify themselves as liberal (only 6 percent conservative). Moreover, 71 percent of them disagree that "news coverage of political and social issues reflects a liberal bias in the news media." They also were asked, "Who has been the best president in the past 40 years?" The No. 1 answer was Bill Clinton. (Only 4 percent said Ronald Reagan.)

This is why it is no surprise that the two largest teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, are the largest campaign contributors in the nation (giving more than the Teamsters, the National Rifle Association or any other organization) and that 90 percent of their contributions fund Democratic candidates. So do you think such funding is going to balance traditional and conservative values with liberal ones in public schools?

The impact of progressivism is being experienced by students across this land, hundreds of thousands of whom already have cried out with complaints of academic inequity. A sampling of the hundreds of student grievances from across the academic spectrum can be found on Students For Academic Freedom's website.

It is also no surprise that an average of 6,000 students every year are leaving the approximately 94,000 public schools in America. If the powers-to-be over our public schools, such as government and unions, continue to oppose conservative curricula and impose overarching liberal educational revisions and laws, public schools will continue to experience an exodus.

I fully realize there are some great conservative people on the staffs of many public schools and universities, but I know that virtually all of them would concur that a liberal bias in our academic curricula and system is overwhelmingly dominant and ubiquitous.

Is this present restrictive and one-sided educational environment that which Thomas Jefferson and other Founders intended for the future generations of America? Absolutely not! Rather than encourage freethinking, the U.S. academic system has turned Jefferson's plans for open education into our culture's system of indoctrination.

(In Part 2, I will give eight specific ways that you and I can fight progressivism in the U.S. public education system. And speaking of education, I'm encouraging readers of my culture warrior column to read my new weekly health and fitness column, "C-Force." This past week's edition is about conventional and alternative medicine, and I explain the amazing benefits of the Sierra Integrative Medical Center in Reno, Nev.)


British school inspectors report slide in standards at quarter of schools

Almost a quarter of schools are getting worse as tough new Government inspections expose falling standards, figures suggest. Data published by Ofsted showed 23 per cent of state schools visited over a four month period last year were given a lower overall grade than in previous inspections.

The figures suggest thousands of schools nationally may be coasting or going backwards despite billions of pounds spent by Labour attempting to turn around underperforming primaries and secondaries.

The disclosure comes just a week after the Coalition wrote to councils in England ordering them to come up with action plans designed to improve standards in local schools.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said he would not “allow underperforming schools where children are not receiving the education they deserve to carry on, unreformed”.

Failing schools could be taken out of local authority control and converted into independent academies under the leadership of a new head teacher.

According to the latest figures, some 2,000 schools in England were inspected by Ofsted during the autumn term last year.

Under a new inspection regime, the watchdog has been ordered to focus more resources on weaker schools to root out underperformance, while leaving those deemed to be outstanding. The very top schools are only inspected if concerns are raised by parents or councils.

Despite attempts to improve standards of state education, figures show 23 per cent of schools inspected between September and December received a lower judgement than previously recorded, while almost half remained the same. Some 30 per cent improved. Currently, schools are rated on a four-point scale. In all, some seven per cent of schools inspected were ranked as inadequate, 37 per cent were satisfactory, 46 per cent were good and 10 per cent were outstanding.

Since September 2009, Ofsted inspections have focused more on pupils’ results combined with observing teachers in the classroom.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Education standards in this country have stalled, with England slipping down the international league tables. “To drive up standards, we are stepping in to turn around underperforming schools and are creating more excellent schools run by teachers – not bureaucrats – through the academies and free schools programmes.

“We are also encouraging the brightest people into teaching, creating a rigorous new curriculum and giving heads back the power to instil good discipline.

“It is vital that all parents – not just the rich – are able to send their child to a good local school that is right for them.”


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