Friday, August 17, 2012

School at home or homeschooling?

Over the past several years an educational phenomenon has been exploding across America. Fed up with the homogenized, secular indoctrination; embrace of dysfunctional and sexualized behavior; and tolerance for rebellious and unruly children that largely define public education in the United States, an increasing number of parents are pulling their kids out of the local schools and opting instead for a home education plan.

According to Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), as of 2010 there were, by best estimates, over two million homeschooled students ages five to 18 in the United States, with the population of home educated students growing by up to six percent every year. While the reasons parents choose to teach their kids at home may vary, what is clear is that homeschooled kids outshine their public-schooled counterparts on just about every level.

Home-educated students typically score 15 to 30 points above public-school students on standardized achievement tests – and they do so regardless of their parents’ level of formal education. These taught-at-home students also typically score above the average on the SAT and ACT tests colleges use for admission – which means that most universities love having them, and in many cases actively recruit them. And while opponents warn that homeschooled students miss out on crucial opportunities for socialization provided in a public-school setting, the truth is that children educated at home typically score above average in tests of social, emotional, and psychological development.

Dr. Ray told The New American that increasingly parents throughout the United States are turning toward home-based education because “they want solid academics for their children, values and worldview that they choose rather than what the state chooses, stronger family relationships, and individualized education rather than a one-size-fits-all system.” He added that many concerned parents are fed up with the lax behavioral standards prevalent in most public schools.

Over the past 30 years, the traditional homeschool model has earned a reputation for providing the foundation many parents want for their children. With the help of private, free-market homeschool curriculums like A Beka, Bob Jones, A.C.E., and Alpha Omega – all with Christian foundations – tens of thousands of families raised a generation of Americans with solid academics, along with crucial scriptural training and the principles of Americanism that are essential to the nation’s future.

As homeschooling gained widespread popularity throughout the 1990s, the public-education establishment found it increasingly difficult to stop the exodus of families seeking something better for their children. But with the introduction of online learning in the late 1990s, a core of education “entrepreneurs” suggested that, using the charter-school concept, public schools might just offer their own version of homeschooling that would allow students to fulfill all the requirements set by a district – but instead of going to a classroom they could use an online curriculum.

One of those entrepreneurs was former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett, who in 1999 helped found a company called K12, which has gone on to be a leading player in what has become known as the “Virtual Academy.” Companies like K12 contract with school districts to provide curriculum and education consultants, in return reaping part of the local, state, and federal tax money that the district gets for each student. The families that sign on to these public-school virtual academies get “free homeschooling” for their kids – which typically includes “free” computers and other perks – while the school district retains the per-student monies it would have lost had those families gone with another homeschool option. It all sounds like a win-win scenario, right?

Wrong! Companies like K12 and Connections Academy have exerted great effort to convince the public that they are providing a quality homeschool option through public schools.

But homeschool experts point out that these public-school virtual academies have little in common with traditional homeschooling. Dr. Ray noted that while traditional homeschooling has always been privately funded and privately pursued, public-school virtual academies are tax-funded, state-run, and state-controlled. Ray emphasized that in the virtual academy model, “the state chooses and controls the curriculum – that which is used to teach, train, and indoctrinate the student.”

By contrast, he said, “in home-based education and private schools, parents and private organizations get to decide what is used to teach, train, and indoctrinate children. The center of power and control with a virtual academy is the state; in private education, it is parents, family, and freely-chosen private associations.”

While K12 boasts that online public school offers “powerful choices for parents,” and other virtual academies insist that their curricula give parents and students flexibility, a majority of those “choices” and flexibility are lost when it comes to one important element that has always been essential to a majority of homeschool parents: Christian instruction. Israel Wayne, a noted education expert, author, and publisher of the Home School Digest, explained that when parents contract with a state-run virtual academy to teach their kids, they are essentially surrendering their right to teach biblical concepts to their children in their homes (or elsewhere) during the scheduled school day.


Making college affordable

In late June Congress froze the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent for another year. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus claimed the extension would "make a high-quality education affordable for millions of students across the country."

President Obama was more dramatic. "If Congress does not get this done," he warned as Congress considered the rate freeze, "the average student with federal student loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt over the coming year . more than 7 million students will suddenly be hit with the equivalent of a $1,000 tax hike."

White House press secretary Jay Carney equated the extension with "offering hardworking students a fair shot at an affordable education."

In reality, extending the 3.4 percent interest rate for an additional year will save students with federal loans approximately $7 to $10 per month: enough for a couple of burgers with fries. But it will cost taxpayers $6 billion and do virtually nothing to make college more affordable.

That's because federal aid has not made college more affordable. There is ample evidence, in fact, that federal "aid" has helped drive up college costs and extending the lower interest rate just kicks the can down the road.

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 implemented a five-year, incremental reduction in federal student loan rates, with interest rates ranging from 6.8 percent during the 2007-08 academic year to 6.0 percent in 2008-09, 5.6 percent in 2009-10, 4.5 percent in 2010-11, and 3.4 percent in 2011-12.

If Congress had failed to freeze the rate at 3.4 percent, none of the existing loans would have been affected. Instead, it would have meant only that future loans - those taken out after July 1 of this year - would have closed at 6.8 percent, the rate that existed in 2007.

Some 6 million to 7 million out of approximately 19.7 million college students would have been affected.

College tuition has been increasing at about twice the general inflation rate for decades. The American Institute for Economic Research has calculated the increase from 2000 to 2011 at 112 percent.

Much of the increase in college costs has been due to administrative bloat, overbuilding, the proliferation of special-interest centers on campus, and light faculty teaching loads.

One recent analysis by Jay Greene, a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, found that the number of college and university administrators had increased more than twice as much as the number of instructors over a 15-year period. This is significant since dozens of mid-level and senior-level administrative positions command six-figure salaries, compared to the relative handful of faculty positions in that range.

Meanwhile, the percentage of students at public universities receiving their degrees within six years of enrolling as freshmen has remained just below 55 percent for a decade. The percentage graduating in four years has been stuck around 30 percent.

Federal subsidies have encouraged this situation. The reason is simple: Colleges are eligible to receive federal funds regardless of their productivity.

College students - and the taxpayers who often help support them - deserve real change, not spare change.  Rather than tinkering with loan interest rates, policymakers should focus on key basics.

Legislators should demand that taxpayer-subsidized institutions provide accurate information, including details about their graduates' success in the job market. We study everything else; why not this? Then students could make better-informed decisions about the costs of their degrees and their future job prospects.

Policymakers also should require postsecondary institutions to earn their subsidies by implementing "outcomes-based" reforms that provide federal assistance based on course and degree completion rates, instead of enrollment.

And they should encourage alternatives to the traditional four-year college, such as online courses. This would foster meaningful competition for students and introduce powerful pressure on existing institutions to be more efficient.

Such innovative reforms would do far more than a one-time, one-year interest rate freeze to make - and keep - college affordable.


Anger as distinguished British primary school teacher, 63, is tried for giving ‘worst pupil in 40 years’ a clip round the ear after he had attacked ten pupils

A dedicated teacher was subjected to a five month court ordeal after he was accused of assaulting an 'uncontrollable' pupil who had hit 10 classmates.

Roy Cope had to restrain a pupil at St Bartholomew's Church of England Primary School in Great Harwood, Lancashire, who displayed the 'worst behaviour' he had seen in his 41 years in the job.

The 63-year-old deputy head was accused of holding the boy by the wrists and slapping him on the side of the head after the youngster went berserk and flew into an 'incandescent rage.'

This child, not named for legal reasons, had lashed out at other pupils with his satchel, pinned one to the wall by the throat and shouted at a teacher.

Mr Cope was asked to intervene when the boy was ordered out of class and was spotted in a corridor shouting at another member of staff.

Blackburn Magistrates Court heard that the case, which cost taxpayers thousands, and if Mr Cope was convicted could have faced up to six months jail, but to huge cheers from the public gallery he was acquitted.

He claimed all along the boy slammed his head against his hand while violently swaying and rocking in a bid to run away.

Chairman of the bench Graham Parr said: 'We accept that there were aggravating facts presented to us in that the boy was behaving in an unruly manner. We really have doubts over whether the contact constituted an assault.'

After the case was thrown out Mr Cope’s son Robin, speaking on his behalf, said: 'The family have had overwhelming support over my father’s case but it should never have come to court in the first place.

'The fact is there is an issue today with unruly children and it has come to this where dedicated teachers are repeatedly appearing before the courts on their say-so.  'It caused a lot of distress and all because of one child where there were not enough measures in place to deal with him.'

A retired detective inspector and a parent gave evidence at the hearing praising Mr Cope as a dedicated and professional teacher of the 'highest standards.'

James Oldcorn, a parent, PTA member, governor at the school and former senior police officer, said: 'I always found Mr Cope a very enthusiastic teacher.  'He continued the very idea of a Christian School, where every child mattered.'

Wendy Litherland, the mother of a pupil at St Bartholomew's, said: 'Mr Cope is an absolutely outstanding teacher, he has dedicated his life to St Bartholomew's and all the parents are 100 per cent behind him.  'This is because of one child. There are not enough measures to deal with this.'

The court heard how the incident occurred last March while Mr Cope, from Accrington, was involved in a rehearsal for a forthcoming school production of Wind In The Willows.

The boy had become 'hysterical and out of control' in a class and one teacher, Thomas Lowe, said the pupil was in such a rage he grabbed railings to stop him being taken to Mr Cope’s office, continuously shouting ‘get off me, get off me’.

He said he saw Mr Cope hit the child and threaten to do it again if he did not calm down.  He told magistrates: 'Mr Cope was not using a technique I knew, but he seemed in charge. He was being forceful but fair.

'The child’s arms were flailing and he kept on shouting, getting more and more hysterical. Mr Cope released or lost control of the boy’s left arm and then he struck him across the face.'

Mr Neil White prosecuting said: 'Mr Cope has a long and distinguished teaching career with many decades behind him. He is a well-respected and well liked deputy head at the school.  'But the prosecution say that you cannot slap a boy across the face.'

Speaking in court Roy Cope responded: 'As a teacher with over 40 years’ experience this allegation has come as a great shock to me and caused me and my family great distress.

'Since the boy started school he was a disruptive and aggressive pupil and frequently disrupted the school. He is probably the worst of the pupils I have ever taught in 40 years of teaching and on occasions he is uncontrollable.  'He worked himself into an incandescent rage, I knew it was all bluster and knew he would eventually calm down. I had to be calm but firm with him.'

Another teacher went to Mr Cope’s aid as the tried to restrain the boy and calm him down.

But Mr Cope said: 'Because he had just been restrained he was more agitated than he had been and was trying to break free from his arms.  'I was trying to get him to stop wobbling round because he was getting more agitated and he slammed himself into my hand. He just kept rolling and rocking and trying to get rid of the restraint. All the time I was speaking in a calm quiet voice saying ‘calm down’ but once I had let go of his hands I may have said, ‘do you want me to do it again’ to stop his hands from moving.  'But I do not believe a slap across the face is a method of controlling children.'

Graham Boyes, a former headteacher at the school said: “Roy has worked to the highest of standards. He was an example to other members of staff.  'I have to say, over a long period of time the school functioned well and a lot of that was down to Roy’s work in the school.'

Mr Cope’s lawyer Simon Farnsworth said: 'The boy was an unruly pupil and has been since he started nursery. In Mr Cope’s experience the worst in over 40 years’ teaching.

'Mr Cope had been forceful but fair and went to assist as the boy’s arms were flaring. He is someone who deals with unruly pupils and he has dealt with these for many years.  'He is not the kind of man who would deliberately strike a young boy like this. This matter has got out of hand.'


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