Monday, February 18, 2013

Obama Wants Universal Preschool, Even Though It's Expensive and Ineffective

President Obama made some pretty grand claims for the power of preschool:

"Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on—by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own"

The president is proposing a national preschool entitlement, focused on low- and middle-income families. (Though his actual preschool proposal is only slightly more detailed than what he mentioned in his speech.)

If only we had some kind of large scale well-tracked pilot program that could give us some information about whether that is a good idea. Oh wait! We do! It's called Head Start, the $8 billion federal program catering to more than 1 million low-income kids.

Better still, the federal government has done a huge study, tracking 5,000 kids and comparing them to kids who did not have access to Head Start.

The findings are not impressive. A 2010 analysis of that group found that the cognitive, health, parenting, and social benefits of the program had vanished by first grade. And a 2012 look at the third grade outcomes was even less heartening, with no discernible academic gains and teachers reporting slightly more behavioral problems in the Head Start kids.

Even if Georgia and Oklahoma have managed to formulate slightly more effective programs (Georgia is experimenting with a voucher-like system), there's still the larger evidence of the performance of American public schools overall in the last couple of decade. Spending is way, way up while academic results remain flat.

The current performance of Head Start and public schools overall is not exactly making a compelling case that we should spend hundreds of billions more dollars to shovel kids into this system earlier.


Loudmouth Pennsylvania graduate student sues over her grade

Graduate student Megan Thode wasn't happy about the C-plus she received for one class, saying the mediocre grade kept her from getting her desired degree and becoming a licensed therapist -- and, as a result, cost her $1.3 million in lost earnings.

Now Thode is suing her professor and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, claiming monetary damages and seeking a grade change.

A judge is hearing testimony in the case this week in Northampton County Court. Lehigh and the professor contend her lawsuit is without merit. Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano declined to dismiss the suit Wednesday, ruling that there was enough evidence for the suit to proceed, according to The (Easton) Express-Times.

Thode took the class in the fall of 2009. Her instructor, Amanda Eckhardt, testified this week that she stood by the grade, saying Thode failed to behave professionally and thus earned zero out of 25 points in class participation, bumping her down a full letter grade.  "I ... believed she received the grade she earned," Eckhardt said.

The C-plus prevented Thode, an otherwise A student, from going on to the next class and advancing in her professional therapist studies, the newspaper reported. She wound up getting a master's degree in human development instead.

Her attorney, Richard Orloski, argued that Eckhardt targeted Thode because she is an outspoken advocate for gay marriage.

Eckhardt testified that while she believes marriage is between a man and a woman, she would never allow her personal views to influence her treatment of students. She said Thode had outbursts in class, did not participate appropriately, was emotionally unstable and failed to heed a warning letter.

Stephen Thode, the plaintiff's father and a longtime finance professor at Lehigh, testified on his daughter's behalf and said her participation score was highly irregular.

"I have never heard of a case, not just at Lehigh, where a student achieved a zero in class participation where they attended and participated in every class," he said.


Students Told to Stop ‘USA!’ Chant, Take Off American Flag Bandanas

Four California high-school students were reportedly suspended for chanting “U.S.A! U.S.A!” and wearing American flag bandanas during a basketball game. While their punishment has since been rescinded, school administrators said “the incident is far from over.”

Oxnard Union School District superintendent Gabe Soumakian told Fox News Radio that “we need to pursue this further” and “work with teachers and students and the community about the concept of cultural proficiency.” Soumakian and Camarillo High School principal Glenn Lipman felt that the students’ actions might have had racist undertones since the schools have large Hispanic student populations.

“We wanted to make sure [their actions weren't] racially motivated, and I told the kids I just want to be sensitive to the feelings of everybody,” Lipman said. “If we’re doing it for patriotism, that’s fine. But if we’re doing it for something else that’s racially motivated, I’m not going to allow that.”

But the students deny any racial element to their chants. “We’ve done it always,” one student said. “It’s something we do. It’s the same group of friends. We’re all very patriotic.” The four students gained support from their peers: More than 100 students gathered by the school’s flagpole the following morning to protest in patriotic clothing.


No comments: