Friday, April 26, 2013

Powerful Evidence for School Choice

I expressed pessimism a few days ago about the possibility of replacing the corrupt internal revenue code with a flat tax. Either now or in the future.

But that’s an exception to my general feeling that we’re moving in the right direction on public policy. I’ve shared a list of reasons to be optimistic, even on issues such as  Obamacare and the Laffer Curve.

Education is another area where we should be hopeful. Simply stated, it’s increasingly difficult for defenders of the status quo to rationalize pouring more money into the failed government education monopoly. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never has so much been spent so recklessly with such meager results.

That’s true regardless of whether Democrats are throwing good money after bad or whether Republicans are throwing good money after bad.

Fortunately, a growing number of people are realizing that the answer is markets and competition. That’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing progress all over the country. Policy makers have implemented varying degrees of school choice in states such as Indiana, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, and even California.

Is this having a positive impact on educational outcomes and other key variables? The answer, not surprisingly, is yes.

Here are some of the details from a new study published by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

This report surveys the empirical research on school choice. …the empirical evidence consistently shows that choice improves academic outcomes for participants and public schools, saves taxpayer money, moves students into more integrated classrooms, and strengthens the shared civic values and practices essential to American democracy.

The data on academic outcomes surely is the most important bit of information, so let’s specifically review those findings.

Twelve empirical studies have examined academic outcomes for school choice participants using random assignment, the “gold standard” of social science. Of these, 11 find that choice improves student outcomes—six that all students benefit and five that some benefit and some are not affected. One study finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found a negative impact.

And since I want to reduce the burden of government spending, let’s see whether school choice is good news for taxpayers.

Six empirical studies have examined school choice’s fiscal impact on taxpayers. All six find that school choice saves money for taxpayers. No empirical study has found a negative fiscal impact.

Here’s the breakdown of the studies for all the variables.

As you can see, it’s a slam dunk, much as a survey of tax research found that nearly 90 percent of academic studies concluded that class-warfare tax policy is destructive.

Some of the tax research was inconclusive, but not a single study supported the notion that higher tax rates are good for growth, much as this new research from the Friedman Foundation didn’t uncover a single study that found negative results from school choice.

So with lots of positive research and no negative research, why would anybody oppose school choice? Unfortunately, politicians like Barack Obama and groups such as the NAACP side with teacher unions, putting political power ahead of progress and opportunity for kids.


Knitting's classroom comeback: Subject set to return to lessons after school found it improved behaviour and maths skills

It was last taught in the classroom when throwaway fashion was unimaginable and people had to make do and mend.  But knitting, sewing and embroidery are making a comeback in design and technology lessons as children learn traditional home skills again.

Knitting has not been widely taught for decades, but after one school found it had the knock-on effect of improving pupils' maths and behaviour, it is returning for boys and girls aged up to 14.

At Worth Primary School, near Deal in Kent, teachers said it improved behaviour, helped pupils learn to write and encouraged them to have proper discussions with each other rather than play with their phones.

They were so impressed with the impact of a lunchtime knitting club that they started incorporating it into other lessons.  During maths lessons, pupils created a design then calculated the number of stitches they would need.  In history, pupils learned about the clothing worn in the Middle Ages and how to make it.

Headmistress Lynne Moore said: 'It has dramatically improved behaviour, and it really helps communication. Instead of playing on their phones or computers, the children knit and talk to each other. They have proper conversations.'

Teachers and parents are now being consulted on a planned shake-up of the national curriculum next year.

The proposed curriculum states children will be taught 'to plan, design, make, repair and evaluate decorative and/or practical objects, using a range of textiles and employing common techniques such as sewing, embroidery and knitting'.

But Caroline Wright, of the British Educational Suppliers Association, said yesterday: 'These proposals will result in some fabulous knitwear but, sadly, fewer world-class engineers and innovators.'

Make Do And Mend was the title of an official booklet produced during the Second World War when wool was in short supply and women were urged to unpick old garments and reuse the wool. Knitting patterns were issued to the public to show them how to make winter clothes.

After the war, girls learned knitting at school. Its popularity soared in the 1960s when people used new ranges of brightly coloured wool to emulate the latest fashions.  But in the 1980s it went into decline as earnings went up and people could afford high street fashions.

It was phased out of lessons completely with the introduction of the national curriculum in 1988.

However there has been a revival thanks to the internet, with millions of people exchanging patterns online.


British teachers told not to use red ink in case it upsets pupils: Tory MP slams 'political correctness gone wild’

Teachers have been told not to use red link to mark homework to avoid upsetting pupils.  The edict has been condemned as ‘absolutely political correctness gone wild’ which risks leaving students in the dark about where they have gone wrong.

Ministers have been forced to distance themselves from the bizarre policy, insisting no government rules exist on what colour pens teachers use.

The policy would appear to be at odds with the back to basics approach of Education Secretary Michael Gove who has insisted teachers must mark pupils down for poor spelling and grammar.

He has warned that in the past too little has been done to focus on core skills to ensure young people are confident in key writing skills.

Tory MP Bob Blackman revealed his anger after being told a secondary school in his Harrow East constituency had banned teachers from using red ink.  He told MailOnline: ‘A teacher contacted me and said I cannot believe I have been instructed by my head to mark children’s homework in particular colours and not to use certain colours.  ‘It is all about not wanting to discourage youngsters if their work is marked wrong.

‘It sounds to me like some petty edict which is nonsense. It is absolutely political correctness gone wild.

‘My take on all this is to say children need to understand the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong.’

Mr Blackman took his concerns to ministers, tabling a parliamentary question whether the government issues guidelines which ‘prohibit or discourage the use of red ink for the purposes of marking or commenting on students’ schoolwork’.

Elizabeth Truss, the ministers responsible for school attendance and cutting bureaucracy, insisted: ‘No, the Department does not issue guidelines which prohibit or discourage the use of red ink for marking student’s schoolwork.’

It is thought the policy is set by the headteacher, and not Labour-run Harrow council.

Mr Blackman refused to name the school to protect the teacher who had spoken out.

But he said he was going to take the issue up with the headteacher to ensure pupils were told when they had got things wrong.

Mr Blackman added: ‘If they have got their homework wrong they need to be told it is wrong and to understand what the right answers are. The idea that they should use this or that colour is madness.’

Earlier this year a US study suggested that teachers should stop using red pens because the colour is associated with 'warning, prohibition, caution, anger, embarrassment and being wrong'.

Researchers showed students think they've been assessed more harshly when their work is covered in red ink compared to more neutral colours like blue.

Sociologists Richard Dukes and Heather Albanesi from the University of Colorado told the Journal of Social Science: 'The red grading pen can upset students and weaken teacher-student relations and perhaps learning.'

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, slammed the findings saying: 'In my own experience of 35 years in teaching is that children actually prefer teachers to use red ink because they can read comments more easily.

'I think this research is misguided. The problem with using a colour like green or blue is that it's not clear. A lot of schools seem to have a culture where they don't like critcising children but actually this helps them.

'It's not intimidating children want to see where they've made a mistake. I think it's a rather silly idea.'

Under the last Labour government red ink was banned in hundreds of schools because it was considered 'confrontational' and 'threatening'.


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