Friday, January 03, 2014

Christie Gives Undocumented Students Access to In-State Tuition

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed landmark legislation at the end of December which allowed the state’s undocumented high school students access to in-state tuition at all public colleges and universities.

Under the new legislation, students who graduated from a New Jersey high school where they had been in attendance for at least three years are eligible to receive in-state and in-county rates at state colleges, universities, and community college campuses.

“This is what compromise looks like,” the governor said of the bill, deemed the state’s “Dream Act.” Christie signed the original bill with a conditional veto, forcing Democrats in the Legislature to remove a provision that allowed access to state financial aid. Upon the bill’s return, both the Senate and the Assembly quickly agreed to Christie’s revision.

While many in the state hailed the passage as an historic compromise, Christie still came under fire from critics on both the left and right. Immigration advocates claim Christie’s exclusion of access to financial aid unfairly punishes students who were brought to this country by no choice of their own and produces a roadblock to their potential success. Critics on the right are afraid that the legislation, as is, will cost the state millions of taxpayer dollars and reduce the number of opportunities for native-born and legal immigrant students.

The New York Times reported Christie stating, “I care about taking care of New Jersey kids, whether they’re citizens or undocumented.” The same article cited New Jersey as part of a handful of states that allow in-state tuition for undocumented students, with only three states – California, Texas, and New Mexico – allowing unauthorized immigrants access to financial assistance.

Despite increasing political speculation as 2016 approaches, Christie continues to work through controversial topics in a deeply democratic state. As the political events in the Garden State gain more national attention, we will see if the Governor's leadership style appeals to a broader base.


Common Core

John Stossel

My TV producers asked our Facebook audience to vote for a topic they'd most like to hear discussed on my year-end show. The overwhelming winner, for some reason: the education standards program Common Core.

Most Americans don't even know what that is. But they should. It's the government's plan to try to bring "the same standard" to every government-run school.

This may sound good. Often, states dumb down tests to try to "leave no child behind." How can government evaluate teachers and reward successful schools if there isn't a single national standard?

But when the federal government imposes a single teaching plan on 15,000 school districts across the country, that's even more central planning, and central planning rarely works. It brings stagnation.

Education is a discovery process like any other human endeavor. We might be wrong about both how to teach and what to teach, but we won't realize it unless we can experiment -- compare and contrast the results of different approaches. Having "one plan" makes it harder to experiment and figure out what works.

Some people are terrified to hear "education" and "experiment" in the same sentence. Why take a risk with something as important as my child's education? Pick the best education methods and teach everyone that way!

But we don't know what the best way to educate kids is.

As American education has become more centralized, the rest of our lives have become increasingly diverse and tailored to individual needs. Every minute, thousands of entrepreneurs struggle to improve their products. Quality increases, and costs often drop.

But centrally planned K-12 education doesn't improve. Per-student spending has tripled (governments now routinely spend $300,000 per classroom!), but test results are stagnant.

"Everyone who has children knows that they're all different, right? They learn differently," observed Sabrina Schaeffer of the Independent Women's Forum on my show. "In the workplace, we're allowing people flexibility to telecommute, to have shared jobs. In entertainment, people buy and watch what they want, when they want." Having one inflexible model for education "is so old-fashioned."

No Child Left Behind programs were an understandable reaction to atrocious literacy and graduation rates -- but since school funding was pegged to students' performance on federally approved tests, classroom instruction became largely about drilling for those tests and getting the right answers, even if kids did little to develop broader reasoning skills. So along comes Common Core to attempt to fix the problem -- and create new ones.

Common Core de-emphasizes correct answers by awarding kids points for reasoning, even when they don't quite get there.

A video went viral online that showed a worried mom, Karen Lamoreaux -- a member of the group Arkansas Against Common Core -- complaining to the Arkansas Board of Education about complicatedly worded math problems meant for fourth-graders. She read to the Board this question: "Mr. Yamato's class has 18 students. If the class counts around by a number and ends with 90, what number did they count by?"


But I could be wrong. Maybe this is a clever new way to teach math, and maybe Lamoreaux worries too much. Unfortunately, though, if Lamoreaux is right, and the federal government is wrong, government still gets to decree its universal solution to this problem.

Promoters of Common Core say, "Don't worry, Common Core is voluntary." This is technically true, but states that reject it lose big federal money. That's Big Government's version of "voluntary."

Common Core, like public school, public housing, the U.S. Postal Service, the Transportation Security Administration, etc., are all one-size-fits-all government monopolies. For consumers, this is not a good thing.

With the future riding on young people consuming better forms of education, I'd rather leave parents and children (and educators) multiple choices.

Despite Common Core, Schaeffer pointed out that this year did bring some victories for educational freedom. "We saw new education tax credit programs and expansion of tax credit programs in numerous states -- Alabama, Indiana, Iowa and others. Education Savings Accounts expanded in other states; voucher programs expanded."

This is good news. Vouchers, Education Savings Accounts and tax credits create competition and choice.


School league tables 2013: 50,000 bright British  pupils 'going backwards'

Almost 50,000 of England’s brightest children are effectively going backwards in the last few years of primary education, it emerged today.

School-by-school league tables show that more than a third of pupils – 37 per cent – gained relatively higher scores in assessments taken at seven than exams sat at the age of 11.

The Department for Education branded the disclosure “unacceptable” and insisted that too many children who make bright starts to their education are being allowed to fall “back into the pack”.

It also emerged that three-quarters of low-achievers at seven were still consigned to the lowest ability groups at 11, while almost fifth of those considered average performers as infants failed to reach their potential.

The disclosure was made in official rankings for around 16,000 primary schools in England.

It comes just 24 hours after the head of Ofsted called for the best teaching to be more evenly spread among all age groups to prevent a “dip” in pupil performance half-way through primary and secondary education.

He also recommended more rigorous exams at seven and 14 to accurately track pupils' progress.

Today’s league tables measure standards in reading, writing and maths at the age of 11 just before pupils move on to secondary education.

Figures show that:

 *  Some 25 per cent of children – 129,000 – left primary school in July without hitting the expecting standard for their age, Level 4, in the three core subjects. Results were unchanged from 2012;

 *  The proportion of pupils gaining the target level increased by one percentage point in maths to 84 percent, while writing scores increased by two points to 83 per cent;

 *  But in reading, results actually dropped back this summer from 86 to 87 per cent;

Currently, pupils’ performance is assessed informally in the classroom at seven before pupils take formal exams at 11.

It emerged that 126,230 children were considered high-fliers at seven and should have been expected to score elite Level 5 grades in SATs tests four years later.

But today’s figures show that 47,280 failed to do so. This included around 1,300 who failed to even reach Level 4.

At the other end of the spectrum, 91,333 were considered “low attainers” at seven. Of those, almost three-quarters remained in the lowest groups at 11.

However, the DfE insisted that figures showed how some schools were achieving against-the-odds by driving up standards among low-achieving pupils.

In all, 23,377 of these children – 26 per cent – went on to hit the Level 4 target at the end of primary education.

Some 25 schools managed to push every low-attaining pupil on their books onto Level 4 or better by the age of 11, it was revealed.

A DfE spokesman said: “Every child must be challenged to achieve their best.

“These results show that some children who were struggling at seven have made real progress by 11 and are now performing as well, or even better, than was expected.

“However, there are still too many cases where the opposite is true. It is unacceptable that children who made such bright starts to their school career have fallen back into the pack.

“The difference between success and failure is so often great teaching – our reforms are raising standards by improving the quality of teaching and delivering discipline in the classroom.”


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