Monday, April 14, 2014

Study: No connection between spending, student outcomes

For decades, it’s probably the most troublesome question facing education: Why are results for U.S. public school students so mediocre, despite the billions of taxpayer dollars spent?

Andrew Coulson thinks he’s got the answer: Because there is no discernible correlation between spending and outcomes.

“The takeaway from this study is that what we’ve done over the past 40 years hasn’t worked,” said Coulson, director of the Center For Educational Freedom at the CATO Institute. “The average performance change nationwide has declined 3 percent in mathematical and verbal skills. Moreover, there’s been no relationship, effectively, between spending and academic outcomes.”

The CATO Institute is a free-market think-tank based in Washington, D.C.

Coulson just released his study, “State Education Trends: Academic Performance and Spending over the Past 40 Years,” and he points to this chart that incorporates costs and the number of public school employees with student enrollment and test scores:

While spending has just about tripled in inflation-adjusted dollars and the number of school employees has almost doubled since 1970, reading, math and science scores for students have remained stagnant.

“That is remarkably unusual,” Coulson wrote in his study. “In virtually every other field, productivity has risen over this period thanks to the adoption of countless technological advances — advances that, in many cases, would seem ideally suited to facilitating learning. And yet, surrounded by this torrent of progress, education has remained anchored to the riverbed, watching the rest of the world rush past it.”

Coulson also looked at Scholastic Aptitude Test scores since 1972 and the numbers hold in each of the 50 states, including New Mexico:

“It’s really impressive how disconnected spending and achievement have been in our state public systems,” Coulson said in a telephone interview with New Mexico Watchdog.

Correlations are based on a scale between zero and one, with the higher the number approaching 1.0 suggesting a perfect correlation between spending and results. Coulson’s figures came out well below 1.0 — at .0075. In other words, the numbers Coulson worked with would have to be more than 13 times stronger to suggest a perfect correlation.

“The 0.075 figure reported here suggests that there is essentially no link between state education spending (which has exploded) and the performance of students at the end of high school (which has generally stagnated or declined),” Coulson wrote in the 60-page report.

Coulson also says that not only is there no evidence that spending increases improve scores, he says the statistics show that decreases in spending have no discernible effect in negatively influencing student scores.

“At one time or another over the past four decades, Alaska, California, Florida and New York all experienced multi-year periods over which real spending fell substantially (20 percent or more of their 1972 expenditure levels),” he wrote. “And yet, none of these states experienced noticeable declines in adjusted SAT scores.”

But if spending has no affect, then why do students at private schools, which charge tuition, perform better than students in public schools?

“Actually, the average per-pupil spending in private schools is substantially below the average per-pupil spending in government schools,” Coulson said.

He pointed to a  study he conducted in New Mexico’s neighboring state of Arizona in which Coulson said average per-pupil spending at private schools was about 66 percent of the cost of public schools.

National studies have shown the average per-pupil spending in the U.S. exceeds $11,000.

“There are many states in which you can find very many private schools for half that amount, certainly many for three-quarters of that,” Coulson said.

New Mexico Voices for Children, which has long advocated for increased spending for public schools, dismissed Coulson’s study.

“The Cato report assumes that education money is spent the same way it was in the 1960s and ’70s,” the organization said in an email to New Mexico Watchdog. “In fact, schools have been mandated to provide many more services—special education, after-school programs, computer sciences, etc.—and today’s classrooms require much more technology than they did in the days of the mimeograph. Ignoring this would be like looking at the rising cost of the automobile without taking into account the fact that modern cars have safety systems and technology that didn’t exist in the days of the Model T.”

Other critics of Coulson’s study point to his use of SAT numbers. Since 1986, the number of students taking the SAT has more than doubled. Since more students are taking the test because more students are attending college than in the past, the numbers would flatten.

Coulson said he adjusted and controlled for the test scores.

“It does seem that it is quite readily possible to control SAT scores for the participation rate and variations in demographics to get an estimate of real, representative state performance,” he said.


California's Brownshirt Anti-Semitism Comes to Vassar

California is the lifestyle incubator of the nation. And now the trendy anti-Semitic thuggery that debuted at California's public universities has metastasized across America, all the way to the elite halls of Vassar.

Before we discuss the fashionable pogrom that just took place on the Vassar campus where Jackie Kennedy once strolled in pearls, let's look back at May 7, 2002. On that day, Professor Laurie Zoloth, Director of the Jewish Studies program at San Francisco State University, attended a "Peace in the Middle East" campus rally, organized by Hillel students, where they sang songs and prayed for peace in Israel. Wrote Professor Zoloth:

    "As soon as the community supporters left, the 50 students who remained praying in a minyan for the traditional afternoon prayers, or chatting, or cleaning up after the rally, talking -- were surrounded by a large, angry crowd of Palestinians and their supporters. But they were not calling for peace. They screamed at us to ‘go back to Russia' and they screamed that they would kill us all, and other terrible things. They surrounded the praying students, and the elderly women who are our elder college participants, who survived the Shoah, who helped shape the Bay Area peace movement, only to watch as a threatening crowd shoved the Hillel students against the wall of the plaza.

    "As the counter demonstrators poured into the plaza, screaming at the Jews to ‘Get out or we will kill you' and ‘Hitler did not finish the job,' I turned to the police and to every administrator I could find and asked them to remove the counter demonstrators from the Plaza, to maintain the separation of 100 feet that we had been promised. The police told me that they had been told not to arrest anyone, and that if they did, "it would start a riot." I told them that it already was a riot."

Eventually, the terrified Jewish students gathered under the flag of Israel and were led by armed police guard back to the Hillel House. "This was neither free speech nor discourse, but raw, physical assault," wrote Professor Zoloth, who noted with sadness, "Not one administrator came to stand with us."

May 7, 2002 turned out to be a grand day for Jew-haters, because things only got better from there. Threatening, harassing, intimidating and assaulting Jews is now a venerable tradition on California's public campuses, protected by taxpayer-funded administrators and enshrined by public indifference.

Let's flash forward to San Francisco State University today. Mohammad Hammad, president of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), has recently enjoyed organizing campus art projects that read "My heroes have always killed colonizers," posing on social media sites with a knife that he claims "makes me want to stab an Israeli soldier," and vowing to use his GUPS presidency "to radicalize half of our population and bring them back with me as fighters."

Upon being informed of these threats by a Jewish group called AMCHA Initiative, SFSU President Leslie Wong took decisive action by yawning, shrugging and sticking his fingers in his ears. After the police intervened, Mohammad Hammad disappeared from campus, presumably with his weapons collection intact. But the radical student group that elected him president still has free reign.

AMCHA Initiative, led by the politely relentless Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, documents the anti-Semitic tsunami on University of California's campuses. At UC Berkeley, a Jewish girl holding an "Israel Wants Peace" sign was ramrodded with a shopping cart by the head of Students for Justice in Palestine. At UC Irvine, eleven Muslim students disrupted the speech of the Israeli Ambassador with such ferocity they were convicted of disturbing the peace. And on and on and on.

The regal disinterest of UC's Board of Regents has allowed the cancer to spread. If these characters can get away with it in California, they can pull it off in Michigan, Boston, and Brooklyn, too.  As Caroline Glick explains, anti-Israel student activists at the University of Michigan recently hurled death threats at Jewish student council members and called them "dirty Jew" and "kike."  Michigan university administrators aggressively intervened -- on behalf of the anti-Semites.

Last February, Brooklyn College campus police forcibly removed four Jewish students who were peacefully monitoring an anti-Israel event. Brooklyn College administrators then lied about the Jewish students, claiming they were disruptive. Karen Gould, the college president, was forced to apologize to the students after a video exonerated them.

And at Northeastern University in Boston, a pressure campaign finally goaded administrators into suspending Students for Justice in Palestine's campus affiliation for a year, after a series of vicious provocations. Students defaced a menorah on campus, disrupted Jewish events, and frightened Jews by placing mock eviction notices on their dormitory rooms.

Now it's Vassar's turn. Long gone are the days chronicled in Mary McCarthy's famous novel, "The Group," in which aristocratic young women clad in sweater sets gained a little academic polish while searching for husbands. Now Vassar is all about multiculturalism, with one notable exception: It's edgy, it's cool, it's hip to hate Israel.   Thirty-nine Vassar faculty members  (including, tragically, Joshua Schreier, Director of Jewish Studies) signed a libelous letter supporting an academic boycott of Israel, in which they accused the Jewish state of cartoonish evils. As on the other campuses, the road to physically intimidating Jews was paved with academic corruption.

A planned trip to Israel with Earth Sciences Professor Jill Schneiderman and Greek and Roman Studies Professor Rachel Friedman has set off a firestorm of anti-Semitic fury. In late February, Students for Justice in Palestine activists physically intimidated students going into Professor Friedman's class to discuss the upcoming trip. According to William Jacobson's invaluable reporting at the Legal Insurrection blog, Professor Friedman was "shocked" and "in 17 years at Vassar never experienced anything like this."

Vassar's administration then convened a campus-wide forum to discuss "the ethics of the travel trip." On March 3rd, 200 people gathered for an "open conversation" which quickly degenerated into what Schneiderman described as a "very toxic atmosphere" in which "rage against Israel was the theme." "I was knocked off-center by a belligerent academic community dedicated to vilifying anyone who dares set foot in Israel," wrote Schneiderman on her blog. Friedman said that Jewish students who spoke in defense of Israel were heckled, drowned out with finger-snapping noises and loudly laughed at.

So far, Vassar president Catharine Bond Hill has refused to comment. But Vassar's national reputation has taken a serious hit, and a newly formed group of parents and alumni called Fairness to Israel may continue to press the issue.

The anti-Semitism weaponized at California universities has now infected campuses around the country. The academic community bears the blame for its studied indifference to this ugliness and its outright enthusiasm for tormenting Jewish students and faculty.

But the Jewish community must also acknowledge its failure to effectively combat this dangerous trend. Mainstream Jewish institutions have been AWOL from the battle. Now that Abe Foxman is finally retiring from the Anti-Defamation League, it's time to replace him with someone who knows how to start winning.


Why is Israel Losing the PR Battle At American Campuses?

From the birth of the state of Israel in 1948 to the 1980's, comments about this Jewish nation were uniformly and reflexively positive. Jews and non-Jews alike took pride in the resourcefulness of a people who could make the desert bloom and who had the backbone and will to defend themselves against Arab invaders.

Somewhere along the way this view changed. It wasn't a sudden event, albeit the astonishing alacrity of an Israeli victory over its enemies in 1967 seemed to turn the underdog into a dominant force. It was a shift borne of economic, cultural and political factors.

On the economics front, the reliance of the West on Middle Eastern oil to run their industries gave Arab states leverage they did not possess at any time in the past. Israel became a target and a refuge. On the one hand, the argument was made that Israel is an occupying nation that had displaced Palestinian refugees; on the other hand, the Arab states could hide behind the claim of Nakba or "the catastrophe" as they violated human rights in their own nations. Israel became a useful source of hostility even though Arab states did almost nothing to mitigate the plight of the refugees they claimed to represent.

Oil money also allowed for the promotion of these misguided historical interpretations in madrassas around the world. Israel was considered colonial, exploitive and imperialistic. Buttressing these claims, was a book, Orientalism, that captured the spirit of this Arab Zeitgeist. The author, Edward Said, was handsome, charming and persuasive. He was also a fabricator. His contention that he was born in the Palestinian territory and was forcibly displaced by Israeli troops, is a complete fabrication. That, however, didn't matter. His book became essential reading material for any student interested in Middle East studies. As Chairman Mao noted a lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth.

Not only did Said have a well endowed chair at Columbia, he was the architect of the university's Middle East Studies Program which is notoriously anti-Israel. Of course, Columbia is not alone. Saudi money was given to Georgetown, Yale, UCLA, and others - all with the understanding that the Arab narrative would be given a fair hearing. Without a countervailing argument the "fair" became, in large measure, "the one sided." The well funded Muslim Student Organization (MSO) described in the Holy Land Foundation case as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood - was launched at campuses across the nation with an agenda that demonizes Israel and recruits impressionable teenagers into its ranks. MSO was described in the Holy Land Foundation case, that dealt with contributions in the U.S. solicited for terrorist organizations like Hamas, as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Many Muslim groups sponsor "interfaith" seminars designed, it is said, to develop an understanding with Islam. What actually occurs is a form of proselytizing since principles of the West and the history of Israel are not conveyed to Arab students. Interfaith is usually a one way street.

The same might be said of the United Nations. Despite the heroic campaign to beat back the "Zionism is racism" proposal of the 57 Muslim states and their allies, Israel is the most vilified nation in General Assembly deliberations. In fact, Israel is cast as a rogue state, notwithstanding the medical assistance Israel provides whenever there is a global natural disaster.

So pervasive is the Arab narrative that even Jewish groups, e.g. "J-Street" and several Hillels, espouse this line or, at least, assume the grievance has legitimacy. As a consequence, Israel is not only opposed by foes, but by so-called friends. This is somewhat akin to the Pogo position: "I have seen the enemy and it is us."

To suggest that pro-Israeli sentiment needs a boost, is to maintain the obvious. Without it, however, the road ahead is littered with dangerous metaphorical mines each intent on blowing up pro-Israeli attitudes and delegitimizing the home of the Jews.


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