Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Why Do Politicians Want to End a Program That Actually Works?
It’s hard to say which is more galling: when politicians want to extend the life of a program that doesn’t work, or when they want to pull the plug on one that does.
A prime example of the latter: the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. It allows children from low-income families to attend the school of their choice. The OSP has helped more than 6,000 kids get a better start in life—a chance to learn in a safe, challenging school environment where they can reach their full potential.
Unfortunately, the program has come under fire from certain politicians who—not coincidentally—are beholden to teachers’ unions that resent the competition. The District’s Democratic Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton calls OSP “undemocratic.” The Obama administration has zeroed out funding for the program in its latest budget, setting it up to be phased out over time.
How anyone could want to snuff the OSP—or any effective school choice program, for that matter—is a mystery. Undemocratic? What could be more democratic, more American, than making every effort to ensure that children are able to climb as high and go as far as their brains and their drive can take them?
“When parents have better choices, their kids have a better chance,” Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said at a recent debate over the future of the OSP.
But the OSP has more to offer than anecdotal evidence. The program has empirical data on its side, too. As Scott has noted, 98 percent of recent scholarship recipients have gone on to two-year or four-year colleges, and 93 percent of them graduate on time, compared to 58 percent in D.C. public schools.
The OSP is more economical as well. D.C. public schools spend about $20,000 per pupil. OSP students, meanwhile, attend private schools for $8,500 (or $12,000 in high school).
Even better, the OSP improves graduation rates. “A 2010 evaluation published by the U.S. Department of Education found that the impact of voucher use in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program resulted in a 91 percent graduation rate for participants, compared to a 70 percent graduation rate among the control group,” Burke and Ford write.
A high school dropout earns about $19,000 in annual income. Compare that to the $28,000 a high school graduate earns—and the $52,000 a college graduate earns.
Small wonder that parents are such strong supporters. More than one study has found high parent satisfaction rates. As one parent put it: “When my son dressed in that uniform with that green blazer, the white shirt, tie, gray trousers, and he looked like a gentleman and a scholar, and he had his hair cut and his glasses, he was just grinning from ear to ear [because] he was going to be a part of that [new school culture], and he went to school that day and he was excited about going to school.”
Sounds like a recipe for success. We’re helping kids from lower-income families achieve their dreams. Can anyone offer a logical reason to kill a program that does that?
Hm: All 15 Charter School Applicants Rejected in NY
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) recently proposed the Parental Choice in Education Act as a way to provide more opportunity for parents in choosing which schools would be the best fit for their children. The legislation would use $70 million in taxpayer money to create an education tax credit for families making $60,000 or less. Parents who qualify could receive up to $500 in a tax credit or refund for each student attending a private school. Among other benefits, it would also encourage more private school scholarships.
"This is about fairness and this is about parents choosing the school that is right for their children," Cuomo said on Sunday, as he promoted the idea in four churches in New York City. "We must reward donations to support public schools, give tax credits to teachers who pay for classroom supplies out of pocket, and ease the financial burden on families who exercise choice in sending their children to a nonpublic school."
Cuomo said his administration’s goal is to raise the cap of charter schools from 460 to 560.
However, a new report all but proves this is a far fetched goal and that school choice is non-existent in New York. Fifteen charter school applicants who applied to operate in the state have just found out they’ve all been turned down.
The State Education Department tried to justify the rejections, simply stating that none of the schools met their standards.
“We always look for quality and these applications didn’t measure up,” Education Department spokesman Dennis Tompkins said Wednesday. “We invited several of the applicants to reapply in June and we gave them suggestions on how to improve their applications.”
Yet, others argue these denials do little more than defend the interests of teachers unions. Jeremiah Kittredge, CEO of the pro-charter group Families for Excellent Schools, said as much.
“The timing and nature of these blanket rejections should raise serious concerns for New Yorkers.”
“The last thing parents would want to see is the politics of the moment standing in the way of opening more high-quality public charter schools for students,” Kittredge said. “Solving New York’s failing-schools crisis requires both that independent authorizers move swiftly to open strong charter schools and Albany to eliminate the charter cap.”
The prevalence of charter schools has been a constant point of contention between the governor and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. While Cuomo has actually tried to take power from teachers’ unions and put it into parents’ hands, De Blasio has made it clear he’s the unions’ champion. What's more, his administration has insisted there’s no need to raise the cap.
There is some good news for the rejected charter school applicants. All 15 will have a second chance to apply come June 23, when the current legislative session ends.
Australia: Compulsory maths and science? You’ve got to be joking Christopher Pyne
THE news that Christopher Pyne is pushing to make maths and science compulsory for students in senior years has enraged me. It has infuriated me. It has made me exasperated, incensed and irate. Words I use with flourish because I’m a student of English. Not maths.
But let me be clear, this is not about Maths vs. English. This is about the right to not be EXTRA miserable in the most painful, boring two years of your young life: years 11 and 12.
When I was 7 my teacher- a boorish, balding man with a permanently blank expression, sat my parents down and told them, plain and simple, I wasn’t good at maths. This isn’t so shocking in itself. What is more shocking is the fact that he followed this up with the statement, “It’s not her thing, so she really shouldn’t worry about it.”
I remember I was mortified. I was a nerd and a shameless teachers pet: there was something I wasn’t good at?!
The fact is that while it probably wasn’t PC to tell a kid she was crap at something and shouldn’t bother trying, the truth is, he was kind of right. I know the counter argument: kids are blanks slates. Their brains are just vats, waiting, desperate to be filled, opened and inspired. They can learn anything, right?
You see, the fact is, I did try. I was determined to prove that teacher wrong. I was sure I could handle complicated equations and solve quantum physics … if only I knew what quantum physics actually were.
I tried harder at maths than almost anything in my life. But despite all my efforts, and all my extra hours of studying, I felt like a failure. I’d been losing sleep trying to study and worse than that, my other, better subjects were suffering.
The fact is, despite my determination to rally against my year 3 teacher, I just didn’t have a maths brain. I didn’t have a science brain either. I still don’t.
I put up with isosceles triangles and the periodic table for far too long. Every class was a struggle, every exam was a stress. I hated those lessons. Once I missed a maths test because I was throwing up with panic in the toilet. I hated how, even with great teachers, my useless, ineffectual maths brain made me feel tiny and stupid.
In the meantime, in every other area, I thrived. I escaped in Shakespeare and Jane Austen. I topped the class in modern history. I represented the school in a public speaking competition. When it came time to make my decisions for year 11 and 12, there was no question: Goodbye science. Goodbye maths.
That was 15 years ago and I’ve never looked back. I may not have known at the age of 16 exactly what I was going to do with my life … but I knew I wasn’t going to work for the CSIRO. Or get into aeronautical engineering. Or even become an accountant.
I can accept studying maths up until Year 10 (despite never in my adult life needing to know anything mathematical I couldn’t do with a calculator), but when it comes time to pick the subjects that are going to dictate your results and your university opportunities, it’s downright cruel to force students not to play to their strengths.
The government has suggested that up to 75% of the fastest growing jobs involve science, technology, engineering or maths, so called “STEM” skills. This may be true. But the fact is, forcing people to study these subjects against their natural ability will take time away from pursuing their strengths. And getting into most of those industries involves a tertiary qualification anyway: high school maths ain’t gonna cut it.
I was a bright student, but I certainly wasn’t an all-rounder. In my HSC I did nothing but humanities and my marks were high enough for law school. If I’d have been forced to study maths? No chance of that.
(I should also note that three of my friends also nixed the sciences. All of them got 99+ for the HSC and one now holds a job in Mr Pyne’s own government.)
High school is awful for most people. Teenagers already have to deal with hideous pimples and sexual frustration. They also have to figure out who the hell they are and what they can contribute to the world. Schools should be striving to help kids discover exactly what this is. Whether it’s English, history, sports, languages, the arts OR, indeed, maths and science. None should be prioritised over the other.
Try everything, sure. But if at once you try and don’t succeed- especially if you hate it- don’t try harder, do something else you like better. Something that inspires you. Or at the very least, something that doesn’t make you throw up.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:58 AM