Sunday, August 16, 2015

"Head Start" Initiative Crashes and Burns

“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.” ~Milton Friedman

Clinging to the hope that a model for a universal preschool program could run effectively, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created a project known as Head Start CARES in order to put this concept to the test. The purpose of this initiative was to put to the test three "evidence-based" ways of helping children in lower income communities develop a love of learning, which would eventually grow their academic prowess and help create a rise in the number of high school graduates in impoverished communities throughout the country. Sadly, Head Start has proved to be a failure to launch. According to Heritage Foundation research fellow David Muhlhausen, PH.D. "Experimental evaluations released in 2014 and 2015 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that enhanced Head Start CARES demonstration programs had little to no effect."

In a 2014 speech given days after the president's State of the Union Address, President Obama stated that:  "Study after study shows that the earlier a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road...But here's the thing: We are not doing enough to give all of our kids that chance."

The president's rhetoric echoed that of former President George W. Bush's failed No Child Left Behind policy, and the original Head Start program launched by President Johnson in 1965 during the rise of the Department of Education. Part of the failed understanding of this issue starts from the assumption that greater access to preschools/ pre-kindergarten education is actually beneficial to youngsters. Evidence has cast a shroud of doubt over this concept, showing that preschools really do not create any long term benefits to students in terms of whether it boosts their possibility of graduating with a degree in the long run. FreedomWorks policy analyst Logan Albright has put into question as to whether it is the right call in the first place to "remove children from their parents and impose a structured, one size fits all educational system on them". Numerous studies by education professionals have even shown that preschool damages a child's problem-solving ability by inhibiting creative thinking, backfiring from the original intent of the program in the process.

Much like the Common Core debacle brought about by excessive spending via the Department of Education (providing the financial incentive to states which adopt a style of core curricula), many policy makers are simply asking whether or not more money thrown at these failed projects would fix the tragic results they helped create. However, every year since 1992, spending per student in the public school system has risen to an average of $10,705. Mr. Albright points this out once again that no matter how much the federal government spends, the results still continue to crash and burn:

"President Obama’s Race to the Top program awarded more than $4 billion in federal funding to states that implemented specified reforms. The result led to a lot of compliance costs for states without much to show for it. The Head Start early education program costs around $8 billion a year, despite the program’s own analysis finding that it doesn’t work. The programs keeping getting bigger and more expensive, but the results remain elusive..."

The depressing statistics regarding the students academic levels alone prove that Head Start has failed to raise the standards of the students that took part in the program. According to a column by Andrew J. Coulson (senior fellow of education policy at Cato's Center for Educational Freedom ), government researchers administered "44 academic tests" to students who were about to finish the first grade, in order to see the difference in results from students who had or had not participated in Head Start. After the results were looked over, they showed that "not a single one of the 114 tests administered to first graders — of academics, socio-emotional development, health care/health status and parenting practice — showed a reliable, statistically significant effect from participating in Head Start."

American citizens must ask their policy makers an essential question, if pumping more money into these failed programs, which are detrimental to our students has proven not a single positive result, what will throwing even more tax payer money do other than prove to be even more wasteful? The constant waste, disappointment, and culture of corruption we are seeing in our academic institutions (in large part to intervention from the federal government) has proven that decentralization is the best way to help students achieve their highest potential when they are treated as individuals, instead of just cogs in the machine of blanket policies and resolutions.


All schools may become academies [charters], says British PM in bid to 'extend opportunity to all'

Every school could become an academy in the next five years, David Cameron will say today, as he pledges to ‘extend opportunity to all’.

Marking 100 days since the formation of the first all-Tory Government for 18 years, the Prime Minister declares his intention to be ‘bolder still’ in public service reforms.

He will accuse Labour of having abandoned attempts to reform the public sector. Instead, its leadership candidates are intent only on appealing to the party’s ‘Left-wing base’, he says.

Every school should have the chance to become an academy so every child can have an excellent education, he will say.

Headmasters and not ‘bureaucrats’ should decide how schools are run to ensure ‘strong standards and discipline’.

Mr Cameron will also make a broader argument that Conservative values offer the answer to Britain’s social problems.

Just as the Tories have won the argument on how to manage the economy, so Conservative principles can answer the challenges facing society, he says.

He defends free enterprise, saying it is an ‘ally not an enemy in generating wealth and extending opportunity to all’.

On schools he says: ‘When Labour leadership contenders say they want to phase out academies, I say the opposite.

‘I want every school in the country to have the opportunity to become an academy and to benefit from the freedoms this brings. In doing so, we can extend educational excellence and opportunity to every school and every child in our country.’

Academy status gives schools independence from council control and is credited with driving up standards.

Invented by Labour under Tony Blair, it was used initially as a way to turn around failing schools in working class areas.

With Michael Gove as Education Secretary, the Tories hugely accelerated the process of converting schools into academies. There are now more than 5,000 out of around 20,000 schools in England.

Labour leadership contenders Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn have made clear their desire to scrap both free schools and academies and return powers over education to councils.

Mr Cameron will say that Tory stewardship of the economy is ‘generating growth, creating jobs, clearing the deficit and offering the British people the security they need to get on in their lives’.

For Labour, shadow Cabinet Office minister Lucy Powell said the Tories were failing to stand up for working people.


Why are Australian pre-schoolers behaving badly?

"Experts" say too much testing and formal learning is behind the soaring number of prep suspensions.  But that's a kneejerk explanation for almost everything from Leftist teachers.  A small revival of discipline is the probable cause.  Pupils who are disruptive SHOULD be removed to protect the learning environment for others

SUSPENSIONS of Prep students in Queensland have soared 130 per cent in only five years as our littlest students crumble under the pressure of schoolwork instead of play. Prep suspensions leapt from 379 in 2010 to 572 in 2013 and to a staggering 873 last year, according to the Department of Education and Training (DETE) data.

Teachers and health professionals believe the bad behaviour in young pupils is a result of the stress of too much formal learning forced on them by the national curriculum.

Educational author and former teacher Maggie Dent told The Courier-Mail play-based learning in Prep has been relegated below the more academic curriculum which is stressing many children who are responding with “inappropriate behaviour”, such as social isolation and aggression.

Ms Dent said while Queensland was a hotspot, it was a similar picture nationwide as many kids failed to adapt to the “schoolification” of Prep, aimed at making kids NAPLAN-ready by Year 3.

She said the “push down” of formalised learning for children under six and the “stealing and demonising of play for children aged four to six” was fuelling an education crisis in young ones.

“The rise in aggressive behaviour being exhibited by many younger children, mainly in the boys, is a sign that they are unable to cope with environments with no opportunity to play, no fun, little movement and developmentally inappropriate tasks,” Ms Dent said.

At kindy, Alex Bate was a “happy little man”, socially active, emotionally healthy. The next year in Prep, mum Simone witnessed a dramatic turn in his character, as Alex became stressed, anxious and fearful.

“He started to have huge anxiety issues,” Bate recalls. “He’d become teary and not want to go to school ... He’d shut down in class, wouldn’t answer questions and cry at the prospect of doing show and tell.”

Bate ended up keeping Alex home for about 40 days of that year. It wasn’t that he wasn’t ready for school. He just wasn’t ready for a brand of schooling that hits five-year-olds with structured schoolwork – sight words, workbooks and even homework.

Brisbane pediatrician Andrea McGlade said her Possums Clinic had recorded a spike in Prep-aged children presenting with behavioural problems as a result of their difficulties in coping with a sit-and-learn curriculum.

Dr Andrea McGlade with her daughter Gemma Ware, 5, says many prep kids are too young to make “good behavioural choices”.  “Most of these children have underlying developmental or learning difficulties that mean that they are struggling to adapt to the requirements of the classroom,” Dr McGlade said.

It is hugely concerning that children are ever suspended from the early years of school, she says, but particularly prep kids too young to make “good behavioural choices”.

She says there has been no deterioration in the developmental status of prep-aged children, proven by two Australian Early Development Censuses in 2009 and 2012. What has changed in that time, though, is the arrival of the new curriculum.

With teachers tied to more rigid schoolwork structures and targets, they have less flexibility to adapt teaching to help these children through, she says.

A DETE spokesman rules out any link between the suspensions and behavioural problems in schools and says it may mean schools are simply tougher on discipline in line with greater disciplinary powers given to principals in 2014.

But teachers, health professionals and commentators say it’s part of an education crisis in young people, driven by a culture
of academic achievement fuelled by NAPLAN and being foisted on kids too young, overwhelming many and sparking bad behaviour.

At an age when our youngest should be carefree, they are instead anxious, even aggressive and often marginalised. And, according to some, it may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Early Childhood Teachers’ Association president Kim Walters can recall when prep suspensions were in single figures.

The national curriculum and its effect on children, she says, is a huge talking point among teachers with the problem set to worsen under DETE’s new early-start provisions allowing children to start the school year aged four (if they are five before July 31.)

Walters says the concerns are borne out in a recent survey of early-childhood teachers showing only 12 of 62 prep children in the teachers’ care were coping. (Most were girls). Almost 60 per cent of the teachers thought kids should be at least five before starting prep, and only 4 per cent of prep teachers supported the early-entry provision. Importantly, the teachers noted that while most kids may be academically ready, they are not ready physically, socially and emotionally.

While acknowledging the suspension spike, Queensland Principals’ Association president Michael Fay says 873 pupils is a fraction of Queensland’s 45,000 Prep pupils, and principals cannot ignore behaviours that disrupt other students. Fay says it’s also important that principals do not condone or ignore behaviour in these early years.

Two years on from his prep struggle, Alex, now 7 and in Year 2, is thriving after two tough years.  “This year he finally seems ready to start more formal learning,” Bate says. “But back then, he simply was not ready.”


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