Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Trump's Education Plan: School Choice for 'Every Single Inner City Child in America'

As presented on the campaign trail and detailed on the Trump-Pence website, President–elect Donald Trump wants to implement school choice programs in all 50 states that will allow students and their parents to pick the school that works best for them, and the money to pay for it will follow the student, not the school bureaucracy.

“If we can put a man on the moon, dig out the Panama Canal, and win two World Wars, then I have no doubt that we, as a nation, can provide school choice to every disadvantaged child in America,” said Trump in a Sept. 8 speech in Cleveland, Ohio.

The proposal calls for using $20 billion in federal funds to incentivize the states to start (or expand their existing) school choice programs.

From there, “if the states collectively contribute $110 billion of their own education budgets toward school choice,” said Trump, “on top of the $20 billion in federal dollars, that could provide $12,000 in school choice funds to every K-12 student who today lives in poverty.”

“The money will follow the student,” he said. “That means the student will be able to attend the public, private, charter, or magnet school of their choice – and each state will develop its own system that works for them.” Trump reportedly has added home schools to the proposal. 

There are a some school choice programs in the United States, but they are limited and vary widely in terms of which schools a student may choose; who is eligible to participate;  how many students may participate; and how much funding is available for each program.

For example, California does not offer private school choice, but it allows intra-district and inter-district open enrollment at its public schools, reports the Heritage Foundation. Texas offers the same as California. Virginia does not allow private school choice or public school choice and it has “weak charter school laws, reported Heritage.

In his speech, Trump emphasized the need to help American students in the inner cites to be offered the opportunity to pick their school, which will help them to get on the ladder to success.

“We are one nation, and when any part of our country hurts, our whole country hurts,” said Trump. “My goal as president will be to ensure that every child in the nation – African-American, Hispanic-American, all Americans – will be placed on the ladder of success: a great education, a great job.”

“The Democratic Party has trapped millions of African-American and Hispanic youth in failing government schools that deny them the opportunity to join the ladder of American success,” he said. “It is time to break up that monopoly.”

“I want every single inner-city child in America who is today trapped in a failing school to have the freedom – the civil right – to attend the school of their choice,” said Trump.  “Our government spends more than enough money to easily pay for this initiative, with billions left over. It’s simply a matter of putting students first, not the education bureaucracy.”

He then explained that the United States, at the state and federal levels, spends approximately $620 billion on K-12 education each year. (The federal government kicks in $64 billion and states provide about $570 billion.) That averages to $12,296 for every student. 

Chicago, for instance, spends about $11,976 per student, said Trump, and Los Angeles spends about $10,602.  New York City spends $20,226 per student.

By offering $20 billion more in federal funds to encourage states to participate in school choice – to establish (or expand) their own programs for their citizens – “it would create a massive education market that is competitive and produces better outcomes,” said Trump.  (Currently, only about $1.9 billion is spent on school choice programs nationwide.)

The $20 billion would be allocated to states that “have private school choice and charter laws, encouraging them to participate,” said Trump.

“These schools would then cater to the needs of the individual student and family, not the needs of the Teachers’ Union,” he said.

“But the $20 billion is only the beginning,” said Trump. “As president, I will establish the national goal of providing school choice to every American child living in poverty…. Each state will develop its own formula, but we want the dollars to follow the student.”

“I will use the pulpit of the presidency to campaign for this in all 50 states,” he said, “and I will call upon the American people to elect officials at the city, state and federal level who support school choice.”


Advantage Britain: ruling the education world post-Brexit

With the right strategies, becoming the leading country for scholarship and science is within the UK’s grasp, says Jamie Martin

Writing just after the Battle of Waterloo, when the UK’s relations with its European neighbours were such as to make Brexit look like a minor lover’s tiff, the English economist David Ricardo first articulated the idea of national comparative advantage.

By specialising in the industry in which it was most efficient, and by being open to trade, Ricardo argued, a nation could increase its own wealth and that of its trading partners. About 150 years later, Harvard University business professor Michael Porter argued that the advent of a globalised knowledge economy has made it increasingly important to develop a focused national advantage.

There is ample recent evidence of where the UK’s advantage lies. At the end of September, the University of Oxford was named the world’s best university in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. It is one of three British universities in the top 10, and the UK has twice as many top 200 institutions per capita as the US or Germany. And, earlier this month, three British scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physics, further cementing the UK’s place as second only to the US in terms of number of scientific prizes won.

Focusing the UK’s post-European Union economy on education and science will not be to strike out into uncontested territory. Both the Republic of Ireland and Australia have recently made attracting the best international students and researchers a policy priority. Meanwhile, the UK has indicated that they may be less welcome. But while that will have reinforced universities’ nervousness about Theresa May’s premiership (given previous difficult relations when she was home secretary), her desire to champion particular industries creates an opportunity to map out an education strategy in line with her wider policy platform and public opinion.

The mandate given by the EU referendum is clear: unskilled immigration must be controlled. But international students and scientists are among the most popular migrants, according to recent ComRes and Ipsos MORI surveys, and, if anything, are welcome in higher numbers. This offers a platform for prioritising education and science as the UK redefines migration policy, with free movement for any student or academic – from any nation – with a place or job at a UK university. This should allow the UK to remain in the Erasmus student mobility scheme and the Horizon 2020 research programme. A visa regime akin to South Africa’s critical skills programme could also offer a universal right to work in the UK for any science graduate of a world top 500 university, coupled with an automatic two-year post-study visa for all graduates in priority subjects.

For the UK to become the world’s leading country for education and science, funding for research and development will also need to be increased from the current 1.7 per cent of GDP (compared with 2.8 per cent in Germany, 2.7 in the US and more than 4 per cent in Israel and South Korea). The plan by the chancellor, Philip Hammond, to use historically low borrowing costs to invest could encompass a fund that universities can bid for, to finance projects aimed at attracting the best researchers and biggest international collaborations. This could do for high-risk research and science what the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme and the Enterprise Investment Scheme have done for entrepreneurs.

Additionally, Foreign Office and British Council funding should support marketing for universities looking to internationalise, and the Department for International Development should fund UK scholarships for the brightest pupils from its focus countries. As an associate member of Horizon 2020, the UK should accept making a fair budget contribution, but also campaign to reduce bureaucracy and expand membership to make it a global forum for research cooperation.

Universities should seize the government’s recent requirement to help strengthen England’s fast-improving state school system. New freedoms around academic selection may make it easier to follow King’s College London and the University of Exeter in setting up schools focused on priority subjects. Institutions with technical expertise can learn from the University of Derby in offering leading vocational provision. Adult learning should be expanded beyond the traditional mature student: there are few better investments for the government or individuals than courses in coding, for instance.

Finally, UK higher education should follow the example of peers in the US, Finland and Israel in playing the fullest possible part in building a thriving local education technology industry. With a brand that is a byword for quality from Reykjavik to Rundu, UK universities should be at the forefront of the online course revolution. British edtech success stories such as Proversity, Fluency and Memrise should be seen as partners, not rivals, while early and enthusiastic adoption of new innovations will create a virtuous circle in which local start-ups quickly gain the standing and scale to expand internationally, attracting the world’s best edtech entrepreneurs (helped by supportive visas) to the UK.

Ricardo said comparative advantage is established “by stimulating industry, by regarding ingenuity, and by using most efficaciously the peculiar powers bestowed by nature”. It is time to move the UK’s leadership in education from a mixture of historical pre-eminence and individual achievement to a coherent strategy for national advantage.


Australian students mired in mediocrity

A sense of “mediocrity" in Aus­tralian education and a “she’ll be right attitude has led to our­ ­students losing the hunger for ­academic success shown by their Asian competitors, a leading education expert says.

The comments by Kevin Donnelly, a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University, come after a renewed debate on government-run selective schools.

Academic Christina Ho, a senior lecturer in social and political sciences at the University of Technology Sydney, earlier this month told The Weekend Australian that selective schools had become ­“ethnically unbalanced and politicians had their “heads in the sand over the intensive commercial coaching often favoured by Asian-Australian families seeking to get their children into selective schools.

Dr Donnelly argues that education in Australia has for many years moved down “a particular path that was anti-meritocracy, anti-competition, anti-elitism.

“We have this idea that all students should do well, we should celebrate all students in terms of their potential and what they can achieve but because we set the bar so low, and because there was this, what I would call, prevailing sense of mediocrity, we really haven’t engendered in our students, Anglo-Australian students, the same willingness to compete, to achieve and to celebrate being academically able, Dr Donnelly said.

“And you need only look at the percentage of Asian and Indian kids getting into selective schools, compared to Anglo-Australian, to see there’s a real imbalance there.

Dr Donnelly, who is also executive director of the Education Standards Institute, said the stereotype of “tiger mums pushing their children to achieve academically had an element of truth because Asian cultures respected education, and believed in hard work and classroom discipline.

“The Australian mentality is more egalitarian; she’ll be right ... So we’re a bit more easygoing when it comes to academic study or academic success, he said.

Chinese-Australian mother of two Anna Yuan, who used to work in family support services in Sydney, is a vocal advocate of giving children a balanced education including sports.

Ms Yuan said during her time working with Chinese-Australian families, it was “horrendous seeing kids develop mental health problems and lacking social skills from being pushed hard academically with extra coaching to get into selective schools.

Ms Yuan still volunteers her expertise to help parents understand the pressure on their children.

“It is part of the culture. In China, many people think that academic is the only pathway for success … many parents want their children to have a good life, she said.

Gary Banks, the principal clinical psychologist and managing director at the Sydney Counselling Centre, is the chairman of two headspace facilities and also provides supervision for several school psychologists. He said he was seeing “an ongoing and ­potentially increasing quantum of stress among higher school certificate students”.

“There are now national campaigns, such as headspace and ReachOut, to address the problems among young people, but in many cases it is actually the parents placing too great an emphasis on high ATARS (the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank),” Dr Banks said.


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