Monday, January 08, 2018

LePage Spending Welfare Dollars on After-School Programs

Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage is spending $1.7 million of federal welfare dollars on after-school programs.

The Bangor Daily News reports over a dozen nonprofit organizations received funding this year from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant.

Since 2015, Maine's asked such after-school programs to show how they help prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies and encourage two-parent families. Such goals are outlined under federal law, which lets states use welfare grants with few restrictions.

More than 80 percent of the funds were awarded without using a competitive bidding process. The Department of Health and Human Services says it's part of a push to fund programs outside of southern Maine.

The number of Maine families with children receiving cash assistance has fallen from nearly 12,800 in 2012 to 4,200 in December.


Choosing a School Should Be as Easy as Choosing a Hair Salon

Think about all the things you spend money on in life. Why do you pick one product or service provider over another? Is it because government told you to?

As I was getting my hair cut the other day, I struck up a conversation with the beautician, who told me about being certified as a “Paul Mitchell Master Stylist.” Paul Mitchell is a network of beauty schools and salons that trains stylists. To become a “master stylist,” a salon employee must provide a certain dollar amount of services in a month, which proves he or she has reached a high level of competency and has built up a clientele.

The conversation got me thinking, as I often have, about how naturally and effectively many parts of the private sector set standards – as well as how government, particularly when it comes to education, stinks at it.

Think about all the things you spend money on in life. Why do you pick one product or service provider over another? Is it because government told you to? Unless there’s a tax incentive, probably not. But in the case of education, we are often told one school is better than another by government, which sets its own historically horrendous standards by which to judge its own schools. What an absurdly flawed system!

The Market Helps Consumers Choose

I didn’t choose the salon I went to because it’s Paul Mitchell certified (though I had heard of the brand), but I would be inclined, after having a satisfactory experience there, to choose another Paul Mitchell salon in the future over a non-affiliated salon, if I had a choice. That’s how the free market works.

Many people swear by AAA-approved auto repair shops and will only have their cars serviced at facilities the American Automobile Association labels “high quality.” Similarly, while growing up, I went on a lot of road trips with my family. We stayed at numerous campgrounds and learned that when we saw the “Good Sam” seal of approval, the campground would be top-notch.

People who become personal trainers have loads of options as to what type of certification they earn, and some are recognized to be more highly rated and well-regarded than others, meaning you’ll be more likely to land a better-paying job. It’s the same with college. Everyone used to know if you attended an Ivy League school (the reputation is becoming less accurate all the time), you were likely smart, well-educated, and capable of a high-level career.

Yelp!, Angie’s List, Michelin stars, and product reviews on Amazon all do the same thing. They inform us which products and services are the best. I could go on listing hundreds of examples of ways in which people trust the free market to make informed decisions about economic choices every day. When it comes to education, though, few have a choice, and the “choices” government makes for us are often based on, as I noted before, sub-par (that’s being polite) standards they invent.

High-Stakes Standards

As The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss wrote in 2015,

High-stakes standardized testing has become a hallmark of modern school reform for well over a dozen years, starting with the use of these exams in the 2002 No Child Left Behind law to hold schools “accountable.” The stakes for these exams were increased with President Obama’s $4.3 billion Race to the Top funding competition, in which states could win federal education funding by promising to undertake specific reforms – including evaluating teachers by test scores and adopting “common standards.”

Ah yes, “common standards.” The most recent set of common standards has proven to be – like most things government oversees – an epic disaster. The Common Core State Standards were sold to the states (they were literally bribed to adopt them) as a feel-good/look-good scheme to dupe taxpayers into believing government schools would be held to an ideal. The standards turned out to be awful; all they did was serve as a reminder that, whatever standard government is being held to now, it’s too low.

It’s time our education system was given the same opportunity to earn students.

Every successful business, school, and person (you must do a good job to be recommended) has built a superior reputation on merit, not on a government-approved standards. It’s time our education system was given the same opportunity to earn students, by aspiring to standards families actually care about.

Giving parents a choice in where their children are educated would guarantee schools are held to a high, parent-set standard, as opposed to the low bar public schools aspire to now, and it would dramatically improve the system for everyone across the board.


Australia: Push for the International Baccalaureate to be in NSW public schools

The IB is not exactly the answer to a maiden's prayer but its curriculum is less dumbed down than many others

The NSW Department of Education is investigating how other states offer the International Baccalaureate in public schools in a signal that NSW could introduce the diploma as an alternative to the HSC.

NSW is the only state in Australia that does not allow the IB in any public schools but the diploma has been growing in popularity in private schools across Sydney, with 14 schools last year offering the program in year 12 and several others introducing it into their primary years.

The IB, founded in 1968 in Geneva, is described as a program to achieve the "intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalising world" and is designed for students who have "excellent breadth and depth of knowledge".

The president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council, Chris Presland, said the IB would be a "worthwhile option" in NSW public schools.

"There is no doubt that the HSC remains the most highly regarded credential in Australia and it is also very respected overseas," Mr Presland said. "But I think the IB would also be a worthwhile credential and something that could be made available to any school that wants it."

Mr Presland said providing choice to public school students would be welcomed by most principals and schools.

IB students in Australia received their results on Thursday, with 22 achieving a perfect score of 45. Several of those students were from NSW.

Students must study English, maths, science, a language, a humanities and a theory of knowledge subject, as well as doing a 4000-word essay of their choice. They also complete a community service, physical activity and creativity program similar to the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

The department's Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation is reviewing how other states run the IB program in their public schools.

In Queensland, three public selective schools offer an IB-only program for students in years 10 to 12, while in Victoria, two government high schools, Albert Park College and Werribee Secondary College, offer the diploma.

In South Australia, the only student to achieve a perfect IB score this year went to a public high school.

The IB co-ordinator for NSW and ACT, Antony Mayrhofer, said the introduction of the three public selective IB schools in Queensland had been very successful. "The IB is not for all students but at the moment it is financially selective for students in NSW," Mr Mayrhofer said. "If the IB was in the government sector, it would offer students choice."

Around the world, more than 50 per cent of the 170,000 students who do the IB attend a government school and between 2012 and 2017, the number of IB programs offered worldwide has grown by almost 40 per cent.

Mr Mayrhofer, who is also director of learning at St Paul's Grammar School, said introducing an alternative curriculum could be costly but Australia routinely performed well in the diploma, which is described as offering a more rounded way of studying and providing a strong preparation for university.


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