Friday, October 05, 2018

Teachers and Students Get Shortchanged by K-12 Spending Priorities

The United States is the fourth leading country in per-capita spending on K-12 education—trailing only Norway, Austria, and Luxembourg, according to the available data. But the U.S. spends only 54 percent of its education dollars on teacher compensation, compared to an average of 63 percent for developed countries. In a new op-ed for the Washington Examiner, Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger, author of Failure: The Federal “Misedukation” of America’s Children, puts these dire percentages into perspective.

U.S. schools have seen the supply of teachers grow faster than student enrollment—a rate of five to one since 1969—but the number of school administrators has grown even faster, outpacing enrollment by more than eight to one, according to Alger. “Had the growth in administration simply matched student-enrollment growth starting in fiscal year 1992, public schools would have saved enough money to give every teacher a permanent raise of more than $11,000,” Alger writes.

In this regard, the U.S. Department of Education, which was created in 1979 to “improve administrative streamlining and provide expert leadership,” has been an utter failure. And while the agency has recently lifted hundreds of regulations on public education, spending priorities are unlikely to improve significantly until parents are allowed to exert meaningful control over their children’s education funding. “Evidence suggests that student achievement and teacher salaries are higher when parents—not bureaucrats—control where and how their children are educated,” Alger writes.


Obama’s Anti-Discipline Policies Set Our Students Up for Failure

President Barack Obama’s first education secretary, Arne Duncan, gave a speech on the 45th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where, in 1965, state troopers beat and tear-gassed hundreds of peaceful civil rights marchers who were demanding voting rights.

Later that year, as a result of widespread support across the nation, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. Duncan titled his speech “Crossing the Next Bridge.” Duncan told the crowd that black students “are more than three times as likely to be expelled as their white peers,” adding that Martin Luther King would be “dismayed.”

Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and her special assistant and counselor, Alison Somin, have written an important article in the Texas Review of Law and Politics, titled “The Department of Education’s Obama-Era Initiative on Racial Disparities in School Discipline” (Spring 2018).

The article is about the departments of Education and Justice’s “disparate impact” vision, wherein they see racial discrimination as the factor that explains why black male students face suspension and expulsion more often than other students.

Faced with threats from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, schools have instituted new disciplinary policies. For example, after the public school district in Oklahoma City was investigated by the office, there was a 42.5 percent decrease in the number of suspensions.

According to an article in The Oklahoman, one teacher said, “Students are yelling, cursing, hitting, and screaming at teachers and nothing is being done but teachers are being told to teach and ignore the behaviors.” According to Chalkbeat, new high school teachers left one school because they didn’t feel safe. There have been cases in which students have assaulted teachers and returned to school the next day.

Many of the complaints about black student behavior are coming from black teachers. I doubt whether they could be accused of racial discrimination against black students.

The first vice president of the St. Paul, Minnesota, chapter of the NAACP said it’s “very disturbing” that the school district would retaliate against a black teacher “for simply voicing the concern” that when black students are not held accountable for misbehaving, they are set up for failure in life.

An article in Education Week earlier this year, titled “When Students Assault Teachers, Effects Can Be Lasting,” discusses the widespread assaults of teachers across the country: “In the 2015-16 school year, 5.8 percent of the nation’s 3.8 million teachers were physically attacked by a student. Almost 10 percent were threatened with injury, according to federal education data.”

Measures that propose harsh punishment for students who assault teachers have not been successful. In North Carolina, a bill was introduced that proposed that students 16 or older could be charged with a felony if they assaulted a teacher. It was opposed by children’s advocacy and disability rights groups.

In Minnesota, a 2016 bill would have required school boards to automatically expel a student who threatened or inflicted bodily harm on a teacher for up to a year. It, too, was opposed, even in light of the fact that teachers have suffered serious bodily harm, such as the case in which a high school student slammed a teacher into a concrete wall and then squeezed his throat. That teacher ended up with a traumatic brain injury.

There are plenty of visuals of assaults on teachers. Here’s a tiny sample: Florida’s Seminole Middle School, Pennsylvania’s Cheltenham High School , Illinois’ Rich Central High School.

Byongook Moon, a professor in the criminal justice department at the University of Texas at San Antonio, says that according to his study of 1,600 teachers, about 44 percent of teachers who had been victims of physical assault said that being attacked had a negative impact on their job performance. Nearly 30 percent said they could no longer trust the student who had attacked them, and 27 percent said they thought of quitting their teaching career afterward.

My question is: Is there any reason whatsoever for adults to tolerate this kind of behavior from our young people?


De Blasio, Carranza are leading NYC schools to a dead end

Not so long ago in New York, teacher evaluations were the hottest button in public education. Gov. Cuomo was the chief proponent, arguing that up to 50 percent of teachers’ grades should be based on how well their students did on standardized tests.

These days, nobody, including Cuomo, even talks about teacher evaluations. Instead, thanks largely to Mayor de Blasio and his chancellor, Richard Carranza, racial quotas are the new hottest button.

As Carranza recently declared at Al Sharpton’s headquarters, “We’re not about improving the system. We’re about changing the system.”

The implications involved in this change of focus are enormous. Most important, the results of imposing a radical race-based social-justice experiment on schools could be tragic for thousands of children and their families.

The concept of linking teacher evaluations to student performance was a reform idea of its time pushed by then-Mayor Bloomberg and others who were searching for ways to measure the impact of good and bad teachers. It was aimed primarily at improving failing schools in the poorest neighborhoods because many were dumping grounds for the worst teachers.

A linkage between teacher quality and student outcome is such a no-brainer that it quickly went mainstream. President Barack Obama’s administration supported it, despite the fact that he and other Democrats counted on the political backing of teacher unions.

The unions fought back. Constant in their commitment to protect every teacher from firing, including those facing serious criminal charges, they wanted to keep the lopsided system where virtually every teacher was rated “acceptable” even when as few as 15 percent of students were reading at grade level.

The unions succeeded when the entire political establishment of both parties surrendered. Teacher evaluations and student performance are now effectively seen as separate issues in New York.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is the student performance gap between racial and ethnic groups. A report last year from the city’s Independent Budget Office that followed 71,000 students starting in 2008 found that black and Latino students started third grade behind in math and reading comprehension, and the gap grew by the time they reached eighth grade.

And the dismal results released last week from state tests showed a similar pattern, with Latino and black students combined averaging 35 percent in English proficiency and 28 percent in math in grades 3 through 8. Asians and whites together averaged about 67 percent in English and 67 percent in math.

In short, little has changed — except de Blasio and Carranza are giving up on helping failing students and fixing failing schools in favor of blaming everything on racism, including test results. It certainly makes their jobs easier and helps them with their progressive pals.

It is also cruel to both good and bad students. Depending on the program, from one-quarter to one-half of the seats at some highly ranked schools will be reserved for failing students.

That means some good students will be denied the best schools. It also means students who are the least prepared will be thrust into the best schools.

Race, ethnicity and lotteries will replace merit in many cases.

Those failing students who get plunked into Stuyvesant or Bronx Science high schools will have little chance of succeeding because they are simply too far behind to catch up to their classmates.

While there will be some exceptions, most of those students are likely to fail.

There is, of course, another option: charters. Most specifically, Success Academies, which again posted extraordinary scores in the latest state exams.

With the city averaging 46.7 percent proficiency in English and 42.7 percent in math, Success students scored 91 percent in English and 98 percent in math.

About 93 percent of those students are nonwhite, proving that “children from all backgrounds can achieve exceptional results when given access to great schools.”

That’s how Eva Moskowitz described the results. She’s the CEO and founder of Success Academies, which now operates 47 schools with 17,000 students, and should be the chancellor.

Year in, year out, her results prove that the slow start of at-risk students can be overcome and the racial and ethnic achievement gaps can be erased.

She is also proving that de Blasio and Carranza are headed in the wrong direction, one that will be a dead end for education. Nonetheless, they will go on with their racial bean counting because, in an upside-down world, it’s a good career move for them.

Parents and children are out of luck.


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